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.
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.