Sunday, August 16, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
I Cor. 16:22 - If any man love not the Lord JESUS CHRIST let him be Anathema, Maran-atha.
Love is the spring of all acceptable obedience, and the most essential ingredient in true religion. Without it, all our pretensions to virtue and morality are vain and fruitless.
Should we give all our goods to feed the poor, and deliver up our bodies to be burnt, in defense of religion itself; had we the knowledge of all mysteries; the gift of prophecy, and could speak with all the eloquence of angels; yet with all these qualifications and high improvements, we should be nothing without love.
Love to God and the Savior, is a thing not only essentially necessary; in order to render most religious performances acceptable, but also a thing infinitely fit and reasonable in it¬self; as every one who acknowledges the existence of a God, will confess. If perfect beauty and unbounded goodness; if the greatest benefactor and most generous friend, infinite excellency and tender compassion, should be loved, then, without all doubt, we should love the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom every thing that is great and good, beautiful, excellent, tender and compassionate meets and centers. And because he ought to be loved, and it is so infinitely fit and reasonable that all his rational creatures should love him, therefore the wretch, who dares withhold his love from him, or refuses to bestow his supreme affection upon him; - and, though he calls himself a Christian, yet maintains a secret enmity of heart towards him; and prefers the pleasures and profits of this world to him, is judged worthy the most dreadful of all curses, even to be anathematized from the presence of Christ when he cometh to sit in judgment, and pronounce sentence of damnation upon the whole Christ-despising and impenitent world. To this purpose speaks the apostle in my text: If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maran-atha; Let him be bound over to eternal punishment, and depart accursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, those malignant and irreconcilable enemies to the Lord and his Christ.
Various are the opinions of commentators about these words, “Let him be Anathema, Maran-atha”- but the more probable and satisfactory to me, is that of Dr. Doddridge. He supposes, that when the Jews lost the power of life and death, they used nevertheless to pronounce an anathema on persons, who according to the law of Moses should have been executed: and such a person became an anathema and accursed. They had a full persuasion the curse that was pronounced, would not be in vain, but that some judgment correspondent to the sentence, would certainly befall the offender. For instance, a man to be stoned would be killed by the fall of a stone or some heavy body upon him: One whom the law sentenced to be burnt, would be burnt in his house. Now to express their faith, that God would, one way or other, interpose to add that efficacy to their own sentence, which they could not give it, they might use the words, maran-atha, that is, the Lord cometh: or he will surely and quickly come to put this sentence in execution, and to show that the person on whom it falls, is indeed anathema, accursed. Viewing the words in this light, the apostle’s allusion to them is very beautiful, when he was speaking of a crime, not capable of being convicted or punished by the church; that is, a secret alienation of heart from Christ maintained under the form, or by any of the professors of Christianity: and therefore he reminds them that the Lord Jesus Christ, will come at length, and point out such a person and punish him in a proper manner.
That this awful sentence might be the more attentively regarded by the Corinthian brethren, as well as to let them see that the whole epistle was genuine, the apostle writes it with his own hand. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.
It is supposed that St. Paul, having no great dexterity in the use of the pen, used to employ an Emanuensis to write for him, as he dictated: but, for the purposes already mentioned, he might choose to write this sentence with his own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maran-atha. As if he had said; if any man, be his station in church or state, what it will; be his gifts ever so great, his profession ever so plausible, his life ever so upright in the eves of men, yet if he is destitute of sincere love to the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed he is worthy of the most fearful curse, which will be put in full execution upon him when the Lord cometh in the day of his appearing and glory, to judge the quick and dead.
In the prosecution of this subject I shall observe this method,
I. Show what is implied in loving the Lord Jesus Christ; or, what love to Christ is.
II. I shall consider the reasonableness of loving him.
III. Consider the danger of not loving him, &c.
IV. Conclude with some application.
I. I am to show what is implied in loving the Lord Jesus Christ, or what love to Christ is.
Love to Christ, or God, (for there needs no distinction, since Christ is God, as well as man.) Love to Christ, I say, may be thus described: “It is a gracious and supernatural principle, or habit, wrought in the soul by the power of the holy spirit; whereby the creature is inclined supremely to delight in, and esteem the Lord Jesus, so that his thoughts freely go out after him, and his meditation of him is sweet; it excites earnest desires after communion with him in his ordinances; and to please him by walking before him in holiness and righteousness all our days.” Where there is the least spark of divine love there will also be an earnest desire for an interest in God’s favor as the highest happiness, and a willingness to resign the whole soul to the Redeemer, and to receive him for all the purposes for which he is offered in the gospel. The true lover of Christ is willing and desirous to learn of him as his prophet, and cheerfully submit to the teachings of his word and spirit - to rely upon him as a priest to make an atonement for his sin by the blood of his cross; and to choose him for his Lord to reign over him, renouncing every Lord and Savior beside; and lastly; he endeavors to do all the good he can for his sake, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. This is evidently implied in loving the Lord Jesus Christ. For rendering this more clear, and also that you may have an opportunity of enquiring whether the love of Christ be in you, I shall enlarge upon each particular in the definition.
1st. “Love to Christ is a supernatural principle wrought in the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Would you know then whether you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you should examine how you came by this love; since it is not the spontaneous growth of nature, but the effect of divine power and influence. If you are strangers to a supernatural power working it in you, you may be assured, that whatever pretensions you may make of loving Christ, they are all vain and delusive. By nature we do not love him, but are strangely indisposed and disaffected to him, as experience might have fully taught us, had we carefully looked into our own hearts. We have abundant proof from scripture of our uncreaturely disaffection to our Creator. St. Paul tells us, “that the carnal mind of man in a state of nature, is enmity to God” that “we are enemies to him in our minds, and by wicked works;” and, “that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us.” The whole gospel indeed, points out this truth or why is it called, “the ministry of reconciliation.” Why are we so earnestly entreated “to be reconciled so God” or why does the apostle say, “that when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son?” - Brethren we were all by nature guilty of this monstrous crime of being enemies to the ever-blessed God in our hearts and ways. And you who are now the sincere lovers of God, do really know, that you were once implacable enemies to him. The question then is, who among you have been brought out of this wretched state? Surely a turn from a state of enmity to a state of love, must be a thing plainly perceivable. If you are now the lovers of Christ, you must have been the subjects of converting grace, and have consequently experienced a great and mighty change wrought upon your hearts and affections: and you cannot, sure, be altogether insensible how this change was brought about. Surely you can now recollect how you were shocked when a view of your disaffection to God first appeared to you, and you made a discovery of the dire secrets of wickedness which lurked in your hearts, unperceived before. Were you not made to cry out, “Oh! is this my heart! I once flattered myself that my heart was good, though I knew my life was not but now I see it to be a sink of pollution in¬deed!” O then, you cried out with the greatest importunity, that the merciful Lord God would change your inward temper and disposition, and shed abroad his love in your hearts, by the Holy Ghost. In a word, if you are the lovers of God, you have been made new-creatures; old things are done away, and all things are become new And now, brethren, who among you are the sincere lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ? Who among you have had this great change wrought in you?
Methinks I hear some honest, but doubting soul reply - “For my part I am afraid to say that I have any true love to my Lord and Savior, I feel so little of it in my heart, and am so cold and languid in his service. But this I know, that there has been a change wrought in me, so that I am not altogether what I once was. I am confident that I do not love the Lord Jesus, as I know I ought; but this is the grief of my soul, that I do not love him as he deserves; and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to feel my heart burn with his love, and to find my whole soul going out after him with ardent affection.” This is an honest confession, and your complaint is no more than what thousands of sincere Christians have cause to utter. I speak this for your comfort: yet I would have you to be jealous over your own hearts, and still seek for greater degrees of love.
But do not the consciences of many of you plainly tell you that you are utter strangers to this great change; you know nothing of any love, but what was always natural to you. Some of you, perhaps, are so blind to this day, that you would insist upon it that you always loved the Lord, and never was an enemy to him in all your life. O sirs, if this be the case of any of you, there is all the reason in the world to conclude that you are indeed strangers to yourselves and to every divine principle and affection. I must honestly tell you, that if you have never experienced a work of divine grace upon your hearts, and a change in the temper of your minds, though you may he outwardly, decent and moral people, and have a glaring profession of religion, yet yon have not the love of God in yon: I know you, saith our Savior to the Jesus , who were zealous for religion, I know you, that yon have not the love of God in you. How should you have it? it is not natural: and yon know not any thing of its being implanted by grace. It is plain, my dear brethren, that yon are destitute of divine love; and 0 that von would but admit the conviction, and never rest till yon obtain this heaven born principle from God.
2d. “Love to the Lord Jesus Christ inclines the creature supremely to delight in and affectionately to esteem him, so that his thoughts freely go out after him.”
It is natural for the thoughts to fix upon the object beloved; and we find sweet delight in contemplating the excellencies which are discovered in it. If therefore we love the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall find our thoughts frequently through the day going out after him and affectionately entering upon him. Thus it was with the Psalmist. - ”How precious are the thoughts of thee unto me, 0 God, how great is the sum of them; if I should count them, they are more than the sand, when I wake I am still with thee. I remember thee upon my bed and meditate upon thee in the night watches.” Those that love the Lord will find their warm and affectionate thoughts making frequent excursions toward him; and they find great pleasure therein; - while those that are his enemies, forget the Lord and do not like to retain God in their thoughts. A thousand other objects meet their hearts and affections and carry away their thoughts and pursuits after them, while the Lord Jesus Christ is only complimented with an empty profession.
From this property or effect of love, I would again ask; “Who among von are the lovers of the Lord Christ?” - Who can give a comfortable answer to the question from this scriptural characteristic of divine love? Some of yon I hope can do it. You are indeed often jealous of your love; but yet you have reason to conclude that you do love him. If you love him not, why are you so frequently thinking of him. Why cannot your thoughts and affections dwell on things below and fly round in a circle of vanity a they once could? Why do your thoughts so often hover around the cross of your crucified Jesus, and cling to him a your only trust? Why do you grieve because you cannot love him with that ardor a you know his excellencies demand, and a you desire to do? Why are you uneasy when you hear his dear name blasphemed, by the tongues of daring mortals, and see his laws trampled under foot? And why are you sorry because you serve so good a master with so much languor and inconstancy? Do not all these things show that you really love him, though not so much as you would and ought? Therefore take comfort ye humble jealous-hearted creatures, you have at least a spark of divine love enkindled in your hearts; and though the spark at times seems just ready to expire, yet he that first kindled it will protect and recruit it with the oil of his grace; so that all the storms raised against it from earth and hell shall never be able entirely to extinguish it: But—
On the other hand, may not many of you be convinced by these things, that the love of Christ is not in you? Are not your hearts and affections riveted to the present world and expressively set on things below? You do not naturally and freely delight to think of God, and Christ, and things eternal. Your conversation seldom takes a turn upon divine matters; you talk of any thing more freely and pleasantly than you do of God, and the wonders of redeeming love and goodness. Here it is that you rather choose the company of those whose conversation savors of the world and its vanities; and when the name of God and Christ is seldom mentioned, unless in a trifling or profane manner. And what is the reason of this? Does not this show that you are disaffected to God, and that you are conscious that your behavior toward him, is not such as he approves? Surely you cannot pretend to be lovers of God or the Lord Jesus Christ, while such is your temper and disposition. No, brethren, such earthly souls, who are so indifferent about divine things, and affect so little to think or hear of Jesus, and talk of the wonders of his love and mercy displayed in the gospel, must be strangely disaffected to him, and they are accounted his enemies now, and will be treated a such.
III. “True love to Christ creates in the soul an ardent desire of holding communion with him in his ordinances.”
It is natural for a man to delight in and desire the company and conversation of one he loves; and he will take every opportunity to enjoy his society. Thus the lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ are anxious to embrace and improve every opportunity of seeking and enjoying Holy Communion with him. And as the ordinances of the gospel, the word, sacrament and prayer, are the places of appointment, where the Lord meets his people and communicates the influence of his grace, to quicken their souls and to inflame their hearts with love; therefore they are diligent in their attendance upon these, and esteem one day spent in the sanctuary better than a thousand spent in the tents of wickedness. The house of the Lord is the place where they delight to resort; and O! what sacred pleasure do they often enjoy here, when they ran interview with the Lord Jesus, and have liberty in pouring out their hearts into the ears of their indulgent Father, and feel his love shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. This, to them, is a little heaven upon earth. But when at any time they miss these sweet communications in the ordinances, and the Lord seems to hide his lice, then they languish and pine and return disappointed; moaning like the turtle for his cooing mate. These things may sound strange in some of your ears, and may be thought to savor strongly of enthusiasm; but they are well known and experienced by all the friends and lovers of Jesus. And if you are strangers to them, it is because you are strangers to the sacred passion of divine love. For truly, says the apostle, (speaking in his own and in the name of his fellow Christians,) truly our fellowship is with the Father and the Son Jesus Christ And, if any man love me, says our Lord, my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him.
And now, my brethren, I would again put the question. Have you discovered in yourselves this mark, of your being the lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you understand what I have said with regard to communion with the Father and the Son, by your own experience. Can you say, with the Psalmist, it is good for me to draw near to God? Do you attend upon the ordinances of the gospel constantly, because there you hope to enjoy the pleasure of meeting your God and holding communion with him? For this purpose also you pray to and worship God in your families and in your secret retirements, that you may get greater discoveries of the glory of the Lord, and have your hearts more suitably affected towards him. But because the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob, therefore you make the house of God, and the place where his honor dwelleth, the place of your greatest delight: and would not on any occasion let slip an opportunity of approaching the Lord with the great congregation. If you can say, that thus it is with you, then have ye reason to draw the welcome conclusion, that you do indeed love the Lord and his Christ.
But are there not many of you, who might be convinced, by this time that they are destitute of this divine principle. You are strangers to that sacred communion with God, which his children enjoy, and therefore you neither seek it nor desire it - you attend indeed at the house of God, when your worldly concerns will give you leave, but this is more out of custom, and to satisfy conscience, than from any real delight you find in the ordinances. In short you will do no more this way than what you are forced to; and hence religious duties are rather drudgery than a sacred pleasure. But I must hasten,
IV. To the last thing I mentioned in the definition. “That love to Christ will necessarily lead him that is possessed of it, to study and endeavor with all his heart to walk in all holy obedience to the commandments of Jesus our Lord and King.”
This earnest desire to please the object beloved, is also a natural passion: and therefore if you love the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be your constant and unwearied endeavor to please him. Let others follow their own inclinations and seek the gratification of their lusts and appetites; let them inquire, who will show us any earthly good, that they may indulge themselves in what is pleasing to the flesh; but as for you, your inquiry will be, what shall we do to please the Lord and promote his glory in the world. And so cautious will you be lest you offend, that you shun all places of temptation, as much as in you lies; and avoid every thing that is either sinful in itself, or has an apparent tendency to seduce your hearts and affections from God; or may be a means of seducing you to fall into sin. And in this respect the Christian is mindful of that apostolic injunction, To abstain from all appearance q evil. The genuine test of divine love, is sincere obedience to all the commands. “If any man love me,” says Christ, “he will keep my words, and he that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” - And the beloved apostle says, “This is the love of God that ye keep his commandments.” And again, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments is a liar.”
In vain then do you pretend to love God, if you allow yourselves in the breach of his commandments. And yet, alas! do not the drunkards and swearers, liars and sabbath-breakers, and even whoremongers and adulterers presume that they are lovers of God? Strange indeed!
And now let me ask you, who name the name of Christ, and profess love to the Lord Jesus; does your love stand this test? Have you respect to all God’s commandments? and do you utterly abhor every false way? Do you make it the labor and business of your lives to approve yourselves in the sight of God, and to please him well in all things? Do you cautiously avoid whatever you know would displease him; and vigorously resist every temptation to sin? Some of you, I hope, can give comfortable answers to these questions. But as for others, if you have been honest in putting these questions to your hearts and consciences, you must have discovered that the love of God is not in you. Strong and clear evidence is against you, and you stand convicted of the horrid crime of not loving the Lord Jesus Christ. You are proved to be his en¬emies in your hearts by the wickedness of your lives. And however you may flatter yourselves, and muffle yourselves up in the darkness of ignorance, in order to keep out the painful light of conviction, yet the Lord knoweth your hearts; he can see through all false disguises, and penetrate into the secrets of wickedness which lurk within; and will one day bring you forth, with the workers of iniquity; and treat you as enemies and persons disaffected to his crown and dignity. And a fearful destruction you must expect, since you refuse to love the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of a lost world, and are guilty of a crime so uncreaturelv and unreasonable, Which leads
II. To show the reasonableness of loving the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here I need not be long; for full evidence turns upon us at first sight. If infinite holiness, unbounded goodness, and per feet beauty demand our love and esteem; then the Lord Christ ought to be loved and esteemed; since all these excellencies meet and center in him, in the highest degree. He is the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.
If our creator, preserver, and liberal benefactor, deserves to be loved and adored by his creatures and dependents; then it is fit and reasonable that we should love and adore the Lord Jesus: since we, as well as all things in heaven and earth, were created by him, and are still daily supported by the bounties of his hand.
If we should love what is good in itself, and what is good to us, then Jesus the Savior claims the chief place in our hearts and affections, for he is good and doth good, and his tender mercies are over all his works.
If it be fit and reasonable that we should render love for love; then it is highly fit and reasonable that we should love him, whose love to us brought him from heaven and the bosom of his Father, down into our wretched world, where he endured every species of trouble and affliction, which human or diabolical cruelty could invent. It was in love for us, that he became an exile from his Father’s throne; - for us did he agonize in the garden of Gethsemane, till all his garments were dyed red in his own sacred gore; - for us was his back harrowed by the tormenting scourge; - for us was he maltreated by the Jewish rabble, and unjustly condemned as a malefactor, at Pilate’s bar; - for us did he toil up the bloody steep of Calvary, under the load of his fatal cross; - for us was he nailed to the accursed tree, and 0! for us he expired in agonies unknown, giving his own life a ransom for ours. Herein is love beyond degree. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend; but Christ hath manifested the supereminencv of his love, by laying doss ii his life for those that were enemies- Judge ye brethren; should not our hearts burn with his love, and should not our whole souls be engaged to give evidences of our gratitude, by doing all in our power to please such a bountiful benefactor and generous friend? - And that heart that is so dead to every generous sentiment and principle of gratitude, as to refuse to love him, after all, must be possessed with such an invincible malignity, a would render him fit, only for the society of the malignant powers of darkness. And the crime in itself is so base and unreasonable, that whosoever is guilty of it, does justly deserve to be anathema maran-atha. And this leads me to
III. Where I was to consider the danger of not loving the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is expressed in the latter part of the text: Let him be anathema maran-atha.
A soul destitute of the love of Christ must be exposed to the greatest of dangers, inasmuch a he is guilty of the greatest of sins. Want of love to him is a crime of the deepest die, because it is sinning against the strongest obligations that possibly can be. He therefore, who is guilty of it, is in danger of the most intolerable vengeance, proportionable to the demerit of his guilt. A crime so unnatural, so inexcusable, must expose a man to the most aggravated condemnation. He that is an enemy to the Lord Jesus, in his heart and by wicked works, is in danger every moment, lest that God, to whom vengeance belongeth, should no longer bear with his monstrous disaffection, under a mark of friendship, but cut him off and sink him down to hell among devils and hypocrites, whom he so much resembles in his temper and disposition. The heart, which is not seasoned with the love of Christ, must be a sink of abomination, odious and detestable in the eyes of divine purity; a vessel of wrath filled to destruction. O how many thousands of souls that profess to be the followers of Christ; - have been baptized into, and are called after his name; who are so far from loving him, that they openly proclaim themselves his enemies by their unholy lives and conversations. There are others who carry their mark more secretly; they profess great friendship to Christ, and may go so far in things external as to impose upon their fellow mortals, who cannot explore the secrets of the heart. But what of all this? the Lord whose eyes are a a flaming fire, sees through all your false disguises; is perfectly acquainted with
the secrets of iniquity that lurk in the deep recesses of your hearts and souls, and counts you his enemy, while you are not actuated by the spirit of love. All your performances that spring not from a principle of love, are nothing worth. Consider, dear immortal souls, the danger, the awful danger you are in, while you are strangers to the love of Christ. The Lord counts you enemies to him, and he is an enemy to you, and is angry with you every day. And though he bears with you for a while, and heaps those mercies upon you, which might gain your affections and turn the inveterate enmity of your hearts into love; yet as long as his benefits fail to have this effect upon you, you abide under the anathema, the curse of God. “Cursed are ye in the city, and cursed in the field; cursed in your basket, and in your store; cursed in the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, and in your kin; cursed when you go out, and cursed when ye come in. Yea, cursed in every thing ye set your hands to do.”
Thus 0 sinners, you are cursed in the present time, and are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. You are every moment in danger of the arrest of death, which will put you beyond all possibility of altering your present condition, and God will remain your enemy for ever. Think, 0 think of this, 0 ye Christ-despising sinners, what an enemy you have to contend with. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength, and none that set themselves against him can prosper. Have ye strength to contend with him? Are ye mightier than lie? Have ye an arm like God, or can ye thunder with a voice like him? Can ye resist his determinations and elude his judgments? If you are so vain as to think ye can perform such exploits, then gird up your loins like men, and, as ye have already by practice, now by words declare war against him. Summon the whole hand of your fellow-sinners upon earth, and call the stubborn powers of hell to join in confederacy with you; and go forth to meet the Lord, when he cometh forth against you in all the terrors of an enraged enemy. See if you can withstand the right-aiming thunder-bolts of his power, or quench the lightenings of his wrath. I know that you would shudder at the very thoughts of such a desperate enterprise: you confess your weakness in words: and why then, in the name of God, do you not drop your present unnatural rebellion against him by your practice; and divest yourselves of your uncreaturely disaffection and enmity of heart toward him! For while you retain these, you are in danger every moment to be crushed down by the weight of his Almighty hands, into everlasting misery and destruction. The Lord ha borne with you a long time; he has patiently waited for your return, and his goodness may induce him to bear with you a while longer. But he will not bear al¬ways. He will ere long commission the king of terrors to tear your guilty souls from your bodies, and cite them before his awful bar; to hear their doom and sink to hell. And at the ap¬pointed time, the same Lord Jesus, who once bled in sacrifice for sin, and so richly deserved your love and obedience, will come again in all the pomp and majesty of a God, to render vengeance to his adversaries and his rebukes with flaming fire. Then, 0 then it will appear to the whole congregated universe, that you had ever retained a secret alienation of heart to the blessed Jesus, and will accordingly be pronounced anathema maran-atha, accursed when the Lord comes to judgment.
Oh! that you would think of that awful day, when Christ the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire - when he shall appear in the clouds and the trump of God shall be blown, with the strength of an archangel’s breath, to summon the nations to appear before the judgment-seat. - The judge seated, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before him - See! his enemies separated from his friends, and placed upon the left hand! See, what dire astonishment seizes upon them, and trembling and amazement take hold of them - Pale horrors appear in every face, the joints of their loins are loosed and their knees smite one against another; - while the judge, the Lord Jesus, rises, with solemn aspect, and pronounces the decisive sentence; “Those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, let them be taken and bound over to ever¬lasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power; - let them be bound hand and foot and cast into utter darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Or, “Go ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is the awful import of that sentence in my text, Let him be anathema maran- atha.
O that you, my dear people, would think of that decisive day and solemn appearance of the great God. Realize it; - make it present to your view; that your hearts and minds being duly impressed therewith, you may no longer continue to rebel against that Almighty Lord God, the breath of whose displeasure will blast you in everlasting ruin.
Of all these dreadful things are you in danger, while you persist in sin, and love not the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. - I proceed
IV. To make some application. I shall improve this subject with an use of examination and exhortation.
Is it so, that those who love not the Lord Jesus Christ, are in such imminent danger - Hence see, that it highly becomes us to examine ourselves whether we love him or not. - Suppose the Lord Jesus should this day, put the same ques¬tion to each one of us; as lie did to Peter - ”Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Who among you could appeal to the all-seeing eye of God, and answer, “Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.”
There is the more reason to push home this inquiry, be¬cause in nothing are mankind more apt to deceive themselves, than in this particular point of loving the Lord. On the one hand, some who do really love him are so apt to be jealous over themselves, that they are afraid to draw the conclusion, that they have one spark of sincere love to him; and this, that they do indeed love him, they do not enjoy the comfort of it. While on the other hand, those who are entirely destitute of this heaven-born principle, are unapt to call their love in question, and thus deceive themselves and are ready to perish through presumption. Therefore put the question home to your hearts and examine closely, and do not give over till you have brought the matter to some certain issue. -
Q. But how shall I know whether I love the Lord Jesus or not?
A. I have already described the marks and characters of genuine love, under the first head of discourse, and by these I would have you examine yourselves. You may remember, I told you (1) that divine love was not the spontaneous growth of nature, but a principle implanted by a supernatural power; and that such a do now love God and Christ, have been sensibly convinced of their want of love, and have been made to cry heartily to heaven for it, and that it might be shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. - (2) I told you that this love inclined and disposed a creature to delight in and highly esteem Christ, so that his thoughts would make frequent excursions toward him through the day. He would think of him with delight, and love to meditate upon the wonders of his redeeming mercy and goodness - (3) That this love would excite the professor of it, to seek communion with Christ, and to make use of all the means and ordinances of grace to obtain it - And (4) That true love would constrain him to do every thing pleasing to Christ and abstain from every thing displeasing. Whatever the Lord forbids, that he cautiously avoids; whatever he commands, that he honestly endeavors to perform. By these marks, I request you to examine yourselves.—
To assist you further in this inquiry; I shall lay down three other marks and characters to examine yourselves by.
1st. if you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will love his people. The saints, to you, are the excellent ones of the earth, in whom is your delight. For every one that loveth him that be¬gat, loveth him also, who is begotten of him. “And by this we know that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Do you find this to be the case with you? are the saints, or such a you have reason to believe are the true lovers and worshippers of Jesus; are these, I say, lovely in your eyes? And do you make those your chosen companions and intimate Mends, who love to talk of Christ and the glorious mysteries of redemption, and to tell what God has done for their souls?
2d. If you love Christ, you chose him and love him, in all his offices. To you, that believe, he is precious. As a prophet he is lovely and precious to you, because by his word and spirit you are taught and enlightened. - As a priest he is precious, because by the blood of his cross, he made an atonement for sin, and you choose him a your only Savior and deliverer from the wrath of God and the curse of the law, renouncing every other trust and dependence whatever - As a king, you choose him to reign over you, you love his government, and are grieved that you serve him not better.
3d. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ you will endeavor and pray for the increase of his kingdom on earth. It will rejoice your hearts to hear of any new subjects listing under his banner and flocking to his standard: you will chearfully do all in your power to gain souls to Christ. And you cannot but grieve when you see your dear master’s interest getting ground so slowly in the world; while so many thousands are crowding the devil’s camp.
These marks must suffice at present for you to examine yourselves by, with regard to your love to Christ Jesus our Lord - And who among you can lay claim thereto? - If you can claim these characters as your own, then fear not to conclude, that you do indeed love the Lord Jesus Christ - But if not - Though you should flatter yourselves ever so much, yet, I tell you, ye have not the love of God in you. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings. The case is quite plain with regard to such as live in the practice of any overt acts of sin; such as swearing, lying, drunkenness and such like. Or in the omission of plain commanded duty to God and man. Would to God you would admit the conviction and take the alarm: seeing you stand exposed to all the dreadful things contained in that awful sentence in this text, if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maran-atha.
What remains then, but that I exhort you by all that is dear and important, to lay the sad state of your souls to heart, and no longer continue enemies to God and your own everlasting interest.
I have told you already of the sad state your souls are in, and the more awful danger they are exposed to. But if a sense of your own danger and misery will not prevail with you to seek reconciliation with God, surely the love of Jesus must constrain you to it. And it is in his dear name that I beseech you to be reconciled to God. Is your enmity so inveterate and your disaffection to the best of beings so fixed and immoveable, as to be proof against the almighty attraction of redeeming love and goodness? Shall Jesus pour out his soul and expire in agony and blood, in love for you; and is it not strange that you cannot find it in your hearts to render love for love! - There is something so disingenuous and uncreaturely in such a temper and disposition, that I wonder you are not shocked at it yourselves. Does not Jesus richly deserve your most ardent love? Had any creature done the thousandth part of what Jesus has done for you, and you should still continue to despise him and use him ill; would you not be deemed a monster of ingratitude? What then must we think of those men, who live daily upon the bounties of Christ, and owe all that they enjoy or hope for in time or in eternity to his mediation, suffering, and death, and yet continue enemies to him in their minds and wicked works! If these be not worthy of condemnation, who is? - To conclude. If any of you are sensible of your want of love to the Savior, and would desire to be possessed of it, I would advise you as the best expedient to enkindle that sacred passion in your hearts, to think seriously, and often, of the great love of Christ, in so freely submitting to die for a lost world; - dwell upon the many instances of his goodness and mercy, and beg of God to open your eyes to see these things, in a suitable manner, so that they may have a proper effect upon your minds; - persevere in this course, till you can say with the apostle, we love him, because he first loved us. Which may God grant, for Jesus sake, Amen.