Horace Bushnell.

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always fondly after him, so will he never disallow his
old-time filial feeling towards her. Owning her never
as in any sense the Mother of God, he has yet a moth
er-sense .in him, that will be an Everlasting Sentiment,
and apart from all idolatrous honors paid her by men,
will clothe her with such honors really divine, as fitly
crown the part she bore in his wonderful story.



" And we have known and believed the love that God hath to
us." John 1 : 4, 16.

BY tins it is, in other words, that we are different
from what we were; and our thanksgiving is, that
the love of God has found us, and begotten its like in
our before unloving nature. It is not that we have
volunteered loving towards God, bringing on the
love ourselves, but that he is beforehand with us,
and that, simply knowing and believing the love God
hath to us, we so let in, or give welcome to it, that we
have it reproduced in ourselves. Discoursing in a
similar strain, in the previous verses of the chapter,
the apostle declares our part in this change more
negatively, but to the same effect. "INbt that we
loved God, but that he loved us." Also, " God is
love fountain, flood, and sea and he that dwelleth
in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." So that
being immersed in God s love, we are saturated with
it, even as our garments would be with water. We
do not exactly take it by absorption, it is true, we
give it space. WQ let God love us into lt>ve, which
itself suffices, and carries all grace with it.


I propose then, for the present occasion, a truth
which ought to be received most hopefully and ten
derly by you all, and will be received with a specially
eager delight, by any one who is struggling heavily
with the burden of his sins, and does not find the way
to cast them off. It is tins That loving God is but
- ktting God love us giving welcome, that is to God s love,
knowing and believing the love God hath to us.

A very different impression prevails with many
sometimes with disciples themselves, but more gen
erally with such as have come into no Christian ex
perience. They suppose that something very great,
and difficult, and almost impossible, is required to be
done. Perhaps they have in mind the Scripture call,
commanding them to strive as if they had a narrow
gate to pass, to cut off right hands, to pluck out right
eyes, to sell all, to forsake houses, and lands, and even
to give up life itself. How then can it be they will
ask, with such representations before us, that we have
nothing more to do for the new love s sake that
which brings salvation than to just let God love us ?
But they will have their answer by only observing
how these throes, these seeming violences of self-
renunciation are all in the way of giving room and
welcome to God s love ; because they are needed to
clear away the barricades and obstructions by which
we are always and habitually, though, perhaps, not
consciously, fencing the love of God away. In one
view this simply letting God love us appears to be a
very slight and facile matter, as indeed it should be,


but we have a way of making it fearfully difficult
when it is not in itself and should not be. The dif
ficulty is artificial, created wholly by the recoil of our
own guiltiness. It is the lie we are in, which can not
bear the truth. This will appear more fully as we go
on to unfold the proposition stated.

1. I make it a point distinctly asserted that all men
living in sin repel or draw back from the love of
God, and will not let it come in upon them. It
seems impossible that a truth so glorious for man, so
grandly luminous, one that raises him so high as that
God, the infinite Father loves him, loves the world
that is made for him, flames all round the sky as a
circle of day by his love it seems impossible, I say,
that such and so great a creature will not be so great
and will not let God love him. Yet so it is. & I do
not mean by this that we undertake to stop God s
love, or actually command it away, but only that we
ignore it, let it come on our back and not into our
face or heart. We do not say " Go thy way," but
we go our own way, and that means just the same
thing. When we are required to love God, we con
sciously enough reject the requirement ; but if it were
given us as the really true version of it, that we are
simply required to let God love us, we probably
should not be conscious of any withstanding, or un-
letting hindrance, and yet we do withstand by a re
sistance so subtle that we scarcely know it/ so in
tractable as to be fatally sure.

And the solution of the matter is, that we instinct-


ively recoil and can not give the true God-welcome
to God s love, not being at all in affinity with it. We
see the s ime thing in our relations to one another.
We never really consent to be loved by another whose
ways, manners, character, are any way distasteful.
Every affection we can not reciprocate creates a
degree of revulsion in our feeling. If we are averted
from another by our own fault, to know that he loves
us, makes us for the time still more averse. And
thus it is, how often, that God is only too good and
pure and high, to be any but a visitor unwelcome ;
because he wakens guilt and self-disgust, and is felt as
a disturber even in his love, more than as a friend.
As to letting in his love upon us, we do not want it,
we desire not the knowledge of his ways.

Conceive the instance of a son who has Mien into
ways of vice and profligacy. The sad thing of his
condition is, that he does not like so much of the
parental love, engaged in ways so many, and tender,
and deep in sacrifice, to win him back to virtue. All
such love comes to him as in qualms, and the very
words, and promises, and tears, that should be elo
quent, only raise a stifling smoke in his feeling, even
as if they were but fumes of sulphur falling on hot
plates of iron. Doubtless there is much goodness in
the good father and mother, but the goodness offends
him, and he will not let it be the appeal it should,
because he is so possessed by his vices, as to have no
affinity for it. And yet he can, or probably will have
such affinity when his spells are broken. When the


bitter woes of his vices, liis lot of shame, his want,
his all devouring appetite, bring liis infatuations to a
full end, as they may, and turn him back in sad re-
lentings on the love he could not accept, you shall
hear him bless himself in it, saying, " O it is all that
is left me, I can not deserve it, I can never be worthy
of it, or fitly return it. All that I can do is just to
let it bathe me in my shame and hopelessness." His
recoils are ended now, because the spells that were
on him are all broken. Able now to say " I am no
more worthy to be called thy son," the tendernesses
that before seemed over-fond or foolish, melt a way
through his memory, and the letting in of the old,
once rejected love becomes a new, profoundly filial
love in his bosom. Just so it is with all bad minds in
their relation to the love of God. They recoil and
close up against it. Doubtless it is good in God to be
tendering himself in such love, and a certain sensi
bility is moved by it, still there is a revulsion felt,
and no fit answer of returning love is made ; where,
as we can see, the true account of the matter is, that
the love is unwelcome, because there is no want of it,
or consentingness of mind towards it ; which is the
same as to say, that the man does not let God love
him. That love would be photographed in him by
an answering love, but he offers only his back to it.
As if the artist at his camera were to put in nothing
but a plate of glass, prepared by no chemical sus
ceptibility, saying to the light, " shine on if you will,
and make what picture you can." He really does not


let the light make any picture at all, but even disal
lows the opportunity.

2. We shall be farther advanced in our understand
ing of this matter, if we observe how constantly the
scripture word looks to the love of God, for the in-
generation of love in men, and so for their salvation.
The radical, every where present, idea is, that the
new love wanting in them is to be itself only a reveal-
men t of the love of God to them, or upon them.
Thus the new born life is to be "the love of God,
shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost ;" where
we can not understand by the love of God, the dis
ciples love to God that would be a salvation quite
one side of the gospel plan, which proposes the un
bosoming of God s love to man, that it may be shed
abroad in him by the Holy Ghost, and become
a salvation, as it begets, by the Spirit, an answering
love. So again when it is declared that " Love is
of God, for every one that loveth is born of God ;"
the meaning is not that God s love is of God, but
that ours is of God the love, that is, of every one
that loveth. It is not a love created in us by some
fiat of power, but a love begotten or born in us.
So that when it is born, we are to say, " our love
is of God," or more exactly still, " our love is of the
love of God, a ray of the divine, kindling its warmth
in us." So again, yet more expressly, the new spirit
of love to our fellow man is ascribed to the love of
God in us " If we love one another, God dwelleth
in us, and his love is perfected in us." To the same


effect again is the word of our apostle" We love him
because he first loved us." Our love is nothing, it is
God who appears in his Son, declaring" For God
so loved the world ;" and what we call our love is
nothing but the warmth of that. Hence, too, the
incarnation itself. It incarnates the love of God to
melt a way into our love. " Hereby perceive we the
love of God " In this was manifested the love of
God toward us." The plan is to beget love by love,
and nothing is left us to do in the matter, but simply
to allow the love, and offer ourselves to it. There is
no conception any where, that we are to make a new
love ourselves ; we have only to let the love of God
be upon us, and have its immortal working in us.
That will transform, that will new-create, in that we
shall live. Consider again

3. What tremendous powers of motion and com
motion, what dissolving, recomposing forces come
upon, or into a soul, when it suffers the love of God.
For it is such kind of love as ought to create, and
must, a deep, all revolutionizing ferment, in the moral
nature. Jtjis^no mere natural love, such as the love
of kind, or parentage ; no friendship love, no love of
merit, no merely approving love; but it is a thing
how different, a disapproving, condemning, son-owing,
often a suffering, and in all the great Christ-story, a
much abhorring, morally offended love. And here is
the reason why we can not let it be upon us, or have
its dear great way in us. It rakes up our bad con
victions, it stirs our bosom disorders, it chokes our


remorse. And O what moral majesty is there in it,
overtopping all we know of God beside, and casting
its not baleful, but awfully oppressive and ominous
shadow upon us. It melts in pity, it is tender as
fresh rain, and yet, being sa abhorrent, so deep in
displeasure and moral offense, what will the letting of
it in upon us, and the knowing and believing what
it hath for us, and the true accepting of it what
will it do but scald, and shake, and decompose, and
recompose every thing in us ? The letting God love
us in this manner out of Pilate s court, under the
crown of thorns, out of the cross is not assuredly the
making up of a merely smooth salvation. Love though
it be, it is the silent artillery of God, a salvation
that wins by a dreadful pungency ; raising up convic
tion of sin, to look on him whom it hath pierced, mov
ing agitations deep, stirring up all mires. So that
when the love gets welcome, it has dissolved every
thing, and the new-born peace is the man new com
posed in God s living order. Letting God love us
with such love, is adequate remedy therefore and
complete, and is no mere nerveless quietism, as some
might hastily judge. Or if any doubt on this point
may remain, I proceed

4. To ask what more a sinner of mankind, doing
the utmost possible, can be expected or required to
do. Can he tear himself away from sin by pulling
at his own shoulder ? Can he pluck himself out of
selfishness, or eject selfishness out of himself, by an
act of his will ? Can he clarify the currents of his


soul by willing that his thoughts shall flow angel
ically ? Can he, by a mere self-weeding culture,
clean out all the tares of the mind, and make it a
garden of beauty, when it has no germ of God s
planting to spring up and grow in it ? Can lie
starve out his sins by fasting, or wear them out by a
pilgrimage, or whip them out by penances, or give
them away in alms ? Ko ! no ! none of these. All
that he can do to beget a new spirit in his fallen
nature, we now come back to say, is to offer up him
self to the love of God, and let God love him. He
can be changed, only as the ice of winter is, by letting
the great warm sun shine from above into its crystal
body, not by willing in itself to assume the liquid
state. Or, to use a different comparison, as he can
see only by allowing the daylight to stream into his
eyes, so he can expel the internal disorder and dark
ness of his soul, only by letting the light of. God s
love fall into it. Furthermore, as he can not see a
whit more clearly than the light enables him, by
straining his will into his eyes, so he can do no more
in the way of clearing his bad mind than to open it,
as perfectly as possible, to the love of God.

Need I say again, to make this point more sure,
that letting God love us, as we now speak, im
plies a great deal more than a mere negative sur
render to it. There is no resistance to God that is
more absolute, or in fact more effective, than that
which we sometimes offer in the mere vis inertice of
a self-indulgent, negatively resigned quietism. No,


to let God love us means a great deal more, which I
need not specify and could not if I would. You
must be transparent to God, that he may shine
through. All unrighteous practice, all ungodly habit,
all self-worship and self-pleasing, all perverse lustings
and envies opposite to God s love, must be cast out,
else the love can not have room ; and, to comprehend
every thing, your prayers must fan your desires,
waiting as porters at all the gates and windows of
your feeling, to hold them open to God s day.

And then, again, it is vain to imagine that you
can let God s love flow in, if you can not let it flow
out. We must let the love we are to receive have
free course, flowing through us, in such kind of
works and lovings as it will naturally instigate. It
must be allowed not only to beget itself in us, but to
make us to others what God is to us. Hence the
soul that is actuated or impelled by any kind of
hatred or revenge, or that holds a grudge against
another and can not, will not forgive him, can not
really be said to let God love him ; for God s love to
him is a forgiving love, that bends in blessing and
even bleeds over all enemies. If you have it, you
must have it in its own divine properties, admitted,
in them, to reign. And now it remains to say

5. That when we come to accurately understand
what is meant by faith, which is the universally ac
cepted condition of salvation, we only give, in fact,
another version of it, when we say that the just lat-
ting^God love us, amounts to precisely the same


tiling. For if a man but offers himself up trustfully
and clear of all hindrance to the love of God in
Jesus Christ, saying, though it be in silence, "be it
upon me; let it come and do its sweet will in me; O
there is nothing I can so much desire as to be loved
by God, however abhorrently and disgustfully ;
this I will trustfully take and tenderly rest in, for
it is all the salvation I want," plainly that is but
letting God love hjm, and yet what is it but faith ?
In proposing it then as a saving condition, that we
let God love us, we do not dispense with faith. We
only say "believe," with a different pronunciation.
Indeed there is no so good way of describing faith,
as to make it convertible at every point, into the mere
suffering trustfully of God s love upon us. Yes, O
guilty one, let God love thee; yes, believe the love
God hath to thee, and rest thy all eternally in it,
Go thoii to Bethlehem, and catch that hymn of wor
ship that rolls along mid air, and down the face of
the mountains" Peace on earth, Good will to men."
Rise ere the day breaks, and climb the solitary peak,
where Jesus kneels apart and look upon the bur
dened love of his prayer. Overhear his words of
gentle sympathy at the grave of Mary s dead brother,
and note the gentler tears he drops at that grave, as
being himself a divine brother mourning with her.
Steal up the hillside, in the deep silence of the night,
and watching there under the olives of the garden,
behold the heavier night of agony that rests upon the
loving heart of Jesus. Struggle up the street


with him, as he goes out bearing his cross, and there
behold the only beautiful unmarred spirit of the
world, exhale itself in prayer and apology to God
for its enemies then say, " This is God God so
loved the world ;" adding also something yet more
personal, dearer and closer to feeling, " who loved
me, and gave himself for me." Strange then will it
be, if you do not also love him, and are not quick
ened by him as by some new life loved into you ; even
as he himself was raised from the dead by the glory
of the Father. This is your faith, neither more nor
less ; or we may call it simply your letting God love
you, in the life and cross of his son. Be it one or the
other, it is still the same. Enough that under this
description or that, the love has gotten its just power
in you, and settled its eternal indwelling in your
hitherto unloving nature.

I conclude, then, after so many illustrations given,
that loving God is no change beginning at us, but a
coming rather of God s love upon us ; where the
utmost we can do is to simply let him love us, and
give him unobstructed, everlasting welcome. How
then is it for this, in fact, is one of the chief wonders
of our trial in the matter of religion that we en
counter in it so many insurmountables and impossi
bles ?

Even they who have sometime seemed to take
Christ s yoke and find it easy, forget how shortly after
the sweet ease they enjoyed, and only have the yoke

L E T T I N G G O D L V E U S . 49

by itself. We find them sighing again for some more
complete deliverance, asking by what throes and
agonies, or by what mighty works, they may push away
their condemnations, and come into liberty. They
even wrench themselves in fierce endeavors often,
with no result attained to, but a final despairing of
deliverance till they are delivered of life itself. It is
even as if they were lifting in mires that give way
and let them deeper down. Who could imagine,
looking in upon these desperations and faintings of
mortal courage, that after all nothing more difficult
is required of them, than to just be in the love God
pours upon them, and about them. This indeed is
difficult, but only because it is so simple and easy,
that it can not be believed. Know and believe the
love God hath to you, and you shall have all that you
are willing to receive, more than you can ask or even
think. You have nothing to do but to let God s love
possess and fill you, which it assuredly will, even
as it fills the great and wide sea of his infinite

The reason why your sanctification, brethren,
goes on so slowly, probably is, that you believe so
little, endeavoring so much, it may be, in yourself.
If you believe that God loves you little, then, of
course, you will love little. If you believe that he
loves you much, then you will love much, and you
will be changed or sanctified just according to the
measures of God s love you receive. If you let Him
flow in as a river, then your peace will flow as a river.


The only hard thing you have to do is to let him do
what he will to pour his love into you according to
the exceeding abundance of his love.

At the same time it is here permitted us to say,
that such as truly seek after God have no right to
find any one of the difficulties they so often complain
of. They are utterly baffled, somehow, in finding the
gate, and can not enter in ; and they even quote the
words of the Saviour when he calls it " the strait
gate," not observing that it is strait to them, only be
cause they are so narrowed down in themselves, that
they can not believe it to be wide as it is wide even
as the love of God. Nothing after all is required of
them more difficult, than to just accept and welcome
the love of God, as set forth in his Son. There is no
penance prescribed, there are no deficiencies to be
made up, no mountains of righteousness to be piled
nothing is required but to give free course to the
love of God, and let it have its own renewing, di
vinely sufficient power.

Is there any tenderly doubting one present, groan
ing under the burden of his sins and the bondage of
his evil life what has he to do for deliverance?
What but to simply know and believe the love God
hath to him ? This do, and he is free. O thou sor
rowing, dejected, fainting bondman of sin, believe,
believe, and thy chains are broken, thy burdens gone
forever. The moment thou canst let God love thee,
a new answering love kindles in thee, shed abroad
there by the Holy Ghost.


And it is, accordingly, a very strange part of my
duty here, to warn you, that a great many, who
bejnn to seek after God, defeat and fatally obstruct

o /

their endeavor, by overdoing, unable to simply be
lieve and let God s love be upon them ; because that
certainly can not be enough. Ought they not to be
much afflicted, and suffer long, and heavily under
their convictions? Must they not put themselves
forth in immense self-endeavor ? must they not
break in or out, by huge throes of will ? must they
not repent hard and doubtfully, and take up against
their repentances a long time, so as to be fitly com
mended to God by their thoroughness ? Passing thus
into their own will, to assume the charge and do the
work of their own regeneration, they take themselves
quite off and away from the revelation of God s love,
as the Spirit waits and works to reveal it, and so
they are defeated by their excess of doing. Thou
sands are beaten off from God in just this way.
Overdoing, if I should not rather say over-under
taking, is even one of the most common hindrances
to salvation. No ! the most that you can do is to let
God do everything ; that is to offer yourself up to
him in a perfectly, open, unobstructed state. Love
is of God, and every one that loveth is born of

And yet, exactly on the side opposite, there are
some who begin *to seek after God, and defeat their
own effort by a certain expectation of what would be
overdoing on the part of God. They expect the Holy


Spirit to put omnipotence on them, and do the
change they need, by an act of supreme efficiency.
They forget that while God, in the department- of
mere things can do all that he pleases by his creative
will and fiat, he still can do nothing in that way in
the matter of character. He can pile the seas on the
mountains, and lift the mountains into the stars, or
hurl seas, mountains, stars, all together through
space, as he does the light of the morning. But no
such force-work can change the mold of a character.
In the last degree every moral change must be
wrought in us, through consideration, feeling, choice ;
that is by the sense and belief of what God is in his
love. He can do nothing over and above what he
does by his excellence, save as by his Spirit and Prov
idence he prepares us to behold and be transformed by
his excellence. To expect more of him, therefore, is
fatal. And is not this enough ? Should he over-do,
in the way just described, he would only do less. If
his love can not reach you, then you can not be
reached. And if his love can not save you, then you
can not be saved ; for salvation is character, and love
is the power by which only it is, or ever can be,
wrought. O the perversity, blindness, hardness

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