« PreviousContinue »
Christianity, who imagine that the placing of the most intense affections of our souls on the person of Christ, the loving him with all our hearts because of his love, our being overcome thereby, until we are sick of love, the constant motions of our souls towards him with delight and adherence, are but fancies and imaginations. I renounce that religion, be it whose it will, that teacheth, insinuateth, or giveth countenance unto such abominations. That doctrine is as discrepant from the gospel as the Alcoran, as contrary to the experience of believers as what is acted in and by the devils, which instructs men unto a contempt of the most fervent love unto Christ, or casts reflections upon it. I had rather choose my eternal lot and portion with the meanest believer, who being effectually sensible of the love of Christ, spends his days in mourning that he can love him no more than he finds himself on his utmost endeavours for the discharge of his duty to do, than with the best of them, whose vain speculations, and a false pretence of reason, puff them up unto a contempt of these things.
(2.) This love of Christ unto the church, is singular in all those qualifications which render love obliging unto reciprocal affections. It is so in its reality. There can be no love amongst men, but will derive something from that disorder which is in their affections, in their highest actings. But the love of Christ is pure and absolutely free from any alloy. There cannot be the least suspicion of any thing of self in it. And it is absolutely undeserved. Nothing can be found amongst men that can represent or exemplify its freedom from any desert on our part. The most candid and ingenuous love amongst us, is, when we love another for his worth, excellency, and usefulness, though we have no singu, lar benefit of them ourselves. But not the least of any these things were found in them on whom he set his love, until they were wrought in them, as effects of that love which he set upon them.
Men sometimes may rise up unto such a high degree and instance in love, as that they will even die for one another. But then it must be on a superlative esteem which they have of their worth and merit. It may be, saith the apostle, treating of the love of Christ, and of God in him, that for a good man one would even dare to die ;' Rom. v. 7. It
must be for a good man, one who is justly esteemed 'commune bonum,' a public good to mankind; one whose benignity is ready to exercise loving-kindness on all occasions, which is the estate of a good man; peradventure some would even dare to die for such a man. This is the height of what love among men can arise unto; and if it hath been instanced in any, it hath been accompanied with an open mixture of vain-glory, and desire of renown. But the Lord Christ placed his love on us, that love from whence he died for us, when we were sinners and ungodly; that is, every thing which might render us unamiable and undeserving. Though we were as deformed as sin could render us, and more deeply indebted than the whole creation could pay or answer, yet did he fix his love upon us, to free us from that condition, and to render us meet for the most intimate society with himself. Never was there love which had such effects, which cost him so dear in whom it was, and proved so advantageous unto them on whom it was placed. In the pursuit of it he underwent every thing that is evil in his own person, and we receive every thing that is good in the favour of God, and eternal blessedness.
On the account of these things, the apostle ascribeth a constraining power unto the love of Christ, 2 Cor. v. 14. And if it constraineth us unto any return unto him, it doth so unto that of love in the first place. For no suitable return can be made for love but love, at least not without it. As love cannot be purchased, for if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned,' Cant. viii. 7. so if a man would give all the world for a requital of love, without love, it would be despised. To fancy that all the love of Christ unto us, consists in the precepts and promises of the gospel, and all our love unto him, in the observance of his commands, without a real love in him unto our persons like that of a 'husband unto a wife,' Eph. v. 25, 26. or a holy affection in our hearts and minds unto his person, is to overthrow the whole power of religion, to despoil it of its life and soul, leaving nothing but the carcase of it.
This love unto Christ, and unto God in him, because of his love unto us, is the principal instance of divine love, the touchstone of its reality and sincerity. Whatever men may
boast of their affectionate endearments unto the divine goodness, if it be not founded in a sense of this love of Christ and the love of God in him, they are but empty notions they flourish withal, and their deceived hearts feed upon ashes. It is in Christ alone that God is declared to be love, without an apprehension whereof, none can love him as they ought. In him alone, that infinite goodness which is the peculiar object of divine love, is truly represented unto us, without any such deceiving phantasms, as the workings of fancy, or depravation of reason may impose upon us. And on him doth the saving communication of all the effects of it depend. And an infinite condescension is it in the Holy God, so to express his glory in the face of Jesus Christ,' or to propose himself as the object of our love in and through him. For considering our weakness, as to an immediate comprehension of the infinite excellencies of the divine nature, or to bear the rays of his resplendent glory, seeing none can see his face and live, it is the most adorable effect of divine wisdom and grace, that we are admitted unto the contemplation of them, in the person of Jesus Christ.
There is yet farther evidence to be given unto this love unto the person of Christ, from all those blessed effects of it which are declared in the Scripture, and whereof believers have the experience in themselves. But something I have spoken concerning them formerly in my discourse about communion with God; and the nature of the present design, will not admit of enlargement upon them.
Conformity unto Christ, and following his example.
THE third thing proposed to declare the use of the person of Christ in religion, is that conformity which is required of us unto him. This is the great design and projection Every one of them hath the idea or image mind; in the eye of faith, as it is repre
of all believers. of Christ in his
sented unto him in the glass of the gospel. Κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν δόξαν κυρίου, 2 Cor. iii. 18.
We behold his glory in a
glass,' which implants the image of it on our minds. And hereby the mind is transformed into the same image, made like unto Christ so represented unto us, which is the conformity we speak of. Hence every true believer hath his heart under the conduct of an habitual inclination and desire to be like unto Christ. And it were easy to demonstrate that where this is not, there is neither faith nor love. Faith will cast the soul into the form or frame of the thing believed; Rom. vi. 17. And all sincere love worketh an assimilation. Wherefore the best evidence of a real principle of the life of God in any soul, of the sincerity of faith, love, and obedience, is an internal cordial endeavour, operative on all occasions, after conformity unto Jesus Christ.
There are two parts of the duty proposed. The first respects the internal grace and holiness of the human nature of Christ; the other his example in duties of obedience. And both of them, both materially, as to the things wherein they consist, and formally, as they were his, or in him, belong unto the constitution of a true disciple.
1. Internal conformity unto his habitual grace and holiness, is the fundamental design of a Christian life. That which is the best without it, is a pretended imitation of his example in outward duties of obedience. I call it pretended, because where the first design is wanting, it is no more but so; nor is it acceptable to Christ, nor approved by him. And therefore an attempt unto that end hath often issued in formality, hypocrisy, and superstition. I shall therefore lay down the grounds of this design, the nature of it, and the means of its pursuit.
God, in the human nature of Christ did perfectly renew that blessed image of his on our nature, which we lost in Adam, with an addition of many glorious endowments which Adam was not made partaker of. God did not renew it in his nature, as though that portion of it whereof he was partaker, had ever been destitute or deprived of it, as it is with the same nature in all other persons. For he derived not his nature from Adam in the same way that we do; nor was he ever in Adam as the public representative of our nature as we were. But our nature in him had the image of God implanted in it, which was lost and separated from the same nature, in all other instances of its subsistence. It pleased
the Father that in him all fulness should dwell, that he should be full of grace and truth, and in all things have the pre-eminence. But of these gracious endowments of the human nature of Christ, I have discoursed elsewhere.
2. One end of God in filling the human nature of Christ with all grace, in implanting his glorious image upon it, was, that he might in him propose an example of what he would by the same grace renew us unto, and what we ought in a way of duty to labour after. The fulness of grace was necessary unto the human nature of Christ, from its hypostatical union with the Son of God. For whereas therein the 'fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily,' it became rò ayov, a holy thing;' Luke i. 35. It was also necessary unto him, as unto his own obedience in the flesh, wherein he fulfilled all righteousness, did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;' 1 Pet ii. 22. And it was so unto the discharge of the office he undertook: for such an highpriest became us, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;' Heb. vii. 26. Howbeit the infinite wisdom of God had this farther design in it also, namely, that he might be the pattern and example of the renovation of the image of God in us, and of the glory that doth ensue thereon. He is in the eye of God as the idea of what he intends in us, in the communication of grace and glory; and he ought to be so in ours as unto all that we aim at in a way of duty.
He hath predestinated us to be conformed unto the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren;' Rom. viii. 30. In the collation of all grace on Christ, God designed to make him the first-born of many brethren; that is, not only to give him the power and authority of the first-born, with the trust of the whole inheritance to be communicated unto them, but also as the example of what he would bring them unto. For both he that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren;' Heb. ii. 11. It is Christ who sanctifieth believers; yet is it from God, who first sanctified him, that he and they might be of one, and so become brethren, as bearing the image of the same Father. God designed and gave unto Christ grace and glory; and he did it that he might be the prototype of