Page images

2. The resemblance which the believer's love bears to it

[His benevolence also is universal, extending to all, whether friends or enemies, whether known or unknown: he has learned to “ bless those who curse him, to do good to them that hate him, and to pray for those who despitefully use him and persecute him." In his beneficence too, so far as his circumstances will admit of it, he is unbounded. The first object of his attention will, doubtless, be those of his own household, and his more immediate neighbourhood: but he will not rest there; he will take an interest in the welfare of all mankind, so far as to pray for them, and to assist in conveying to them the blessings of salvation. He feels himself a debtor to the whole human race; and he pants to discharge his debt to the very utmost of his power. But in the objects of his complacency he is more confined and partial. He cannot possibly take those for his friends who are the enemies of God. He comes out from an ungodly world, and is separate from them. And this he does, not from any idea of his own superior goodness, but because he is afraid of being drawn into temptation; and because he is told, on infallible authority, that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” He has a different taste from the world around him, and lives in a different element; so that it would be repugnant to his nature to occupy himself as they are occupied. This is the ground upon which St. Paul interdicts all unnecessary communion with them : “ Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers : for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness ? and what concord hath Christ with Belial ? or what part hath he that believeth with an infideli?" This shews clearly that the household of faith have a claim on his regards, beyond any other people upon earth; and that, if his love be of a proper kind, the saints will have a decided preference in his estimation, and the “excellent of the earth will be all his delight'."]

Such is the believer, whilst sojourning in this world : he is actuated by love, even as Almighty God is; so far, at least, as he is under the influence of divine grace. But his love varies in its exercise, as the love of Jehovah himself varies according to the circumstances or qualities of the object beloved.]

To encourage this godlike disposition, I proceed to shew, II. The blessedness of him in whom this resemblance

is found

i 2 Cor. vi. 14–16.

Gal. vi. 10.

| Ps. xvi. 3.

This is set forth by the Apostle in very exalted terms. But it must first be remembered, that the believer is here supposed to dwell in love:” he does not put it forth only on some particular occasions, but cherishes it habitually in his bosom, and maintains it as the constant habit of his mind. Now, where a person dwells in it, he will be happy ; 1. In his enjoyment of the present

[There is a mutual in-dwelling between him and God; “ he dwelling in God,” by faith and love ; and “God dwelling in him," by the abiding influence of his good Spirit.

But these expressions are far too weighty to be passed over with so slight a notice. The believer “ dwells in God!" We know what ideas we associate with a house in which we dwell: we regard it as our own: we go to it with freedom at all times : in it we expect to find whatever is suited to our daily necessities, and sufficient for our daily wants : we are at ease in it, and feel ourselves secure from the tempests that rage around us. There, after all the troubles and fatigues of life, we lay us down to rest, and find that repose which fits us for the duties of every succeeding day. Now, familiar as this illustration may appear, it is that which the Scriptures employ as peculiarly fitted to convey to our minds the truth which we are considering: “O Lord, thou hast been our dwellingplace in all generationsm." and again; " Because thou hast made the Lord, even the Most High, thine habitation, there shall no evil befall theen." This confidence the believer feels : he looks to God as his God: he has access to him at all times; goes to him without restraint; “enters into the inmost chambers of his divine perfections; and shuts the door about him; hiding himself from every storm” which may beat around him; and finding in him that rest, and those supplies of grace, which his necessities require.

At the same time, “God dwells in him," as in his temple. Frequently does God designate his believing people by this gracious appellation; and promise them his presence, as in his temple of old: "What agreement," says he, " hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be iny people P.” Now this exactly marks the favours which God will vouchsafe to the truly loving soul. You remember that God abode in his temple by a visible symbol of his presence: that there, on the

m Ps. xc. 1.
o Isai. xxvi. 20.

n Ps. xci. 9, 10.
P 2 Cor. vi. 16.

day of annual expiation, the high-priest entered into his immediate presence, and beheld his glory: thither the prayers of all his people were addressed: there were all their sacrifices accepted: and from thence were all his answers given. Behold, then, under this image, the exalted privilege of the believing soul! God is with him in a way that he is not with any other creature in the universe. To him is the glory of God revealed : his every sacrifice of prayer or praise comes up with acceptance before God; and rich communications of grace


peace descend from God to him. Take these two ideas-the believer dwelling in God, as in his house; and God dwelling in him, as in his temple—and you have a complete view of his felicity, as it is enjoyed from day to day.) 2. In his anticipations of the future

[Love, exercised in the way before described, is a perfect;" that is, it is of the most perfect kind, and has attained a growth which marks a high measure of excellence : or, as the text expresses it, “ Herein is our love made perfect, or manifested to be perfectl.” And where such love is, there is, and will be, a sweet assurance of our acceptance in the day of judgment. The latter verse of my text, as it stands in our translation, is so obscure, as scarcely to admit of explanation : but with a very slight alteration it is extremely clear. It may be read thus: “ Herein is our love made perfect: so that we have boldness in (i. e, in reference to the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world"." And this is a blessed truth. The man who has attained this measure of love, has within himself a most decisive evidence of his own conversion". None but God could accomplish within him such a blessed work; as the Apostle says, “ Love is of Godt.” Hence, though he well knows his own remaining imperfections, he cannot but regard God as his Father: and he is perfectly assured, that a God of love will never cast away one who pants and labours constantly for a conformity to the Divine image: and hence “ he has boldness in reference to the day of judgment;" being fully assured, that the Saviour, in whom he has believed, and by the operation of whose grace he has become what he is, will “confess him before his Father,” and “present him faultless before the presence of his Father's glory

9 tetelelwrat. See 2 Cor. xii. 9. the Greek: 1 ίνα έχωμεν. .

Doubtless the usual sense of iva is that which our translators have adopted. But St. John uses it repeatedly in the sense which I have here assigned to it. See 1 John i. 9; and especially Rev, xiii. 13. where a precisely similar expression occurs, and is translated in this very way. 8 1 John iii. 14.

t ver. 7


with exceeding joy.” This is the disposition which infallibly

accompanies salvation;" as St. Paul has said: “ Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end u.” My dear brethren, be diligent in this work, and this blessedness shall be yours. Only take care, that, in the habit of your minds, and in your daily walk, ye“ be in the world as God himself is;" and then you may look forward with comfort to the future judgment, assured that “ you shall not be ashamed before him, at his coming.") In reflecting on this subject, we cannot but see,

1. What enemies to themselves they are, who indulge unhallowed tempers!

(I will not say, they are enemies to God, whose law they violate; or to their fellow-creatures, whose peace they disturb: but I will say, they are enemies to themselves; for they actually drive God from them; and cause him, who would dwell in their hearts as their Comforter and their God, to become their enemy: as it is said, “ If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy." And what must be their prospects in relation to the eternal world? Can they enjoy any of the true Christian's confidence? or, if they possess any confidence at all, is it not a horrible delusion? Religious professors speak much about their doubts and fears: and truly many of them have abundant reason to doubt and fear; for their tempers bear no resemblance whatever to "the meekness and gentleness of Christ :” yea, many of these professors have less self-government than the ungodly world; and they make all unhappy that are about them. As to their fears, they are right enough; but as to their doubts, it may well be questioned whether they are right: for if they were Christ's, they would “put on Christ,” and “ crucify those affections and lusts” which are so abhorrent to his religion. They may talk of their faith : but if their faith do not work by love, it is no better than the faith of devils. The fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance:” and if these fruits do not characterize our life and conversation, I hesitate not to say, that “our religion is vain :" for St. James says, “If any man (high or low, rich or poor, old or young)—if any man among you seem to be religious (and make ever so fair a profession), and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain?." I must therefore warn all, but religious professors in particular, that " what they sow, they shall reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; and he alone who soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlastinga."] 2. What a noble ambition has the true Christian !

u Heb. vi. 9, 10.

x 1 Cor. ii. 17.

y Gal. iji. 27. and v. 24.

[It is no inferior pattern that he is content to follow. He looks to see what God himself is to his creatures; and that would he be to the utmost extent of his power. “ He would be an imitator of God himself b;" and " as God is, so would he be in this world." Is God love? He would be love also; he would act nothing but love, and breathe nothing but love. O noble ambition ! blessed object! sweet end of life! What a heaven would earth be, if all were of this mind and spirit! Come, beloved, and rise to the occasion. See what God is to the world at large: and be ye, according to your power, alike benevolent, alike beneficent See also what God is to his Church in particular: and be ye towards every member of that Church, so far as the individual himself is worthy of it, alike complacent and affectionate ---- In a word, let your endeavour be, not only to be godly, but God-like; “ holy as he is holy;” and “perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."] 2 Jam. i. 26. a Gal. vi. 7, 8.

• Eph. v. 1. the Greek. • If this be a subject for a Charity Sermon, this clause, or the preceding, may be amplified, according as the object of the Charity is of a temporal or spiritual nature.


INFLUENCE AND IMPORTANCE OF LOVE. 1 John iv. 18. There is no fear in love ; but perfect love casteth

out fear : because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

THE essence of all true religion is love, love to God, working by love to man. Both tables of the law are fulfilled in this : and to bring us to such a state of mind is no less the intent of the Gospel, than of the law itself. St. John, than whom no inspired writer more fully unfolds the glories of the Gospel, abounds, more than any other Apostle, in exhortations to love. The preceding context more particularly

« PreviousContinue »