“What is Christian Love?”

By Evan D. Burns

Throughout the works of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), there is a predominant theme of love—love to God and love to man.  In a sermon entitled, Nature and Importance of Christian Love, Fuller preached on his meditations from John 13:34-35.  Before he delineated the nature of Christian love, he first discussed what it is not.  He said:

  1. It is not mere good neighbourhood, or civility between man and man.
  2. It is not mere friendship.
  3. It is not mere respect on account of religion.
  4. It is not mere party attachment.
  5. It is not that excessive and mistaken attachment which shall lead us to idolize and flatter a minister, or to exempt each other from the exercise of faithful discipline.
  6. It is not mere benevolence itself.[1]

So then, he asked, “What is Christian love?”  And Fuller answered his own inquiry thus:

It is complacency in the Divine image.—It is a union of heart, like that of Ruth to her mother-in-law. Christian love is love for Christ’s sake.  This last remark, I suppose, furnishes a clue for its being called “a new commandment.” The old commandment required benevolence, or love to our neighbour; but this is complacency in Christ’s image, or the love of Christians as such. And being introductory to the New Testament or gospel dispensation, under which the church should be composed of believers only, it is suited to it. Personal religion is now to be the bond of union. This was never so expressly required before. This is more than love to our neighbour, or benevolence; this is brotherly love, or complacency in each other as brethren in Christ, Rom. 12:10; Heb. 13:1. This is genuine charity, 1 Cor. 13.[2]


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 523.

[2]Fuller, Complete Works, 1:523.