A sermon by G. H. Morrison in Glasgow, Scotland, 1920.
(edited for length)
Like life, love is of many kinds. There is a love that ennobles and casts a radiance upon life. There is a love that drags the lover down into the mouth of hell. There is a love that many waters cannot quench. There is a love that is disguised lust. What kind of love then is God's love proved to be from His commendation of it?
And first, splendidly visible is this, it is a love that thought no sacrifice too great. The surest test of love is sacrifice. We measure love, as we should measure her twin-brother life, "by loss and not by gain, not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth." Look at the mother with her child. She sacrifices ease and sleep, and she would sacrifice life too for her little one, and she thinks nothing of it all, she loves her baby so. Think of the patriot and his country. He counts it joy to drain his dearest veins, he loves his land so well. Recall the scholar at his books. Amusements and sleep, he almost spurns them. His love for learning is so deep he hardly counts them loss. Yes, in the willingness to sacrifice all that is dearest lies the measure of the noblest love.
Turn now to Calvary, turn to the Cross, and by the sight of the crucified Redeemer there, begin to learn the greatness of God's love. Come, who is this that hangs between two thieves with pierced hands and feet? And who is this whose back is wealed with scars, whose face is fouled with spittle? Yes, who is this the passers-by are mocking? See, He is sorrowful even unto death. Hark, He cries, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46)
Wonder, O heavens, and be amazed, O earth; this is none other than God's only begotten Son. Did ever mother, did ever patriot, did ever human lover in the zeal of love make any sacrifice to be compared with that of God, when He gave His only begotten Son to shame and death that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish?
Ah! sir, measuring the love of God by such a test as this, we touch its height and depth and length and breadth, and then do we not cry out with Paul, "It passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:19).
Again, I look at the love of God that our text speaks of, and now I see it is a love that never sprang from the sight of anything lovable in us. I suppose in this gathering to-day we have many loveless hearts. There are dead souls within this house of God to-day, all whose affections are slain. And yet I am sure of this, that in all this company there is not one heart but once has loved. Father or mother, son or daughter, husband or wife, once, if not now, you loved them. They were your heart's desire, to them your souls were knit.
Well, then, I want you now to recall that love again. I want you to try and trace it to its source. I want you to tell me whence it sprang. Was it the natural outflow of your heart, the welling-over of your nature regardless of the person loved? Or was it not rather some excellence, or worth, or beauty, some charm that made an indefinable appeal, that caught and held the tendrils of your heart? Yes, it was that. It was all you saw, and all you knew, and all you conjured, that drew your love out. You loved and you loved only, because you found those worthy to be loved.
And it is just here that, wide as the poles, God's love stands separated from all the love of men. "God commendeth His love, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." God longs to love me into something lovable. But not for anything lovable in me did He love me first. While I was yet a sinner He loved me. While I hated Him He loved me. While I was fighting against Him in the rebellious years He loved me. If we love Him, it is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Such causeless love is wonderful, passing the love of women.
Again I turn to the love of God our text speaks of, and now I see it is a love splendid in its righteousness. Some of the saddest tragedies in human life spring from the moral weakness of the deepest love. How many a mother who would have laid her life down for her son, she loved him so, has only helped him down the road to ruin by the immoral weakness of her love. How many a father, to spare his own heart the bitter agony of punishing his child, has let his child grow up unchastened. Such love as that is fatal. Sooner or later it tarnishes the thought of fatherhood in the child's eyes. For in his views of fatherhood the child can find no place now for earnest hatred of the wrong, and passionate devotion to the right; and so the image of fatherhood is robbed of all its powers.
Brethren, I do not hesitate to say, that if out of the page of history you wipe the atoning death on Calvary, you carry that tragedy of weakness into the very heavens. Blot out the Cross and I, a child of heaven, can never be uplifted and inspired by the thought of the Divine Fatherhood again. Yes, I have sinned, and know it. I deserve chastisement, and know it. And shall my Father never whisper a word of punishment? and never breathe His horror at my fall? And will He love me, and be kind to me right through it all without a word of warning? I tell you the moment I would believe that, the glory of the Divine Fatherhood is tarnished for me; God's perfect love of goodness and awful hatred of the wrong are dimmed; and all the impulse and enthusiasm these divine passions bring sink out of my life for ever.
But when I turn to Calvary, and to that awful death I see a love as righteous as it is wonderful. Sin must be punished, although the Well-beloved has to die. And the divine anger at iniquity must be revealed, though the curse fall upon the Son of God. The awful sight of that atoning death assures me of the perfect righteousness of God in the very moment that it assures me of His love. I see the divine hatred of iniquity; I see the divine need that sin be punished; I see the divine sanction of everlasting law in the very glance that commends to me the everlasting love.
And now with renewed trust I cast myself into the arms of that heavenly love. With heart and soul and strength and mind I accept it as it is commended to me upon the Cross. I live rejoicing in the Fatherhood of God. I go to every task and every trial assured of this, that neither height, nor depth, nor life nor death, nor any other creature can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord. (Romans 8:39). Amen.