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consequently, its existence and operation in the soul proves us to be true believers, children of God, and heirs of glory.] ADDRESS 1. Those who
are strangers to this peculiar regard
[If the existence of it in the soul prove that we have passed from death unto life, the non-existence of it may well lead you to fear that this change has never been wrought in you. Examine yourselves, therefore, and try your own selves. In truth, this test is of peculiar importance to you : for, if you will look within, you will find that, by nature, you are rather alienated from persons on account of their relation to Christ, than drawn to them : the want of congeniality of taste and sentiment sets you at a distance from them; and a consciousness of this may well lead you to conclude that you are yet dead before God. The Apostle tells us this, in the very words following my text; “He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death." O consider this, ere it be too late : and seek that change, without which you must for ever perish!]
2. Those who think themselves under its influence
[It must be confessed that persons are very prone to deceive themselves on this point; and to imagine that they love the brethren, when their regard is merely partial towards their own party, and when it is associated with many dispositions contrary to love. Remember then, I pray you, that your love, in order to be genuine, must be heavenly in its origin, holy in its exercise, and uniform in its operations See, I pray you, whether your
love be of this kind, before you venture to build upon it such a confident persuasion as that mentioned in my text ---] 3. Those who are truly alive to God
[Shew, in your whole spirit and temper, what the effect of the Gospel is. It was said of the primitive Church, Behold how these Christians love one another! Let the same mark be visible in you, and the same confession be extorted from all your adversaries: bear in mind all the offices of love, that it “ beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. You must not expect your brethren to be perfect: for you yourselves are not perfect: and therefore the allowances which you need from others, you must make for them: and you must take care, in thought, word, and deed, that nothing be done by you contrary to love. Be sure, therefore, that " your love be without dissimulation;" and that it shew itself" not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth."]
THE LOVE OF CHRIST A PATTERN FOR US, TO EACH OTHER.
1 John iii. 16. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he
laid down his life for us : and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
IN contemplating Christianity as a system, we scarcely know whether to admire more, the depth of its mysteries, or the height of its requirements. Of all mysteries, that specified in our text, the death of our incarnate God for the sins of men, is beyond all comparison the greatest: and, of all requirements, there is not one so arduous as that, which also is here inculcated, of laying down our lives for the brethren. The two taken together present Christianity in a most endearing view; and exhibit it as alike conducive to the perfection of our nature and the completion of our bliss. Let us notice, I. The extent in which God has manifested his love
to us If we survey the works of creation, we shall see love inscribed upon them all. There was not one which the Creator himself did not pronounce to be
very good :" and, if there be any thing within the whole compass of it that is noxious to man, it was not so according to its original constitution, but has been rendered so by sin. If we mark also the dispensations of providence, we shall find in all of them too the same blessed character of love: for the very anger of God, is only an exercise of paternal love; and his judgments, an effort to bring his offending creatures into a state of reconciliation and acceptance with him. But it is in redemption that his love is chiefly displayed : for, in order to effect it, Jesus Christ assumed our nature, and actually “ laid down his life for us.”
In order that we may behold somewhat of the love displayed in this stupendous act, let us consider,
1. What our situation was that rendered such an effort necessary
[We were fallen, after the example of “the angels that kept not their first estate;" and with them we must have taken our portion to all eternity. To deliver ourselves was absolutely impossible: nor could the whole creation afford us any effectual aid. The judgments denounced against sin must be executed, either on the sinner himself, or on one capable of standing in his place, and of satisfying all the demands of law and justice. But where could such an one be found? The first archangel was unequal to the task. None but God himself could interpose with effect, even that God, whose law we had violated, and whose majesty we had offended. Such was our helpless and hopeless state, when Almighty God determined to rescue us from our misery, by sending his only dear Son into the world to offer up himself a sacrifice for sin, and, by dying in our stead, to redeem us from all the penal consequences of our transgression.] 2. What by that effort is accomplished for us (Our guilt is expiated
And God is reconciled unto his offending creatures We may now go to him in the name of his dear Son. We may plead the merit of his obedience unto death. The vilest sinner in the universe has no occasion to despair. All that is necessary for his acceptance with God has been done; and he needs only to “ lay hold on the hope set before him," and to embrace the salvation that is freely offered him. If only we believe in Jesus, justice itself is become our friend and our advocate: because its utmost demands having been satisfied in Christ's obedience unto death, it claims, on behalf of all who believe in Jesus, the transfer of those rights to which, through the intervention of our Surety, we are entitled
-] 3. What wonders of love are contained in it
[To what, but love, can we trace this merciful interposition of the Deity in our behalf? was there any thing in us to merit it at God's hands? We, alas! were in the very state of the fallen angels, “ungodly," " sinners," " enemies," filled with all evil, and destitute even of a good desire. But, if God could find no inducement from any thing that was in us to exercise this mercy towards us, was there none to be found within his own bosom? No, not any. He would have been equally happy and equally glorious, if neither men nor angels had ever existed: and, if neither his happiness nor his glory have been at all affected by the ruin of the one, neither would it have been by the ruin of the other, if we, like them, had been left to perish to all eternity. To his sovereign love and grace
alone can we trace this stupendous act of mercy: and to that it is uniformly traced in the Holy Scriptures: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Sona:" “ Herein is love; not that we loved God; but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins b:" “ God commendeth his love towards us, in that, when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." To all eternity will this be the one subject of wonder, and adoration, and thanksgiving to all the hosts of the redeemed; “ To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion for ever and everd.']
Our meditations on this subject will be the best preparation for considering, II. The extent in which we should exercise love to
our brethrenTo imitate our blessed Lord and Saviour, as far as possible, is our bounden duty : and especially are we commanded to do so in the exercise of love. Again and again does he require us to “ love each other as he loved use;" and the duty is enforced from the very same consideration as is proposed to us in the text.
Consider then our duty, 1. Towards “our brethren” of mankind at large
[There is not a human being towards whom we do not owe a debt of love: and were it in our power, there is not a pain which we should not alleviate, nor a want which we should not supply. This is particularly noticed in the words following our text: “Whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"
But if this be our duty towards them in reference to their temporal wants, how much more is it in reference to the concerns of their souls! How should we weep over the unhappy state of the heathen world, immersed as they are in darkness, and subjected to the entire dominion of the god of this world! What efforts should we not make for the enlightening of their minds, and for the discovering to them that love, that stupendous love, wherewith our God has loved both us and them! Say, brethren, do ye not blush when you look back upon your conduct in this respect, and see what contracted views you have had of your duty towards them, and how little you have endeavoured to discharge your duty, even as far as it has been seen and acknowledged by you? Consider more especially your duty towards your Jewish brethren, from whom you have received all the light which you yourselves enjoy: should it be no grief to you to see that highly-favoured people so blinded by prejudice, that, with the Scriptures in their hands, they contemn, and even execrate, that very Saviour who has shewn such love to them? Why do we not feel for them ? why do we not exert ourselves in their behalf? why do we not endeavour to repay to them the debt of love which we have received from their forefathers? The Apostles, and multitudes of their descendants in the ministry, laid down their lives for us, accounting themselves richly recompensed if they might but lead us to the knowledge of the true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent. O that there were in us a corresponding sense of our duty, and that we could, with one heart and one mind, rise to the performance of it!]
a John i. 16.
b 1 John iv. 9, 10.
c Rom. v. 8.
2. Towards our brethren of the Church in particular
(There is an especial duty towards those who are united to the Church of Christ : “ We are to do good unto all men, but especially unto them that are of the household of faith.” We owe to them a pre-eminent degree of love, because they are so near to us, and because they are so dear to God, and more especially because there is such an identity of interest between Christ and them. They are our brethren in a higher sense than others, being children of the same heavenly Father, and heirs of the same glorious inheritance. From all eternity have they been objects of God's electing love; and now, the monuments of his
very temples in which he deigns to dwell. Every one of them is a member of Christ's mystical body, yea," one spirit with him:" so that whatever we do for them, we do for Christ himself, as much as if he were personally present with us, and the visible object of our attentions. What love then do we not owe to these ? I hesitate not to say, that our very life should be of small estimation with us in comparison of their welfare ; and that martyrdom itself, if endured for the benefit of their souls, ought not to be an object of dread, so much as of desire and joyful selfcongratulation. We see this love in Aquila and Priscilla, and in Epaphroditus also h; but more especially in the Apostle Paul, who was contented to be “in deaths oft” for the benefit of the Church, and who, in the near expectation of martyrdom,
& Rom. xvi. 4.
b Phil. ii. 30.