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insists on love to man: but the words before us, with the following context, speak rather of love to God. “We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar : for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God, love his brother also." Were we to interpret the text as speaking of love to man, it would not admit of any satisfactory explanation : but, as referring to God, it sets love before us in a very instructive point of view, in that it marks, I. Its influence, as a principle
“ Fear” is that passion which is chiefly dominant in the breast of fallen man
[Adam, before his fall, knew nothing of it: but, after his transgression, he fled from the face of God, and hid himself amongst the trees of the garden: and from that time, all the appearances of God or of angels to men have generated fear in the first instance; so that the persons most favoured with such visions, have needed to be encouraged by that reviving expression, “ Fear not b." Indeed, the whole religion of the heathen world has its foundation in fear: love to their deities is never an operative principle in their hearts. Even amongst ourselves, till we are truly converted to God, the Supreme Being is rather an object of fear than of love; insomuch that we love not to hear of bim, or to reflect on our future appearance before him. It is on this account that all which relates to God, his perfections, his purposes, yea, and even the mysteries of his grace and the wonders of his love, are, by universal consent, banished from our mutual intercourse and daily conversation: and, however cheerful a society may have been in their communications with each other, the introduction of such topics as death, judgment, heaven, and hell, would cast a damp upon it, and induce a gloom, or a contemptuous smile, on every countenance. The Scripture tells us, that this is the case with all; that “men, through the fear of death, are all their life-time subject to bondage :" and that they are " like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,” utterly destitute of any solid peace or resta.
There may, indeed, be in men a thoughtless indifference: but this is only whilst they can shake off reflection. No man can think of God and of eternity without many fears and misgivings: and the very efforts which men use to dissipate all serious thought, clearly shew, that they do not dare to think, and that God is to them an object of dread, and not of love.] But “love will cast out fear”.
a ver. 19-21. c Heb. ii. 15.
b Luke i. 12, 13, 29, 30. d Isai. lvii. 20, 21.
[The two passions are opposed to each other, and counteract each other, as light and darkness : “there is no fear in love," nor any love in fear: if love arise in the soul, fear will be dispelled, like the clouds of the morning: but if fear prevail again, it will draw over the soul the curtains of night. Fear is excited by a view of God, as formidable in himself, and as hostile to us: but love views him as altogether lovely in himself, and as loving to us; and, consequently, banishes from the soul the sensations which a different view of the Deity had produced. Love regards him as a Father, a Friend, a Saviour, a Portion," an “ eternal great reward.” What room is there for fear, when such views are realized in the soul? I speak not, indeed, of a filial fear; because that is a very essential part of love: but a slavish fear, a “fear that has torment,” can find no place in a bosom that is filled with love. To a person who truly loves God, the thought of him will be sweet to the soul: and the more intimate he feels his access to God, the more sublime will be his joy. As for death, to such an one it has lost its sting: it is even numbered amongst his richest treasures : “ All things, says he, are mine, whether life or death." And so far is he from dreading the approach of the eternal state, that “ he looks for, and hastes unto, the coming of the day of Christ';" and “longs to be dissolved, that he may be with Christe." I say not, that this feeling is constant, or without any alloy; but that to effect this is the proper influence of love, and that it will be effected in proportion as love abounds in the soul.]
This view of love naturally leads us to consider, II. Its importance as a testIt is our privilege to be “made perfect in love"
(Love, like every other grace, is weak in its beginnings. But it should not be always so: like patience, it should " have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." The command of God is, that we should “ love him with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.” And if we owe to him this measure of love as our Creator, much more do we as our Redeemer. After this, therefore, we should aspire: and, whatever our attainments in it be, we should be labouring daily to increase more and more ; having more of a Spirit of love; and more of that “Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”]
e 1 Cor. iii. 22.
1 2 Pet. iii. 12.
& Phil. i. 21.
Of its precise measure we may judge, by the remains of fear abiding in us
Examine with what feelings you contemplate God: examine what it is that chiefly operates to keep you from offending him, and what it is that chiefly stimulates you to duty: examine what your views are of death and judgment; whether they be dreaded as objects of fear, or desired as completing and consummating your bliss.
As for that horror to which some persons are subject at the sight of a reptile or an insect, it has nothing to do with the present subject : it is a mere constitutional weakness, to which a child of God may be exposed as well as others. Love will not produce much effect on that, except as it will habituate the mind to confide in God, and to commit every thing to him. But in all things that are the proper objects of faith, love has full scope for exercise ; and will present them to the mind in so favourable a view, as to cast out all fear in relation to them.
Behold then, I say, the two emotions are like the scales of a balance : where fear preponderates, love will be found but light: but where love abounds, fear will in vain strive for an ascendant. To judge of love by its own direct workings, may not be easy ; because the warmth of our feelings towards God may depend, in a measure, on the constitutional temperament of our minds : but by its influence in dissipating and dispelling our fears, we may attain a correct judgment respecting it: if it be “perfect, it will cast out our fears;” but “ if we fear, we are not yet made perfect in love."] ADDRESS1. Those who have neither love nor fear
[We have before said, that there may be persons of this character, who have so hardened their hearts, and seared their consciences as to have contracted an insensibility to God and eternal things. And I am constrained to acknowledge, that many are found in this state even in a dying hour. But if they be deaf to the voice of conscience here, it will be heard at the instant of their departure hence. Could we but behold the obdurate sinner, or the scoffing infidel, on his first entrance into the presence of his God; does his boldness continue there? No: he cries to “ the rocks to fall upon him, and the hills to cover him from the face of the Lamb," whose warnings he disregarded, and whose threatenings he despised. Yes, beloved ; though now more fearless than the devils (for they believe and tremble), you will then know what " a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God."
But is it fear that I wish to excite in your minds ? Certainly not, except as a preparatory work. I wish your religion to begin with fear: but God forbid that it should end there. No: it must be carried on by love, if ever it shall terminate in joy. Yet, till we are made sensible of our lost condition as sinners, we shall in vain hope to attain the peace and happiness of saints.]
2. To those who are under the influence of both fear and love
[These opposite feelings are compatible with each other, in the earlier period of our conversion. The day springs not forth at once in the natural world ; nor does piety arrive at its meridian height at once in the spiritual world. But, to imagine that the entertaining of doubts and fears is a mark of humility, is quite erroneous : such a doubtful state of mind is rather an indication of ignorance and pride, than of true humility. For, granting that the progress which we have made in the divine life may be very small, still our duty is to lay hold on the divine promises, and to cast ourselves altogether on the Lord Jesus Christ as the appointed Saviour of the world. The smallness of our attainments, or the strength of our corruptions, may well beget humility: but they should never lead us to doubt the sufficiency of Christ to save us. Were we in the lowest state to which a sinner can be reduced, our duty would be to believe in Christ, and to flee to him as to the refuge set before us. It is faith which is the parent of love; and not unbelief: and therefore I say to all, Limit not the mercy of your God; but “ against hope, believe in hope." It is worthy of observation, that the language of doubts and fears is confined to the Old Testament dispensation. Such bondage becomes not our happier lot: it is dishonourable to God, and injurious to ourselves. Cast it off then; and seek to enjoy the full liberty of the Gospel. “The Son who has made you free, would have you
free indeed." I would, indeed, guard you against that kind of confidence which is founded on vain delusions. There are some who, from impulses, or visions, or other delusive imaginations, attain a confidence which they will not for a moment suffer to be questioned. But this is not the confidence of love. Love is jealous of itself; and is glad to have its actings scrutinized with the utmost exactness. Love affects the honour of God; and is infinitely more anxious that he should be glorified, than that its own defects should be concealed. The getting rid of fear is not at all the object of love, but the effect of it. Let the one endeavour of your souls be to glorify your God; and with the growth of your love shall your peace and joy be multiplied, both in time and in eternity.]
THERE is, as there ought to be, a great and visible difference between the Lord's people and others. But no one of them has any ground for glorying in himself: for, to every one of them may that question be applied, “Who made thee to differ? and what hast thou which thou hast not received ?” Verily, whatever attainments any man may have made, he must say, with the Apostle Paul, “ By the grace of God I am what I am.” To this effect St. John speaks in the words before us; in which we are taught to trace the love which the saints bear to their God, not to any superior qualities in their own nature, but to God's free and sovereign grace: “We love Him, because He first loved us."
Now, this being a truth indispensably necessary to be known and felt, I will endeavour to point out1. Its doctrinal use
Our love to God springing from, and being founded on, God's love to us, it is,
1. An indispensable evidence of his love to us
[Supposing a person to affirm that God loves him as one of his peculiar people, I ask, What evidence have you of that fact? Your mere assertion is not sufficient to satisfy my mind: nor should a mere persuasion of it be sufficient to satisfy your mind. If God has really loved you, wherein has he manifested that love? What has he done for you? Has he revealed himself to you as reconciled in the Son of his love? Has he poured out his Spirit upon you, as "a Spirit of adoption, enabling you to call him Abba, Father ?" And has he enabled you to surrender up yourself to him in all holy obedience to his will ? In a word, Has he brought you to “ love him," and to serve him in truth? If, in " his loving-kindness, he has drawn you” to himself, then you may be satisfied that “ he has loved you with an everlasting love a :" but without this evidence, your persuasion, how confident soever it may be, is a fatal delusion. The Jews of old affirmed that God was their
a Jer. xxxi. 3.