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The Good News of God   By: (1819-1875)

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MATTHEW xxii. 27.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

These words often puzzle and pain really good people, because they seem to put the hardest duty first. It seems, at times, so much more easy to love one's neighbour than to love God. And strange as it may seem, that is partly true. St. John tells us so 'He that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?' Therefore many good people, who really do love God, are unhappy at times because they feel that they do not love him enough. They say in their hearts 'I wish to do right, and I try to do it: but I am afraid I do not do it from love to God.'

I think that they are often too hard upon themselves. I believe that they are very often loving God with their whole hearts, when they think that they are not doing so. But still, it is well to be afraid of oneself, and dissatisfied with oneself.

I think, too nay, I am certain that many good people do not love God as they ought, and as they would wish to do, because they have not been rightly taught who God is, and what He is like. They have not been taught that God is loveable; they have been taught that God feels feelings, and does deeds, which if a man felt, or did, we should call him arbitrary, proud, revengeful, cruel: and yet they are told to love him; and they do not know how to love such a being as that. Nor do I either, my friends.

Let us therefore think over to day for ourselves why we ought to love God; and why both Bible and Catechism bid child as well as man to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, before they bid us love our neighbours. And keep this in mind all through, that the reason why we are to love God must depend upon what God's character is. For you cannot love any one because you are told to love them. You can only love them because they are loveable and worthy of your love. And that they will not be, unless they are loving themselves; as it is written, we love God because he first loved us.

Now, friends, look at this one thing first. When we see any man do a just action, or a kind action, do we not like to see it? Do we not like the man the better for doing it? A man must be sunk very low in stupidity and ill feeling dead in tresspasses and sins, as the Bible calls it if he does not. Indeed, I never saw the man yet, however bad he was himself, who did not, in his better moments, admire what was right and good; and say, 'Bad as I may be, that man is a good man, and I wish I could do as he does.'

One sees the same, but far more strongly, in little children. From their earliest years, as far as I have ever seen, children like and admire what is good, even though they be naughty themselves; and if you tell them of any very loving, generous, or brave action, their hearts leap up in answer to it. They feel at once how beautiful goodness is.

But why?

St. John tells us. That feeling comes, he tells us, from Christ, the light who is the life of men, and lights every man who comes into the world; and that light in our hearts, which makes us see, and admire, and love what is good, is none other than Christ himself shining in our hearts, and showing to us his own likeness, and the beauty thereof.

But if we stop there; if we only admire what is good, without trying to copy it, we shall lose that light. Our corrupt and diseased nature (and corrupt and diseased it is, as we shall surely find, as soon as we begin to try to do right) will quench that heavenly spark in us more and more, till it dies out as God forbid that it should die out in any of us. For if it did die out, we should care no more for what is good. We should see nothing beautiful, and noble, and glorious, in being just, and loving, and merciful. And then, indeed, we should see nothing worth loving in God himself: and it were better for us that we had never been born... Continue reading book >>

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