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the joy, the delight, the love, the glory of the church below. 'Thou whom our souls do love,' is the title whereby they know him and converse with him, Cant. i. 7. iii. 1. 4. This is he who is the desire of all nations, the beloved of God and men.
The mutual intercourse on this ground of love between Christ and the church, is the life and soul of the whole creation; for on the account hereof all things consist in him.
There is more glory under the eye of God, in the sighs, groans, and mournings of poor souls filled with the love of Christ, after the enjoyment of him according to his promises, in their fervent prayers for his manifestation of himself unto them, in the refreshments and unspeakable joys which they have in his gracious visits and embraces of his love, than in the thrones and diadems of all the monarchs on the earth. Nor will they themselves part with the ineffable satisfactions which they have in these things, for all that this world can do for them, or unto them. Mallem suere cum Christo, quam regnare cum Cæsare.' These things have not only rendered prisons and dungeons more desirable unto them than the most goodly palaces on future accounts; but have made them really places of such refreshment and joys, as men shall seek in vain to extract out of all the comforts that this world can afford.
O curvæ in terris animæ et cœlestium inanes.
Many there are who not comprehending, not being affected with that divine, spiritual description of the person of Christ which is given us by the Holy Ghost in the Scripture, do feign unto themselves false representations of him by images and pictures, so to excite carnal and corrupt affections in their minds. By the help of their outward senses, they reflect on their imaginations the shape of a human body, cast into postures and circumstances dolorous or triumphant, and so by the working of their fancy raise a commotion of mind in themselves, which they suppose to be love unto Christ. But all these idols are teachers of lies. The true beauty and amiableness of the person of Christ, which is the formal object and cause of divine love, is so far from being represented herein, as that the mind is thereby wholly diverted from the contemplation of it.
For no more can be so pictured unto us, but what may belong unto a mere man, and what is arbitrarily referred unto Christ, not by faith, but by corrupt imagination.
The beauty of the person of Christ as represented in the Scripture, consists in things invisible unto the eyes of flesh. They are such as no hand of man can represent or shadow. It is the eye of faith alone that can see this king in his beauty. What else can contemplate on the uncreated glories of his divine nature? Can the hand of man represent the union of his natures in the same person, wherein he is peculiarly amiable? What eye can discern the mutual communications of the properties of his different natures in the same person which depends thereon, whence it is that God laid down his life for us, and purchased his church with his own blood? In these things, O vain man, doth the loveliness of the person of Christ unto the souls of believers consist, and not in those strokes of art which fancy hath guided a skilful hand and pencil unto. And what eye of flesh can discern the inhabitation of the Spirit in all fulness in the human nature? Can his condescension, his love, his grace, his power, his compassion, his offices, his fitness and ability to save sinners, be deciphered on a tablet, or engraven on wood or stone? However such pictures may be adorned, however beautified and enriched, they are not that Christ which the soul of the spouse doth love; they are not any means of representing his love unto us, or of conveying our love unto him; they only divert the minds of superstitious persons from the Son of God, unto the embraces of a cloud, composed of fancy and imagination.
Others there are who abhor these idols, and when they have so done, commit sacrilege. As they reject images, so they seem to do all love unto the person of Christ, distinct from other acts of obedience, as a fond imagination. But the most superstitious love unto Christ, that is, love acted in ways tainted with superstition, is better than none at all. But with what eyes do such persons read the Scriptures? With what hearts do they consider them? What do they conceive is the intention of the Holy Ghost in all those descriptions which he gives us of the person of Christ as amiable and desirable above all things, making therewithal a proposal of him unto our affections, inciting us to receive
him by faith, and to cleave unto him in love? Yea to what end is our nature endued with this affection? Unto what end is the power of it renewed in us by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, if it may not be fixed on this most proper and excellent object of it?
This is the foundation of our love unto Christ, namely, the revelation and proposal of him unto us in the Scripture as altogether lovely. The discovery that is made therein. of the glorious excellencies and endowments of his person, of his love, his goodness and grace, of his worth and work, is that which engageth the affections of believers unto him. It may be said, that if there be such a proposal of him made unto all promiscuously, then all would equally discern his amiableness, and be affected with it, who assent equally unto the truth of that revelation. But it hath always fallen out otherwise. In the days of his flesh, some that looked on him could see neither form nor comeliness' in him wherefore he should be desired? Others saw his glory, 'the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' To some he is precious, unto others he is disallowed and rejected; a stone which the builders refused, when others brought it forth, crying, Grace, grace unto it, as the head of the corner. Some can see nothing but weakness in him; unto others the wisdom and power of God do evidently shine forth in him. Wherefore it must be said, that notwithstanding that open plain representation that is made of him in the Scripture, unless the Holy Spirit gives us eyes to discern it, and circumcise our hearts, by the cutting off corrupt prejudices, and all effects of unbelief, implanting in them by the efficacy of his grace this blessed affection of love unto him, all these things will make no impression on our minds.
As it was with the people on the giving of the law; notwithstanding all the great and mighty works which God had wrought among them, yet having not given them a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear,' which he affirms that he had not done, Deut. xxix. 4. they were not moved unto faith or obedience by them. So is it in the preaching of the gospel. Notwithstanding all the blessed revelation that is made of the excellencies of the person of Christ therein, yet those into whose hearts God doth not
shine to give the knowledge of his glory in his face, can discern nothing of it, nor are their hearts affected with it.
We do not therefore in these things, follow cunningly devised fables: we do not indulge unto our own fancies and imaginations; they are not unaccountable raptures or ecstacies which are pretended unto; nor such an artificial concatenation of thoughts, as some ignorant of these things do boast that they can give an account of: our love to Christ ariseth alone from the revelation that is made of him in the Scripture, is ingenerated, regulated, measured, and is to be judged thereby.
Motives unto the love of Christ.
THE motives unto this love of Christ, is the last thing on this head of our religious respect unto him, that I shall speak unto.
When God required of the church the first and highest act of religion, the sole foundation of all others, namely, to take him as their God, to own, believe, and trust in him alone as such, which is wholly due unto him for what he is, without any other consideration whatever; yet he thought meet to add a motive unto the performance of that duty from what he had done for them; Exod. xx. 1, 2. The sense of the first command is, that we should take him alone for our God; for he is so, and there is no other. But in the prescription of this duty unto the church, he minds them of the benefits which they had received from him, in bringing them out of the house of bondage.
God in his wisdom and grace ordereth all the causes and reasons of our duty, so as that all the rational powers and faculties of our souls may be exercised therein. Wherefore he doth not only propose himself unto us, nor is Christ merely proposed unto us as the proper object of our affections, but he calls us also unto the consideration of all those
things that may satisfy our souls that it is the most just, necessary, reasonable, and advantageous course for us so to fix our affections on him.
And these considerations are taken from all that he did for us, with the reasons and grounds why he did it. We love him principally and ultimately for what he is; but nextly and immediately for what he did. What he did for us, is first proposed unto us, and it is that which our souls are first affected withal. For they are originally acted in all things by a sense of the want which they have, and a desire of the blessedness which they have not. This directs them unto what he hath done for sinners. But that leads immediately unto the consideration of what he is in himself. And when our love is fixed on him, or his person, then all those things wherewith from a sense of our own wants and desires we were first affected, become motives unto the confirming and increasing of that love. This is the constant method of the Scripture; it first proposeth unto us what the Lord Christ hath done for us, especially in the discharge of his sacerdotal office, in his oblation and intercession, with the benefits which we receive thereby. Hereby it leads us unto his person, and presseth the consideration of all other things to engage our love unto him. See Phil. ii. 5-10. with chap. iii. 8-11.
Motives unto the love of Christ are so great, so many, so diffused through the whole dispensation of God in him unto us, as that they can by no hand be fully expressed, let it be allowed never so much to`enlarge in the declaration of them; much less can they be represented in that short discourse whereof but a very small part is allotted unto their consideration, such as ours is at present. The studying, the collection of them, or so many of them as we are able, the meditation on them, and improvement of them, is among the principal duties of our whole lives. What I shall offer is the reduction of them unto these two heads: 1. The acts of Christ, which is the substance of them: And, 2. The spring and fountain of those acts, which is the life of them.
1. In general they are all the acts of his mediatory office, with all the fruits of them whereof we are made partakers. There is not any thing that he did or doth in the discharge