The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life. He feels his sinfulness, guilt, and badness, and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that Divine Saviour whom his soul needs, and commits himself to Him. He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits, and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life, fighting habitually against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Christ Himself is the corner stone of His Christianity. Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you, in the death of Christ.—Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell You it is the righteousness of Christ.—Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ.
But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ. Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience, are all marked features in a true Christian’s character. But his picture would be very imperfect if you omitted his “love” to his Divine Master. He not only knows, trusts, and obeys. He goes further than this,—he loves.
—J. C. Ryle
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 341.
Love will dispose to walk humbly among men. For real and dear love will dispose men to high thoughts of [others]; and Christian love disposes men to think others better than themselves. Love will dispose men to honor one another. For we are naturally inclined to think honorably of those whom we love, and to give them honor. So that those precepts in 1 Peter 2:17 are fulfilled by love, “Honor all men.” And Philippians 2:3, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Love will dispose to contentment in the station in which God hath set him, without coveting anything which his neighbor possesses, or envying him any good thing which he has. Love will dispose men to meekness and gentleness in their carriage towards their neighbors, and not to treat them with passion or violence, but with moderation and calmness. Love checks and restrains a bitter spirit. For love has no bitterness in it. It is altogether a sweet disposition and affection of the soul. Love will prevent broils and quarrels, and will dispose to peaceableness. Love will dispose men to forgive injuries, which they receive from their neighbors. Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins.” Love will dispose men to all acts of mercy towards our neighbor who is under any affliction or calamity. For we are naturally disposed to pity those whom we love when they are afflicted. This would dispose men to give to the poor, and bear one another’s burdens, to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice.
Ethical Writings, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale University Press, 1989), 135–136.
There is nothing in which Christ was more eminent than in his love; no rancour of spirit, no boiling up of envy, but all love. The apostle propounds it to husbands: Eph. 5:25, ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church.’ Now how did Christ love his church? With a great love, so as to die for his church. The love of Christ was sincere, not for by-ends; he loved saints as saints, because of his interest in them. So should we love those in whom we see most of the image of God. It was not a blaze, but a constant abiding love; whom he loves he loves unto the end; so must we love the saints. It is true Jesus loved some above others: ‘John was the beloved disciple,’ John 21:20. There was ἐκλέκτων ἐκλεκτότεροι, the flower of the disciples, whom he loved most, but he loved them all. We should love not in word, but in deed and in truth. Oh! be filled with love to God and love to the saints, who have his image stamped upon them. You that are believers have cause to love one another. Have we not all the same Father? Are we not children begotten of the same holy seed, the word? Do we not all suck at the same breasts of the promises? Do we not all sit at the same table, at the Lord’s supper? Are we not all clothed with the same robe of Christ’s righteousness? and do we not all expect the same glory?
The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 16:490–491.
Christ loves his church specially. There would be no parallel whatever between the husband’s love to the wife and Christ’s love to the church if there were not a speciality about it. Christ is love itself; he is full of kindness and benevolence. In that sense, he loves all mankind; but that cannot be the meaning of the text, for it would be a very strange kind of exhortation to the husband if that were the case. No, the husband’s love to his spouse is something special and particular; and it stands quite alone, and all by itself. He will be kind and benevolent and generous towards all others, but that love which he lavishes upon his wife he must give to nobody else in the world. It is certainly so with our blessed Lord. Free and rich and overflowing in lovingkindness, yet he made a special choice of his people or ever the earth was; and having chosen because of his love, he loves because of his choice, and that love is a peculiar, special, remarkable, preeminent love such as he bestows upon none else of all the human race. It must be so, or else the passage would be all but immoral; certainly, it would be manifestly incorrect.
—Charles H. Spurgeon
The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Sermon: “Christ’s Love To His Spouse” (Eph 5:26).
Many low and carnal considerations may work men to watch their words, their lives, their actions; as hope of gain, or to please friends, or to get a name in the world, and many other such like considerations. Oh! but to watch our thoughts, to weep and lament over them, etc., this must needs be from some noble, spiritual, and internal principle, as love to God, a holy fear of God, a holy care and delight to please the Lord.
—Charles H. Spurgeon