The Love of the World and the Love of God (Part 1)
Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London, on Lord s Day Morning, July 19, 1868.
THE various writers of the Epistles of the New Testament, though all equally inspired of God, though they all preach the same doctrine, unfold the same experience, and enforce the same practice, yet differ widely in their mode of setting forth divine truths. Thus Paul shines conspicuously in setting forth the grand doctrines of the gospel, such as the union of the Church, as chosen in Christ, with her great covenant Head, salvation by free, sovereign, distinguishing, and superabounding grace, justification by faith in the Son of God, and the blessed and abundant fruits and privileges which spring out of the relationship of the Church to God from her union with the Son of His love. It was necessary for the instruction, edification, and consolation of the Church of God that these grand and glorious truths should be not only revealed in the gospel, and preached by the Apostles, but be put upon permanent record for all ages as a part of the inspired Scriptures. God therefore chose Paul and endowed him with the largest of intellects, the greatest amount of grace, and the fullest possession of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which perhaps ever met in any one man. Thus to him was given to write the greater part of the inspired Epistles of the New Testament.
James keeps on lower ground. He does not soar into those sublime heights in which his brother Paul found himself borne up and sustained with his strong pinion; but directing his pen against the perversions of Paul s gospel, which had crept into the Churches, and aiming his keen arrows against the Antinomians of his day, shows that there was no use talking about being justified by faith without works, if they meant thereby to exclude works altogether from having part or lot in the ministry of the gospel or the walk of a believer; and that it would not do to say if men only believed in Christ they might live as they listed, without paying the least regard to doing the will of God, or bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. All this loose, licentious, Antinomian doctrine, James cuts up root and branch.
Peter, melted and mellowed in the furnace of affliction, writes as one who had experienced much inward conflict, and therefore deals much with the trials, temptations, and sufferings of the Church of God; yet looks with steady eye, and points with clear pen, to the glory which is to be revealed that shall make amends for all.
Jude bursts forth into a stern and severe denunciation against the ungodly men, who, in his day, had abused the grand truths of gospel grace to walk after their own lusts. He points his keen pen against "the spots in their feasts of charity," that would seem in those days to have sprung up to defile the clean garments which should have been worn at such holy celebrations of the love and blood of the Lamb. He denounces the judgment of God against the "trees twice dead, plucked up by the roots; .... the clouds without water, and the wandering stars, to whom was reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."
When we come to John, we seem to come into a different atmosphere -an atmosphere of love and holiness. He in his youth had laid his head upon the Redeemer s bosom, and there had drunk in large and deep draughts of love. He had stood by Him when upon the cross, had witnessed His agonies, heard His dying words, and seen the spear of the Roman soldier pierce His heart, so that out of it came blood and water. It seems, therefore, as if the reflection of what he had thus tasted, felt, and handled, tinged as it were his Epistle with golden light. If I may use a figure, it seems almost to resemble what we see on a summer eve, when the setting sun sheds a bright glow of golden light upon every object; or if I may borrow an illustration from art as well as nature, as we see it transferred to the canvas of great painters, such as Claude or Turner, where every object seems lit up with this golden beam. Thus when we come to this Epistle, it seems as if a ray of golden light, the light of holiness and love, spread itself over every word and bathed it with the hues of heaven. It is this peculiar atmosphere of love and holiness which makes every word of this Epistle so full of light, life, and power.
Standing then as if upon this high and holy ground, and breathing this heavenly air, this atmosphere of purity and love, the disciple whom Jesus loved sends a warning voice to the children of God in the words of our text, and solemnly cautions them against the love of the world. He knew their propensity, what was in the heart of man, and that though the saints of God were redeemed by the blood of Christ, taught by His Spirit, and wrought upon by His grace, yet still there was in them a carnal, earthly principle, which cleaved to, and loved the world. He therefore lifts up a warning voice: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." And to shew that this was not a matter of small importance, but involved in it life or death, he goes on to testify that whatever profession a man might make, if he really loved the world, the love of the Father was not in his heart. He then takes a rapid view of all that was in the world, and summing it up under three heads, as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, passes upon it this condemning sentence, that it is not of the Father, but of the world. He then lifts up in still stronger strain his warning voice, that the world is passing away and the lust thereof, and that there will be a speedy end to all this show and glitter. But he adds, to encourage those who, in spite of all opposition, are doing the will of God, that when all things here below shall pass away and perish, they shall abide for ever.
This is a simple sketch of the way in which I shall this morning attempt to handle the subject before us; and you will see it is in close accordance with the outline of our text.
I. -Let us first then consider John s solemn admonition: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."
II. -Secondly. the reasons why we should not love the world, which are:
1. That if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in our heart.
2. That all that is in the world is ipso facto condemned as being not of the Father, and therefore opposed to and alien from Him.
3. That the world is passing away and the lust thereof.
III. -Thirdly. the blessing that rests upon him that doeth the will of God: that he abideth for ever.
I. -If there were not a strong tendency in the heart of the partakers of grace to love the world, why need this admonition be dropped by holy John? It is because there is so strong a tendency in the human mind to love the world, that this caution is needed; and happy are those by whom it is taken, heeded, and acted upon.
1. But what are we to understand by the expression "world," as used here? For if we are warned against the love of the world, we ought to have some clear understanding what is meant by the term, in order that we may know whether we love it or not.
i. The word "world" then, in Scripture, has various significations. It signifies sometimes the material world; as in the passages, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." In these passages is meant the material world, this lower sphere in which our earthly lot is cast.
ii. Sometimes it signifies men and women generally, human kind, man viewed simply as man. It seems to have this meaning in the passage, "God so loved the world." We cannot understand by "the world" here, the whole of the human race, as all being alike personal and definite objects of the love of God; for such a view would exclude the love which God has to His chosen people in Christ; and would make Him love Esau as much as Jacob, and Judas as well as John. Our Lord says to His heavenly Father in His special prayer, "Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." Joh 17:23 But if He loved the whole world with the same eternal love as He loved those whom He gave unto His dear Son, what becomes of this special appeal of the Lord in the days of His flesh to His heavenly Father? It would have been no preveiling plea for God to keep them from evil, if every man in the world were loved with the same love as that wherewith He loved those for whom the Lord so specially and earnestly prayed. When, then, we read that "God loved the world," it must mean not every individual of the human race, but men and women, as partakers of flesh and blood, and thus distinct from angelic beings.
iii. Sometimes "the world" means the Gentiles as distinct from the Jews; as in that passage where Abraham is said to be "the heir of the world." Ro 4:13 This is an explanation of the promise that "in him and in his seed, all the nations of the earth, should be blessed;" by which was meant, that salvation by the promised seed should not be limited to the lineal descendants of Abraham, but that the Gentiles also should have an interest in the work of redemption, and that Abraham should be the father, not only of the Jew, literally and lineally, but the father of the Gentile also, as walking in his steps.
iv. But in our text the expression "world" signifies, as it often does in the Scripture, that general state of things here below, that moral, or rather immoral world, which consists in the aggregate of men and women, who live, move, and act without the fear of God, dead in sin, who have no regard to the word of God, pay no heed to the will of God, and are altogether under the influence of the god and prince of this world. This, then, is the World which we are not to love.
Why should we not love it? There are many reasons, as I shall presently show; but the chief is, because it is a fallen world; fallen from its proper allegiance. Man was made in God s image, in God s likeness; therefore he owed allegiance to God as his Creator, and the least he could do was to serve Him to whose creating hand and inspiring breath he owed the possession of body and soul. Nor was this difficult in him, as it is difficult in us; for sin had not corrupted his mind, nor deprived him of the power of obedience, as it has deprived us. As he bore the image of God stamped upon him, he could approach God in the purity of his native innocence, and his worship was acceptable to God as a pure offering. But when he sinned and fell, sin at once broke off that obedience, that allegiance, and that pure and simple dependence upon God which he had in his primitive innocence.
The great sin of Adam was, that he sinned wilfully, deliberately, and with his eyes open. The woman was deceived by the craft of Satan; but "Adam was not deceived" as she was, but sinned, knowing what he was doing, and not entangled in temptation, or persuaded to it by another. By thus deliberately disobeying God s command, he cast off his allegiance to God; and as man is, from his very nature in body and soul, a dependent creature, by withdrawing himself from dependence upon God, he fell under the dominion of Satan. Thus Satan, through whose temptation in the first instance sin was introduced, set himself up, with God s permission, as man s god and king. As, then, Adam s race all inherit Adam s sin and nature, Satan became the prince of this world, and brought the whole in subjection to himself; setting up his laws against God s laws, his maxims against God s maxims, his policy against God s counsel, and his infernal and wicked will against the pure and holy will of God.
Sin is of that nature that it is ever generating itself, and like fire, spreading as it goes. Thus when once Satan had breathed into the heart of man, and infected his nature with his own infernal spawn, it generated there and produced a crop similar to the spawn itself. As we see in the case of natural disease, a breath of infection once caught will generate fever or smallpox through the whole body, so by the fall, human nature became thoroughly depraved, alienated from the life of God, subservient to Satan, madly in love with sin, opposed to God, and hostile to Him at every point.
It is this infection of our nature which makes the precept not to love the world so suitable and so important. As the subjects of regenerating grace, as having a living faith in the Lord Jesus, as having a good hope through grace, as loving the Lord, and cleaving to Him with purpose of heart, we publicly and openly profess to be the children of God; and as such we profess to come unto Him as the object of our worship, to obey Him as our Prince and King, to whom we owe allegiance. So also, as believers in the word of His grace, we profess to take His word to be our guide, His will to be our law, and His precepts to be the directing principle of our words and works. But we daily find, from painful experience, that there is not in us that willing heart, and that obedient mind, so as to make God s word and will the guide of our life. We fully acknowledge, and for the most part sincerely and earnestly desire, to walk in obedience to what He, in His holy word, has laid down as incumbent upon those who fear His name. But through the perversity of our mind, the weakness of the flesh, and the deep set corruption of our fallen nature, we find that there is in us a contrary and opposing principle to our better mind and will.
We fully see at times what this world is; how sunk in sin, how full of rebellion, perversity, and alienation from the life of God; how desperately and determinately opposed to everything that is holy, heavenly, or spiritual; how under the sentence of God s wrath, and that most justly. All this we see and feel. God, we trust, has given us a new heart and a new spirit, which has separated us from the world that lieth in wickedness. And yet, strange to say, there is in us a cleaving to, and a loving the world, though we see it and feel it too, as I have described it. Now, how can this be explained, except that there is in us a corrupt principle in union with the world, and opposed to that inward life of God which hates it and is separate from it? Is not this what the apostle found when he said: "The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not that I do?.... I find then a law that when I would do good evil is present with me." Ro 7:19,21
Now the question is, which principle is to reign and rule? Am I, if I possess and profess the fear of God, to obey God, to listen to His word and will, to seek to do those things which are pleasing in His sight? Or am I to love what God abhors, and thus really place myself amongst the ranks of the enemies of God and godliness? Surely it is by our love to things, that the point is decided where our heart and treasure is. And this will even hold good whether we apply the rule to measure the whole or to measure a part. I may not, I hope I do not love the world in the same full way as a carnal man loves it, to whom it is his all; but I may love it partially, if I do not love it fully, love a little of it if I do not love the whole of it, long after a slice of the cake, if I do not want to have and eat it all. But, just so far as I love the world and the things that are in the world, I love God s enemy; I love a state of things which is in direct opposition to the revealed will of God; I forsake my banner and range myself under the opposite flag; I stand in the ranks of those who are fighting against God and against whom God fights; and by my love toward them, I show my approbation of their principles, their maxims, their pursuits, their customs, and their ways, and so in heart, if not in person, I side with those who lie under the wrath and condemnation of God.
This, then, is the reason why God bids me not love the world; for if I love the world, my heart declines from the strait and narrow path, slips into an easy groove, walks in compliance with those who are travelling down the broad road, and like Ephraim, though armed, turns back in the day of battle. God, therefore, by His inspired apostle, drops this caution in my ears, and O that God the Holy Ghost would convey it into my heart and yours in all its sacred light, life, and grace: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."
If this precept is to be carried out, we must not love the men and women of the world; we must not love their company, nor seek and take a pleasure in their society. The calls and claims of business, and in most of your cases the daily duties of your vocation in life, may, and indeed must take you into the world. The professional man must attend to his clients or patients; the tradesman must wait upon his customers; the mechanic must work at the same bench with his mate; and even those of us who are not so engaged are sometimes obliged to transact with worldly characters. But all this is a very different thing from loving their company and seeking their society. If your heart is under divine influence, the world will not hurt you so long as you do not mix with it more than you are absolutely compelled.
We are not called to go out of the world and shut up ourselves in monasteries and nunneries. What we have to shun, is the company of the world on those occasions when it is not needed. Thus you need not go out of the world to be separated from it. You may be out of the world and love it; you may be in the world and hate it. You may walk in Cheapside and have your heart in heaven; you may walk on Salisbury Plain and have your heart in Cheapside. It is where our heart is, where our affections are, and what we inwardly love, which shews whether we are of the world or not; for you will observe, that the main force of the precept lies in this, "Love not the world." John does not say Leave the world, but do not love it. And why should John bid us so forcibly not to love it? For this simple reason, that love is the strongest passion of the human breast, and never can be satisfied without enjoyment and possession. If a man love a thing, he will have it if he can, sooner or later, by hook or by crook, by foul means or by fair means. If he is desperately in love with an object, he is miserable till he gain it; for love is the strongest passion that moves the human breast. You all know this who have ever been, to use a common expression, "in love;" and, though this is especially true of the love which man has for woman and woman for man, it is also true of all other love, though not perhaps to the same intense degree. If, therefore, a man love the world, he is sure to be straining every nerve to get at, and to possess the object of his love; and nothing will satisfy him but the enjoyment of that upon which his heart is set.
Now, viewing this love of the world as a disease, if we could find some mysterious remedy which would cure that propensity at the very root; if there were, say, some holy balm brought us by an angel from heaven, like the oil which, according to the Romish legend, was brought to anoint the kings of France, and we could drop, drop, drop it into the seat of all this worldly love and purge it out, cleanse, and remove it; and if, by the dropping in of this mysterious yet blessed oil, there could be communicated another love of a purer kind, of holier nature, which was fixed upon God Himself, and the things of God, how by this mysterious yet blessed remedy the disease would be removed, and how the love of the world would at once be purged out by the entrance of a better love, which would, so to speak, reach down to, and wither it, and put another in its place, as a new root.
It is in grace as in nature. A strong love will drive out a weak one. Take the instance of a young man or young woman who may have a kind of roving affection toward some object; but let another object come before them who is more attractive, more winning, more beautiful, or more engaging, and Let that new object not merely strike the eye, but strike a root into the natural affections, the old object is immediately dropped, and the roving affections, at once centre in the new object and there remain fixed and firm. So it is in divine things. You have, by nature, a roving eye and roaming heart, ever roaming after this and that idol, and that lover. And thus you go on for months or years, roving in affection after a multitude of worldly objects. But you are arrested by the power of God. The arrows of conviction pierce your conscience: you are made to cry for mercy, and in due time the Lord reveals Himself with power in your soul. Now when the Lord is pleased thus to shed abroad His love in the heart by the Holy Ghost, and to drop into the bosom a holier and purer, because a heavenly and spiritual love, then those roving affections which were loosely roaming after every worldly object, are gathered up, and the love of God coming into the soul in divine power, sets before us Jesus as the only object of our love. It is thus that another higher, purer, and more powerful love cures and purges that love of the world which, though it pleased us in our carnal days, yet was found in the end to bring with it only misery, bondage, and death.
2. You will observe that the precept takes a very wide range; it says: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." This is a very wide sentence. It stretches forth a hand of vast grasp. It places us, as it were, upon a high mountain, such as the Lord stood upon when tempted of Satan, and it says to us, "Look around you: now there is not one of these things which you must love." It takes us, again, to the streets of a crowded city; it shows us shop windows filled with objects of beauty and ornament; it points us to all the wealth and grandeur of the rich and noble, and everything that the human heart admires and loves. And having thus set before us, as Satan did before our Lord upon the high mountain, the kingdoms of the world, it says, not as he did, "All this will I give you," but, "All this I take from you. None of these things are for you. You must not love one of these glittering baubles; you must not touch one of them, or scarcely look at them, lest, as with Achan, the golden wedge and the Babylonish garment should tempt you to take them and hide them in your tent."
The precept takes us through the world as a mother takes a child through a bazaar, with playthings and ornaments on every side, and says, "You must not touch one of these things." In some such similar way the precept would, as it were, take us through the world, and when we had looked at all its playthings and its ornaments, it will sound in our ears, "Don t touch any one of them; they are not yours; not for you to enjoy, not for you even to covet." Can anything less than this be intended by those words which should be ever sounding in the ears of the children of God, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world?"
II. -Now come the reasons, the first of which is as plain as it is decisive: "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
1. We may take it in two points of view: first, as a test; secondly, as a remedy.
Take it first as a test. Some of you may say, "I am very fond of hearing the gospel faithfully preached, and I could willingly walk any distance to hear a sound, experimental minister, a real servant of Jesus Christ, who preached with savour, unction, and power. I have many years professed to know the things of God for myself, and I am very fond of hearing the truth set forth in accordance with my feelings." All this sounds well, and is indeed, more or less, the language of those who know and love the truth. But words at best are but words; and many speak well with their lips who speak very badly with their feet.
Apply, then, this test to your heart and to your life. Do you love the world, the things of time and sense? Are they entwined round your affections? Do they occupy the chief place in your heart? What are your pursuits, when free to follow them? I say pursuits, for I do not mean necessary engagements. Who are your companions? Whose society do you prefer? That of the light, vain, and trifling, the carnal and the worldly, or the tried, afflicted, exercised children of God? What subject most engages your mind, occupies your thoughts, dwells with you night and day, is to you your all in all? Is it the things of God, or the things of the world? What are you most bent upon attending to and acquiring? Is it the manifestation of the Lord s goodness and mercy, the breakings in of His pardoning love, the application of His atoning blood, the secret whispers of His favour to you, and the enjoyment of His presence? Or are you satisfied without these divine realities, and spend days and hours without ever longing after, or looking out for them? Now if so, the love of the Father is most certainly not in you. Talk as long and speak as loudly as you may about religion, this one thing will stamp "Tekel" upon it all. Weighed in the balance it is found wanting: If you love the world, and the things that are in the world, the love of God is not in your heart.
Now view it as a remedy. We all by nature love the world; and if you said you did not, I would not believe you, for I know you do. But is there no remedy for it? There is; and if you had it revealed to your heart you would find its effects. For what would the love of God do if it were in your heart?