« PreviousContinue »
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one God, be ascrib'd as is most due, all Glory, Honour, Praife, Might, Majesty and Domi. nion, both now and 'evermore. Amen.
DISCOURSE XII. The Epistle for the First Sunday after Trinity.
i St. John iv. 7, to the end. Beloved, let us love one another; for Love is of God,
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love, &c.
HE Collect for this Day teaches us to beg of God the Acceptance of our Prayers, and the Aflistance
of our Infirmities, that fo in keeping his Commandments we may please him both in Will and Deed.
The Epistle mentions and insists upon the great Commandment of Love, which is indeed the Sum of all the Commandments; and the keeping of it is therefore stild, the fulfilling of the Lam.
It begins with an Exhortation to this excellent Grace, which it backs with many pressing Motives and Encouragements, and concludes with some Marks and Trials of the Truth of it, as we shall find in the following Discourse.
I begin, as the Epistle doth, with the Exhortation to this Grace of Love, in these words, Beloved, let us love one another, where 'tis yfher'd in with the kind Compellation of Beloved, the better to insinuate and instil this Leffon into us. St. John is in Scripture stild, The Beloved Disciple, or The Disciple whom Jesus loved, for he lean'd on his Breast, and so was nearest his Heart, and knew more of his Mind than any other : by which means his Breast being in fiam'd with the Love of God, breath'd out nothing but Love to the Brethren; Beloved faith he) let us love one and nother.
But what is the Love here exhorted to? Now tho Love be a Pallion better felt than describ'd, yet the Love here recommended may be thús defin'd; 'Tis a Vertue or gracious Disposition of Soul, that keeps Men from doing any harm, and puts them upon doing all the good they can to one another. Where,
First, I stile it a Vertue, for so it is both moral and theological: as it is dictated by the natural Law of Reason, 'tis a moral Virtue, and fatis handled by the Heathen Philosophers; as ’tis reveal'd and requir'd by the written Law of God, 'tis a theological Gracę or Vertue, and so 'tis handled by Divines. Again,
Secondly, I stile it a gracious Disposition of Soul, to sig. nify the Seat of it, which is within the Heart, where all true Love is feated, not outward only in the Lip or the Tongue, which is no better than Hypocrify and Diffimulation. . Again,
Thirdly, Here are added the two essential Properties of Love, which are to do no manner of harm, and to do all possible good to one another.
ift, I say, true Love keeps Men from doing any the least harm to another; for Love worketh'no Ill to his Neighbour, yea, it thinketh no Evil, faith the Apostle, and harbours not the least Thought of doing any bad turn. Now Men, you know, nay receive much harm from another sundry ways; as in the Soul, by drawing them into Sin, or creating to them any unnecessary Grief or Trouble, in the Body, by Maiming, Murder, and any other Acts of Violence; in his Goods, by taking or withholding from him any thing that is his; in his good Name, by spreading evil Reports, Backbiting and Detraction: From all which Evils the Love here requir'd will effe&tually restrain us; for these being the common Effects of Envy, Hatred and Malice, are inconsistent with that Love we owe to one another.
2dly, True Love not only keeps Men from the least harm, but puts them upon doing all the good they can to each o
for Love wilhes well to his Neighbour, and that will move to the doing all good Offices for him. Now as Men inay receive much hurt, so may they receive much good from.one another : as in their Soul, by keeping them from Sin, and lightning the Burden of their Sorrows; in their Bodies, by preserving them from Violence and ill Ulage, by relieving their Necessities, and healing their Distempers ; in their Goods, by defending them from Fraud, Rapine
and Oppression, and helping them to Right that suffer Wrong. In their good Names, by vindicating them from all unjust Calumnies, Censures and evil Reports, and giving them the just Praises due to their Merits and good Works. These and many other good Offices may be done to Mankind, which the true Love we are to bear to one another will make us ever ready and willing to perform. This is briefly the Nature and Properties of that Brotherly Love which we are here exhorted to:. To press and recommend which, the Apostle tells us, i,
In the next words, the Rise and Original of this Love, whence it comes, and how it may be attain'd; for Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knometh God: meaning, that Love is the most Divine and God-like thing that can be found in us; by it we become most espe, cially like unto God, and resemble him in that darling At tribute and Perfection, in which he most delighteth. Love is a Ray of the Divinity darted upon us, and where 'tis fix'd makes us in some measure Partakers of the Divine Nature; for every one that loveth is born of God: He is of a heavenly Rise and Extraction, and comes from the Divine and Spiritual Seed; he is born not of the Will of Man, but of God, whom he resembles in his Nature, and Perfection, as Children do their parents in their Features and Com. plexion. Nothing makes us more the Children of God, or more nearly ally'd to the Divine Majesty, than this Grace of Love, which is our greatest Glory, and renders us most amiable and acceptable to him: for thereby God communicates himself to us, and gives us the most intimate Ac quaintance with, and Knowledg of his Mind; for he that loveth, is not only born of God, but knoweth God : that is, not with a bare notional Knowledg, such as evil Men and Spirits have, which rather makes them tremble at, than rejoice at him ; but with a faving experimental Knowledg, such as only good Men and Saints have, who are thereby made like unto God, and transform'd into the fame Image from Glory to Glory. Whereas,
He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is Love: He is an utter Stranger to the Divine Nature, and never felt its Influence; he knoweth nothing of God as he ought to know, being destitute of Love; he hath nothing of God in him, who is made up of Love and Kindness to Mankind ; he hath more of Envy and Enmity of the evil Spirits, to when he conforins in his Nature, and with whom he thall have his Portion. To know God aright, is to be Followers of him as dear Children, and to walk in Love; for his veIy Nature and Effence consists in Love, and we cannot imitate or resemble him more than by the Acts of Kindness and Charity.
But wherein doth this transcendent Love of God to Mankind appear? Why, among other things the Apostle gives us a high and eminent Instance of it in the next Verse; In this was manifefted the Love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son inno the World, that ape might live thro him, 'When we were utterly lost and undone by the first Tranfgreffion, and thereby left in a helpless and hopeless Condition, God was pleas'd, out of his tender Mercy, to take pity upon us, and to fend his only Son out of his Bosom to recover us from this forlorn State : and Because nothing else could do it, he was content to die for us, that we might live thro him. When we were dead in Trefpasses and Sins, he restor'd us again to a Life of Grace, and by his Holy Spirit hath given us the assurd Hopes of being raisd to a Life of Glory. And what greater Expres fion of Love could be ever mewn us, than the Father's in sending, the Son's in consenting, the Spirit's in affisting, and all of them in contriving and effe&ting these things for us?
Herein is Love (faith our Apostle) not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent bis Son to be the Propitiation for our Sins; that is, herein will this Love of God appear the greater, that we did not begin with any Love to God, that might engage or encourage him to make this Return to us: for we, alas! had no sense of our Condition, no power to help our felves, no, nor yet Ability so much as to ask any Relief; but he began with us, and was before-hand in his Love to us ;-yea, he was so early as to prevent us with his Loving-kindness, before we knew any thing of it, and fent his Son to propitiate his Wrath, and reconcile us to him. felf, when we were Enemies and Strangers to him: which must enhance his Love above all Expression or Conception.
From hence the Apostle very rationally infers, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. These inexpreflible and unrequitable Acts of the Divine Love Hould ftir up in os something of a like Love and Affe&tion to the Brethren; not that we can answer or come up to the Height of his unparalleld Love towards us, but that we fhould imitate and return in all the good Offices
that we can, not obječting Unkindness or Unworthiness in any; for he loved us without any Merit, or any other Motive but his own Goodness; he is kind to the Evil and the Unthankful, and causes the Sun to shine upon the Just and the Unjust: and we are bid to be merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful; that is, to imitate hini in the undistinguilh'd Acts of his Love and Bounty : but much more are we to express our Affection to such as either need, desire or deserve our Kindness,
All the Requital that God expects for his Bounty and Goodness, is the Return of Acts of Love and Kindness to the Brethren : as for himself, he is above our Beneficence; our Goodness extendeth not to him, we can present him with nothing, but what was his own before : all that we can do, is to express our Love, and extend our Kindness to one aa nother; which if done for God's fake, and in obedience to his Command, will be an acceptable Oblation.
Beside, as we are not capable of giving any thing unto God, fo'neither is he capable of receiving any thing from us; for no Man (faith our Apostle) bath seen God at any time. All Acts of Love and Kindness pass among such as see and converse with each other; and the Objects of our Senses are commonly the Objects of our Compassion and Charity : whereas God'is invisible, and above the Reach of our Eye or Converse; and so no good Office of ours is able to come at him.
But tho we cannot fee God in his Person, yet we may daily behold him in his Members; and what we do to any of these, he reckons as done to himself: yea, if we love one another, he is not far from any of us; for be then dwelleth in us, and his Love is perfected in us: He takes up his Abode in a Heart that is fill'd with Love; he resides in it by his Holy Spirit, and raises its Love to the highest Perfeétion.
But by what Mark or Token may we know this dwelling of God in us, and we in him? Why, that we are told in the next Verse: Hereby we know, that we dwell in him, and be in us, because he hath given us of bis Spirit. If we find the InHuence of the Holy Spirit moving in us by the Fruits of Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, and the like, we may conclude that God is in us of a truth; for if God be Love, as he frequently stiles himself, then where Love is, there is God; he is an Inhabitant in the Boson where Love resides, and he is a Stranger to the Breast where that is wanting. Vol. IV. Part 2