Page images

principal part of our renovation into his image. Nothing renders us so like unto God as our love unto Jesus Christ, for he is the principal object of his love; in him doth his soul rest, in him is he always well pleased. Wherever this is wanting, whatever there may be besides, there is nothing of the image of God. He that loves not Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha; for he is unlike unto God, his carnal mind is enmity against God.

(2.) Among those who are in the image of God, the angels above are of the first consideration. We are indeed as yet much in the dark unto the things that are within the veil.' They are above us as unto our present capacity, and hid from us, as unto our present state; but there is enough in the Scripture to manifest the adhesion of angels unto the person of Christ by divine love. For love proceeding from sight, is the life of the church above; as love proceeding from faith, is the life of the church below. And this life the angels themselves do live. For,

[ocr errors]

[1.] They were all unto their inexpressible present advantage and security for the future, brought into that recovery and recapitulation of all things which God hath made in him. He hath gathered together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him;' Eph. i. 10. The things in heaven, and things in earth, angels above, and men below, were originally united in the love of God. God's love unto them, whence springs their mutual love between themselves, was a bond of union between them, rendering them one complete family of God in heaven and earth, as it is called, Eph. iii. 15. On the entrance of sin, whereby mankind forfeited their interest in the love of God, and lost all love unto him, or any thing for him, this union was utterly dissolved, and mutual enmity came into the place of its principle in love. God is pleased to gather up these divided parts of his family into one, in one head, which is Christ Jesus. And as there is hereby a union established again between angels and the church in love, so their adherence unto the head, the centre, life, and spring of this union, is by love and no otherwise. It is not faith, but love that is the bond of this union between Christ and them; and herein no small part of their blessedness and glory in heaven doth consist.

[2.] That worship, adoration, service, and obedience which they yield unto him, are all in like manner animated with love and delight. In love they cleave unto him, in love they worship and serve him. They had a command to worship him on his nativity, Heb. i. 6. and they did it with joy, exultation, and praises, all effects of love and delight; Luke ii. 13, 14. And as they continue about the throne of God, they say, with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing;' Rev. v. 11, 12. Their continual ascription of glory and praise unto him, is an effect of reverential love and delight; and from thence also is their concernment in his gospel and grace; Eph. iii. 9, 10. 1 Pet. i. 12. Nor without this love in the highest degree, can it be conceived how they should be blessed and happy in their continual employment. For they are 'all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for the heirs of salvation;' Heb. i. 14. Were they not acted herein by their fervent love unto Christ, they could have no delight in their own ministry.

We have not, we cannot have in this world, a full comprehension of the nature of angelical love. Our notions are but dark and uncertain in things whereof we can have no experience. Wherefore, we cannot have here a clear intuition into the nature of the love of spirits, whilst our own is mixed with what derives from the actings of the animal spirits of our bodies also. But the blessedness of angels doth not consist in the endowments of their nature, that they are great in power, light, knowledge, and wisdom; for, notwithstanding these things, many of them became devils. But the excellency and blessedness of the angelical state consist in these two things:

1st. That they are disposed, and able constantly, inseparably, universally, uninterruptedly to cleave unto God in love. And as they do so unto God, so they do unto the person of Christ, and through him as their head unto God, even the Father.

2dly. Add hereunto that gracious reflex sense which they have of the glory, dignity, eternal sweetness, and satisfaction which ariseth from hence, and we have the sum of angelical blessedness.

(3.) The church of mankind is the other part of the rational creation whereon the image of God is renewed. Love unto the person of Christ proceeding from faith, is their life, their joy and glory.

It was so unto the church under the Old Testament. The whole book of Canticles is designed to no other purpose, but variously to shadow forth, to insinuate and represent the mutual love of Christ and the church. Blessed is he who understands the sayings of that book, and hath the experience of them in his heart. The forty-fifth Psalm, among others, is designed unto the same purpose. All the glorious descriptions which are given of his person in the residue of the prophets, were only means to excite love unto him, and desires after him. Hence is he called "annon, Hag. ii. 7.The desire of all nations.' He alone who is desirable unto, and the only beloved of the church, gathered out of all nations.

The clear revelation of the person of Christ, so as to render him the direct object of our love, with the causes and reasons of it, is one of the most eminent privileges of the New Testament. And it is variously attested in precepts, promises, instances, and solemn approbations.

Wherever he supposeth or requireth this love in any of his disciples, it is not only as their duty, as that which they were obliged unto by the precepts of the gospel, but as that without which no other duty whatever is accepted by him. 'If,' saith he, 'ye love me, keep my commandments;' John xiv. 15. He so requires love unto himself, as not to expect or approve of any obedience unto his commands without it. It is a great and blessed duty to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ; yet will not he accept of it unless it proceeds out of love unto his person. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? feed my lambs ;' John xxi. 15-17. Three times did he repeat the same words to him who had failed in his love towards him by denying him thrice. Without this love unto him, he requires of none to feed his sheep, nor will accept of what they pretend to do therein. It were a blessed thing, if a due apprehension hereof did always abide with them that are called unto that work.

[ocr errors]

Hereunto doth he annex those blessed promises which comprise the whole of our peace, safety, and consolation in

this world. He,' saith he, that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself unto him;' John xiv. 21. and ver. 23. My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.' What heart can conceive, what tongue can express, the glory of these promises, or the least part of the grace that is contained in them? Who can conceive aright of the divine condescension, love, and grace that are expressed in them? How little a portion is it that we know of God in these things? But if we value them not, if we labour not for an experience of them according unto our measure, we have neither lot nor portion in the gospel. The presence and abode of God with us as a Father manifesting himself to be such unto us, in the infallible pledges and assurances of our adoption; the presence of Christ with us, revealing himself unto us, with all those ineffable mercies wherewith these things are accompanied, are all contained in them. And these promises are peculiarly given unto them that love the person of Christ, and in the exercise of love towards him.

Hereunto are designed the gospel Gerazim and Ebal, the denunciation of blessings and curses. As blessings are declared to be their portion, who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity;' Eph. vi. 24. so those who love him not, have the substance of all curses denounced against them, even 'Anathema Maranatha;' 1 Cor. xvi. 22. So far shall such persons be, whatever they may profess of outward obedience unto the gospel, from any blessed interest in the promises of it, as that they are justly liable unto final excision from the church in this world, and eternal malediction in that which is to come.

It is evident, therefore, that the love of the church, of believers, unto the person of Christ, is not a distempered fancy, not a deluding imagination, as some have blasphemed, but that which the nature of their relation unto him makes necessary; that wherein they express their renovation into the image of God, that which the Scripture indispensably requires of them, and whereon all their spiritual comforts do depend. These things being spoken in general, the particular nature, effects, operations, and motives of this divine love, must now be farther inquired into.



The nature, operations, and causes of divine love, as it respects
the person of Christ.

THAT We may the better understand that love unto the per-
son of Christ which we plead for, some things must be pre-
mised concerning the nature of divine love in general, and
thereon its application unto the particular actings and ex-
ercise of it which we inquire into, will be plain and easy.

God hath endowed our nature with a faculty and ability of fixing our love upon himself. Many can understand nothing of love, but the adherence of their minds and souls unto things visible and sensible, capable of a present natural enjoyment. For things unseen, especially such as are eternal and infinite, they suppose they have a veneration, a religious respect, a devout adoration; but how they should love them, they cannot understand. And the apostle doth grant that there is a greater difficulty in loving things that cannot be seen, than in loving those which are always visibly present unto us; 1 John iv. 20. Howbeit this divine love hath a more fixed station and prevalency in the minds of men, than any other kind of love whatever. For,

1. The principal end why God endued our natures with that great and ruling affection, that hath the most eminent and peculiar power and interest in our souls, was in the first place, that it might be fixed on himself, that it might be the instrument of our adherence unto him. He did not create this affection in us, that we might be able by it to cast ourselves into the embraces of things natural and sensual. No affection hath such power in the soul to cause it to cleave unto its object, and to work it into a conformity unto it. Most other affections are transient in their operations, and work by a transport of nature, as anger, joy, fear, and the like; but love is capable of a constant exercise, is a spring unto all other affections, and unites the soul with an efficacy not easy to be expressed unto its object. And shall we think that God, who made all things for himself, did create this ruling affection in and with our natures,



« PreviousContinue »