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Because He First Loved Us

Because He First Loved Us

Sacramental Meditation XXVI

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 281-2; minimally edited.

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19)

No reason can be given why God loved any of Adam’s race, but only because He loved us. But good reasons can be given why we love God, both because He is infinitely lovely in Himself, and because He first loved us, and before we had any thoughts of love to Him. Oh what is our love, but a small stream that flows from and returns again to the ocean of His love! God’s love to us is the source, the incentive, the motive, and moral cause of our love to Him. We can never love God, until some rays of his everlasting love break out to us; for conscience of guilt, and fears of wrath, do rather incline us to hate Him, and flee from Him as an enemy, than to love and draw near to Him. But the breaking out of the beams of God’s love to us in Jesus Christ, makes way for breaking the enmity of our hearts, and bringing in the heavenly fire of love to Him. The serious consideration of God’s eternal free love to us, poor, wretched, and unlovely creatures, and his loving us at such a rate, as to court our love at the expense of his Son’s blood, is the most powerful motive in the world to draw out our love to Him; and the more we have of the faith or feelings of this love, the warmer still will our love to Him be. God’s redeeming love displayed to men doth obscure all the seeming glories of this world, as much as the meridian sun doth darken candles, or smaller fires; and soon convinces us, that nothing deserves our affections but God and Christ. No man that ever tasted the sweetness of God’s love, but finds his heart warmed with love to Him again. A forgiven soul cannot read His pardon but with tears of love and joy, and still there is much love where much is forgiven. “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

Lord, at Thy call, I go to thy table to admire and give thanks for God’s love vented to man in the councils of peace, the covenant of redemption, in the incarnation, the death, the blood, and righteousness of our God Redeemer. Oh amazing love! I admire it in the antiquity of it. God’s love is from all eternity; His thoughts were long set upon man before He had a being. I admire the freeness and undeservedness of this love; there was nothing in man to engage His love; He saw nothing in Him but poverty, impotency, and deformity; yea man was so far from deserving any love from God, that He deserved all hatred, as being loathsome and full of enmity; having razed out the image of God, and got Satan’s set up in its room! Yet, even then, God loved Him so, as to give his beloved Son to die for Him. Oh, did God love man when utterly unworthy of His love! and shall not we love God, who infinitely deserves all our affection, as being in Himself altogether lovely; and likewise as affectionate to us, as He is lovely in Himself! Lord Jesus, I admire the strength and ardency of Thy love! Many waters of affliction did not quench it, and the floods of wrath that went over thee could not drown it! Strong was that love that carried Thee through the pains both of the first and second death in our stead! Oh, I am ashamed and afflicted for my little love to Thee! I marvel at the constancy and steadfastness of Thy love, that it continues firm to thy people from everlasting to everlasting; and that it is never altered by all the unkind returns, provocations, and ingratitude thou meetest with from them. I wonder at the fruits and effects of Thy love! Oh how great! how sweet! how numerous! Who can value or set them forth. Such as, “quenching the fire of justice, disarming the law of its curses, bruising the serpent’s head, paying believer’s debts, obtaining for them regeneration, pardon of sin, peace with God, peace with conscience, peace with angels, adoption into God’s family, justification, sanctification, all the graces of the Spirit, audience of prayer, growth in grace, comfort in affliction, a blessing on all providences, perseverance in holiness, the ministry of angels, victory over death, a happy resurrection, acquittance at the tribunal, the beatific vision, and everlasting life!” Who can declare the lovingkindness of the Lord? Who can utter His mighty acts? Who can show forth all His praise? I may sooner fathom the depth of the sea, the breadth of the earth, or the height of heaven, than measure the love of God in Christ, for it passeth knowledge!

Oh, how little do we love Him, that loved us first, and loved us at such a rate! Nay, how unthankful are we for all the instances and fruits of his matchless love! How unkind are the returns we make to Him for it!” Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid,” at the ingratitude of men! How little do we think on redeeming love, and upon the propitiation provided by God for our sins! How little do we speak of this love, or recommend it to those who know it not! How do the trifles, and nothings of this world, get more room in our hearts, than Christ’s glorious purchase! How little pains are we at to secure an interest in the blessed fruits of his love! How unwilling are we to go into the terms of redeeming love, to renounce a covenant of works, self-righteousness, darling sins, beloved idols, etc. How averse are we to renounce the world, deny self, and to be debtors wholly to free grace! How inclinable are we to satisfy conscience after commission of sin, by our own doings, confessions, mournings, resolutions, etc., without going to the propitiation provided by the love of God! How great is the liking we have to sin that killed the Lamb of God! How can we say, we love God that loved us first, when we hug His enemy in our bosom! “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,” that I might weep and mourn day and night for the ungrateful requitals of the sons of men for the preventing love of God in Christ, and the amazing instances of it!

Oh that I could say on good ground, and from the bottom of my heart, I love Him that first loved me. Surely a sincere love to God and Christ would be a sure evidence of God’s eternal love to me! Oh that I had the marks of this love, and could say, “My meditations of Him are sweet:” I place my happiness in his favor, and the comfort of all ordinances in his presence. I rejoice in the flourishing of his kingdom, and abhor every thing that is injurious to Him. I esteem Christ the Mediator, and gift of God, as most precious, with every thing that belongs to Him. I fall heartily in with the device of redeeming love for saving sinners, and study the life of faith on the Son of God. I renounce my own righteousness and strength, and desire always to say, “In the Lord Jesus have I my righteousness and strength.” Were this the language of my heart, I might appeal to Himself and say, “Thou that knowest all things, knowest that I love Thee,” and desire to render Thee love for love.

It would be a great shame for believers, if they did not love Him that first loved them, when they were enemies to Him! Surely they cannot be believers without love to Him. Oh for greater and warmer love to Him that first loved us! Love is the great qualification of the saints above; the more love we have, the more like heaven we are, and the meeter to dwell in it. Were it possible there could be a man in heaven without love, he would reckon the place a hell, and the work a torment to him. It is love that makes a spiritual and heavenly work delightful; hence, love is said to be the fulfilling of the law. If the love of God be in the heart, the law of God is there also, and the soul is inclined to all holy obedience. Oh may the love of God in Christ constrain me to live to Him that died for me. Have I seen the astonishing love of God in parting with His dear Son to save me? Oh let that love constrain me to part with all my sins and idols for Him. Have I seen the dear Son’s amazing love in bleeding to death on the cursed tree, to save me from lying in hell forever? Oh let me never again, wittingly, walk in the road that leads to it. Have I seen Him struggling in an agony to open heaven’s gates for me? Oh let me never turn my back on heaven, and tell Him thereby He might have saved his labor. Oh let his boundless love warm my heart more and more with love to Him! May the charms of His love triumph over all the charms of sin’s pleasures and Satan’s devices, and kindle such a fire of love in my heart, as will burn up all my lusts like stubble. Amen. Ω