The Memory of Christ’s Love
“We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”— Song of Solomon i. 4.
I DO not think I can preach to-night; I feel so weary, and worn, and ill. Still, I can talk to you a little concerning the great love of Christ. If I were dying, I think I could speak upon that theme; and oh, when we rise again, how wo shall talk for ever and ever about Christ’s love! This will be our endless theme throughout the eternal ages, “His great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins.”
I have taken for a text the last two sentences in the Song of Solomon, the first chapter, and the fourth verse: “We will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”
This is a night for remembering Christ’s love. The communion-table spread before us, the sacred feast to which we are about to come, is meant to recall to our minds our Saviour’s words, “This do in remembrance of me. . . . This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” But, while we remember Christ, the central thought in our minds shall be that of which Paul wrote, “who loved me, and gave himself for me.” We will, above all things else to-night, remember his love. Have any of you been forgetting it? Is it long since you had an hour’s real enjoyment in meditating upon the love of Christ? Then, beloved, come to-night, and renew your vows; begin again your fellowship; and make this firm resolve, “We will remember our Lord; we will remember his love to-night!” May the Holy Spirit, who brings everything to remembrance whatsoever Christ has said to us, help us now to remember him! For him to remember us when he comes to his kingdom, will be our heaven. For us to remember him, though he has gone away to his kingdom, shall be a little heaven to us to-night.
As I am able, I will talk with you briefly, first, upon the preparations for the holy memory mentioned in our text. We shall find them in the verse in which the text is embedded: “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee.” When we have considered the preparations for the holy memory here referred to, I will speak upon the divine subject of this holy memory: “We will remember thy love more than wine.” Then, thirdly, we will meditate upon the divine product of this holy memory: “The upright love thee,” love thee because they remember thy love.
I. First, then, dear friends, as I may be helped by the Holy Spirit, I would remind you of THE PREPARATIONS FOR THIS HOLY MEMORY. Here they are.
The first word is, “Draw me” Lord, I would fain come at thee; but, like Mephibosheth, I am lame in both my feet. I would fain fly to thee; but my wings are broken; if, indeed, I ever had any. I cannot come to thee. I lie inert, and dead, and powerless. So the first preparation is, “Draw me.” It is a sweet, gracious, efficacious exercise of divine power that I need and entreat. I say not, “Drive me;” but, “Lord, draw me.” I say not, “Throw me there, or force me yonder;” but, “Lord, draw me. Whilst thou dost draw, I shall have liberty left to run: draw me, we will run after thee.”
We do not need to be born again; we who are believers in Christ have had that miracle wrought upon us already. We are not asking now for pardon and justification; as believers in Christ, we have these priceless boons already. What we want is the gentle influence of the Holy Spirit to attract us nearer to Christ; so each one cries to the Lord, “Draw me.” We are not dead; we are quickened and made alive. Our very pain and anguish, because we are not able to come to Christ as we would, prove that we are alive. I commend this prayer to you, “Lord, draw me; draw me.” It is the work of Christ to draw. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” It is the work of the Father. “No man can come to me,” said Christ, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” It is the work of the Spirit of God to draw a soul towards Christ. I pray this for myself, and I trust that you will pray with me, “Come, Sacred Spirit, and draw us nearer to Christ; enliven our hopes; incline our hearts; arouse our desires; and then help us to yield our whole boing to thy gracious influences!”
“If thou hast drawn a thousand times,
Oh, draw me, Lord, again!”
That, then, is the first preparation for the holy memory mentioned in our text, divine drawing: “Draw me.”
Notice, next, that this verse says, “Draw me, we will run after thee” I like the change in the pronouns, as though I should pray to-night, “Lord, draw me; I am the most weighted, the heaviest of all thy children in this congregation; but draw me, we will run after thee. All my brothers and sisters will run at once if thou dost draw me. If thou dost draw the most burdened one towards thyself, all the rest will come to thee at a rapid rate.” Do you not feel, my dear brother or sister, as if you could use this expression? Lord, if thou wilt draw me, all my fellow-members will be running with me; yet they will not outstrip me in their eagerness to reach thee, for we will together run after thee. Do, therefore, draw me, my gracious Lord!
If we would be fully prepared to remember Christ, we must get into this running pace: “Draw me: we will run after thee.” Be quick, my soul, be quick, about heavenly things! Creep, if thou wilt, about thy worldly business; but run after thy Lord. Oh, that we might every one attain the running pace to-night! Oh, that we might speed along towards our Lord with that strong, impetuous desire which will not let us rest till we are close to him: “Draw me, we will run after thee.”
Divine drawing is the first preparation for the holy memory, and next comes speedy running.
Now, in the further preparation, if you read the verse through, you will find that an answer comes to the prayer directly it is uttered: “The king hath brought me into his chambers.” “What I asked for, I have obtained at once; and I have received more than I asked for. I prayed, ‘Draw me,’ and he hath carried me bodily. ‘The king hath brought me into his chambers.’ I did but pray that I might come a little nearer to my Lord; but he has brought me into his secret places, into his withdrawing rooms. He has brought me where he brings his bride. He has brought me where he receives his courtiers. The King has brought me into his chambers; and now I see how truly royal he is. The King has done it. The King, not a king; but that King who is King of all kings, the most royal of all monarchs, ‘the Prince of the kings of the earth,’ even my Lord Jesus, hath brought me into his chambers.”
How quickly this was done! I want you to believe, beloved, that it could be done just as quickly in your case. Pray, “Lord, draw me. I feel as if I were coming to the communion-table quite unfit to come.” Is that what you say? Then pray, “Draw me,” and in a moment, before the prayer is uttered, you shall find yourself not only drawn, but actually brought into the secret place of fellowship. “The king hath brought me into his chambers.” “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Ammi-nadib.” I know, and some of you know, unhappily, what it is to feel very cold and lifeless; but I also know, and some of you know, what it is to become full of life, full of love, full of joy, full of heavenly rapture, in a single moment. You who could only creep begin to run. You who could only sigh begin to sing. I want it to be so with every one of you, dearly beloved, to-night. And you, who think you are forgotten, shall be remembered to-night, at any rate. You who have almost forgotten what a real, hallowed time of communion means, may learn it over again to-night, as you cry, “Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers.”
Thus we have had three preparations for the holy memory mentioned in our text: drawing, running, and bringing.
There is only one more preparation for remembering Christ, and that is to feel gladness and joy in him: “We will be glad and rejoice in thee.” Come, take those ashes from thy head, thou that art sighing by reason of affliction! Come, unbind that sackcloth, and throw it aside, thou that hast lost fellowship with God, and art consequently in the dark! Christ is yours if you believe in him. He has given himself to you, and he loves you. Rejoice in that blessed fact. Remember who he is, and what he is; very God of very God, yet perfect man, God in human nature, Immanuel, God with us, glorified now in the highest heavens, though once, for our sakes, he sank down into the very depths of death and the grave. Bless his dear name. Be glad and rejoice in him.
Now, I pray you, let your mouth be filled with laughter, your tongue with singing, and your heart with holy ecstasy, as you think of who your Well-beloved is, how great he is, and what greatness he puts upon you by virtue of his union with you. We cannot very well remember Christ as we should while we carry about with us a heavy heart. Come, sad spirit, be glad in the Lord! “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” If ever a human soul had reason to rejoice, it must be the soul that believes in Christ. If ever there were any of the sons of Adam who had cause to be glad, and to clap their hands with holy mirth, it is the men who have found Christ to be their salvation, and their all in all.
These, then, are the preparations for the holy memory of which our text speaks. If they be well made, you will have no difficulty in remembering Christ’s love to-night.
II. So now, in the second place, as I may be strengthened, I would like to speak about THE DIVINE SUBJECT OF THIS HOLY MEMORY: “We will remember thy love.”
First, we will remember the fact of Christ’s love. What a wonderful thing it is that the Son of God should love us! I do not wonder so much that he should have any love for you; but I am lost in wonder at the fact that he has any love for me, even for me. Does not each believer feel that the wonder of wonders must ever be that the Lord Jesus Christ loves him? He was in glory, wanting nothing. He was in his Father’s bosom, enjoying ineffable delight. If he wanted to cast his eyes of love on any of his creatures, there were myriads of bright spirits before the throne. But, no, he must look down, down, down, to earth’s dunghills, and find out us who were utterly unworthy of his regard. Then he might have pitied us, and left us in our lost estate; but it could not be so with one who has such a heart as our dear Saviour has; he must needs love us. What it is for God to love, God only knows. We faintly guess, by the love that burns in our bosom towards the objects of our affection, what the love of God must be. The love of God must be a mighty passion. I use the word because I know no better; I am conscious that it is not the right one, for human language is too feeble to describe divine love.
“Stronger his love than death or hell;
Its riches are unsearchable:
The first-born sons of light
Desire in vain its depths to see;
They cannot reach the mystery,
The length, and breadth, and height.”
Oh, the love of Christ! It must ever be the wonder of wonders that Jesus Christ, the darling of the heavens, should have set the eyes of his affection upon men of mortal mould, on sinful men, on me! That, to me, is the climax.
We will remember the fact of Christ’s love.
But we will remember, also, the character of Christ’s love. What a love it was! He loved us before the foundation of the world. With the telescope of his prescience, he foresaw our existence, and he loved us when we had no being. Then he struck hands with the great Father, and entered into covenant on our behalf, and engaged that he would stand sponsor for us, and redeem us from the ruin of our sin. Oh, the love, the love, the everlasting love of Christ! He has never left off loving us from the very first. All through the ages before the world was, and through the centuries in which the world has existed, he has loved his chosen every moment, and loved them to the full. Can you drink in the sweetness of that thought? Oh, I pray you, remember the antiquity and the constancy of the love of Christ to his people! “We will remember thy love.”
It was unmerited love, which had no reason in us for it to light upon.
“What was there in you that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘’T was even so, Father,’ you ever must sing,
‘Because it seem’d good in thy sight.
He loved us because he would love us. It was the sovereignty of his love that made him love those whom he chose to love. He loved them freely, without anything in them, or that would ever be done by them, to deserve his love. But he loved fully as well as freely; he loved intensely, divinely, immeasurably. Thou knowest thy love to thy child; it is but a feeble spark compared to the great sun of Christ’s love to thee. Thou knowest thy love to thy husband; it is a tiny rill compared with the ocean of Christ’s love to his people. Beloved, turn over the wondrous qualities of the love of Christ to you, and say, as you sit at the communion-table to-night, “We will remember thy love, for we cannot forget it. We will remember thy love, for the joyous theme forces itself upon us. We will remember thy love more than wine.”
We will also remember the deeds of Christ’s love. It is a grand story; I cannot stay to tell it to you to-night. You know how, in the fulness of time, the Son of God came out of the glory, and alighted on a stall where the horned oxen fed. He who had made all worlds was hanging at a woman’s breast, for he was made flesh that he might save us from our sins. “Herein is love!” See him living a laborious life, going about doing good, despised, maligned, yet ever ready to give still greater grace and mercy to the unworthy. You know his life, the wondrous life of Christ. “Herein is love.” At last, he gave himself up in agony even to a bloody sweat. He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; he hid not his face from shame and spitting. And then he gave himself, his hands to the nails, his feet to the cross and the cruel iron, his side to the lance, his body to the tomb, his soul to depart to his Father. “Herein is love.” I wish I could preach upon this theme as it deserves to be proclaimed. Oh, that I knew how to speak of the dying love of Christ! The angels desire to look into the mystery of the love of Jesus; but even they cannot compass its immeasurable height, and depth, and length, and breadth. Will not each of us, who are the objects of it, remember his dying love?
“When to the cross I turn mine eyes,
And rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God! my sacrifice!
I must remember thee.
“Remember thee, and all thy pains,
And all thy love to me;
Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains,
Will I remember thee!”
But Jesus rose from the grave. He rose with the same love; he ascended with the same love; he lives with the same love, pleading for us. He loves us now; and he will come for us in love. Love shall give him wings to fly down to earth again. He will reign here; but not without his people. “The Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.” He will reign for ever in love. Evermore, throughout the life to come, and the ages that shall never end, Christ will rest in his love, he will rejoice over his people with joy, he will joy over them with singing. He will also give them to share his glory, and to sit upon his throne, and to reign with him for over and ever.
Oh, what a theme is this, the deeds of Christ’s love! In trying to talk of it, I feel like a poor schoolboy standing here, speaking on a subject he loves. Oh, that there were a Milton, or some one of Miltonic calibre, to tell out the story of this great love of Christ! Yet, mayhap, the theme is better with my poor description than it would be with the loftiest words of men, because you are more likely to forget the description, and to remember the love that cannot be described; whereas, had my discourse been filled with lofty and worthy diction, you might have forgotten the theme, and remembered the speaker.
I would like you, brothers and sisters, to-night, to remember the proofs of Christ’s love. You were far off, but he sought you, and brought you back. You were deaf, but he called you, and opened your ear to hear his loving call. You came trembling, and afraid, but he cheered you; and in a moment he took your burden from you, and set you free. Do you remember it?
“Dost mind the place, the spot of ground,
Where Jesus did thee meet?”
I remember, to-night, the place where first I saw the Lord; I know it to a yard. Some of you cannot speak as definitely as that, and you need not blush because you cannot. Did Jesus come to you? Did he forgive your sins? Did he comfort you with his love? Then remember it to-night. Never mind about dates and places; but remember his love.
Since Jesus first came to you, and saved you, many a time you have been in trouble, and he has comforted you. You have been in labour; and he has sustained you. You have been in disrepute; but he has honoured you. Alas, you have proved yourself unworthy of his love; but he has forgiven your backslidings. You have wandered from him; but he has restored you. Remember his great love.
No word of mine will, I fear, help you much; but let your memory begin to run over the pages of your diary. Turn over the leaves that record your Lord’s favour to you. Are there not some pages with great crosses upon them, which you made in the day of trouble, and other crosses, which you made in the hour of your deliverance when Jesus came to your relief? Oh, remember his love, remember his love more than wine!
I will not detain you on this point any longer; although there was much more I wanted to say. Only, brothers and sisters, if I cannot talk to you, do the thing that we are thinking about. Do remember Christ and his great love. Do now, before you partake of the emblems of his broken body and his shed blood, get to him. You may forget everything else if you like; but I charge you remember Christ’s love. There, fling overboard every other recollection, however precious! Let the golden ingots go; but hold you fast to the true lading of the ship, her real cargo, the love wherewith Christ hath loved us. Do remember that, and sit still, and enjoy the blessed memory.
Before I come to the last division of my subject, I should like to ask whether there are any here who cannot remember Christ’s love because they never knew it. Is that your case, my dear friend, over yonder? Let me remind you of the lepers of whom we have been reading, and then let me recall to your minds God’s ancient law concerning the man suffering from leprosy. When he was brought for the high priest to examine him, the high priest looked him up and down, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, and he said to the leper, “Here is a place still on thy breast where thy flesh is perfectly clean;” and the leper said, “Yes, I am pleased to see that it is so.” But the high priest replied, “You are unclean, you must not go into the house of the Lord, or associate with the people.” Then there came another, and he searched him all over, and said, “Here, upon this part of your leg, there is a sound place still.” “Yes,” said the other, “I have often thought what a good sign it was.” “You also are unclean,” said the high priest, “Go to your separate house, and abide there.” Then there came one poor man who was white all over, and the high priest said to him, “Have you any clean places?” “No, my lord, not one; examine me, and see;” and the high priest looked, and there was not a clean spot on him where you could have put a pin’s point; but the leprosy was all over him, he was saturated all through with the deadly virus, and foul with the loathsome disease; and there he stood, and cowered and trembled before the high priest. Then the high priest said to him, “Behold, thou art clean; when thou hast performed the ceremony required by the law, thou mayest go home to thy house, and to the house of thy God, for thou art clean.” There was a medical reason, I suppose, for this law; the mischief had thrown itself out, it had come out to the skin, the disease was fully developed, and would soon he removed. But, whatever may have been the medical reason, such
was the law; and if I am addressing anybody here who feels, “There is nothing good about me; I am unclean, unclean, unclean, from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot, and the lowest place in hell is my desert,” my friend, the grace of God has begun to work in you. Now that you are emptied, God will begin to fill you. Trust you in the atoning sacrifice of his dear Son, and you shall have the assurance that you also are the subject of his saving grace; his love shall be shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost; and you shall join with us in remembering that great love wherewith he hath loved us.
III. The last thing upon which I have to speak to you is this, THE DIVINE PRODUCT OF THIS HOLY MEMORY: “The upright love thee.”
So it seems, then, that if wo remember Christ, we shall have a respect for his people. His people are the upright; and she, who speaks in the sacred Canticle, here looks round upon them, and says, “The upright love thee.” “That commends thee to me; for if they who are of a chaste spirit love thee, much more should I.” I think, if you feel as I do sometimes, you would be glad to be sure that you were even the least in God’s house. We know the upright love Christ, and we love the upright because they do so; and we esteem Christ because, the better men are, the more they think of him. Is it not so? But sometimes we are afraid we are not among the number of the chosen ones. “The upright love thee.” Lord, am I one of the upright? Our hymn puts it, even concerning heaven,—
“There ye that love my Saviour sit,
There I would fain have place,
Among your thrones, or at your feet,
So I might see his face.”
Would we not gladly sit at the feet of the very least of his people if we might but love Christ? They love him. I know how you look about you to-night, and you say, “There sits Brother So-and-so, he loves Christ; there is Mistress So-and-so, who is so busy in the service of her Lord, she loves Christ. And that dear man (Mr. William Olney), whose death we still commemorate by these sad memorials around the pulpit, he loved Christ.” “Ah, well!” you say, “I wish I loved him, too, and that I were among the upright in character, who truly admire him.” Seek that blessing, dear friends, for it is to be had if you seek it aright. Seek it, for the love of Christ will make you love the upright, and foster in you an esteem for them. I do not like to hear Christian people speak ill of one another; and I do not like to hear Christian people speak ill of the Church. If Christ loves her, and is married to her, woe to you if you find fault with my Master’s bride! He loves not those who love not his chosen. Have a great love for the people of God, even the poorest of them. Count them to be the aristocrats of the world, the blood-royal of the universe, the men and women who have angels to be their servants, and who are made kings and priests unto God. If you remember Christ, you will remember his people. If you remember his love, you will feel a love towards them. God grant that you may do so!
One thing more, and I have done. In remembering Christ’s love as the upright do, we shall grow upright. I believe that God blesses trouble to our sanctification, and that he can bless joy to the same end; but I am sure of this, that the greatest instrument of sanctification is the love of Jesus. One asked what he should think of to make him holy, and his friend answered, “Think of death.” It is wise to talk with the grave, the mattock, and the shroud; but the living love of Christ has a sanctifying power that even thoughts of death have not. One has said, “If thou wouldst grow holy, think of the punishment of sin, the pit that God has digged for the wicked. It will make thee tremble at the thought of sin, and cause thee to flee from it as from an arch-destroyer.” This is true; but still, if thou wouldst grow in grace fast, and become holy rapidly, this is the best theme for thy meditation, “We will remember thy love.” If you will remember Christ’s love, you will be lifted up from your crookedness, and made straight, and put among the upright, who love the Lord.
Come, then, let us join to-night in sweet thoughts of love to Christ. The sermon is short, but the subject is long; and you have now an opportunity for coming to the communion-table, and thinking out that theme which I have started for you, “The love of Christ to me, the love of Christ to me.” Then follow it up with this, “Oh, my poor love to Christ!” Think, dear friends, if you remember your own love to Christ, what a small thing it is to remember. His great love is like the sun in the heavens. Your love— well, you have to put on your spectacles before you can see it; it is so small a thing. God grant it may grow to-night; and, at the communion-table, may you have such a visitation from Christ, such delightful fellowship with him, that you may be able to sing again the hymn that you were singing when I was obliged to retire for a while from the platform,—
“My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine,
For thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour, art thou,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
“I will love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
And praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
‘If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
May you sing it now, and be able to sing it when the death-dew lies cold on your brow! The Lord be with you, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.