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1st. It is antecedent in respect of our love: 1 John iv. 10. * Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” His love goes before ours. The Father loves the child, when the child knows not the Father; much less loves him. Yea, we are by nature Seoarvytic, Rom. i. 30. haters of God. He is in his own nature optXávšpatroc, a lover of men: and surely all mutual love between him and us, must begin on his hand. 2dly. In respect of all other causes of love whatever. It goes not only before our love, but also any thing in us, that is lovely." Rom. v. 8. ‘God commendeth his love towards us, in that whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Not only his love, but the eminent fruit thereof, is made out towards us, as sinners. Sin holds out all of unloveliness, and undesirableness, that can be in a creature. The very mention of that, removes all causes, all moving occasions of love whatever. Yet as such, have we the commendation of the Father's love unto us, by a most signal testimony. Not only when we have done no good, but when we are in our blood, doth he love us. Not because we are better than others; but because himself is infinitely good. His kindness appears when we are foolish and disobedient. Hence he is said to love the world, that is, those who have nothing but what is in and of the world, whose whole lies in evil. 2dly. Our love is consequential in both these regards. (1st.) In respect of the love of God. Never did creature turn his affections towards God, if the heart of God were not first set upon him. (2dly.) In respect of sufficient causes of love. God must be revealed unto us as lovely and desirable, as a fit and suitable object unto the soul to set up its rest upon, before we can bear any love unto him. The saints (in this sense) do not love God for nothing, but for that excellency, loveliness, and desirableness that is in him. As the psalmist says in one particular, Psal. cxvi. 19. “I love the Lord because !” so may we in general, we love the Lord because ! Or, as David, in another case, ‘What have I how done, is there
not a cause?” If any man inquire about our love to God, we may say, What have we now done, is there not a cause 2 3dly. They differ in this also. The love of God is like himself, equal, constant, not capable of augmentation, or diminution: our love is like ourselves, unequal, increasing: waning, growing, declining. His, like the sun, always the same in its light, though a cloud may sometimes interpose, ours, as the moon, hath its enlargements and straitenings. (1st.) The love of the Father is equal, &c." whom he loves, he loves unto the end, and he loves them always alike. * The strength of Israel is not a man that he should repent.” On whom he fixes his love, it is immutable: it doth not grow to eternity, it is not diminished at any time. It is an eternal love, that had no beginning, that shall have no ending; that cannot be heightened by any act of ours, that cannot be lessened by any thing, in us; I say, in itself it is thus, otherwise in a twofold regard it may admit of change. [1st.] In respect of its fruits; it is, as I said, a fruitful love, a love of bounty. In reference unto those fruits, it may sometimes be greater, sometimes less: its communications are various. Who among the saints, finds it not? What life, what light, what strength, sometimes? and again, how dead, how dark, how weak, as God is pleased to let out, or to restrain the fruits of his love? All the graces of the Spirit in us, all sanctified enjoyments whatever, are fruits of his love. How variously these are dispensed, how differently at sundry seasons, to the same persons, experience will abundantly testify. [2dly.] In respect of its discoveries and manifestations. ‘He sheds abroad his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost;’ Rom. v. 5. gives us a sense of it: manifests it unto us. Now this is “various and changeable, sometimes more, sometimes less: now he shines, anon hides his face, as it may be for our profit. Our Father will not always chide, lest we be cast down; he doth not always smile, lest we be full and neglect him: but yet still his love in itself is the same. When for a little moment he hides his face, yet he gathers us with everlasting kindness.
Ob. But you will say, This comes nigh to that blasphemy, that God loves his people in their sinning, as well as in their strictest obedience: and if so, who will care to serve him more, or to walk with him unto well-pleasing?
Ans. There are few truths of Christ, which from some or other, have not received like entertainment with this. Terms and appellations are at the will of every imposer: things are not at all varied by them. The love of God in itself, is the eternal purpose and act of his will. This is no more changeable than God himself; if it were, no flesh could be saved : but it 'changeth not, and we are not consumed. What then 3 Loves he his people in their sinning? Yes, his people, not their sinning. Alters she not his love towards them? Not the purpose of his will, but the dispensations of his grace. He rebukes them, he chastens them, he hides his face from them, he smites them, he fills them with a sense of indignation; but woe, woe would it be to us, should he change in his love, or take away his kindness from us. Those very things which seem to be demonstrations of the change of his affections towards his, do as clearly proceed from love, as those which seem to be the most genuine issues thereof. But will not this encourage to sin? He never tasted of the love of God, that can seriously make this objection. The doctrine of grace may be turned into wantonness, the principle cannot. I shall not wrong the saints, by giving other answer to this objection. Detestation of sin in any may well consist with the acceptation of their persons, and their designation to life eternal.
But now our love to God is ebbing and flowing, waning and increasing. We lose our first love, and we grow again in love." Scarce a day at a stand. What poor creatures are we? How unlike the Lord and his love? 'unstable as water, we cannot excel.” Now it is, ‘though all men forsake thee, I will not; anon, ‘I know not the man.” One day, ‘I shall never be moved, my hill is so strong; the next, “all men are liars, I shall perish.” Whenever was the time, wherever was the place, that our love was one day equal towards God 2
f Mal. iii. 6. & Psal. xxxix. 11. Heb. xii. 7, 8. Rev. iii. 19. Isa. viii. 17. lvii. 17. Job vi. 3.
Psal. vi. 6. xxxviii. 3––5, &c. -
And thus these agreements and discrepancies, do farther describe that mutual love of the Father and the saints, wherein they hold communion. Other instances, as to the person of the Father I shall not give, but endeavour to make some improvement of this, in the next chapter.
Inferences on the former doctrine concerning communion with
the Father in love.
HAVING thus discovered the nature of that distinct communion which we have with the Father, it remaineth that we give some exhortations unto it, directions in it, and take some observations from it.
1. First, then, this is a duty wherein it is most evident that Christians are but little exercised, namely, in holding immediate communion with the Father in love. Unacquaintedness with our mercies, our privileges, is our sin, as well as our trouble. We hearken not to the voice of the Spirit, a " which is given unto us, that we may know the things, that are freely bestowed on us of God.' This makes us go heavily, when we might rejoice; and to be weak, where we might be strong in the Lord. How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with this privilege, of holding immediate communion with the Father in love? With what anxious doubtful thoughts, do they look upon him? What fears, what questionings are there, of his good will and kindness? At the best, many think there is no sweetness at all in him towards us, but what is purchased at the high price of the blood of Jesus : it is true, that alone is the way of communication : but the free fountain and spring of all, is in the bosom of the Father ;b.eternal life was with the Father, and is manifested unto us.' Let us then,
(1.) Eye the Father as love ; look not on him, as an always lowering Father, but as one most kind and tender.
a 1 Cor. ii. 12. b Zion, viv FrpOS matépa, xaà épavegadnipiv. 1 John i. 2.
c Psal. ciii. 9. Mic. vii. 18.
Let us look on him by faith, as one that hath had thoughts of kindness towards us from everlasting. It is misapprehension of God, that makes any run from him, who have the least breathing wrought in them after him. “They that know thee will put their trust in thee.’ Men cannot abide with God in spiritual meditations. He loseth souls’ company by their want of this insight into his love. They fix their thoughts only on his terrible majesty, severity, and greatness, and so their spirits are not endeared. Would a soul contimually eye his everlasting tenderness and compassion, his thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, his present gracious acceptance, it could not bear an hour's absence from him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with him one hour. Let then this be the saints' first notion of the Father, as one full of eternal free love towards them: let their hearts and thoughts be filled with breaking through all discouragements that lie in the way. To raise them hereunto, let them consider, [1..] Whose love it is? It is the love of him who is in himself all-sufficient, infinitely satiated with himself and his own glorious excellencies and perfections; who hath no need to go forth with his love unto others, nor to seek an object of it without himself. There might he rest with delight and complacency to eternity. He is sufficient unto his own love. He had his Soh also, his eternal" wisdom to rejoice and delight himself in from all eternity; Prov. viii.30. This might take up and satiate the whole delight of the Father; but he will love his saints also. And it is such a love, as wherein he seeks not his own satisfaction only, but our good therein also. The love of a God, the love of a Father, whose proper outgoings are kindness and bounty. [2.] What kind of love it is ? And it is, 1st. Eternal. It was fixed on us before the foundation of the world ; before we were, or had done the least good; then were his thoughts upon us, then was his delight in us. Then did the Son rejoice in the thoughts of fulfilling his Father's delight in him; Prov. viii. 30. Yea, the delight of the Father in the Som there mentioned, is not so much his absolute delight in him, as the express image of his person,
* Em PT Evvyw optime in Dei filium quadrat, patris delicias. Mercer in loc, • Rom ix. 11, 12. Acts xv. 18. 2 Tim. i. 9, ii. 16. Prov. viii. 31. Jer, xxxi. 3