John 13:34

Upon our Savior's departure from the world, he made provision for the perpetuity of his work upon earth and among men. This he did by constituting a society of living persons, who were to be united together by bonds of peculiar strength. The ties which the Lord intended to knit his people together were three, and "a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Faith in Christ, love to one another, and benevolent effort for the world's salvation, - these were the three "notes" of Christian discipleship, the three elements by which the Church was to be cemented into a true unity. Of these the Savior, in this passage, lays stress upon the second.


1. Who are they of whom this mutual love is required? The admonition here is not to general philanthropy, but to affection towards brethren in the spiritual family. Notwithstanding social differences, notwithstanding diverse tastes and habits, Christians are bound together by ties stronger than all forces which disunite.

2. What kind of love is this which the Savior here enjoins? It is a disposition contrary to that old nature which displays itself in coldness, suspicion, malice, and envy. It is a disposition which reveals itself in good will, confidence, and mutual helpfulness.

3. Is it reasonable for love to be commanded? Must not love ever be spontaneous and free? The answer to this question is that Christian love may be cultivated by the use of means appointed by Divine wisdom.

4. In what sense is this a new commandment? Not absolutely; for the Old Testament enjoins mutual kindliness and benevolence. But it is new as a law of Christ for the government of society at large, new in its range and scope, new in its spiritual sanction and its Divine prototype.


1. The motive. It is observable here, as elsewhere, that our Lord refers all duty and virtue to himself. To the Christian, Jesus is the Master in all conduct, the spiritual Power that accounts for the renewed character in all its phases. He loved us with a love in which he identifies his people with himself. We may show our devotion to him by loving his people as himself.

2. The model. Christ alone is the perfect Example; he loved his people with a constant, patient, and forbearing love; with a love active, practical, and self-sacrificing. As he loved us, so he expects us to love one another.

III. MUTUAL LOVE IS A PROOF OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP. This is the test which the Master himself has chosen.

1. It is a proof to the Christian himself. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren."

2. It is a proof recognized by fellow-Christians. Love is a means of recognition; it is the language which tells that we have met a fellow-countryman. It is a claim for sympathy, a summons to responsive kindness.

3. It is an argument which tends to convince the world. The exhibition of mutual love was, as is evident from the well-known passage in Tertullian, early recognized as distinguishing Christians from the unbelieving world. It was felt that Christianity was a new and beneficent power in human society. "Your Master made you all brethren!" Such was the exclamation forced from the beholder. Often as this ideal has been unrealized, still its life and force have not departed, and Christianity must now be acknowledged as the one only moral power which can change hatred into love, and warfare into amity. - T.

A new commandment I give unto you.

1. Negatively. Not as if it was not enjoined before (1 John 2; John 7; 2 John 5; Leviticus 19:18).

2. Positively.

(1)Newly freed from the false glosses of the Jews (Matthew 5:43-44).

(2)Newly infused into the heart as well as commanded.

(3)Christ adds a new authority to it, and a new obligation on us.

(4)Because it is so excellent (Psalm 32:3).

(5)It is to be performed according to a new pattern, viz., Christ's love to us.


1. AS God (John 20:28).

2. As King and head of the Church (Matthew 28:18).


1. Pray for one another (1 Timothy 2:1).

2. Forgive one another (Matthew 6:14).

3. Help one another.

(1)In temporals (Matthew 7:11).

(2)In spirituals (Leviticus 19:17).

4. Sympathize with one another.

(1)In prosperity (Romans 12:15).

(2)In adversity.

5. Relieve one another's necessities

(1)In obedience to God (1 John 3:17).

(2)Proportionably to our estates (1 Corinthians 16:2).

(3)Humbly, not thinking to merit thereby (Luke 17:10).


1. Negatively.

(1)Not that we can suffer so much for others as He has done for us.

(2)Nor do so much; for He has obtained the pardon of our sins (1 John 2:2); peace with God (Romans 5:1); heaven (John 14:2).

2. Positively.(1) Our love must proceed from the same principles.


(b)Compassion.(2) In the same manner.

(a)Readily (Titus 3:1; Psalm 40:7, 8).

(b)Sincerely. —

(c)Effectually, in deeds as well as words (1 John 4:18).

(d)Humbly, thinking nothing too low for us to do for others (Philippians 2:6-8).

(e)Constantly (ver. 1).(3) To the same objects, His enemies (Romans 8-10).

(4)To the same ends

(a)God's glory (John 17:4; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

(b)Others good (Acts 10:38).

V. Use. Consider —

1. Unless you love others you have no love for God (1 John 3:17).

2. It is the fulfilling of all the law (Romans 13:9).

3. No duty is accepted without it (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

4. It is the badge of a Christian (ver. 35).

5. It is an everlasting grace (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13).

6. Christ will judge us according to this command (Matthew 25:45).

(Bp. Beveridge.)

It is new, because —


1. Our relation to Christ. We are united to Him by faith, and receive from Him, as the branches from the vine, the life by which we live.

2. This new relation to Christ involves a new relation with each other. We are brethren, members of one family — "as many as received Him," etc.

3. On this new relation the new commandment is based. As the relationship of nature gives rise to natural affection, so this spiritual one begets love in accordance with itself. It is more than philanthropy, patriotism, party attachment, friendship, etc. It is love to those who love Christ and are beloved by Him: love to the Elder Brother in His brethren and ours.

II. PRESENTED IN A NEW FORM — "As I have loved you." It must be the same in kind, although in a lesser degree; just as a drop from the ocean, or a ray from the sun, is the same as the fulness from which it comes. These conversations exhibit several characteristics which we ought to imitate.

1. Tender consideration for each others' needs. He thought of them more than He thought of Himself.

2. Humble ministration to the welfare of the brethren (vers. 4, 5). Christ's was not a sentimental, but a practical love.

3. Self-sacrifice for our sakes. "He gave Himself," not merely certain blessings, and not merely to teach and minister, but to die. "Greater love hath no man than this." "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

III. ENFORCED BY A NEW POWER. It is in this respect that the new covenant differs so widely from the old. The law enjoined the duty of loving our neighbour; but it had not sufficient motive power to carry the commandment into effect. Hence it remained a dead letter, and spoke only to condemn. But the new commandment is "The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," and its word is with power. It is attended by the constraining influence of the Saviour's love. "We have not received the Spirit of fear," etc. As we contemplate this "great love," we become the subjects of a new emotion of admiration and gratitude. Above all, His Spirit writes the new commandment on the fleshy tables of our hearts.

IV. DESIGNED FOR A NEW PURPOSE (ver. 35). It is not only a law to be fulfilled; but its fulfilment is a distinction and evidence of our relation to Christ.

1. A peculiar distinction. Of old time, discipleship was known by dress, language, meat, and drinks, creeds, etc.; but our Lord declares that the distinct mark of His disciples shall be, beyond everything else, love like His own.

2. A certain distinction. For what is there more directly opposed to the sinfulness of the human heart? And what is the saving change, but one from selfishness to love? "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because," etc.

3. An influential distinction. For wherever it exists, men cannot but recognize us, and Christ in us, and be attracted to His love and service.

(B. Dale, M. A.)

We all know the Ten Commandments, is there another besides? Yes, says —

I. THE WORLD. "Thou shalt not be found out in breaking any of the ten." It acknowledges their excellence, breaks them, and strives to conceal that it has done so, wishing above all things to escape detection. This is the object which the bad part of the world pursues with all its cleverness and energy.

II. THE CHURCH. It is remarkable that in the version of the Ten Commandments by the oldest of existing sects, the Samaritans, this is added, "Thou shalt build an altar on Mount Gerizim, and there thou shalt worship." And for commandments such as this, half the energies of Christendom have been spent, and spent in vain.

III. CHRIST. "Love one another." We can imagine the surprise of the apostles, "What I are not the ten enough, or the two; may we not rest and be thankful in these?" True in these are the substance of all duty; but there is a craving in the human heart for something beyond mere duty, for a commandment which should be at once old and new — new with all the varying circumstances of time and thought and feeling, and which should give a new, fresh, undying impulse to its ten elder sisters. The ten older commandments were written on blocks of stone, as if to teach us that all great and good works were like that primeval granite of Sinai, more solid and enduring than all the other strata, cutting across all the secondary and artificial distinctions of mankind. As that granite block itself had been fused and wrought together by the central fire, so the Christian law of duty, in order to fully perform its work in the world, must have been warmed and fed at the source of a central fire of its own — love of God and love of man. And that central fire itself is kept alive by the consciousness that there has been in the world a love above all other love — the love of Christ. Learn the importance —

1. Of personal kindness.

2. Systematic beneficence.

3. Making the most and the best of everyone.

(Dean Stanley.)

It is new because love —





(Bp. Christ. Wordsworth.)

What are Christ's parting instructions to His Church? How are His followers to vanquish all the banded opposition of the world? Does He counsel them to amass wealth? to secure high offices? to acquire learning? to equip fleets and armies? to employ craft and intrigue? No, the first disciples were poor, destitute of learning, humble and despised, nor did they ever kill or wound a single human being. The power with which the Redeemer arms His Church is love.


1. Love is the only badge by which the Church of Christ is known (ver. 35). Armies have their banners, and families their heraldry. In the days of Christ, Jews and Gentiles had their emblems — different sects and schools being distinguished by symbols and mottoes. At this day, churches called Christian glory in names, titles, orders, and parade. But there is only one badge of the true Church which will be recognized and honoured by "all men." "The banner over us is love."

2. Love is the only law by which a Church of Christ is to be governed. Church government! — how much pride, prejudice, ambition, selfishness, cruelty, have been sanctified by this phrase. A king dabbling with astronomy once said, Had I been present when God arranged the solar system, I could have made some important suggestions. So vain men have thought as to the Saviour's regulation of His Church, and they have sought to improve His system. As in the natural world the Creator secures order without monotony, by forming each particle of matter with its own peculiar properties, and throwing around all substances the law of gravitation; so in the Church, there are many members and diversities of gifts, etc., but the law of love binds all into one harmonious whole. If love reign in a church, it will almost supersede discipline.

3. When from the internal administration of the Church we turn to its outward enterprise, we find a mission entirely of love. It is this which makes the gospel the religion suited to all climes and ages.

4. It is love which is to secure the perpetuity, and final and universal triumph of the Church. Force, stratagem, heredity, prescriptive authority, are the foundations of earthly kingdoms. Christ founded His empire on love.

5. Love is the glory, the happiness, the perfection of the Church of Christ. It is greater than faith and hope, because it comprehends them both; for it "hopeth all things, believeth all things." We every day see loving hearts hoping against hope, and trusting in spite of the basest perfidiousness. Love, indeed, is the crowning flower in which all the Christian graces will expand and bloom in eternity. The highest heaven knows nothing more exalted and blessed than love.


1. In the new principle to which it appeals. It is not attachment to a human being for his natural excellencies, but complacency in the image of God reflected by him. "Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him."

2. In its extent — embracing all who are the children of God. All other ties and relations are subordinated to this religion — this new spiritual affinity which rebinds us to Christ and to each other. Separated from God, men are walled off from each other by selfish and hostile distinctions. To repair these unnatural breaches, the "Son of God" became the "Son of Man," that He might attract us all to God, and unite us all to one another by new and heavenly ties.

3. Its spirituality. It is love not only for the bodies, but for the souls of our brethren. How few really and practically recognize the soul. In Christ's teachings the soul is everything. He heeded neither the trappings of the prince nor the rags of the beggar. Beneath all, through all, He saw a soul whose dignity and worth transcend finite thought. The only charge which His enemies could ever prove against Him was, "This man receiveth sinners." And, catching His spirit, what a new passion inflamed the souls of His disciples.

4. Its comprehensiveness; for it embraces and renders superfluous all other commands.

III. THE EXAMPLE BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED — "As I have loved you." A love —

1. How attentive! as considerate and assiduous as the love of a woman.

2. How confiding! "Having loved His own, which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Often had they been faithless. Yet He trusts them, opens His whole heart to them, and commits His cause to their keeping.

3. How condescending! Stooping to the most menial office of kindness and hospitality (vers. 4, 5).

4. How compassionate! He not only pronounces every sin, however aggravated, pardonable, if only against Himself, but He is ingenious in finding apologies for all the weaknesses, even for the baseness and treachery, of those whom He had trusted.

5. How disinterested! He entirely forgets Himself when His friends are in sorrow or danger.

(R. Fuller, D. D.)

These words fall strangely on our ears. A commandment to love! We have placed law and love in contrast, and have imagined affection to be below our reach. Yet Jesus enforces love. We are, therefore, reminded that love is within our own reach. Christ lays it upon us not as an ideal which we may admire, and which may exert some kind of influence on us, nor as a standard which we may attain to in heaven; but as a commandment. In what sense can it be called a new commandment? Surely in the old dispensation God commanded love. The newness of the law may be found in the prominent position which is given to it, and the standard set before us. The first fruit of the Spirit named in the list of graces is love. Christ especially singles out this affection as being illustrative of His own character, and giving most effectual testimony to Him.

I. IN WHAT FORM MAY THIS NEW COMMANDMENT BE FULFILLED? — "As I have loved on you." Study the love of Christ. His love showed itself —

1. In a generous appreciation of the characters of those around Him. In that little group there existed the utmost differences. You find a publican like Matthew, a man with very dim perceptions like Philip; a determined and resolute doubter like Thomas; a boastful man like Peter, etc. These are men from whom we should be inclined to shrink, but Christ could appreciate them all. Be quick, like Christ, to see virtues, and slow to see faults. Generous appreciation will encourage public men to hold their position. It will encourage men of worth, who are retiring in disposition, to come to the front and bear their share of public duty. Unkind criticism will keep in the background men who can best serve the Church and commonwealth. This generous appreciation is a wonderful force to elevate society. Suspicion has a tendency to create what it suspects. If you suspect a lad of untruthfulness, you are tempting him to falsehood. If high estimates are formed of us by others, we are encouraged to rise to the estimate.

2. In patient endurance! "When reviled He reviled not again." We are to forbear one another and to forgive one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us. If we are doing good work we cannot afford to be turned aside by any unkindness. God has overcome our evil with His good, and turned the hostile forces of our nature into helpful influences for His purposes. Thus seek to conquer the evil which you have to endure by good. It is the noblest of all triumphs.

3. In unselfish service.(1) In little deeds of kindness, of which sometimes the recipients shall know nothing, but which shall bring some fresh gladness and hope into their lives.(2) In words. What did God give you the power of speech for? Is it to hide your feelings? Love will die like a smothered fire if you give it no expression.(3) In looks. If your face is dull, sad, cross, to the extent of your influence you are saddening all that come within your circle.


1. That you can sympathise with God. On many sides of the Divine nature you cannot sympathise with Him.

(1)With His mighty power, for you have not an arm like His.

(2)With Divine wisdom.

(3)With burning purity.

(4)But you can sympathise with His love. You can feel for men as God feels for them.

2. That you will show your union with Christ (ver. 35). No Christian grace exercises so much influence on the thoughts of men. They are not able to appreciate Christian holiness, prayerfulness, zeal; but Christlike love they can.

3. Such love will gladden your own life as well as the lives of others. There is perhaps no joy greater than that of loving. The bliss of the blessed God lies chiefly in His loving heart.

(C. B. Symes, B. A.)

It was new because He had only then come to explain it; it was new because it could not have been conceived before His life exhibited its meaning; it was new because the love which He showed was something altogether beyond the power of man to have imagined for himself; and as in science we reckon him to be the discoverer of a new law, who rises above the guesses and glimpses of His predecessors, and establishes upon new ground, and in a manner which can never afterwards be questioned, some great principle which had been perhaps partly conceived before, so I think we may say, that the law of brotherly love, as illustrated by the example of the Lord, which stamps the great principle of selfishness as a vile and execrable principle, might be truly described as a new commandment which Christ gave to His disciples.

(Bp. H. Goodwin.)

Christ is our Lawgiver as well as our Saviour. And He made obedience to His laws the test and the manifestation of love to Him (John 14:15). The Church of Christ is in fact the spiritual Israel. Israel according to the flesh had their laws fitted for their place in God's purposes; we have ours adapted to our position also. And we may well be thankful when we compare the two codes together. Theirs, as necessary in a state of imperfection and bondage, was cumbrous and intricate. Of all the commands of the old law, none remain for us, but those which are based on the nature of God, and His attributes. And our new commandment comes to us, not sanctioned by lightnings and thunderings, etc. — but from the dying lips of our dearest Friend; it is prefaced by His deed of deep humiliation, is embosomed in His words of consolation and peace — is enforced by His own constraining example. A new commandment. And what is it which we are to hear from the lips of Divine wisdom, after such an announcement? Long had the world disobeyed His law written in the conscience; and then He defined that law, and wrote it on tables of stone, and set apart a people for Himself, among whom it might be observed. But that people had rejected Him, and disobeyed His laws. And now, what new commandment will He promulgate to His rebellious world? What, to the Gentile, sunk in moral degradation — what to the Jew, mocking Him with empty hypocrisy? Shall it not surpass in strictness and in terror all that have gone before? Shall it not be such as to awe the passions into submission to awaken the conscience into energy, to drive the sinner to repentance or to his doom? Nay! Can He, who invited to Him the weary and heavy laden, speak aught but words of gentleness and comfort? Had God's new revelation of His will been an increase in severity, would this Messenger have been sent to make it? Anew commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.

(Dean Alford.)

Look for a moment, by way of recall, at three or four characteristics of that love which Christ showed to His disciples. In the first place, love was the principle of His life. Some men are like Western farmers who have their one hundred and sixty acres, and put one hundred and fifty-nine and a half acres in hay and grain and grass for the cattle, and half an acre around the door is a garden and grass-plot, and a fraction of that the wife cultivates in flowers. So men give the larger part of their life to self or justice or righteousness or fair-dealing, and they cultivate a little plot with flowers which they call love (and generally they are very like the Western farmers in that they leave the wife to raise all the flowers). know, love was not thus a mere incident of Christ's life. It was the essence of His life. He lived for love. Love was the inspiration of His life. It was a wise love, not a mere sentiment, not a mere blind enthusiasm. It was well considered. He measured men and adapted His gifts to their capacities. Christ's love was not either a mere sentimental love. It was not a love that cannot bear to look upon suffering, or that intervenes to stop all suffering. It was not a love that could not rebuke and reprove. There was flash in the eyes of His love, and there was thunder, sometimes, in the tones of His love. He loved, too, with infinite patience and long-suffering. He loved not only with benevolence — that is, well wishing to all men, and with pity — that is, with love to those that are in suffering, but with mercy — that is, love to those who do not deserve love. He loved when love and conscience seemed to antagonize each other. Impossible I do you say? Well, then, let us say frankly it is impossible to be a Christian. Impossible? Then impossible to follow Christ. Not human nature? No, it is not human nature. It is Divine nature: and that is the very object of Christianity — to confer upon all who will be the disciples of Christ a Divine nature, not a mere human nature; that they may be lifted up out of the plane of the human, and walk in the plane and atmosphere of the Divine ever more.

(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)

The commandment of love issued appropriately at the Feast of Love, and not long before the great Act of Love. For the love of Christ was no fine saying; it cost Him His life to say these words. It is difficult to grasp the meaning of this command, arising from the fact that words change their meaning. Love is, by conventional usage, appropriated to one species of human affection, which, in the commoner men, is most selfish. Nor is charity a perfect symbol of His meaning; for that is now identified with almsgiving. Benevolence or philanthropy, in derivation, come nearer to the idea; but yet you feel at once that these words are too tame and cold. We have no sufficient word. "As I have loved you:" that alone expounds it. Take —

I. THE NOVELTY of the law —

1. As a historical fact. Men before that had travelled, but the spectacle of a Paul crossing oceans not to conquer kingdoms, to hive up knowledge, to accumulate stores for self, but to give and to spend himself — was new in the history of the world. The celestial fire had touched the hearts of men and their hearts flamed; and it caught, and spread, and would not stop. Read the account given by of the marvellous rapidity with which the Christians increased, and you are reminded of one of those vast armies of ants which move across a country in irresistible myriads, drowned by thousands in rivers, cut off by fire, consumed by men and beast, and yet fresh hordes succeeding interminably to supply their place. A new voice was heard; man longing to burst the false distinctions which had kept the best hearts from each other so long. And all this from Judaea — the narrowest, most intolerant nation on the face of the earth.

2. In extent. It was in literal words, an old Commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." But the difference lay in extent in which the words were understood. By "neighbour," the Jew meant his countrymen; so that the rabbinical gloss was, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy." And what the Gentile understood by the extent of the law of love, we may learn from their best and wisest, who thanked heaven that he was born a man, and not a brute — a Greek, and not a barbarian. But Christ said, "Love your enemies." And as a specimen of a neighbour he specially selected one of that nation whom every Jew had been taught to hate. And just as the application of electricity to the innumerable wants of human life and to new ends is reckoned a new discovery (though the fact has been familiar to the Indian child and applied for ages to his childish sports), so the extension of this grand principle of Love to all the possible cases and persons — even though the principle was applied long before in love to friends, country, and relations — is truly and properly "a new commandment."

3. In being made the central principle of a system. Never had obedience before been trusted to a principle, it had always been hedged round by a law. Now it was reserved for One to pierce down into the springs of human action, and to proclaim the simplicity of its machinery. "Love," said the apostle after Him — "Love is the fulfilling of the law." I may abstain from murder and theft, deterred by law and its penalties. But I may also rise into the Spirit of Charity; then I am free from the law; the law no more binds me, now that I love my neighbour, than the dyke built to keep in the sea at high tide restrains it when that sea has sunk to low watermark.

II. THE SPIRIT OR MEASURE of the law — "As I have loved you." Broadly, the love of Christ was the spirit of giving all He had to give — "Greater love hath no man than this," etc. "He saved others; Himself He cannot save." These words, meant as taunt, were really the noblest panegyric. How could He, having saved others? How can any keep what he gives? Love gives itself. The mother spends herself in giving life to her child; the soldier dies for him country; nay, even the artist produces nothing that will live, except so far as he has merged his very being in his work. That spirit of self-giving manifests itself in —

1. Considerate kindness. Take three cases.(1) When He fed the people with bread, there was a tenderness which, not absorbed in His own great designs, provided for the satisfaction of the lowest wants.(2) "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile." He did not grudge from duty the interval of relaxation.(3) "Woman, behold thy son!" In that hour of death torture, He could think of her desolate state when He was gone, and with delicate, thoughtful attention provide for her well-being. There are people who would do great acts; but because they wait for great opportunities, life passes and the acts of love are not done at all. Observe, this considerateness of Christ was shown in little things. And life is made up of infinitesimals. And these trifles prepared for larger deeds. The one who will be found in trial capable of great acts of love is ever the one who is always doing considerate small ones.

2. It was never foiled by the unworthiness of those on whom it had once been bestowed. There was everything to shake His trust in humanity. As we mix in life there comes disappointment, and the danger is a reaction of desolating and universal mistrust. The only preservation from this withering of the heart is love. The strength of affection is a proof, not of the worthiness of the object, but of the largeness of the soul which loves. The might of a river depends not on the quality of the soil through which it passes, but on the inexhaustibleness and depth of the spring from which it proceeds. The greater minds cleave to the smaller with more force than the other to it. Love trusts on — expects better things. And more, it is this trusting love that makes men what they are trusted to be, so realizing itself. When the crews of the fleet of Britain knew that they were expected to do their duty, they did their duty. And it is on this principle that Christ wins the hearts of His redeemed. He trusted the doubting Thomas; and Thomas arose with a faith worthy "of his Lord and his God." He would not suffer even the lie of Peter to shake His conviction that Peter might love him yet; and Peter answered nobly to that sublime forgiveness. Therefore, come what may, hold fast to love. Learn not to love merely, but to love as He loved.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

A little girl, three or four years old, learned the Bible text, "Love one another." "What does love one another mean?" asked her next eldest sister, in honest doubt as to the meaning. "Why, I must love you and you must love me; and I'm one and you're another" was the answer. Who can improve on that?

(J. L. Nye.)

Alexander the Great, being asked how he had been able at so early an age and in so short a period to conquer such vast regions, and establish so great a name, replied, "I used my enemies so well that I compelled them to be my friends; and I treated my friends with such constant regard that they became unalterably attached to me."

Clerical Library.
A lady brought a little ragged orphan girl to her house for a playmate for her three daughters. But the little thing would venture no further than the lobby, where she sat crying as if her heart would break. The lady said to her daughters there was one secret of four letters she thought would win the little one. The eldest girl tried her doll, the second her new muff, but still the little stranger kept on weeping. At length the youngest sister ran into the lobby, sat down beside her, began to weep with her, and then put her arms about her neck and kissed her, till at last she easily got her into the room; and then it was found that the secret was love.

(Clerical Library.)

One of the common complaints in our day, in Christian societies, is this, "There is no love among us." Sometimes the complaint is uttered in holy sorrow. But sometimes it only means, "I am not getting my just share of love from others; the place feels cold around me." If this is what the complaint means, the remedy is that the complainer should love till he warms up the whole neighbourhood. I am to love when I am not loved. I am to love when I am suspected. I am to love when men are trying to discover what selfish feeling moves me, or what my price is. I am to love those who do not care for my love. I am to love even when I have indignation. I am to love as the sun shines — its beams going forth on all sides without asking for an object, and "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof;" the love I show being the love of God in me.

I. ITS PRINCIPLE. We are to have love like that of Christ.

1. In one sense this is impossible. "Measure the waters in the hollow of thine hand; mete out heaven with a span," etc. — these are measurable things, but the love of Christ is measureless. To love like Paul — like John — would be a lofty aim, but who can love like Christ?

2. He asks not that our love should equal, but resemble His; not that it should be of the same strength, but of the same kind. A pearl of dew will not hold the sun, but it may hold a sparkle of its light. A child, by the sea, trying to catch the waves, cannot hold the ocean in a tiny shell, but he may hold a drop of the ocean water. "There is an ocean of love in My heart," says Christ, "let a drop of that ocean be received into yours."

3. Divine love, therefore, is but another name for that Divine life which animates all the disciples. None need despair of his ability to obey his Lord's will, for Christ gives the love which He commands, and you need only ask in order to have (Ephesians 3:14-19).

II. THE MODE OF ACTION it prescribes. If we love as Christ loves —

1. We shall be ready to love others before they love us. If He had waited until we loved Him, where should we now have been? "Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us." His love explains His death, but what can explain His love? Sublime as it is, our love must acknowledge no lower law.

2. Our love will be a practical thing. Some are in danger of becoming mere religious sentimentalists. They feel much, but do little. They are ready for sympathy, but not for sacrifice. They are the sensitive plants of the Church, and not fruit-bearing trees of righteousness. This fine sensibility, cherished for its own sake, and having no outforce in deeds for the good of others, both weakens the soul and itself. "Abiding alone," it is but soft effeminacy or weak indulgence; luxury, not love. Christ has not said, "By love feel for one another," merely; but "By love serve one another." Let us interpret His law by His life. His love speaks to us through a glorious deed; then our love, like His, must speak through action. His love found expression through a sacrifice; then ours must express itself through sacrifice. His love was displayed when "He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows;" then, "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Redemption was His own personal act. Then our love is not to have a mere representative utterance.

3. Our love will be humble. All love is lowly. You often see a loving purpose kept in cheek by a haughty will, and the ice of pride seal the river of love. You have seen the father and son proudly stand apart. Each yearns to fling himself into the other's embrace, but pride forbids the younger to confess his fault, and the elder his sorrowful tenderness. But where love lives in its strength it will be stronger than death. It will come down, cast aside state and ceremony, submit to a thousand indignities, stoop to save, and "stand at the door and knock." If you would know what humility can do, study redeeming love, and though Christ sits enthroned on the riches of the universe His heart is still unchanged. Like the sunshine that falls with magical flicker on pearl and ruby, lance and armour, in the royal hall — yet overflows the shepherd's home, and quivers through the grating of the prisoner's cell — floods the noblest scenes with day, yet makes a joy for the insect — so does the Saviour's love, not deterred by our unworthiness, come down to teach and bless the meanest and the lowliest life in the new creation.

4. Our love must be bountiful. Love can never do enough for its object. When you were lost, "unsearchable riches" were poured forth as the price of your redemption. When you were found, what was the language of the Heart of Hearts? "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him," etc. When, therefore, your heart is disposed to give a brother disciple but a scanty and penurious affection remember "Freely ye have received, freely give."

5. We shall breathe a spirit of gentleness and patience towards the erring or offending members of the Christian brotherhood. The effects flowing from the violation of this principle might fill a library with sad histories.

6. We shall love all the disciples. Christ is not now speaking of His universal love, but of His peculiar and discriminating love to those who have accepted Him, and who are already partakers of His life. He loves them, as you love your child none the less because it is now only learning to read, or just beginning, with many a fall, to totter along alone. He loves all His disciples, and all are His disciples, who, however they differ in other respects, unite in the sentiment, "for us to live is Christ."

7. Our love will last forever. Whom He loves He always loves. This is an inference from His nature.

III. ITS NOVELTY. It is a new commandment —

1. As it enjoins love after a new model. Love had always been commanded, but never before had it been so exemplified.

2. As it is addressed to a peculiar class of God's subjects, and is a law for the new creation alone. The old commandments were given to the world this new commandment to the Church.

3. As it arose out of a new necessity, and was intended to be the distinguishing sign of Christ's disciples. To prevent confusion, and secure a defined place in society, each office and every class has its peculiar sign. "As every lord giveth a certain livery to his servants, charity is the very livery of Christ. Our Saviour, which is the Lord above all lords, would have His servants known by their badge, which is love" (Latimer).

4. As it has a new impressiveness — an affecting power all its own. The old commandments had a power to alarm; this, when truly understood, has a power to subdue; they smote the conscience, this captivates the heart.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

The little town of Anworth was the home and the pride of that sweet soul, Rutherford, the Covenanter. One Saturday evening, so the story runs, his household were gathered together for their usual cotter's Saturday night's devotions, when an alarm was heard at the outer door. A stranger sought admission. He was welcomed with true hospitality, and took his place in the circle of those who were then answering the varied questions in the Catechism. It so chanced that the question, "How many commandments are there?" came to this newcomer, as the one to which he was to make reply, and instantly he answered, "Eleven." "What!" said Rutherford; "a man so experienced in life as you seem to be, and so educated in the law and the Scripture of God, not to know that there are but ten commandments!" The stranger answered, "'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.'" Startled by the answer, Ruther. ford proceeded with his service. The next morning before the hour of service, he walked from his humble manse along that pathway which is still spoken of as "Rutherford's Walk," towards the little church. It was early in the day, and he scarcely expected to meet anyone in the path; but over in the wood he heard the voice of someone in supplication. The moment he listened he recognized the stranger's tone. He sought him out, and demanded to know who he was. The stranger answered, "My name is Usher." He was the Archbishop and Primate of all Ireland. Having heard much of the piety of the Presbyterian Rutherford, he had, in this secret way, sought his society that he might judge for himself. Their hearts flowed together in the common devotion which they both felt toward the Lord Jesus, their Master; and when the hour of service came, together the Covenanter and the prelate walked to the little Anworth church, and Usher of Ireland preached to the Covenanters of Scotland on the new commandment, that "ye love one another." His presence there, his welcome there, his spirit and his words, were expositions of the truth of that which the Lord gave as the summing up of His own life.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

(Sermon to Children): — Brotherly love should show itself —

I. In KINDNESS to each other. Love will have to get outlet. If I do not see brotherly kindness, I conclude that there is not brotherly love.

1. There will be kind words. In most families there are many unkind, scolding, fault finding, angry, irritating, coarse, uncourteous words. Not to speak of kindness, there is sometimes scarcely common civility. There is a rudeness — demanding things of each other — driving each other out of the way, etc., when, if a request were made politely, it would be so much better. I like to see children in a kindly way bidding each other "Good night," and again, greeting each other when they meet in the morning. All this would change the whole face of many a family circle. Though you may say it is but words, it would soon tell on everything else. And do not tell tales. A "tell-tale" is an ugly character (Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 26:20, 22). Did you ever notice an echo? If you fire a gun, or sing, or whistle, or shout, or whisper, you get exactly what you give. And so it has passed into a proverb, "Kind words awaken kind echoes."

2. There will be kind looks, You know how much there is in a look — a displeased, angry, sulky, scornful, off-taking look. How they can vex and do a world of mischief! But if looks can do evil, they can also do good. There are kind, encouraging, comforting, winning looks. And just as "kind words produce kind echoes," so kind looks call forth a return in kind. You must have noticed what an effect the look you gave has sometimes had on a dog. In the case of an infant, how you can, without difficulty, make him either laugh or cry merely by a look. That tells what a look can do for good or evil. Others will look at you just as you look at them. You have looked into a mirror, and seen reflected there your own face. As you looked pleased or cross, so did it. Just so is it in a family.

3. There will be kind deeds. I have heard of a mother who was in the habit of asking her children, each night before they went to bed, what they had done that day to make others happy. It would be well for the members of each family to ask themselves that. How many little services of love you might render without being asked. Now, if you love each other you will pray for each other. This is one of the greatest of all kindnesses, as it is one of the most tender of all bonds, and will be likely to lead to all the rest.

II. In SYMPATHY for each other. To "sympathise" is to feel for, or rather with one. I have heard of a girl who, alter having lost a little brother, went back to school; and I have this account of her from one of her companions: "All the time she studied her lesson, she hid her face in her book and cried. I felt so sorry that I hid my face on the same book and cried with her. Then she looked up, and put her arms around my neck; but I do not know why she said I had done her so much good." It was the power of sympathy. When there is any trial, be it light or heavy, pressing on another's mind there is nothing you can give to be compared to sympathy. It is wonderful the effect of even inquiring for the sick one. I am sometimes amazed, in asking children about a little brother or sister who has been ill, when they say they "don't know!" Why do they not know? Had they lost their tongue, or had they not rather lost their heart? When your brother has got up in his class; when he has carried off a prize; when he has got some present; when his birthday has come round; when he is raised up from a sick bed — give him your hearty sympathy.

III. In SELF-DENIAL. Selfishness is the great cause of unhappiness in many homes. Where children are unselfish they must agree — they cannot fail to be happy. But the reverse meets us on every hand in most painful and humbling ways. I once offered a friend a copy of a little book for his three children. But, no. He said, "I must have three or none, otherwise there will be no satisfying them." I am not sure but they had even to be all of the same colour. Two of these books were thus very much thrown away. Now, it should not be so.

IV. In FORBEARANCE and PATIENCE. "Love suffereth long," etc. In every family there is much to annoy. But love enables one to bear a great deal, and keeps the wheels running smoothly. Especially is it the part of the elder members of the family to bear with the younger, as it is the duty of the younger to pay deference to the elder. You have got some unkind, rude, impudent thing said or done to you. Your first impulse is to pay the evildoer back in his own coin. Do you ask, "What should I do?" I say, Bear it. Try to be like God — "slow to wrath." Some one gives the advice to "count ten before you speak," when you are angry. Even in the worst case, "a soft answer turneth away wrath." There is a saying, "He begins the fight who strikes the second blow." That is true of the tongue as well as of the hand.

V. In FORGIVENESS. A mother can forgive when none else can because she loves. God can forgive when none else can, because He loves. And if we love like Him we shall forgive like Him. To be unforgiving, whether young or old, is one of the worst characters that could be given to one.

(J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

(1): — In what sense is this a new commandment? This epithet distinguishes it from —

1. The Mosaic code. The law of Moses was mainly an embodiment of justice. It admitted the cultivation of mutual love, and even enjoined it. But this was not its salient characteristic. Whereas the gospel is preeminently and characteristically a law of love. Again, the love which Judaism recognized was inferior in quality. A Jew behoved to love his neighbour as himself. A Christian must love his brother so as to sacrifice himself if need be.

2. From all common worldly affection. There are —(1) Instinctive affections, such as the parental, filial, etc.(2) Elective affections, such as those of friendship, patriotism, etc.(3) But none of these afford the highest exhibition, development, and gratification of man's social nature. In a manner far to surpass them Christian love is to be cherished. Christ has introduced among men an altogether new principle of social existence. This social aspect of the gospel will be fully displayed in heaven. Meanwhile it is intended to show itself in churches. The singularity of this affection will better appear if we consider a few of its distinctive features. Consider —

I. ITS SPIRITUAL BASIS. It is not founded upon any natural relationship or sentiment, but upon a common participation in the benefits of Christ's redemption. Observe —

1. How this circumstance connects us with the same loving Lord.

2. How it supposes in each of us the same spiritual experience.

3. How it guarantees in each and all the same elements of a pure and estimable character.

4. How it furnishes the prospect of our being united together in perfect blessedness forever and ever. Is there any other love which has such a profound and solemn basis as this?

II. ITS DISINTERESTED PURITY. III. ITS DEVOTED FERROUS. It should lead us, if need be, to die for our brethren, after the example of Christ.


1. It supposes times of persecution and trial, and then it is serviceable to encourage and comfort us.

2. It relates to the exigencies of our spiritual cultivation, and is intended to supply the means of instruction and guidance.

3. It glances at the work which we are to do for Christ in the world, and it ensures strength, cooperation, and success. Apply specially to Church members. The Church ought to be the happiest circle of our acquaintance. Do we observe the new commandment? The way to promote it is to love Christ more. Thus to act is most important for the sake of our piety, our peace, and our usefulness.

(T. G. Horton.)

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