« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
God; which now can be no otherwise but by faith in Christ. So that to love God, that he may love us, is a preposterous method. But let us labour to embrace Christ, and so to believe God loves us in him; then shall the heart natively flow out in love to him, i John iv. 19; -We love him, because he first loved us.'
4. High thoughts and a transcendent esteem of him, Cant. v. 10. My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.' He is the best of beings, the most amiable and lovely, that shines with unparalleled perfections; and therefore is to have the supreme place in our estimation as well as affections. Here our esteem cannot go too high, more than we can reach beyond what is infinite. We can. not launch out too far in admiration of his glory. Thus should we highly and honourably think of him as the best and greatest. It is a sad character of the wicked man, Psal. x: 4. that God is not in all his thoughts.'
5. Desire towards him, Psal. lxxiii. 25. Whatever other desires we have, the main stream of our desires must run towards the Lord, Psal. xxvii. 4. to the enjoyment of him in this life, and the perfect enjoyment of him hereafter ; so that God not being perfectly enjoyed here, it is natural to the lovers of God to desire to be with Christ, Phil. i. 23. 2 Thess. iii. 5.
6. Lastly, Complacency in him, Cant. i. 13. The soul must delight in him, have a pleasure in him. The lover of the Lord is well pleased there is such a being, well pleased with all his attributes, all his relations to us, all his words, ways, and works. And the want of this makes men haters of God in the scripture-sense.
Secondly, I shall shew the properties of this love required of us. It is,
1. Sincere, not in word and tongue only, shewing much love, Prov. xxiii. 26. but inwardly, our hearts. being with him, to him, and for him.
2. Most strong and vigorous, even as much as we are capable of, all the strength we are masters of. Love may be sincere, though not most intense, and that the gospel may accept : but the law requires a perfection of degrees as well of parts. The greatest fervour of affection is due to God, and the greatest ardency of love, beyond which we cannot go.
3. Pure and absolute for himself. Not that we are not to
14. Lastly, the apostle, brefore " love iso God, to serde
love God as our benefactor, Psal. cxvi. 11. but we must love him also and mainly for those excellencies that are in him, Cant. i. 3. for his truth, justice, mercy, holiness, &c.
4. A superlative and transcendent love. We must love God above all creatures whatsoever, ourselves or others, Luke xiv. 26. And so must all other loves be swallowed up in his, we must love nothing beside him, but for him, and in due subordination to him.
5. An intelligent love, Mark xii. 33. We must love him as those that see good cause to love him. There is no blind. ness in this love, for there are no faults in the object to be hid; but the better we see, the more we love. .
6. Lastly, An efficacious working love, i John iii. 18. Therefore says the apostle, Rom. xiii. 10. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore · love is the fulfilling of the law. Love devotes the whole man to God, to serve his glory in the world, Rom. xiv. 7, 8. and makes him ready to forego what is dearest to him in the world for God, Acts XX. 24. and sets a man on doing and suffering at his call.
Thirdly, I will shew why this love is due to God. It is due because of his transcendent excellency, and absolute love. liness. There is nothing in him but what is good; all goodness is in him, and nothing wanting; and each part of goodness is in him infinitely. No love, then, is suitable to him but such a love. There is nothing lovely in the creatures, but what is eminently in him, Matth. xix: 17; but there is something wanting in all the creatures, that must stint our love.
Fourthly, I shall shew how love to the Lord stands in rela. tion to other commands.
1. It is the chief duty. It is what God mainly requires, and what we ought mainly to aim at. It is the end, to which even faith itself is but the mean, and in that respect is by the apostle preferred to all others, 1 Cor. xiii.
2. It is the comprehensive duty of all, Rom. xiii. 10. As is our love, so will our obedience be. Were our love perfect, our obedience would be so too. It is the fruitful womb out of which proceed all other duties.
3. It is an universal duty; it goes through all. Whatever acceptable service we do, must be done in love; and if it be not done so, it is not accepted. Other duties are the nieat, but this is the salt to season all.
Fifthly, I shall deduce some inferences from what has been said.
Inf. 1. What a sweet law is the law of God, that law of love! how rational ! how drawing! Did ever prince make a law for his subjects to love him? But God has made such a law; and all his loyal subjects cheerfully obey it, and find their advantage in it.
2. See the excellency of the love of God. The whole law is comprised in love. Wouid ye have the most short way to obedience? then love the Lord. Take a hold of this master, link, and ye will draw the whole chain after you. He that loveth God, will keep his commandments; for love is the fulfilling of the law.
3. How little obedience or true holiness is there in the world? for how little love to God is there? Alas for the cold hearts that make benumbed hands and feet! Did men love God as he deserves and requires to be loved, could they break his commandments, and live in such carelessness and unconcern about God and his laws, and the important concerns of their souls, as the generality do? Alas! the coldness of professors in the cause of God, is a melancholy evidence that love to him is at a low ebb amongst us.
4. What an absurd thing is the device of supererogating, and doing more than the law requires ? We are required to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind? Is it possible to go further than that? Nay, can any man attain to such a perfect love? No person that truly loves God can possibly think he exceeds the pitch of loving him required in the law. On the contrary, it is inatter of grief to him that he cannot love him enough. Any measure he has attained proves unsatisfying. He will still desire and labour to have his love more increased, and rendered more lively and in. tense. So far will he be from imagining he loves God more than it is his duty to do. : 5. There is no true religion where there is no heart-religion: and there is no respect to the law, where there is no love. It is in vain for men to pretend to be religious, while they have no principle of love to God implanted and opera. ting in their hearts. External obedience is of no avail with. out internal, founded upon and proceeding from love to God as its source. All true obedience is the fruit of love to God; and where love prevails in the heart, there will be a sincere respect to all God's commandments, to his word, his ordinances, and institutions.
6. Let us all be induced to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind: esteeming and preferring him above all other things, acquisitions, possessions, and enjoyments; giving him the chief room in our hearts, delighting and resting in him as our chief good and upmaking portion; desiring to be more and more acquainted with him, and ardently longing to have copious manifestatious of his love and grace made to our. selves; and in a sincere respect to all his laws, statutes, and precepts. And let us be ready to part with all we haye, all our enjoyments and possessions, however valuable and dear they may be to us, at the Lord's call and command, whenever we can keep them no longer in a consistency with our love to God and his cause. We must forsake all to follow Christ; and lay down our life, rather than not loye the Lord our God.
I now proceed to consider the second part of the text and doctrine, viz,
II. The sum of the second table of the law is love to our neighbour.
In discoursing from this point, I shall shew, 1. Who is our neighbour, 2. What is that love we owe to our neighbour, 3. How we are to love our neighbour. 4. Lastly, Apply the point.
First, I am to shew who is our neighbour. Every man is our neighbour, known or unknown, friend or foe, good or bad, Luke x. 29, 37. This neighbourhood is founded on two things especially. 1. That common relation that is among all as branches of one stock, having one common na. ture, Acts xvii. 26. 2. The common capacity of all to enjoy the saine God, and to meet in him; all men being capable of that happiness, because of their immortal souls capable of enjoying an infinite good. Hence see,
1. How the hatred of evil men and love to them may be reconciled, Psalm cxxxix. 21. Do not I hate them, o Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? Compare the text, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. We have the common grounds aforementioned whereon to love all men; but forasmuch as sin is a depravation of that common nature, and the only thing that mars men's enjoyments of God, we hate their sins, though we love their persons; as we hate the moth, because we love the garment. Hatred to men's persons, whoever or what. ever they be, is inconsistent with this command that enjoins the love of our neighbour as well as the love of God. But to hate and abhor their sins and evil deeds, is quite consistent with love to their persons. And agreeably to this, David's hatred to those who hated God, ultimately terminated on their sins, and not their persons.
2. We see here a ground whereon we ought to love our enemies. Their common nature with us, and their common capacity of happiness with us in the enjoyment of God, remains, though they do evil to us; and therefore we are bid pray for them, Matth. v. 44. . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you*.
Secondly, I shall shew what is that love we owe to our neighbour. In it there is,
1. A due esteem of him, 1 Pet. ii. 17. Love the brotherhood.' There are no persons but who have something for which they are to be esteemed. Some have grace, all have gifts, natural or moral, in greater or lesser measure, which are from God, James i. 17. None want precious souls, that are of more worth and value than the world. And the pearl must be esteemed precious, though in a dunghill..
2. Benevolence or good will to them, Luke vi. 31. ' As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.' We are heartily to desire their welfare for time and for eternity, to wish them the best things. This good affection we are to bear to all. And this brings in with it a sorrow for the evil that befals them, and joy in their good and prosperity.
3. Beneficence, doing them what good we can, doing to them as we would be done to, Matth. vii. 12. Gal. vi. 10. We are not born for ourselves, but for God and our neighbour; and therefore we should lay out ourselves to be useful in the world and to advance the good of mankind, so far as we are capable.
• This subject of loving our enemies may be seen well handled in a collection of this author's sermons, formerly published, entitled, The distinguishing characters of true believers, p. 248, 274,