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was going to cross the river Jordan, at the head of the Jewish tribes, to take possession of the land of Canaan, God addressed him, and said, "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee; be strong and of good courage." The promise was personal; yet, after a lapse of near two thousand years, the Apostle applies it to all believers, whose minds need the same support, and whose confidence is derived from the same assurance; "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
gels as he is above mortals: comprising in himself all the graces of time, and all the perfections of eternity; all the attractions of humanity, and all the glories of Deity. Bring forward all the excellences the world ever saw: add as many more as the imagination can supply: render them all complete: combine them together-yet this is not He that here demands thy affection; all this aggregate is no more to him that asks, "Lovest thou me?" than a ray of light to the sun, or a drop of water to the ocean: compared with the Saviour, it is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity.
Secondly. Observe his doings.
Look backward, and consider what he has This reflection fully justifies the plan we done. He remembered thee, O Christian, in have in view this evening-The words which thy low estate and, without thy desert, I have read were originally addressed to Pe- without thy desire, he interposed between ter; and you are familiar with the circum- thee and the curse of the Law, and said, “Destances of the history. I will not detain you liver from going down to the pit: I have a moment in referring to them. But, my found a ransom." He came and preached dear hearers; imagine the Saviour of the peace. He established the Gospel dispensaworld looking down from his throne, and ap- tion. He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, plying this question to you-to each of you- pastors, teachers; for the work of the minisyoung or old-rich or poor-learned or illite-try. He sent the word of life to this counrate while heaven and hell are in suspense, try, and brought it to thy door. He preserved anxiously waiting for your reply-LOVEST thee through years of ignorance and rebellion by his power: and at length called thee by his grace; so that thou art no longer a stranger and a foreigner, but a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God. :
The question is REASONABLE.
The question SUPPOSES DOUBT.
I. The question is REASONABLE. And why is it reasonable? Because we ought to love him, and the affection is just. This part of our subject engages us in a train of reflection, at once difficult, mortifying, and apparently presumptuous. Difficult-not from the fewness of materials, but from the necessity of making a selection, where proofs are so numberless. Mortifying-not because the theme is irksome; but it is painful to think, that any should want conviction of his worth, or even need to have their minds stirred up by way of remembrance. Apparently presumptuous-for what are we, worms of the earth, to take upon us to investigate his merits, and to determine whether he is deserving of the regard he requires. Oh! let not the Lord be angry while we thus speak, and, for the sake of those that hear us, at-make his grace sufficient for you. He is entempt to lay open a few of the sources of his claims.
Look upward, and consider what he is doing. He has taken with him to heaven the same heart of tenderness that he possessed on earth. He remembers thee, now that he is come into his kingdom. He ever liveth to make intercession for thee. He is moving the wheels of nature, and ordering the dispensations of Providence, for thy welfare: he is making all things to work together for thy good. There is not a prayer you offer up but he hears it. There is not a duty you discharge but he enables you to perform it. There is not a trial you endure but he sustains you under it. There is not a blessing you taste but he sweetens and sanctifies it.
Look forward, and consider what he will do. For he has made known the thoughts of his heart, and bound himself by promise. He is engaged to be with you in trouble; to render your strength equal to your day; and to
gaged to comfort thee upon the bed of languishing; to receive thy departing spirit to himself; to change thy vile body into a resemblance of his own glorious body; to confess thee before an assembled world; and to say of those services over which thou hast so often blushed and groaned-"Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Thirdly. Mark his sufferings. For, to
And, First, my brethren, we call upon you to contemplate his person. Go, read his history. Look at his likeness as it is sketched in the Gospel. Survey his features: behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple. What is he? In himself he is the most amiable of all beings. He "is the chief of ten thousand; yea, he is altogether lovely. He is fairer than the children of men:" fairer than the children of God: as much above an
enable him to be our best friend, something | thousand times implored him to accomplish} more was necessary than the wishes of be--And all this, from day to day-from year nevolence, or the exertions of power. To ob- to year-in lengthened provocation!-While tain eternal redemption for us, he submits to he, with all his patience, seemed urged to a scene of humiliation and anguish, such as ask, How long shall I be with you? how no tongue can express, or imagination con- long shall I suffer you?" O, if he were ceive. For our sakes, he who was rich, be- swayed by human passions! if he were a came poor-so poor, that while foxes had mere creature like ourselves-where, at this holes, and the birds of the air had nests, the hour, should we have been found! In the Son of man had not where to lay his head. whole universe, where is the benefactor that For our sakes, the King of glory was num- would have continued his regards a moment bered with transgressors; had his name cast longer, after meeting with such instances of out as evil; was treated as a glutton, a wine- indifference, of perverseness, of vileness—as bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, a we have been continually displaying towards madman, a demoniac, a rebel, a traitor. For the Lord that bought us! our sakes, he, who was blessed for evermore, became a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Before the hand of man had touched his body, we find him in the garden exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: we see him sweating as it were great drops of blood falling down to the earth; we hear him praying, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." As we follow him from Gethsemane to Golgotha, he gives his back to the smiters, and his cheek to them that plucked off the hair; he hides not his face from shame and spitting. The thorns enter his sacred temples. They pierce his hands and his feet; he hangs upon the cross, suspended by the soreness of his wounds, and as he dies-and well he may-he appropriates to himself the language of the prophet; "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow!" No; blessed Saviour! Never was there sorrow-and, therefore, never was there love-like thine!—
Even this is not all. We must not only observe, what he suffers for us, and from us, but also what he suffers in us. "For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Such is the intimate union between him and his people, that, as the Head, he feels afresh what every member bears. He that persecutes them persecutes him. He that toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye. In all their affliction he is afflicted
But we must observe, not only what he suffers for us, but what he suffers from us. The more holy any being is, the more does he abhor sin. Sin is, therefore, more offensive to a saint than to a man; it is more intolerable to an angel than to a saint; and it is more grievous to God than to an angel. How infinitely provoking it is to him, may be inferred from his own expostulation and complaint, with regard to his people Israel; "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary God also! Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities." And yet, how much of this has he had to bear with from us, even since we have known him, or rather have been known of him! O, what unprofitableness under the instructions of his word and the ordinances of his house! what insensibility and ingratitude under all his mercies! what incorrigibleness under all his rebukes! what murmuring and repining under the dispensations of his providence! what charging him foolishly, and unkindly, even when his wisdom and kindness were performing the very things which we had a
"O, for this love, let rocks and hills
"Angels! assist our mighty joys,
LOVEST THOU ME?
II. The question is IMPORTANT. And why is it important? Because we must love him; and the affection is not only just, but necessary. To illustrate this, you will observe
That this love is even necessary to our sanctification. Love is a powerful and a transforming principle. By constant residence in the mind, the image stamps and leaves its own resemblance; so that every man is in reality the same with the supreme object of his attachment. If he loves any thing sordid and mean, he will become so too; while his intercourse with purity and grandeur will be sure to refine and elevate his mind. And hence it is easy to see what will be the effect of the love of Christ: for, as he is the centre of all excellency, the source of all perfection, it follows, that, in proportion as our love to him prevails in us, it will renew us; it will exalt us; it will change us into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This love is necessary to give us delight in all our religious services. We shall never proceed to advantage in any cause, especially if much opposed and tried, unless we feel an interest in it: conviction may carry us some way, but affection much farther. It is the nature of love to render difficult things easy, and bitter ones sweet. What was it that turned the seven years of hard bondage, that
Jacob served for Rachel, into so many pleasant days? The affection he bore to her who inspired him. What is it that more than reconciles that mother to numberless nameless anxieties and privations, in rearing her baby charge? “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" It is love that does all this. But there is no love like that which a redeemed sinner bears to his Re-produces ours; but our love evinces his: "I deemer; and, therefore, no pleasure can love them that love me." And when we conequal that which he enjoys in pleasing him. sider the attributes of his love-a love so While others say, What a weariness it is to tender, so active, so gracious, so durable, so serve the Lord! he finds his service to be changeless-what are we not authorized to perfect freedom; he calls the Sabbath a de- expect from an assured interest in it? light; he is glad when they say to him, Let us go into the house of the Lord; he finds his word, and he eats it, and it is the joy and the rejoicing of his heart. Religion renders all this our duty; but it is love alone that can make it our privilege; it is love alone that can bring the soul into it; it is love alone that can make it our meat to do the will of Him that sent us, and to finish his work.
LOVEST THOU ME?
This love is necessary, to render our duties acceptable. To a renewed mind nothing can be more desirable than the approbation of his Master; nothing more delicious than the testimony that he pleases him. The humility of the Christian, however, renders the attainment no easy thing. He feels the poverty and the unworthiness of his services; and, instead of supposing that his obedience merits a recompense for its excellences, he rather wonders that it is not rejected and disdained for its defects. But the Lord looketh to the heart; and when this is given up to him, he values the motive, though we err in the circumstances; he regards the intention, when we fail in the execution; and says as he did to David, "It is well that it was in thine heart." In judging of our services, he admits into the estimate, not only what we do, but what we desire to do. He judges by the disposition; he acknowledges liberality where nothing is given; and applauds heroism where nothing is suffered. "For where there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." But it is equally true, that "in vain we draw nigh to him with our mouth, and honour him with our lip, while the heart is far from him."
Finally. This love is necessary, to ascertain our interest in the Saviour's regards. His followers are not described by their knowledge, their gifts, their creed, their profession; but by their cordial adherence to him. We may do many things materially good; we may abound with external privileges; we may eat and drink in his presence, and he may preach in our streets; we may prophesy in his name, and in his name cast out devils, and do many wonderful works; and yet at the great day he may profess unto us, I never
knew you. But hear Paul: "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity;" and remember that this is a decision, as well as a wish; a promise as well as a prayer-Grace shall be with them, adequate to all their exigences. I am far from saying that our love to him is the cause of his love to us: but it is unquestionably the consequence, and therefore the evidence. His love
III. The question SUPPOSES DOUBT. And, my brethren, is there nothing in you to render this love suspicious? Let us fairly and honestly examine.
And First. Is there nothing to render it doubtful to the world? You are not only to be Christians, but to appear such. You are required not only to believe with the heart, but to confess with the tongue; and to hold fast, not only the reality, but the profession of faith, without wavering. Like the primitive saints, you are to be manifestly the epistles of Christ, known and read of all men; and not render it impossible, or even difficult, to determine whose hand has inscribed you. Like the patriarchs, you are to declare plainly that you seek a country; and not perplex all around you to decide whether you are settling here, or only strangers and pilgrims upon earth. To them that are in darkness it is said, "Show yourselves."
Have you always done this? Have you risen up for Him against the evil doers, and stood up for Him against the workers of iniquity? Have you never denied his name?— Never concealed his truth? Never been ashamed to avow your principles and your connexions? Have you never made concessions, in presence of the vain and the vicious, to escape a reproach which it would have been your glory to have deserved; and concerning which, binding it as a garland around your brow, you should have said, If this is to be vile, I will yet be more vile? Have your temporizing carriage and conversation never inspired men of the world, whom you had professedly left, with the hope that you were coming round again; and would in time rise above all your scruples, mingle in their dissipations, and run with them to the same excess of riot?
Secondly. Is there nothing to render it doubtful to the Church? Nothing can be more opposite to the spirit of the Gospel than a dark and distrustful temper. We should not harbour a misgiving mind; we should not even take advantage of the infirmities of our brethren, to conclude that their hearts are not right in the sight of God. Charity suffereth
long, and is kind; charity hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things. Yet it must be acknowledged that candour has its difficulties as well as duties. It has its bounds, beyond which it cannot pass. We must not be induced, by any tenderness of judgment, to violate the express decisions of the word of God. There are many, and, perhaps, never more than in our day, of whom, as the Apostle says to the Galatians, "We stand in doubt." They keep our hopes and our fears equally awake through life. When we pray for them, we are at a loss whether to consider them as in the flesh or in the Spirit. We receive them to the Lord's table, not because we are convinced of their state, but know not how to refuse them: and we continue them in communion upon the same principle. But, my brethren, these things ought not so to be. Your ministers and your fellow-members are entitled to satisfaction concerning, if not the degree, the reality of your religion.
Thirdly. Is there nothing to render it doubtful to yourselves? "indeed," say some of you with a sigh, "Indeed there is." Hence I go mourning all the day. How happy should I be, if I could but make out this awful case.
""Tis a point I long to know;
Oft it causes anxious thought;
"I am a wonder as well as a grief to self. If there are things that sometimes make me hope I am not in a state of nature, there are others—and these, alas! are far more numerous-that make me fear I am not in a state of grace. O my soul, surely this state implies much more than I have experienced surely there is a secret that has not been revealed to me. If I loved him—could I ever read without pleasure the book that unveils his glories? If I loved him-could I ever fear to die, and shrink back from the only event that can bring me into his presence? If I loved him-could I feel so impatient under those reproaches and afflictions that make me a partaker of the fellowship of his sufferings?
"Could my heart so hard remain ;
If I knew a Saviour's love?
IV. The question ADMITS OF SOLUTION. It is not only possible, but comparatively easy to know whether we love another. And here it will be in vain for you to allege, that though this is generally true, the case before us is a peculiar one, because the object is invisible. For this furnishes no objection to our remark. Who knows not what it is to my-love a being he never saw? Many of us never saw Howard: but who does not feel veneration at the mention of his name? Who does not glow at the perusal of his journeys of mercy? Who does not melt at the sight of his statue. I envy not the heart of that man who can enter St. Paul's Cathedral, and view, unmoved, the mild compassion that beams and breathes even through the cold marble image. I never this celestial spirit; can I read his matchless but can I think of this amiable, saw Cowper; Letters, and his immortal Task, and not feel a thousand tender sympathies that attach me to him, and render inviting that part of the universe in which his piety and his genius range undepressed and uncontrolled? With regard to those with whom you are familiar, that which you love them for is not that which you see, but that which you cannot It is their mind, their heart, their intellectual qualities, their moral principles. Honesty, virtue, dignity; these are all invisible: it is true you have seen their actings, and their effects; but you never saw themYet we hope you love them.
It is also useless to urge, as an exception to the justice of our remark, that the love of which we have been speaking is a principle, and not a passion. We readily acknowledge the propriety of the distinction, and hope it will always be remembered. Had it been
gard to right, he may, and he often does complain in his word, as if he was disappointed and surprised at the conduct of his professing people. And is there not a cause? You would think it strange if a husbandman should expect fertility from the dry sand or the barren rock: but it would be otherwise if he had a vine planted in a rich soil, and attended with every kind of culture. Then, surely, his expectation of fruit would be natural; and he would have reason to complain if nothing was produced. And is not this, at least in an awful degree, true of many of us? Estimating our proficiency by our advantages, ought he not to have found in us what he has yet sought for in vain? Ought he not to have seen something in our tempers and lives much more perfect; something in our conduct so unequivocal, something in our exertions and sacrifices so decisive, as to lead him to say, Now I know that thou lovest me; as God said to Abraham, " Now I know that thou fearest me, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me." LOVEST THOU ME?
"If I sing, or hear, or read,
Sin is mix'd with all I do : You that love the Lord indeed, Tell me is it thus with you ?" Lastly. Is there nothing to render it doubtful to the Saviour!" There is a sense in which this is impossible. His eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. No disguise can screen us from his penetration. We are all transparency before him. But we are to distinguish the question of right from the question of fact. With re
So great are the Saviour's charms: so power-
duly considered, many things would never have been published that have caused the way of truth to be evil spoken of: and many Christians would have escaped the despondency into which they have been plunged by judging of their state, not by the habitual and prevailing bias of their soul, but the flow and rise of their animal spirits. While, however, we allow the distinction, we deny the inference that might be supposed to result from it. For if we call this love esteem, rather than attachment-still it is esteem: if we call it a principle, and not a passion, still it is a principle-a principle that has a real being-and with whose operations and effects we are all acquainted. How then will this love show itself?
It will show itself by desire after intimaDo we love another? We long to be with him. Separation is a grief. Distance is a torture. We wish to annihilate the space that intervenes. We meet him at the time appointed, and feel a pleasure in the interview that words can no more express than paint can do justice to light or heat. Our Lord and Saviour has promised to be found of them that seek him; in his word, in the assemblies of his people, on his throne, and at his table. To these, therefore, if I regard him, shall I repair, and with a disposition expressive of this language, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" Is he withdrawn from me? I shall "lament after the Lord." And turning to those who are better acquainted with him, and know his resting-places, I shall anxiously ask, "Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?”
It will show itself by our thoughts. These naturally follow the object of our regard, and it is with difficulty we can draw them off. The current may be diverted by force; but the prevention removed, it soon flows in its wonted channel, and finds its former destina!* tion. Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. David could say, "I love thee, O Lord, my strength." And what was the consequence? "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! if I should count them, they are more in number than the sand when I awake, I am still with thee." If, then, I love the Saviour, I shall surely think of him. I shall reflect upon his character, his glory, and his grace. I shall dwell much upon his humiliation and sufferings. My thoughts will cling and cluster around his cross like bees around the hiveand my "meditation of him will be sweet." Even when my hands are employed in the common affairs of life, my mind will often ascend, and take a view of the Lamb that was slain and I shall feel the refreshing and enlivening influence of these thoughts-for they are not thoughts of speculation, but of affection.
Once more. This love will show itself by devotedness to the service and glory of its Master. And here, my brethren, I wish to lay a peculiar stress. Nothing, be it ever remembered, can authenticate the existence of this principle in our hearts, detached from this regard to his will. It is in this way that he himself requires us to place our love beyond all dispute: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. If ye love me, keep my commandments." An I then an enemy to his enemies? Am I a friend to his friends? Do I espouse his cause? Do I pray for the extension of his empire? Do I rejoice in the success of his affairs? Do I weep over the dishonours of his name? Am I sorrowful for the solemn assembly, and is the reproach of it my burden? Do I daily and hourly inquire,
This love will show itself by our speech. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." When Peter and John were ordered by the council to speak no more in the name of Jesus, what was their reply "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." How was it with a certain woman in the company when his preaching had touched her heart? "She" Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Do lifted up her voice, and said, Blessed is the I present myself at his footstool, saying, womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked." When the multitude cried, "Hosanna, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," the Pharisees besought him that he would rebuke and silence them. What said the Master? 66 You are strangers to their views and feelings, or you would know that you require an impossibility: for if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.'"
"All that I have, and all I am,
Whate'er my duty bids me give
'Yet if I might make some reserve,
I love my God with zeal so great,
-When God had addressed David, and given him the choice of war, pestilence, or