The True Christian's Love
to the Unseen Christ
by Thomas Vincent
If you are Christians indeed, Christ loves you:
The second sort of motives to excite your love to Christ, may be drawn from the consideration of Christ's love unto true Christians.
(1) with the freest love;
(2) with the truest love;
(3) with the strongest love;
(4) with the surest love.
1. Consider that Christ loves you with the FREEST love."We love Him—because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19. There are many motives and attractions for your love to Christ—but Christ's love to you is most free. There is nothing in yourselves to draw and engage His love—except your deformity and enmity to Him, except filthiness which He loathes, and wickedness which His soul hates; these are the only motives. There is no man in the world who loves you, but he finds or fancies some loveliness in you, something to be a motive to draw his love to you. Wit is a motive to some, wealth to others, beauty to some, strength to others, near relation to some, dear love to others, liberality to some, service to others, greatness to some, goodness to others. Likeness, whether it is in good or evil, is a motive to the love of the most. But Christ's first love to you is altogether free; that which is a motive to men, and induces their love to you, is no motive to incline the love of Christ.
The sin which you brought into the world with you, and the many sins which, since you came into the world, have been committed by you, are enough to shut out all motives of love in Christ, unto whom all sin is so odious and abominable. Whatever motive induces Christ to love you, it was not drawn from yourselves—but it was drawn from His own affectionate heart! Will not this free love of Christ to you--incline you to love Him? Does He love you most freely, and will you not love Him most dearly? Did Christ love you without any motive to draw His love, and will you not love Christ, in whom there are so many motives to draw your love? Did Christ begin to love, and will not you make a return? Did Christ love you with all your sinfulness and vileness, and will you not love Him in whom there is such perfect beauty? If you now have any spiritual beauty, it is through the loveliness which Christ has put upon you! Christ's free and sovereign love—is a matter of the greatest admiration, and should be a motive unto the greatest affection unto Him.
2. Consider that Christ loves you with the TRUEST love.There is little true love in the world. You have many who truly hate you—but few who truly love you. Also, there is much deception in the pretended love and affection of some. All who flatter you—do not truly love you. Love in show and outward appearance, in good words and fair speeches, is common. But love in deed and in truth evidences itself in real offices of love. Where there is the greatest need, this true love is rarely to be found. Job complains, in Job 6:15-17. "My brothers have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring when it is swollen with ice and melting snow. But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears. The brook vanishes in the heat." In the prosperity of Job, he had many friends, and their love and friendship seemed to have some strength and consistency like the ice upon the brook; but when heat of trouble and calamity came upon Job, then the love of his friends melted and vanished away like ice and snow, before the warm beams of the sun. The love of most is selfish, for their own ends and, therefore, when their love is not likely to be beneficial to them—but rather create trouble to themselves, it comes to nothing.
True Christianity teaches another kind of love, and those who are really pious have a true love, which is ready to show itself most in an adverse state. But none do or can love you with such a true love as Jesus Christ; there is no flattery or deception in His love. His love is not in the least counterfeit, it is not in the least selfish and for His own ends. He does not love you to receive good from you—but that He might do good unto you. He loves you not only in prosperity—but chiefly He evidences His love in affliction and adversity. He is a present help in the time of trouble, and then gives the most tender demonstrations of His love. He is touched with the feelings of your infirmities when you are tempted, and sympathizes with you in your sorrows when you are afflicted. He shows His love in visiting you under your troubles, in supporting you, in relieving you, and in delivering you. Oh! What love should you have unto the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves you with such a true and sincere love!
3. Consider that Christ loves you with the STRONGEST love.His love is stronger than death, more ardent than fire which has a most vehement flame. The strength of Christ's love to you shows itself in the activity of His love, in His doing for you; and this will appear in three things:
(1) in what He has done for you;
(2) in what He is doing for you;
(3) in what He will do for you.
(1) The strength and activity of Christ's love to you shows itself in what Christ HAS done for you.I shall briefly name some particulars:
It was the strong love of Christ which brought Him down from heaven for you, to assume your nature. What kind of love was this—that God should become man! That spirit should become flesh, that He who made the world should be born of a poor virgin, and all for your sakes!
It was the love of Christ which made Him to fulfill all righteousness for you. He yielded perfect obedience to the law, both moral and ceremonial, that you might have the benefit of it.
It was the love of Christ which made Him submit Himself to the temptations of the devil for you—so that He, suffering, being tempted, might be able to support you when you are tempted.
It was the love of Christ which made Him endure the contradictions of sinners for you. He bore many affronts, abuses, envyings, and blasphemies of wicked men—that He might give you an example how to carry yourselves under similar circumstances.
It was the love of Christ which made Him lay down His life for you; John 15:13-14, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends!" That such a person as Christ, so excellent, so innocent—should undergo death, and such a death as that of the cross—so disgraceful, so painful; that He should submit to such ignominy, and endure such agony, such tearing in the flesh, such pressures in His spirit; and that with such resolution and willingness, with such submission and patience; and that for such as you, although now His friends—yet, while in a state of nature, you were His strangers and enemies; here was love stronger than death! Oh, the height, oh the depth of this love! There are such dimensions in this love of Christ, as the longest line of your most extended thoughts and imaginations, can never be able to reach and measure.
It was the love of Christ which raised Him again from the dead for you; Romans 4:25, "Who was delivered for your offences, and was raised again for our justification."
It was the love of Christ which carried Him up from earth to heaven, where He was before you, John 16:7 "It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don't go away, the Comforter will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you."
(2) The strength and activity of Christ's love to you—shows itself in what He IS doing for you.
He is interceding for you at the right hand of God, Romans 8:34, "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." It is through love, that Christ pleads for you in heaven that you may be accepted, your sins pardoned, your prayers answered, and the Holy Spirit may be sent down to you to teach, sanctify, and comfort you.
He is preparing a place for you, John 14:2, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you." It is through love that Christ, as your forerunner, has for you entered into the glorious palace which is above, to take possession of it for you, and to prepare places there for your reception.
(3) The strength and activity of Christ's love to you—shows itself in what He WILL do for you.
He will keep you in His hand so that none shall pluck you thence, John 10:28, "They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand!" Because you are received into the arms of His love, therefore, you shall be kept by the hand of His power and, therefore, you shall never, either finally or totally, fall away.
Christ will make all things work together for your good, Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God." Christ has an endeared love to all you who love God, your love to Him—being the fruit of His love to you; and when men and devils conspire together to do you harm, Christ's love will turn it unto your spiritual advantage.
Christ will stand by you in trouble and at death, John 14:18, "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." When affliction arises, especially if it is for His sake, and you are bereaved of all outward comforts, Christ will not leave you comfortless. When friends fail, and flesh fails, and heart fails, yes, and life fails—Christ will not fail—but will stand by and strengthen you, and be a light to you in your darkest hours, a stay to your spirits when they are ready to sink within you.
After death, Christ will take care of your souls. He will not allow the devil to seize on them as His prey—but He will send His angels to conduct and convey them into the heavenly paradise that, where He is, there they may be also, Luke 16:22, "And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
Christ will raise up your bodies at the last day. If your bodies should be consumed by fire, or drowned in the water, or rot in the earth, whatever becomes of them, the Lord Jesus, at His second glorious appearance, will find them, and raise them, and transform them into the likeness of His most glorious body, John 6:40, "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." Philippians 3:20-21, "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body!"
Christ will send forth His angels to gather you into the society of the elect that have lived in all ages and all parts of the world, and to convey you into His presence to meet Him in the air when He comes to judge the world, Matthew 24:31, "And He shall send His angels, with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words!"
Christ will own you, and crown you, and admit you into the kingdom of heaven, which He has prepared for you, Matthew 25:34, "Then the King will say to those on His right—Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Here is strong and active love indeed! And shall not the consideration of this love of Christ, raise and heighten your love unto Him? Shall it not provoke and excite you unto activity of love, unto the lively and most vigorous exercised thereof? Has Christ united himself to your nature—and shall not your hearts be united to His person? Has He fulfilled all righteousness for you—and will not you fulfill His command of love? Has He endured such temptations, contradictions, and sufferings, upon your account, and given Himself to die for you—and will not you give your hearts unto Him? Has He risen from the dead and ascended into heaven for you—and will not your affections arise from the earth and ascend into heaven where Jesus Christ is? Does He plead in heaven with the Father for you—and will not you hearken to His pleadings by His Word and Spirit with you for your love? Is He preparing a glorious mansion for you in His Father's house—and will not you prepare a place for Him, and entertain Him in the inner room of your chief affections?
Does, and will, He preserve you in His hand—and will not you embrace Him in your bosom? Will He make all things work together for your good—and will not your affections work towards Him? Will He stand by you in trouble and at death—and will not this put life into your love? Will He send His angels to convey your souls into His presence, when separated from our bodies—and shall not your hearts get to Him and lodge with Him before? Will He raise up your bodies at the last day—and will not the hopes of this raise up your affection? Shall you be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and will Christ there own and crown you—and will not the believing forethoughts of this, ravish your hearts with love to Christ, and transport you with unspeakable joy? The strength of Christ's love to you, methinks, should engage your love for Him, not only in the truth of it—but also in the strength of it!
4. Consider that Christ loves you with the SUREST love.Some friends may love you awhile with some kind of strength and ardency—but such differences may arise between you, as shall soon weaken and cool their love, and of friends they shall prove strangers, yes, become enemies to you. Or, if their love does abide, it is not sure, because they may not continue to live. If their love did not die while they live, they may soon die, and then their love is at an end; but the love of the Lord Jesus Christ unto you, is the most sure love.
If He begins to love you—He will continue to love you. If He loves you once—He will love you to the end, or rather without end. The love of Christ is not subject to mutations and changes like ours. If you lag in your love—He will not fail in His love. Though you offend Him—He is not irreconcilable. He may, indeed, upon unkindness on your side, withdraw the manifestations of His love for awhile—but He will never wholly remove His love from you.
The love of Christ admits of no changing, knows no ending. Christians, what motives can you find in any person, or anything in the world, which are comparable to those which you have in this Lord Jesus Christ? He is a person most amiable in Himself; His greatness, His holiness, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His fullness, His kindness, all make Him shine with an admirable luster. His relation to the Father, and the love which the Father bears to Him, His relation unto you, being your Shepherd, your Captain, your Teacher, your Advocate, your Sovereign, your Benefactor, your Brother, your Husband, your Redeemer. All these commend Him to your love; but when matchless beauty and loveliness meet in a person that bears matchless love to you: when this most amiable Lord Jesus loves you with such a free love, such a sure and constant love; when His love is incomparable, surpassing all other love, and incomprehensible, surpassing all knowledge, O! With what activity, ardor, and constancy, should you love so suitable an object!
The third sort of motives to excite your love unto Christ, may be drawn from the consideration of Christ's BENEFITS.If you are true Christians, you have:
(1) spiritual light from Christ;
(2) spiritual life from Him;
(3) the pardon of sin from Him;
(4) the robes of righteousness from Him;
(5) the peace of conscience from Him;
(6) the joys of the Holy Spirit from Him;
(7) the riches of grace from Him;
(8) the dignity of children from Him;
(9) the spirit of prayer from Him;
(10) title to the kingdom of heaven, with the first fruits and foretastes of it from Him here, and you shall be put into the possession of it by Him hereafter.
1. You have spiritual LIGHT from Christ.Christ is the Sun from whom all the beams of this light come. Time was, when you were not only in the dark, you were darkness; but Jesus Christ enlightened you, Ephesians 5:8, "For you were once darkness—but now are you light in the Lord—walk as children of light!" It is Christ who has turned you from darkness to light, that has translated you out of darkness, into His marvelous light. He has caused a marvelous light to shine into your minds, whereby He has revealed to you the wonderful things of the law, that thereby you might discern the odious nature of sin. By this also, He has revealed to you the wonderful mysteries of the gospel, that thereby you might discern the excellency of gospel-privileges, and the exceeding riches of God's grace and kindness through Jesus Christ. Christ has opened your eyes to see the chief evil—that you might be delivered from it, and the chief good and happiness—that you might attain unto it. And does not this light which you have from Christ, call for your love? If the man that was born blind, and was cured of his natural darkness by Christ, loved Christ for this favor so as boldly to plead for Him before the Pharisees, though for it he was cast out of the synagogues, as you may read in John 9—how much more reason have you to love Christ, who has cured you of your spiritual darkness which, had it continued, you would have gone blindfold to hell, where there is blackness of darkness forever!
2. You have spiritual LIFE from Christ.You were spiritually dead—and Christ has quickened you, Ephesians 2:1, "You has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." We read that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been buried four days, John 11. Lazarus loved Christ before but, no doubt, this resurrection of him, so wonderful, endeared his love to Christ exceedingly. And shall not Christ's raising you up from you spiritual death—raise your hearts unto a great height of love to Christ? You will greatly love one who is instrumental to save your natural life, when in great hazard and danger, especially if he should do it by venturing his own. And will you not greatly love Christ who has given you spiritual life, which is far more excellent than natural life? He died that you might live, and, if you had not received this spiritual life from Him—you could not have escaped eternal death in hell.
3. You have the PARDON of sin from Christ.This pardon Christ has purchased for you—and the purchase has cost Him dearly, even His blood, which was of more worth than the treasures of ten thousand worlds—were there so many! This pardon, Christ has sued out for you by His intercession at the right hand of God. While you were under the guilt of sin, you were bound over by the justice of God to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire; but, being pardoned, your obligation to future punishment is taken off, and you are no more liable to wrath to come, and the vengeance of hell—than if you had never sinned! And will you not love the Lord Jesus Christ, who has procured for you, so great a privilege? We read of one who had much forgiven her—and she loved much, Luke 7:47, "Her many sins have been forgiven; that's why she loved much!" And have not you had much forgiven? Have not your sins been very numerous and very heinous? And has Christ obtained the pardon of them all? And will not you love Christ much?
4. You have the robes of RIGHTEOUSNESS from Christ.You are born naked of original righteousness, and you could not work out any real righteousness for yourselves, which might cover your nakedness. The filthy rags of your own righteousness were polluted and defiled—and could not cover you. But Christ has given you the robes of His perfect righteousness to cover and adorn you and, therein, you are accepted as perfectly righteous in the sight of God! O how should we love the Lord Jesus for this garment! If your bodies were naked, and one should give you clothes to cover you, especially if they were rich clothes, you would love such a person; and will you not love the Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you a garment to cover your souls, and that a very rich one, even the robes of His most pure and unspotted righteousness which, by faith, is put upon you!
5. You have PEACE of conscience from Christ.This is that peace which the Scripture tells us passes all understanding, Philippians 4:7. It passes all understanding to know the worth of it. Such as have this peace would not leave it upon any account. They would part with their estate, or liberty, or life—rather than part with their peace! And those who have it not—but now slight and neglect it—when they are come to the confines of eternity, then they would value this peace, and would give all the world (were it at their disposal) for it. This jewel of peace which you have from Jesus Christ—He has purchased it for you. "The punishment that brought us peace, was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed," and He has promised and bequeathed it in His last will and testament unto you, John 14:27, "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." In His reconciling you unto God, He has laid a foundation for this peace in all who are true believers; and if He has moreover spoken peace to you, in giving you well-grounded evidences of your reconciliation. If, after raising a storm, He has sent a calm into you in the testimony of His Spirit to and with your spirits, so that your peace is made with God—O how should this draw forth your love to Christ!
6. You have the JOYS of the Holy Spirit from Christ.We read of the Thessalonians, that they received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6. Such are those joys spoken of in the text—which are unspeakable, and full of glory. These are not carnal joys—but spiritual, which are of a higher nature and sweeter relish, which have a higher object, and are the beginnings of eternal joys. If you have these joys in any measure, you have them from Christ. He sends the Holy Spirit from heaven to be your Comforter, to fill your hearts with spiritual joys—and shall not your hearts then be filled with love to the Lord Jesus, who is the Author of them!
7. You have the riches of GRACE from Christ.If any of you were poor and ready to starve with hunger and cold, and a rich man should give or send to you a chest full of gold and priceless jewels—would you not love such a benefactor? The Lord Jesus has given you the riches of grace—the least measure of which, is really of more worth than the vastest treasures of gold and precious jewels which ever was gathered together and heaped up by the most wealthy man who ever lived upon the face of the earth! And will you not love Jesus Christ, who has given you these inestimable riches!
8. You have the DIGNITY of children from Christ.1 John 3:1, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us—that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" This privilege of adoption is bestowed upon you, not only by the Father—but also by the Son, John 1:12—"but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name." We read of some raised from the dust, and lifted up from the dunghill, to sit with princes, Psalm 113:7-8. It is a far higher advancement, to be lifted up from the dunghill of sin, and of slaves of lusts, and children of the devil—to be made the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty! This honor have all the saints, and it is Jesus Christ who has conferred this honor upon you, and will not this endear your love to Christ!
9. You have the spirit of PRAYER from Christ, being sons.The Spirit of the Son is sent down into your hearts, whereby you are enabled to say, "Abba Father!" Galatians 4:6. Through Christ, you have access unto God by the Spirit, Ephesians 2:18. It is the Spirit of Christ, who helps your infirmities in prayer, who forms your petitions, who enables you to pray with faith, and life, and fervor. Through Christ, you have free admittance to the throne of grace. Through Christ, you have assistance by His Spirit to pray in prayer. Through Christ, you have a heavenly audience, and gracious returns. O how are you indebted unto Christ! And how should you love Him!
10. You have a title to the kingdom of HEAVEN from Christ.Through Christ you are God's children; and through Christ you are heirs of God, and joint heirs of Christ. It is Christ who gives the first fruits of the heavenly Canaan, the pledge of the future treasure and inheritance which He has promised, and the foretaste, sometimes, of those soul-ravishing pleasures which the saints shall have in fullness, and to eternity, when they are received up into glory. And it is Christ who hereafter will give possession unto you of the kingdom of heaven!
At the day of His glorious appearance, after He has owned you before the whole world of angels and men, and honored you to be His assessors in His judging and condemning the wicked—He will receive you with acclamations of joy and triumph into the glorious palace of the New Jerusalem, where you shall have the beatific vision and fruition of the glorious Jehovah, and be made partakers of such glorious felicity as has not now entered into your hearts to conceive! And will not the consideration of all this—set your hearts on fire with love to Christ!
Christians, is there any person like Christ's person? Is there any love like Christ's love? Are there any benefits like Christ's benefits? No! No! He is incomparable in all. I think, then, you should by this time, feel your love to Christ like fire to burn within with a vehement flame! I think your love to Christ should be like water, I mean the waters of the sanctuary spoken of in Ezekiel 47:3-5 which at the entrance were but to the ankles, a little further were up to the loins, a little further a deep river over the head, where a man might swim! I think you should perceive an increasing of your love under these various motives. If your love were more shallow at first, I think, by this time, it should have got some depth. When such winds blow, the waters should flow and overflow. I think your love to Christ should be raised to a high tide—and run with a strong stream! Thus for the motives drawn from the consideration of Christ's benefits, all of which are so many orators for your love!
The fourth and last sort of motives to excite your love to Christ—may be drawn from the consideration of that love which Christians have, or should have, unto Him.And here consider:
(1) the duty of loving Christ;
(2) the privilege of loving Christ;
(3) the honor of loving Christ;
(4) the wisdom of loving Christ;
(5) the excellency of loving Christ;
(6) the necessity of loving Christ;
(7) the usefulness of loving Christ;
(8) the delightfulness of loving Christ;
(9) the attainableness of love to Jesus Christ.
1. Consider it is your DUTY to love Christ.If it is your duty to have a natural affection unto parents and children; it is much more your duty to have spiritual affections unto Christ. If it is your duty to have marital affection unto your earthly husband and wife; it is a greater duty to have marital love unto this your heavenly Husband. If it is your duty to love brethren, sisters, and kindred that love you, it is a greater duty to love Jesus Christ, who loves you above all relations. It is your duty to love Christ, who is your best Friend.
It is the will of your heavenly Father that you should love Christ. The devil would have you hate Him—but God would have you love Him; and whether it be more reasonable that you should obey the will of God or the will of the devil, you judge. It is the will of Christ that you should love Him. The will of the flesh is against this love—but whose will ought you to comply with? You are not debtors to the flesh that you should obey its command, neither are you debtors to any creatures to give them your choicest affections—but you are debtors unto Christ, to give Him your chief love. Christ has most right to your love, and will you not give to Christ His due? If you are bound to give men their due, are you not much more bound to give unto Christ His due? Christ's due is your best, and have you anything better than your hearts to present Him with? Will Christ accept anything at your hands should you withhold from Him your hearts? Had you thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil to offer Him; had you all the treasures of the earth at your disposal, and should you lay it down all at His feet, it would be all slighted and disregarded by Him if you give away your hearts.
2. Consider it is your PRIVILEGE that you may love Christ, that Christ will give you leave to do it, and kindly accept your love. Should beggars fall in love with princes in order to the marriage union, both their people and love would be rejected with scorn, anger, and disdain. There is a far greater distance between you and Jesus Christ than there is between the highest prince and the meanest beggar; and yet the Lord Jesus Christ gives you leave to love Him with a spiritually marital love in order to the nearest spiritual union and conjunction; and, notwithstanding His greatness and your baseness, He is not ashamed to give entertainment unto your love. Although you are so mean as creatures, and have been so vile as sinners—yet He does not scorn and disdain you—but both people and love may find ready acceptance with Him. It is your duty to love Christ because He commands you; and it is your privilege that you may love Christ because He allows you to do it.
3. Consider it is your HONOR to love Christ.The real honor of any is not the noble blood which runs in their veins, the high lineage from whence they are descended, the great titles with which they are invested, or the most eminent earthly dignities unto which they are advanced. The heathen could say, "Our stock and noble ancestors, and what we have not done and deserved ourselves, we can hardly call our own." And, "Virtue is the only true nobility." And the Scripture tells us, that the vilest men are exalted, Psalm 12:8, and that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whoever He will, and sets up over it the basest of men, Daniel 4:17.
Princes and nobles, by their vices and wickedness, may render themselves more vile than the earth under their feet, more base than the mire in the streets. The Word of God accounts only those to be truly honorable that are truly gracious; and this grace of love to Jesus Christ puts a great honor and luster upon all those who have it. There is no greater and higher object for your love than the Lord Jesus Christ, a person of so great eminency and excellency. The love of Christ ennobles the heart; and none in the world have such truly great and generous souls as those who have the greatest love to Him. According to the spirit, so is the man, either base or honorable; and according to the chief love, so is the spirit. If your heart chiefly loves any inferior things, as all sublunary things are, hereby you are debased and dishonored. If your heart chiefly loves Christ, who is a superior good and superlatively amiable, hereby you are dignified and become truly honorable. We read of hope (that is the grace of hope) that it makes not ashamed, Romans 5:5; and the same may be said of this grace of love to Jesus Christ. It makes them ashamed. The covetous will be ashamed of their love of riches, and the voluptuous will be ashamed of their love of pleasures, and the ambitious will be ashamed of their love of honors. Disappointment of happiness and true contentment will make all ashamed of their inordinate creature-love, especially when they come to reap the bitter fruit of their sin in their everlasting punishment, Romans 6:21, What fruit had you then in those things whereof _you are now ashamed, for the end of those things is death? But the love of Christ does not make ashamed; it is no matter of dishonor and, therefore, there neither is, nor will be, matter of shame for any to love Jesus Christ with the greatest strength and ardency. If the wicked despise and scorn God's people upon the account of this love, their scorns are their real glory as, on the contrary, their esteem of any upon the account of sin is a real shame and dishonor.
4. Consider it is your WISDOM to love Christ.Deuteronomy 4:6, Keep, therefore, and do them, for this is _your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. None have such wisdom and understanding as those who have and keep this statute and commandment to love the Lord Jesus Christ, Psalm 111:10, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do His commandments.
The fear of the Lord and the love of Christ are always in conjunction, or rather the former includes the latter. This is the beginning and chief part of wisdom, and those have the greatest understandings who have the strongest affections to the Lord Jesus Christ. The love of Christ is the most reasonable and, therefore, the most wise love. That love is most reasonable which is chiefly carried forth towards that object which is most suitable, and really most amiable and object as the Lord Jesus Christ, as appears in what has been already said concerning Christ's person, Christ's love, and Christ's benefits. Such as love other people or things with a chief love are mistaken in the objects of their love; they apprehend more excellency and desirableness in them than really is in them, and so their love is foolish and unreasonable, there being nothing worthy of it, nothing really amiable in the chief place, beneath and besides Christ.
Such as make choice of Christ for the object of their chief love make the wisest choice. There are really those excellencies in Him which they apprehend and conceive. They are fools that are slow of heart to love Christ, and they are more wise that are most forward unto this love. It is your wisdom to love Christ chiefly and to love Christ ardently; such wisdom as will make your faces shine in the eyes of good men, and which will put a luster upon your spirits in the eyes of God. True wisdom does not consist in the invention of curious and quaint notions, in the framing of sound and rational deductions, in uttering the sense of the mind in neat and florid expressions; but the chief wisdom lies in the right placing of affections, and none have attained so high a pitch of true spiritual wisdom as those who have attained the highest pitch of love to Jesus Christ. It is a matter of great wonder when there is the greatest reason and the strongest arguments for the love of Christ, that men of the greatest parts and learning, who have heard of Christ, do not readily fall in love with Him and attain higher degrees of this love than others of a more inferior capacity; but the Scripture must be fulfilled, Matthew 11:25, 1 thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes. Such of you as are but babes in worldly wisdom and human learning, as have but mean natural parts, and no improvement by education—yet if you love the Lord Jesus Christ above all people and things in the world, you are far more wise than the greatest scholars that are without this love.
5. Consider the EXCELLENCY of this love unto Jesus Christ.As the knowledge of Christ is the most excellent knowledge, Philippians 3:8, Yes, doubtless, I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; so the love of Christ is the most excellent love. It is a love of the most excellent object, the Lord Jesus, who is so excellent. It is a love of the most excellent original; it comes down from heaven, it is wrought by the Spirit of God. It is a love that renders them most excellent that have it. The wicked that are without this love are like dross; the righteous that have it are like gold. The wicked that hate Christ are like dirt; the righteous that love Him are like jewels. Other loves darken and defile, the love of Christ brightens the spirit and renders men truly illustrious, the excellent of the earth.
6. Consider the NECESSITY of this love unto Jesus Christ.
(1) The love of Christ is UNIVERSALLY necessary.Some of you need to do this thing, and others of you need to do that—but all of you have the greatest need to love Christ. Some of you need this friend, and to love him that you may keep him: and others of you need another friend. One friend cannot serve the necessities of all—but all of you need Christ for your friend. He is the only friend who can serve all your necessities, and you need to love Him above all friends. It is necessary that you who are poor should love Christ, who have but few or no friends: and it is necessary that you who are rich should love Christ, who have many friends, Christ being a friend instead of all to them that have the most.
(2) The love of Christ is ABSOLUTELY and INDISPENSABLY necessary.It is not necessary that you should climb up and ascend to Jesus Christ, who is above; it is not necessary that you should abound in wealth, that you should have full bags and full coffers, and much riches in your houses; but it is absolutely necessary that you should have riches of this grace of love to Jesus Christ in your hearts. Food is not so necessary to satisfy your hunger, clothes are not so necessary to cover your nakedness, houses are not so necessary to shelter you from the injury of the weather. The most needful thing is not so necessary to your bodies as this love to Jesus Christ is necessary to your souls. You may be poor and in the lowest condition here on earth, and yet be happy while you live, and eternally happy in the other world if you have this love to Jesus Christ; but, without this love, whatever your riches and honors and friends, whatever your earthly delights and enjoyments are, though ever so desirable, ever so plentiful—yet you are miserable and shall be miserable. You may love other people and things in the world subordinately—but you must love Jesus Christ chiefly, otherwise you are under the curse both of the law and gospel, and you cannot escape the vengeance of hell.
7. Consider the USEFULNESS of this love unto Jesus Christ.
(1) The love of Christ is useful in PROSPERITYto ballast the heart so that it is not overset with the full gales of a flourishing condition. It is of use to moderate the affections to lawful things, and it is of use to keep the heart from unlawful and sinful loves. If Christ does not have your hearts, some base and foolish lusts will have them, which will wound your consciences with guilt and pierce your hearts through with many sorrows.
(2) The love of Christ is useful in ADVERSITYto bear up the heart from sinking and being overwhelmed with the winds and waves of trouble and affliction. It is of use to establish the heart from being extraordinarily moved in the most stormy times. Not only faith—but love too, is of a fixing nature, to keep from amazing fears of evil tidings and the greatest perils; and of a strengthening nature, to stay and support the spirit, and keep off pressing griefs and despondencies in the darkest and most doleful days.
(3) The love of Christ is useful to quicken and excite unto DUTY.This makes the yoke of Christ easy, and will enable you to draw therein. This makes the burden of duty (so accounted by the most) to be no burden in esteem. If you have much love unto Christ, you will account duty to be your privilege and the service of Christ to be freedom; and none of His commands will be grievous—but all of them joyous unto you. If you have much love unto Christ, your hearts will be inflamed thereby with zeal for your Master's glory, and you will never think you can do too much for Him.
(4) The love of Christ is useful to arm you against TEMPTATIONS.If faith is a shield, love to Christ is a breastplate against the sharpest darts which the devil can throw at you. Love to Christ garrisons your hearts against this enemy, and is a strong defense against any overtures which the devil may make in his temptations to draw you to sin. "How can I do this evil and offend my dear Lord?" will be the answer of love to repel temptations to sin, whatever alluring proffers they may be accompanied with. Temptations will have no force to prevail over you if this love of Christ is strong within you.
(5) The love of Christ is useful to fit you for the CROSS, and the greatest SUFFERINGSwhich you may be called unto for the sake of Christ. If you have great love to Christ, you will be ready to suffer for Christ with patience and with cheerfulness; the heaviest cross will seem light, disgrace and shame will be counted honor, losses will be esteemed gains, pains pleasures, or, at least, privileges. Prisons will seem palaces, and death will be accounted life. O how have some run to the stake, and embraced the flames of fire kindled to burn them, when they have felt the fire of love to Christ burning strongly within them! Thus this love is useful in life.
(6) The love of Christ is useful at DEATH.This love in its strength will put a beauty upon the aspect of death, which seems so grim and terrible unto the most. If you have much love to Christ, you will look upon death as Christ's messenger, sent for you, to bring you out of the dark prison of the world and the body, and to convey you unto the mansions of glory where your dear Lord is, and you will not be unwilling to leave the world that you may live with Christ.
8. Consider the DELIGHTFULNESS and sweetness of this love unto Christ.If there is sweetness in the love of the head, if there is delight and comfort in the love of Christ's disciples for their Master's sake, there is much more delight and comfort in the love of Christ Himself, the Master, for His own sake. The apostle tells us of comfort in love, Philippians 2:1, that is, in the love one of another—but the consolations in the love of Christ are far exceeding. There are no such sweet motions of heart as those of the strong and fervent outgoings of it in its love to Christ, especially when Christ draws near, and manifests His love unto the soul.
Christ rejoices in His love unto His disciples, and they may rejoice in their love to Him, and this joy in the love of Christ is full joy. John 15:11 says, These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. In the former verse, Christ speaks of His love to them, and here of His joy in them. They were the objects of His joy as they were the objects of His love, and, according to the measure and strength of their love to Christ, so is the fullness of their joy in Christ. Song of Solomon 1:9 says, You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; you have ravished my heart with one of your eves, with one chain of your neck. These are words of Christ the beloved unto His spouse, the Church, expressing the ravishing delight which He found in her looks of faith, or glances of love, and the chain of graces which she was adorned withal. How, then, may your hearts be ravished with unspeakable delight in looking upon Christ's most amiable face, and in the fervent acting of your love unto Him! When a glance of His eye, a smile, a beam from His countenance, kindles a fire in the breast, and this fire of love to Christ burns and flames; O how sweet is this flame beyond what tongue is able to express!
9. And, lastly, consider the ATTAINABLENESS of this love to Christ.Brutes are not capable of this love to Christ—but you are capable. As your minds are capable of knowing Him, so your hearts are capable of loving Him. Others have attained this love, who were as much without it, and as much averse unto it as any of you may be. Here you are capable; hereafter, if you live and die without it, you will be utterly incapable. You have now the means of grace and, as of other graces, so of this grace of love to Christ, in the diligent use of the means, you may attain thereunto. Thus I am done with the motives to excite you unto the love of Christ.
The second thing propounded in the prosecution of the use of exhortation, was to give DIRECTIONS.The directions will be of two sorts:
(1) how to attain this love to Christ;
(2) how to show this love to Christ.
First, how to attain this love to Christ. And here I shall:
(1) Direct you how you may attain this love to Christ in the truth of it, where you are wholly without it.
(2) Direct you how to attain much of this love to Christ, where you have it but in a low degree and weak measure.
The first directions, then, shall be how you who are graceless and Christless, and wholly without this love to Christ—may attain true love to Christ.
Direction 1.If you would attain this love unto Jesus Christ, whom you have never seen, you must get a thorough persuasion that there is such a person as Jesus Christ, and that He is such a person indeed as the Scriptures have revealed Him to be. The reason why heathen are without love to Christ—is because they have never heard of Him. The reason why many who have heard of Christ are without love to Him—is because they are not really persuaded that there is, or ever was, such a person as Jesus Christ in the world. If you would attain this love, you must give a firm assent to this truth (which is the greatest of all, and the very pillar and foundation of the whole Christian religion), that Christ really is, and that the history of Him is no cunningly devised fable.
If you have reason to believe that there was such a person as Alexander the Great, that there was such a person as Julius Caesar, both of whom lived before Christ's time, you have more reason to believe that there was and is such a person as Jesus Christ. You have only secular history for the former—but you have also sacred history for the latter. You have only the writings of men to testify the one—but you have the Word of God in the holy Scriptures to testify the other. You have as much reason to believe the history of the gospel—as to believe any other history; and you have more reason to believe the history of the gospel than to believe any other history. I shall suggest one reason among many, which might be mentioned.
The history of the gospel was believed by as learned men as any in the world, in and near the time of their writing; which belief some of them sealed with their blood, which they would never have done had they found any reason to suspect the truth of this history, which (had there been any reason of suspicion) they might easily have found out in those times, if such a grand fable as this could not possibly have gained credit among wise and inquisitive men; especially when it would have been their greatest worldly interest, the preservation of their estates and lives, to have disbelieved and disowned it.
If, beside the Apostles, all the learned church fathers (whose works are extant among us, who lived near the apostles' times, and some of whom suffered martyrdom for Christ's sake) saw reason to believe that there was such a person as Christ, surely you have reason to believe, and no solid reason to discredit the report of Him in the history of the gospel. And, when you have attained a firm assent unto this, get a full persuasion that Jesus Christ is such a person as the Scriptures record and testify Him to be. Be persuaded of His personal excellencies—His amiableness, His greatness, His holiness, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His fullness, His kindness. Be persuaded of the relation He stands in to the Father, His only begotten and dearly beloved Son, the relation He stands in to His people, especially in His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, as I have set Him forth in the motives to stir up love. Acquaint yourselves with the history of His birth—so wonderful, of His life—so holy, of His works—so powerful, of His doctrine—so heavenly, of His sufferings—so great, of His death—so painful (and yet so voluntary), of His resurrection, ascension, session and intercession at the right hand of God—so needful for us, as you have this history upon record in the New Testament. The assent to this in your minds, will be a preparative for the attaining of true love to Jesus Christ in your hearts.
Direction 2.If you would attain true love unto Jesus Christ, you must get conviction of SIN, and a sense of your NEED of Christ. The prevailing love and relishing of sin, is inconsistent with true love unto Jesus Christ. Such as love Christ hate sin; and such as love sin have an enmity against Christ. While your hearts go after your covetousness or your wickedness, your hearts cannot be set upon Christ.
Before you can love Christ, your hearts must be taken off from sin. Get, therefore, a conviction of sin as the greatest evil in the world. Be persuaded what an evil and a bitter thing it is, to transgress God's law and, thereby, to affront the high Majesty, the great King of glory! Look into the Word of God—and see what is there required, and what is there forbidden; and then look back upon your lives, or look into the register of your consciences, that you may find out what your sins of omission and commission have been. Take a view of your transgressions of the law, and of your disobedience also unto the gospel; and, as you are guilty before God, so labor for a clear sight and deep sense of your guilt; how you are under the curse for your disobedience, how you are liable to ruin and eternal destruction for your sins!
Look upon sin as the most evil and harmful thing in the world. If there is any evil in any temporal calamities which befall men; yes, if there is any evil in future miseries, in the extremity and eternity of hell's plagues and punishments, be persuaded that there is far more evil in sin, which is the cause of all. Think how miserable you are, while under the guilt and reigning power of sin; that the worm is not so vile—as your sins; that the toad is not so full of deadly poison—as your sins; that the filth of the earth is not comparable unto the filth of your sins! Think how base and hypocritical you have been! Think how monstrously ungrateful to your Maker and Benefactor! Think what traitors and rebels you have been to your Supreme King and Sovereign!
Think what peril and danger you are continually in—of death and hell! Think how weak the thread of life is, which ties soul and body together, which may be suddenly cut when you are least aware, when you are most secure; and then, if you are found in a Christless state, your souls will be conveyed immediately unto a place of remediless and eternal misery! Be persuaded, that you are irrecoverably undone—unless the Lord Jesus Christ saves you, that you cannot escape the dreadful vengeance of God—but must be tormented most horridly and everlastingly among the devils and the damned in hell—unless the Lord Jesus Christ delivers you from the wrath which is to come!
The sight and sense of sin, your miserable condition thereby, and of your indispensable need of Christ, will make way for your love of Him.
Suppose that you were in great debt unto a severe creditor, and had not one penny to discharge it, and you were threatened by him to be thrown into prison where you must lie and rot, starve and die, without hopes of relief or release—unless you could make payment of the debt. And if you should hear of such a rich man who was willing and offered to be your surety and to pay all for you—surely you would have an endeared love to such a friend and benefactor.
Just so, your sins are debts beyond the vastest sum of money that ever was owed or paid—and you are not able to pay one farthing, to give the least satisfaction unto God unto whom you are indebted. God is strictly just, and, without full satisfaction to His justice, will throw you into a worse prison than the most nasty dolesome prison on earth! I mean, into the prison of hell—where you must lie without the least relief or any hopes of release! The Lord Jesus Christ offers to be your surety, to pay off all for you, and to give you a full discharge. Were you sensible what a debt sin is, and what a prison hell is—surely it would work your hearts into an endeared love of such a friend and surety who alone can keep you out of this dolesome dreadful prison, into which without Him, you will certainly, and may suddenly—be thrown!
If any of you were sick of a death-threatening distemper, and you had made use of many physicians but none could do you good; and if you should hear of one physician who could assuredly, and would readily and freely cure your disease and save your life—surely you would thankfully make use of this physician, and his kindness would exceedingly engage your love. Just so—sin is the soul's sickness; you are sick unto death. Sin, when it is finished, will bring forth death, not only temporal—but eternal. It is the Lord Jesus Christ alone, who can cure you of this deadly sickness, who can remove your sin and, thereby, deliver you from this death of deaths. Get a sense of the dangerous sickness of sin—and you will prize, and use, and love the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only physician of value in this case!
If any of you were guilty of murder, or theft, or high treason, or some other heinous breach of the law of the land—for which you were apprehended, arraigned, accused, and condemned to be hanged or burned, or to a more tormenting death than either; and if you should hear of a prince at court that had begged the pardon of such crimes for such malefactors and had obtained it, and should he send to you to signify his willingness to do the like for you—surely you would thankfully accept of such a offer, and would love this prince as your life, who should thus preserve you from death! Just so—you are all guilty of high treason and rebellion against the King of heaven in your breach of His law, and you are condemned by this law, not to be hanged for it or beheaded—but to be burned for it—to be burned in the fire of hell, which is unquenchable! The Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of glory, a friend in the court of heaven, who has procured a pardon for many such malefactors, and sends to you to signify His willingness to procure your pardon if you will make use of Him. Surely, if you have a sense of your crime and danger—you will apply yourselves unto Christ to save you—and you will not withhold your love from such a one as should show you such unparalleled favor!
Direction 3.If you would attain true love unto Christ—you must get a saving interest in Christ. You must lay hold on Christ by faith, so that you may be united to Him and related to Him. It is faith which works love. To those who believe, Christ is precious! But, by unbelievers, He is slighted and cannot be loved. Without union to Christ, you will have no affection to Christ. The foundation of love is laid in the relation to the beloved. And this union to, and interest in, Christ—is only by faith. If, then, you would embrace Christ in the arms of love, you must first lay hold on Christ, and receive Him by the hand of faith. Whatever motives and attractions of love there are in Jesus Christ, there will be none to you without this saving interest and relation.
Christ is most beautiful, most lovely and amiable—but He will not be so in your eyes—as long as you are without the eye of faith. He is great and powerful—but so much the worse for you because, without a saving interest in Him, His power is engaged against you! He is pure and holy—and while in your sins, you are, therefore, the more odious in His sight. He is wise and knows all things, therefore, He is privy to all your sins. He is most true, and therefore, will fulfill His threatenings against such as go on still in their trespasses. He is full—but you, without a saving interest in Him, have no share in His fullness.
He is kind—but it is to those who are related to Him; but what is this to you who are unbelievers? He is a Shepherd to His sheep—but you are goats! He is a Captain to His soldiers—but you are enemies! He is a Teacher to His disciples—but you are the devil's scholars! He is a gracious Sovereign to His subjects—but you are rebels! He is a Priest to His people, having made atonement for their sin, and makes intercession for them—but you trample His blood under your feet! He is a Friend and Benefactor to His people—but you are strangers! He is a Brother and a Husband to His people—but you stand in none of these relations! He is a Redeemer to His people—but you are slaves and captives to Satan!
The light which He gives is most sweet—but you are darkness. The life which He imparts is most excellent—but you are dead in sins and trespasses. He gives pardon of sin—but you are under guilt. He gives peace of conscience—but your consciences are still wounded and seared. He gives the joys of the Holy Spirit—but you are in danger of eternal woes. The robes of His righteousness are most rich—but you are naked. The riches of His grace are inestimable—but you are still poor. The dignity of being made the sons of God is most admirable—but you are children of the devil. He gives access unto God in prayer—but you are still at a distance. He gives a title to the kingdom of heaven—but, if you continue in your present state, you will be shut at last out of the palace which is above—and be thrust down into the prison of hell which is below!
What, then, are all these motives to draw forth love to Christ? It is union and relation unto Christ, and saving interest in Him by faith—which puts life into these motives, that they may indeed attract love. O then, be persuaded, without further delay, to endeavor after this saving interest in Christ! You must have it or you are lost irrecoverably; and you will be miserable eternally! Yet you may attain this interest. Others have attained it who are as evil and as vile as yourselves; and you are called unto Christ. O be persuaded, then, to come unto Christ, and join yourselves by faith unto Him, so that you may have a saving interest in Christ, and in all His benefits!
If you ask "What is this faith, which gives a saving interest in Christ? What it is to believe?" I answer out of John 1:12 that it is to receive Christ; "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name." Be persuaded, then, to receive Christ, and accept Him upon the terms of the gospel. Receive and take hold of Christ by the hand of faith and, that you may do this:
(1) You must let go your hold of SIN.If you hug sin in your bosom, if you harbor base lusts in your hearts—you cannot receive and give entertainment to Christ there. You must thrust sin out—if you would let Christ in!
(2) You must let go your hold on the WORLD.I do not say you must let it go out of your hands, and throw away the estates which God has given, unless you are called to leave all rather than to forego Christ or any of His truths; but you must let the world go out of your hearts. The world must not sit upon the throne of your hearts; that seat must be reserved for Christ. Chief love and inordinate love to the world and things in the world, must be taken off.
(3) You must let go your hold of SELF.Your own righteousness and all self-confidences must be parted with! You must be humbled and emptied of yourselves—if you would be prepared for the receiving of Jesus Christ, and receiving of that fullness which there is in Him.
And then, receive Jesus Christ as your High Priest to reconcile you unto God, trusting alone in His merits and mediation. Receive Jesus Christ as your Prophet to instruct and lead you in all truth by His Word and Spirit. Receive Jesus Christ as your Sovereign Lord and King to rule you. Receive Jesus Christ as your Captain to tread down your spiritual enemies under your feet. Receive Jesus Christ in all His relations of Shepherd, Friend, Brother, and especially in the relation of a Husband; and join yourselves to Him, and make over yourselves to be guided, guarded, provided for, and governed by Him. This is to receive Christ, and this is to believe. This gives union, and relation, and saving interest in the Lord Jesus. And if you do thus join yourselves to Christ by faith, you will quickly feel love to Christ to spring forth, to work and act, and that vigorously; and to bring forth such fruit in the life as shall evidently show that love to Christ is rooted in the heart!
Direction 4.If you would attain true love unto Christ—be diligent in the use of all those MEANS which God has appointed for the working of it. I shall instance only in two means:
(a) Be diligent in hearing the WORD preached.As faith comes by hearing, so love to Christ is wrought by the same means. "Hear, and your souls shall live!" said the Prophet, Isaiah 55:3; and, I may say, "Hear that your hearts may love!" The ears may affect the heart with love to the Lord Jesus. While Lydia was hearing Paul preach, her heart was opened, Acts 16:14, and while you are hearing ministers preach of Christ, your hearts may be opened to receive Him and to embrace Him in the arms of your dearest love. See Acts 11:15, "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them!" While Peter was preaching, and the Gentiles were hearing—the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven and fell upon them. Just so, while you are hearing the Word, God may give forth His Spirit, to work this grace of love to Jesus Christ in your hearts.
(b) Be diligent and earnest in PRAYER unto God for this love.Confess and bewail before Him your lack of this love; tell Him you deserve a double anathema because you do not love Christ; and, withal, tell Him you cannot, of yourselves, love Him, that you can as easily lift up a mountain to heaven—as lift up your hearts unto Christ; but that you desire that He would draw up your love to Christ by His Spirit. Beg Him that He would put out the fire of lust, and all inordinate creature-love, and that He would kindle a fire of love in you to this most lovely Jesus, which no corruption in your hearts may be able to extinguish! And, in your prayers, present your hearts to the Lord Jesus. Offer them up freely to Him, and desire that He would accept them, that He would take hold of them and take possession of them, and erect His throne in them as an everlasting habitation for Himself.
How to attain great degrees of love to Christ.Having given directions how you may attain the truth of love to Christ—I come now to give directions how you may attain much of this love to Christ, where you have it but in a low degree and weak measure. Would you attain much love to Christ?
Direction 1.Be much in holy contemplation of Christ. Consider often what motives there are of love in Him. Press them upon your spirits, and labor to awaken and rouse up your hearts unto the vigorous exercise of this love. Spend time in secret retirement, and there think and think again of the superlative excellencies and perfections which are in Christ's person—how wonderful and matchless His love is, what heights which cannot be reached; what depths in it, which cannot be fathomed, what other dimensions which cannot be comprehended!
Meditate often on His benefits, how incomparable His love-token is; and, while you are looking, you may feel your hearts leaping. While you are taking a view of Him, before you are aware, your hearts, like the chariots of Amminadab, may run unto Him! O the ravishments of love! The transports of soul, which some believers have found in their retired thoughts and views of Christ!
Get often into the mount of divine contemplation—and there look upwards unto heaven and think with yourselves, "Yonder, yonder, above the shining sun—is the more glorious Sun of righteousness. There, at the right hand of the throne of God, is my beloved Jesus, and though He is so high above me, both in place and dignity—yet He thinks upon me, and pleads for me, and many a gift has He sent and, by His Spirit, conveyed unto me; and I can ask nothing of the Father in His name but, if it is really for my good, I have it by His means."
"O dear Jesus, how lovely are You in Yourself! The darling of heaven! The delight of the Father! The admiration of angels! O what brightness of glory, what shining luster are You arrayed with! You are clothed with most excellent majesty and honor! You are girded with infinite might and power! The beauty of Your face is most wonderful! The smiles of Your countenance are most sweet and delightful!"
And does this lovely beauteous one, this fairest of ten thousand, this most excellent and altogether lovely person—bear a special love to me? To such a vile worm as me! To such a dead dog as me! To such an undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving sinner as me! O what marvelous kindness in this! What infinite riches of free grace! Does He know me by name? Has He given Himself for me, and given Himself to me—and shall not I give Him my heart! Am I written in His book, redeemed with His blood, clothed with His righteousness, beautified with His image! Has He put the dignity of a child of God upon me, and prepared a place in the Father's house for me! O how wonderful! O how astonishing!
What shall I render unto Him? What returns shall I make? Had I a thousand tongues—should I not employ them all in speaking His praise! Had I a thousand hearts—should I not present them all, as too poor for a thank-offering unto Him! And yet am I slow—slow of heart, to love this dear and sweet Jesus! Awake, O my soul! Awake from your dullness and stupidity! Shake off the sleep which glues your eyelids so close together, shake out the dust of the earth which has gotten into your eyes, and keeps you from the view of your matchless Beloved! Arise, O my soul, and lift up yourself; unfetter the feet, unclog yourself, take the wing, and mount up above the sky and visible heavens, even to the place where my lovely and dear Jesus is! Take your leave of the world and all things therein. Bid farewell to the flattering honors, the deceitful riches, the glancing pleasures that are here below! Bid adieu to them, and leave them to those who place their chief happiness in them!
If earth had your body for awhile—yet let it have your heart and chief affections no more. Come, O my soul! Ascend, and soar aloft unto the heaven of heavens. The way unto the Holy of Holies is accessible. The veil is torn asunder, the Forerunner has entered, and you may also have entrance, too, with your thoughts, and desires, and loves, and hopes, and joys. There you may see, and view, and admire, and embrace your dearest Lord. There your heart may find a fit object for its love, even your dearest Lord Jesus, who will not reject and despise you—but give kind entertainment unto your love, and withal give the fullest and sweetest returns! There your heart may find a room to dispose of itself, and not only a lodging like that of a wayfaring man for a night—but a habitation wherein to dwell and to take up its eternal abode. Let your heart be your forerunner so that, when your body drops off from you, you may know where to take yourself, and find ready entertainment there where your heart has been long before.
Why do you hang downwards, O my soul? Why do you bend so much to the earth and earthly things? What is there here below—which is not beneath you and altogether unworthy of your love? How empty and vain and thorny are these worldly things? Do not waste your time—and weary yourself for every vanity; do not sting and wound yourself with these things anymore. What ails you, O my soul, that you are so backward to the love of Christ? Is it because you cannot see Christ with the eyes of your body? You shall see Him with those eyes hereafter, when He comes in His glory, and your body is raised and repaired, and fitted to bear such a sight! You cannot see the wind—but you hear its noise and feel its blasts; and do you not hear Christ's voice in His Word? Do you not feel the breathings of His Spirit in His ordinances? You are invisible yourself, O my soul, and are you so drenched in flesh that visible objects shall have more power to draw down your heart than this most glorious object (though now invisible) shall have power to draw up your heart? Do you question and doubt His love to you, and does this dampen and discourage your affection?
Whose image is this which is engraved upon you? Is it not the image of Christ? What writing is that upon your heart? Is it not God's law written by Christ's Spirit? Whose deckings and adornings have you got about you? What beauty is this which is put upon you? Is it not Christ's loveliness! Where did you get those bracelets, that ring, those jewels, that chain of graces? Are they not Christ's love-tokens which He has given you—and yet will you doubt His love?
If you feed corruption strong—yet do you not receive some grace, although it is weak? Have you not some love to Christ, although it is low? Are not your desires chiefly after Him, which evidences that your chief love is to Him? And is it so with any but such whom Christ loves? Does not Christ love you first—and yet will you question His love? Banish, then, your fears; silence your doubts, O my soul! Rouse up yourself—and climb up by Jacob's ladder, which is let down to you from heaven, and settle your love upon Jesus Christ and those things which are above where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Such retired contemplations of Christ, and soliloquies, and pleadings with your own souls, when alone by yourselves, will tend exceedingly to the promotion of your love unto Christ.
Direction 2.Would you have much love to Christ? Be much in reading and studying the Scriptures! The Scriptures are a looking-glass, in which Christ may be seen. He cannot be seen face to face in this world; this is the happiness of the triumphant church in heaven, not of the militant church upon earth. What may here be discerned of Christ, is in the looking-glass of the Scriptures and gospel ordinances. This is that looking-glass spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "We all, with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory!" Christ is the glory of the Lord, the brightness of His Father's glory. Would you have much love to Him? Be often looking, viewing, and beholding Him in the looking-glass of the Scriptures! By much beholding of Him, you may be transformed more and more into the likeness of His holiness, and into the likeness of His love—which is glory begun.
The Scriptures have the image of Christ engraved upon them; the image of the Father is upon the Son, and the image of the Son is upon the Scriptures. There you may see the picture of Christ, the beauty of Christ; at least some lineaments are there drawn by the hand of God, although not fully, and to life. I mean, such you will see in Him when you come to behold Him face to face in heaven; yet His beauty is drawn is such proportions, and with such shadows, as you are now capable of beholding.
Would you have much love unto Christ, whom you have never seen? Look much upon His picture and image in the Scriptures. The Scriptures are Christ's love-letters. In the second and third chapters of Revelation, Christ sends seven epistles to the seven Asian churches. There are many epistles and love-letters, as it were, in the Scriptures, especially in the New Testament, wherein Christ gives most kind expressions of most endeared love unto His people. Read much and study Christ's love-letters, especially those parts of the Scriptures wherein Christ expresses most of His kindness and love. Read often and consider such places. Let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you—and this will feed and maintain your love to Christ. This is a means to have Christ dwell in your hearts not only by faith—but also by the most endeared love.
Direction 3.Would you have much love to Christ? Be much in prayer to God for this love, Ephesians 6:23, "Peace be unto the brethren, and love, with faith from God the Father." Not only peace is from God, who is called the God of peace, and not only is faith from God, who works it by His almighty power—but also love is from God, who is the God of love. He circumcises the heart to love Himself and to love His Son. This love of Christ is a grace of the Spirit which God freely gives and powerfully works. The beginnings of it, the increase of it, all the measures and degrees of it—are from Him. If you would attain high measures of love to Christ, you must apply yourselves unto God in prayer, and therein seek diligently to Him for it. If you would have much love to Christ in your hearts, you must be often at the throne of grace upon your knees, and there humbly acknowledge if not the lack—yet the weakness, of your love to Christ. Bewail your sins which dampen your affections, and earnestly request that He would work your hearts unto a strong love. Be importunate in prayer for this.
Follow God day by day with the same requests; plead with Him for it. Fill your mouths with arguments, and fill your arguments with faith and fervent desires. Tell Him, whatever loveliness and love there is in Christ, whatever attractions to draw forth your love—yet of yourselves you are utterly unable to put forth the least motion of true affection unto Christ. Tell Him that this love to Christ, though it is your duty—yet it is His gift; that you ought to act it—but this you cannot do, unless He works it. Tell Him how easily He can kindle this fire of love to Christ in your bosoms and blow it up into a flame. Tell Him He has bid you to ask and you shall have; and whatever you ask according to His will He hears, and that it is His will you should love Christ not only truly—but also strongly.
Tell Him that you desire much love to Christ, and that these desires come from Himself and, therefore, earnestly desire the fulfilling of them. Tell Him that, if you do not love Christ much, you shall be apt to overlove the creature, which will be displeasing to Him. Therefore, request that you may have such a love to Christ as may overpower all other love, and keep your hearts from all inordinancy of love, to anything beneath and besides the Lord Jesus Christ. Plead how much it will be for His glory—that you should have much love unto Christ, that hereby you shall be enabled to honor Him all the more in the world. Plead how much it will be for your good. Tell Him that if you asked for wealth and honors, and creature delights in abundance, they might be a snare to you, and for your hurt; but a strong love to Christ is needful and useful, and you can be sure it will be for your good. Urge His promise of circumcising the heart to love Him, and plead His faithfulness. And, if you are thus importunate in prayer for much love to Christ, and will not be denied—you shall not be denied.
Direction 4.Would you have much love to Christ? Get much faith. Faith works love both to the Father and to the Son. According to the measure of your faith—so will the measure of your love be. Such as are without any faith in Christ—are without any love to Christ. Such as have but a feeble faith in Christ—have but a weak love to Christ. And such as have the strongest faith in Christ—have the strongest love to Christ. The strongest faith gives the clearest discovery of Christ's infinite excellencies and perfections. It is not the eye of sense which discerns Christ, neither is it the eye of reason which discerns Him. Whatever discoveries we have of Christ are by revelation, and this is discernible only by faith. Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and the unseen Christ is evident by faith to be the most excellent person, and the most suitable object of love; and the more evident the object of love is, the stronger will the love be.
Moreover, faith is not only the eye of the soul to discern Christ—but also the hand of the soul; not only to take hold of Him—but also to receive from Him of His fullness, grace for grace and, by consequence, more of this grace of love to Him. Our communion with Christ is by faith; the more intimate acquaintance and fellowship we have with those whom we love—the more endeared will be our love. The strongest faith brings us unto the greatest intimacy, fellowship, and familiarity with Christ, and therefore, it is a means of the strongest love. Endeavor, then, to get a strong faith, and to live daily in the powerful exercise thereof. The more you live by faith—the more you will dwell in the love of Christ.
Direction 5.Would you have much love unto Christ? Labor for much of the Holy Spirit; labor for much of the light of the Spirit. There must be not only the looking-glass of the Scriptures and the eye of faith—but also the light of the Spirit that you may have a clear discerning of this lovely Lord Jesus. Labor for much of the operation of the Spirit. The Spirit is like wind to blow up the sparks of love in your hearts into a flame. Labor for the indwelling of the Spirit, and that the promise may be made good to you which Christ gives to His disciples, John 14:16-17, "And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but you know Him, for He dwells with you, and shall he in you."
Direction 6.Would you have much love unto Christ? Labor for clear evidences of His love unto you. The apprehensions of Christ's loveliness may excite to some love—but the full, well-grounded persuasions of Christ's love to you will, above all, heighten your love to Christ. Doubts of Christ's love cause fears—and fears contract the heart, and therefore, are opposite to love which is the expansion and enlargement of the heart. Perfect love casts out fear; the more love—the less fear; and the more doubts and fears—the less love. Such as doubt much of Christ's love to them, may love Christ truly—but they cannot love Christ strongly. You will love a less lovely person who loves you—more than a more lovely person who hates you. The love of the person beloved is a most amiable qualification and strong attraction, yes, one of the greatest incentives and inducements unto love. Get, then, a persuasion of the infinite love to you of this infinitely lovely Person—that you may be able to say with Paul, Galatians 2:20, "Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me!"
Look diligently into the Word of God, and find out the characters there, of those who are beloved by Christ; and then look diligently into yourselves and see whether your face will not answer that face in the looking-glass of the Scriptures. See whether you can find the lineaments of the new man within you; whether you have experienced a gracious change. Is there now spiritual light—where there once was darkness? Is there now love to God—where there once was hatred to God? Is the the Law of God now written on your heart—where once the law of sin commanded all? Is the bias of your wills and heart, now God-ward, Christ-ward, and heaven-ward; which, heretofore, was only sin-ward, earth-ward, and hell-ward?
Pray earnestly unto God that He would give you a full assurance that, if you are indeed effectually called, if you are indeed united and related unto Jesus Christ, you may know it and no longer doubt thereof.
In a word, seek diligently after the manifestations of Christ's love in all the ways of His ordinances. Do not rest in the externals of the ordinances—but seek after Christ in the ordinances. Follow Him from ordinance to ordinance, and always be looking for Him and looking towards Him—until He turns about and looks upon you, and gives you His gracious smile. Seek and wait for that manifestation of Himself—which He has promised to those who love Him, John 14:21. Wait for His mission of the Holy Spirit from heaven, 1 Peter 1:12, to shed abroad the sense of His love to your hearts, Romans 5:5; and, if you knew assuredly, and had a sense hereof given unto you by the Spirit of Christ—O the joys which you would then have in Him! O the love which you would then have to Him! As your joys would be unspeakable, so your love would be unspeakable also. Such a warmth of heart and burning of love to Christ, you would feel within you as is beyond the rhetoric of the tongue to set forth!
Direction 7.Would you have much love to Christ? Get much hatred of sin; and accordingly, watch, pray, strive, and fight against sin as the worst of evils, as that which so much displeases your Lord. Bewail sins of daily incursion, and labor that your sins of infirmity may be less every day. Take heed of sins of sudden surprise—but chiefly of designed sins, and that you do not comply with any temptations unto grosser miscarriages which, like water cast upon the fire of your love to Christ, will put out the flame, and leave only a few unperceivable sparks in the corner of your hearts. Do not allow sin to have any room in your hearts or, if it will abide and you cannot thrust it quite out, let it not have a quiet habitation within you.
Disturb sin as much as you can; wage war every day with your remaining lusts. Let no day pass over your heads without giving some blows, some thrusts and wounds to sin. The more room sin has in your hearts—the less room Christ will have there. Particularly, take heed of inordinate love to the world, and the things in the world, the prevalence of which love will dampen your love to Christ. By how much more the world gets of your love—by so much the less Christ will have of it. A subordinate love you may have to people and things in the world—but let no person or thing have your chief love, only Christ. Love nothing for itself with a superlative love—but love all inferior things with inferior love; love all under the Lord and in the Lord, and for the Lord's sake. Get all inordinate affections to the world crucified by the cross of Christ! You must having dying affections to perishing things—if you would have a living and strong love to the ever-living Jesus!
Direction 8.Would you have much love unto Christ? Associate yourselves most with those who have most love unto Christ. You may fetch light from their light, and you may fetch warmth from their fire; dead coals are kindled by the living, and your dead hearts may be kindled with love to Christ by the warm discourse of those who have warm hearts. Be ready to speak of Christ and for Christ in any company as you have opportunity, and diligently watch for an occasion. Shut your ears against profane and filthy communication. Do not listen to discourse which is vain and frothy; be ready to begin and promote that discourse which is serious and savory, that which is gracious and may tend to your own and others edification. Study and practice the art of provoking all whom you converse with, not unto strife and contention—but unto this love and affection unto the Lord Jesus Christ; and, while you are endeavoring to warm others with this love, you may be warmed yourselves!
Direction 9.And, lastly, would you have much love unto Christ? Be much in the exercise of this love; hereby it is increased and heightened. If you exercise this love frequently, it will hereby get strength and activity. Every day endeavor to put forth some vigorous acts of love unto Jesus Christ. In your ordinary callings, secular businesses and employments, you may send up some looks of love unto Jesus Christ in frequent short prayers; but especially, in the duties of God's immediate worship. Labor that your love may flow out unto Christ most vigorously. In your daily secret devotion and family worship, let love to Christ draw forth tears from your eyes, at least cause grief and sorrow in your hearts, in the acknowledgment of your sins, whereby He has been dishonored and displeased.
Let love to Christ draw forth earnest desires after Christ—and those communications, manifestations, and consolations which He gives to none but such as are His. Let love to Christ put requests into your mouths, arguments into your requests, and fervor into your arguments, in your pleadings with Him at the throne of grace for further supplies of His grace, and that you may be brought into more intimacy of acquaintance with Him.
Every day you should express your love to Christ, especially on the Lord's day, when almost the whole day is to be spent in public and private exercises of pious worship, and all your love to Christ should be in exercise. In your attendance upon Him in ordinances, you must bring not only your bodies before Him—but present your hearts unto Him. This you should be careful to do in public prayer and hearing of the Word, preaching, and singing psalms. Often should you endeavor, in every ordinance, to lift up your hearts unto the Lord; but, above all, when you approach the Lord's table, all your graces should there and then be in exercise, especially this grace of love to Jesus Christ. Your eye there should affect your heart when you see the representations of your crucified Lord, and think what manner of love He bore to you, that He should submit Himself unto such a death for you. How should this affect your hearts! And, if ever, then your love to Christ should show itself and act with the greatest vigor and strength!
Having given directions how to attain true and strong love to Christ; I come now to the last sort of directions how you should SHOW your love to Jesus Christ.
More generally, show your love to Christ in your OBEDIENCE unto Christ.John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Be faithful in the performance of all known duties which Christ commands, and be careful in the forbearance of all known sins which Christ forbids. Let your great care be to please Christ, whoever is displeased; and your great fear be of offending Christ, whoever is offended with your strictness. Show your love to Christ:
(1) in the sincerity of your obedience;
(2) in the willingness of your obedience;
(3) in the universality of your obedience;
(4) in the constancy of your obedience.
1. Show your love to Christ—in the SINCERITY of your obedience.Hypocrites will do some things which Christ commands—but it is from carnal motives and with carnal designs. But love to Christ must be the motive, and the honor of Christ must the end—of all sincere obedience. Obey Christ because you love Him, and with a design to please Him. What you do, do heartily unto the Lord, and above all things, desire and endeavor that what you do, may be pleasing to Him, 2 Corinthians 5:9, "We make it our aim to please Him."
2. Show your love to Christ in the WILLINGNESS of your obedience.Some will obey Christ—but it is with great reluctance. They will perform duties—but they are burdensome, a weariness, and toilsome, and the commandments of Christ are grievous unto them. They are scarcely ready to perform any duty—until they are scourged unto it by the rods of affliction, or spurred and pricked forward by the goads of conscience. O the listlessness and indisposition in most professors, unto the most spiritual part of the service of Christ, which is an evident proof of the defect of love, either in the truth of it, or at least in the measure and degree of it! Let your love show itself in the willingness of your obedience. Serve the Lord with a willing and ready mind, with alacrity and cheerfulness of spirit, looking upon the service of Christ as your honor, and esteeming every duty as your privilege.
If you have any constraints upon obedience—let them be constraints of love, as 2 Corinthians 5:14. If you are forced to obey Christ—let there be no violence but the violence of love; if you are dragged to duty—let it be with no other cords than the cords of love. Let love be the spur and goad to urge you forward—that you may not only walk but run in the ways of Christ's commandments with an enlarged heart.
3. Show your love to Christ in the UNIVERSALITY of your obedience.Hypocrites will perform some duties which are for their good, and which will serve their carnal designs. Other duties they omit and totally neglect. But let your love to Christ reveal itself in your obedience to all His commandments. Though you cannot here attain perfection of obedience—yet let your obedience be universal. Obey Christ not only in open duties, which men are witnesses of—but also in secret and spiritual duties which depend upon the exercise of the heart and mind—such as meditation, contemplation, self-searching, and prayer; as also in the spiritual part of all duties, which no eye can be witness unto, but the eye of God. Hereby you may be distinguished from all hypocrites in the world.
4. Show your love to Christ in the CONSTANCY of your obedience.Galatians 5:7, "You did run well, who hindered you, that you should not obey the truth?" Some hypocrites are zealous professors for a while, and at first setting out seem to outstrip many who are sincere—but they soon tire and are weary not only in well-doing—but of well-doing. They quickly stumble and fall, and not only fall down—but fall off; not only fall back—but fall away, and turn into fearful apostates. Show your love to Christ—not only in setting out well—but in continuing your Christian course well, unto the end of the course of your lives. Begin well and patiently continue in well-doing. Persevere in your obedience, "Be not weary in well-doing, knowing that in due time you shall reap, if you faint not," Galatians 6:9. And, if you are faithful unto death, Christ has promised to give you the crown of life! Revelation 2:10.
More particularly, show your love to Christ:
(1) in your learning, keeping, asserting, and maintaining of Christ's truths;
(2) in your public-spiritedness and zeal for Christ's honor and interest;
(3) in your vigorous resistance and opposition of Christ's enemies;
(4) in your following of Christ's example;
(5) in your readiness to take up and patiently bear Christ's cross; and
(6) in your desires after Christ's presence here, and longing for Christ's second appearance at the last day.
1. Show your love to Christ—in your learning, keeping, asserting, and maintaining all of Christ's truths.
(1) Learn Christ's truths. Acquaint yourselves by diligent reading of the Scriptures and other books which may be a help thereunto, with all fundamental truths of the Christian religion in the first place—and so go on and proceed farther to learn those truths which are in the Scriptural superstructure. And whatever truths you find a foundation for in the Scriptures, which are the Word of truth, receive them not only in the light of them—but also in the love of them. If the branches of Scriptural truths are in your heads, and the leaves of them in your profession, and the fruit of them in your actions—let the root of them be in your hearts.
(2) Having learned the truths of Christ as they are in Jesus, let them not hang loose in your understandings—but keep them fastened and fixed in your minds. Hold the truths of Christ fast, prize them above all jewels; do not part with them upon any terms. Let all go: estate, liberty, and life itself, rather that any of this rich treasure which Christ has entrusted you with!
(3) Assert the truths of Christ. Do not be ashamed or afraid to own any truths of Christ, in the most adulterous and gainsaying generation. Profess your belief in Christ and His truths; endeavor that the light of these truths may shine abroad, and cast forth such bright beams in the dark world where you live—that others may be brought hereby unto the knowledge of the truth.
(4) Endeavor to maintain Christ's truths. Earnestly contend for the doctrine of faith once delivered to the saints, endeavor to convince gainsayers, and to defend Christ's truths against those corrupt and erroneous opinions and doctrines which, like leaven, is very apt to spread and infect the minds of men.
2. Show your love to Christ—in your public-spiritedness and zeal for Christ's honor and interest.Let your affections be public—not private, narrow, contracted, and centering in self. Let your love be a public and general love. Love not only relations—but love all Christ's disciples, though of different persuasions and interests, because of the image of Christ. And love not only your friends who love you—but also your enemies who hate you, because of the command of Christ. Let your desires be public desires. Desire the welfare of the universal church, and of all God's people throughout the world; and, accordingly, pray for their peace and prosperity. And endeavor, as you have opportunity, to promote the public good, more that your own private advantage. Seek not your own things—but the things of Jesus Christ.
Let your grief be public grief. Grieve not only for your own sins—but also for the sins of others whereby Christ is dishonored in the world. Grieve not only for your own afflictions—but also for the afflictions of all believers, Hebrews 13:3, Remember those who are in bonds, as bound with them; and those who suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. You are in the same mystical body with all Christ's afflicted members; and when some members suffer—the rest should suffer too by way of sympathy, bleeding in their wounds and grieving in their sorrows.
Be also ready to relieve any, especially Christ's disciples, when they are in distress and need, according to your capacity, and as you have opportunity. Employ all your talents for your Master's glory, and endeavor to promote the interest of the Lord Jesus unto the utmost of your abilities in reference to those who are without. If you are called yourselves, labor to call others unto Christ, as Andrew called Peter, Philip called Nathaniel unto the Messiah, John 1:40-45. If you have found the Messiah, or rather have been found by Him, let your love to Christ, and love to souls, prompt you to endeavor the conversion of others that are your relations, your friends, and acquaintances.
Put your unconverted friends in mind of their miserable estates while under the guilt and reigning power of sin, while slaves to the devil and their own lusts. Remind them of death and the fearful consequences thereof, to all unpardoned sinners. Tell them of Christ, that He is the only Savior and Redeemer of mankind; how able and willing He is to save them if they seek after Him and apply themselves unto Him. Tell them that not long ago—that you were in the same state with themselves, living in the practice of the same sins, and going on in the same way to destruction; and that the Lord has showed mercy unto you in your conversion, bringing you into a state of salvation. Tell them that there is mercy also for them if they look after it; that God's grace is most free, His mercy most plentiful, that Christ is most gracious and casts out none who come unto Him. Tell them of the amiableness of Christ's person, of the surpassing love which He has shown to fallen mankind in His dying for them; and that, though He was dead—yet He is alive, and lives for evermore to intercede for all those who make choice of Him, and make use of Him for their Advocate. Therefore, persuade them to break off their sins by repentance, which otherwise will be the ruin both of their bodies and of their souls in hell; and, without delay, to come unto Christ and accept Him upon gospel terms.
If any of you cannot manage these arguments well yourselves, persuade them, if you can, to hear such ministers and sermons as, through God's blessing, have been effectual for your conversion; and thus you may be instrumental to augment the kingdom of Christ, which is one of the best ways of expressing your love unto Christ.
In reference to them which are within, labor to promote the interest of Christ among those who are truly gracious, by vigorous endeavors to strengthen and establish them, to quicken and encourage them in the ways of the Lord. Communicate the experiences which you have had, as you see there is real need, and it may tend not so much to your praise—as your Master's honor. Labor in your places to be both shining and burning lights: be forward to every good word and work. Look upon yourselves as the devoted servants of Christ, and that you are not your own; and, therefore, lay out yourselves to the utmost for Him, and give all diligence to glorify Him with your bodies and spirits, with your estates and interests, with your gifts and talents—all which are His, and ought to be at His devotion.
3. Show your love to Christ—in your vigorous resistance and opposition of Christ's enemies.There are three grand enemies of Christ which you are engaged to fight against, namely, the devil, the flesh, and the world, which war both against Christ and against your souls. This trinity of adversaries combine together against His Anointed, doing their utmost endeavor to break His bands, to untie His cords, and to unhinge His government. They would pluck the crown off Christ's head, could they reach it, and the scepter out of His hand. They would divest Christ, if they could, of all His power here on earth, and confine Him to His territories in heaven; but all their attempts in this kind have been, and will be, in vain. Christ has vanquished them; but still some life and power is left with them, to war against the holy seed.
You are Christ's soldiers, listed under His banner; show your fidelity and your love to your Captain and General—in manfully maintaining your spiritual combat against His and your spiritual enemies. Fight the good fight of faith, resist unto blood, do not yield upon any account. Disdainfully turn away the eye and ear when these enemies would entice and allure you; and stoutly make resolute opposition against them when they most furiously assault you. Hearken to no suggestions of the devil, temptations of the world, or motions of the flesh—which would induce and draw you into ways of sin—or which would force and drive you out of the ways of Christ. Resist, oppose, and labor to gain some victories over these adversaries every day.
Especially get conquest over the flesh—and the other two will be soon vanquished. Christ showed His love to you in submitting Himself to be crucified for you; you must show your love to Christ in crucifying your flesh, with its affections and lusts, for His sake; in your self-denial and mortifying the deeds of the body, when you deny your carnal reason, your carnal wisdom, your carnal will, your carnal affections, your carnal interest, all inordinances of your sensual appetite—for the sake of Christ! When you crush pride, envy, revenge, malice, and all evil lusts—for the sake and because of the command of Christ—all these are acts and evidences of love to Christ, and herein you should exercise yourselves daily.
4. Show your love to Christ—in your following His example.Reveal your affection unto Him in your imitation of Him, in writing after His copy, in treading in His steps, in walking as Christ Himself walked when He was here upon the earth. Show your love to Christ by laboring after likeness unto Christ, that you may be like Him both in your inward disposition and in your outward life. Christ was humble—you be humble in your own esteem. Christ was meek—you be gentle, easy to be entreated, and not easily provoked. Christ loved God—let God be the object of your love. Christ hated sin—let sin also be the object of your hatred. Christ condemned the world—get crucified affections unto it. Christ was compassionate to those who were in distress—labor for the like affections. Christ used to worship publicly in the synagogues, to pray with His disciples, and to spend time also in secret prayer—so you should give your attendance in the public assemblies of God's people, worship God in your families, and be often upon your knees at the throne of grace in secret.
Christ's mind was a heavenly mind—let the same mind be in you, as was in Christ. Christ's will was submissive to His Father's will—let the same will be in you as was in Christ. Christ's words were gracious and edifying—let your speech be always with grace, savory, and that which may be for edification. Christ's life was an active life—He was always doing good, and He was exactly holy in all His action. Be active and diligent in the service of God in doing good to others, and be holy as Christ was holy, in all your conduct. Thus should you show your love to Christ in following Christ's example, and in imitating Him in everything wherein you are capable of such imitation.
5. Show your love to Christ—in your readiness to take up and patiently bear Christ's cross.I do not say you should desire sufferings for Christ; but I am sure that strong love to Christ will not allow you to decline them. Do not go out of God's way for them. If you meet with the cross in the way of duty, do not turn back or start aside—but cheerfully take it up and, when you have got it up, patiently bear it and do not throw it off. When it is your duty to suffer for Christ, look upon it also to be your privilege, and be glad for the opportunity, rejoicing that you have anything to part with for the sake of Christ. If it is good name, or good estate, or good friends, if it is liberty or life itself—such expressions of love are very honorable and very pleasing to your Lord and Master.
6. And, lastly, show your love to Christ—in your desires after Christ's presence here, and in your longing for His second appearance at the last day.
(1) Desire Christ's gracious presence HEREand the manifestations thereof so that, according to His promises, He would come unto you, that He would draw near, and that you might feel that He is near. Desire that you might have clearer discoveries of Christ, and more intimate communion and fellowship with Christ, above all company and fellowship. Desire the company, fellowship, and acquaintance with Christ, that you might walk and converse with Him, and that there might be a daily fellowship between Christ and your souls, and that all distance and strangeness between you Him, might be removed. Let your love express itself in desires after Christ when He is absent, and in delights when He is present. Rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, when He manifests Himself unto you graciously. Admire His beauty and delight in the persuasions of His favor. Let the actings of your love, and the workings of it, be such to your Beloved daily.
(2) Desire also and long for the second appearance of Christ at the LAST DAY.When He says, "Surely I some quickly!" Say, "Amen, even so come Lord Jesus!" Look upon time as slow of heel and wing, because it runs no faster, and flies no swifter. Look to the end of time, and long for it, because then, with these eyes, you shall see Him whom your soul loves; because then you shall see Christ come down from the throne of God with such brightness of beauty as will transport you with wonder and joy.
Say, "When, Lord Jesus, will You take to Yourself Your great power, and clothe Yourself with Your authority and come down to judge the world? When will You open the everlasting gates of heaven, which have been shut so long? When will You descend from heaven with a shout, with the sound of the great trumpet, and send Your angels to gather all Your elect from the four winds—that all who love You may meet in one society? When shall we put on our garments of immortality, and be caught up in the clouds to meet You in the day of Your triumph? When shall the day of our coronation come, and of our admission into the glorious mansions which You have prepared for us in the glorious palace which is above? When will You show us Yourself, and allow us to behold You face to face? When will You show us the Father, and give us to behold Him immediately without a veil? When will You show us Your glory which You had with the Father before the world was, and give us not only to see it—but to share in it? When will You open the treasures of Your love, and receive us into Your nearest, closest, and sweetest embracements, and give us to drink of those rivers of pleasures which are with You? O hasten, Lord, hasten Your glorious appearance, that You may be glorified before the whole world, and we be glorified with You; that we may be then taken to live with You, and reign with You, and be made perfectly happy in the full and everlasting enjoyment of You!"
And what do you now say, after all motives to excite and persuade you to the love of Christ, and directions therein? Shall all be in vain?
What do you say, sinners? Shall Christ have your hearts or not? Will you harbor base lusts in your hearts—which will damn you and keep out the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can save you? Shall I gain no hearts for Christ by all my sermons which I have preached concerning the love of Christ? My Lord and Master has sent me to woo you, to win your hearts for Him; may I succeed or not? Shall my message be accepted, and Jesus Christ, the most lovely One, find entertainment with you? If any person or thing in the world, which you most dearly love, does so well deserve your love—lock your ears still against all my words, and let them perish like an empty sound in the air. Lock your hearts against Christ, who stands knocking at the door, and give an absolute and peremptory refusal to give Him any room there! But if, in the whole world, you cannot find out a suitable beloved besides Christ; if there is nothing here below, but is unworthy of your hearts; if all inferior things, while they have your chief love, debase and defile you; and, unless your hearts are taken off from them, will certainly ruin and destroy you everlastingly—O then, be persuaded, without any further delay, to open the everlasting doors of your hearts to let Christ into them, and set Christ up in the highest seat of your affections! O be persuaded to give Christ your chief love, to give Him your heart, and your whole heart! With grief and hatred, let go your hold of sin—and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ in the arms of your dearest love!
And then I would say to you as our Savior did to Zaccheus, when he gave Him entertainment in his house, "This day has salvation come unto you!" O happy day unto you! O happy you that ever you were born, if this day Christ is heartily entertained by you! This, then, would be the day of your conversion, in which the angels would rejoice; and, though grief and trouble might invade you for awhile because of your sin—yet this would make way for your spiritual joy. Weeping may endure for a night—but joy would come in the morning! But O the joy which you will then have in the day of your coronation, when all tears shall be wiped away from your eyes, and when you shall have admission into the glorious presence of the Lord, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore!
And what do you say, believers, you who have some love to Christ? Shall this doctrine, and these sermons which I have preached, be a means to raise and heighten your love? Your love has been too much mixed—will you love Christ more purely? Your love has been very weak—will you love Christ more strongly? Your love to Christ has been but a spark—shall it now break forth into a flame? After such blowings—shall there be no burnings? When you think of Christ's person so amiable, His love so incomparable, His benefits so inestimable—shall not this fire your hearts? And will you not now love Him more dearly and ardently than ever? Will you be persuaded to get off your hearts from earth and earthly things, and get up your hearts to your Lord who is in heaven, and to settle your love there upon Him so as never to withdraw it from Him anymore? Will you love the Lord Jesus much, whom you can never love too much? Will you now dwell in the love of Christ and be more frequent and fervent in the actings of it? Then, O what comfort would you find in your love—and what sweetness in the sense of Christ's love! This would be the surest evidence that Christ loves you; and how would this sweeten your passage through the valley of affliction—and through the valley of death. This would sweeten a bitter cup—and make a sweet cup more sweet.
In life, the sense of Christ's love will be better than life; but at death, this will be the only stay and support which you can have. Nothing else can give any well-grounded comfort in a dying hour. Death rages and plays the tyrant everywhere, shoots his arrows hither and thither. Sometimes he smites those who are older than yourselves, and sometimes those who are younger; sometimes those who are weaker than yourselves, sometimes those who are stronger; sometimes those who are better, sometimes those who are worse. Sometimes the righteous are smitten, sometimes the wicked; sometimes the profane, and sometimes professors; that all might be awakened to prepare!
And what is it which can give you comfort when you come to the border of death? You may have the love of your dear relations, weeping and mourning at your bed-side; children, kindred, and friends, wringing their hands, and looking with a pitiful countenance upon you, grieving to part with you; but what comfort can all their love yield unto your departing soul? Their love may disturb you and make you more unwilling to die and leave them, because they are so unwilling to part with you; but the love of Christ, and the sense thereof, will be a comfort indeed, because He is a friend whom you are not departing from—but going unto. And, O the delight which then you may have, when friends look most sad and death looks most grim, when the trembling joints, the clammy sweats, the intermittent pulse, the rattling throat, and other symptoms, give notice of near approaching death! Then to think, "I am now come, not only to the door of eternity—but also to the gate of my Father's house, where many saints have gone before me, and many angels are attending for me, and where my dearly beloved Jesus is, and has prepared for my reception an eternal habitation! Here are friends about my bedside, waiting for my soul that, as soon as it is loosened from this dying carcass—they may convey me to the heavenly paradise! Within a few
minutes—I shall be with my dearest Lord where my faith will be swallowed up in vision; my hope swallowed up in fruition, and my love
will come to perfection. O the glorious light which there and then will shine in to every corner of my mind! O the love and joy and ineffable delight—when I come to see and enjoy and live forever with my most dearly beloved Jesus!
This, this only, will make you willing to die—and this sense of Christ's loveliness will effectually sweeten your passage though the dark entry of death!