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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 80 - 1 John 4:16 - God's Great Love to the Sinner Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




God's Great Love To The Sinner.


"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us, God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."

-1 John 4:16.



     There are many differences between man and man, but here is one of the most explicit, yet most simple. Some believe the love of God, and some believe it not. All others are subordinate to this. It is this that draws the line, on the one side of which is heaven, on the other hell. Two things let us notice, (1) God's love; (2) our knowledge of it.

     I. God's love.-There are two kinds of love, the love of compassion and the love of complacency or delight. Both may perhaps be included here, but specially the former; for the apostle is referring to that by which he and his brethren became what they were, children of God. God's free love or grace must go first; it is the foundation, the alphabet of the gospel. It is free love to the sinner, as a sinner,-not as elect, or as penitent, or as converted, but as a sinner. 'God so loved the world, that He gave His Son.' 'God commended His love.' 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.' The object, then, of this free love is simply man, the sinner; and the extent of this love is the widest circle of human unworthiness. The question of more or fewer objects is of no moment. Its range is to the uttermost,-to each sinner on this side of hell. It compasses the wide earth; it goes up to the very gates of the prison. It came down on the crucifiers of the Son of God; and on whom, then, will it not fall? It has plucked millions of brands from the burning, and can pluck millions more. The gift of the beloved Son is the expression, the manifestation of this love: 'Hereby perceive we the love of God, that He laid down His life for us.' How infinite the fountain, to pour forth such a stream! And in the love of Christ we read the love of the Father. It was reflected in Him. In every word and deed, he who saw and heard Him saw and heard the Father. No man who came into contact with Jesus could doubt His love. The law of love was in His heart and on His lips; He came from the bosom of the Father to show what was there. And this is God's answer to any one who doubts His love, 'I have given my Son.' You say, I am the chief of sinners; still His answer is the same, 'I have given my Son.' This is His message of love to the chief of sinners.

     II. Our knowledge of this love.-The record is given, yet it is not every one that knows it; it is true, yet it is not every one that believes it. They who know and believe it are few. But there are some who do so, and it is in their name that the apostle speaks. The love is free, sure, fully published. It is not to be bought, or deserved, or waited for; it is simply to be known and believed. For the things contained in this gospel of the free love, are such that they flow into us immediately in knowing and believing. There are cases in which good news may merely point to blessing, and tell of the possibility of obtaining it by exertion or purchase. Not so here. The good news are such that the simple knowledge of them is itself the blessing. That there are blessings after, or following upon this knowledge, is true; but the primary blessing is in knowing and believing. 'Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound.' It is out of this free love that we extract the peace which we need, our strength, our health. This love is everything to the soul; and he who has it shall abide satisfied. To know it is life.

     This is the history of a Christian man. It is all that he can tell about himself: he has known and believed the love. He has nothing good to say for himself.

     This is the line of separation' between him and the world. They know not this love; he knows it. A small difference, a slender line, some would think; yet real, and deep, and broad. All on one side of it, darkness; all on the other, light.

     This is the ground of his hope. He has known the love, and rests on it. It is shed abroad in his heart, and gives him the hope which maketh not ashamed.

     This is the secret of his sanctification, the knowledge of God's love. For it is holy love as well as free; and he who knows it knows what is best fitted to make him a holy man.

     This is our defense against adversaries, and our consolation under the world's hatred. Let who will hate, revile, persecute, we are in possession of a love which is more than a compensation for all.