“Let it come to you now as from Jesus. Forget that it is spoken by the minister, or written in the text. Hear it only as spoken by Jesus, by that same Jesus who has redeemed you from death and hell by his most precious blood. He addresses it to you rather than to others…
I want the enquiry to come to my own soul and to yours this morning, as if Jesus really stood before each one of us, and again said, “Lovest thou me?”…No outward religiousness renders this enquiry needless. Are we professors of religion, are we very constant in attending to outward forms of worship? Do we enter very heartily into all the public exercises of God’s house? Yes, but there are thousands who do that, hundreds of thousands who do that every Lord’s-day, and yet they do not love Christ!
…We know others to whom the end-all and be-all of religion is an orthodox statement of doctrine. So long as the preaching is according to the confession of faith, and every word and act is piously correct, they are well pleased; but no love to Jesus ever stirs their bosoms; religion to them is not an exercise of the heart at all — it is mere brain work, and hardly that. They know nothing of the living soul going out towards a living person, a bleeding heart knit to another bleeding heart, a life subsisting on another life and enamoured of it. We know brethren who carry this very far, and if the preacher differs from them in the merest shade, they are overwhelmed with pious horror at his unsoundness, and they cannot hear him again: even if he preach Christ most preciously in all the rest of his discourse, it is nothing, because he cannot sound their “Shibboleth.”
What is orthodoxy without love, but a catacomb to bury dead religion in. It is a cage without a bird; the gaunt skeleton of a man out of which the life has fled. I am afraid that the general current of church life runs too much towards externals, and too little towards deep burning love to the person of Christ.
If you preach much about emotional religion, and the heart-work of godliness, cold-blooded professors label you as rather mystical, and begin to talk of Madame Guyon and the danger of the Quietist school of religion. We would not mind having a little spice of that, even if we were blamed for it, for after all the realizing of Christ is the grand thing. The faith which is most blessed is faith which deals most fully with the person of Jesus Christ, the truest repentance is that which weeps at a sight of his wounds, and the love which is most sweet is love to the adorable person of the Well-beloved.
I look upon the doctrines of grace as my Lord’s garments, and they smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. I look upon his precepts as his sceptre, and it is a rod tipped with silver; and I delight to touch it and find comfort in its power. I look upon the gospel ordinances as the throne upon which he sits, and I delight in that throne of ivory overlaid with pure gold; but oh, his person is sweeter than his garments, dearer than his sceptre, more glorious than his throne; he himself is altogether lovely, and to love HIM is the very heart’s core of true religion.
…You may have all the externals of outward religiousness, and yet the secret of the Lord may not be with you. It will be vain…to love the wedding-feast but not the Bridegroom. Do you love HIM? that is the question. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1876.