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and I not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, &c." (John xvi. 26.) I appeal to your own hearts, Christians, whether you would not be much more willing and ready to pray; and whether prayer would not be a sweeter employment to you, if you were sure Christ's abode within you, and intercession for you, and consequently that all your prayers are graciously accepted of the Lord? You would not then desire, the vain society of empty persons; nor seek for recreation in their insipid, frothy, insignificant discourse. The opening of your heart to your heavenly Father, and pleading the merits of his Son, in your believing petitions for his saving benefits, would be a more contenting kind of pleasure to you.
How sweet would meditation be to you, if you could still think on Christ, and all the riches of his kingdom, as your own! Could you look up to heaven, and say with grounded confidence, It is mine, and there I must abide and reign for ever!' Could you think of the heavenly host, as those that must be your own companions, and of their holy employment as that which must be your own for ever, it would make the assent of your minds to be more frequent, and meditation to be a more pleasant work. Were you but assured of your special interest in God, and that all his attributes are by his love and covenant engaged for your happiness, experience would make you say, " In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts do delight my soul." (Psal. xliv. 19.) " I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being: my meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord." (Psal. civ. 33, 34.) Could you say with full assurance, that you are the children of the promises, and that they are all your own; how sweet would the reading and meditation on the Holy Scriptures be to you! How dearly would you love the Word! What a treasure would you judge it! Your delight would be then in the law of the Lord, and you would meditate in it day and night." (Psal. i. 2.) To find such grounds of faith, and hope, and riches of consolation in every page, and assuredly to say, ' All this is mine,' would make you better understand why David did indite all the cxix. Psalm, in high commendations of the word of God, and would make you join in his affectionate
expressions, "O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day! Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies; for they are ever with me." (Psal. cxix. 97-99.)
Sermons also would be much sweeter to you, when you could confidently take home the consolatory part, and use our ministry as a help to your faith, and hope, and joy; whereas your doubts and fears, lest you are still unregenerate, will turn all that you hear, or read, or meditate on, into food and fuel for themselves to work upon; and you will gather up all that tends to your disquietment, and say, It is your part; and cast away all that tendeth to your consolation, and say, it belongeth not to you. And the most comforting passages of the word will be turned into your discomfort and the promises will seem to you as none, while you imagine that they are none of yours: and the loss of your peace and comfort will not be the worst: But this will increase your backwardness to duty; and when your delight in the worship of God is gone, your inclination to it will abate, and it will seem a burden to you, and be as meat to the stomachs of the sick, that with the most careful preparation, and much entreaty, can hardly be brought to get it down, and can bear but little, and that which is suited to their diseased appetites.
The same I may say of the sacrament of the Lord's-supper. How sweet will it be to you, if you are assured, that the same Christ that is there represented as broken and bleeding for your sins, doth dwell within you by his Spirit! What welcome entertainment would you expect to find, if you knew that you brought the feast, and the master of the feast with you in your hearts; and had there entirely entertained him, with whom you expect communion in the sacrament! How boldly and comfortably would your hungry souls then feed upon him! With what refreshing acts of faith would you there take the sealed promise and pardon of your sins! Whereas when you come in fears and doubting, and must take the body and blood of Christ in their representations, with your hand and mouth, while you know not whether you receive him with the heart, and whether you have any special interest in him, O what a damp it casteth on the soul! How it stifleth its hopes and joys, and turneth the sacrament, which is appointed for their comfort, into
their greater trouble! It hath many a time grieved me to observe that no ordinance doth cast many upright souls into greater perplexities, and discouragements, and distresses, than the Lord's-supper, because they come to it with double reverence, and by the doubtings of their title, and questioning their preparedness, and by their fears of eating and drinking unworthily, their souls are utterly discomposed with perplexing passions, and turned from the pleasant exercise of faith, and the delightful intercourse that they should have with God; and they are distempered and put out of relish to all the sweetness of the Gospel: and then they are frightened from the sacrament by such sad experiences, and dare come thither no more, for fear of eating judgment to themselves. And should not Christians labour to remove the cause of such miserable, distracting fears, that so much wrong both Christ and them, and to recover their well-grounded peace and comfort?
11. Your love to God, which is the heart and life of the new creature, doth so much depend upon your knowledge of his love to you, as should make you much more desirous of such a knowledge. Love is the end of faith; and faith the way to love. So much of love as is in every duty, so much holiness is in it, and no more. Love is the sum of the commandments. It is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom. xiii. 10; Matt. xxii. 37; Mark xii. 33.) Though God loved us first, as purposing our good, before we loved him; (1 John iv. 9, 10;) and we therefore love him, because he first loved us, (ver. 19;) yet doth he love us by complacency and acceptance, because we love the Father and the Son: "For the Father himself loved you, because ye loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." (John xvi. 27.) And what will more effectually kindle in you the fervent love of Christ, than to know that he loveth you, and dwelleth in you? All this is expressed by Christ himself; "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you: He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him. If a man love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John xiv. 20-23.) "If any man love God, the same is known of him," 1 Cor. viii. 3,) with a knowledge of special love and
approbation. This is no disparagement to faith, whose nature and use is to work by love. (Gal. v. 6.) What a man loveth, such he is. The love is the man. Our love is judged by our life, as the cause by the effect: but the life is judged by the love, as the fruits by the tree, the effects of the cause. 'Mores autem nostri non ex eo; quod quisque novit, sed ex eo quod diligit, dijudicari solentinec faciunt bonos vel malos mores, nisi boni vel mali amores,' saith Augustine; that is, our manners are not used to be judged of according to that which every man knoweth, but according to that which he loveth: it is only good or evil love, that maketh good or evil manners. If Plato could say, (as Augustine citeth him, lib. viii. de Civit. Dei,) Hoc est philosophari, scilicet Deum amare:' To be a philosopher, is to love God. Much more should we say, 'Hoc est Christianum agere,' this is the doctrine and work of a Christian, even the love of God. Indeed it is the work of the Redeemer, to recover the heart of man to God, and to bring us to love him by representing him to us as the most amiable, suitable object of our love: and the perfection of love, is heaven itself. O jugum sancti amoris, (inq. Bernard.) quam dulciter capis, gloriose laqueas, suaviter premis, delectanter oneras, fortiter stringis, prudenter erudis!' that is, The yoke of holy love, O how sweetly dost thou surprise! How gloriously dost thou enthral! How pleasantly dost thou press! How delightfully dost thou load! How strongly dost thou bind! How prudently dost thou instruct! O fælix amor ex quo oritur strenuitas morum, puritas affectionum, subtilitas intellectuum, desideriorum sanctitas, operum claritas, virtutum fæcunditas meritorum dignitas, præmiorum sublimitas.' O happy love, from which ariseth the strength of manners, the purity of affections, the subtlety of intellects, the sanctity of desires, the excellency of works, the fruitfulness of virtues, the dignity of deserts, the sublimity of the reward! I appeal to your own consciences, Christians, would you not think it a foretaste of heaven upon earth, if you could but love God as much as you desire? Would any kind of life that you can imagine, be so desirable and delightful to you! Would any thing be more acceptable unto God? And on the contrary, a soul without the love of God, is worse than a corpse without a soul. "If any man love not the
Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maran-atha." (1 Cor. xvi. 22.)
And do I need to tell you what a powerful incentive it is to love, to know that you are beloved? It will make Christ much more dear to you, to know how dear you are to him. What is said of affective love in us, may partly be said of attractive love in Christ. " Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it:" (Sol. viii. 7 :) no riches can purchase what it can attract. When you find that he hath set you as a seal upon his arm and heart,” (ver. 6,) and that you are dear to him as the "apple of his eye," what holy flames will this kindle in your breast! If it be almost impossible with your equals upon earth not to love them that love you, (which Christ telleth you that even publicans will do, Matt. v. 46,) how much more should the love of Christ constrain us abundantly to love him, when being infinitely above us, his love descendeth, that ours may ascend! His love puts forth the hand from heaven to fetch us up.
O Christians, you little know how Satan wrongeth you, by drawing you to deny, or doubt of the special love of God! How can you love him that you apprehend to be your enemy, and to intend your ruin? Doubtless not so easily as if you know him to be your friend. In reason is there any more likely way to draw you to hate God, than to draw you to believe that he hateth you? Can your thoughts be pleasant of him; or your speeches of him sweet? or can you attend him, or draw near him with delight, while you think he hateth you, and hath decreed your damnation? You may fear him, as he is a terrible avenger; and you may confess his judgments to be just: but can you amicably embrace the consuming fire, and love to dwell with the everlasting burnings?
O, therefore, as ever you would have the love of God to animate, and sanctify, and delight your souls, study the greatness of his love to you, and labour with all possible speed and diligence, to find that Christ by his Spirit is within you. It is the whole work of sanctification that Satan would destroy or weaken by your doubts: and it is the whole work of sanctification that by love would be promoted, you knew your interest in the love of Christ.