The True Christian's Love
to the Unseen Christ
by Thomas Vincent
"If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed!" 1 Corinthians 16:22
To The Reader:
Our Savior sent an epistle from heaven to the church of Ephesus, wherein He reproved her because she had left her first love, and threatened the removal of her candlestick. He would take away her light—if she did not recover her love. By the same hand, at the same time, He sent another epistle to the church of Laodicea, wherein He reproved her lukewarmness, and threatened, because she was neither hot nor cold—that He would spew her out of His mouth, Revelation 2:45 and 3:15-16. And are professors in Britain under no such sin, in no such danger—when some scoff at the flames of love to Christ, like dogs that bark at the moon so far above them; when the most nominal professors are wholly strangers to this love?
The former looking upon it as but a fancy, the latter having it only in the theory and when, among those Christians who love Christ in sincerity, there are so few that know what it is to love Christ with fervor and ardency, when there is so general a decay of love to Christ in the land, Lord, what is likely to become of Britain! Have we not provoked the Lord to take away our candlestick? Have we not provoked the Lord to suffer worse than Egyptian darkness to overspread us again, and cover our light because it shines with such cold beams, because the light of knowledge in the head, is accompanied with so little warmth of love to Christ in the hearts of most Christians? Everyone will fetch water to quench fire in a general conflagration, and surely there is need in a day of such general decay of love to Christ, that some such fetch fire from heaven, and use bellows too; arguments, I mean, to enkindle and blow up the spark of love to Christ which seems so ready to expire.
Reader, the following discourse of the true Christian's love to the unseen Christ, is not finely spun and woven with neatness of wit and language. It is not flourished and set off with a variety of metaphors, hyperboles, rhetorical elegancies, or poetical fancies and fragments. It is not adorned and fringed with the specious show of many marginal quotations, excerpted out of divers authors. The discourse is plain—but the author has endeavored that it might be warm; his design being more to advance his Master, than himself, in your esteem; and if he has less of your praise, so that his Lord may have more of your love—his great end is attained.
The chief part of this discourse concerning the love of Christ is application, and about two thirds of it is exhortation (there being generally in this knowing age more need of excitation than information), where you have a variety of arguments and motives to stir up and provoke us to the love of Christ, together with several directions how to attain this love in the truth and strength of it, and wherein the strength of love to Christ should evidence itself. There is also an appendix added, for further encouragement unto the love of Christ, concerning Christ's manifestation of Himself unto such as love Him. The whole discourse is practical, nothing in it is controversial. All will acknowledge the obligation which Christians have to love Christ; and none will oppose this who are true Christians; none but Turks, Infidels, and Devils, are professedly against it.
That this little book may be blessed by the Lord to be a means to warm and inflame your heart with love to the unseen Christ—is the earnest prayer of,
A hearty well-wisher to your soul,
"You love Him, though you have not seen Him." 1 Peter 1:8
The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ. Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life—as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christ is a dead faith, and a professor without love to Christ is a dead professor, dead in sins and trespasses. Without love to Christ we may have the name of Christians—but we are wholly without the nature of Christians. We may have the form of godliness—but are wholly without the power of godliness. "Give me your heart!" is the language of God to all people, Proverbs 23:26; and "Give me your love!" is the language of Christ to all His disciples.
Christ knows the command and influence which love to Him, in the truth and strength of it, has; how it will engage all the other affections of His disciples for Him; that if He has their love, their desires will be chiefly after Him. Their delights will be chiefly in Him; their hopes and expectations will be chiefly from Him; their hatred, fear, grief, anger, will be carried forth chiefly unto sin—as it is offensive unto Him. He knows that love will engage and employ for Him, all the powers and faculties of their souls; their thoughts will be brought into captivity and obedience unto Him; their understandings will be employed in seeking and finding out His truths; their memories will be receptacles to retain them; their consciences will be ready to accuse and excuse as His faithful deputies; their wills will choose and refuse, according to His direction and revealed pleasure.
All their senses and the members of their bodies will be His servants. Their eyes will see for Him, their ears will hear for Him, their tongues will speak for Him, their hands will work for Him, their feet will walk for Him. All their gifts and talents will be at His devotion and service. If He has their love—they will be ready to do for Him what He requires. They will suffer for Him whatever He calls them to. If they have much love to Him, they will not think much of denying themselves, taking up His cross, and following Him wherever He leads them. Love to Christ, then, being so essential unto true Christianity, so earnestly looked for by our Lord and Master, so powerfully commanding in the soul and over the whole man, so greatly influential on duty—I have made choice to treat this subject of love to Christ, and my chief endeavor herein shall be to excite and provoke Christians unto the lively and vigorous exercise of this grace of love unto the Lord Jesus Christ, of which incentive there is great and universal need.
The epistle wherein my text lies was written by Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, and is directed "To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia," as in verse one of this chapter. By these strangers we are to understand the scattered Jews who were strangers in these several countries which they inhabited. We read in chapter two of the Acts, that many of these Jews came from these and other countries, unto Jerusalem to worship; and in the Temple, hearing the Apostle speak with several languages, which were of use in the divers places where they lived, and that without instruction from man—but as the Spirit gave them utterance, they were amazed and confounded. Afterward, hearing Peter preach through the wonderful power of the Spirit, three thousand of them were converted by one sermon unto the Christian faith, and were added to the Christian church. When the feast of Pentecost being over, these converted Jews returned into the countries where their several dwellings, families, and callings were; which countries, being heathenish and idolatrous, no doubt but there they met with opposition and suffering upon the account of the Christian religion, which they became zealous professors of, besides what they endured from their own countrymen, or unconverted Jews, who hated Christianity more than the heathens did.
The Apostle seems to have a respect unto these in this epistle wherein he encourages them, under their sufferings for the sake of Christ, by many consolatory arguments. In verse 2, he wished that grace and peace might be multiplied in them and towards them; and then, though their sufferings abounded, their consolation would abound much more. In verses 3, 4, and 5, he blesses God for His abundant mercy towards them in begetting them into a living hope of the glorious and never-fading heavenly inheritance, which was reserved for them through God's infinite grace, and unto which they were reserved and kept through faith by God's infinite power. In the 6th and 7th verses he tells them that, however they were in heaviness through manifold afflictions, which are the world's left-hand temptations—yet he gives them to understand that these afflictions were but for a season. Weeping may endure for a night—but joy comes in the morning. They were needful to humble them, to purify them, to crucify them to the world, to make them conformable to their head, the Lord Jesus Christ; and that they were for the trial of their faith, that the truth of it might appear both to themselves and others, and that the worth of it might appear more precious than gold when it is tried in the fire, which, carrying them through their sufferings, might be found both to their own praise and their Master's honor at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
And then the Apostle takes occasion in the text to speak of their love, which they bore to this Jesus Christ, and of that unspeakable and glorious joy which results from believing in Him although they had no sight of Him, which no trouble or affliction could overwhelm or hinder; "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." Hence observe:
Doctrine 1. That it is the property and duty of true Christians to love Jesus Christ, whom they have never seen; "Though you have not seen him, you love him."
Doctrine 2. That true Christians believe in an unseen Christ; "even though you do not see him now, you believe in him."
Doctrine 3. That true Christians do, or may, rejoice in believing with unspeakable and glorious joy. "you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Here are three great points:
(1) concerning the love of Christians unto Christ;
(2) concerning the faith of Christians in Christ;
(3) concerning the joy of Christians in believing.
For the present, I shall speak only of the love of Christians unto Christ.
Doctrine: It is the property and duty of true Christians—to love the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they have never seen.
In handling this point, I shall speak—
(1) concerning true Christians who love Jesus Christ;
(2) concerning Jesus Christ whom they have never seen, the object of their love;
(3) concerning the love which they bear unto this unseen Christ;
(4) show that it is the property of true Christians to love Jesus Christ whom they have never seen;
(5) that it is their duty to love Him;
(6) how they ought to love Him;
(7) why they love Him; where I shall give the reasons of the point;
(8) make some use and application.
1. Concerning true Christians whose property it is to love Jesus Christ, whom they have never seen. "Though you have not seen him, you love him." that is, you are true Christians who are so in reality as well as profession; and of these true Christians who love Christ, the Apostle gives a description in verse 2 where he calls them, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood."
True Christians are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; they are such whom God, according to the counsel of His own will, according to His own purpose and grace, chose from all eternity—to be a holy and peculiar people to Himself, to glorify Him here on earth that they might be glorified by Him hereafter in heaven. And this election evidences itself in the sanctification of the Spirit.
True Christians are sanctified, being separated and set apart from the rest of the world for God's use and service. God has sealed them for Himself, and hereby distinguished them from all others; the motto of this seal is this, "Holiness unto the Lord." See a description of them in this respect, 2 Timothy 2:21, "If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." They are cleansed from the defilement of sin which pollutes and dishonors them: they are vessels unto honor, like those of silver and gold in a great house which are adorned with pearls and precious stones. They are adorned with all sanctifying graces, which are of more worth than the richest jewels, and, hereby they are both beautiful in God's eye, and they are made fit for God's use, being hereby prepared and enabled unto every good work.
This the Apostle prays for on behalf of believers, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul and body, he preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." True Christians are sanctified wholly—in their whole man, though they are not sanctified thoroughly. They are sanctified in every part, though they are not sanctified in the highest degree. Their whole spirit is sanctified, that is, the higher faculties of the soul, namely, the understanding and the will. Their understandings are enlightened by the Spirit unto a spiritual discerning both of good and evil, beyond what any natural man does, or can attain unto. Their wills are bowed, or rather rectified and made straight, being inclined unto God and His law. Their souls are sanctified in the inferior faculties, in all the liking affections—their love, desire, delight, and hope, are towards God, Christ, and things above. Their disliking affections—hatred, fear, grief, and anger, are towards sin. Their bodies also are sanctified, being made members of Christ, and instruments of righteousness; their eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, and every part being devoted to God, and made use of for His glory.
Thus, true Christians are sanctified by the Spirit—and they are sanctified unto obedience. The graces which are wrought by the Spirit in their hearts appear in the obedience of their lives; the course of their lives is a course of obedience unto the laws of Christ. They are sanctified unto obedience and they are sanctified unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. God has set them apart to be sprinkled with the blood of the immaculate Lamb who takes away sin—that they might be pardoned and saved. Such are true Christians, who love Christ whom they have not seen.
2. Concerning the OBJECT of a true Christian's love, and that is Jesus Christ, whom they have never seen.This Jesus Christ whom they love is the eternal Son of God, the second Person in the glorious Trinity, who in time assumed our human nature, clothed Himself with our mortal flesh, lived like a servant in a poor condition, died like a malefactor the cursed death of the cross—and all for our sakes, for our sins. He rose again the third day for our justification, ascended up into heaven after forty days, and there sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high, to make intercession for us, and to make preparation there for our reception into the glorious mansions and eternal habitations which are in the Father's house!
He is called Jesus, from the Hebrew word which signifies "to save," because He saves His people from their sins, Matthew 1:21. He is called Christ, from the Greek, which signifies to anoint, He being anointed by the Father with the Spirit and with power to be Mediator between God and man, to be the great Prophet, and Priest, and King of the Church. This Jesus Christ, Christians in the primitive times, as the Apostles who were of His family and other disciples who conversed with Him frequently, saw Christ with the eye of sense—but it was in His state of humiliation when He was here upon the earth, not in His state of exaltation. Now He is in heaven; yet some have seen Christ after His ascension, namely Paul at his conversion; and Stephen, the first martyr, before he died—but none have had a perfect sight with bodily eyes, of the glory which is upon Christ's body—the luster of which is so great that none can behold it in this state of weakness and imperfection, and live. But whatever sight some Christians have had formerly, no Christians now have a sight of Christ's person. They have heard of Him with the hearing of the ear—but they have not seen Him with the seeing of the eye. They have seen representations of Christ in the Sacrament—but they have never seen His person that is represented. They have seen His image upon their fellow Christians—but they have not seen the original from whom this image has been drawn.
Some Christians have gone to Judea—and seen the place where the Lord lived; and at Jerusalem, and seen the place of His sepulcher, where the Lord, for a time, did lie; and they have seen the mount whence the Lord ascended—but no Christians now alive have been in Jerusalem, and on Mount Zion, which is above, to see where the Lord now is in His glory! It is this Jesus Christ whom Christians have not seen—who is the Object of their love.
3. Concerning the love, which true Christians bear unto this unseen Christ.Love is the going forth of the heart unto the object beloved; and the love which true Christians bear unto Jesus Christ is a grace wrought by the Spirit in their hearts whereby, upon discovery and believing apprehensions of Christ's infinite loveliness and excellency, His matchless love, grace, and mercy—their hearts go forth towards Him in earnest desires after union to Him, and communion with Him, wherein they take chief delight. This is accompanied with a yielding and dedication of themselves unto His will and service.
(1) The love of Christians unto Christ, is a grace wrought in their hearts by the Spirit.Love to Christ is a most sweet and fragrant flower—but there is no seed of this love to Christ, in the nature of any man since the fall. It is planted in the soul by the Spirit of God. Love to Christ is a divine spark which comes down from above; it is a fire which is kindled by the breath of the Lord, whose essence is love.
(2) The ground of this love to Christ is the discovery and believing apprehensions of Christ's loveliness and love.There must be first a discovery of Christ as a suitable object for love; and not merely a bare notion of this—but believing apprehensions of it, that Christ is infinitely lovely, superlatively excellent, and that His love is matchless and transcended towards His people; that there is a treasure in Him, and a storehouse of all graces, and the most needful and rich supplies. Otherwise there will be no going forth of the heart in love unto Him.
(3) The actings of Christians' love to Christ is in their desires after union unto, and communion with Christ.It is the nature of love, to desire union to the object beloved, especially of this love to Christ; and, this union being attained, the desires are after communion with Christ, converse and fellowship with Him. No converse is so desirable as with those whom we most dearly love; and, this communion being attained, there is chief delight therein. The soul sweetly rests and reposes itself in Christ, and rejoices in His presence and love.
(4) The concomitant of this love which true Christians have unto Christ—is a yielding and dedication of themselves unto His will and service.Lovers give themselves unto those whom they love. This accompanies the marriage union; and such as love Christ are espoused and joined unto Christ, and they give themselves unto Christ to be His and wholly at His disposal, as the wife gives herself unto the disposal of her husband.
4. The fourth thing is—to show that it is the property of all true Christians to love this unseen Christ.True Christians are differenced and distinguished not only from all heathens and infidels—but also from all bare nominal professors, by their love to Jesus Christ. It is the property of covetous people to love worldly wealth and riches. It is the property of ambitious people to love worldly honor and dignities. It is the property of voluptuous people to love sensual pleasures and delights; and it is the property of true Christians to love Jesus Christ, whom they have never seen. None but such as are true Christians, love Christ; and all those who are true Christians love Him. The loveliness of Christ appears not to the eye of sense—but to the eye of faith. Those who do not see Him with this eye, cannot love Him; and those who see Him with this eye cannot but love Him.
Such as do not love Christ, it is not because Christ lacks beauty—but because they are blind! Now all true Christians have this eye of faith to discern Christ's excellencies; and none but true Christians have this eye. The essence of Christianity consists in believing; reason makes us men—but faith makes us true Christians. It being, therefore, the property of true Christians to believe, it is their property also to love this unseen Christ.
5. The fifth thing is—to show that it is the duty of all true Christians to love this unseen Christ.This will appear if you look into John 21:15-17. Peter was one of the boldest and most forward of all Christ's disciples—but he had been too self-confident, which was the introduction unto, and laid the foundation for—his fall and thrice shameful denial of his Master. A look from his Lord put him in remembrance and brought him to repentance with bitter weeping for his sin, as soon as it was committed. After our Savior was risen from the dead, He appeared unto Peter, with other of His disciples, and in this place asked the same question in the same words three times, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" whereby, as He tacitly upbraids him for his great sin in his three-times denial of Him (which, had there not been a defect in his love, he would never have done), so He also gives a signification that love to Himself is the great duty, and the great thing which He looks for, in all His disciples.
6. The sixth thing is—to show HOW Christians ought to love this unseen Christ.
(1) Christians ought to love Christ with SINCERITY of love.Ephesians 6:24, "Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." It was the great sin of Judah, (Jeremiah 3:10,) that she turned not to the Lord with her whole heart—but insincerely. So it is a great sin to love Christ with an insincere and hypocritical love. The love of Christians to Christ ought to be sincere in regard of the habit and inward workings of it. They must love Him not only in show, word, and outward profession—but their love must be cordial in the heart—and so a love in deed and truth. And the love of Christians to Christ must be sincere in regard of the object of it; they must love Christ for Himself, and not chiefly for what they get by Him. To love Christ only for temporal gain is hypocritical love; to love Christ for His own excellencies and perfections is most sincere and generous. This sincerity of love to Christ, is everyone's duty.
(2) Christians ought to love Christ with SUPREMACY of love.They must place Him in the highest seat of their hearts. He is a great King, and He looks for the throne, and that all creatures should be placed beneath Him and bow at His footstool, Matthew 10:37, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." These are the words of our Savior. Christians may love father and mother, the law of God and nature requires it. They may love husband and wife, the Word of God enjoins the husband to love his wife as his own body, and as Christ loved the church. They may love sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, kindred, friends, yes, enemies—and they ought to do it. Yet all must be with a subordinate love. They must love Christ with their chief love, otherwise they are not worthy to stand in the relation of disciples.
(3) Christians ought to love Christ with ARDENCY of love.Luke 24:32. "Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures!" This burning love Christ kindled in the hearts of His disciples; and this burning love, Christ requires of all Christians, Song of Solomon 8:6-7, "For love is as strong as death; ardent love is as unrelenting as the grave. Mighty waters cannot extinguish love; rivers cannot sweep it away." Such a strong, vehement, ardent, flaming love, Christians should have unto Jesus Christ, which all the waters of affliction may not be able to quench, which no floods of temptations or persecutions may be able to drown and overwhelm! Therefore:
(4) Christians ought to love Christ with CONSTANCY of love.Having begun to love Him, they ought to continue to love Him, and to love Him unto the end. As they ought to be constant in their obedience and to persevere in their other graces—so they ought to be constant, and to persevere in this grace of love to Christ.
7. The seventh thing is to show WHY true Christians love Christ, whom they have never seen.
Reason 1. True Christians love Christ—because of the need which they have of Him.Men love their necessary food, without which their bodies would starve with hunger; men love their necessary raiment and habitations, without which, in winter seasons, their bodies would freeze with cold. Men love their necessary friends, upon whom (under God) they have their dependence, and from whom they have all their subsistence. But nothing in the world is as needful to the body—as the Lord Jesus Christ is unto the soul. And, as the excellencies of the soul are far beyond the excellencies of the body, so the necessities of the soul are far beyond the necessities of the body; which necessities can be answered by none but Jesus Christ, and, therefore, true Christians love Him.
At first conversion, when they were convinced of sin and awakened out of their carnal security, O what need had they of Christ! They perceived themselves to be lost, and that it was Christ alone, who could save them! They felt the wounds of conscience, and it was Christ alone, who could heal them! They feared the wrath of a sin-revenging God, and it was Christ alone, who could deliver them! The remission, reconciliation, and salvation, which they had by Christ laid the first foundation of a most endeared love unto Christ; and still they perceive a continual need of Christ to procure daily pardon for them, and to convey daily supplies of grace unto them.
They have need of Christ when they are dark—to enlighten them; when they are dead—to quicken them; when they are straitened—to enlarge them; when they are weak—to strengthen them; when they are sad—to comfort them; when they are tempted—to support them; when they are fallen—to raise them; when they are in doubts—to resolve them; when they are under fears—to encourage them; when they stagger—to establish them; when they wander—to restore them! None but Christ can do all this, and more than this for them. And, therefore, because of the need and usefulness of Christ, true Christians love Him.
Reason 2. True Christians love an unseen Christ—because of the loveliness of Christ; which loveliness, though it is not seen, and cannot here be seen by the eye of the body—yet it is evident unto the eye of faith. See the description which is given of Christ the Beloved by His spouse, the Church, Song of Solomon 5:9. The daughters of Jerusalem there inquire of the love-sick spouse, "What makes the one you love better than another, most beautiful of women? What makes him better than another?" Hereupon the spouse gives a description, verse 10, "My beloved is dark and dazzling, better than ten thousand others!" And after she had set forth His graces, beauties, and excellent accomplishments, in metaphors taken from beauties in the several parts of man's body, in the 11th-14th verses; she concludes, in the 16th verse, "Yes! He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend!"
The spouse is here acknowledged to be the fairest among women, and not only by the daughters of Jerusalem—but her beloved, who had a more insightful eye, both commends her loveliness and admires it, chapter 6:4-5, "O my beloved, you are as beautiful as the lovely town of Tirzah. Yes, as beautiful as Jerusalem! Look away, for your eyes overcome me!" And, verse 10, "Who is this arising like the dawn, as fair as the moon, as bright as the sun, as majestic as an army with banners?"
But what beauty is there, then, in the Beloved? If the church is beautiful beyond all others, how beautiful is Jesus Christ, from whom the Church derives all its loveliness! He is said to be white and ruddy, that shows the beauty of His face; and His countenance is said to be as Lebanon, and like the lofty cedars thereof, that shows the majesty of His face. His mouth is said to be most sweet; and sweet it is indeed, in regard of the gracious words which proceed from it. No doctrine is so sweet—as Christ's doctrine; no precepts are so sweet—as Christ's precepts; no promises are so sweet—as Christ's promises. But to sum up all excellencies and perfections, in a word, He is said to be "altogether lovely!"
There is no lovely person or thing in the world—which can properly be called "altogether lovely." Many defects may be found in the most amiable people, and much insufficiency may be found in the most desirable things—but Christ is "altogether lovely!" He is unlovely in no respect, there being no spot or blemish, no defect or imperfection, to be found in Him. And He is lovely in every respect; there is an incomparable and transcendent amiableness in Christ's person in every regard. In the person of Christ, the human nature and the divine nature are in conjunction. He is most lovely in regard of both. His human nature is compounded of both body and soul.
His body is most beautiful, a most glorious beauty and luster is put upon it. Whatever it was in His state of humiliation, be sure it has a glorious beauty now in His state of exaltation. It is called a glorious body, Philippians 3:21. If the face of Moses shone with resplendent glory, after his conversing forty days with God in Mount Sinai which was below, how does the body of Christ shine, which has been over seventeen hundred years in Mount Zion, which is above? I am persuaded that Christ's body is the most beautiful of all visible creatures—but the beauty of Christ's soul excels. No creature whatever has such shining excellencies as are in the soul of Christ. All the excellencies that are, or ever were, in any creature are like a feather laid in the balance with the exceeding weight of His glorious excellencies and perfections!
Christ excelled the most excellent man who ever lived, as to spiritual endowments, when He was here upon earth. He excelled Moses in meekness, Solomon in wisdom, Job in patience; and how much does He excel—now that He is in heaven! He excels not only the spirits of just men made perfect—but also the most glorious and holy angels that never sinned. If any creatures have wisdom, it is but a beam; Christ is the sun! If they have goodness, it is but a drop; in Christ is the ocean! If they have holiness, it is but a spark or dark shadow; Christ is the brightness of His Father's glory! If they have the Spirit, they have it but in some measure; the Spirit is given to Christ without measure! John 3:34.
Christ is most lovely in His manhood, so nearly united unto His Godhead; and how lovely is He in His Godhead! As God, He is equal in all glorious excellencies with the Father. Christ's Godhead implies excellency of being; He calls Himself "I am," John 8:28; excellency of glory, therefore called the "Lord of glory," I Corinthians 2:8; and "King of glory," Psalm 24:7, "Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be you lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." This is interpreted by some to be spoken of Christ's ascension, and the angels and saints making way for His triumphant entrance and possession of His heavenly palace. Many descriptions are given in the New Testament of this lovely person, I shall mention only one, Colossians 1:15-19, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." If we read, believe, and consider this great description of Christ, we must see and say that Christ is most excellent and amiable—and that no beloved is like the beloved of true Christians. Therefore it is, that true Christians love Christ because of His loveliness.
Reason 3. True Christians love Christ—because of His wondrous love, which He bears to them.He loves them with a first love and with a free love. He loves them with a tender and compassionate love, with an active or doing love, with a passive or suffering love. His love is infinite, without bounds of limits. His love is superlative, without comparison. His love is transcendent, beyond comprehension. His love is immutable—without change. His love is eternal—without termination or end. He loved them when they were polluted in their sins, and washed them with His own blood; He loved them when they were naked in their souls, and clothed them with robes of His righteousness. He loves them in their sickness and sorrows, and is their Comforter; He loves them in their needs and straits, and is their Benefactor. He loves them in life, and is the life of their souls; He loves them at death, and is the stay of their hearts; and He loves them after death, and will be their portion forever! "May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand!" Ephesians 3:19
There is great reason that true Christians should love Christ because of His loveliness; and there is further reason that they should love Him because of His love; especially when both are incomparable, both are incomprehensible. I shall further speak (God willing) unto both these with other reasons, under the motives in the exhortation to excite Christians to the love of Christ.
Use 1. For INFORMATION, hence learn that there are but few Christians in deed and in truth.The time has been when openly to profess the name of a Christian argued true love unto Jesus Christ. I mean in the primitive times, when Christians were persecuted by the heathens, as in the ten first dreadful persecutions under the heathen emperors, when the world was watered with Christian blood; then, especially at some times, and in some, yes, most places, whoever openly acknowledged themselves to be Christians exposed themselves unto imprisonments, racks, tortures, burnings, and the most cruel deaths! It was the truth and strength of love unto Jesus Christ—which carried them through such great sufferings as many, in those days, underwent for the sake of Jesus Christ. But now there are multitudes of bare nominal professors. They call themselves Christians, being baptized in Christ's name—but they are altogether without love to Christ, whose name they bear.
Surely there are but few, even in our own land where Christianity is to be found in as great purity as in any place—who love Jesus Christ in sincerity. No grossly ignorant people truly love Christ; such as do not know Christ cannot love Him! There is no desire after, nor love unto, an unknown thing; an unknown evil cannot be hated—and an unknown good cannot be loved. No grossly erroneous people truly love Christ; such as do not receive Christ's truths—cannot love Christ's person, John 14:23, "If any man loves Me, he will keep My words." The words of Christ include not only the words of His precepts—but also the words of His doctrine. Such as err grossly, I mean in the fundamental truths of Christianity, are no friends to Christ—but His enemies—so far are they from true love unto Him.
No grossly wicked people truly love Christ, such as profane people who blaspheme the name of God in their hideous oaths. The love of Christ teaches a holy awe and reverence of God's name. Those who are persecutors of God's people for righteousness' sake; how can they love the Head—when they hate the members! Christ accounted Himself to be persecuted in the persecution of His members, Acts 9:4, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me!" and verse 5, "I am Jesus, whom you persecute." And surely persecutors of Christ do not love Christ.
Such are scoffers at religion who deride holiness, and mock at godly people, whereby they evidently show their contempt of the holiness of Christ, from whom the saints derive all theirs—how can they love Christ who condemn Him and 'His image'?
No unrighteous people truly love Christ, who are unrighteous in their business and dealings. Christ strictly requires justice and righteousness, and how can they love Him who do not keep His commandments?
No covetous people truly love Christ. The Apostle said, 1 John 2:15, "If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." And, I may say, that if any man loves the world (that is, with his chief love), the love of the Son is not in him. The love cannot be chiefly set upon things below here on earth—and also upon Christ who is above in heaven.
No licentious people truly love Christ; no drunkards, adulterers, or any that indulge themselves in unlawful delights. The love of Christ teaches us to deny such lusts and to mortify them.
No mere moral people that are unconverted—truly love Christ. No hypocrites who have a form of godliness—but are without the power of it—truly love Christ. The former may be loving and courteous unto men—but they do not really love Him.
In a word, none who are under the reigning power of any sin—truly love Christ. The reign of sin in the heart—is inconsistent with the love of Christ in the heart. Now let us separate all these aforementioned people from the rest: grossly ignorant people, grossly erroneous people, grossly wicked people, the profane, the persecutors of God's people, the scoffers at religion, all unrighteous people, all covetous people, drunkards, adulterers, and all licentious people; mere moral people, hypocrites, and all who are under the reigning power of sin—and how few will there be left—who truly love Christ! And, by consequence, there will appear but very few that are true Christians.
Use 2. EXAMINATION.Here you may know whether you are true Christians—by the trial of your love unto Jesus Christ. Examine yourselves, therefore, whether you love Jesus Christ, whom you have never seen. The most in the world do love truly those people and things only which they have seen; but can you say that you sincerely and chiefly love Jesus Christ, whom you have not seen? The love of the most, arises from the notice which the eye gives of the object beloved; but does your love arise from the notice which the ear has given by the word of the amiableness which there is in Christ?
Question. How may we know whether we have true love to Jesus Christ?
Answer. You may know the truth of your love to Jesus Christ,
first, by your desires after Christ's presence;
second, by your prizing and frequenting those ways wherein Christ is to be found, and seeking Him therein;
third, by your love of Christ's image;
fourth, by your obedience to Christ's commandments.
First, by your desires after Christ's presence.Wherever there is a great love to any person, there is a desire after the presence of that person. Do you sincerely and earnestly desire Christ's presence? There is a twofold presence of Christ: His gracious presence here—and His glorious presence at the last day.
1. There is Christ's GRACIOUS presence here, John 14:18, "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you." You desire that such friends and relations would come unto you—but do you desire chiefly that Christ would come unto you? Christ comes to His disciples in a way of gracious communication, in a way of gracious manifestation, and in a way of sweet consolation, which results from both.
(1) Do you desire that Christ would come unto you in a way of gracious communication? Are your desires after communication of spiritual light from Christ to teach and guide you; of spiritual life from Christ to quicken and encourage you; of spiritual strength from Christ to support you under burdens, and enable you unto duties? Do you earnestly desire communications of all kinds, and further degrees of grace, out of that fullness of grace which is in Christ? Do you hunger and thirst after Christ's righteousness; not only that it may be imputed to you for your justification—but also that it may be more and more imparted unto you for your further sanctification; that you might be brought, and hereby wrought, into a more perfect conformity and likeness unto Jesus Christ? This is an evidence of true love to Christ.
(2) Do you desire that Christ would come unto you in a way of gracious manifestation? John 14:21, "He who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." Do you earnestly desire the fulfilling of this promise so that Christ would reveal to you more of the loveliness of His person and the love of His heart? Are you grieved when your Beloved withdraws Himself; when the curtain is drawn, and a cloud interposes between you and this Sun of righteousness; when He hides and veils His face from you; and do you long after Christ's return and the discoveries of Himself unto you?
"Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly; be as a roe, or a young deer upon the mountains of spices. Leap over the mountains, skip over the hills, and make haste unto my soul, which is love-sick for You in Your absence from me. O that I might see Your face which is so fair! That I might hear Your voice which is so sweet! That I might feel Your presence which is so refreshing! O that I might behold Your heart-ravishing smiles!"
"Lord, I am Yours and You are mine! You have loved me and given Yourself for me. Your love to me was from everlasting and is unchangeable."
Are these like the breathings of your soul? Such are the breathings of love to Christ.
(3) Do you desire that Christ would come unto you in a way of sweet consolation, which results from this communication and manifestation? Are you desirous after the oil of gladness which Christ is anointed with; that He would give you the unction of the Spirit—not only to sanctify you—but also to comfort you? Do you desire that your hearts may be filled with spiritual joys, the joys of the Holy Spirit, which are unspeakable and full of glory? Do you desire the comforts which Christ gives—beyond all the comforts which the world and the flesh can give; the comforts which come in at the door of faith—beyond all the comforts that come in at the door of sense; those joys which are in Christ—beyond all joys that can be found in the most sweet and desirable creature enjoyment? This evidences true love to Christ. Thus do you desire Christ's gracious presence.
2. And do you desire also Christ's GLORIOUS presence at the last day? When He promises, "Surely I come quickly!" can your hearts make answer, as Revelation 22:20, "Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus!" Are you glad you live so near the end of the world, that the Lord is at hand, and that the coming of the Lord draws nearer and nearer every day? Can you lift up your heads with joy when you look towards the place where the Lord Jesus Christ is, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high; and think with comfort that yet a little while, and He who shall come, will come, and will not now tarry much longer; that within a short while Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet, and that your eyes shall see Him in the brightness of His glory and majesty? Do you look and long for the day of Christ's glorious appearance from heaven, when you shall be awakened out of your graves (where you may take a short sleep before), and be gathered together by the angels and be caught up in the clouds, and there (in shining garments of immortality on your bodies, and of Christ's unspotted righteousness in your souls) be brought with shoutings and acclamations of joy and triumph into His presence, who will then acquit you graciously for all sin and punishment, own you openly for His faithful servants, crown you gloriously before the whole world, and receive you to live and reign with Him to all eternity? Have you such desires as these?
If some of you say you are afraid of Christ's glorious appearance lest then you should be rejected because you fear you are not ready and prepared; yet can you say also from your hearts that you desire above all things that you may be ready; that you endeavor to make ready; that it is your grief that you are no more ready; and that, if you were ready, and were assured of your interest in Christ, you could desire that Christ would come immediately, and that you desire no greater happiness and felicity than to live with Christ in glory; and that you account the presence of Christ in heaven to be the happiness of heaven? These are evidences of true desires after Christ's glorious presence, and of sincere love to Christ.
Secondly, you may know your love to Christ by your prizing and frequenting those ways wherein Christ is to be found, and seeking Him therein.Such are the ways of His ordinances, both public and private. Christ's way is His sanctuary, and in His ordinances He may be found. Do you give your attendance unto ordinances, public prayer, the preaching of the Word, the Lord's Supper; and do you prize these ordinances because of the stamp of Christ's institution upon them, because of Christ's presence in them, and because they are a means of bringing you and Christ together? And, when you are under ordinances—do you diligently seek after Christ in ordinances? Do not you rest in the outside and carnal part of ordinances—in meeting with God's people there? Or do you design, desire, and endeavor after something more inward, spiritual, and incomparably sweet—so that you may meet with Christ there; that you may have fellowship with the Father and the Son there? And, upon this account, can you say as David, "How lovely are Your tabernacles, O Lord! A day in Your courts is better than a thousand!" Psalm 84:10. "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after—that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple!" Psalm 27:4. Do you also seek after Christ in your families and in your closets? Do you seek Him in secret prayer and meditation? Your love to Christ expresses itself in your desires; your desires show themselves in your seeking after Christ in His ways.
Thirdly, you may know your love to Christ by your love of Christ's image.There is the image of Christ on His Word, and there is the image of Christ on His people.
(1) Do you love the image of Christ on His WORD?As Caesar's coin bore Caesar's image and superscription, so the Word of the Scriptures, which is the Word of Christ, bears Christ's image and superscription. Do you love the Scriptures, because of Christ's image which is upon them? Do You love the Word of doctrine in the Scriptures because of the image of Christ's truth and wisdom upon it? Do you love the Word of precepts in the Scriptures, because of the image of Christ's holiness upon it? Do you love the Word of threatenings in the Scriptures, because of the image of Christ's righteousness upon it? Do you love the Word of promises in the Scriptures, because of the image of Christ's goodness, grace, and love upon it? You have Christ's Word in your Bibles, and sometimes sounding in your ears—but does the Word of Christ dwell in your hearts? You receive Christ's Word in the light of it, do you receive His word in the love of it?
(2) Do you love Christ's image on His PEOPLE?If you do not love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love your Lord whom you have not seen? All of Christ's disciples bear Christ's image; if you love the original you will love the picture, although it is but imperfectly drawn. If you love the perfect goodness and holiness which is in Christ—you will love the goodness and holiness which you see in the saints, although they have it but in an imperfect measure. Do you love Christ's disciples, and that because of Christ's image, although they differ from you in some secondary matters?
Fourthly, you may know your love to Christ by your obedience unto His commandments.John 14:15, 21, "If you love Me, keep My commandments. He who has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me." You have Christ's commandments—do you keep them? You know them, do you practice them? Your love to Christ—is known by your obedience unto Christ. If Christ is your beloved—He is also your Lord; if you have true affection for Him—you will yield subjection unto Him. If you love Christ, you are careful to please Christ; you are not the servants of the flesh, to take care to please the flesh—but you are the servants of Christ to take care above all people and all things—to please Christ.
If you love Christ, you are fearful of giving just occasion of offense unto men but, above all, you are fearful of displeasing and offending your Lord. Do you labor so to walk that you may please Christ in the way of sincere and universal obedience? Are you hearty in your obedience unto Christ? Have you a respect to all His commandments? Is it your grief—that you fall short in your obedience unto Christ? If you can say in the presence of the Lord and your hearts (do not give your tongues the lie) that you do not live and allow yourselves in the practice of any known sin which Christ forbids, nor in the neglect of any known duty which Christ commands—this is a sure evidence of true love to Jesus Christ. Thus for the trial of your love unto Christ.
Use 3. For REPROOF.
First, to all such as have NO love at all unto this unseen Christ.And will not the use of information, together with the use of trial, leave a conviction upon many of you, that you are without this love? Allow, then, the word of reproof. What! Are you creatures made by Christ, and made for Christ—and yet have no love to Him? Are you rational creatures? Do you have souls capable of knowing Him and loving Him, and yet have no love? Are some of you professors, and yet do not love Christ? Do you make a show of devotion—and yet are without any true affection to the object of your worship? Sinners, have you not heard enough to engage and draw forth your love unto Christ? What do you think? Is there such a person as Jesus Christ—or is there not? Have you no Bibles? And, if you have, have you not read therein the history concerning Jesus Christ? And what do you think of that history? Is it true or false? Do you think that the gospel is a cunningly devised fable? Are not the Scriptures, which contain this gospel, the very Word of the true God—who cannot lie? Are there not such characters of divinity upon them as are sufficient to evidence their divine origin to any who search into them and do not willfully shut their eyes against the light which there shines? And, if it is so that there is indeed such a person as Jesus Christ (as there is nothing more true), how is it that you have no love unto Him? Do not the Scriptures reveal and set forth Christ as the most excellent and amiable Person—and yet do you not love Him? Can you love people and things that are but imperfectly lovely—and not love Jesus Christ who is altogether lovely!
Can you love one who has some inferior honor and power and authority—and not love Jesus Christ who is the Lord of glory, who has all power and authority both in heaven and earth? Can you love such as have some earthly wisdom and learning—and not love Jesus Christ, who is the wisdom of the Father, who knows all things, and whose wisdom is divine? Can you love such as are somewhat liberal and bountiful—and not love Christ, whose bounty is superlative, and whose gifts are most rich and transcendent? Can you love friends who are somewhat kind—and not love Jesus Christ, who is the best friend that men ever had? Can you love a benefactor who feeds you, and clothes you, and gives money to you—and yet not love Christ, who offers to feed your hunger-starved souls with the Bread of Life, to clothe your naked souls with the robes of His righteousness, and to give the spiritual riches of grace to you, the least of which is of more worth than all the riches of the earth?
Can you love riches—and not love Christ, in whom there are treasures, and by whom you may have not only spiritual riches here—but also the heavenly inheritance hereafter? Can you love honors—and not love Christ, by whom you may have the highest dignities, the honor of children to the King of heaven now, and a crown of glory in the heavenly world? Can you love liberty—and not love Christ, by whom you may be made free from the slavery of the devil and your own lusts? Can you love safety—and not love Christ, who is the only Savior of mankind, and who alone puts you in safety from the reach of the worst of enemies, and worst of evils? Can you love peace—and not love Christ, by whom you may have peace with God and peace in your own conscience? Can you love pleasures and delights—and not love Christ, by whom you may have joys unspeakable and full of glory, besides those everlasting pleasures which are to come?
Without love to Christ, you are under the guilt of all your sins; neither your original sin, nor any of your actual sins are pardoned. They all lie upon your own score, and you must answer for all yourselves, and how fearful is your account likely to be!
Without love to Christ, you are under the curse; not only under the curse of the law for your breach of the law—but also under the curse of the gospel, for disobedience to this command of the gospel, which requires you to love the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 16:22, "If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed! Come, O Lord!" That is, let him be cursed until the Lord comes. And, when the Lord comes, will He take off the curse from you? No! He will come in flaming fire, to take vengeance upon you, having threatened then to punish all such with everlasting destruction as shall be found to have disobeyed the gospel. And what will become of you? Sodom and Gomorrah, those wicked cities, will then be punished dreadfully with a worse fire than that which was rained down from heaven, and consumed their people and habitations together; I mean, with the fire of hell which will be kindled and kept alive unto eternity by the breath of the Almighty!
But you who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, notwithstanding all discoveries of Him, invitations to Him, and offers of kindnesses by Him—you will be punished more dreadfully than the wicked Sodomites! It will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for them—than for you. The torments of hell will be intolerable for any—but they will be most intolerable for gospel sinners; the fire of hell will burn upon you the most fiercely, and the scourge of conscience will lash you the most furiously! Consider this, all you who have no love to Christ; otherwise, when He comes to judgment, He will tear you to pieces and there will be none to deliver you! If you do not have the sweet fire of love to Christ kindled in your hearts here—you will be thrown into the dreadful fire of hell which will burn you everlastingly!
Second, this reproves such of you as have SOME love—but it is very little love to Jesus Christ.You who love Christ—is not your love very small not only in comparison with His love to you—but also in comparison with the love which some Christians have attained unto? How strong was the love of the Apostles unto Christ—when they left all and followed Him, especially after the resurrection of Christ and His ascension into heaven. O what a fire of love unto Christ was then enkindled within them! Hence, that bold profession which they make of Christ before the chief priests and elders, Acts 4. Hence their rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ, when they were beaten for their owning and preaching of Him, Acts 5:41.
The love of Peter and John was great unto Christ, and the love of Paul was not inferior unto the love of the chief Apostles; hence it was that he took such pains to preach the gospel in so many parts of the world, Romans 15:19. See, also, how he approves himself to be a minister of Christ, and gives evidences of his strong love to his Master, 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, "I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along." 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
And, chapter 12:10, "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for Christ's sake." The ground of all of this was the love of Christ which constrained him, 2 Corinthians 5:14. He had such a love to Christ that he professed, Philippians 1:21, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!" Christ was his life, and his life was wholly at Christ's devotion.
But where is such love now to be found? I might speak also of the love of some ancient fathers, Ignatius, Polycarp. Jerome, and others. Take one instance in Jerome who thus expressed his love unto Christ, "If my father were weeping on his knees before me, my mother hanging on my neck behind me, my brethren, sisters, and kinsfolk howling on every side, to retain me in a sinful course—I would fling my mother to the ground, run over my father, despise all my kindred, and tread them under my feet, that I might run unto Christ!"
How little is your love in comparison with the love of those famous heroes, I mean those eminent martyrs, who have despised the flames and endured such racking and torturing deaths for the love which they bore unto Jesus Christ; the fire of their love burning stronger within them—than the fire without them in which their bodies were consumed! Is not your love also small in comparison with the love of our late reformers, which fired them with such courage and resolution as to withstand a whole world of anti-Christian fury and opposition? Is your love comparable to that of many eminent divines and private Christians of our own nation, of the age immediately going before, who are now asleep in their graves; but how few are there come up in their place?
It is observed, and it is greatly to be lamented, that there is, of late years, a great decay in the power of godliness among those who are sincere; and is it not evident in the great decay of love, even in true Christians, unto Jesus Christ? Are not you dwarfs in comparison with others? Are not you babes in Christ, and weaklings in your love to Christ? Is it not evident that you have but little love to Christ—when He is but little in your thoughts and meditations? The thoughts are the handmaids of love. Where the love is strong and ardent, there many thoughts will be attending upon it; but will not your hearts tell you that your thoughts of Christ are very few? You can think often of your food—but how little do your thoughts feed upon Christ, who is the Bread of Life? You can often think of your raiment—but how little do you think of the robes of Christ's righteousness? You can think often of your earthly friends—but how little do you think of Jesus Christ, your friend in heaven?
Objects of sense are often not only in your eyes—but also in your thoughts—but how little is Christ entertained in your thoughts, who is the object of faith? Moreover, does it not argue little love to Christ, that you speak so little of Him and for Him in your conversing one with another? If you had much love to Christ—would not this love breathe forth more in your discourses?
You can readily speak of yourselves, and do often, either directly or indirectly, commend yourselves, which reveals your great self-love. How little do you commend your Lord and Master, and extol His excellencies with your lips! And does not this evidence that you have but little love to Him in your hearts? You can readily discourse of news and public occurrences (which is lawful and needful)—but when you leave Christ quite out of your discourse, it shows that you have not an abundance of love to Him because, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak of their riches. Such as have much love to pleasures will be often speaking of that subject, such as love their friends much will be often speaking and commending them when they are in company. And when you speak but little of Christ, it is a sign that you love Him but little.
Does not the little zeal which you have for Christ's honor in the world argue that you have but little love to Him? Where is your activity for Christ to promote His interest among those relations and friends that you have acquaintance with? Do you labor all you can—to bring others into the ways of God and into acquaintance with Christ? Besides, will not your little secret devotion, argue your little affection unto Christ? Will not your closets, or other retiring places, witness how little you are in secret prayer and converse with Christ there? Brief and straitened prayer in secret, argues a heart straitened in love to Jesus Christ.
Does not your backwardness to the exercise of this love to Christ, show the weakness of your love? How slow of heart are you to the love of Christ! How hard to be persuaded! You need not be persuaded to love your wives, if they are kind and helpful; you need not be persuaded to love your children, if they are kind and hopeful; you need not be persuaded to love your friends, if they are friendly and faithful; and yet, whatever attractions of love, the most strong of any—are in Jesus Christ! You are backward to this love.
Need I say more to convince you that you have but little love to Christ? Will not your own conscience, from these clear evidences, sufficiently witness the thing? And now, Christians, think what a sin, what a shame, what a folly it is—that you should have so little love unto Jesus Christ! If it is so great a sin for such as are strangers unto Christ, to have no love at all to Him, so that it brings them under the most dreadful curse, surely it cannot be a small sin that you (who are His true disciples) should have but little love unto Him! Is it not very displeasing to the Father that you should have but little love to His Son? If He does not hate you because of your relation unto Christ—yet is He not angry with you for the lukewarmness of your affection unto Christ, which sin is aggravated by the nearness of your relation?
Is it not dishonorable unto Christ—that you should have so little love to Him? Do you not, in effect, say there is no great worth or amiableness in Him—when you have no great love unto Him? Are you not hereby ungrateful unto Christ beyond what can be paralleled by any ingratitude unto the most obliging earthly friend? Is it not your shame that you should have so little love to Christ—when He so much deserves your love? Besides the infinite excellencies and perfections which are in Him—does not His infinite kindness unto you, call for both the truth and the strength of your love?
Think what He has done for you; think what He has suffered for you. Think what He has purchased for you; think what He has promised to you. Think what He has laid out for you; think what He has laid up for you—and yet to have but little love to Christ! Yet to make such poor returns!
Moreover, is it not your folly to have but little love to Christ? Do not you hereby bereave yourselves, or debar yourselves of such a peace as passes all understanding, of such sweetness and comfort both in the strength of your love—and in the sense of His love as is inconceivable? Is not injury and harm unto yourselves, the consequence of your little love unto Christ? Must you not draw on so heavily in the ways of God, as Pharaoh when his chariot-wheels were taken off? Love to Christ is like wheels in your motion for Christ, and like oil to the wheels which makes you ready unto any good work which He calls you unto! But when you have but little love unto Christ, you must be more slow in your motions, more sluggish in Christ's service. You will not, you cannot, take those pains in the work of the Lord and be as zealous as you might, and should be, for your Master's glory.
To conclude, if you have but little love to Christ—you will be apt to faint in the day of adversity, to shrink when you are called to take up His cross and suffer for His sake. Lesser sufferings will discompose you, greater sufferings will frighten and amaze you, and you will be in danger of turning into fearful apostates in time of great trials. There is need of great love to Christ, as well as great faith—to carry you through sufferings with courage, that you may persevere unto the end.
Use 4.For exhortation unto the love of Jesus Christ, whom you have never seen; this is the use chiefly designed in the choice of this subject, and which I shall most largely insist upon. In the prosecution of it, I shall give some motives and then some directions.
The motives to induce and excite you unto the love of this unseen Christ, may be drawn—
(1) from the consideration of what Christ is;
(2) from the consideration of Christ's love;
(3) froth the consideration of Christ's benefits;
(4) from the consideration of that love which Christians have, and should have, unto Christ.
The first sort of motives, may be drawn from the consideration of what Christ is:
(1) what He is in Himself;
(2) what He is to the Father;
(3) what He is unto true Christians.
First, consider what Christ is in HIMSELF.In general, He is the most amiable Person and the most suitable Object for your love. If you ask of the days which are past, since the day that God created man upon the earth; if you seek from one side of heaven unto the other; if you make inquiry into all the parts of the earth—you will never find that there never was, or is to be found—any person so lovely, so beautiful, and so every way deserving your love—as the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a matchless, transcendent, and incomparable beauty and excellency in Him!
How passionately are some foolish men in love with the external beauty which they see in some women! They love the exact symmetry of parts, and lovely proportion of the body—the amiable features and lovely mixtures of colors in the face—the beauty of the eyes and features, their graceful motions, and amorous glances. How does this ravish the hearts of some foolish men, although the most beautiful woman in the world is no better than a mixture of clay, dirt, and corruption enclosed in a lovely skin, which sickness will cause to look pale and wane—and death will fully mar and spoil! But the amiableness and beauty of Christ is more transcendent and permanent, and therefore, a more fit object for your love. Christ is fairer than the children of men. He is all fair—without any spot; altogether lovely—without any blemish or deformity!
I have already spoken of the glorious beauty which is in Christ's glorified body—the most lovely of any visible creature which God has made; and also of the shining excellencies which are in Christ's glorified soul—so nearly joined to the divinity. Could we suppose all the loveliness that ever was seen or found in the most lovely people that ever lived, were to meet in one person—how lovely would that person be? Yet such, though ever so resplendent beauty—would be but a dark shadow compared with the brightness of our most beautiful Christ! Can you love the imperfect beauty which you see in creatures, and will you not love the perfect beauty which there is in Christ! Can you love a fading beauty which soon withers like the flower—and will you not love Christ—whose beauty never decays—but always abides more fresh than beauty in the flower of youth! Can you be soon affected with beautiful objects which are before the eye of your sense, and will you not be affected with this far more beautiful object, the Lord Jesus Christ—who is so clearly discernible by the eye of faith? If the eye of your faith was open and clear, to look upon the transcendent loveliness which is in Christ—you could not but love Him! Could you see the glances of His eye, and the sweet smiles of His lovely face—your hearts would be overcome and ravished with love, and filled with ecstasies of joy and ineffable delight! "Yes! He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, this my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
More particularly, there are the most amiable qualifications in Christ's person, to attract and draw forth your love. I shall instance in these six:
(1) His greatness and authority;
(2) His holiness and purity;
(3) His wisdom and omniscience;
(4) His truth and faithfulness;
(5) His fullness and all sufficiency;
(6) His kindness and mercy.
1. Consider Christ's GREATNESS and AUTHORITY.The eagle does not pursue after flies. Great souls are not affected, unless it is with great things. There is none so great as Jesus Christ! He is most great in honor and dignity; He is most great in power and authority.
Excellency of majesty greatly engages the love, and commands the hearts, as well as the obedience of subjects. Those princes that have the greatest power and authority, when they do not abuse their place by unrighteousness and cruelty, by usurpation and tyranny—are the darlings of the people. If power is managed with mercifulness, and authority with kindness, towards those who are under command—so highly do princes advance themselves hereby in the esteem and love of their people, that they will be ready to spend their estates, and venture their lives, in their service!
Christ is the Prince of the kings of the earth. He is clothed with the highest honor, arrayed with the most excellent majesty, decked with the largest power, and invested with the greatest authority. He is the King and Lord of glory! He is exalted to higher dignity than the greatest potentate that ever lived upon the earth! Yes, He is advanced above all thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, of the glorious angels that are in heaven! All power is given to him in heaven and earth, Matthew 28:18. He does what He will in heaven—the angels are at His beck and execute His will, go and come at His command. And He has power on earth. He is the Head of the church, and Head over all unto the church. He can restrain His enemies, and conquer them, and bring them under His feet at His pleasure. And whatever severity He shows sometimes in executing His judgments and taking vengeance on the wicked—He never abuses His power by unrighteousness. He is most just towards the worst, and punishes them less that their iniquities deserve. But what kindness and mercifulness does He show to His own subjects and people; and will not you have a great love—to so great a person! Should not the consideration of the high dignity of your Lord raise your love of Him unto a great height? When Christ has such authority, shall He not command your hearts? When Christ is invested with such power that He can defend you against the rage and cruelty of your most powerful and malicious adversaries, will not you greatly love such a magnanimous person, as well as confidently trust under the shadow of His government?
2. Consider Christ's HOLINESS and PURITY.Some great people who abound in wealth and honor, who have some kind of amiable natural qualities, and acquired accomplishments which might render them very useful in their countries—yet through their wickedness and debauchery, their filthiness and impurity, their impious and wicked lives—they stain all other excellencies and render themselves the objects of contempt and scorn—unto those who, otherwise, would bear great respect and love to them.
But Christ is most amiable for His holiness and purity. He was holy in His birth; although born of a sinful woman—yet He was born without sin. When He lived among impure sinners—He kept His garments from all stains and spots. His heart and life were free from all pollutions, and never was He guilty of the least transgression, either in action or the least inclination. O what an excellent person was Christ when here upon the earth! How glorious in holiness! What bright beams of perfect purity and spotless innocency, did Christ scatter in those dark places of the earth where He lived, and among those dark and sullied sinners with whom He conversed! How, then, does Christ shine in holiness—now that He is entered into the Holy of Holies which is above, and there converses with none but such as are holy!
Because of Christ's holiness and purity—He is now the object of the hatred and enmity of the wicked and ungodly. Because Christ is an enemy unto their darling and beloved lusts—they have an enmity against the holiness of Christ. When He was here below, He told His brethren, John 7:7, "The world hates Me—because I testify that what it does is evil!" And the hatred of the world to Christ, still abides upon the same account.
Christ reproves the world of sin—and this the world cannot endure. The bright beams of Christ's holiness—wound their sore eyes! His holy precepts offend their carnal hearts! Yet, notwithstanding this, He is a most suitable object for the love of saints—upon the account of His holiness. Such as are truly judicious, will love them most, who are best; and such are really the best men and women in the world as are most holy. If you are Christ's disciples indeed, you love holiness wherever you see it; and can you love the imperfect holiness which is in God's people, and will you not love Christ who is perfectly, infinitely holy Himself, and the spring of all that holiness which is to be found in any of the children of men? If there is such a wonderful luster in the derived holiness of some, that it makes them to shine as lights in a dark world—what a wonderful transcendent luster is there in the original holiness which is in Christ! Which, as it is a matter of great admiration, so it calls for great affection, Psalm 119:140, "Your Word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it." Christ is the Word; not the written Word—but the essential Word: and He is very pure. Therefore you should love Him!
3. Consider Christ's WISDOM and OMNISCIENCE.Wisdom makes the face to shine. Learning advances some very highly in esteem; such as know most, if their morals are suitable to their intellects—are most admired by those who understand what true worth is, especially if there is spiritual wisdom in conjunction with natural and acquired knowledge. If there is such grace in the heart, as well as much knowledge in the head—how worthy are such to be loved?
Daniel was a man of great learning and wisdom, skilled in all the learning of the Chaldeans which was not sinful and diabolical; and besides this, He was endowed with divine wisdom by the teachings of the Holy Spirit. The angel told this Daniel—that he was a man greatly beloved. He was greatly beloved by his king, and greatly beloved by his people, and by all—except some few who envied his prosperity and favor. If Daniel's wisdom rendered him so universally amiable, how then should Christ be loved—because of His wisdom and knowledge? The wisdom of Christ is far beyond the wisdom of Daniel, or the wisdom of Solomon, who was wiser than Daniel. These men had wisdom which made them famous and esteemed in their day—but Christ is wisdom itself—the wisdom of the Father. They were children of wisdom—but Christ is the Father and fountain of wisdom. They had some particles of wisdom—but the treasures of wisdom are hid and laid up in Christ! Colossians 2:3.
They had learning and knowledge—but their knowledge was ignorance, when compared with the knowledge of Christ. They knew some things—but Christ is omniscient and knows all things; they knew many secrets of nature—but Christ knows the secrets of heaven, the mind of God—and nothing is hidden from Him. How greatly beloved, then, should Christ be! If you are wise—you will love Christ; if you would be wise—you must love Christ, who is so infinitely wise Himself, and who alone can make you truly wise!
4. Consider Christ's TRUTH and FAITHFULNESS.Truth and faithfulness are very rare in our day, when falsehood and deceit so much abound. What was said of old, Isaiah 59:14, "truth fails and falls in the street," the same may be said now; and, therefore, such as are faithful and without deceit, are worthy of great esteem and love. But what love should you give unto Christ—who is not only true—but truth itself; who is most faithful in all His undertakings and promises, and never deceived any who put their trust in Him—who is often better than His Word! You will love a true and faithful friend—and will you not love a true and faithful Christ, the best friend of men? As Christ's faithfulness should encourage your confidence in Him—so it should endear your love unto Him.
5. Consider Christ's FULLNESS and ALL-SUFFICIENCY.Such as have large and plentiful estates are greatly loved by the poor and indigent—if they find them also to have large hearts and open hands, ready to distribute unto their needs and necessities. None have such fullness and plenty as the Lord Jesus Christ—and none are so willing to give of His fullness unto the needs of such as are poor in spirit, and sensible of their need, Colossians 1:19, "It has pleased the Father, that in Him all fullness should dwell!" There is not only fullness in Him—but all fullness; not the fullness of the cistern—but the fullness of the fountain; not the fullness only of sufficiency for Himself—but the fullness of redundancy for His people; not some fullness for some things—but all fullness for all things that are good; not fullness for some time, and to continue but for awhile—but all fullness dwells in Him, and abides for all His people throughout all generations. And this not to depend on the pleasure of men, whose minds may alter—but it has pleased the Father, and depends upon the pleasure of the Father, who is always the same, and whose good-will to His people is unchangeable.
There is a twofold fullness in Christ for His people here on earth, besides His fullness of glory, which has a reference to eternity. There is a fullness of merit, and a fullness of spirit:
(1) There is a fullness of merit, in that full and perfect righteousness which He has wrought out for them, and which He imputes unto them for their justification.
(2) There is a fullness of Spirit in Christ, the Spirit being given unto Him without measure, which He imparts and communicates unto them for their sanctification and consolation.
Christians, you are empty—Christ is full! You are poor—Christ is rich! You are indigent—Christ is all-sufficient! Will not you love Christ, who is able to do for you beyond what you are able to ask or think, and is as willing as He is able to supply all your spiritual necessities? Will you not love Christ, who is an overflowing and everflowing fountain of goodness; who has inexhaustible treasures of graces and comforts in Him, which are set open before you, and unto you—and every day you may freely come and fetch such jewels out of this treasury as are of higher worth, greater use, than any earthly riches, in the greatest plenty and abundance?
6. Consider Christ's KINDNESS and MERCY.All the kindness of men—is unkindness, when compared with the kindness of Christ! All the mercies of men—are cruelty, when compared with the mercies of Christ. He is all kindness, all affection, all compassion, all pity, all grace, all mercy—to miserable lost mankind. I shall not enlarge here, because this will fall under the second head of arguments taken from the consideration of Christ's love. If you add the kindness and mercy of Christ, to all His other excellencies and perfections, surely He will appear to have incomparable the greatest attractions in Him for love, unto any who have not a very thick veil of unbelief before their eyes, to hide Him from their view!
Secondly, consider what Christ is to the FATHER:
(1) He is most nearly related to Him.
(2) He is most dearly beloved by Him.
(1) Christ is most nearly RELATED, and most perfectly LIKE, unto the Father.All the creatures are related to God as their Maker—but God's children are more nearly related. The saints are nearly related to God, who are His children by adoption and regeneration. The angels are more nearly related to God, who are His sons by creation and never were separated from Him by sin. But the Lord Jesus Christ is most nearly related unto God, who is His Son by eternal generation. Thus, Christ is the only begotten Son of God, and bears His image most perfectly, being the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person. This near relation of Christ, and His likeness to the Father, calls for your strongest love.
You have reason to love the Son. You will love the sons of princes, and will you not love the Son of God? You will love your own children who bear your own image, and will you not love Christ, who is the express image of God? We read of Christ, Philippians 2:6, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery, to be equal with God." Christ (without robbery or derogation unto God) is equal with God in all glorious excellencies and perfections and, therefore, your highest and strongest love is His due; and, without robbery, you cannot withhold it from Him.
(2) Christ is most dearly BELOVED by the Father.2 Peter 1:17, "For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory—This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." He, then, who is worthy of the Father's love, surely is worthy of yours; He who is chiefly beloved by the Father—should chiefly be beloved by you.
Thirdly, consider what Christ is unto all true CHRISTIANS.If you are a true believer, Christ is your Shepherd. He feeds you in green pastures; He has laid down His life for His sheep—and will you not love such a Shepherd?
Christ is your Captain who has conquered all your enemies for you, and leads you on to take the spoils—and will you not love such a Leader?
Christ is your Prophet who teaches you the most excellent things that ever were taught, the highest mysteries, the most glorious truths, which are of the greatest concern to know and believe; and He teaches you in the most excellent way by His Word and Spirit; opening your understandings as well as His truths, giving you light and an eye to discern this light—and will you not love such a Teacher?
Christ is your High Priest who has made an atoning sacrifice for your sins to reconcile you unto God. He now makes intercession for you—which is incessant and prevalent. Will you not love such an Advocate?
Christ is your King, who rules you most powerfully and righteously, most wisely and graciously—and will you not love such a Sovereign?
Christ is your Benefactor, the most kind and bountiful, and no gifts are comparable unto His gifts—and will you not love such a Friend?
Christ is your Brother, and, if He is not ashamed to own you for His brothers and sisters, will it not be a shame if you should withhold from Him your hearts?
Christ is your Husband, and you are joined to Him by the Spirit and faith in such bonds as cannot be broken—and will not you embrace Him in the arms of your dearest love?
Christ is your Redeemer, who rescued and delivered you from sin and Satan, from death and wrath! He has redeemed you by price, the price of His blood. Has He not, then, given the greatest price for your love? He has redeemed you also by conquest, and shall He not make a conquest of your hearts?
Surely you are altogether unworthy of these relations if you do not present Christ with your most endeared and choicest affections.
Thus far the motives drawn from the consideration of what Christ is.