A 5CL , Adelaide Broadcast Address by J. RAYMOND WILTON, Date Unknown.
The Australian Friend, April 20, 1933, pages 1-2.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Section Four: The 20th Century.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master,
which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these
two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. --Matt. xxii 35-40.
These are often called Christ's commandments; but they are not original with him; they are quotations from the Law, the one from Deuteronomy, the other from Leviticus. Out of all the welter of injunctions and prohibitions which make up Deuteronomy and Leviticus he picks these two as expressing the loftiest attainment of the human spirit in the ancient Hebrew Writers. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.
Yet, when we think of it, the command to love is very strange. To do or not to do this or that, to obey, to seek until we find, to learn--to any such command one can say, I will, or, I will not. But to say, I will love, is like saying, I will believe; we believe what we feel to be true, what has presented itself to us in our own experience, or what we think we can prove; so too we love that which, or him whom, we feel to be lovable. Love is an emotion, not subject to the will; it cannot be forced.
But we cannot dismiss so easily as that any saying of Christ's, least of all that which he says is the first and great commandment, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." We must look deeper.
In the first place we can remove inhibitions. We may take the commandment on its negative side:
Thou shalt think no unlovely thought of God; thou shalt ascribe to him nothing which would be
unlovable in thee.--To some this is easy enough; to others it is rendered almost impossibly difficult
by training and tradition; yet all unlovely thoughts of God must be dismissed from the mind before
it even begins to be possible to obey the positive content of the commandment to love God. We
must, for instance, in reading the Old Testament, always have in mind that it is the precursor of
the New, must remember that Christ said more than once: Ye have heard that it hath been said...
but I say unto you...We may recognize in Ezekiel the zeal for righteousness which makes him
unable to endure the thought of a god who could be soothed by sacrifice or cajoled by flattery,
and unable to tolerate such a belief in his fellows, and we may yet see that the God whom he
shows us is still an oriental potentate, despotic, capricious, vindictive and cruel, a being whom no
one who has looked on the face of Jesus Christ could possibly love. All such ideas of God we
must forever discard as false-nearer the truth than those which they displaced, but to us, who have
the mind of Christ, false, and worse than false---blasphemous in the extreme.
Nothing can be good in Him Which evil is in me. The wrong that pains my soul below I dare not throne above, I know not of His hate,--I know His goodness and His love.
And there is much teaching of a later date which is equally false--equally blasphemous. There is no need for me to particularize; everyone can recall the attribution of qualities to God which would make him unlovely and unloving--far less lovable than many a man. All such ideas of God have their origin at a stage of religious evolution much below that which is truly Christian. They have long ceased to live; they are corrupt, and their blighting influence prevents the growth of truer, more worthy thoughts of God. They must be ruthlessly excised from the stuff of our minds, if we are in any true sense to love God.
So much for the negative side. We can see to it that there is nothing in our thought of God so unworthy of him that it prevents us from loving him. To do this needs a certain independence of mind and spirit, a strength of character which can say to authority, "No! I know that that is false! my own imagination can picture a being better than that, and God is better far than the best that I can imagine."
What of the positive side? Jesus says that God is our Father, the Father without whom not a
sparrow falls to the ground, who runs to meet the returning prodigal, who knows that we have
needs, and the implication that God could not see a need without supplying it is to him so obvious
that he does not even say it. Love for his children is the motive of all God's dealings with us. Jesus
says, in effect, God is so full of tender compassion, so loving, that the command to love him
ceases to have in it anything strange; love is the natural filial response; the divine love begets love
in us, his children.
John goes further. John says, not God loves, but God is love. God is love! There are perhaps very few who know all that love can be, what that love is which is God. But there are, thank God, some whose love is of such a depth and intensity, of such a quality, that it seems as if a part of the very life of God himself had been given to his creatures for their beatitude; such love partakes of the eternal life, it is immortal as God himself, and neither death nor any other Creature can shake it in the least. Such is the love wherewith we are commanded to love God.
Is there more to be said? For some, yes. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall
see God." And to a few in each generation there has come an experience of the invading presence
of God, the blissful consciousness of his spirit flowing into the man, filling him with a divine awe
and love unutterable. Such an experience brings with it a certainty of God, of his love, and of
immortality, such as no authority, not even that of Christ himself, can give; it fills the heart with
overbrimming love which is the self-fulfilment of Christ's first and great commandment.