2 Samuel 1:26
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant have you been to me: your love to me was wonderful…
I. THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO US IS WONDERFUL, BECAUSE THERE WAS NOTHING IN US LOVELY. In the spangled sky, the rainbow, the woodland hung with diamonds, the sward sown with pearly dew, the rosy dawn, the golden clouds of even, the purple mountains, the hoary rock, the blue boundless main, Nature's simplest flower, or some fair form of laughing child or lovely maiden, we cannot see the beautiful without admiring it. That is one law of our nature. Another is that so far as earthly objects are concerned, and apart from the beauty of holiness, we cannot help loving what is lovely, and regarding it with affection. Our affections are drawn to an object as naturally as iron is charmed by a loadstone. God made us to love; and when brought near to such an object our feelings entwine themselves around it, as the soft and pliant tendrils of the vine do around the support it clothes with leaves, and hangs with purple clusters. Such analogy is there between the laws of mind and matter! Without detracting from Jonathan's merits, it must be owned that, however wonderful the love was which He bestowed on David, it was not bestowed on an unworthy object. One brave man loves another. In the old days of chivalry, men honoured courage in their enemies; loving and admiring bravery even when it was in arms against them. We turn now from them to Jesus and ourselves; and what do we find in man to win the love of Calvary? It is not enough to say that there was nothing lovely in us; that, as a holy God, God saw nothing in us to love. Sin, that abominable thing which He hates, the seed and germ of all evils, a thing so hateful that it is said, "He cannot look" on it, had so pervaded the nature of every individual man, and the whole race of men, that it necessitated God to abhor His own creatures. Look at a corpse! purred, bloated, infecting all the air; every feature of humanity shockingly defaced; the bright eye; the damask cheek; the sweet lips; the lovely form changed into vilest loathesomeness; a banquet to worms which, as they creep out and creep in, give a horrible life to death! Were the dearest, fondest object of our affections reduced to a state like that, how would we throw it, shuddering, from our embraces; regard it with the utmost horror; and turning away our eyes, call in pity for a grave to bury our dead. This may teach us how sin makes those whom God once loved with Divine affection abhorrent in His sight. Historians relate how, with all her baseness, her duplicity, her cruelty, her bloody bigotry, the passions and crimes that have left an indelible stain on her memory, Queen Mary had much queenly grace. So perfect was her form, her face so beautiful, her smile so winning, that it was only men cast in the stern mould of Knox that could resist their witchery. And to advert to better attractions than the beauty which is consumed before the moth, I have seen some who, with not a little calculated to repel, possessed in moral and mental excellencies, some loveable, compensating, and redeeming properties. But, in the sight of God's infinite and unspotted holiness, sin left us none. If it be true of all mankind that they are altogether become filthy; true that there is none that doeth good, no, not one; true that "every imagination of man's heart is evil continually;" true that we may all adopt the words of the Apostle, and say, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing — then sin left us with nothing to engage, but everything to repel, the affections of a holy Saviour.
II. THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO US IS WONDERFUL, BECAUSE THERE WAS NOTHING IN US LOVING. We love what loves us. Such is the law of our nature; and love comes in time to see its own face reflected in the heart of another, as in water at the bottom of a draw-well. We cannot resist loving what loves us; it matters not who or what it is; though but the dog that barks, and bounds, and wheels in joyous circles around us on our return — "the first to welcome and foremost to defend." I would hold his friendship cheap who did not love a dog that loved him; and care little for the child that would not drop some tears on the grave of his humble but faithful playmate — or, to borrow a figure from Bible story, of the "little ewe lamb which the poor man nourished, which ate of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was to him as a little daughter." Let a poor dumb creature love us, we are drawn to love it in return, by a law of nature as irresistible and Divine as that which draws a stone to the ground, or makes the stream flow onward to the sea. Whatever secrets this key unlocks; whatever strange and singular marriages it may explain, it does not open the mysteries of Calvary; it does not explain the love of Christ. I have, indeed, seen some that had abandoned themselves to a life of vice who still respected virtue, and look back with remorseful regret to their days of childhood and the innocence of a father's home. I have seen a profligate son, who, though wringing a pious mother's heart and bringing her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, yet loved her; mourning his own failings, he returned her affection; yielding to sin, still he clung to his mother as a drowning wretch to a piece of the wreck which he hopes may float him to the shore. Now, if our love of goodness had survived the loss of it; if we had retained any love to God after we had lost his image; if we had cast back some lingering looks on Eden; and, like Absalom, who felt pained at being two whole years in Jerusalem without being admitted into his father's presence, if we had been grieved at God's displeasure, then, with such goodly vestiges of primeval innocence, Christ's love to us would not have been so wonderful. But there were no such feelings in man to awaken the love of Christ.
III. THIS LOVE IS WONDERFUL IN ITS EXPRESSION. A sight is here that might have stayed an angel's wing; and filled both heaven and earth with wonder. Who is this? Hear, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! By the cross where He dies, the ear of faith catches the voice of the Eternal: "This is my beloved Son." He there, who is buffeted by cruel hands, and meekly bears the blows; who faints from loss of blood, and sinks beneath his cross; who hangs upon the tree, while the blood streams from his hands and feet; whose dying ear is tilled, not with holy prayers and psalms, but with the shouts and mockery of an impious crew; He, hanging mangled and lifeless on the middle cross, with head dropped on his breast, the pallor of death spread over His cheek, the seal of death on His lips, the film of death on His eyes, is the Son of God. The Prince of life has become the prey of death; at once its noblest victim and its almighty conqueror. How did it happen? One word conveys the answer — that word is Love; love to sinners, to the greatest, guiltiest sinners. Love brought him from the skies; love shut Him up in Mary's womb; love shut Him up in Joseph's tomb; love wove the cords that bound His hands; love forged the nails that fastened Him to the tree; love wept in His tears, breathed in His sighs, spake in His groans, flowed in His blood, and died upon His cross.
Parallel VersesKJV: I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.