Never was love to God, to Christ, to his gospel, people, ways, and ordinances, more cold than it is now. Great need there is to have it revived and increased; and nothing can more effectually do it, than this, to have our hearts directed into the Love of God. It was this, which, being let down into our hearts, first produced our love to God; and which only can animate and excite it, when it is grown cold. According to the perception we have of God’s love to us, does our love to him rise. Her sins, which were many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, same loveth little, Luke 7:4.
It is very useful to promote our love to one another. There is a very visible decay of brotherly love among the saints, in this day; as is manifest from those discords, divisions, contentions, and backbitings, which every where abound in churches. Now nothing is more likely to retrieve our love to one another, than to have our hearts directed into the love of God. The primitive saints having a large effusion of the Spirit upon them, and a large sense of the love of God to them, were full of affection to each other. Insomuch that they had no need to be stirred up; for they were taught of God to love one another. Nay, even in Tertullian’s time, so strong and vehement was their love to each other, that the very Heathens could not but take notice of them, as they walked about the streets, and say, Vide, ut se invicem diligant. See, how they love one another! No greater incentive to this duty is there than the love of God and of Christ. Hence the apostle John, after having discoursed of the love of God in sending his Son to die for sinners, thus argues, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another: well knowing, that nothing could more vehemently provoke unto it.
And indeed, it seems to be with this view, that the apostle puts up this petition here. In the preceding verse he expresses his confidence in these Thessalonians, that they both did, and would do, the things that were commanded them: and in order to that, he prays, that the Lord would direct their hearts into the love of God; knowing, that nothing would more enlarge their hearts, to run with cheerfulness in the ways of God’s commandments. ‘Tis this which constrains souls to live to the glory of God; and makes even those that were slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Never was there more need of having our hearts directed into the love of God than now ; when there is such a neglect of duty among professors; not only in their closets and families, but also in the church of God.
We have great reason to be humbled before God, and to mourn both for our own sins, and for the sins of others. But we never mourn more, nor better, than when impressed with a sense of God’s love. It is this which throws our humiliation for sin into a proper channel. Our sorrow for it never rises higher; nor are our shame for it, and detestation of it more increased, than when we are made sensible of God’s pacifying love towards us. See Ezek. 16:61-63. It was a look of love from Christ that sent Peter out of the hall to weep bitterly, after he had so shamefully denied his Lord; and it was a discovery of Christ’s love to the poor woman, which fetched those floods of tears from her eyes, and which put her upon washing Christ’s feet therewith, and wiping them with the hairs of her head.
It is very useful to enable us to bear the cross of Christ cheerfully; and perhaps that may be the reason why this other clause is added, And unto the patient waiting for Christ. This may intend, either a patient waiting for Christ’s second Advent, and is what our version seems to regard; or a patient bearing the cross for the sake of Christ. The words in the original, will admit of either sense. It is the saints’ duty to bear all reproaches and trials, patiently, for the sake of Christ; and that, in imitation of him who has left them an example. And great need they have to consider him, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself; lest they be weary, and faint in their minds. And not only a consideration of Christ’s person, but a sense of God’s love is very requisite to support them under adverse dispensations of providence; which when they have, they glory in tribulations; knowing, that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. (Rom. 5:3-5) Wherefore the apostle maybe thought to pray, that their hearts might be directed into the love of God, in order that they might patiently bear all things for the sake of Christ. Thus having considered the nature of God’s love, and shewn you what it is to be directed into it, I shall close all with those hearty petitions of the apostle in the two last verses of the preceding chapter . . . Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.