« ZurückWeiter »
was going to cross the river Jordan, at the gels as he is above mortals: comprising in head of the Jewish tribes, to take posses himself all the graces of time, and all the sion of the land of Canaan, God addressed perfections of eternity; all the attractions of him, and said, “I will not fail thee, nor for- humanity, and all the glories of Deity. Bring sake thee; be strong and of good courage.” forward all the excellences the world ever The promise was personal; yet, after a lapse saw: add as many more as the imagination of near two thousand years, the Apostle ap- can supply: render them all complete: complies it to all believers, whose minds need bine them together—yet this is not He that the same support, and whose confidence is here demands thy affection; all this aggrederived from the same assurance; “ Let your gate is no more to him that asks, “ Lovest conversation be without covetousness; and thou me?" than a ray of light to the sun, or a be content with such things as ye have: for drop of water to the ocean: compared with he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor for- the Saviour, it is nothing, less than nothing, sake thee. So that we may boldly say, the and vanity. Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what Secondly. Observe his doings. man shall do unto me."
Look backward, and consider what he has This reflection fully justifies the plan we done. He remembered thee, O Christian, in have in view this evening—The words which thy low estate: and, without thy desert, I have read were originally addressed to Pe- without thy desire, he interposed between ter; and you are familiar with the circum- thee and the curse of the Law, and said, “Destances of the history. I will not detain you liver from going down to the pit: I have a moment in referring to them. But, my found a ransom. He came and preached dear hearers; imagine the Saviour of the peace. He established the Gospel dispensaworld looking down from his throne, and ap- tion. He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, plying this question to you—to each of you— pastors, teachers; for the work of the minisyoung or old-rich or poor-learned or illite- try. He sent the word of life to this counrate—while heaven and hell are in suspense, try, and brought it to thy door. He preserved anxiously waiting for your reply-LOVEST thee through years of ignorance and rebelTHOU ME?
lion by his power: and at length called thee The question is REASONABLE.
by his grace; so that thou art no longer a The question is IMPORTANT.
stranger and a foreigner, but a fellow-citizen The question SUPPOSES DOUBT.
with the saints, and of the household of God. : The question ADMITS OF SOLUTION.
Look upward, and consider what he is doLOVEST THOU ME?
ing. He has taken with him to heaven the 1. The question is REASONABLE. And why same heart of tenderness that he possessed on is it reasonable? Because we ought to love earth. He remembers thee, now that he is him, and the affection is just. This part of come into his kingdom. He ever liveth to our subject engages us in a train of reflec- make intercession for thee. He is moving tion, at once difficult, mortifying, and appa- the wheels of nature, and ordering the disrently presumptuous. Difficult-not from the pensations of Providence, for thy welfare: he fewness of materials, but from the necessity is making all things to work together for thy of making a selection, where proofs are so good. There is not a prayer you offer up but numberless. Mortifying—not because the he hears it. There is not a duty you distheme is irksome; but it is painful to think, charge, but he enables you to perform it. that any should want conviction of his worth, There is not a trial you endure but he susor even need to have their minds stirred up tains you under it. There is not a blessing by way of remembrance. Apparently pre- you taste but he sweetens and sanctifies it. sumptuous—for what are we, worms of the Look forward, and consider what he will earth, to take upon us to investigate his do. For he has made known the thoughts of merits, and to determine whether he is de- his heart, and bound himself by promise. He serving of the regard he requires. Oh! let is engaged to be with you in trouble; to rennot the Lord be angry while we thus speak, der your strength equal to your day; and to and, for the sake of those that hear us, at- make his grace sufficient for you. He is entempt to lay open a few of the sources of his gaged to comfort thee upon the bed of lanclaims.
guishing; to receive thy departing spirit to And, First, my brethren, we call upon you himself; to change thy vile body into a reto contemplate his person. Go, read his his semblance of his own glorious body; to contory. Look at his líkeness as it is sketched in fess thee before an assembled world; and to the Gospel. Survey his features: behold the say of those services over which thou hast so beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his tem- often blushed and groaned—“ Well done, ple. What is he? In himself he is the good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithmost amiable of all beings. He is the chief ful over a few things, I will make thee ruler of ten thousand; yea, he is altogether lovely. over many things; enter thou into the joy of He is fairer than the children of men:" fairer thy Lord.” than the children of God: as much above an- Thirdly. Mark his sufferings. For, to
enable him to be our best friend, something | thousand times implored him to accomplish! more was necessary than the wishes of be- -And all this, from day to day—from year nevolence, or the exertions of power. To ob- to year-in lengthened provocation -While tain eternal redemption for us, he submits to he, with all his patience, seemed urged to a scene of humiliation and anguish, such as ask, How long shall I be with you! how no tongue can express, or imagination con- long shall I suffer you?" O, if he were ceive. For our sakes, he who was rich, be- swayed by human passions! if he were a came poor-so poor, that while foxes had mere creature like ourselves where, at this holes, and the birds of the air had nests, the hour, should we have been found ? In the Son of man had not where to lay his head. whole universe, where is the benefactor that For our sakes, the King of glory was num- would have continued his regards a moment bered with transgressors; had his name cast longer, after meeting with such instances of out as evil; was treated as a glutton, a wine-indifference, of perverseness, of vilenessas bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, a we have been continually displaying towards madman, a demoniac, a rebel, a traitor. For the Lord that bought us ? our sakes, he, who was blessed for evermore, Even this is not all. We must not only became a man of sorrows, and acquainted observe, what he suffers for us, and from us, with grief. Before the hand of man had but also what he suffers in us. "For we touched his body, we find him in the garden have not an high priest who cannot be exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: we touched with the feeling of our infirmities", see him sweating as it were great drops of Such is the intimate union between him and blood falling down to the earth; we hear him his people, that, as the Head, he feels afresh praying, "Father, if it be possible, let this what every member bears. He that perse cup pass from me.” As we follow him from cutes them persecutes him. He that touchGethsemane to Golgotha, he gives his back eth them toucheth the apple of his eye. In to the smiters, and his cheek to them that all their affliction he is afflictedplucked off the hair; he hides not his face
“0, for this love, let rocks and hills from shame and spitting. The thorns enter
Their lasting silence break! his sacred temples.
And all harmonious human tongues
The Saviour's praises speak."
“Angels! assist our mighty joys,
Strike all your harps of gold: he dies—and well he may-he appropriates
But when you raise your highest notes, to himself the language of the prophet; " Is
His love can ne'er be told." it nothing to you, all ye that pass by ? behold, LOVEST THOU ME? and see if there be any sorrow like unto my II. The question is IMPORTANT. And why sorrow!” No; blessed Saviour ! Never was is it important ? Because we must love him; there sorrow-and, therefore, never was and the affection is not only just, but neces there love-like thine!
sary. To illustrate this, you will observe But we must observe, not only what he That this love is even necessary to our suffers for us, but what he suffers from us. sanctification. Love is a powerful and a transThe more holy any being is, the more does forming principle. By constant residence in he abhor sin. Sin is, therefore, more offen- the mind, the image stamps and leaves its sive to a saint than to a man; it is more into- own resemblance; so that every man is in re lerable to an angel than to a saint; and it is ality the same with the supreme object of his more grievous to God than to an angel. How attachment. If he loves any thing. sordid infinitely-provoking it is to him, may be in- and mean, he will become so too; while his ferred from his own expostulation and com- intercourse with purity and grandeur will be plaint, with regard to his people Israel ; “Oh, sure to refine and elevate his mind. And do not this abominable thing that I hate. Is hence it is easy to see what will be the effect it a small thing for you to weary men, but of the love of Christ : for, as he is the centre will you weary God also ? Thou hast made of all excellency, the source of all perfection, me to serve with thy sins ; thou hast wearied it follows, that, in proportion as our love to me with thine iniqnities.” And yet, how him prevails in us, it will renew us; it will much of this has he had to bear with from us, exalt us; it will change us into the same even since we have known him, or rather image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit have been known of him! O, what unprofita- of the Lord. bleness under the instructions of his word This love is necessary to give us delight in and the ordinances of his house! what in- all our religious services. We shall never sensibility and ingratitude under all his mer- proceed to advantage in any cause, especially cies! what incorrigibleness under all his if much opposed and tried, unless we feel an rebukes! what murmuring and repining un- interest in it: conviction may carry us some der the dispensations of his providence! way, but affection much farther. It is the what charging him foolishly, and unkindly, nature of love to render difficult things easy, even when his wisdom and kindness were and bitter ones sweet. What was it that performing the very things which we had a turned the seven years of hard bondage, that Jacob served for Rachel, into so many plea- 1 knew you. But hear Paul: “Grace be with sant days? The affection he bore to her who all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in inspired him. What is it that more than re- sincerity;" and remember that this is a deconciles that mother to numberless nameless cision, as well as a wish ; a promise as well anxieties and privations, in rearing her baby as a prayer-Grace shall be with them, adecharge? “Can a woman forget her sucking quate to all their exigences. I am far from child, that she should not have compassion saying that our love to him is the cause of his on the son of her womb ?" It is love that love to us: but it is unquestionably the consedoes all this. But there is no love like that quence, and therefore the evidence. His love which a redeemed sinner bears to his Re-produces ours; but our love evinces his : “I deemer; and, therefore, no pleasure can I love them that love me.” And when we conequal that which he enjoys in pleasing him. sider the attributes of his love--a love so While others say, What a weariness it is to tender, so active, so gracious, so durable, so serve the Lord! he finds his service to be changeless—what are we not authorized to perfect freedom; he calls the Sabbath a de- expect from an assured interest in it? light; he is glad when they say to him, Let LOVEST THOU ME? us go into the house of the Lord; he finds IIJ. The question SUPPOSES DOUBT. And, his word, and he eats it, and it is the joy and my brethren, is there nothing in you to renthe rejoicing of his heart. Religion renders der this love suspicious ? Let us fairly and all this our duty; but it is love alone that can honestly examine. make it our privilege; it is love alone that And First. Is there nothing to render it can bring the soul into it; it is love alone that doubtful to the world? You are not only to can make it our meat to do the will of Him be Christians, bụt to appear such. You are that sent us, and to finish his work.
required not only to believe with the heart, This love is necessary, to render our duties but to confess with the tongue; and to hold acceptable. To a renewed mind nothing can fast, not only the reality, but the profession be more desirable than the approbation of his of faith, without wavering. Like the primiMaster; nothing more delicious than the tes- tive saints, you are to be manifestly the timony that he pleases him. The humility epistles of Christ, known and read of all men; of the Christian, however, renders the attain- and not render it impossible, or even difficult, ment no easy thing. He feels the poverty to determine whose hand has inscribed you. and the unworthiness of his services; and, in- Like the patriarchs, you are to declare plainly stead of supposing that his obedience merits a that you seek a country; and not perplex all recompense for its excellences, he rather around you to decide whether you are settling wonders that it is not rejected and disdained here, or only strangers and pilgrims upon for its defects. But the Lord looketh to the earth. To them that are in darkness it is heart; and when this is given up to him, he said, “ Show yourselves.” values the motive, though we err in the cir- Have you always done this? Have you cumstances; he regards the intention, when risen up for Him against the evil doers, and we fail in the execution; and says as he did stood up for Him against the workers of inito David, “It is well that it was in thine quity ? Have you never denied his name? heart.” In judging of our services, he ad- Never concealed his truth? Never been ashammits into the estimate, not only what we do, ed to avow your principles and your connexbut what we desire to do. He judges by the ions? Have you never made concessions, in disposition; he acknowledges liberality where presence of the vain and the vicious, to escape nothing is given; and applauds heroism where a reproach which it would have been your nothing is suffered. ** For where there is glory to have deserved ; and concerning first a willing mind, it is accepted according which, binding it as a garland around your to that a man hath, and not according to that brow, you should have said, If this is to be he hath not.” But it is equally true, that vile, I will yet be more vile? Have your “ in vain we draw nigh to him with our temporizing carriage and conversation never mouth, and honour him with our lip, while inspired men of the world, whom you had the heart is far from him."
professedly left, with the hope that you were Finally. This love is necessary, to ascer- coming round again; and would in time rise tain our interest in the Saviour's regards. above all your scruples, mingle in their disHis followers are not described by their sipations, and run with them to the same exknowledge, their gifts, their creed, their process of riot ? fession; but by their cordial adherence to him. Secondly. Is there nothing to render it We may do many things materially good ; we doubtful to the Chureh? Nothing can be may abound with external privileges; we may more opposite to the spirit of the Gospel than eat and drink in his presence, and he may a dark and distrustful temper. We should preach in our streets; we may prophesy in not harbour a misgiving mind; we should not his name, and in his name cast out devils, and even take advantage of the infirmities of our do many wonderful works; and yet at the brethren, to conclude that their hearts are not great day he may profess unto us, I never | right in the sight of God. Charity suffereth
long, and is kind; charity hopeth all things, gard to right, he may, and he often does believeth all things, endureth all things. complain in his word, as if he was disappointYet it must be acknowledged that candour ed and surprised at the conduct of his prohas its difficulties as well as duties. It has fessing people. And is there not a cause! its bounds, beyond which it cannot pass. We You would think it strange if a husbandman must not be induced, by any tenderness of should expect fertility from the dry sand or judgment, to violate the express decisions the barren rock: but it would be otherwise of the word of God. There are many, and, if he had a vine planted in a rich soil, and perhaps, never more than in our day, of whom, attended with every kind of culture. Then, as the Apostle says to the Galatians, “We surely, his expectation of fruit would be nastand in doubt.” They keep our hopes and tural; and he would have reason to complain our fears equally awake through life. When if nothing was produced. And is not this, at we pray for them, we are at a loss whether least in an awful degree, true of many of us? to consider them as in the flesh or in the Spi- Estimating our proficiency by our advantages, rit. We receive them to the Lord's table, ought he not to have found in us what he not because we are convinced of their state, has yet sought for in vain? Ought he not but know not how to refuse them: and we to have seen something in our tempers and continue them in communion upon the same lives much more perfect; something in our principle. But, my brethren, these things conduct so unequivocal, something in our ought not so to be. Your ministers and your exertions and sacrifices so decisive, as to lead fellow-members are entitled to satisfaction | him to say, Now I know that thou lovest concerning, if not the degree, the reality of me; as God said to Abraham, “ Now I know your religion.
that thou fearest me, seeing thou hast not Thirdly. Is there nothing to render it withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” doubtful to yourselves? “indeed,” say some LOVEST THOU ME? of you with a sigh, “ Indeed there is.” Hence IV. The question ADMITS OF SOLUTION. I go mourning all the day. How happy It is not only possible, but comparatively should I be, if I could but make out this aw- easy to know whether we love another. ful case.
And here it will be in vain for you to allege, “ 'Tis a point I long to know;
that though this is generally true, the case on it causes anxious thought ; before us is a peculiar one, because the object Do I love the Lord or no?
is invisible. For this furnishes no objection Am I his? or am I not ?"
to our remark. Who knows not what it is to “ I am a wonder as well as a grief to my- love a being he never saw? Many of us self. If there are things that sometimes never saw Howard: but who does not feel make me hope I am not in a state of nature, veneration at the mention of his name? there are others—and these, alas ! are far Who does not glow at the perusal of his more numerous—that make me fear I am not in a state of grace. O my soul, surely
this journeys of mercy? Who does not melt
at the sight of his statue. I envy not the state implies much more than I have expe- heart of that man who can enter Št. Paul's rienced : surely there is a secret that has not Cathedral, and view, unmoved, the mild been revealed to me. If I loved him-could compassion that beams and breathes even I ever read without pleasure the book that through the cold marble image. I never unveils his glories? If I loved him-could I ever fear to die, and shrink back from the this celestial spirit; can I read his matchless
saw Cowper ; but can I think of this amiable, only event that can bring me into his pre- Letters, and his immortal Task, and not feel sence? If I loved him-could I feel so im- a thousand tender sympathies that attach me patient under those reproaches and afflictions to him, and render inviting that part of the that make me a partaker of the fellowship of universe in which his piety and his genius his sufferings?
range undepressed and uncontrolled? With "Could my heart so hard remain;
regard to those with whom you are familiar,
which you see, but that which you cannot * If I sing, or hear, or read,
see. It is their mind, their heart, their inSin is mix'd with all I do :
tellectual qualities, their moral principles You that love the Lord indeed, Tell me-is it thus with you ?"
Honesty, virtue, dignity; these are all invisi
ble: it is true you have seen their actings, Lastly. Is there nothing to render it and their effects; but you never saw them doubtful to the Saviour !” There is a sense Yet we hope you love them. in which this is impossible. His eyes are in It is also useless to urge, as an exception every place, beholding the evil and the good to the justice of our remark, that the love of No disguise can screen us from his penetra- which we have been speaking is a principle, tion. We are all transparency before him. and not a passion. We readily acknowledge But we are to distinguish the question of the propriety of the distinction, and hope it right from the question of fact." With re-I will always be remembered. Had it been
duly considered, many things would never , So great are the Saviour's charms: so powerhave been published that have caused the ful are the impressions of his grace!
* One way of truth to be evil spoken of: and many generation shall praise thy works to another, Christians would have escaped the despond- and shall declare thy mighty acts. They ency into which they have been plunged by shall abundantly utter the memory of thy judging of their state, not by the habitual great goodness, and shall sing of thy rightand prevailing bias of their soul, but the flow eousness. All thy works shall praise thee, and rise of their animal spirits. While, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. however, we allow the distinction, we deny My mouth shall speak the praise of the the inference that might be supposed to result Lord : and let all flesh bless his holy name from it For if we call this love esteem, for ever and ever." rather than attachment-still it is esteem : It will show itself by desire after intimaif we call it a principle, and not a passion, cy. Do we love another? We long to be still it is a principle--a principle that has a with him. Separation is a grief. Distance real being-and with whose operations and is a torture. We wish to annihilate the effects we are all acquainted. How then space that intervenes. We meet him at the will this love show itself?
time appointed, and feel a pleasure in the inIt will show itself by our thoughts. These terview that words can no more express than naturally follow the object of our regard, and paint can do justice to light or heat. Our it is with difficulty we can draw them off. Lord and Saviour has promised to be found The current may be diverted by force; but of them that seek him; in his word, in the the prevention removed, it soon flows in its assemblies of his people, on his throne, and wonted channel, and finds its former destina- at his table. To these, therefore, if I regard tion. Where the carcase is, there will the him, shall I repair, and with a disposition exeagles be gathered together. David could pressive of this language, “ As the hart pantsay, “ I love thee, O Lord, my strength.” | eth after the water brooks, so panteth my And what was the consequence ? " How soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! God, for the living God: when shall I come how great is the sum of them! if I should and appear before God?" Is he withdrawn count them, they are more in number than from me? I shall “ lament after the Lord." the sand: when I awake, I am still with And turning to those who are better acquaintthee.” If, then, I love the Saviour, I shall ed with him, and know his resting-places, I surely think of him. I shall reflect upon his shall anxiously ask, “ Saw ye him whom my character, his glory, and his grace. I shall soul loveth ?” dwell much upon his humiliation and suffer- Once more. This love will show jtself by ings. My thoughts will cling and cluster devotedness to the service and glory of its around his cross like bees around the hive Master. And here, my brethren, I wish to and my “meditation of him will be sweet." lay a peculiar stress. Nothing, be it ever Even when my hands are employed in the remembered, can authenticate the existence common affairs of life, my mind will often of this principle in our hearts, detached-from ascend, and take a view of the Lamb that this regard to his will. It is in this way that was slain : and I shall feel the refreshing and he himself requires us to place our love beenlivening influence of these thoughts-for yond all dispute: “He that hath my comthey are not thoughts of speculation, but of mandments, and keepeth them, he it is that affection.
loveth me. If ye love me, keep my comThis love will show itself by our speech. mandments.” Aìn I then an enemy to his “ Out of the abundance of the heart the enemies? Am I a friend to his friends? Do mouth speaketh.” When Peter and John I espouse his cause? Do I pray for the exwere ordered by the council to speak no more tension of his empire? Do I rejoice in the in the name of Jesus, what was their reply? success of his affairs? Do I weep over the “ We cannot but speak the things which we dishonours of his name? Am I sorrowful for have seen and heard.” How was it with a the solemn assembly, and is the reproach of certain woman in the company when his it my burden? Do I daily and hourly inquire, preaching had touched her heart ? “ She “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" Do lifted up her voice, and said, Blessed is the I present myself at his footstool, saying, womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.” When the multitude
“ All that I have, and all I am,
Shall be for ever thine; cried, “ Hosanna, Blessed is he that cometh Whate'er my duiy bids me give in the name of the Lord,” the Pharisees be
My cheerful hands resign. sought him that he would rebuke and silence
Yet if I might make some reserve, them. What said the Master ? " You are
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great, strangers to their views and feelings, or you
That I should give him all." would know that you require an impossibility: · for if these should hold their peace, -When God had addressed David, and the stones would immediately cry out.' "I given him the choice of war, pestilence, or