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LOVE TO CHRIST.
1 PET. i. 8.
Whom, having not seen, ye love : in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
HE practical regards we owe to the Lord Jesus himself, make an eminent and distinguishing part of the Christian temper; of which regards these words may be understood as a summary. How should christians stand affected to their master P Just as these ancient Christians in the text were affected towards him. Their first concern should be, that they may have a genuine, a firm and lively faith in him ; so they had, whom St Peter celebrates, though they had never seen him in the flesh, any more than we. Then their faith in him kindled in their breasts a holy and strong affection to him : and upon the foundation of faith and love, they were able to rise up to a triumphant joy in him. The first of these, faith in him, has been the subject of a former discourse. This is to be employed in the second branch.
II. LOVE to Christ, as the fruit of faith in him, though he is unseen, is a necessary part of the Christian disposition. It is so necessary, that on the one hand, all those who are destitute of it lie under a dreadful curse; a curse pronounced by an apostle under the Spirit of inspiration, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha ;” accursed till the Lord comes. And on
the other hand, all who are truly of this disposition,, are encouraged by the apostle's benediction to expect all the fruits of divine favour, Eph. vi. 25. "Grace be with all them, that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."
In the prosecution of this, I shall shew, 1st, The grounds of a Christian's affection to Christ. Qdly, The characters of it. And Sdly, The ways, in which it is to be expressed.
L The grounds of a Christian's affection to Christ.
In general, the foundation is laid in his faith. Though faith is only mentioned expressly in the latter part of the verse, as the ground of a Christian's joy: yet it must equally be presupposed to his love. Having not seen him, the people in the text could have no other ground for their love: and, if they had seen him, and personally conversed with him; jet, without believing more concerning him. than sight could inform them of, they could never have had the affection required by the gospel. But a firm assent to the testimony of God concerning Christ will furnish us with all the motives to affection, which personal' converse could suggest; and superadd aH those, which sight and sense could never furnish. Now he, who truly believes in Christ, loves him,
1. For his own personal excellencies, or, because of •what he is in himself: both as God and man. "We beheld, (says St John,) his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," John i. 14. .His disciples who conversed with him in the days of his flesh, had some view of his glorious perfections shining out through all the cloud of his meanness, while they heard his divine discourses, i!nd, beheld his mighty works, worthy of the Son of God : Full of grace and truth; breathing out the richest grace and good-will to sinful men; and publishing those divine and heavenly truths, which none but God could reveal, none but "he who came out of the bosom of the Father," ver. 18. They had some manifestations of his glory: we have the same discoveries which were made to them, proposed to our faith in the gospel•relation; and a great deal more than they were particularly instructed in, till Jesus was removed out of their sight. The gospel represents him to us, as one in whose blessed person all uucreated and created excellencies meet; as one, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily: who by his divine perfections deserves our highest veneration; and
yet by condescending to partake of our nature prevents the terror which would arise from unveiled divinity. The Lord of glory is become our brother, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. He is proposed to us, as possessed of the allsufficiency of God, and yet found in fashion as a man ; as having a divine fulness, with a human way of communicating it. And his human nature itself is such, as hath all the excellencies of our nature, without any of the defiling stains: such as makes him most familiar to us, because in all things made like unto us, and yet he was full of wisdom, grace and sufficiency to the utmost capacity of a finite limited nature, because anointed with the oil of gladness above his follows. Such is the representation made to our faith of his personal excellencies; which makes him upon that account worthy of our adoring thoughts and uniting affections. 2. Because of the near resemblance he bears to God, as man and mediator, and the high esteem which God hath expressed for him as such. The supreme affection of a Christian is to the blessed God: he looks upon him as the best of beings, and the standard of excellence; and his love to God is the regulating measure of his love to other things. This was the original temper of innocence; God was loveed above all, and other things only in subordination to him. Sin was the breach of this rule of righteousness: and all is out of order with us, till we return to our first measure ; to love God with all our hearts, so as to have no competitor with him; and thereupon to give other things a share in our affection according to God's allowance, according to the degrees of his image which they bear, and according to the esteem which he discovers for them. Our value and affection for all other things in the whole order of beings, should rise or fall by this rule. Now a true Christian proceeds by this measure in the prevailing bent of his heart. Hence he “delights in the excellent of the earth,” more than in other men, Psal. xvi. 2. And for the same reason the blessed Jesus is raised in his esteem above all other things. Not only as in his divine nature “he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person,” Ileb. i. 3, but as, even in his human nature and in his mediatorial character, he bears more of the divine image than any other creature; as perfectly holy, entirely obedient, and the most faithful servant to his
Father. And therefore God has highly honoured him, a9 he has honoured God more than any other has done. Hence the Christian pays a higher regard to him also. The testimonies, which God has given, of his complacency in huh; by voices from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased by raising him from the dead; by highly exalting him, and giving him a name above every name; dispose a Christian to be well-pleased with him also, and to reverence his name. The mediator as such has the next interest in his affections to God himself; because God has put a greater character of distinction Upon him, than upon any other.
3. Because of the excellence of his 'work, and the unspeakable love and benignity he has expressed in it. This may all pass for nothing with a stupid inconsiderate sinner : he may go on in an ungrateful forgetfulness and disregard of all the kindness, which the Redeemer has shewn. But a true Christian has his soul fixed in attention to his wonderous
works; and the springs of gratitude are set afloat by the consideration of them. His love and value are drawn out by the contemplation of the Son of God's early compassion for us; when in the counsel of peace he engaged to veil his glory, to assume the form of a servant, and to make his soul an offering for sin, that he might reconcile the honour of heaven with the happiness of fallen men. He views him actually executing his engagement in the fulness of time; taking part of our nature; becoming a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; enduring the contradiction of sinnerB against himself; and, after a life of continual abasement, feeling the extremest agonies of sonl and anguish of body, suffering from every quarter and in every part; in a word, giving himself for us, that he might bring us to God. The love conspicuous in every part of his sufferings kindles a lively affection and gratitude in the heart of a Christian. The more he thinks of it, the more he sees himself to be infinitely indebted. When he follows him up from his cross to his crown of glory, he sees him there still minding our interests, acting for our welfare, and with a heart as tenderly affected towards us as ever. The present glories of his human nature do not extinguish his concern for us, or his sympathy with us here on earth. Unbelieving minds can hear such things as these frequently concern
ing him, without the least spark of ingenuity excited in their breasts: but a Christian, who believes them with the heart, feels a disposition to receive kindly and becoming impressions from the Redeemer's grace, and to study what he shall render. 4. As the most necessary medium of our happiness. The men of the world place their happiness wrong; not in the favor of God, but in worldly good. They are not sensible, that though they had all the world, they are still as much as ever to seek for happiness, without an interest in God. Or if they have some apprehension, that it must be a miserable case to have God for an enemy; yet they hope for his favor at random, or think they can establish a righteousness of their own to recommend them to God: they are not thoroughly touched with an apprehension of the value of a Saviour; but either imagine themselves whole, and to have no need of a physician; or that they can be their own physicians; or that they can find out some other expedient for relief, besides that proposed to sinners in the gospel. But a true Christian sees, that in himself he is a necessitous, miserable creature; that nothing can restore him to happiness, short of God as his portion; and that he has no other way of coming at God, but by Christ. He esteems Christ therefore the most necessary means to his chief good, the only suitable physician to his dying soul: and upon that account values him as his all in all. In him he has righteousness and strength. However others make a shift to pass easy hours without a pardon, he cannot; for he knows that all his guilt must remain upon him, unless he has an interest in Christ's propitiation. He wants many blessings at the hand of God; but he has no merit of his own to plead for obtaining them; and therefore he prizes Christ in whose name God has promised to hear all his proper requests. He is sensible, that he needs constant supplies of grace for the various parts of the Christian life; and believes, “that it hath pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell,” as in a treasury, from which his children are to receive all their supplies. He perceives himself to be frail, and still liable to break the peace by new offences, and therefore prizes Christ as his constant advocate with ... the Father. He is looking for his principal happiness in a