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(3.) The church of mankind is the other part of the rational creation whereon the image of God is renewed. Love unto the person of Christ proceeding from faith, is their life, their joy and glory.
It was so unto the church under the Old Testament. The whole book of Canticles is designed to no other purpose, but variously to shadow forth, to insinuate and represent the mutual love of Christ and the church. Blessed is he who understands the sayings of that book, and hath the experience of them in his heart. The forty-fifth Psalm, among others, is designed unto the same purpose. All the glorious descriptions which are given of his person in the residue of the prophets, were only means to excite love unto him, and desires after him. Hence is he called "an ba nion, Hag. ii. 7. The desire of all nations.' He alone who is desirable unto, and the only beloved of the church, gathered out of all nations.
The clear revelation of the person of Christ, so as to render him the direct object of our love, with the causes and reasons of it, is one of the most eminent privileges of the New Testament. And it is variously attested in precepts, promises, instances, and solemn approbations, Wherever he supposeth or requireth this love in any
of his disciples, it is not only as their duty, as that which they were obliged urto by the precepts of the gospel, but as that without which no other duty whatever is accepted by him. * If,' saith he, 'ye love me, keep my commandments;' John xiv. 15. He so requires love unto himself, as not to expect or approve of any obedience unto his commands without it. It is a great and blessed duty to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ; yet will not he accept of it unless it proceeds out of love unto his person. 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? feed my lambs;' John xxi. 15--17. Three times did he repeat the same words to him who had failed in his love towards him by denying him thrice. Without this love unto him, he requires of none to feed his sheep, nor will accept of what they pretend to do therein. It were a blessed thing, if a due apprehension hereof did always abide with them that are called unto that work.
Hereunto doth he annex those blessed promises which comprise the whole of our peace, safety, and consolation in
this world. "He,' saith he, that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself unto him ;' John xiv. 21. and ver. 23. My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.' What heart can conceive, what tongue can express, the glory of these promises, or the least part of the grace that is contained in them? Who can conceive aright of the divine condescension, love, and grace that are expressed in them? How little a portion is it that we know of God in these things? But if we value them not, if we labour not for an experience of them according unto our measure, we have neither lot nor portion in the gospel. The presence and abode of God with us as a father manifesting himself to be such unto us, in the infallible pledges and assurances of our adoption; the presence of Christ with us, revealing himself unto us, with all those ineffable mercies wherewith these things are accompanied, are all contained in them. And these promises are peculiarly given unto them that love the person of Christ, and in the exercise of love towards him.
Hereunto are designed the gospel Gerazim and Ebal, the denunciation of blessings and curses. As blessings are declared to be their portion, 'who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity ;' Eph. vi. 24. so those who love him not, have the substance of all curses denounced against them, even 'Anathema Maranatha;' 1 Cor. xvi. 22. So far shall such persons be, whatever they may profess of outward obedience unto the gospel, from any blessed interest in the promises of it, as that they are justly liable unto final excision from the church in this world, and eternal malediction in that which is to come.
It is evident, therefore, that the love of the church, of believers, unto the person of Christ, is not a distempered fancy, not a deluding imagination, as some have blasphemed, but that which the nature of their relation unto him makes necessary; that wherein they express their renovation into the image of God, that which the Scripture indispensably requires of them, and whereon all their spiritual comforts do depend. These things being spoken in general, the particular nature, effects, operations, and motives of this divine love, must now be farther inquired into.
The nature, operations, and causes of divine love, as it respects
the person of Christ.
That we may the better understand that love unto the person of Christ which we plead for, some things must be premised concerning the nature of divine love in general, and thereon its application unto the particular actings and exercise of it which we inquire into, will be plain and easy.
God hath endowed our nature with a faculty and ability of fixing our love upon himself. Many can understand nothing of love, but the adherence of their minds and souls unto things visible and sensible, capable of a present natural enjoyment. For things unseen, especially such as are eternal and infinite, they suppose they have a veneration, a religious respect, a devout adoration; but how they should love them, they cannot understand. And the apostle doth grant that there is a greater difficulty in loving things that cannot be seen, than in loving those which are always visibly present unto us; 1 John iv. 20. Howbeit this divine love hath a more fixed station and prevalency in the minds of men, than any other kind of love whatever. For,
1. The principal end why God endued our natures with that great and ruling affection, that hath the most eminent and peculiar power and interest in our souls, was in the first place, that it might be fixed on himself, that it might be the instrument of our adherence unto him. He did not create this affection in us, that we might be able by it to cast ourselves into the embraces of things natural and sensual. No affection hath such power in the soul to cause it to cleave unto its object, and to work it into a conformity unto it. Most other affections are transient in their operations, and work by a transport of nature, as anger, joy, fear, and the like; but love is capable of a constant exercise, is a spring unto all other affections, and unites the soul with an efficacy not easy to be expressed unto its object. And shall we think that God, who made all things for himself, did create this ruling affection in and with our natures,
merely that we might be able to turn from him, and cleave unto other things, with a power and faculty above any we have of adherence unto him? Wherefore, at our first creation, and in our primitive condition, love was the very soul and quickening principle of the life of God, and on our adherence unto him thereby, the continuance of our relation unto him, did depend. The law, rule, and measure of it
• Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul.' For this end did God create this affection in us. Not only our persons in their nature and being, but in all their powers and faculties, were fitted and prepared unto this end, of living unto God, and coming unto the enjoyment of him. And all their exercise on created objects was to be directed unto this end. Wherefore, the placing of our love on any thing before God, or above him, is a formal expression of our apostacy from him.
2. Divine excellencies are a proper adequate object of our love. The will indeed can adhere unto nothing in love, but what the understanding apprehends as unto its truth and being; but it is not necessary that the understanding do fully comprehend the whole nature of that whieh the will doth so adhere unto. Where a discovery is made unto and by the mind of real goodness and amiableness, the will there can close with its affections. And these are apprehended as absolutely the most perfect in the divine nature and holy properties of it. Whereas therefore not only that which is the proper object of love is in the divine excellencies, but it is there only perfectly and absolutely, without the mixture of any thing that should give it an allay, as there is in all creatures, they are the most suitable and adequate object of our love.
There is no greater discovery of the depravation of our natures hy sin, and degeneracy of our wills from their original rectitude, than that whereas we are so prone to the love of other things, and therein do seek for satisfaction unto our souls, where it is not to be obtained, it is so hard and difficult to raise our hearts unto the love of God. Were it not for that depravation, he would always appear as the only suitable and satisfactory object unto our affections.
3. The especial object of divine, gracious love, is the divine goodness. “How great is his goodness, how great is his beauty !' Zech. ix. 17. Nothing is amiable, or a proper object of love, but what is good, and as it is so. Hence divine goodness, which is infinite, hath an absolutely perfect amiableness accompanying of it. Because his goodness is inexpressible, his beauty is so. "How great is his goodness, how great is his beauty! Hence are we called to give thanks unto the Lord, and to rejoice in him, which are the effects of love, because he is good; Psal. cvi. 1. cxxxvi. 1.
Neither is divine goodness the especial object of our love as absolutely considered. But we have a respect unto it, as comprehensive of all that mercy, grace, and bounty, which are suited to give us the best relief in our present condition, and an eternal future reward. Infinite goodness exerting itself in all that mercy, grace, faithfulness, and bounty, which are needful unto our relief and blessedness in our present condition, is the proper object of our love. Whereas therefore this is done only in Christ, there can be no true love of the divine goodness, but in and through him alone.
The goodness of God as a creator, preserver, and rewarder, was a sufficient, yea, the adequate object of all love antecedently unto the entrance of sin and misery. In them, in God, under those considerations might the soul of man find full satisfaction as unto its present and future blessed
But since the passing of sin, misery, and death upon us, our love can find no amiableness in any goodness, no rest, complacency, and satisfaction in any, but what is effectual in that grace and mercy by Christ, which we stand in need of, for our present recovery and future reward. Nor doth God require of us that we should love him otherwise but as he' is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.' So the apostle fully declares it: 'In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his onlybegotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him ;' 1 John iv. 9, 10. 16. God is love, of a nature infinitely good and gracious, so as to be the only object of all divine love. But this love can no way be