Divine Love: Part 1

1 John 4:16
God not only loves, but He is love—"God is love" His nature is love. He is also light. Nothing can be hid from Him. Everything is made manifest, and detected, in His presence. " God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." He is thus revealed to us as "light" and "love."
These are truths divinely given for our faith. He is not only love, but He is also light. But while His nature is thus revealed, all His actings are according to the perfection of His nature. God is as far beyond our grasp, as infinite is higher than finite. He is " glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders." We are taught that He is " righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works," and that " the righteous Jehovah loveth righteousness." (Psalm 11:77For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright. (Psalm 11:7).)
Few scriptures have been more used by the enemies of the truth to falsify the attributes of the living and true God, and to deceive souls, than these three precious words " God is love." The semi-infidel's boast is that "God so loves his creature man, that he will save everyone, and condemn no one;" a pleasant kind of dream to encourage men in the indulgence of their lusts, and to launch out in the pleasures of sin; a doctrine which undermines the truth of God's righteousness, and grants a license for rebellion against Him.
Doubtless, man has always been the object of God's special blessing and care. From the first, Wisdom's delights were with the sons of men. In Eden's brief period of innocence, every created thing seems to have been conducive to man's happiness. That mighty luminary, the sun, brightly shed his cheering rays on all the scene by day, while the silvery moon was ready to chase away the darkness of the night. Everything around was peace and blessing; the starry heavens above, the beauteous stainless earth yielding its varied and abundant fruits, with crystal rivers flowing at his feet, while all living creatures were in subjection to him, and whatever name he gave them that was the name thereof. Thus man was loved, and blessed. Everything in Eden spoke not only of the wisdom and power of God, but also of His love and beneficence toward His creature man. But man fell by disobedience: by his sin, the whole scene became stamped with death. From that time, a terrible blight has rested on it all. If God had not noticed man's sin, where would have been His righteousness? And, if He had justly banished man from His presence forever for his sin, where would have been His love? But He is, as the prophet declares, " A just God, and a Savior." Sin then must be judged, and the sinner must be cleansed, in order to be happy in God's presence, for "grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Again, with reference to this scripture " God is love," the proud voice of infidelity is lifted high. With his puny powers, he levels his enmity against the whole truth of the word of inspiration, by flatly asserting that " if there be a God, He is not love." For, says he, " Is not the world abounding with misery, poverty, sickness, tears, anguish, heart-rendings and death? And if there be a God, and He be love, would He not alter the whole course of these things, and make people happy in the world, instead of being miserable?" But stop, Ο vain man, whose breath is in thy nostrils! You seem not to know that all these sorrows were not when God finished the work of creation, but were brought in by man through sinning against his Maker. " By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:1212Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12).) Besides, you appear to forget that much misery has been added by past and present generations, through waste, and abuse of health and strength, so that sorrow, disease, and premature old age and decay are the result. Moreover, when man sinned and God drove out the man, it was not His wise purpose to mend what man had spoiled, but to bring in, by divine power and love, a higher and a better order of blessing. It was not God's mind merely to bless man temporally, as you vainly imagine God ought to have done; but He has chosen rather to bring in redemption, to bless man spiritually, and eternally, on new creation ground, and in everlasting relationship with Himself. This will be a never ending testimony to the fact that " God is love."
But further. These blessings, and these new relationships are known now, and enjoyed by God's children; so that the soul that is born of God, that knows forgiveness of sins, and has received the Holy Ghost, has more enjoyment of God, and more happiness on earth, than even Adam in innocence knew, or the most prosperous citizen of the world ever contemplated as possible. Nor is it to be forgotten, that, though men blaspheme God, refuse the Gospel, will not bow to Jesus His Son the only Savior, and reject the Holy Ghost's ministry on earth, yet, because " God is love," He bestows in a vast variety of ways ten thousand things to ameliorate their present misery. He makes us prove His faithfulness in the unfailing seed time and harvest, day and night, summer and winter, and His kindness in making His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sending rain on the just and the unjust.
There are others who think themselves quite competent to judge God and to dictate to Him, instead of allowing His word to judge them. They consider because they have lost their property, lost their health, lost their friends, that it cannot be true that " God is love." But such are ignorant of there being two distinct lines on which God is pleased to act—grace, and government—which are found running all through the scriptures. God's grace is manifested in redemption, and brings the soul, on believing on Jesus the Lord, into peace, and conscious relationship with God. In divine sovereignty, He is now pleased so to permit the power of evil, and so to scatter His blessings, that one person has health and strength, another sickness and weakness, one is rich and another is pinched with poverty, one may have five talents and another two; but each is accountable only for what he has received. Besides, in God's governmental dealings, He is pleased to act in righteous ways, so that "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, and he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:88For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8).) With many even of the Lord's most devoted servants it seems best that they should have reverses, and sometimes sorrow upon sorrow, wave after wave, in order to teach them experimentally very precious lessons which could not otherwise be learned, and for which afterward they have to praise God.
Besides, whoever had such a path of suffering and reverses as the Son of God Himself? which, at one time, led His loved and loving forerunner to begin to doubt Him; the cities in which He had preached repented not, the people entirely misunderstood Him; but in this time of sorrow and rejection, He lifted His eyes to heaven and found rest in the Father's sovereignty and love. " At that time, Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, Ο Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." (Matt. 11:25, 2625At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Matthew 11:25‑26).) Happy are those who, in time of inexplicable reverse and trial, are able thus to repose on divine sovereignty, in fullest confidence that " God is love!"
One of the commonest abuses of the precious revelation that "God is love" is, that because " God is love," therefore the punishment of the wicked cannot be eternal. This form of infidelity has made considerable progress of late years, and is paving the way for throwing off the authority of divine revelation entirely, and for bringing in the time when men will be given up to what is false. But now they are willingly ignorant that God is " just" in His ways, as well as "love" as to His nature; so that, His love being rejected, He cannot forego His just judgment of sin. If God., in judging sin on the cross, spared not His own Son, but forsook Him until a just atonement had been made, how can He but forsake the sinner forever, because he never can atone for his sins? But about "eternal punishment" those have no doubt who believe the scriptures, for God has spoken, and we know that "the scripture cannot be broken." Let us quietly meditate on a few portions of divine truth on this most solemn subject, and may the Holy Spirit graciously teach us.
First, let us not fail to see that it is plainly stated of the wicked, " These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." (Matt. 25:4646And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46).) " I know it," says the skeptic, " but everlasting does not mean everlasting." Well, let us see. Do the words of scripture, "everlasting life," "eternal Spirit," "eternal glory," "the King eternal.... the only wise God," mean eternal, or only for a certain time? If so, then you assert that God is not eternal. And if He is eternal, and glory eternal, then why question the awful realities of "everlasting punishment," " eternal fire," and " eternal damnation?" For are not "everlasting" and "eternal" the same words in the original scripture? Besides, with this all scripture agrees, so that while we are instructed on the one hand, that " he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," we are also told that " he that believeth not the Son, [or is not subject to the Son], shall not see life' [observe, shall not see life] but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36).) Think of those two positive declarations of scripture, "shall not see life" and "the wrath of God abideth on him." Can we conceive a soul to be so hardened, and so dark, as to rush headlong into eternity in the face of such plain statements, vainly imagining that there is no eternal punishment? (See Matt. 25:4646And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46); John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36) John 1:22The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:2); Heb. 9:1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14); 1 Pet. 5:1010But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10); Rom. 16:2626But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (Romans 16:26); Jude 77Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7); Mark 3:2929But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3:29) Tim. 1:17.) It is perfectly clear that nothing could righteously satisfy the judgment of God for sin but that which is eternal in its character; and it is nowhere said in scripture that after so much suffering or pain there would be remission of sins, for atonement could only be by the laying down of the life of the Son of God, under the righteous judgment of God for sin. It is therefore said, " Without the shedding of blood is no remission." Blessed be God, that, in infinite love to us, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, has been shed, and that it cleanseth all who believe in His name from all sin. (Acts 10:4343To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43).) But for those who reject His precious blood as their alone ground of peace with God, how is it possible they can escape the abiding wrath of God? Can there be another shedding of blood for them when in the lake of fire? Impossible; for scripture says, " There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and of fiery indignation." (Heb. 10:26-2726For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26‑27).)
Nor is the eternal and infinite character of the Person of the Son, who offered Himself as our sacrifice for sins of little moment in this matter;
for if we had only needed salvation from what was not eternal, we should not have needed such a Person to die for us. But we are assured that no one less than He who was God and Man in one Person could have been either a fit substitute for us, or able to meet righteously God's infinite condemnation of sin, so as to fully satisfy God, and perfectly save us. It is the infinite glory of the Person, and also the eternal efficacy of His finished work, as well as the divine authority of scripture, which are really set aside by those who deny eternal punishment. (See Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3); Heb. 9:14; 10:12, 1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Hebrews 10:12)
14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
" The cross, its burden, Ο how great
No strength but His could bear its weight,
No love but His would undertake
To bear it for the sinners sake."
As to man, one thing is certain that death is not ceasing to exist, for we are told that " after death is judgment." (Heb. 9:2727And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27).) Nor is being in the lake of fire ceasing to exist, for not only will those be known to be there a thousand years after being put there, but those who have their part in it, are spoken of in the eternal state as contemporaneous with those who are saved and inherit all things. (See Rev. 20:10; 21:1-810And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)
1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:1‑8)
.) These are solemn scriptures for creatures to consider, especially when God Himself tells us that an " eternal" state characterizes that which we see not—" the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:1818While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18).)
The fact is that infidelity is for the most part negative. It suits man's vanity to think himself competent to judge divine things, and it gives him importance among his fellow men when he can arrive at conclusions by reasoning powers. But rationalism is not faith, any more than ritualism. The refined skepticism of today gives you nothing, but takes its pleasure in questioning, opposing and endeavoring to undermine what God has revealed. In life and health it is pleasant enough to vain men to be honored and flattered by admiring mortals; but in death, how is it then? You will find that most free-thinkers are troubled and distressed then. When eternity is found to be stretched out immediately before them, and all their vital energies are rapidly sinking, ah! then they bitterly find out the unsoundness of their views, and sometimes to their amazement and confusion discover that they have no support, no comfort, no peace, no rest. Some have exclaimed, " it is like taking a leap in the dark" others have sorrowfully said, "I have sold my soul for a straw;" while others in bitter hopelessness have declared with their dying breath, " lost, lost!" A rich lady in the grasp of death cried, "Run for the minister" and when he came she said, " Td give all Tm worth to live until I'm prepared to die;" but it was too late—ere the preparation was made, the soul had gone. How many have had a similar death-bed; how many more with almost the last gasp have uttered the despondent cry, " Too late, too late!"