“The upright love Thee.” — Song of Solomon 1:4
THE motives of love are in a great degree the measure of its growth. The advanced believer loves his Lord for higher reasons than those which move the heart of the young convert. His affection is not more sincere or earnest, but it is, or ought to be, more steadfast and unvarying, because experience has enabled the understanding to adduce more abundant reasons for the soul’s attachment. All true love to the Redeemer is acceptable to him, and is to us an infallible evidence of our safety in him. We are far from depreciating the value or suspecting the sincerity of the warm emotions of the newly enlightened, although we prefer the more intelligent and less interested attachment of the well-instructed Christian. Let none doubt the reality of their piety because they are unable to mount to all the heights, or dive into all the depths, of that love ,which passeth knowledge. A babe’s fondness of its mother is as pleasing to her as the strong devotion of her full-grown son. The graces of faith, hope, and love are to be estimated more by their honesty than by their degree, and less by their intellectual than by their emotional characteristics. Yet, without doubt, growth in grace is as much displayed in the Christian’s love as in any other fruit of the Spirit; and it is our belief that this growth may in some degree be traced by the motives which cause it, just as we trace the motion of the shower by the position of the cloud from which it falls. It may be profitable to dwell upon the motives of love for a brief season, hoping for instruction in so doing. We do not pretend to enter fully into the present subject; and, indeed, our space prevents us as much as our incapacity. Owen’s remark will be appropriate here: — “Motives unto the love of Christ are so great, so many, so diffused through the whole dispensation of God in him auto us, as that they can by no hand be fully expressed, let it be allowed ever so much to enlarge in the declaration of them; much less can they be represented in this short discos, whereof but a very small part is allotted unto their consideration.” F69a In enumerating some of the stages of spiritual growth as indicated by higher standards of motive, we pray the Holy Spirit to guide our meditations, giving us profitable wisdom and gracious enlightenment. Let us commence in entire dependence upon his aid, and so proceed from step to step as he shall be pleased to guide us. We commence with the Alpha of Love, the first ripe fruit of affection.
I. LOVE OF GRATITUDE. “We love him because he first loved us.” Here is the starting point of love’s race. This is the rippling rill which afterwards swells into a river, the torch with which the pile of piety is kindled. The emancipated spirit loves the Savior for the freedom which he has conferred upon it; it beholds the agony with which the priceless gift was purchased, and it adores the bleeding sufferer for the pains which he so generously endured. Jesus is regarded as our benefactor, and the boons which we :receive at his hands constrain us to give hint our hearts. If enabled to receive all the doctrines of the Gospel, we bless the name of our Redeemer for his free grace manifested in our election to eternal life; for his efficacious grace exercised in calling us into his kingdom; for pardon and justification through his blood and merits, and for everlasting security by virtue of union with his divine person. Surely here is enough to create love of the highest order of fervency; and if the soul should abide for ever in contemplation of these mighty acts of grace, without entering upon the glorious survey of the character and perfections of Jesus, it need never be in want of reasons for affection. Here are coals enough to maintain the heavenly fire, if the Holy Spinet be but present to fan the flame. This order of affection is capable of producing the most eminent virtues, and stimulating the most ardent zeal. It is enough for every practical purpose of the ‘ heavenly life. But nevertheless, there is a “yet beyond.” There are other motives which are of a higher class in themselves, although very seldom more potent in their influence. This, however, is the beginning. “I love the Lord! because he has heard my voice and my supplication.” It is his kindness toward, us, rather than the graciousness of his nature which primarily attracts us.
The deeds of the Savior do not so much arouse our early admiration from their intrinsic greatness and graciousness, as from the fact that we have a share in them. This thought at first attracts all our regard, and engrosses all our meditations, Neither the person nor the offices of Christ have as yet been fully presented to the soul, — it knows him only in his gifts, and loves him only for what he has bestowed. Call this love selfish if you will, but do not condemn it. The Savior frowned not on the woman who loved much, because much had been forgiven, nor did he despise the offering of that heart which was first moved with affection at the casting out of its seven devils. Perhaps it is from a selfish reason that the infant casts the tenths of its heart around its mother, but who would therefore despise its fondness?
Base must be the man who should wish to eradicate such a heavenly germ because of the poverty of the soil in which it grew. Our love to God may even be heightened by clue and wise self-love. “There is a sinful self-love, when either we love that for a self which is not ourself, — when we lave our flesh and fleshly interest, — or when we love ourselves inordinately, more than God, and God only for ourselves; and there is a lawful self-love, when we love ourselves in the Lord and for the Lord. ” This lawful selflove leads us to love Christ, and to desire more and more of his grace, because we feel that so we shall be the more happy in our souls, and useful in our lives. This is in some degree earthy, but in no degree sinful, or anything but holy.
It is not needful that the foundation-stones should be of polished marble, they will well enough subserve their purpose if they act as the underlying ground-work of more excellent materials. If it be a crime to be ungrateful, then thankfulness is a virtue, and this issue cannot be contemptible. Young beginners frequently doubt their piety, because they feel but little disinterested affection for the Lord Jesus; let them remember that that high and excellent gift is not one of the tender grapes, but is only to be gathered beneath the ripening skies of Christian experience. “Do you love Christ?” is the important question, and if the answer be a firm avowal of attachment to him, it is decisive as to your spiritual condition, even though the further question, “Why do you love him?” should only receive for answer, “I love him because he first loved me. Indeed, in the loftiest stage of heavenly life, there must ever be a great and grateful mixture of motives in our love to our divine Master. We do not cease to love him for his mercies when, we begin to adore him for his personal excellences; on the contrary, our sense of the glory of the person who is our Redeemer increases our gratitude to him for his condescending regard of such insignificant creatures as ourselves. Thus the ripening shock of corn can hold fellowship with the tender blade, since both are debtors to the sunshine. Even the saints before the throne are in no small degree moved to rapturous love of their exalted King, by the very motive which some have been ready to undervalue as selfish and unspiritual. They sing, “Thou art worthy for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood ;” and in their song who shall ever doubt that grace, free grace, as exhibited in their own salvation, holds the highest place.
Oh new-born soul, trembling with anxiety, if thou hast not yet beheld the fair face of thy beloved, if thou canst not as yet delight in the majesty of his offices, and the wonders of his person, let thy soul be, fully alive to the richness of his grace and the preciousness of his blood.
These thou hast in thy possession, — the pledges of thine interest in him; love him then for these, and in due time he will discover unto thee fresh wonders and glories, so that thou shalt be able to exclaim, “The half has not been told me.” Let Calvary and Gethsemane endear thy Savior to thee, though as yet thou hast not seen the brightness of Tabor, or heard the eloquence of Olivet. Take the lower room if thou canst not reach another, for the lowest room is in the house, and its tables shall not be naked. But study to look into thy Redeemer’s heart, that thou mayst become more closely knit unto him. Remember there is a singular love in the bowels of our Lord Jesus to his people, so superlatively excellent, that nothing can compare with it. No husband, no wife, nor tender-hearted mother can compete with him in affection, for his love passeth the love of women.
Nothing will contribute more to make thee see Jesus Christ as admirable and lovely than a right apprehension of his love to thee; this is the constraining, ravishing, engaging, and overwhelming consideration which will infallibly Steep thee in a sea of love to him. “Although,” says Durham, “there be much in many mouths of Christ’s love, yet there are few that really know and believe the love that he hath to his people. (1 John 3:1.)
As this is the cause that so few love him, and why so many set up other beloveds beside him, so the solid faith of this and the expectation of good from him, hath a great engaging virtue to draw sinners to him.” Study then his love, and so inflame thine own; for be thou ever mindful that the love of Jesus was cozily on his part, and undeserved on thine.
Here it will be right to mention the love which springs from a sense of possession of Christ. “O Lord, thou art my God, early will I seek thee,” is the vow which results from a knowledge of our possessing God as our own. As God we ought to love him, but as our God we do love him. It is Christ as our Christ, his righteousness as imputed to us, and his atonement as our ransom, which at first cause our souls to feel the heat of love. “I cannot love another man’s Christ,” saith the anxious soul, “he must be mine, or my soul can never be knit unto him ;” but when an interest in Jesus is perceived by the understanding, then the heart cries out, “My Lord and my God, thou art mine and I will be thine.” It is worthwhile to be a man, despite all the sorrows of mortality, if we may’ have grace to talk in the fashion of a full assured believer, when he rejoices in the plenitude of his possessions, and gratefully returns his love as his only possible acknowledgment. Listen to him while he talks in the following strain: “My Beloved is mine, and I am his. The grant is clear, and my claim is firm.
Who shall despoil me of it when God hath put me in possession, and. doth own me as the lawful heritor? My Lord hath himself assured me that he is mine, and hath bid me call his Father, my father. I know of a surety that the whole Trinity are mine. ‘I will be thy God’ is my sweet assurance. O, my soul, arise and take possession; inherit thy blessedness, and cast up thy riches; enter into thy rest, and tell how the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. I will praise thee, O my God; my King, I subject, my soul unto thee.
O, my Glory, ‘in thee will I beast all the day; O, my Rock, on thee will I build all my confidence. 0 staff of my life and strength of my heart, the life of my joy and joy of my life, I will sit and dug under thy shadow, yea, I will sing a song of loves touchingMY WELL-BELOVED.” This is a precious experience, happy is the man .who enjoys it. It is the marrow of life to read, our title clear; and it is so for this reason, among others, that it creates and fosters a devout ardency of affection in the soul which is the possessor of it. Let all believers seek after it. 2. Akin to the love inspired by thankfulness, but rising a step higher in gracious attainments, is LOVE CAUSED BY ADMIRATION of the manner in which the work of the Redeemer was performed. Having loved him for the deed of salvation, the believer surveys the labors Of his Deliverer, and finds them in every part so excellent and marvelous, that he loves him with new force as he meditates upon them.HE is altogether lovely to the soul in every office which he was graciously pleased to assume. We behold him as our King, and when we see the power, the justice, and the grace which attend his throne, when we witness the conquest of his enemies, and remark his strong defense of his friends, we cannot but adore him, and exclaim, “All hail, we crown thee Lord of all.” If .his priestly office engages our meditation, it is precious to view him as the faithful High Priest; remembering the efficacy of his mediation and the prevalence of his intercession: or, if the mantle of the prophet is viewed as worn by Him upon whose brow the crown of empire and the diadem of the priesthood are both for ever placed, how becoming does it seem upon His shoulders who is wisdom’s self! In his threefold character, in which all the offices are blended but none confused — all fulfilled, but none neglected — all carried to their highest length, but none misused, — how glorious does our Redeemer appear! Sonnets will never cease for want of themes, unless it be that the penury of language should compel our wonder to abide at home, since it cannot find garments in which to clothe its thoughts. When the soul is led by the Holy Spirit to take a clear view of Jesus in his various offices, how speedily the heart is on fire with love! To see him stooping from his throne to become man, next yielding to suffering to become man’s sympathizing friend, and then bowing to death itself to become his Ransom, is enough to stir every passion of the soul. To discern him by faith as the propitiation for sin, sprinkling his own blood within the vail, and nailing our sins to his cross, is a sight which never fails to excite the reverent, yet rapturous admiration of the beholder. Who can behold the triumphs of the Prince of Peace and not applaud him? Who can know his illustrious merits, and not extol him?
Doubtless this love of admiration is ‘an afterthought, and can never be the primary acting of new-born love. The sailors rescued by the heroic daring of Grace Darling would first of all admire her as their deliverer, and afterwards, when they remembered her natural weakness, her philanthropic self-denial, her compassionate tenderness, and her heroic courage, they would give her their hearts for the manner in which the deed was done and the spirit which dictated it. In fact apart from their own safety, they could scarcely avoid paying homage to the virtue which shone so gloriously in her noble act. Never, throughout life, could they forget their personal obligation to that bravest of women; but at the same time they would declare, that had it not been their lot to have been rescued from the depths, they could not have refused their heart’s admiration of a deed so heroic, though they themselves had not been profited by it. We, who are saved by grace, have room enough in our Redeemer’s character for eternal love and wonder. His characters are so varied, and all of them so precious, that we may still gaze and adore. The Shepherd folding the lambs in his bosom, the Breaker dashing into pieces the opposing gates of brass, the Captain routing all his foes, the Brother born for adversity, and a thousand other delightful pictures of Jesus, are all calculated to stir the affections of the thoughtful Christian. It should be our endeavor to know more of Christ, that we may find more reasons for loving him. A contemplation of the history, character, attributes, and offices of Jesus will often be the readiest way to renew our drooping love. The more clear is our view of Christ, the more complete will be our idea of him; and the more true our experience of him, so much the more constant and unwavering will be our heart’s hold of him. Hence the importance of communion with him, which is to a great extent the only means of knowing him.
We would here caution the reader to make an important distinction when dwelling upon the phase of spiritual love now under consideration. Let him carefully remember that bazaar admiration of the moral character of Jesus of that may exist in an unregenerate heart, and that, apart from the love of gratitude, it is no acceptable fruit of the Spirit: so that this in some senses higher stone of the building, leans entirely upon the lower one, and without it is of no avail. Some pretend to admire the Prophet of Nazareth, but deny him to be the Son of God; others wonder at him in his divine and human natures, but cannot lay hold on him as their Redeemer; and many honor his perfect example, but despise his glorious sacrifice. Now, it is not love to a part of Christ which is the real work of the Spirit, but it is true devotion to the Christ of God in all that he is and does. Many manufacture a Christ of their own, and profess to love him; But it is not respect to our own anointed, but to the Lord’s anointed, which can prove us to be God’s elect.
Seek then to know the Lord, that you may with your whole soul be united to him in affection. Come, now.. lay aside this volume for an hour and regale yourself with a little of His company, then will you join with the devout Hawker in his oft-repeated confession: — “ In following thee, thou blessed Jesus, every renewed discovery of thee is glorious, and every new attainment most excellent. In thy person, offices, character, and relations, thou art most precious to my soul. Thou art a glorious Redeemer, a glorious Head of thy Church and people; a glorious Husband, Brother, Friend, Prophet, Priest, and King in thy Zion. And when I behold thee in all these relative excellencies, and can and do know thee, and enjoy thee, and call thee mine under every one of them, surely I may well take up the language of his sweet Scripture, and say, “Thou art more glorious and excellent than all the mountains of Prey!’” f72 If you are unable to obtain a view of the Man of grief and love, ask him to reveal himself by his Spirit, and when your prayer is heard! your soul will speedily be ravished with delight. “In manifested love explain, Thy wonderful design; What meant the suffering Son of Man, The streaming blood divine. “Come thou, and to :my soul reveal The heights and depths of grace; The wounds which all my sorrows heal, That dear disfigured face:
Before my eyes of faith confest, Stand forth a slaughter’d Lamb; And wrap me in thy crimson vest, And tell me all thy name.”
III. SYMPATHY WITH JESUS IN HIS GREAT DESIGN is a cause as well as an effect of love to Him. Sanctified meet have an union of heart With Jesus, since their aims are common. Both are seeking to honor God, to uproot sin, to save souls, and extend the kingdom of God on earth. Though the saints are but the private soldiers, while Jesus is their glorious Leader, yet they are in the same army, and hence they have the same desire for victory.
From this springs an increase of love; for we cannot labor with and for those whom we esteem, without feeling ourselves more and more united to them. We love Jesus when we are advanced in the divine life, from a participation with him in the great work of his incarnation. We long to see our fellow-men turned from darkness to light, and we love Him as the Sun of righteousness, who can alone illuminate them. We hate sin, and therefore we rejoice in Him as manifested to take away sin. We pant for holier and happier times, and therefore we adore Him as the coming Ruler of all lands, who will bring a millennium with Him in the day of his appearing. The more sincere our desires, and the more earnest our efforts, to promote the glory of God and the welfare of man, the more will our love to Jesus increase. Idle Christians always have lukewarm hearts, which are at once the causes and effects of their sloth. When the heart is fully engaged in God’s great work, it will glow with love of the Great Son, who was himself a servant in the same great cause. Does my philanthropy lead me to yearn over dying men? Is my pity excited by their miseries? Do I pray for their salvation, and labor to be the means of it? then most assuredly! shall, for this very reason, reverence and love the Friend of sinners, the Savior of the lost. Am I so engrossed with the idea of God’s majesty, that my whole being pants to manifest his glory and extol his name? Then I shall most certainly cleave unto him who glorified his Father, and in whose person all the attributes of Deity are magnified. If a sense of unity in aim be capable of binding hosts of men into one compact body, beating with one heart, and moving With the same; step — then it is easy to believe that the heavenly object in which the saints and their Savior are both united, is strong enough to form a lasting bond of love between them.
Trusting that we may be enabled in our daily conduct to prove this truth, we pass on to another part of-the subject.
IV. EXPERIENCE. Experience of the love, tenderness, and faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ will weld our hearts to him. The very thought of the love of Jesus towards us is enough to inflame our holy passions, but experience of it heats the furnace seven times hotter. He has been with us in our trials, cheering and consoling us, sympathizing with every groan, and regarding every tear with affectionate compassion. Do we not love him for this? He has befriended us in every time of need, so bounteously supplying all our wants out of the riches of his fullness, that he has not suffered us to lack any good thing. Shall we be unmindful of such unwearying care? He has helped us in every difficulty, furnishing us with strength equal to our day; he has leveled the mountains before us, and filled up the valleys; he has made rough places plain, and crooked things straight. Do we not love him for this also? In all our doubts he has directed us in the path of wisdom, and led us in the way of knowledge. He has not suffered us to wander; he has led us by a right way through the pathless wilderness. Shall we not praise him for his. He has repelled our enemies, covered our heads in the day of baffle, broken the teeth of the oppressor, and made us more than conquerors. Can we forget such mighty grace?
Then our sins have broken our peace, stained our garment, and pierced us with many sorrows, he has restored our souls, and led us in the path or righteousness for his name’s sake. Are we not constrained to call upon all that is within us to bless his holy name? He has been as good as his word; not ore; promise has been broken, but all have come to pass. In no single instance has he failed us; he has never been unkind, unmindful, or unwise.
The harshest strokes of his providence have been as full of love as the softest embraces of his condescending fellowship. We cannot, we dare not find fault with him. He hath done all things ,well. There is no flaw in his behavior, no suspicion upon ‘his affection. His love is indeed that perfect love which ` out fear; the review of it is sweet to contemplation; the very remembrance of it is like ointment poured forth, and the present, enjoyment of it, the experience of it at the present moment, is beyond all things delightful. Whatever may be our present position, it has in it peculiarities unknown to any other state, and hence it affords special grounds of love. Are we on the mountains? we bless him that he maketh our feet like hind’s feet, and maketh us to stand upon our high places. Are we in the Valley? then we praise him that his rod and staff do comfort us.
Are we in sickness? we love him for his gracious visitations: If we be in health, we bias him for his merciful preservations. At home or abroad, on the land or the sea, in health or sickness, in poverty or wealth, Jesus, the never-failing friend, affords us tokens of his grace, and binds our hearts to him in the bonds of constraining gratitude.
It must, however, be confessed that all the saints do not profit from their experience in an equal measure, and none of them so much as they might.
All the experience of a Christian is not Christian experience. Much of our time is occupied with exercises as unprofitable as they are! unpleasant. The progress of a traveler must not be measured by the amount of his toil, unless we can obtain a satisfactory proof that all his toil was expended in the right path; for let him journey ever so swiftly, if his path be full of wanderings, he will gain but little by his labors. When we follow on to know the Lord in his own appointed way, the promise assures us that we Shall attain to knowledge; but if we run in the way of our own devising, we need not wonder if We find ourselves surrounded with darkness instead of light. However, the Lord, who graciously overrules evil for good, has been pleased to permit it to remain as a rule in the lives of his children, that they learn by experience, — and sure we are, that were we not dull scholars, we should in the experience of a single day discover a thousand reasons for loving the Redeemer. The most barren day in all our years blossoms with remembrances of his loving-kindness, while the more memorable seasons yield a hundredfold the fruits of his goodness. Though some days may add but little to the heap, yet by little and little it increases to a mountain. Little experiences, if well husbanded, will soon make us rich in love. Though the banks of the river do shelve but gently, yet he that is up to the ankles shall find the water covering his knees, if he do but continue his wading. Blessed is the saint whose love to his Lord hath become confirmed with his years, so that his heart is fixed, and fired, and flaming. He with his gray hairs and venerable countenance commands the attention of all men when he speaks well of the Lord Jesus, whom he hath tried and proved through more than half a century of tribulation mingled with rejoicing. As a youth ‘his love was true,-but we thought it little more than a momentary flash, which would die as hastily as it was born; but now no man can doubt its sincerity, for it is a steady flame, like the burning of a well-trimmed lamp.
Experience, when blessed by the Holy Spirit, is the saint’s daily income, by which he getteth rich in affection; and he who hath for a long time amassed his portion of treasure may well be conceived to be more rich therein than the young Beginner, who has as yet received But little. Would to God that we were an more careful to obtain and retain the precious gems which lie at our feet in our daily experience!
The experienced believer is in advance of his younger brethren if his experience has developed itself in a deeper, steadier, and more abiding love of Christ. He is to the babe in grace what the oak is to the sapling — more firmly rooted, more strong in heart, and broader in his spread; his love, too, is to the affection of the beginner What the deep-rolling river is to the sparkling rill. Especially is this the case if he has done business on great waters, and has been buried beneath the billows of affliction. He’ will, if he have passed through such exercises, be a mighty witness of the worthiness of his Lord, — for tribulation unfolds the delights of covenant engagements, and drives the soul to feed upon them. It cuts away every other prop, and compels the soul to test the solidity of the pillar of divine faithfulness; it throws a cloud over the face of all created good, and leads the spirit to behold the sacred beauties of the Son of man; and thus it enables the believer to know in the most certain manner the all-sufficiency of the grace of the Lord Jesus. Tried saints are constrained to love their Redeemer; not only on account of deliverance out of trouble, but also because of that sweet comfort which he affords them whilst they are enduring the cross. They have found adversity to be a wine-press, in which the juice of the grapes of Eschol could be trodden out; an olive-press, to extract the precious oil from the gracious promises. Christ is the honeycomb, but experience must suck forth the luscious drops; he is frankincense, but fiery trials must burn out the perfume; he is a box of spikenard, but the hard hand of trouble must break the box and pour forth the ointment. When this is done, when Jesus is experimentally known, he is loved in a higher manner than the newborn Christian can aspire to talk of.
Aged and mellow saints have so sweet a savor of Christ in them that their conversation is like streams from Lebanon, sweetly refreshing to him who delights to hear of the glories of redeeming love. They have tried the anchor in the hour of storm, they have tested the armor in the day of battle, they have proved the shadow of the great rock in the burning noontide in the weary land; therefore do they talk of these things, and of Him who is all these unto them, with an unction and a relish which we, who have but just put on our harness, can enjoy, although we cannot attain unto it at present.
We must dive into the same waters if we would bring up the same pearls.
May the great Illuminator sow our path with light, that we may increase in knowledge of the love of Christ, and in earnestness of love to Christ, in proportion as we draw near to the celestial city.
We now advance to another step, which stands in strict connection with the subject upon which we have just Meditated.
V. COMMUNION opens up another means by which love is excited, and its nature affected. We love him because we have seen him, and entered into fellowship with him. However .rue and faithful the tidings which another person may bring us concerning the Savior, we shall never feel love towards him in all the power of it until we have with our own eyes beheld him, or, rather, have laid hold on him with our own faith. Personal intercourse with Jesus is pre-eminently a cause of love, and it so infallibly quickens the affections that it is impossible to live in the society of Jesus without loving him. Nearness of life towards the Lamb will necessarily involve greatness of love to him. As nearness to the sun increases the temperature of the various planets, so close communion with Jesus raises the heat of the affections towards him.
We hope to have another opportunity of unfolding the sweetness of communion, and therefore we will but notice one part of it — viz., Christ’s manifestations, as being a mighty incentive to affection. Our blessed Lord, at intervals more or less frequent, is graciously pleased to shed abroad in the soul a most enchanting and rapturous sense of his love. He opens the ear of the favored saint to hear the sweet canticles of the bridegroom’s joy, and softly he singeth his song of loves. He manifests His heart to the heart of his chosen ones, so that they know him to be the sweetest, firmest, and most ardent of lovers. They feel that he loves as a head, as a father, as a friend, as a kinsman, as a brother, as a husband; they behold the love of all relation. ships united and exceeded in the love of Christ.
They are confident that he loves them more than they love themselves; yea, that he loves then above his own life. This tends to raise their souls towards him; he becomes wholly delectable unto them, and is enshrined upon ‘the highest throne of their hearts. Possessed with a sense of the love of their dying Lord, they feel that had they a heart as wide as eternity, it could not contain more love than they desire to give him. Thus are they impelled to daring service and patient suffering for his sake. “There is a power in this love which conquers, captivates, and overpowers the man, so that he cannot but love. God’s love hath a generative power; our love is brought forth by his love.” Say, poor soul, what get you in Christ whenever you go to him? Can you not say, Oh! I get more love to him than I had before; I never approached near to him but I gained a large draught and ample fill of love to God. Out of his fullness we receive, grace for grace, and love for love. In a word, by faith we behold the glory of the Lord as in a glass, and are changed into the same image — and the image of God is love. No way so ready for begetting love to Christ as a sense of the love of Christ. The one is a loadstone to attract the other. As fire grows by the addition of fuel, so does our love to Christ increase by renewed and enlarged discoveries of his love to us. Love is loves food. If, is parents, we make known our love to our children, and deal wisely with them, it is but natural that their affections should become more and more knit to us; so it seems but as in the common course of things that where much of divine love is perceived by the soul, there will be a return of affection in some degree proportionate to the measure of the manifestation. As we pour water into a dry pump when we! desire to obtain more — so must we have the love of Christ imparted to the heart before we shall feel any uprisings of delight in Him.! Hence the importance of the apostolic prayer,! that we may be able to understand with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. Beloved fellow Christian, pray for more open discoveries of the love and loveliness of Christ, and thus shall thy languid passions move more readily in the paths of obedience. We have all too much cause to mourn the poverty .of our love; let us not be slow to seek the help of the God of Israel to enable us to profit by all the condescending* manifestations with which the Lord sees fit to favor us.
VI. LOVE TO THE PERSON OF JESUS is a most delightful state of divine life. It will be observed- that the Song of the Spouse, which is doubtless intended to be the expression of the highest order of love, is composed rather of .descriptions of the person of the Bridegroom than of any relation of the deeds which he performed. The whole language of the Book of Canticles is love, but its most overflowing utterances are poured forth upon the sacred person of the Well-Beloved. How do the words Succeed each other in marvelous and melodious Succession when the Church pours forth the fullness of its heart in praises of his beauties! — “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are u pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely.” Here it is not the crown, but the head, which is the theme of song; not it he garment, But the unrobed body; not the shoes, but the feet. The song does not celebrate ibis descent from the king of ages, nor his’ lordship over the ministers of fire, nor his perpetual priesthood, nor his unbounded sovereignty; but it finds music enough in his lips, and beauty sufficient in his eyes without the glories which his high offices and omnipotent grace have procured for him. This indeed is true love; though the wife regards her husband’s gifts, and honors his rank and titles, yet she sets her affection Upon his person, loves him better than his gifts, and esteems him for ibis own sake rather than for his position among men. Let us here observe, lest we should be misunderstood, that we do not for a moment intend to insinuate that in the earlier states of the sacred grace of love, here is any lack of love to his person. We know that the first gushing of the fount of love is to Christ, and at all times the soul goes out towards him ; but we make a distinction which we think will be readily perceived, between ‘love to the person, for the sake of benefits received and offices performed, and love to the person for the person ’s sake. To suppose that a believer loves the office apart from the person is to suppose an absurdity, but to say that he may love the person apart from the office is but to declare a great fact.
We love Him at all times, but only the heavenly-minded love him for his own person ’s sake.
What a precious subject for contemplation is the glorious being who is called Emmanuel, God with us, and yet “the I am,” “God over all I” The complex person of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, is the center of a believer’s heart, He adores him in all the attributes of his God-head, as very God of very God — Eternal, Infinite, Almighty, Immutable. He bows before him as God over all, blessed for ever,” and pays him loving homage as the everlasting Father, the prince of peace; and at the same time he delights to consider him as the infant of Bethlehem, the Man of sorrows, the Son of man, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, tempted points like as we owning kindred the children of men. As man yet God, creature yet Creator, infant and Infinite, despised yet exalted, scourged though Omnipotent, dying yet eternal, — our dear Redeemer must ever be the object of wondering affection. Yea, when faith is dim and the Christian is in doubt as to his possession of his Lord, he will at times be able to feel that his thoughts of his Master’s person are as high as ever. “Though he slay me, I must love him. If he will not look upon me, I cannot but bless him still. He is good and glorious, even though he damn me for ever. I must speak well of him, even if he will not permit me to hope in his mercy; for he is a glorious Christ, and I will not deny it, though he should now shut up his bowels against an unworthy creature like myself.” This is the sentiment of the quickened child of God, when his heart is thoroughly occupied with a full and faithful view of his Divine Lord.
O the savor of the name of Jesus, when heard by the ear which has been opened by the Spirit! O the beauty of the person of Jesus, when seen with the eye of faith by the illumination of the Holy One of Israel! As the light of the morning, When the sun ariseth, “as a morning without Clouds,” is our Well-Beloved unto us. The sight of the burning bush made Moses put off his Shoes, but the transporting vision of Jesus makes us put off all the world. When once He is seen we can discern no beauties in all the creatures in the universe. He, like the sun, hath absorbed all other glories into his own excessive brightness. This is the pomegranate which love feeds upon, the flagon wherewith it is comforted. A sight of Jesus causes such union of heart with him, such goings’ out of the affections after him, and such meltings of the spirit towards him, that its expressions often appear to carnal men to be extravagant and forced, when they are nothing but the free, unstudied, and honest effusions of its love. Hence it is that the Song of Solomon has been So frequently assailed, and has had its right to a place in the canon so fiercely disputed. The Same critics would deny the piety of Rutherford, or the reverence of Herbert. They are themselves ignorant of the divine passion of love to Jesus, and therefore the language of the enraptured heart is unintelligible to them. They are poor translators of love’s celestial tongue who think it to be at all allied with the amorous superfluities uttered by carnal passions. Jesus is the only one upon whom the loving believer has fixed his eye, and in his converse with his Lord he will often express himself in language which is meant only for his Master’s ear, and which worldlings would utterly contemn could they but listen to it.
Nevertheless love, like wisdom, is “justified of her children.”
Heaven itself, although it be a fertile land, flowing with milk and honey, eau produce no fairer flower than the Rose of Sharon; its highest joys mount no higher than the head of Jesus; its sweetest bliss is found in his name alone. If we would know heaven, let us know Jesus; if we would be heavenly, let us love Jesus. Oh that we were perpetually in his company, that our hearts might ever be satisfied with his love! Let the young believer seek after a clear view of the person of Jesus, and then let him implore the kindling fire of the Holy Spirit to light up his whole soul with fervent affection. Love to Jesus is the basis of all true piety, and the intensity of this love will ever be the measure of our zeal for his glory. Let us love him with. all our hearts, and then diligent labor and consistent conversation will be sure to follow.
VII. RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST, when fully felt and realized, produces a peculiar warmth of affection towards Him. The Holy Spirit is pleased, at certain favored seasons, to open up to the understanding and reveal to the affections the nearness of Jesus to the soul. At one time we are blessed with a delightful sense of brotherhood with Christ. “The man is thy near kinsman,” sounds like news from a far country. “In ties of blood with sinners one,” rings in our ears like the music of Sabbath bells. We had said, like the spouse, “0 that thou weft as my brother 1” and lo I the wish is gratified. He Stands before us in all his condescension, and declares he is not ashamed to call us brethren. Unveiling his face, he reveals himself as the Son of man, our kinsman near allied by blood, lie manifests himself to ore’ rejoicing spirit as “the tint-born among many brethren,” and he reminds us that we are “joint-heirs with him,” although he is “heir of all things.” The fraternity of Jesus cannot fad to quicken us to the most ardent affection, and when he himself thus confesses the relationship, our soul is melted at his speech. That sweet name “brother” is like perfume to the believer, and when he lays hold upon it, it imparts its fragrance to him. We have sometimes had such a sense of satisfaction in meditation upon this heavenly doctrine, that we! counted all the honors and glories of this world to be but loss compared with the excellency of it. For this one fact of brotherhood with Christ we could have bartered crowns and empires, and have laughed at the worldly barterer as a fool, infinitely more mad than Esau when he rooks pitiful mess of pottage as the purchase-price of s. mighty birthright. God the Holy Ghost has made the fullness of the doctrine of the relationship of Jesus roll into our soul like a river, and we have been entirely carried away in its wondrous torrent., Our thoughts have been entirely absorbed in the one transcendently glorious idea of brotherhood with Jesus, and then the emotions have arisen with great vehemence, and we have pressed Him to our bosom, have wept for joy upon his shoulder, and have lost ourselves in adoring love of him who thus discovered himself as bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. We feel we must love our brother, even nature joins her voice with grace to claim the entire heart; and verily, in seasons of such gracious manifestations, the claim is fully met, and the right gladly acknowledged.
Another delightful relationship of the Lord Jesus is that of Husband, and here he is indeed to be beloved. Young Christians are married to Christ, but they have not in most cases realized the gracious privilege, but the more enlightened believer rejoices in the remembrance of the marriage union of Christ and his spouse. To him the affection, protect/on, provision, honor, and intimacy involved in the divine nuptials of the blessed Jesus with his elect are well. springs of constant joy. “Thy Maker is thy Husband” is to him a choice portion of the Word, and he feasts upon it day and night, when the gracious Spirit is pleased to enable him to lay hold upon it by faith. A tranquil, confident frame will immediately result from a satisfactory persuasion of this glorious truth, and with it there will be a fervency of affection and a continued union of heart to Christ Jesus, which is hardly attainable in any other manner.
In his conjugal relation to his Church, the Lord Jesus takes great, delight, and desires that We should see the glory of it. He would have Us consider him in the act of betrothing and espousing his Church unto himself: “Go forth,” saith he, “O ye daughters of Jerusalem, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.” f75 “It is the gladness of the heart of Christ, and the joy of his soul, to take poor sinners into relation with himself;” f74a and if so, it can. not fail to be an equal source of rejoicing to those who are thus favored. Meditate much on thy divine relationships, and thine heart shall be much warmed thereby.
VIII. A persuasion of our UNION to Jesus must also stir up the passions to a holy flame. We are, by the decree of God, made one with our Covenant Head the Lord Jesus. From before all worlds this eternal union was most firmly settled upon a substantial basis; but our personal knowledge of it is a thing of time, and is vouchsafed to us in the appointed season by God the Holy Ghost. How swiftly doth the heart pursue its Lord when it has learned its oneness to Him I What man will not love his own flesh? who will not love himself? Now, when the soul perceives the indissoluble union which exists between itself and the Savior, it can no more resist the impulse of affection than a man can forbear to love his own body. It is doubtless a high attainment in the divine life to be fully possessed with a sense of vital union to Christ, and hence the love arising from it is of a peculiarly rich and vehement character. Some pastures give richness to the flesh of the cattle which feed upon them: truly, this is a fat pasture, and the affection which feedeth upon it cannot be otherwise than excellent to a superlative degree. In fine, as an abiding sense of oneness with the Lord is one of the sweetest! works of the Spirit in the souls of the elect, so the love springing therefrom is of the very! highest and most spiritual nature. None can surpass it; yea, it is questionable whether so high a degree of affection can be attained by any other means, however forcible and inflaming. But set it down as a rule that we ought never to halt or sit down in, any attainment of nearness to Jesus until we have brought it to such a measure that no more can be enjoyed, and until We have reached the utmost possible height therein. If there be an inner chamber in which the king doth store his choicest fruits, let us enter, for he bids us make free with all in his house; and if there be a secret place where he doth show his loves, let us hasten thither and embrace Him whom our soul loveth, and there let us abide until we see him face to face in the upper skies.
But what will be the love of Heaven? Here we utterly fail in description or conception. The best enjoyments of Christ on earth are but as the dipping our finger in water for the cooling of our thirst; but heaven is bathing in seas of bliss: even so our love here is but one drop of the same substance as the waters of the ocean, but not comparable for magnitude or depth. Oh, how sweet it will be to be married to the Lord Jesus, and to enjoy for ever, and without any interruption, the heavenly delights of his society! Surely, if a glimpse of him melteth our soul, the full fruition of him will be enough to burn us up with affection. It is well that we shall have more noble frames in heaven than we have here, otherwise we should die of love in the very land of life. An honored saint was once so ravished with a revelation of his Lord’s love, that feeling his mortal frame to be unable to sustain more of such bliss, he cried, “Hold, Lord, it is enough, it is enough! ” But there we shall be able to set the bottomless well of love to our lips, and drink on for ever, and yet feel no weakness. Ah, that will be love indeed which shall over. flow our souls for ever in our Father’s house above! Who can tell the transports, the raptures, the amazements of delight which that love shall beget in us? and who can guess the sweetness of the song, or the swiftness of the obedience which will be the heavenly expressions of love made perfect? No heart can conceive! he surpassing bliss which the saints shall enjoy When the sea of their love to Christ and the ocean of Christ’s love to them, shall meet each Other, and raise a very tempest of delight. The distant prospect is full of joy: what must be the fruition of it? To answer that question we must wait all the days of our appointed time till our change come, unless the Lord himself Should suddenly appear in the clouds to glorify Us with himself throughout eternity.
Beloved fellow-heirs of the same inheritance, We have thus reviewed some of the causes and phases of the Christian grace of love; let us now ask ourselves the question, How is it with our love? Is it hot or cold? Is it decaying or increasing? How stands the heart, God-ward and Christ-ward?
Is it not far too slow in its motions, too chilly in its devotion? We must admit it is so. Let us use the various arguments of this chapter as levers for lifting our heavy hearts to greater heights of affection, and then let us unitedly cry. — Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, With all thy quickening powers; Come, shed aboard the Savior’s love, And that shall kindle ours.” It may be that the sneering critic has been offended with all this discourse concerning love, and has turned upon his heel, protesting with vehemence that he is of a philosophic spirit, and will never endure such sickly sentimentalism, To him religion is thought, not emotion. It is a cold, speculative, unfeeling divinity which he believes, and its effects upon his mind are the reverse of enthusiastic.
Reason, “heavenly Reason,” is his God, and Feeling must lie dormant beneath the throne of his great deity. We beg to remind him that the religion of the cross was intended to stir the soul with deep emotion, and that where it is truly received it accomplishes its end; but that if the passions be not moved by it, there is a strong presumption that it has never been in true operation. We do not wonder that, to the man who views religion as a mere compendium of truths for the head, it is a powerless thing, for it is intended to work in another manner. Wine may serve to cheer the heart, but who would expect to feel its exhilarating influence by pouring it upon his head. The holy Gospel makes its first appeal to man’s heart, and until it be heard in that secret chamber it is not heard at all. So long as mere reason is the only listener, the melody of the cross will be unheard. Charm we never so wisely, men cannot hear the music until the ears of the heart are opened. Vinet f75a has thus expressed himself upon this subject — “ Ah I how can reason, cold reason, comprehend such a thing as the substitution of the innocent for the guilty; as the compassion which reveals itself in severity of punishment in that shedding of blood, without which, it is said, there can be no expiation? It will not make, I dare affirm, a single step towards the knowledge of that divine mystery, until, casting away its ungrateful speculations, it yields to a stronger power the task of terminating the difficulty. That power is the heart, which fixes itself entirely on the love that shine, forth in the work of redemption; cleaves without distraction to the sacrifice of the adorable victim; lets the natural impression of that unparalleled love penetrate freely, and develop itself gradually in its interior. Oh, how quickly, then, are the tells, torn away, and the shadows dissipated for ever! How little difficulty does he who loves find in comprehending love! ” To the heart all divine mysteries are but simplicities, and when reason is measuring the apparently inaccessible heights, love is already shouting on the summit. Let the cold, calculating worshipper of intellect reserve his sneers for himself. Experience is one of the highest of sciences, and the emotions claim a high precedence in the experience which is from God. That which these boasters contemn as an old wives’ story, is not one half so contemptible as themselves — yea, more, the pious feelings at which they jeer are as much beyond their highest thoughts as the sonnets of angels excel the gruntings of swine.
It has become fashionable to allow the title of “intellectual preachers” to a class of men, whose passionless essays are combinations of metaphysical quibbles and heretical doctrines; who are shocked at the man who excites his hearers beyond the freezing-point of insensibility, and are quite elated if they hear that their homily could only be understood by a few. It is, however, :no question whether these men deserve their distinctive title; it may be settled as an axiom that falsehood is no intellectual feat, and that unintelligible jargon is no evidence of a cultured mind. There must be in our religion fair proportion of believing, thinking, understanding, and discerning, but there must be also the preponderating influences of feeling, loving, delighting, and desiring. That religion is worth nothing which has no dwelling in man but his brain. To love much is to be wise; to grow in affection is to grow in knowledge, and to increase in tender attachment is to be making high proficiency in divine things.
Look to thy love, O Christian! and let the carnal revile thee never so much, do thou persevere in seeking to walk with Christ, to feel his love, and triumph in his.
TO THE UNCONVERTED READER.
FRIEND — This time we will not preach the terrors of the law to thee, although they are thy deserts. We wish thee wen, and if threatening will not awaken thee, we will try what wooing may accomplish, and oh! may the Holy Spirit bless the means to thy soul’s salvation.
The Lord Jesus hath purchased unto himself a number beyond all human count, and we would have thee mark who and what they were by nature.
The blood-bought ones, before their regeneration, were in the gall of bitterness and in the Bonds of iniquity; they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise; they had chosen to themselves other gods, and were joined to idols; they walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of he air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; they were polluted in their blood, cast out in the open field to perish they were despisers of God, in league with hell and in covenant with Death; but nevertheless they were chosen, were redeemed, and have received the glorious title of Sons and Daughters.
Now, Friend, if free grace has done thus with one and another, why should it not accomplish the same for thee? Dost thou feel thy deep necessities?
Do thy bowels yearn for mercy? Art thou made willing to be saved in God’s way? Then be of good cheer. The promise is! thine, the blood of Jesus was shed for thee, the Holy Spirit is at work with thee, thy salvation draweth nigh. He that calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Thy cries shall yet be heard, since they come from a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Remember, faith in Jesus alone can give thee peace.
But art thou still hard and Stolid, still brutish and worldly? Then, permit the writer to weep over thee, and bring thy case before the Lord his God.
Oh that the Lord would melt thee by the fire of his word! Oh that he would break thee with his hammer, and humble thee at his feet! Alas for thee, unless this be done! Oh that omnipotent grace would snatch thee from the ruin of the proud, and deliver thy feet from going down into the pit Miserable man! a brother’s heart longeth after thee, and fain would see thee saved. Oh, why art thou so indifferent to thyself when others can scarce refrain from tears on thy behalf! By thy mother’s prayers, thy sister’s tears, and thy father’s anxieties, I beseech thee give a reason for thy sottish indifference to thine eternal welfare. Dost thou now come to thyself? Dost thou now exclaim, “! will arise and go unto my Father?” Oh, be assured of a welcome reception, of gladsome entertainment, and loving acceptance. “From the Mount of Calvary, Where the Savior designed to die, What melodious sounds I hear, Bursting on my ravished ear! — Love’s redeeming work is done!
COME, AND WELCOME, SINNER COME.
Now behold the festal board, With its richest dainties stored; To thy Father’s bosom press’d, Once again a child confees’d.
From his house no more to roam; COME, AND WELCOME, SINNER, COME.”