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SERMON VIII.

BY SCHOTT.

THE INTIMATE CONNEXION BETWEEN THE FERVENT LOVE OF GOD, AND LOVE AND REVERENCE TOWARDS JESUS CHRIST.

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SERMON VIII.

THE INTIMATE CONNEXION BETWEEN THE FERVENT LOVE OF GOD, AND LOVE AND REVERENCE TOWARDS JESUS CHRIST.

To thee, the only-begotten Son of the Highest, the eternal Mediator and Propitiator, who hast acquired for us the sacred privilege of the children of God, be honour and praise for evermore! Amen.

Great and striking unquestionably, my Christian hearers, is the difference of judgments formed on human actions and speeches. But a greater and more striking diversity has never been exhibited, than that concerning the discourses and acts of Jesus, our Lord, whose last calamities pass before our view in these still and solemn weeks. The purity and innocence of his life, the superhuman power with which he performed things which no other man did, the celestial strength of the truth of his Gospel, did not fail to make a due impression. “Thou, O Lord, hast the words of eternal life,” cried Peter with high inspiration before the chosen 146of Jesus, who were assembled in familiar circle round that Divine Being; who opened their hearts to his heavenly doctrine, and rested on him their trust, their labours, their wishes, their hope. “Never man spake like this Man.” “Verily this is that Prophet that should come into the world.” “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Thus said the unprejudiced among his contemporaries who could not conceal from themselves, nor deny, that they never before felt so deeply affected. When Jesus spake, feelings of joy, of admiration, of gratitude and love, broke forth in those multitudes which followed him, into loud acclamations, into an universal glorification of the Lord. But the louder the admiration of his deeds, the stronger the influence of his doctrine became; so much the more the hate of the Pharisees, the hate of the Scribes and Jewish priests, increased, and armed itself against Divine truth and Him who proclaimed it; so much the more assiduously did they labour to calumniate his character, to deride his instructions, to traduce his miracles, to destroy his reputation, to bias his adherents and make them revolt against him; so much the more studiously they contrived means and occasions to deprive him of his efficiency, his liberty, his earthly existence. Can we deny, my hearers, that Jesus is estimated in very different lights in our generation also? It is loudly proclaimed in our temples, that 147he is the Son of the Eternal, the Saviour of the world, the true and only Mediator and Redeemer; the song of praise soars aloft to him on the wings of devotion; at his altar is presented to us, that which should raise us to an invisible and blessed communion with him, the Divine Being; and in the hearts of pious Christians lives Jesus evermore.

But—how sad a spectacle! wicked men also have arisen, to whom the holy Scripture, the heavenly doctrine of Jesus our Lord, has afforded a convenient occasion for dull jesting, because they are not capable of comprehending what is holy, because their mouths, their hearts, their course of life, profane and desecrate every thing; persons full of hatred and hostility to Jesus are come forth And have blasphemed Him, in whose mouth was no guile; and thoughtless men live on the vanity of their hearts, who do not indeed mock nor blaspheme, but who feel no interest in Jesus. For this coldness towards the Redeemer, which has been so widely spread in our days, excuses are not wanting. It is often sought to be palliated by the explanation, that men can maintain a religious disposition in general, pray to the Highest, and love and worship the Deity, without particularly regarding Jesus and his word, without being Christianly religious. And in fact, my hearers, this objection is certainly plausible. Who may assert without injustice, that among all those, who have lived on. the earth in ignorance of 148Jesus and his Gospel, there has been no religious heart? But we, to whom the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord has appeared, to whom it is granted to search the Scripture, to understand therein, what that Divine person has communicated, what he has done, effected, and endured for us, to behold his glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son of God—we, who call ourselves Christians, cannot possibly accede to this erroneous opinion. He who has once received the word of eternal life, who is at all acquainted with the sacred history of him, in whom we have life and full sufficiency; if he will not contradict himself, nor belie his understanding, nor separate what is indissoluble, let him not say, “I love God,” if in his inward mind he has no regard for Jesus. For a true, genuine, filial love of God stands in the closest connexion with the love and reverence which we owe to Jesus. The words of our text call upon us to unfold this thought more perspicuously.

John viii. 42-44.

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God, neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.

THE Jews, to whom Jesus speaks in the words of 149our text, blinded by proud self-conceit, called themselves children of God and the Lord’s people, since, being the posterity of the pious Abraham, they thought they had the first title to the favour of the Lord. They called themselves children of God, without worshipping him with a truly filial regard. They conspicuously manifested what little real desire they had seriously to perform the will of God, by the contempt and ungrateful hatred, with which they treated Jesus and his Gospel. Full of the generous love of truth Jesus addresses them, “If God were your Father,” if you worshipped God with truly filial sentiments, if you could with perfect right call yourselves children of God, then “ye would love me.” Let us take this saying of our Redeemer into consideration. The intimate connexion in which the filial love of God stands with love and reverence towards Jesus, is the subject for our present meditation. Let us in the first place inquire into the nature and grounds of this connexion, and then it will easily be shewn, how fruitful and important is the contemplation of this subject.

1st. To love God as a father, my hearers, comprehends infinitely more, than the worldly-minded man is accustomed to understand by it. It comprehends in fact far more, than openly to confess with the lips, that God is our Father, our Lord, and our Judge; more, than to feel a transient emotion 150at the thought of God, which passes quickly over without making any deep impression, or having any beneficial efficacy on the heart and life; more, than to solemnize sacred forms of devotion and the worship of God from mere custom. No; to be thoroughly penetrated by an ever active, ever lively consciousness of the sacred relations in which we stand to God, the Creator of life, the Giver of all good things, the Lord and Judge of all the living and the dead; to know no higher good, no fairer object of our exertions and wishes, than God and his heaven; to feel affected with a holy joy, when the greatness, the dispensations, and the will of God are published and made sensible to us; this is to love God. And if this love be deeply rooted, then we pray from the heart, we join with the whole soul in the hymns of praise, by which God is glorified aloud in his temple; we find it our meat, like Jesus, to do the will of God. We affirm not without reason, that whoever loves God as a Father, must feel himself deeply penetrated by similar sentiments, sensations, and affections towards Jesus; he must love and worship Jesus also; Him, who stands in the most intimate union with God; Him, the most perfect image of the invisible God; Him, who proceeded from the Father, to accomplish his work upon earth; Him, who reconciled and brought us into favour with God. “We believe and confess, that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” 151exclaimed the inspired Simon Peter, the ardent witness of the truth, when Jesus asked his chosen followers, if they also would leave him, like those who walked no more with him.

And every where, wherever we look into our holy Scriptures, the word of life, the momentous word meets us, Christ is the Son of God, he stands in a superior and exclusive connexion with God. On all sides his disciples call upon us to believe in the Son of God from him they promise Christians grace and salvation and everlasting peace of mind; “he that believeth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” saith the Scripture, “overcometh the world1212   1 John v. 5..” And does not Jesus himself, he, whose pure and holy sense of truth and right is declared by his every word and every action, and which offers the strongest inducement to us to believe that which he says of himself; does he not announce himself as the Son of the Highest? Do we not hear from his own mouth the assurance, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son;” “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” But that this expression not merely comprehends and signifies the general union, which connects us all, as children and creatures of God, with the Eternal; that it is a far superior, a pre-eminently sacred alliance, in which Jesus our Lord stands with God the Father, exalted above 152human wisdom and knowledge; this is attested by what the Scripture tells us of the Son of God, of his immediate descent from Heaven, and of his divine nature and dignity; this is pointed out by that expressive phrase, ‘He is the only begotten of God;’ the Redeemer’s own words indicate this to us, when he calls himself one with the Father, when he extols the love wherewith the Father loved him, before the world was, when he declares of himself, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him1313   Matt. xi. 27..”

And can we, my hearers, to whom the call of the Gospel does not sound as a new and unknown word, can we assert, that love to God and coldness towards Jesus, the only begotten of God, can be combined Can we boast that we worship God in truth, when our heart pays no tribute of worship to him, who is in a higher sense than all of us, the Son of God? Should we not join in the words of the Apostle, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God1414   1 John iv. 15.?”

And undoubtedly, in this superior and holy connexion, by which Jesus is united to God as his Father, he is at the same time the most perfect image of the invisible God. We are perfectly right, 153my hearers, in esteeming ourselves as beings, whom the Eternal created after his image. For where reason and freedom, where a holy power operates, to discern what is true, to discover what is right, to perform what is good; there something divine lives and reigns. But who, of all mortals who ever walked on the earth, has equalled Him, who was not blinded by illusions, enslaved by sensuality, overcome by passions, like common men; who spoke of divine things with a divine mind, things which no wise man on earth, no searcher of the Scriptures before him, had made known; who with constantly ready help, with ever refreshing consolation, drew near to the afflicted among mankind as a Saviour, in like manner as the infinite love of the Highest is inexhaustible in doing good; who, conscious of his innocence, had a well-grounded, a most decided right to say, “Who convicteth me of sin?” Verily ye in vain take credit to yourselves that ye love God, if the thought of Jesus, the holiest resemblance of the invisible God, makes no impression on your hearts. Is it true, that the infinite might and greatness of God fills and inspires your hearts with wondering awe, his parental graciousness with filial gratitude and love, the sacredness and kindness of his will with pious and holy desire towards Him, the fountain of all good? then reverence, gratitude, and love towards Jesus must impress the inmost soul, a holy longing after the Lord, as becomes devout 154Christians. For he is “the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person, who upholdeth all things by the word of his power1515   Heb. i. 3..”

And he came forth from the Father to accomplish his work upon earth. “If God were your Father,” thus Jesus himself declared in our text, “ye would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God, neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” And with what love of truth, with what sacred veneration for the will of God, with what noble frankness did Jesus say to the people of those days, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me1616   John vii. 16.–xvii. 4.:” “the words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” With what joyful consciousness he addresses God in prayer, “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do!” And indeed there is no need of artful eloquence, of elaborate proofs, in order to be convinced of the high mission of Jesus, Hear his word of life, his Gospel, with candid disposition; it will powerfully affect and irresistibly convince you, that here breathes the Spirit of God! Think of the mighty deeds which he performed with holy purpose, when he comforted the afflicted, relieved the suffering, called the dead to life; they loudly proclaim, God worked in him and with him. 155Behold the Conqueror of death and the grave; and you cannot doubt that by the power of God he burst the bonds of the sepulchre. Do you not contradict yourself when you assert that you hallow the name of God, when you speak of love of God, of warm feelings of piety towards the Giver of all good, and yet devote no love, no gratitude, no reverence, to the ambassador of God? Do you not oppose the eternal decree of God, do you not rebel against His will, do you not scorn with arrogant presumption the sacred dispensation of God, which he ordained for your salvation, if you do not with your whole soul turn to him, whom God himself has distinctly declared to be his Elect, whom he has chosen to be the Saviour of the world? “He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him1717   John v. 23..”

And what did the Son of God accomplish upon earth? Was it not the most high and holy work, the one thing needful, on which the everlasting salvation of mankind rests? Has he not allied and reconciled us with God? The nations, before the Saviour of the world appeared, passed their lives without the knowledge of the true and living God, which alone surely leads to salvation; being subservient to a vain worship of idols, and exposed to lamentable perversions of the understanding, the 156corrupt propensities of their hearts, and to revolting vices; but few had any perception of the truth; the followers of the Mosaic law, in general lifted up with foolish pride, were satisfied with their outward works of the law, with penances of the body, with their descent from Abraham, and idly conceived the splendid pomp of their sacrifices would blot out their sins; the best of their people looked around with longing desire after that comfort, that peace, and that hope, which alone spring from entire trust in the eternal mercy of God, from real humility and amelioration of heart. Then appeared the saving grace of God to all men; then he sent the everlasting Mediator, Christ, that he might reconcile the world to himself; then those who were before dead in sins, at enmity with themselves, estranged from God and his heaven, were converted into a holy people of God, cleansed of their sins by the death on the cross, made worthy of the mercy of the Lord, dedicated to virtue, called to eternal salvation; the world became allied to God, the earth to the heavens. Well then, whoever speaks of true filial love and veneration of God, whoever finds the supreme happiness of existence in the elevating belief, “In God we live, and move, and have our being,” whoever esteems the friendship of the Eternal as the most sacred of all things; let him loudly confess, that he feels under the most solemn obligation to entertain a fervent affection for him also, 157through whom we have free access to the Father; let him offer to him devout thanksgiving, glorify his name, and openly and joyfully testify, that he belongs to Christ, that Christ lives in him, and he in him.

Secondly. It is impossible to separate a true, genuine, and filial love of God from the love and reverence, which we owe to Jesus. Not without reason I called this consideration important. For it shews us clearly and incontrovertibly, how reprehensible is that coldness towards the Redeemer, which has been so widely diffused amongst us, and engages us to the most serious examination of ourselves.

Why are there so many amongst us, who call themselves Christians, and yet are nothing less than Christians? Why is that ardour, that zealous warmth of past times for Jesus and his Gospel no longer felt? Why do we hear so many Christians of our day, either never speak of Jesus, the Redeemer, or speak of him with that indifference and coldness, with which men talk of unimportant and quite customary things, of long past occurrences? Why do they despise the temple, avoid the commemorating supper of the Lord, and shun the sight of his cross? They are fallen away from the love of God, and wander on with a perverted mind; they are dead to what is holy, they have no real religious disposition. In vain you endeavour, ye contemners of Jesus, lukewarm Christians, to palliate 158your coldness! In vain ye affirm in your conceit, We, blessed God! have a regard for piety, we are religious after our manner. Either ye deceive yourselves, ye do not understand your own thoughts, pursuits, and feelings, or ye seek to deceive the world. Were you in earnest in your love of God, ye would certainly name the only-begotten Son of the Eternal, with sincere love and sacred veneration, and glorify his name before the world. Were your hearts thoroughly moved and penetrated by the hallowed feeling of the majesty and greatness, the all-embracing love, the sanctity and wisdom of God, ye would also reverence Him, who is the brightness of his glory. Did that humility really actuate you, which is inseparable from the true love of God, which pays a devout attention to every thing that is revealed to man as the sacred will of God, as the dispensation and decree of the Eternal, which seriously feels and considers, how little man can do of his own power, did not help and salvation come to him from above; ye would fly to him who came forth from the Father, to perform his work upon earth, with hearts full of veneration, with love and trust, with holy desire. Did you feel an inward and lively conviction, that there is nothing superior, nothing more desirable than a life in God and friendship with the Eternal; you would seek sure salvation from Jesus, who reconciled and made us friends with God. Do you 159turn earnestly to God? you will apply also to Christ. Are you really religious men? you will also be unfeigned Christians.

It is undeniable, my hearers, that coldness towards Jesus incontestibly betrays coldness towards God, and the want of a true sense of religion. Let us then examine our own hearts with strict earnestness. For, in fact, our behaviour towards Jesus proves, in the clearest manner, the degree of our love to God. It is the principles, the judgments, the expressions, the sentiments and feelings, which refer to Jesus and his word, in which the pious mind, the zeal for religion, is generally reflected. Is it, perhaps, the ruling spirit of the age, which disposes thee to indifference and coldness towards Jesus? Is it the fear of being unfashionable, which prevents thee from openly and cheerfully avowing, that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father?” Dost thou join with the lukewarm Christians, because their levity prevails, their number is the greater, and their mode of thinking the most approved in the place where thou residest? Whoever must confess this, let him then acknowledge, that the true love of God is something strange to him, that he esteems what is terrestrial and worldly higher than God and his will, that he is ambitious of empty, transient, and deceitful honour amongst men, and- not of eternal praise with God. Dost thou disregard Jesus because his doctrine 160opposes thy prejudices, censures thy corrupt inclinations, reproves thy favourite faults, and with holy earnestness urges amendment of life? Whoever must confess this, let him then acknowledge, that his heart is alienated from the life which proceeds from God, that it is a mere semblance and a vain illusion, when he boasts that he loves God. Dost thou utter the name of Jesus without warmth, without participation of thy heart, because in the exercise of thy reason thou canst dispense with the doctrine of revelation, because thou imaginest thine own strength requires no aid from Jesus, and thy merit needs not the refreshing consolation of the atoning death of Jesus? Whoever must confess this, let him only acknowledge that he is too proud to feel his unworthiness before God, that he regards not the voice of God with sacred reverence, that the genuine filial disposition, the true love of God, is wanting. May they, whose heart affords no better testimony, be alarmed at themselves, may they inwardly and strongly feel, that it cannot continue thus, if they would be at unity with themselves and enjoy solid peace; may they seek with redoubled diligence the one thing needful, and in the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of his Spirit, may they find that blessing which the world cannot give!

Thou rejoicest, pious Christian, when a just consciousness tells thee, that a devout awe of the 161only-begotten of God, that gratitude and love towards Jesus, fills thy whole heart. Thy joy is sacred and righteous; thy sentiments and feelings towards Jesus certify to thy mind, that thou hast found the true life, the life in God. Hold fast then what thou hast found, what thou hast won by faith; overcome the world, when it would estrange thee from thy heaven, when it would persuade thee to labour for that alone, which is empty, earthly, and perishable; fight the good fight, finish thy course, and keep the faith unshaken. Then wilt thou stand firmly in the storms of the time. When the bloody conflict of nations approaches, when all is in disorder, and exterminating death demands the most grievous sacrifices, the peace of God leaves not thy breast. For “neither death nor life, neither present nor future, neither height nor depth, can separate thee from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

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