Christian Love,
or the Influence of Religion upon Temper

By John Angell James, 1828


We may be exhorted to Christian love, by a consideration of–

1. Our own peace and comfort.

We are not to be indifferent to our own happiness; we cannot be. Man can no more will his own misery, or be careless about his own comfort, than he can cease to exist. To seek for happiness and enjoyment is the first law of our existence—an inherent and inseparable propensity of our nature. In this respect, the angels, and the spirits of the just above, agree with man upon earth. There is no sin, therefore, in desiring to be happy; we could not do otherwise if we would. Ever since the entrance of sin, however, the heart is corrupted in its taste, so as to put evil for good; and, mistaking the nature of happiness, man of course mistakes the way to obtain it. All the pursuits of the world, however varying, and however unlawful, are the operations of the human mind, of its propensity to seek for enjoyment—they are all but so many efforts to obtain happiness.

To this feeling of the human bosom, many of the most comprehensive, beautiful, and encouraging invitations of the Gospel of Christ are addressed; and it is at once the glory and the peculiarity of the Gospel, that it addresses itself first, not to our moral—but to our natural needs. It meets us, not as 'craving after holiness', for of this an unenlightened, unconverted sinner knows nothing; but as 'craving after happiness'—a desire common to every human bosom—this is the meaning of that exquisite language with which the apostle almost closes the Word of God—"The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The same view appertains to the language of the Prophet—"Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!" The thirst here mentioned is not, as has been frequently but erroneously stated, the strong desire of a convinced sinner after the blessings of the Gospel; but that of a miserable creature, after happiness. The people addressed by the Prophet are such as were spending their money for that which was not bread, and their labor for that which satisfies not; expressions which will not apply to those who are desiring Christ, and the blessings of his Gospel—but to those who are endeavoring to be happy without them—to all these the Lord Jesus is represented as saying, "Hearken diligently unto me. Come unto me—I will give you the sure mercies of David; then shall you eat that which is good, and your soul shall delight itself in fatness. I am the way to happiness. Men shall be blessed in me."

The blessing of the Gospel, by which men are made happy, is not only justification through the righteousness of Christ—but also sanctification by his Spirit. An unrenewed heart can no more be happy in any place or circumstances, than a diseased body can be rendered easy and comfortable by situation and external advantages. Until the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, be regenerated and brought to love God supremely, there can be no peace; as long as the heart is under the dominion of predominant selfishness, and all those lusts and passions to which it gives rise, it must be miserable. In the absence of Christian love, the human bosom must be the seat of uneasiness and distress. Happiness does not arise from possessions, so much as from dispositions—it is not what a man has, or where he dwells—but what he is. Whatever be the great source of felicity, the springs of it must be seated in our nature. There are certain dispositions, the absence of which would render heaven a place of torment to us; and others, which would raise for us an Eden in the midst of the dreariest wilderness on earth.

Love is essential to the happiness of a moral agent. Love was the original rectitude of our nature. Man was made for love; to love God supremely, and to love whatever is like God or related to him. This loving disposition was not only his temper in Paradise—but it was the very paradise of his soul, in which he held the sweetest communion with God and universal being. This tuned his heart to harmony with his Maker and his fellow-creatures. Every movement of his heart was a movement of love; and all his desires so many aspirations of love—this constituted at once his honor and his happiness.

Hence the implantation of this grace of love in his soul, is the bringing back of man again to his original state, to his "divinely natural condition," and, therefore, it is the restoration of him to true delight and satisfaction. It is true that many, in the absence of Christian love, pretend to some kind of enjoyment, and have it too; for there are pleasures of sin, such as they are; but as to solid happiness—that which befits and satisfies a rational, moral, and immortal creature—it may with the greatest truth be affirmed, that the wicked are like the troubled sea which cannot rest—but is continually churning up mire and dirt.

Let any one consider the vile passions which love expels from the bosom, or which it keeps in subjection where it does not eradicate them—and ask if that heart can be the seat of comfort, or the region of peace, where these vile passions predominate. As well may we expect quietude and comfort in a den of wild beasts, or in a field of battle—as in a heart where anger, wrath, malice, envy, pride, and revenge, have taken up their abode! On the other hand, how calm, and composed, and cheerful, is that heart, where meekness is the presiding spirit; where love to God has introduced benevolence to man—a temper which follows it as closely as its shadow, and has subjugated the temper to the dominion of love! Let anyone consult his own experience, and enquire if there be not an ineffable delight in the feelings of benevolent regard; whether such a state does not resemble one of those calm and glowing summer evenings, when nature seems to be quietly reclining on the bosom of peace. But how demon-like is the feeling when the turbulent evil passions gain the ascendancy; what agitation and what torment are the result!

Love is the very element which is congenial to the Holy Spirit; and renders the heart the abode of his delight. "The evil petulant passions," says Mr. Hall, in his beautiful tract on the Work of the Spirit, "surround the soul with a sort of troubled atmosphere, than which nothing is more contrary to the calm and holy light in which the Spirit loves to dwell." "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and clamor, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and grieve not the Spirit of God,"—an expression, as we have already considered, which, from its context, intimates that the Spirit of God is susceptible of offense; and peculiarly so, by any neglect or violation of the law of love.

Everything connected with our spiritual well-being depends on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts—when this divine guest retires from our souls, and withdraws his gracious influence, he gives utterance at the same time to the solemn denunciation, "Woe be unto you, if I depart from you." The heart of the believer assumes then the character and appearance of a temple forsaken by its deity; all is ruin and desolation; the sacrifice ceases, the altar is overthrown, the fire is extinguished. We have all much need to present with the utmost fervor the supplication of the Psalmist—"Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." No witness to our sonship, no consolations, no faith, no hope, no growth in grace, no joy and peace in believing—can then be enjoyed; instead of this, we shall be abandoned to worldly-mindedness, unbelief, despondency, gloomy apprehensions, and foreboding anticipations.

Now the Spirit will retire from that heart which is destitute of love, and which is perpetually indulging in tempers of an opposite description. If, then, you would retain this divine visitant—this illustrious guest; if you would indeed continue to be the temples of the Holy Spirit; if you would have God abiding in you—cultivate the grace of love—invite him to your souls for this very purpose—yield yourselves to his tender solicitations and gracious drawings—open your minds to his gentle wooings—and when at any time you feel an unusual softening of mind, follow up the impression, and resign your whole selves to the benevolent power, of which you are at that time the happy subjects.

Love will promote your own peace and comfort, by conciliating the good-will and kindness of others. In all the interactions of life, we are generally paid back in the same kind of conduct which we maintain towards others. Ill-will, and pride, and envy, and selfishness, are sure to excite and to array against us the bad passions of mankind. Under such circumstances, many will take delight in annoying us; all our unkindness will come back upon us in innumerable acts of retaliation. But Christian love brings the esteem of others. "The meek shall inherit the earth"—their quiet, and inoffensive, and benevolent demeanor subdues, by a mild but irresistibly power, the most violent and injurious tempers of others. Christian love has often led the lion, the tiger, and the serpent, by its soft and silken cord. It was thus that Jacob subdued the rage of Esau, who was marching against him with purposes of revenge; so that, instead of exciting his wrath, "he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell upon his neck, and kissed him." It was thus that David softened the heart of Saul, and disarmed his malignity of its murderous intention. "Is this the voice of my son David?" said the royal persecutor; and he lifted up his voice, and wept, saying to David, "You are more righteous than I, for you have rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded you evil." "Who is he who will harm you," said the apostle, "if you are followers of that which is good?" Who can be the enemy of love? Who will subject himself to the odium and reproach of being unkind to a loving heart?

In all these ways, do we promote our own peace by the cultivation of this temper. And can we be indifferent to our own comfort? Is it a matter of no importance to us, whether our bosom be the seat of quietude or agitation? Oh no! it is not, it cannot be. But we have had our attention too much drawn off from ourselves. We have forgotten that it is said, "The good man shall be satisfied from himself." We have thought—or acted too much as if we thought—that the sources of peace were without us and beyond us. We are not yet cured of the disease of earthly-mindedness. We still labor under the delusion that happiness is something unconnected with moral disposition; that happiness is a matter foreign from ourselves, and arising from the advantageous circumstances of wealth, and rank, and fame.

It is time to take another course, to try another scheme, and to adopt other means. Let us seek God's grace to open springs of pleasure in ourselves. Not that we are to seek in ourselves for joy and peace, when suffering under a consciousness of sin; not that, as sinners, we are to seek relief from the burden of guilt, in our own virtues or graces; not that we are in any sense to look to our own works, as constituting our justifying righteousness; in all these views of our case, we must rejoice only in the Lord! But as those who are justified, and at peace with God, through Christ, we are to do the work of righteousness, which is peace, and enjoy the effect of righteousness, which is quietness and assurance forever; we are to covet the rejoicing which Paul speaks of as arising from the "Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." 2 Cor. 1:12

There is the joy of justification, and the joy of sanctification—one, the delight of being restored to God's favor by the work of Christ; and the other, the joy of being restored to God's image by the work of the Spirit. Many seem afraid of the joys of a life of holiness, and count all delight but that of faith, to be a mere effervescence of self-righteousness, which only intoxicates the soul with pride. Why, then, has our Lord pronounced his sevenfold beatitude on the graces of a renewed mind? Why has he thus so emphatically and solemnly connected happiness with holiness? The angels are happy, because they are holy; and the heavenly felicity is the perfection of sanctity. In proportion, therefore, as we give ourselves up to the influence of the government of love, we approach to the blessedness of the spirits of just men made perfect. He who lives in love shall drink of the waters of his own cistern, and be satisfied; he shall, every morning, find this heavenly manna lying upon the surface of his soul, and be fed with it to eternal life; and finding himself united by faith to the truth, he shall find peace within, though in the world he should have tribulation.

True religion is no sullen stoicism, or gloomy melancholy; it is not an enthralling tyranny exercised over the noble and generous sentiments of love and delight, as those who are strangers to it imagine. True piety is full of a vigorous and palpable felicity, such as ennobles instead of degrading the soul—such as invigorates, instead of enervating its powers—such as does not dispirit and sadden the mind afterwards, when the season of enjoyment is gone by—as do earthly and sensual pleasures. But true piety elevates the soul's views and purposes, and strengthens it for lofty enterprise and heroic deeds, by giving it to drink of the river of life, clear as crystal, which flows out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, and refreshing it with what, in a true and a holy sense, may be called the 'nectar of immortality'!

True piety does not consist in mere airy notions, in cold and heartless orthodoxy, in pharisaic forms and ceremonies—but in faith working by love—love to God, to Christ, to the brethren, and to the world. This true piety does sometimes in its higher elevations, lead the soul into a Mount of Transfiguration, where it glows amid the splendor that falls on it from the excellent glory; or takes it to the top of Pisgah, where it sees the distant prospect of the promised land; thus placing it in the 'porch of heaven', and on the 'borders of eternity'!

2. Christian Love prepares the soul for making greater attainment in all other parts of true religion. Love is produced by knowledge and faith; but, by a reaction, it increases the power of its own cause. Love is just that state of heart which is adapted to the growth of all the plants of true piety, that without it are soon spoiled by the impure droppings of our own corrupt and selfish affections.

How much will our growth in KNOWLEDGE be aided by this state of soul! "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." A loving disposition prepares for the reception of experimental Christian knowledge. When Zoroaster's scholars asked him what they should do to get winged souls, such as might soar aloft in the bright beams of truth, he bade them bathe in the waters of life; and upon being required to state what they were, replied, "The four cardinal virtues, which are the four rivers of Paradise."

The reason why truth prevails so little with us—is because we have so little love! Our 'views of divine truth' are contracted and dim, not because of their narrowness, or the lack of a sun to enlighten them—but because both the luminary and the scene are enshrouded by those mists which our corruptions send up from our hearts to becloud our understandings. The holier we are, the clearer will the truth appear to our intellect, and the better able shall we be to bear the brightness of its glory; even as our Lord declares, that it is purity of heart which must prepare us to sustain the beatific vision.

The pagan sages also prescribed to their pupils a certain moral disposition, as essential to advancement in knowledge; and does Christianity. Plato taught that he who, by universal love and holy affection, is raised above the dominion of selfishness, comes into the nearest union with God, and attains to the highest intellectual life.

It is by the unction of the Holy One, mentioned by the apostle, whereby we know all things. Our souls are too clouded and too agitated by the bad feelings of our hearts, to make great attainments in holy life. The moral excellence of the truth is hidden from us; it passes before us in dark outline, a dreadful and majestic form—we see its back parts—but we discover not the brightness and the beauty of its countenance, on account of our lack of holy conformity to its nature, and of fitness for its fellowship. Let us, then, grow in love—that we may grow in knowledge.

And with respect to FAITH, the more we are brought to feel the influence of the great scheme of redeeming love, in transforming us into its own image, and causing us to love others, as God for Christ's sake has loved us—the more firm will be our conviction of the divine origin of the plan which has thus wrought so marvelous a change upon us. He who believes has the witness in himself, in the revolution of feeling, of motive, and of aim, which has been produced in his soul. To him the experimental evidence of the truth of the Gospel appears with a brightness which none of the rest possess. He is himself an evidence of the divine power which accompanies the truth. No subtle argumentation can reason him out of the consciousness of that change and deliverance from predominant selfishness, which he has experienced. If all Christians acted fully up to their principles, and drank as deeply as they might do, and should do—of the spirit of love—the impress of heaven would be so clearly enstamped upon the church, that the divinity of the Gospel could no longer remain a matter of question with any. Who can doubt the heavenly origin of that system which has raised him not only to a heavenly hope—but to a heavenly temper?

3. The credit and honor of true religion require that we should seek after higher attainments in love. It is well known by all who possess only the most superficial acquaintance with the Word of God, that the end and design of the great scheme of revealed truth—a scheme which occupied the councils of heaven from eternity, and was accomplished by an incarnation of God himself; that the end for which the Son of God was crucified—a mystery which angels desire to look into—was not merely to bring a 'set of new theories' into the world, and to induce men to change one class of 'opinions' and 'religious forms' for another—still leaving the heart of man as impure and selfish as ever. On the contrary, it is known that God has come down to our nature, to raise us to his! The whole plan of salvation terminates in the renewal and perfection of the human race in the principles of purity and benevolence. It has been declared, wherever Christianity has traveled, that the essence of true religion is love. Hence expectations, which, though rising high, are well founded, have been indulged in reference to the benevolent and holy temper of the followers of the Lamb. Men have said, "Let us see how those Christians conduct themselves."

What disgust and disappointment have been, in many cases, and to a wide extent, the result! Has the Church of God yet answered to its own professions, or to the expectations of its spectators and enemies? Has true religion derived all the advantage, in the way of attestation and recommendation, which it should—from the conduct of its adherents? Are they seen everywhere—so meek, so just, so kind, so patient, so benevolent, so humble—as to excite admiration, and to extort the concession that the principles which could produce such conduct must be from heaven? On the contrary, have not multitudes who judge of Christianity, not as they should do, by itself—but by the conduct of its professors, received, from the offensive exhibitions of pride, and selfishness, and malice, which they are doomed to witness sometimes in the church—an unutterable disgust, an invincible prejudice against Christianity?

Where is the spirit of love which was exhibited in the great Author of Christianity, and which is enjoined in his precepts, and contained in his system?—is a question a thousand times asked, even by those who live in a Christian land—but who see little there of universal love. Creeds and catechisms, forms and ceremonies, devotional seasons and religious observances, will be thought of little worth, and will do little to ensure the esteem and to engage the imitation of mankind—in the absence of that loving disposition which all these things are adapted and intended to produce. The world's demand of the church is for love. "We have had," say they, "enough of religious opinions; let us now have actions! We have had more than enough of articles of faith; let us now see more of the fruits of love." And how shall we meet that demand? Not by exhibiting less of truth—but by exhibiting more of love; not by giving up our creeds, or our forms—but by carrying them out into all the beautiful effects of benevolence and purity.

Christians, the character of true religion is entrusted to our keeping, and we are continually defaming it—or raising its reputation; and are either betraying it into the hands of its enemies—or conciliating their esteem towards it. It is high time for us to be more aware of our responsibility—high time for us to consider that we are perpetually employed in increasing or diminishing the ignominy of the cross. The good conduct of professors is a converting ordinance, and an edifying one too. "Let your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify God, your heavenly Father." "Shine as lights of the world, holding forth the word of life." How? Not by attachment to doctrine merely—no! the light of TRUTH will do nothing without the light of LOVE. A fiery zeal for truth, unaccompanied by love—is the meteor which misleads—or the lightning which kills, or the eruption which overwhelms and consumes—all of which men are afraid of, and retire from. But a zeal for the truth, which is accompanied by benevolence, and produces it, is like the orb of day—men come to its light, and flock to the brightness of its rising.

O that my feeble voice could be heard, and my counsel followed, when I call the followers of Christ to a serious consideration of the necessity—for the sake of the credit of true religion—of being like their great Savior and Leader! O that my words could have weight, when I entreat them, as they regard the reputation of that Gospel which is all their salvation and all their desire—to covet earnestly, and to pursue constantly, this "more excellent way!" O that I could prevail, when I implore them—yes, implore them—to study the essence of their religion in its facts, doctrines, duties, and examples—to see if it be not love!

O that I could succeed in my wishes and my efforts, that they may no longer, by the indulgence of their passions, strengthen the bands of iniquity which bind men to their sins, and raise an enmity against true religion which shall aid and accelerate the work of damnation! O that a new era would commence in the history of the church, when finding what a dark cloud had been brought upon the truth—by the bigotry, intolerance, and enormous cruelties of corrupt and persecuting professing Christian communities—by the intolerant party-spirit which has more or less, infected all sects—by the bitter passions of controversy—by the pride of pharisaism—by the schism of the brethren—by the envy, covetousness, and malice of professors—that all true Christians would be baptized afresh unto repentance in the pure and peaceful waters of the sanctuary, confessing their sins of uncharitableness and ill-will. Then might it be expected that, as in the case of the Divine Head, so in that of the mystical body, the Holy Spirit, in his dove-like form, would descend to "rest upon it," and by an unearthly glory, prove and display its heavenly origin.

4. By the means of Christian love, we shall be enabled in a very eminent degree, to glorify God. For a man to live for himself, as the ultimate end of his existence, is no less base, and sordid, and little—than it is wicked. Selfishness of this kind not only pollutes the soul—but degrades it—it limits its desires within a very narrow compass—imprisons its hopes in a poor contemptible hovel—and drags down its ambition, from the glory of the infinite and eternal God, to the paltry and insignificant interest of a finite and unworthy creature. The heart of the real Christian is too large to be compassed within such selfish boundaries; understanding that God is the author of his existence, he makes him the end of it; that as he came from God, he may be continually returning to him.

Everything, in point of dignity and elevation, is to be estimated by the end it seeks. Its aims give it whatever value it possesses, and fashion it into their own likeness. Nothing can make that great—which only aims at what is little. While a sublime nature is imparted to that which seeks a sublime end. Now, a higher end, no creature in any world, however exalted, can propose to itself, than the glory of God; and a lower one, the humblest believer in all God's family on earth, should never seek. This, indeed, ennobles the soul, and enlarges it into a universal and comprehensive capacity of enjoying that one unbounded goodness, which is God himself; it makes it spread out and expand itself in the infinite sphere of the Divine Being and blessedness, and makes it live in the fullness of him who fills all in all.

"We glorify God, by partaking of the impression of his glory upon us, and not by communicating any kind of glory to him. Then does a good man become the tabernacle of God, wherein the Divine Shechinah does rest, and which the Divine glory fills, when the frame of his mind and life is wholly according to that idea and pattern which he receives from the mount. We best glorify God, when we grow most like him; and we then act most for his glory, when a true spirit of holiness, justice, and meekness, runs through all our actions. When we so live as befits those who converse—with the great mind and wisdom of the whole world—with that Almighty Spirit that made, supports, and governs all things—with that Being from whence all good flows, and in which there is no spot, stain, or shadow of evil—and so, being captivated and overcome by the sense of Divine loveliness and goodness, endeavor to be like him, and to conform ourselves as much as may be, to him.

As God's seeking his own glory in respect of us is most properly the flowing forth of his goodness upon us; so our seeking the glory of God is most properly our endeavoring a participation of his goodness, and an earnest, incessant pursuing after the Divine perfections. When God becomes so great in our eyes, and all created things so little—that we reckon nothing as worthy of our aims and ambition—but a serious participation of the Divine nature, and the exercises of Divine virtues—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and the like—when the soul, beholding the infinite beauty and loveliness of the Divinity, and then looking down and beholding all created perfection mantled over with darkness, is ravished into love and admiration of that never-setting brightness, and endeavors after the greatest resemblance of God, in justice, love, and goodness—when conversing with him by a secret feeling of the virtue, sweetness, and power of his goodness, we endeavor to assimilate ourselves to him—then we may be said to glorify him indeed." ("Select Discourses," by John Smith; a book, which for its combination of learning, genius, and piety, has scarcely its parallel in the English language.)

These fine sentiments should be engraved on our hearts, that they may be constantly reduced by us to practice. O, who that would have his nature exalted to the highest pitch of honor and happiness, ought not to cultivate that loving disposition which is the brightest representation contained in our world of its Divine Creator. To be the instrument of giving publicity to human excellence, of fixing the attention of others upon those qualities which, although eminently praiseworthy, were but little known, and exciting admiration on their behalf, is no small or uninteresting employment; but to exhibit a temper, which is the likeness of God; to manifest a virtue, in reference to which it may be said that it is an image of Deity—what an unspeakable dignity and delight! This is, in the highest sense of the term, to be raised into fellowship with God—a word that signifies not only an act of communion—but a state of communion; a communion of ends and aims, a kind of partnership in purpose and pursuit.

God is ever seeking his own glory, as his ultimate aim in all his works. His perfection prevents him from seeking a lower end, and a higher he cannot seek. To manifest himself is his supreme purpose; and we can easily imagine that the manifestation of love is the end to which all the other displays of his attributes are made subservient. Have we any hallowed ambition in our nature—here is scope for its gratification—here is an object towards which we may let forth all its energies—to hold communion with God in the manifestation of his glory! What can angels do more, except it be to do it more perfectly? Christians! see your high vocation—you are set apart not only by God—but for him—constituted a people to show forth his praise—appointed not only to receive his grace—but to reflect his beauty. Your highest glory is to manifest His glory. His image is the richest ornament of your moral nature—and to manifest His glory to the world, is your great business upon earth. The lowest Christian shows forth more of God than the heavens which declare his glory, and the skies which shows his handy-work. Such a man is a brighter object in the universe, and teaches more of its infinite Author, than the sun in his mid-day splendor, or the moon in her beauty, attended by her starry train, that glitter upon the vault of night.

But to rise to this eminence, we must excel in love; we must put forth all the excellencies of Christian love—and put them forth in all their vigor, and fullness, and harmony—each in its time, and its place, and its occasion. For then shall we be like God—and to be like him is, in the highest sense, to glorify him; and to glorify him, by being made partakers of a divine nature, is to receive, so far as a creature can receive it, a kind of relative perfection, and to live up to the very height of our being, our honor, and our bliss.

5. Another motive, and it is the last we shall advance, for the cultivation of love, is—that love is the state of mind which carries the soul on to its ultimate perfection in the celestial state, fits it for that state, and gives it a foretaste of its felicity.

It has been observed by the learned Cudsworth, who appears to have borrowed the idea from Plutarch, that Divine Wisdom has so ordered the frame of the whole universe, that everything should have its own appropriate receptacle, to which it shall be drawn by all the mighty force of an irresistible affinity. And as all heavenly bodies press towards the common center of gravity—so is all sin, by a kind of strong sympathy, and magnetic influence, drawn towards hell. While, on the other hand, all holiness is continually drawn upwards to heaven, to embosom itself in glory. Hell is nothing else but that orb in which all evil moves. While heaven is the opposite hemisphere of light, where holiness, which is perfect love, eternally revolves. Remove sin and disobedience out of hell, it will immediately lose its darkness, and shine out in all the serenity and beauty of heaven. Remove love from heaven, and its sun will set amid the darkness and the storms of everlasting night.

Heaven is not merely a thing to come; it is in one sense a present possession; for "he who believes in the Son has everlasting life." It is rather a state than a place—a state within us, rather than a thing outside us. Heaven is the likeness, and the enjoyment, and the service, of God. Heaven is that which every true Christian carries in his bosom now, and into which he will fully enter hereafter, when he shall be made perfect in love. To this state, all true religion is ever tending—the spirit of love is the motion and progress of the soul towards its eternal rest in the presence of God. No man can be prepared for the celestial felicity, while his heart is destitute of love. And whoever has the most love, knows most of the unseen and ineffable joys of the righteous. He lives in the vestibule of the heavenly temple; and is ready, whenever its doors shall be opened, to enter into the dwelling-place of God. The image of God is upon him, and the likeness of Deity is always attended with something of the happiness of the Deity. O, the bliss of that state, where the faculties of the mind, inconceivably expanded, shall let in the full streams of the Divine beneficence, and open themselves to the uttermost to comprehend the breadth and length, the depth and height, of that love which passes knowledge—where Divine goodness will so act directly upon the soul, as to raise it to a state of holy enjoyment, surpassing all our present imaginations!

What a motive to go on in the pursuit of love! Who does not wish to become better acquainted with his eternal state? Who does not wish to have a more correct knowledge of that condition in which he is to remain for ever? To attain to this, we cannot turn aside the veil which conceals the holy of holies from our view—we cannot look upon the throne of God—we cannot be rapt like Paul into the third heaven. No—but we may, like John, see the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and feel it taking possession of our hearts in the spirit of love. Rarely, indeed, do Christians attain, in the present state, in this unquiet world, to that calm repose of mind, that serene enjoyment, attendant upon the subjugation of the passions to the gentle dominion of benevolence, which conveys to them any very high notion of the supreme felicity which must be connected with the consummation of such a loving temper. Happy seasons do occur—but, alas, how seldom!—when they are so far released from the influence of every selfish and angry affection—when they so far feel the transforming influence of that Divine beneficence which they contemplate—as to be conscious of the perfect felicity which must arise from their being filled with all the fullness of love.

Let us seek more and more after those anticipations of our eternal state! We have not already attained, neither are we already perfect; but forgetting the things which are behind, let us reach onward, that we may apprehend that for which also we are apprehended in Christ Jesus. Heaven is not only above us, before us, beyond us—but may be within us—we may all know more of it than we do. Let us become more and more anxious to accumulate, not the perishing riches of silver and gold—but the imperishable wealth of a holy and heavenly temper. Let us aspire to immortality beyond the grave, and to the spirit of it upon earth—ever remembering that a Christian is one who professes to be born from heaven and to be bound to it—one who has more of heaven than of earth in his disposition—one who already dwells in heaven by dwelling in God—one who is fitted for converse with the innumerable company of angels, with the spirits of just men made perfect, with God the Judge of all, and with Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant—one who bears the impress of eternity, and is irradiated with some beams of the celestial glory!

And how can he give meaning, or consistency, or truth—to professions so high and so holy—except it be by that love which is the fruit of regeneration, the effect of faith, the necessary operation of love to God; and which, being cherished in the soul by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, comprehends in its embraces the whole universe, and in the exercise of its good-will towards those who come under its influence!

"If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever. There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love."  1 Corinthians 13