« ElőzőTovább »
enough." But are there not some of you who are hardly ever concerned with this dutiful solicitude ? If you can but please yourselves, and those whose favour you would court, if you can but promote your own interest, you are not solicitous whether you please God, or not. This proves you destitute of his love.
The only way to please God, and the best test of your love to him, is obedience to his commandments. This is made the de. cisive mark by Christ himself. If a man love me, he will keep my words-He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings. John xiv. 23, 24.He repeats it over and over in different forms: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that love eth me. ver. 21. If ye love me, keep my commandments, ver. 15. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. John xv. 14. This is the love of God, says St. John ; that is, it is the surest
; evidence, and the natural, inseparable effect of your love to God, that you keep his commandments ; and his commandments are not grievous. 1 John v. 3. that is, they will not seem grievous to onc that obeys them from the generous principle of love.
Here then, you that profess to love the Lord Jesus, here is an infallible test for your love. Do you make it the great study of your life to keep his commandments? Do you honestly en: deavour to perform every duty he has enjoined, and that because he has enjoined it? And do you vigorously resist and struggle against every sin, however constitutional, however fashionable, however gainful, because he forbids it? And is the way of obedi. ence pleasant to you? Would you choose this way to heaven rather than any other, if it were left to your election ? What does conscience answer to this? Do not some of you stumble and hesitate here ? If you should speak the truth, you must say, “ I cannot but confess that I do wilfully indulge myself in some things which Jesus has forbidden, and leave unattempted some duties which he has commanded ?" Alas! is this the case ? Then his love does not dwell in you : you are undeniably his enemies, whatever be your pretensions. But if you can say, “ Lord, I own that in many things I offend ; in many things I come short of my duty ; but, if I know myself, I think, I can honestly declare, that it is my sincere and earnest desire to do thy will, and that it is my real endeavour in every instance in which it is made known to me;" I say, if you can make this declaration, your case looks encouraging ; this is the dutiful temper and modest language of genuine love.
And now, my brethren, if Jesus should put this question to each of you, Lovest thou me ? are you prepared to answer him? Can you desire more plain, or more certain evidences than have been given ? Surely, no; and therefore, if you are still quite undetermined, it is owing to the real obscurity and perplexity of your case, or to your carelessness and inattention, or to your wilfully shutting your eyes against conviction. My brethren, if you have these characteristics of love to Jesus, away with your painful jealousies, and believe that your hearts are upright before him. But if you are destitute of them, be assured you are equally destitute of his love. Love can never be separated from its natural fruits and effects ; and therefore, without these, it is the greatest absurdity to pretend to it. Can you rise up now, and tell the Lord Jesus to his face, “ Lord, it is true, I have not the fruits and evidences of love, but I love thee notwithstanding; I love thee above all, though I have no frequent affectionate thoughts of thee : I love thee, though I hate to think of thee though I have no pleasure in conversing with thee, nor any concerns to please thee, and keep thy commandments ; that is, I love thee, though my temper and conduct towards thee be those of an enemy !” Alas! Sirs, will you presume to impose upon an omniscient God, with such absurd contradictory pretensions as these? Would such a love as this pass current among men ? Offer it now to your governor, your father, or your friend, and see if they will accept of it. Tell your friend, " I most sincerely love you, though I do not love to think of you, or converse with you ; I love you, though I care not whether I please you ;" would he not discard you from his friendship, as an inconsistent pretender, and highly resent it, that you should think to impose upon him by such absurd pretensions ? And shall that pass for sincere, supreme love to God, which would not be accepted as common friendship among men? Shall enmity, disguised under hypocritical pretensions, be offered to him, under the name of friendship ? With horror I mention it ; and yet I must mention it, that you may be shocked at your conduct ! Do you think he wants understanding to be thus imposed upon ? It is a plain case you have not the least spark of true love to him ; you are enemies to him in your minds, by wicked works, therefore pass sentence upon yourselves : “ Here is a soul so perverse and wicked, that it has never yet loved its divine Parent and the supreme excellency ; has never loved the blessed Jesus, the Friend of sin
ners." And now, should all the enemies of God in this assembly walk to one side, and crowd together by themselves, how thin' would they leave this congregation ! How few would be left behind! Well, the day is coming, when you must be separated,
a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. To the left hand, sinners, to the left band of your Judge, you must go, who continue destitute of his love. Then you will know the truth of your case ; but, alas ! it will be too late to correct it. But now the discovery of it is the first step towards the amendment of it. And therefore, let your consciences now anticipate the proceedings of the great judgment day, and draw a line of separation betwixt you, that I may address you according to the classes in which you are found. This leads me, pursuant to my proposed method,
II. To address myself to you who have now discovered that you are sincere lovers of Jesus Christ, notwithstanding your many imperfections. And my time will allow me to offer only two things to you.
The one is, your heaven is sure. I repeat it again, your heaven is sure ; as sure as the sincerity of your love. Love is the grand qualification for the enjoyment of God. You can be happy in his presence, because you love him ; happy in his service, because you love him ; happy in the contemplation of his glories, because you love him. In short, love renders you fit for heaven, and all its employments and fruitions, and therefore you shall certainly be admitted there ; for God never will exclude one soul that is fit for it, or that could relish the happiness there. Love is the substance of all religion and obedience ; love is the fulfilling of the law; and that love you have in your hearts. O happy souls,“ rejoice in hope of the glory of God :" for, as the apostle reasons, your hope will not make you ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost. Rom. V. 4, 5. Love is an immortal principle. Charity, or love, never faileth. 1 Cor. xiii. 8. It is, therefore, not only your privilege, but
your duty, to rejoice : and how can you refrain, when in a few years, at most, you will be with that Jesus whom you love unseen, in all the glories, and in all the felicities, of the heavenly world.
The other thing I would mention to you is, alas ! how faint, how imperfect is your love ! And what great reason have you to cherish it, and labour to raise it into a vigorous flame? I need not
offer much for your conviction on this head ; for alas ! you can.
; not but be sensible your love bears no suitable proportion to the excellency of the divine nature, the dying love of Jesus, and your obligations to him. Alas! it is but a feeble spark, and sometimes so buried and suffocated under the weight of your corruptions, that you can hardly discern it at all, and fear it is entirely extinguished. Othen, I beseech you, love your God more : love your dear Redeemer more. Do not affront him with such a languid love : think over his excellencies, his relations to you, his unbounded love and grace to you ; and these considerations may fire your hearts, cold as they are. Cry to him to kindle the sacred fame in your breasts, and avoid every thing that tends to damp it: guard against the friendship of this world, which is enmity against God; and against all the workings of sin : avoid all causes of variance and distance between God and you, and labour to maintain a settled peace and a constant correspondence. But the other class of my hearers stand in greater need of immediate relief, and therefore,
III. I shall address myself to such of you as may have discovered, by this day's trial, that you are destitute of the love of Christ: and what I have to say to you, my dear fellow mortals, may be reduced under two heads, your sin and danger ; and the most proper means of deliverance.
To convince you of your sin and danger in not loving God and his Son Jesus Christ, consider,
1. It is the supreme excellency that you have refused to love. The most venerable Majesty, the most consummate wisdom, the most rich goodness and grace, the most amiable justice ; these are the things you disaffect, while you are disaffected towards God : for these are his very nature. You neglect and disgust faithfulness, candour, veracity, mercy, benevolence, and every moral beauty in the highest perfection. You are enemies to the origin, the sum total of all excellency. Now this may strike you with conviction in various views--as first, how depraved and corrupt must your souls be, that can be disaffected to such a glorious object? How must your taste be vitiated, that cannot relish the supreme good? You can love the faint shadows of these perfections in your fellow-creatures : you can love generosity, benevolence, mercy, justice, and such virtues, in mortals, and may you not fall down overwhelmed with astonishment, and cry out, " Lord, what is this that has befallen my soul, that I cannot love thee? that I can love any thing else that is lovely, and yet cannot love thee? 0.! what a perverse, depraved, abominable soul is this !” Sirs, must you not be shocked to think you have such souls within you? If your bodies were all over-run with rotten ulcers ; if your features were all convulsed and distorted into the most hideous forms ; if your limbs were all shattered and dislocated ; if your taste were so vitiated that you loathed all healthful food, and you should crawl upon the earth, feeding on its mire and dirt; all this would not render you half so odious and, horrible a monster as a soul disaffected towards God. Again, what an aggravated wickedness must this be? Your obligations to love him are just in proportion to his loveliness and excellency; and the wickedness of breaking these obligations is in exact proportion to their strength. And as his excellency and your obligations are infinite, your wickedness in not loving him must be so too. What illustration shall I use to represent this crime in its proper infernal colours ! If you should conmence an enemy to the whole creation ; prosecute men and angels with implacable abhorrence ; detest the father that begat you, and the breasts that gave you suck ; nay, if you should commence a direct enemy to yourself, be perpetually plotting against your own lifc, all this would not equal the crime of hate ing the ever-blessed God; for all tbese beings together have no excellency compared to him, and your obligation to love him is prior and fundamental to all others. Here your love should begin, here it should centre, and then extend its lines to all parts of the circle of creation ; therefore no more plead your innocence. If you had never committed one sin beside in all your life, this one of not loving God is sufficient to condemn you forever to the lowest hell. Further, this, sin will appear more aggravated, if you consider, that, by not loving God, you do in the strongest manner declare, that he has not these excellencies, but is a worthless being, undeserving of your love. When you do not love him, after all the discoveries he has made of himself to you, it is plain that this is the habitual sense of your hearts, that he has no excellency worthy of your love. This is the lana guage of your hearts ; and this language is much more strong and expressive than that of your lips. You may speak things inadvertently, which your second thoughts would retract ; but by being all your life destitute of the love of God, you have all your life been declaring that you look upon him as a worthless being, VOI. II.