The Strength of Love.

By Rev. James Vaughan

" For love is strong as death.*' — SoxG OF Solomon viiL 6. T^HERE can be no doubt whose " love " it is of whom Solomon is speaking. '* Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death/' It is the Church's language to Christ, pleading to be riveted to Christ's heart, and Christ's arm ; and the heart and the arm are brought together, and love is strength, — the strength she needs, — strength stronger than her fiercest enemies, — " For love is strong as death." Indeed, it is very much to be questioned whether it could be truly said of any other love excepting divine love that it has this strength, outmatching mortality. We have, indeed, records, — but they are bordering upon the fabulous, — of persons who have died for others for affection's sake. St. Paul treats this fact very measuredly. He says, — " Scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man," — that is a kind man, — " peradventure for a kind man, some would even dare to die;" observe the caution, " peradventure for a kind man, some would even dare to die** But assuming that to be fact, we know the mixture of motive which there is in every human action. Who shall

The Strength of Love. 135 say how much there might be of other feelings besides pure love, even in those who have laid down their lives for another person ? Who shall say how much desire of fame might be influencing them, — how far they might be moved by a discontent and a disregard of life? And when we take all these things into consideration, we do not hesitate to claim it as belonging properly and entirely

only to the Lord Jesus Christ, that His "love is strong as death." When I say this, I do not mean to exclude the believer's love to Christ ; we cannot separate it. When the Scripture speaks of the love of Christ, the expression will almost always admit of being extended to mean equally, Christ's love to us, or our love to Christ. For example, — "The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead : and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." Is it Christ's love, or our love, which constrains us? Rather are they not both one? Even as the refluent tide is the same water, or as the reflected ray is the same light, — so all our love is the same as Christ's love ; it sprung in His, it is only His own going back to Himself. Therefore, though we cannot allow it to natural affection, however high, yet we extend it to the Christian, and we pronounce of all holy love, whether as that love flows down from God to the believer, or as that love flows back again from the believer to God, — " Love is strong as death." ow the comparison is a very remarkable one, if it be only in this,-^that it brings together, and compares, two things which are the most unlike, save in the one point

136 The Strength of Lave. odly in which there is any resemblance between them. " Love is strong as death." We are all conscious of the exceef&g" streng^ of " death." All other things may be resisted, and have been resisted; but who has ever contended with death, and ( ievailed? ''There is no discharge in that war." You may keep back the might of the ocean, — you may upturn the mountains from their ancient base, — but how shall you arrest the march of death ? In a noiseless course, it comes with determined foot its confident way; and when the appointed hour draws near, and it lays upon a man its dark, cold hand, alike the sternest and the weakest mind, — the infant in years» and the giant, — ^all are conquered. The resolute will must bow, — the iron frame must crumble

into the dust, — it is but a touch, and the work, — that work of awe and mystery, — is done. ot here and there, by units, or by tens, or by hundreds, or by thousands, but upon the face of the whole earth, from generation to generation, over every creature bom into our world, — save only two, — the mystic conqueror has set up his trophies. All nature, in her various orders, and life in its manifold degrees, — from the highest intellect down to the mere principle of vegetation that creeps in the plant, — all die, and attest its power, and nothing is so great but confesses that death is greater. But what is death ? A thing of which it is impossible to arrive at a very accurate definition, and of which it is very difficult to form any conception at all. We can only say generally, Death is the great dividing power. The essence of death is that it separates ; it is this, and this only, whidi belongs to death in all its significations, that it separates. The natural death separates the soul from the

The Strength of Love, 137 body, and man from his fellows. The spiritual death separates the creature from the light and favor of its Creator. The second, or eternal death, separates the whole man from the presence of God for ever. That process of separation began at the moment when Adam fell ; he was separated immediately from the love of God ; and so it was literally fulfilled, — " In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." A little while, and the work of separation went on, and the natural frame, under the same sentence, was broken up, the dust returning to its earth, " the spirit to God who gave it." And had not the healing, uniting work of redemption immediately come in, the separation would have been complete, and man would have been cast off for ever and ever from His Maker. That is death's history: it breaks up and separates all with which it has to do. And now let us turn from the strong to the stronger One. We see Him dwelling in the living loves of heaven; and looking down from that pure height, what was all this world to Him, separate from His Father's house, and

subject to our vile company, and every day a living death ? He saw it all ; yet such was His desire for the souls He came to save, that He shrank not back. " Lo, I come ;" " for love is strong as death." And after a life all dying, there came that last dread struggle, and death arrayed itself in all its terrors. Doubtless, if death was ever fearful to a man, it was permitted to wear a ten-fold fearfulness to Him. With long and lingering agony, with no ministering hand to soothe its pain, and no sympathy to mitigate its anguish, — He went through a darkness deeper than death itself, — the intolerable load of accumulated sin, and the exquisite

138 The Strength of Love. consciousness of the Father's hidden countenance. It was Satan's hour, and we may well believe that hour that he made the darkness darker still, and the deep valley deeper. On the other hand, there was nothing but the Saviour's amazing, unconquerable affection in His own soul. He wished and He longed for the happiness of His own dear people, and "in that joy set before Him, He despised" the rest. Death repelled, love drew on, and love prevailed, ** for love is strong as death." And there, in the midst of that last conflict, there was seen a strength in the dying Saviour's love which " many waters could not quench." His voiceof prayer was heard for His murderers, — His look of tenderness was upon His mother, — His word of promise sent a joy into the dying penitent's soul. And He went down into the stronghold of man's last enemy; locked and double-locked was the fortress where the miserable captives lay; and love and death mingled there in invisible conflict, and love's heel crushed the head of death, the prison gates were opened, "He led captivity captive," and death dying, and spirits starting out into life and joy. and bodies resuming a power greater than before, all confessed to the truth, that " love is strong as death." And now, w^at is the great result? The prindple of separation is owt, it is abolished ; the gtilf that rc^ed in

bctwe^i^ God and the sinner is filled up, and tfie soul drau^ nigh to liod. The war of passion whidi rages in every unconxvrted nvajt^s bosom, settii^ him against himsdu is at rest And \\^>n u^ leave this world, all the malioc of death is im^v^tent : it may strive, but it cannot OMi^ in : it may sln^[^ie^ but it cannot hurt. Soft as an

The Strength of Love. 139 infant's slumber is the dying Christian's hour. For a little while is the parting, — soon shall we meet again those we left sorrowing on the shore of the little river. For separation is no more ; the dividing principle is swallowed up in the mightier principle of the gathering grace. " O death, where is thy sting ? O grave, where is thy victory ? " Love wears the crown, " for love is strong as death." And thanks be to God, many is His dear child, who by His life of patient suffering, and death of shame and torment, has borne witness, that even in these poor hearts, when they are touched by God's grace, there is a power in love which death itself can never match. o wonder! — death is of hell, love is of heaven 1 — and shall not the heavenbom overcome the hell-bom ? Thus St. Paul, though he " died daily," yet could bear witness, — " one of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself." St. Peter, too, boastingly at the first, but at the last, proving his sincerity to the very letter, — " I will go with thee to prison and to death." And St. John, — " Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren." And well might we speak of Stephen, and Ruth, and David, and all the saints, with the glorious company of martyrs and confessors in every age, who, living and dying, have left their testimony written on their works, and oftentimes sealed with their very blood, — that "love is strong as death." Let me advise you, brethren, to realize, and practically to remember, what a very strong thing " love " is. It may have happened to you to be conscious lately of a chilly dulness, well-nigh akin to death, — which has been creeping over you, and benumbing your spiritual affections.

140 The Strength of Love. It is your deep sorrow that this heaviness and apathy seem rather to grow than to decrease ; and it is your daily fear that either it is already, — or, if it be not quickly checked, it soon must be, " death." ow be assured, that to meet this great evil, there is no other remedy but the greater power of spiritual affection. You must " love." But you say, " I cannot, that is my sorrow, my inability to love is the thing of which I complain." I answer, Do not let go your confidence that God loves you, that God has forgiven you. Meditate upon God, — upon His exceeding faithfulness ; look on His love till you can see nothing else ; go at once and engage yourself in some act of love. And as you do this, with an energetic prayer for that Holy Spirit, who has first proved His love, — I promise you, feeling will begin to awaken, faculties will come back again, the heart will move, thoughts and words will flow, and living graces will sweetly show that " love is strong as death." Or it may be you have much to do with dead souls. You have tried to quicken them, and you cannot raise them to one spiritual thought. Recollect that the most powerful instrument that ever was made to bear upon a dead soul, is love. Therefore, take no other weapon out of the armoury but kindness; grapple with tenderness. Everything else, argument, advice, r^roof, may fail ; but still it runs, and as it runs, it runs in promise, " Love is strong as death." Perhaps you are one of those of whom the apostle spoke, who though you are indeed one of God's people, yet nevertheless, " through fear of death, you are all your lifetime subject to bondage." ow take with you the same truth in your hand. Do not think of death, but of the loving meetings, — with the Lord Jesus Christ, and with all

The Strength of Love. 141 His saints, — the other side. And when you reach that passage which you fecu*, be assured that the other side will then look so very near and iM^ight, and Christ will stand so very beautiful, and so very precious there, and so wonder-

fully will your affections, at that moment, be drawn out to Him, that in a manner you cannot conceive now, it will be a very little thing to die. And by your calm last words, and your happy look, you will be able to leave it as a legacy to they who stand behind on the confines, " Love is strong as death."

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