A Divine Cordial
by Thomas Watson, 1663
"And we know that all things work together for good, to
those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
II. The PEOPLE interested in this privilege.
They are lovers of God. "All things work together for good, to those who
Despisers and haters of God have no lot or
part in this privilege. It is children's bread—it belongs only to those who
love God. Because love to God is the very heart and spirit of true religion,
I shall the more fully treat upon this; and for the further discussion of
it, let us notice these five things concerning love to God.
1. The NATURE of love to God. Love is an
expansion of soul, or the inflaming of the affections, by which a Christian
breathes after God as the supreme and sovereign good. Love is to the soul as
the weights to the clock, it sets the soul a-going towards God, as the wings
by which we fly to heaven. By love we cleave to God, as the needle to the
2. The GROUND of love to God; that is,
knowledge. We cannot love that which we do not know. That our love may be
drawn forth to God, we must know these three things in Him:
(1.) A fullness (Col. 1:19). He has a fullness
of grace to cleanse us, and of a fullness glory to crown us; a
fullness not only of sufficiency—but of redundancy. God is a sea of goodness
without bottom and banks!
(2.) A freeness. God has an innate propensity
to dispense mercy and grace; He drops as the honeycomb. "Whoever will, let
him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). God does not
require that we should bring money with us, only appetite.
(3.) A propriety, or property. We must know
that this fullness in God is ours. "This God is our God" (Psalm
48:14). Here is the ground of love—His Deity, and the saving interest we
have in Him.
3. The KINDS of love—which I shall branch into
(1.) There is a love of APPRECIATION. When we
set a high value upon God as being the most sublime and infinite good. We so
esteem God, as that if we have Him, we do not care though we lack all other
things. The stars vanish, when the sun appears. All creatures
vanish in our thoughts, when the Sun of righteousness shines in His full
(2. ) A love of DELIGHT. As a man takes
delight in a friend whom he loves. The soul that loves God, rejoices in Him
as in his treasure—and rests in Him as his center. The heart is so set upon
desires no more. "Show us the Father, and it suffices"
(3.) A love of BENEVOLENCE. Which is a wishing
well to the cause of God. He who is endeared in affection to his friend,
wishes all happiness to him. This is to love God—when we are well-wishers.
We desire that His interest may prevail. Our desire and prayer is that His
name may be had in honor; that His gospel. which is the rod of His strength,
may, like Aaron's rod—blossom and bring forth fruit!
4. The PROPERTIES of love.
(1.) Our love to God must be ENTIRE, and that,
in regard of the subject, it must be with the whole heart. "You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart" (Mark 12:30). In the old law, a high
priest was not to marry with a widow, nor with a harlot—not with a widow,
because he had not her first love; nor with a harlot, because he had
not all her love. God will have the whole heart. "Their heart
is divided" (Hos. 10:2). The true mother would not have the child divided;
and God will not have the heart divided. God will not have only one room in
the heart, and all the other rooms let out to sin. It must be an entire
(2.) Love to God must be SINCERE. "Grace be
with all those who love our Lord Jesus in sincerity" (Eph. 6:24). Sincere;
it alludes to honey that is quite pure. Our love to God is sincere, when it
is pure and without self-interest: this the school-men call a love of
friendship. We must love Christ, as Augustine says, for Himself—as we love
sweet wine for its taste. God's beauty and love must be the two loadstones
to draw our love to Him. Alexander had two friends, Hephestion and Craterus,
of whom he said, "Hephestion loves me because I am Alexander; Craterus loves
me became I am king Alexander." The one loved his person, the other
loved his gifts. Many love God because He gives them food and wine, and not
for His intrinsic excellencies. We must love God more for what He is—than
for what He bestows. True love is not mercenary. You need not hire a
mother to love her child: a soul deeply in love with God needs not be hired
by rewards. It cannot but love Him, for that luster of beauty which sparkles
forth in Him.
(3.) Love to God must be FERVENT. The Hebrew
word for love signifies ardency of affection. Saints must be
seraphim, burning in holy love. To love one coldly, is the same as not to
love him. The sun shines as hot as it can. Our love to God must be intense
and vehement; like coals of juniper, which are most acute and fervent (Psalm
120:4). Our love to transitory things must be indifferent; we must love as
if we loved not (1 Cor. 7:30). But our love to God must flame forth.
The spouse was love-sick for Christ (Cant. 2:5). We can never love God as
much as He deserves. As God's punishing us is less than we deserve (Ezra
9:13), so our loving Him is less than He deserves.
(4.) Love to God must be ACTIVE. It is like
fire, which is the most active element; it is called the labor of
love (1 Thess. 1:3). Love is no idle grace; it sets the head
a-studying for God, and the feet a-running in the ways of His
commandments. "The love of Christ constrains" (2 Cor. 5:14).
Pretenses of love are insufficient. True love is not only seen at the
tongue's end—but at the finger's end; it is the labor of
love. The living creatures, mentioned in Ezekiel 1:8, had wings—an
emblem of a godly Christian. He has not only the wings of faith to fly—but
hands under his wings: he works by love, he spends and is spent for
(5.) Love to God must be LIBERAL. It has love
tokens to bestow (1 Cor. 13:4). Love is kind. Love has not only a smooth
tongue—but a kind heart. David's heart was fired with love to
God, and he would not offer that to God which cost him nothing (2 Sam.
24:24). Love is not only full of benevolence—but beneficence. Love which
enlarges the heart, never straitens the hand. He who loves
Christ, will be liberal to His members. He will be eyes to the blind,
and feet to the lame. The backs and bellies of the poor shall be the
furrows where he sows the golden seeds of liberality. Some say they love
God—but their love is lame of one hand, they give nothing to good uses.
Indeed faith deals with invisibles—but God hates that love which is
invisible. Love is like new wine, which will have vent; it vents
itself in good works. The apostle speaks it in honor of the Macedonians,
that they gave to the poor saints, not only up to—but beyond their power (2
Cor. 8:3). Love is bred at court, it is a noble munificent grace.
(6.) Love to God must be SPECIAL. He who is a
lover of God gives Him such a love as he bestows upon none else. As God
gives His children such a love as He does not bestow upon the
wicked—electing, adopting love; so a gracious heart gives to God such a
special distinguishing love as none else can share in. "I have espoused you
to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor.
11:2). A wife espoused to one husband gives him such a love as she has for
none else; she does not part with her marital love, to any but her husband.
So a saint espoused to Christ gives Him a special love—a love incommunicable
to any other, namely, a love joined with adoration. Not only the love
is given to God—but the soul. "A garden enclosed is my sister, my
spouse" (Cant. 4:12). The heart of a believer is Christ's garden. The flower
growing in it is love mixed with divine worship, and this flower is for the
use of Christ alone. The spouse keeps the key of the garden, that none may
come there, but Christ.
(7.) Love to God must be PERMANENT. It is like
the fire the vestal virgins kept at Rome—it does not go out. True love
boils over—but does not give over. Love to God, as it is
sincere without hypocrisy, so it is constant without apostasy.
Love is like the pulse of the body, always beating. Wicked men are constant
in love to their sins—neither shame, nor sickness, nor fear of hell, will
make them give over their sins. Just so, nothing can hinder a Christian's
love to God. Nothing can conquer love, not any difficulties, or oppositions.
"Love is as strong as the grave" (Cant. 8:6). The grave swallows up the
strongest bodies—so love swallows up the strongest difficulties. "Many
waters cannot quench love" (Cant. 8:7). Neither the sweet waters of
pleasure, nor the bitter waters of persecution. Love to God
abides firm to death. "Being rooted and grounded in love" (Ephes. 3:17).
Light things, as chaff and feathers, are quickly blown away—but a tree that
is rooted, abides the storm; he who is rooted in love, endures. True love
never ends—but with the life.
5. The DEGREE of love.
We must love God above all other OBJECTS.
"There is nothing on earth that I desire beside you" (Psalm 73:25). God is
the quintessence of all good things, He is superlatively good. The soul
seeing a super eminency in God, and admiring in Him that constellation of
all excellencies, is carried out in love to Him in the highest degree. "The
measure of our love to God," says Bernard, "must be to love Him without
measure." God, who is the chief of our happiness, must have the chief
of our affections. The creature may have the milk of our
love—but God must have the cream. Love to God must be above all other
things, as the oil swims above the water.
We must love God more than RELATIONS. As in
the case of Abraham's offering up Isaac; Isaac being the son of his old age,
no question he loved him entirely, and doted on him; but when God said,
"Abraham, offer up your son" (Gen. 22:2), though it were a thing which might
seem, not only to oppose his reason—but his faith, for the Messiah was to
come of Isaac, and if he be cut off, where shall the world have a Mediator!
Yet such was the strength of Abraham's faith and ardency of his love to
God—that he will take the sacrificing knife, and let out Isaac's blood. Our
blessed Savior speaks of hating father and mother (Luke 14:26). Christ would
not have us be unnatural; but if our dearest relations stand in our way, and
would keep us from Christ—either we must step over them, or know them not
(Deut. 33:9). Though some drops of love may run beside to our kindred
and friends—yet the full torrent must run out after Christ. Relations
may lie on the bosom—but Christ must lie in the heart!
We must love God more than our ESTATE. "You
took joyfully the confiscation of your goods" (Heb. 10:34). They were glad
they had anything to lose for Christ. If the world be laid in one scale, and
Christ in the other—He must weigh heaviest. And is it thus? Has God the
highest room in our affections? Plutarch says, When the love of God bears
sway in the heart—all other love is as nothing in comparison of this love.
Use. A sharp reproof to those who do NOT love God.
This may serve for a sharp reproof to such as have not a grain of love to
God in their hearts—and are there such reprobates alive? He who does not
love God—is a beast with a man's head! Oh wretch! Do you live upon God's
bounty every day—yet not love Him? If one had a friend that supplied him
continually with money, and gave him all his allowance, were not he worse
than a barbarian, if he did not respect and honor that friend? Such a friend
is God—He gives you your breath, He bestows a livelihood upon you—and will
you not love Him? You will love your prince if he saves your life, and will
you not love God who gives you your life? What loadstone so powerful to draw
love, as the blessed Deity? He is blind whom beauty does not tempt, he is
sottish who is not drawn with the cords of love. When the body is cold and
has no heat in it, it is a sign of death—that man is dead who has no heat of
love in his soul to God. How can he expect love from God, who shows no love
to Him? Will God ever lay such a viper in His bosom, as casts forth the
poison of malice and enmity against Him?
This reproof falls heavy upon the infidels of this age,
who are so far from loving God, that they do all they can to show their
hatred of Him. "They declare their sin as Sodom" (Isaiah 3:9). "They set
their mouth against the heavens" (Psalm 73:9), in pride and blasphemy, and
bid open defiance to God. These are monsters in nature, devils in the shape
of men! Let them read their doom: "If anyone does not love the Lord, that
person is cursed!" (1 Cor. 16:22), that is, let him be accursed from God,
until Christ's coming to judgment. Let him be heir to a curse while he
lives, and at the dreadful day of the Lord, let him hear that heart rending
sentence pronounced against him, "Depart, you who are cursed!"
The TESTS of love to God
Let us test ourselves impartially whether we are in the
number of those that love God. For the deciding of this, as our love will be
best seen by the fruits of it, I shall lay down fourteen signs, or
fruits, of love to God, and it concerns us to search carefully whether
any of these fruits grow in our garden.
1. The first fruit of genuine love to God—is the musing
of the mind upon God. He who is in love—his thoughts are ever
upon the object of his love. He who loves God is ravished and transported
with the contemplation of God. "When I awake, I am still with You!" (Psalm
139:18). The thoughts are as travelers in the mind. David's thoughts kept on
the heaven-road, "I am still with You!" God is the treasure, and where the
treasure is, there is the heart. By this we may test our love to God. What
are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight, when we
think on God? Have our thoughts got wings? Are they fled aloft? Do we
contemplate Christ and glory? Oh, how far are they from being lovers of
God—who scarcely ever think of God! "God is not in all his thoughts" (Psalm
10:4). A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts. He never thinks of God,
unless with horror, as the prisoner thinks of the judge!
2. The next fruit of of genuine love to God—is desire of
communion with Him. Love desires familiarity and fellowship. "My
heart and flesh cry out for the living God" (Psalm 84:2). King David being
debarred the house of God where the tabernacle was, the visible token of His
presence, he breathes after God, and in a holy pathos of desire, cries out
for the living God. Lovers desire to be conversing together. If we love God
we prize His ordinances, because there we meet with God. He speaks to us in
His Word—and we speak to Him in prayer. By this let us examine our love to
God. Do we desire intimacy of communion with God? Lovers cannot be long away
from each other. Such as love God have a holy affection for Him—and desire
to be with Him. They can bear the lack of anything—but God's presence. They
can do without health and friends, they can be happy without a full
table—but they cannot be happy without God. "Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down into the grave" (Psalm 143:7). Lovers have
their fainting fits. David was ready to faint away and die, when he had not
a sight of God. They who love God cannot be contented with having
ordinances, unless they may enjoy God in them; that would be to lick the
glass, and not the honey.
What shall we say to those who can be all their lives
long without God? They think that God may be ignored: they complain they
lack health and trading—but not that they lack God! Wicked men are not
acquainted with God. How can they love Him—who are not acquainted with him!
Nay, which is worse, they do not desire to be acquainted with Him.
"They say to God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of your ways"
(Job 21:14). Sinners shun acquaintance with God, they count His presence a
burden; and are these lovers of God? Does that woman love her husband, who
cannot endure to be in his presence?
3. Another fruit of of genuine love to God—is grief for
sin. Where there is love to God—there is a grieving for our sins
of unkindness against Him. A child who loves his father, cannot but weep for
offending him. The heart which burns in love—melts in tears. Oh! that I
should abuse the love of so dear a Savior! Did not my Lord suffer enough
upon the cross—but must I make Him suffer more? Shall I give Him more gall
and vinegar to drink? How disloyal and hypocritical have I been! How have I
grieved His Spirit, trampled upon His royal commands, slighted His blood!
This opens a vein of godly sorrow, and makes the heart bleed afresh. "Peter
went out, and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:75). When Peter thought how dearly
Christ loved him; how he was taken up into the mount of transfiguration,
where Christ showed him the glory of heaven in a vision; that he should deny
Christ after he had received such amazing love from Him, this broke his
heart with grief—he went out, and wept bitterly.
By this let us test our love to God. Do we shed the tears
of godly sorrow? Do we grieve for our unkindness against God, our abuse of
His mercy, our non improvement the talents which He has given us? How far
are they from loving God—who sin daily, and their hearts never smite them!
They have a sea of sin—and not a drop of sorrow! They are so far from being
troubled, that they make merry with their sins. "When you engage in your
wickedness, then you rejoice!" (Jer. 11:15). Oh wretch! Did Christ bleed
for sin—and do you laugh at it? These are far from loving God.
Does he love his friend—who loves to do him an injury?
4. Another fruit of genuine love to God—is courage.
Love is valorous—it turns cowardice into courage. Love
will make one venture upon the greatest difficulties and hazards. The
fearful hen will fly upon a dog or serpent—to defend her young ones. Just
so, love infuses a spirit of gallantry and fortitude into a Christian. He
who loves God will stand up in His cause, and be an advocate for Him. "We
cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). He
who is afraid to own Christ, has but little love to Him. Nicodemus came
sneaking to Christ by night (John 3:2). He was fearful of being seen with
Him in the day time. Love casts out fear. As the sun expels fogs and vapors,
so divine love in a great measure expels carnal fear. Does he love God—who
can hear His blessed truths spoken against and be silent? He who loves his
friend will stand up for him, and vindicate him when he is reproached. Does
Christ appear for us in heaven—and are we afraid to appear for Him on earth?
Love animates a Christian, it fires his heart with zeal, and steels him with
5. The fifth fruit of of genuine love to God—is
sensitiveness. If we love God, our hearts ache for the dishonor
done to God by wicked men. To see piety and morality broken down—and a flood
of wickedness coming in; to see God's name dishonored—if there is any love
to God in us, we shall lay these things to heart. Lot's righteous soul was
"vexed with the filthy lives of the wicked" (2 Pet. 2:7). The sins of Sodom
were as so many spears to pierce his soul. How far are they from
loving God, who are not at all affected with His dishonor? If they have but
peace and trading, they lay nothing to heart. A man who is dead drunk, never
minds nor is affected by it—though another is bleeding to death by him. Just
so, many, being drunk with the wine of prosperity, when the honor of God is
wounded and His truths lie a-bleeding, are not affected by it. Did men love
God, they would grieve to see His glory suffer, and piety itself
become a martyr.
6. The sixth fruit of genuine love to God—is hatred
against sin. Fire purges the dross from the metal. The fire of
love purges out sin. "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with
idols!" (Hos. 14:8). He who loves God, will have nothing to do with sin,
unless to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God's honor—but
His being. Does he love his prince—who harbors a traitor to the
prince? Is he a friend to God—who loves that which God hates? The love of
God and the love of sin, cannot dwell together. The affections cannot be
carried to two contrarieties at the same time. A man cannot love health and
love poison too. Just so, one cannot love God and sin too. He who has any
secret sin in his heart allowed, is as far from loving God as heaven and
earth are distant one from the other.
7. Another fruit of genuine love to God—is crucifixion to
the world. He who is a lover of God—is dead to the world. "The
world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal. 6:14). That is,
"I am dead to the honors and pleasures of the world." He who is in love with
God is not much in love with anything else. The love of God, and ardent love
of the world—are incompatible. "If any man loves the world, the love of the
Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Love to God swallows up all other
love—as Moses' rod swallowed up the Egyptian rods. If a man could live as
high as the sun—what a small point would all the earth be. Just so, when a
man's heart is raised above the world in the admiring and loving of God, how
poor and diminutive are these things below! They seem as nothing in his eye.
It was a sign the early Christians loved God, because their property did not
lie near their hearts; but they "laid down their money at the apostles'
feet" (Acts 4:35).
Test your love to God by this. What shall we think of
those who have never enough of the world? They have the cancer of
covetousness, thirsting insatiably after riches: "That pant after the dust
of the earth" (Amos 2:7). "Never talk of your love to Christ," says
Ignatius," when you prefer the world before the Pearl of price!" Are there
not many such, who prize their gold above God? If they have a good farm—they
care not for the water of life. They will sell Christ and a good conscience
for money. Will God ever bestow heaven upon those who so basely undervalue
Him, preferring glittering dust before the glorious Deity?
What is there in the earth, that we should so set our hearts upon it? The
devil makes us look upon it through a magnifying glass! The world has no
real intrinsic worth, it is but paint and deception.
8. The next fruit of genuine love to God—is reverential
fear of God. In the godly, love and fear kiss each other. There
is a double fear arises from love.
(1.) A fear of displeasing. The spouse loves
her husband, therefore will rather deny herself than displease him. The more
we love God, the more fearful we are of grieving His Spirit. "How then can I
do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9). When Eudoxia,
the empress, threatened to banish Chrysostom; "Tell her" (said he) "I fear
nothing but sin!" That is a blessed love which puts a Christian into a hot
fit of zeal, and a cold fit of fear, making him shake and tremble, and not
dare willingly to offend God.
(2.) A fear mixed with jealousy. "Eli's heart
trembled for the ark" (1 Sam. 4:13). It is not said, his heart
trembled for Hophni and Phinehas, his two sons—but his heart trembled
for the ark, because if the ark were taken, then the glory was
departed. He who loves God is full of fear lest it should go ill with the
church. He fears lest worldliness (which is the plague of leprosy) should
increase; lest popery should get a footing; lest God should go from His
people. The presence of God in His ordinances is the beauty and strength of
a nation. So long as God's presence is with a people, so long they are safe;
but the soul inflamed with love to God fears lest the visible tokens of
God's presence should be removed.
By this touchstone let us test our love to God. Many fear
lest peace and trading might leave them—but not lest God
and His gospel might leave them. Are these lovers of God? He who
loves God is more afraid of the loss of spiritual blessings than temporal
blessings. If the Sun of righteousness removes out of our horizon, what can
follow but darkness? What comfort can an anthem give, if the gospel is gone?
Is it not like the sound of a trumpet at a funeral?
9. If we are lovers of God—we love what God loves.
(1.) We love God's WORD. David esteemed the
Word, for the sweetness of it—above honey (Psalm 119. 103), and for
the value of it—above gold (Psalm 119. 72). The lines of Scripture
are richer than the mines of gold. Well may we love the Word; it is the
pole-star which directs us to heaven, it is the field in which the Pearl of
great price is hidden. That man who does not love the Word—but thinks it too
strict and could wish any part of the Bible torn out (as an adulterer did
the seventh commandment), he has not the least spark of love in his heart.
(2.) We love God's DAY. We do not only keep a
sabbath—but love a sabbath. "If you call the sabbath a delight" (Isaiah
58:13). The sabbath is that which keeps up the face of religion among us;
this day must be consecrated as glorious to the Lord. The house of God is
the palace of the great King, on the sabbath God shows Himself there through
the lattice. If we love God we prize His day above all other days. All the
week would be dark if it were not for this day; on this day manna falls
double. Now, if ever, heaven gate stands open, and God comes down in a
golden shower. This blessed day the Sun of righteousness rises upon the
soul. How does a gracious heart prize that day which was made on purpose to
enjoy God in.
(3.) We love God's LAWS. A gracious soul is
glad of the law because it checks his sinful excesses. The heart would be
ready to run wild in sin, if it had not some blessed restraints put upon it
by the law of God. He who loves God, loves His law—the law of repentance,
the law of self-denial. Many say they love God but they hate His laws. "Let
us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us" (Psalm
2:3). God's precepts are compared to cords, they bind men to their good
behavior; but the wicked think these cords too tight, therefore they say,
"Let us break them!" They pretend to love Christ as a Savior—but hate
Him as a King. Christ tells us of His yoke (Matt. 11:29). Sinners
would have Christ put a crown upon their head—but not a yoke
upon their neck! He would be a strange king—who would rule without laws.
(4.) We love God's PICTURE, we love His image
shining in the saints. "Everyone who loves the Father loves his children,
too" (1 John 5:1). It is possible to love a saint—yet not to love him as a
saint; we may love him for something else, for his ingenuity, or because he
is affable and bountiful. A beast loves a man—but not as he is a man—but
because he feeds him, and gives him provender. But to love a saint as he is
a saint, this is a sign of love to God. If we love a saint for his
saintship, as having something of God in him, then we love him in these four
(a) We love a saint, though he be poor. A man who
loves gold—loves a piece of gold, though it is wrapped in a rag. Just so,
though a saint is in rags, we love him, because there is something of Christ
(b) We love a saint, though he has many personal
failings. There is no perfection here on earth. In some, rash anger
prevails; in some, fickleness; in some, too much love of the world. A saint
in this life is like gold in the ore, much dross of infirmity cleaves to
him—yet we love him for the grace that is in him. A saint is like a fair
face with a scar—we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there is a
scar in it. The best emerald has its blemishes, the brightest stars
have their twinklings, and the best of the saints have their
failings. You who cannot love another because of his infirmities, how
would you have God love you?
(c) We love the saints though in some lesser things they
differ from us. Perhaps another Christian has not so much light as
you, and that may make him err in some things; will you presently unsaint
him because he cannot come up to your light? Where there is union in
fundamentals, there ought to be union in affections.
(d) We love the saints, though they are persecuted.
We love precious metal, though it is in the furnace. Paul bore in his
body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17). Those marks were, like the
soldier's scars, honorable. We must love a saint as well in chains,
as in scarlet. If we love Christ, we love His persecuted members.
If this is love to God, when we love His image sparkling
in the saints, oh then, how few lovers of God are to be found! Do they love
God, who hate those who are like God? Do they love Christ's person, who are
filled with a spirit of revenge against His people? How can that wife be
said to love her husband, who tears his picture? What greater crime than
holiness—if the devil is the judge! Wicked men seem to bear great reverence
to the departed saints; they canonize dead saints—but persecute living
saints. In vain do men stand up at the creed, and tell the world they
believe in God, when they abominate one of the articles of the creed,
namely, the communion of saints. Surely, there is not a greater sign of a
man ripe for hell, than this—not only to lack grace—but to hate it.
10. Another blessed sign of genuine love to God—is to
entertain good thoughts of God. He who loves his friend
interprets what his friend does, in the best sense. "Love thinks no evil" (1
Cor. 13:5). Malice interprets all in the worst sense; love interprets all in
the best sense. Love is an excellent commentator upon God's providence; it
thinks no evil. He who loves God, has a good opinion of God; though He
afflicts sharply—the soul takes all well. This is the language of a gracious
spirit: "My God sees what a hard heart I have, therefore He drives in one
wedge of affliction after another, to break my heart. He knows how full I am
of the cancer of covetousness, or the swelling of pride, or the fever of
lust—therefore He gives me bitter remedies, to save my life. This severe
dispensation is either to mortify some corruption, or to exercise some
grace. How good is God, who will not let me alone in my sins—but smites my
body to save my soul!" Thus he who loves God, receives all of God's dealings
in the best sense. Love puts a good gloss upon all God's actions. You who
are apt to murmur at God, as if He had dealt ill with you—be humbled for
this; say thus with yourself, "If I loved God more, I would have better
thoughts of God." It is Satan who makes us have high thoughts of
ourselves, and hard thoughts of God. "But take away everything he
has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 1:11) Love takes all
in the fairest sense; it thinks no evil. "Then Job fell to the ground in
worship and said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will
depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord
be praised.' In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."
(Job 1:20-22) "It is the Lord's will. Let him do what he thinks best." (1
11. Another fruit of genuine love to God—is obedience.
"He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves
me" (John 14:21). It is a vain thing to say we love Christ—if we slight His
commands. Does that child love his father, who refuses to obey him? If we
love God, we shall obey Him in those things which cross flesh and blood.
(1.) In things difficult, and (2.) In things dangerous.
(1.) In things difficult. As, in mortifying
sin. There are some sins which are not only as near to us as our
garment—but dear to us as our eye. If we love God, we shall set
ourselves against these, both in purpose and practice.
Also, in forgiving our enemies. God commands us upon pain
of death to forgive. "Forgive one another" (Ephes. 4:32). This is hard; it
is crossing the stream. We are apt to forget kindnesses, and remember
injuries; but if we love God, we shall pass by offences. When we
seriously consider how many talents God has forgiven us, how many affronts
and provocations He has put up with at our hands; this makes us write after
His copy, and endeavor rather to bury an injury, than to retaliate
(2.) In things dangerous. When God calls us to
suffer for Him, we shall obey. Love made Jesus suffer for us. "Because of
His great love for us." (Ephesians 2:4) "Because of the Lord's great love we
are not consumed, for His compassions never fail." (Lamentations 3:22) Love
was the chain which fastened Jesus to the cross; so, if we love God, we
shall be willing to suffer for Him. Love has a strange quality, it is the
least suffering grace, and yet it is the most suffering grace. It is the
least suffering grace in one sense; it will not suffer known sin to lie in
the soul unrepented of, it will not suffer abuses and dishonors done to God;
thus it is the least suffering grace. Yet it is the most suffering grace; it
will suffer reproaches, bonds, and imprisonments, for Christ's sake. "I am
ready not only to be bound—but to die, for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts
21:13). It is true that every Christian is not a martyr—but he has the
spirit of martyrdom in him. He says as Paul, "I am ready to be bound."
He has a disposition of mind to suffer, if God calls him to suffer.
Love will carry men out above their own strength.
Tertullian observes how much the heathen suffered, for love to their
country. If the spring head of nature rises so high, surely grace
will rise higher. If love to their country will make men suffer, much
more should love to Christ. "Love endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7). Basil
speaks of a virgin condemned to the fire, who having her life and estate
offered her if she would fall down to worship the idol, answered, "Let life
and money go, welcome Christ!" It was a noble and zealous speech of
Ignatius, "Let me be ground with the teeth of wild beasts—if I may be God's
pure wheat." How did divine affection carry the early saints above the love
of life, and the fear of death! Stephen was stoned; Luke was
hanged on an olive tree; Peter was crucified at Jerusalem with his
head downwards. These divine heroes were willing to suffer, rather than by
their cowardice to make the name of God suffer. How did Paul prize his chain
that he wore for Christ! He gloried in it, as a woman who is proud of her
jewels! And holy Ignatius wore his fetters as a bracelet of diamonds. "Not
accepting deliverance" (Heb. 11:35). They refused to come out of prison on
sinful terms, they preferred their innocence before their liberty.
By this let us test our love to God. Have we the spirit
of martyrdom? Many say they love God—but how does it appear? They will not
forego the least comfort, or undergo the least cross for His sake. If Jesus
Christ should have said to us, "I love you much, you are dear to me—but I
cannot suffer for you, I cannot lay down my life for you," we would have
questioned the genuiness His love. And may not Christ suspect us, when we
pretend to love Him, and yet will endure nothing for Him!
12. He who sincerely loves God—will endeavor to make Him
appear glorious in the eyes of others. Such as are in love will
be commending and setting forth the amiableness of those people whom they
love. If we love God, we shall spread abroad His excellencies, that so we
may raise His fame and esteem, and may induce others to fall in love with
Him. Love cannot be silent. We shall be as so many trumpets, sounding forth
the freeness of God's grace—the transcendence of His love—and the glory of
His kingdom. Love is like fire—where it burns in the heart, it will break
forth at the lips. It will be elegant in setting forth God's praise. Love
must have vent.
13. Another fruit of genuine love to God—is to long for
Christ's appearing. "Henceforth there is a crown of righteousness
laid up for me, and not for me only—but for those who love Christ's
appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8). Love desires union; Aristotle gives the
reason—because joy flows upon union. When our union with Christ is perfect
in glory, then our joy will be full. He who loves Christ loves His
appearing. Christ's appearing will be a happy appearing to the saints. His
appearing now is very comforting, when He appears for us as an Advocate
(Heb. 9:24). But the other appearing will be infinitely more so, when He
shall appear for us as our Husband. He will at that day bestow two
jewels upon us! His love; a love so great and astonishing, that it is better
felt than expressed. And He will also bestow His likeness
upon us! "When he shall appear, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2). And
from both these, love and likeness, infinite joy will flow
into the soul! No wonder then, that he who loves Christ longs for His
appearance. "The Spirit and the bride say come; even so come, Lord Jesus!"
(Rev. 22:17, 20). By this let us test our love to Christ. A wicked man is
afraid of Christ's appearing, and wishes He would never appear; but such as
love Christ, are joyful to think of His coming in the clouds. They shall
then be delivered from all their sins and fears, they shall be acquitted
before men and angels, and shall be forever translated into the paradise of
14. Genuine love to God—will make us stoop to the lowest
offices. Love is a humble grace, it does not walk abroad in
state, it will creep upon its hands, it will stoop and submit to anything
whereby it may be serviceable to Christ. As we see in Joseph of Arimathea,
and Nicodemus, both of them honorable people—yet one takes down Christ's
body with his own hands, and the other embalms it with sweet odors. It might
seem much for people of their rank to be employed in that service—but love
made them do it. If we love God, we shall not think any work too low for us,
by which we may be helpful to Christ's members. Love is not squeamish; it
will visit the sick, relieve the poor, wash the saints' wounds. The mother
who loves her child is not squeamish; she will do those things for her child
which others would scorn to do. He who loves God will humble himself to the
lowest office of love to Christ and His members.
These are the fruits of love to God. Happy are
they who can find these fruits so foreign to their natures, growing in their
1. An exhortation to love God
Let me earnestly persuade all who bear the name of
Christians to become lovers of God. "O love the Lord, all you his saints"
(Psalm 31:23). There are but few that love God: many give Him hypocritical
kisses—but few love Him. It is not so easy to love God as most imagine. The
affection of love is natural—but the grace of love is not. Men
are by nature haters of God (Romans 1:30). The wicked would flee from God;
they would neither be under His rules, nor within His reach! They fear
God—but do not love Him. All the strength in men or angels cannot make the
heart love God. Ordinances will not do it of themselves, nor will judgments.
Only the almighty and invincible power of the Spirit of God can infuse love
into the soul. This being so hard a work, it calls upon us for the more
earnest prayer and endeavor after this angelic grace of love to god. To
excite and inflame our desires after it, I shall prescribe
twenty motives for loving God.
(1). Without love to God, all our religion is vain.
It is not duty—but love to duty, which God looks at. It is not how much we
do—but how much we love. If a servant does not do his work
willingly, and out of love, it is not acceptable. Duties not mingled with
love, are as burdensome to God as they are to us. David therefore counsels
his son Solomon to serve God with a willing mind (1 Chron. 28:9). To do duty
without love, is not sacrifice—but penance.
(2). Love to God is the most noble and excellent grace.
It is a pure flame kindled from heaven; by it we resemble God,
who is love. Believing and obeying do not make us like God—but by
love we grow like Him (1 John 4:16). Love is a grace which most
delights in God, and is most delightful to Him. That disciple who was most
full of love, lay in Christ's bosom. Love puts a verdure and luster upon all
the graces: the graces seem to be eclipsed, unless love shines and sparkles
in them. Faith is not true, unless it works by love. The waters of
repentance are not pure, unless they flow from the spring of love. Love is
the incense which makes all our services fragrant and acceptable to God.
(3). Is that unreasonable, which God requires?
It is but our love. If He should ask our estate, or the fruit of our
bodies, could we deny Him? But He asks only our love! He would only pick
this flower! Is this a hard request? Was there ever any debt so easily paid
as this? We do not at all impoverish ourselves by paying it. Love is no
burden. Is it any labor for the bride to love her husband? Love is
(4). God is the most adequate and complete object of our
love. All the excellencies which lie scattered in the creatures,
are united in Him! He is wisdom, beauty, love, yes, the very essence of
goodness. There is nothing in God which can cause a loathing. The
creature sooner surfeits than satisfies—but there are fresh beauties
continually sparkling forth in God. The more we love Him—the more we enjoy
Him and are ravished with delight!
There is nothing in God to deaden our affections or
quench our love. There is neither infirmity nor deformity—such as usually
weaken and cool love. There is that excellence in God, which may not only
invite—but command our love. If there were more angels in heaven
than there are, and all those glorious seraphim had an immense flame of love
burning in their breasts to eternity—yet could they not love God
equivalently to that infinite perfection and transcendence of goodness which
is in Him. Surely then here is enough to induce us to love God—we cannot
spend our love upon a better object!
(5). Love to God facilitates religion. It oils
the wheels of the affections, and makes them more lively and cheerful in
God's service. Love takes off the tediousness of duty. Jacob thought seven
years but little, for the love he bore to Rachel. Love makes duty a
pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God's service? It
is because they love Him. Love is never weary. He who loves God, is never
weary of telling it. He who loves God, is never weary of serving Him.
(6). God desires our love. We have lost our
beauty, and stained our blood—yet the King of heaven is a suitor to us! What
is there in our love, that God should seek it? What is God the better for
our love? He does not need it, He is infinitely blessed in Himself. If we
deny Him our love, He has more sublime creatures who pay the cheerful
tribute of love to Him. God does not need our love—yet He seeks it.
(7). God has deserved our love; how has He loved us!
Our affections should be kindled at the fire of God's love. What a
miracle of love is it, that God should love us, when there was nothing
lovely in us. "When you were in your blood, I said unto you, Live" (Ezek.
16:6). The time of our loathing, was the time of God's loving.
We had something in us to provoke God's fury—but nothing to excite His love.
What love, passing understanding, was it, to give Christ to us! That Christ
should die for sinners! God has set all the angels in heaven wondering at
this love. Augustine says, "The cross is a pulpit, and the lesson Christ
preached on it is love." Oh the living love of a dying Savior! I think I see
Christ upon the cross bleeding all over! I think I hear Him say to us, "Put
your hand into the wound in My side. Feel My bleeding heart. See if I do not
love you! And will you not bestow your love upon Me? Will you love the world
more than me? Did the world appease the wrath of God for you? Have I not
done all this? And will you not love Me?" It is natural to love where we are
loved. Christ having set us a copy of love, and written it with His blood,
let us labor to write after so fair a copy, and to imitate Him in love. "We
love Him because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
(8). Love to God is the best self-love. It is
self-love to get the soul saved; by loving God, we forward our own
salvation. "He who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him" (1 John
4:16). And he is sure to dwell with God in heaven—who has God dwelling in
his heart. So that to love God is the truest self-love; he who does not love
God, does not love himself.
(9). Love to God evidences sincerity. "The
upright love you" (Cant. 1:4). Many a child of God fears he is a hypocrite.
Do you love God? When Peter was dejected with the sense of his sin, he
thought himself unworthy that ever Christ should take notice of him, or
employ him more in the work of his apostleship; see how Christ goes about to
comfort him. "Peter, do you love me?" (John 21:15). As if Christ had said,
"Though you have denied me through fear—yet if you can say from your heart
you love me, you are sincere and upright." To love God is a better
sign of sincerity, than to fear Him. The Israelites feared God's
justice. "When he slew them, they sought him, and inquired
early after God" (Psalm 78:34). But what did all this come to?
"Nevertheless, they did but flatter him with their mouth, and lied to him
with their tongue; for their heart was not right with him" (verses 36, 37).
That repentance is no better than flattery, which arises only from fear of
God's judgments, and has no love mixed with it. Loving God evidences that
God has the heart; and if the heart is His, that will command all the rest!
(10). By our love to God, we may conclude God's love to
us. "We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Oh,
says the soul, if I knew God loved me, I could rejoice! Do you love God?
Then you may be sure of God's love to you. If our hearts burn in love to
God, it is because God's love has first shined upon us, else we could not
burn in love. Our love is nothing but the reflection of God's love.
(11). If you do not love God, you will love something
else, either the world or sin; and are those worthy of your
love? Is it not better to love God than these? It is better to
love God than the WORLD, as appears in
the following particulars.
If you set your love on worldly things, they will not
satisfy. You may as well satisfy your body with air, as
your soul with earth! "In the fullness of his sufficiency, he shall
be in straits" (Job 22:22). Plenty has its poverty. If the globe of the
world were yours, it would not fill your soul. Will you set your love on
that which will never give you contentment? Is it not better to love God? He
will give you that which shall satisfy your soul to all eternity! "When I
awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness" (Psalm 17:15). When I awake
out of the sleep of death, and shall have some of the rays and beams of
God's glory put upon me, I shall then be satisfied with His likeness.
If you love worldly things, they cannot remove trouble of
mind. If there is a thorn in the conscience, all the world cannot
pluck it out. King Saul, being perplexed in mind, all his crown jewels could
not comfort him (1 Sam. 28:15). But if you love God, He can give you peace
when nothing else can; He can turn the "shadow of death into the morning"
(Amos 5:8). He can apply Christ's blood to refresh your soul; He can whisper
His love by the Spirit, and with one smile scatter all your fears and
If you love the world, you love that which may keep you
out of heaven. Worldly contentments may be compared to the wagons
in an army; while the soldiers have been entertaining themselves at the
wagons, they have lost the battle. "How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23). Prosperity, to many, is like a
large sail to a small boat, which quickly overturns it; so that by loving
the world, you love that which will endanger you. But if you love God, there
is no fear of losing heaven. He will be a Rock to hide you—but not to hurt
you. By loving Him, we come to enjoy Him forever.
You may love worldly things—but they cannot love you in
return. You love gold and silver—but your gold cannot love you in
return. You love a picture—but the picture cannot love you in return. You
give away your love to the creature—and receive no love back. But if you
love God, He will love you in return. "If any man loves me, my Father will
love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John
14:23). God will not be behindhand in love to us. For our drop of
love to Him, we shall receive an ocean of His love!
When you love the world, you love that which is worse
than yourselves. The soul, as Damascen says, is a sparkle of
celestial brightness; it carries in it an idea and resemblance of God. While
you love the world, you love that which is infinitely below the worth of
your souls. Will any one lay out cost upon sackcloth? When you lay out your
love upon the world, you hang a pearl upon a swine—you love that which is
inferior to yourself. As Christ speaks in another sense of the fowls of the
air, "Are you nor much better than they?" (Matt. 6:26), so I say of worldly
things, Are you not much better than they? You love a fair house, or a
beautiful garment—are you not much better than they? But if you love God,
you place your love on the most noble and sublime object—you love that which
is better than yourselves. God is better than the soul, better than angels,
better than heaven!
You may love the world, and receive hatred for your love.
"Because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John
15:19). Would it not vex one to lay out money upon a piece of ground which,
instead of bringing forth grain or fruit, should yield nothing but nettles?
Thus it is with all earthly things—we love them, and they prove nettles to
sting us! We meet with nothing but disappointment. "Let fire come out of the
bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon" (Judg. 9:15). While we love the
creature, fire comes out of this bramble to devour us; but if we love God,
He will not return hatred for love. "I love those who love me" (Proverbs
7:17). God may chastise His children—but He cannot hate them. Every believer
is part of Christ, and God can as well hate Christ as hate a believer.
You may over-love the creature. You may love
wine too much, and silver too much; but you cannot love God too much. If it
were possible to exceed, excess here were a virtue; but it is our sin that
we cannot love God enough. "How weak is your heart!" (Ezek. 16:30). So it
may be said, How weak is our love to God! It is like water of the last
drawing from the still—which has less spirit in it. If we could love God far
more than we do--yet it can never be proportionate to His worth; so that
there is no danger of excess in our love to God.
You may love worldly things, and they die and leave you.
Riches take wings! Relations drop away! There is nothing here abiding. The
creature has a little honey in its mouth--but it has wings! It will soon fly
away. But if you love God, He is "a portion forever" (Psalm 73:26). As He is
called a Sun for comfort, so a Rock for eternity; He abides forever. Thus we
see it is better to love God than the world.
If it is better to love God than the world—surely also it
is better to love God than SIN. "They
are haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They are forever inventing
new ways of sinning." (Romans 1:30). What is there in sin, that any should
love it? Sin is a debt. "Forgive us our debts" (Matt. 6:12). It is a
debt which binds over to the wrath of God; why should we love sin? Does any
man love to be in debt? Sin is a disease. "The whole head is sick"
(Isaiah 1:5). And will you love sin? Will any man hug a disease? Will he
love his plague sores? Sin is a pollution. The apostle calls it
"filthiness" (James 1:21). It is compared to leprosy and to poison of asps.
God's heart rises against sinners. "My soul loathed them" (Zech. 11:8). Sin
is a hideous monster. Lust makes a man brutish; malice makes him
devilish. What is in sin to be loved? Shall we love deformity? Sin is an
enemy. It is compared to a "serpent" (Proverbs 23:32). Sin has five
sharp stings—shame, guilt, horror, death, damnation. Will a man love that
which seeks his death? Surely then it is better to love God than sin. God
will save you, sin will damn you! Is he not a fool—who loves damnation? Many
love sin, more than God.
(12). The relation we stand in to God calls for love.
There is near affinity. "Your Maker is your husband" (Isaiah
liv. 5). And shall a wife not love her husband? He is full of tenderness.
His spouse is to him as the apple of his eye. He rejoices over her, as the
bridegroom over his bride (Isaiah 62:5). He loves the believer—as He loves
Christ (John 17:26). The same love for quality, though not equally. Either
we must love God, or we give ground of suspicion that we are not yet united
(13). Love to God is the most abiding grace.
This will stay with us when other graces take their farewell. In heaven we
shall need no repentance—because we shall have no sin. In heaven we
shall not need patience—because there will be no affliction. In
heaven we shall need no faith—because faith looks at unseen things
(Heb. 11:1). Then we shall see God face to face; and where there is vision,
there is no need of faith.
But when the other graces are out of date, love
continues; and in this sense the apostle says that love is greater than
faith or hope—because it abides the longest. "Love will last forever" (1
Cor. 13:8). Faith is the staff which we walk with in this life. "We walk by
faith" (2 Cor. 5:7). But we shall leave this staff at heaven's door—and only
love shall enter. Thus love carries away the crown from all the other
graces. Love is the most long-lived grace—it is a blossom of eternity. How
should we strive to excel in this grace, which alone shall live with us in
heaven, and shall accompany us to the marriage supper of the Lamb!
(14). Love to God will never let sin thrive in the heart.
Some plants will not thrive when they are near together: the love
of God withers sin. Though the old man lives—yet as a sick
man, it is weak. The flower of love kills the weed of sin.
Though sin does not die totally—yet it dies daily. How should we labor for
that grace, which is the only corrosive to destroy sin!
(15). Love to God is an excellent means for growth of
grace. "But grow in grace" (2 Peter 3:18). Growth in grace is
very pleasing to God. Christ accepts the reality of grace—but
commends the maturity of grace; and what can more promote and
augment grace than love to God? Love is like watering of the root, which
makes the tree grow. Therefore the apostle uses this expression in his
prayer, "May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God" (2 Thess.
3:5). He knew this grace of love would nourish all the graces.
(16). The great benefit which will accrue to us, if we
love God. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has
imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!" (1 Cor. 2:9). The
eye has seen rare sights, the ear has heard sweet music; but eye has not
seen, nor ear heard, nor can the heart of man imagine what God has prepared
for those who love Him! Such glorious rewards are laid up that, as Augustine
says, "faith itself is not able to comprehend them!" God has promised a
crown of life to those who love Him (James 1:12). This crown encircles
within it, all blessedness—riches, and glory, and delight: and it is a crown
which is unfading! (1 Pet. 5:4). Thus God would draw us to Him by rewards.
(17). Love to God is armor against error. For
lack of hearts full of love—men have heads full of error;
unholy opinions are for lack of holy affections. Why are men
given up to strong delusions? Because "they receive not the love of truth"
(2 Thess. 2:10, 11). The more we love God, the more we hate those heterodox
opinions that would draw us off from God into libertinism.
(18). If we love God, we have all winds blowing for us,
everything in the world shall conspire for our good. We know not
what fiery trials we may meet with—but to those who love God all things
shall work for good. Those things which work against them, shall work for
them; their cross shall make way for a crown; every crosswind
shall blow them to the heavenly port!
(19). Lack of love to God is the ground of apostasy.
The seed in the parable, which had no root, fell away. He who has not the
love of God rooted in his heart, will fall away in time of temptation. He
who loves God will cleave to Him, as Ruth to Naomi. "Where you go I will go,
and where you die I will die" (Ruth 1:16, 17). But he who lacks love to God
will do as Orpah to her mother in law; she kissed her, and took her farewell
of her. That soldier who has no love to his commander, when he sees an
opportunity, will leave him, and run over to the enemy's side. He who has no
love in his heart to God, you may set him down for an apostate.
(20). Love is the only thing which we can give back to
God. If God is angry with us, we must not be angry back.
If He chides us, we must not chide Him back. But if God loves
us, we must love Him back. There is nothing in which we give back to God—but
love. We must give Him our love for His love.
Thus we have seen twenty motives to excite and inflame
our love to God.
Question. What shall we do to love God?
Answer. Study God.
Did we study Him more, we would love Him more. Take a view of His
superlative excellencies, His holiness, His incomprehensible goodness. The
angels know God better than we, and clearly behold the splendor of His
majesty; therefore they are so deeply enamored with Him.
Labor for an interest in God. "O God, you are
my God" (Psalm lx3:1). That pronoun 'my', is a sweet loadstone to
love; a man loves that which is his own. The more we believe, the more we
love. Faith is the root, and love is the flower which grows upon it. "Faith
which works by love" (Gal. 5:6).
Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give
you a heart to love Him. This is an acceptable request, surely
God will not deny it. When king Solomon asked for wisdom from God, (1 Kings
3:9), "the request pleased the Lord" (verse 10). So when you cry to God,
"Lord, give me a heart to love You. It is my grief, I can love You no more.
Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the altar of my heart!" Surely this
prayer pleases the Lord, and He will pour of His Spirit upon you—whose
golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright!
2. An exhortation to preserve your love to God.
You who have love to God, labor to preserve it; let not
this love die, or be quenched.
As you would have God's love to be continued to you, let
your love be continued to Him. Love, as fire, will tend to die out. "You
have left your first love" (Rev. 2:4). Satan labors to blow out this flame,
and through neglect of duty we lose it. When a frail body leaves off
clothes, it is apt to get cold: so when we leave off duty, by degrees we
cool in our love to God. Of all graces, love is most apt to decay; therefore
we had need to be the more careful to preserve it. If a man has a precious
jewel, he will keep it safe. What care then should we have to keep this
precious jewel of love to God! It is sad to see professors declining in
their love to God; many are in a spiritual declension, their love is
There are four signs by which Christians may know that
their love is decaying.
(1). When they have lost their taste. He who
is in a severe illness, has no taste; he does not find that savory relish in
his food as formerly. So when Christians have lost their taste, and they
find no sweetness in a promise, it is a sign of a spiritual decay. "If so be
you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Pet. 2:3). Time was, when they
found comfort in drawing near to God. His Word was as the dropping honey,
very delicious to the palate of their soul—but now it is otherwise. They can
taste no more sweetness in spiritual things than in the "white of an egg"
(Job 6:6). This is a sign they are in a decay; to lose the taste, argues the
loss of the first love.
(2). When they have lost their appetite. A man
in a deep decay has not that relish for his food as formerly. Time was, when
Christians did "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). They
minded things of a heavenly aspect, the grace of the Spirit, the blood of
the cross, the light of God's countenance. They had a longing for
ordinances, and came to them as a hungry man to a feast. But now the case is
altered. They have no appetite, they do not so prize Christ, they have not
such strong affections to the Word, their hearts do not burn within them; a
sad presage, they are in a decay, their love is decaying. It was a sign
David's natural strength was abated, when they covered him with clothes, and
yet he get no heat (1 Kings 1:1). So when men are plied with hot clothes (1
mean ordinances)—yet they have no heat of affection—but are cold and stiff,
as if they were ready to be laid forth; this is a sign their first love is
declined, they are in a deep decay.
(3). When they grow more in love with the world,
it argues the decrease of spiritual love. They were once of a sublime,
heavenly temper, they did speak the language of Canaan: but now they are
like the fish in the gospel, which had money in its mouth (Matt. x7:27).
They cannot lisp out three words—but one is about mammon. Their thoughts and
affections, like Satan, are still compassing the earth, a sign they are
going down the hill apace, their love to God is in a decay. We may observe,
when nature decays and grows weaker, people go more stooping: and truly,
when the heart goes more stooping to the earth, and is so bowed together
that it can scarcely lift up itself to a heavenly thought, it is now sadly
declining in its first love. When rust cleaves to metal, it not only takes
away the brightness of the metal—but it cankers and consumes it: so when the
earth cleaves to men's souls, it not only hinders the shining luster of
their graces—but by degrees it cankers them.
(4). When they make little reckoning of God's worship.
Duties of religion are performed in a dead, formal manner; if they are not
left undone—yet they are ill done. This is a sad symptom of a
spiritual decay; remissness in duty shows a decay in our first love. The
strings of a violin being slack, the violin can never make good music; when
men grow slack in duty, they pray as if they prayed not; this can never make
any harmonious sound in God's ears. When the spiritual motion is slow and
heavy, and the pulse of the soul beats low, it is a sign that Christians
have left their first love.
Let us take heed of this spiritual decay; it is dangerous
to abatement in our love. Love is such a grace as we know not how to be
without. A soldier may as well be without his weapons, an artist without his
pencil, a musician without his instrument, as a Christian can be without
love. The body cannot lack its natural heat. Love is to the soul as the
natural heat is to the body—there is no living without it. Love influences
the graces, it excites the affections, it makes us grieve for sin, it makes
us cheerful in God; it is like oil to the wheels; it quickens us in God's
service. How careful then should we be to keep alive our love for God!
Question. How may we keep our love from going out?
Answer. Watch your hearts every day. Take notice of the
first declinings in grace. Observe yourselves when you begin to grow dull
and listless, and use all means for quickening. Be much in prayer,
meditation, and holy conference. When the fire is going out you throw on
fuel: so when the flame of your love is going out, make use of ordinances
and gospel promises, as fuel to keep the fire of your love burning.
3. An exhortation to increase your love to God.
Let me exhort Christians to increase your love to God.
Let your love be raised up higher. "And this I pray, that your love may
abound more and more" (Phil. 1:9). Our love to God should be as the light of
the morning: first there is the day break, then it shines brighter, to the
full meridian. They who have a few sparks of love should blow up those
divine sparks into a flame. A Christian should not be content with so small
a grain of grace, as may make him wonder whether he has any grace or not—but
should be still increasing the stock. He who has a little gold, would have
more; you who love God a little, labor to love Him more. A godly man is
contented with a very little of the world; yet he is never satisfied—but
would have more of the Spirit's influence, and labors to add one degree of
love to another. To persuade Christians to put more oil to the lamp, and
increase the flame of their love, let me propose these four divine
(1). The growth of love evinces its reality.
If I see the almond tree bud and flourish, I know there is life in the root.
Paint will not grow; a hypocrite, who is but a picture, will not grow. But
where we see love to God increasing and growing larger, as Elijah's cloud,
we may conclude it is true and genuine.
(2). By the growth of love we imitate the saints in the
Bible. Their love to God, like the waters of the sanctuary, did
rise higher. The disciples love to Christ at first was weak, they fled from
Christ; but after Christ's death it grew more vigorous, and they made an
open profession of Him. Peter's love at first was more infirm and languid,
he denied Christ; but afterwards how boldly did he preach Him! When Christ
put him to a trial of his love, "Simon, love you Me?" (John 21:16), Peter
could make his humble yet confident appeal to Christ, "Lord, you know that I
love You." Thus that tender plant which before was blown down with the wind
of a temptation, now is grown into a cedar, which all the powers of hell
(3). The growth of love will amplify the reward.
The more we burn in love—the more we shall shine in glory! The higher our
love—the brighter our crown!
(4). The more we love God, the more love we shall have
from Him. Would we have God unbosom the sweet secrets of His love
to us? Would we have the smiles of His face? Oh, then let us strive for
higher degrees of love. Paul counted gold and pearl but dung for Christ,
"Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it
all as garbage, so that I may have Christ." (Phil. 3:8). Yes, he was so
inflamed with love to God, that he could have wished himself accursed from
Christ for his brethren the Jews (Romans 9:3). Not that he could be accursed
from Christ; but such was his fervent love and pious zeal for the glory of
God, that he would have been content to have suffered, even beyond what is
fit to speak, if God might have had more honor.
Here was love screwed up to the highest pitch that it was
possible for a mortal to arrive at: and behold how near he lay to God's
heart! The Lord takes him up to heaven a while, and lays him in His bosom,
where he had such a glorious sight of God, and heard those "unspeakable
words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Cor. 12:4). Never was
any man a loser by his love to God.
If our love to God does not increase—it will soon
decrease. If the fire is not blown up—it will quickly go out. Therefore
Christians should above all things endeavor to cherish and excite their love
to God. This exhortation will be out of date when we come to heaven, for
then our light shall be clear, and our love perfect; but now it is in season
to exhort, that our love to God may abound yet more and more.