“Those who love God.” Romans 8:28
Surely it is no small mercy belonging to the Church of Christ, that, composed as it is of all people and tongues, its members as “strangers scattered abroad,” its essential unity deeply obscured, and its spiritual beauty sadly disfigured by the numerous divisions which mar and weaken the body of Christ, there yet is an identity of character in all, by which they are not only known to God, but are recognized by each other as members of the one family- “those who love God.”
Love to God, then, is the grand distinctive feature of the true Christian. The reverse marks all the unregenerate. Harmonious as their nature, their creed, their Church may be, no love to God is their binding assimilating feature, their broad distinctive character. But the saints are those who love God. Their creeds may differ in minor shades, their ecclesiastical relations may vary in outward forms- as rays of light, the remoter their distances from the center, the more widely they diverge from each other. Yet in this one particular there is an essential unity of character, and a perfect assimilation of spirit.
They love one God and Father; and this truth- like those sundered rays of light returning to the sun, approximate to each other- forms the great assimilating principle by which all who hold the Head, and love the same Savior, are drawn to one center, and in which they all harmonize and unite. The regeneration through which they have passed has effected this great change. Once they were the children of wrath, even as others, at enmity with God.
Ah! is not this a heart-affecting thought? But now they love Him. The Spirit has supplanted the old principle of enmity by the new principle of love. They love Him as revealed in Christ, and they love Him for the gift of the Revealer- the visible image of the invisible God. Who, as he has surveyed the glory and realized the preciousness of the Savior, has not felt in his bosom the kindling of a fervent love to Him who, when He had no greater gift, commended His love to us by the gift of His dear Son?
They love Him, too, in His paternal character. Standing to them in so close and endearing a relation, they address Him as a Father- they confide in Him as a Father- they obey Him as a Father. The spirit of adoption takes captive their hearts, and they love God with a child’s fervent, adoring, confiding affection. They love God, too, for all His conduct. It varies, but each variation awakens the deep and holy response of love. They love Him for the wisdom, the faithfulness, the holiness of His procedure; for what He withholds, as for what He grants; when He rebukes, as when He approves.
For His frown- they know it to be a Father’s frown; for His smile- they feel it to be a Father’s smile. They love Him for the rod that disciplines, as for the scepter that governs- for the wound that bleeds, as for the balm that heals. There is nothing in God, and there is nothing from God, for which the saints do not love Him.
Of one truth- the source of this feeling- let us not lose sight- “We love Him because He first loved us.” Thus the motive of love to God as much springs from Him as the power to love Him.