The love between God’s children is a stronger bond than mere niceness, it is something definite, active and fruitful. It is also something that God commands His children to show to one another, and it is pleasing to God when they do walk in obedience to this commandment. In the following updated extract, Hugh Binning outlines some of the reasons why God likes love enough to command it, based on 1 John 3:23: “this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
The relationship between love, lifestyle and faith
I wish you to rightly observe this conjunction, that these are inseparably knit together, love to God and love to other people – delight to do His will – to love Him and live to Him. Do not deceive yourselves with vain words. If you do not find the doctrine of grace laying this restraint on your heart, you are yet in your sins. This is the reasoning of a believing soul: “Shall I, who am dead to sin, live any longer therein? Shall I not delight in those commandments, when Christ has delivered me from the curse of the law?” Although that person falls and comes short, yet the pressure of their heart is in that direction.
At the same time, pay attention to the order. You must first believe on the Son, and then love Him, and live to Him. You must first flee to His righteousness, and then the righteousness of the law shall be wrought in you.
Therefore do not weary yourselves to no purpose. Do not wrong your own souls by seeking to reverse this order, which was established for your joy and salvation. Know that you must first meet with satisfaction in all the commands of Christ, before your obedience to any of them can be accepted. Then, having met with that, know that the sincere endeavour of your soul, and the affectionate impulse of your heart towards your duty, is accepted.
And if you find yourself afterwards surcharged with guilt and inconsistent walking, yet you know that the way is to begin at this again, to believe in the Son. This is the round you must walk, as long as you are in the body. When you are defiled, run into the fountain, and when you are washed, strive to keep your garments clean, but if defiled again, get your hearts washed from wickedness.
How far-reaching love is
Now love is a very comprehensive command. It is the fulfilling of the whole law (Romans 8:10, Matthew 22:37–38. It is indeed the true principle and pure fountain of our obedience unto God and men. All fruits of the Spirit are moral virtues that grow out of the believer. Whether pleasing to God, or refreshing to other people, they are all virtually in the root of love. That is why the apostle names one for all, i.e., brotherly love, as the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:14).
Love is a bundle of many divine graces, a company or society of many Christian virtues combined together. They are named bowels of mercies, long suffering, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, forbearance, and forgiveness, all which are tied to the believer’s girdle by charity. So where love is, every good comes. After love comes a troop of so many sweet endowments and ornaments, and where love is lacking (as truly it is the epidemic disease of the time), many sins abound, for when iniquity abounds, “the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).
Oh! that is our temperament, or rather our distempered nature — our love is cold, and our passions are hot! When charity goes away, out come the wild and savage beasts of darkness, i.e., bitter envying and strife, rigid censuring and judging, unmercifulness and implacableness of spirit towards others’ failings and offences. Self-love keeps the throne, and all the rest are her attendants. For where self-love and pride is, there is contention, strife, envy, and every evil work, and all manner of confusion. They lead one another as in a chain of darkness (Proverbs 13:10; James 3:16).
Do not think that love is a mere compliment, an idle feeling. It more real than that, more vital. It has bowels of mercy, which move when others are moved, and which bring their neighbour’s misery into the inmost seat of the heart, and make your spirit a companion in their misery. It is also exercised in forbearing and forgiving. Charity is not easily provoked — therefore it can forbear, it is easily appeased — therefore it can forgive, it is not soon displeased, or hard to be pleased, “forbearing and forgiving one another in love.”
How helpful love is
Focus more then on this grace of love. See it to be the fulfilling of the law, for “the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.” The end of the law is not strife and debate, nor the intricate and perplexed matters which bring endless questions and no edification.
Though people claim to be motivated by conscience and scripture, yet they violate charity, the great end of both, which mainly strives for edification in truth and love. It is a violent perversion of the commandment to love, to overstretch every point of conscience, or every point of difference, so far as to rend Christian peace and unity. All these names of war, and all these fiery contentions among us, what have they been kindled by if not the lack of charity? What James says of the tongue, I may likewise say of uncharitableness and self-love — they set on fire the course of nature, and they are set on fire of hell.
True zeal and the love of God is a fire that in its own place has a temperate heat, and does not burn or consume what is round about it. But our zeal is like fire that is mixed with some gross material, a preying, devouring, and consuming thing, zeal down in the lower region of man’s heart, where it is mixed with many gross corruptions, which are as oil and fuel to it, and gives it an extreme intemperate destroying nature.
How significant love is
But then consider that this commandment of love is our Lord and Saviour’s last testamentary injunction to His disciples (John 13:34–35). “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
It is Christ’s last will, and it is given us as a token and badge of discipleship. Every profession has its own signs and rules, every order has its own symbol, every rank its own character. Here is the differential or unique character and identification of a Christian — brotherly love. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
I remember a story of a dying father who called his sons to him on his death bed. Having sent for a bundle of arrows, he tested them one by one if they could break them, and when they had all tried this in vain, he caused them to untie the bundle, and take the arrows one by one, and so they were easily broken. By this he gave them to understand that their stability and strength would consist in unity and concord, but if love and charity were broken, they were exposed to great hazard.
I think our Lord and Saviour gives such a precept unto his disciples at his departure out of this world (“A new command I give unto you,” John 13:34) to show them that the perfection of the body, into which they were all called as members, consisted in that bond of charity.
Indeed love is not only a bond or bundle of perfection in respect of graces, but in regard of the church too. It is that bond or tie which knits all the members into one perfect body (Colossians 3:14–16). Without this bond, everything will necessarily be tears, rags, and distractions.
How pleasing love is to God
Truly believing in the Son must be gratifying to God, not only from the general nature of obedience to His will, but also because this does the most honour both to the Father and to the Son. The Father counts Himself much honoured when we honour the Son, and there is no honour the creature can be in a capacity to give Him like this, to cast all our hope and hang all our happiness on Him (John 5:23–24), to set to our seal that He is true and faithful (John 3:33), which is done by believing.
But most of all, it is pleasing in His sight because the Father’s good pleasure centres on the same point as the soul’s good pleasure, that is, on the well beloved Son, Christ. Therefore faith must needs be well pleasing to the Father, for what else is faith but the soul’s delight and satisfaction in the Son. As the Father is already well pleased with His death and sufferings, so He holds him out in the gospel, that you may be as well pleased with Him as He is. This is believing indeed, to be pleased with Him as the Father is pleased, and this pleases the Father too.
Oh that you could understand this! The gospel is not brought to you so that you would reconcile God, and bring about a change in His affection, but instead, to beseech you to be reconciled to God, to take away all hostility out of your heart. This is the business which preachers have to do, to persuade you that the Father holds Himself abundantly contented with His Son. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And to move you to be as well contented with Him as He is, he says, “Hear Him!” “I hear Him for you, now you hear Him for Me! I hear Him interceding for you, now you hear Him beseeching you!”
This serves to take away all ground of suspicions concerning our welcome and acceptance with God. It cannot but be an acceptable and pleasing thing to God, when the affection and desire of your soul falls on and gathers into your bosom with His good pleasure Christ His Son!
How harmonious love is with God’s love
And then, it is well-pleasing to God that we love one another, not only because He sees His own image and likeness in our love (for there is nothing in which the Christian more eminently resembles their Father, or more evidently appears to be a child of the Highest, than in free loving all, especially the household of faith, and forbearing and forgiving one another, and so God cannot choose but like it well), but especially because your love centres on the same objects as His love — these whom the Father so loved that He gave His only begotten Son for them, and the Son so loved them, that He gave Himself for them. If these are your delight, and you show forbearance to them as the Father and the Son has done, that concentration of affections into one point cannot but be pleasing to Him.
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