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til!illut. in TL) is a dreadful as his favour
iirille. 1: vuld be practical: and, indeed, true re is an active id vigorous principle. It puts the whole soul in motion, and will sutter no power or grace to be unemploved. It drives like a strong wind, carries away like a mishy torrent. It constrains forcibly, impels irre--ibly silences objections, surmounts difficulties, and never says this attliction is too heavy, this danger too threatenins, or this duty too hard; but subscribes to that sayins of the apostle, “ His commands are not grievous;" and to that of Christ himself. “My yoke is easy, and my burden light." Love is an obedient principle; under the intluence of it we shall do Christ's will, suffer his will, deny ourselves for his sake, and make it our earnest and unceasing desire, that he might be magnified in us both in life and death." But the text exhibits, II. j distinguishing privilege.
The Father himself loveth you; he hateth the workers of iniquity, and is angry with the wicked every day. With the froward he shews himself froward; but he loves all them that are lovers of Christ. Nay, in another place it is said, he loves them with the same love with which he hath loved Christ. He loveth Christ as a son. “This is my beloved Son," says he; and so he loves them. He loved Christ in the midst of all his afflictions and tribulations; when he smote him, hid his face from him, and suffered earth and hell to unite their power against him. And thus he loves them. His love to Christ was practical, unchangeable, and everlasting; and so is his love to the saints. This was the great thing in which Christ gloried. “The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things which himself doth." • Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world." And this is the greatest thing in which the saints have to glory. “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, for in these things I delight.” The greatest thing that a man can say is, that he loves God, and God loves him. Now, this love is either secret, which he hath to the elect in Christ before they are called by grace, and is founded upon no merit in the object, being free, unmerited, unsought, and undesired,) or manifestative, which follows upon calling. The one divines call, though I think somewhat improperly, a love of benevolence, the other a love of complacency. The latter is intended in my text. God loveth them who love Christ ; He finds that in them which is pleasing to him, and accordingly is pleased with it. They are favoured with his visits and smiles, his providences work for them, his ordinances refresh them, his secret is with them, and he shows them his covenant. In a word, all their mercies are sweetened, and all their afflictions softened, by special love. In this respect, God ever did, and ever will, make a distinction between the godly and ungodly; those that love Christ and those that love him not. Common blessings are afforded to all, but that eminent saint of old had something greater than these in view; crowns and kingdoms would not satisfy him; but he cries, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people. Let me see the good of thy chosen, and glory with thine inheritance."
In concluding this part of the subject, I would remark,
1. God's love to us is prior to our love to Christ. The love itself is so, though not the manifestation of it. Time was when we did not love Christ; but God's love to his people never had a beginning, as it will never have an end.
2. Our love to Christ, therefore, cannot be the cause of God's love to us, but is a stream flowing from it; his grace in regeneration produces it; his grace in sanctification preserves and increases it. Love, as well as faith, is the gift, the free gift, of God; for if a man would part with the whole substance of his house for it, it would be utterly contemned. If God had loved us no more than he does the devils, we should have remained the same enemies to Christ as the devils are. 3. God's love to us is infinitely superior to our love to Christ. The latter is mingled with coldness and indifference. Such is the imperfection of it, that the Christian often questions its reality; but God's love is like his nature, boundless; as incapable of addition as it is of diminution. When we compare our love to that of God, we may well say, “ Unto us belongeth shame." We read of “the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths, of the love of God which passeth knowledge." It is as unmeasurable as the heavens, as unfathomable as the sea.
4. Though God's love is the same to all the saints, yet the manifestations of it are not so. We read of a beloved prophet under the Old Testament, and a beloved disciple under the New. An Abraham, from whom he could not conceal the thing he was going to do, and a Moses, with whom he conversed face to face. Some appear at a distance, whilst others are caressed upon the knee, or cherished in the bosom. In a word, those that love Christ most are likely to enjoy most of the love of God. In conclusion, I remark,
1. The former part of my discourse calls for the most serious self-examination. Christ said to Peter, “ Lovest thou me?" and I would say to every one of you, Lay thine hand upon thine heart, and tell me, Dost thou love Christ? No question can be of greater. importance. If love be wanting, every other grace is wanting, and all your endeavours to perform any acceptable service to God will prove fruitless. If there be no love to Christ, there can be no solid comfort here, no happiness hereafter ; no blessing, but a dreadful curse: an “ anathema maranatha” both in this world and the next. Let the question then go round, and may the Spirit of God help us in the consideration of it! Do we love Christ?
2. The other part of the subject furnishes us with matter for wonder and astonishment, gratitude and praise. Surely we could not have believed that God could love such wretches as we are unless he himself had declared it. Well may we say with Judas, not Iscariot, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world ?" There are wonders in heaven and wonders upon earth, wonders in nature, providence, and grace; but nothing is more wonderful than God's love to such unlovely, provoking creatures as we are, who never sought it, so little deserve it, and so ill requite it.
GOD NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS.
ActS x. 34.
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.
The observation here made by Peter, and so appropriate to the occasion on which it was uttered, frequently occurs in the divine word; and as the repetition of it shows its importance, so it calls for your diligent attention, whilst I showI. What is implied in it; and, II. In what particular instances the truth of it appears.
I. I am to show what is implied in this declaration, “ God is no respecter of persons."
1. It cannot imply that God has no regard to one person more than another, for this is contrary to scripture experience and observation. Thus Noah, David, and other great and good men of old, are said to have found favour in his sight; and we are expressly told, that the “ Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.” With some he is angry, with others pleased; on some he smiles, on others he frowns; he deals with them according to their different characters. " The Lord had respect to Abel and his offerings, whilst to Cain and his offering he had not respect." “That the righteous should be as the wicked,” says Abraham, “ that be far from thee; shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” As men distinguish themselves by their piety or impiety, God will distinguish them by his favour or displeasure.