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SERMON LVII.

MATTHEW x. 37.

He that loves father or mother better than me is not worthy of me.

OUR Saviour in these words presents himself and the world together as competitors for our best affections; which because we never fasten upon any thing but for some precedent apprehension of worth in it, he therefore treats with us not upon terms of courtesy but reason, challenging a transcendent affection on our parts, because of a transcendent worthiness on his. He would have it before the world, for this cause only, that he deserves it above the world.

Now because men might be apt to flatter themselves into a false persuasion of their love to Christ, the heart being no less the seat and shop of deceit, than it is of love; lest, I say, they might baffle and impose upon themselves, (as sad experience shews, that most men do in this particular,) our Saviour, with great art, selects and singles out those enjoyments that are most apt to seize and engross our affections, and particularly states the sincerity of our love to him, in the superiority of it over our love to those. An ordinary affection relating to an extraordinary object is no affection. When Christ is the thing that we are to love, between the highest degree of love and a total negation of it, there is no 276medium; as it is said of Jacob, that he loved Rachel, but he hated Leah; because he loved Leah the less of the two. So if a man loves the world in a greater degree, and Christ in a less, when God shall come to take an estimate of that love, he will make no allowance for the comparison, but account that man absolutely to love the world and to hate Christ. For not to value him more than all, is really to undervalue him.

For the exposition of the words we must here observe, that these terms father and mother are not to be understood in a literal, restrained sense, only as they signify such relations; but they are to be taken more largely, as they comprise whatsoever enjoyments are dear unto us: it being usual in scripture to express all that is dear to us by some one thing that is most dear. As it is a frequent synecdoche, to express the whole by some one principal part. Prov. xxiii. 26, My son, give me thy heart. God here requires the service of the whole man; but the heart is only expressed, as being the prime ruling part.

Now the affection we bear to our parents is the greatest that we are to bear to any worldly thing, and that deservedly. For if, under God, they gave us our beings, we may well return them our affections. So that Christ by demanding a love greater than that which upon a natural account is the greatest, and by preferring himself before that enjoyment which is the dearest, he does by consequence prefer himself before all the rest. For he that is above a prince, is consequentially above all his subjects.

As for the next expression, he is not worthy of me; it may seem from hence to be inferred, that he who should love Christ above father or mother, or 277any other worldly enjoyment, would thereby become worthy of Christ. But yet to affirm that any man may so qualify himself, or do that which may render him worthy of Christ, would be apparently to introduce and assert the doctrine of merit; a thing of the highest absurdity, both in reason and religion.

In answer to this therefore we may observe, that there is a twofold worthiness.

1. A worthiness strictly and properly so called, which is according to the real inherent value of the thing; and so no man by the choicest of his endeavours can be said to be worthy of Christ. He can no more merit grace than he can merit glory, and both are included in Christ. Obtain them indeed we may, but we can never deserve them. Worthiness is a thing that man can never plead before God; but after we have done all, we are still unprofitable, and therefore still unworthy.

2. There is a worthiness according to the gracious acceptance of God, which is a worthiness improperly so called: when a thing is worthy, not for any value in itself, but because God freely accepts it for such. This worth may be rather termed a fitness or a meetness, not consisting in merit, but in due conditional qualifications. And so he that loves father or mother less than Christ is in this sense worthy of him; that is, fitly prepared and qualified to receive him; as having that which God is pleased to make the only condition upon which he bestows Christ.

These things being premised by way of exposition, I shall draw forth and prosecute the sense of the words in these three particulars.

278

I. I shall shew what is included and comprehended in that love to Christ that is here mentioned in the text.

II. I shall shew what are the reasons and motives that may induce us to it.

III. What are the signs, marks, and characters whereby we may discern it.

I. As for the first of these, what is included in the love here spoken of, I conceive it may include these five things.

1. An esteem and valuation of Christ above all worldly enjoyments whatsoever. The first foundation stone of this love must be laid in admiration, and an high persuasion of that worth that we are to love. We must first believe Christ excellent, before we can account him dear. Those that profess and avow a love to Christ, and yet, by the secret verdict of their worldly minds, place a greater esteem upon a pleasure, upon honour, upon an estate, do indeed speak contradictions, and delude themselves, and may as well believe their life may remain when their soul is departed, as imagine that their love may go one way, and their esteem another. Upon which account it is clear, that Christ must be first raised above the world in our judgments; he must first rule there; he must lord it in our thoughts, and command our apprehensions.

If we trace David through all his Psalms, he is continually breathing out an ardent love to God; they run all along in a strain of the highest affection. And this love we shall find to have been founded upon a proportionable esteem of God, which esteem does eminently appear in several expressions. How often does he repeat and insist upon this one, 279Lord, who is like unto thee? Psalm xxxv. 10, and xlxi. 19. His thoughts were even transported into a ravishing admiration of God’s surpassing excellencies, before his heart could be drawn forth in love and affection to him; he suffered an ecstasy in his thoughts before he did in his desires. And again, Psalm xviii. 3, Thou art worthy to be praised. God’s worth, presented to the soul by thoughts of esteem, is that which so strongly, and, as I may say, invincibly draws its affections. It is indeed the price of our desires, and really buys them before it has them.

Some are of opinion that the dictates of the understanding have such a determining, controlling influence upon the will and affections, that they cannot but desire whatsoever the understanding shall sufficiently offer and propose to them as desirable. But whether or no the judgment does certainly and infallibly command and draw after it the acts of the will, (which is a controversy too big to be discussed in a sermon,) yet this is certain, that it does of necessity precede them, and no man can fix his love upon any thing, till his judgment reports it to the will as amiable. This must be the only gate and portal through which we must introduce loving thoughts of Christ into the heart; he must be first valued before he can be embraced. For this is undoubtedly certain, that nothing can have a greater share of our affections, than it has of our esteem.

2. This love to Christ implies a choosing him before all other enjoyments. For a man to pretend affection to Christ, by extolling his person, admiring what he has done for us, by praising the ways of 280God, commending the practice and the practisers of godliness; and yet in the mean time to act and labour for the world, to live in sin, and upon all occasions to submit to a temptation, rather than to a precept; notwithstanding this strange opposition and clashing between his profession and his course, I suppose every rational man would read his judgment, not in his words, but in his choice. Laudant illa, sed ista legunt; he that commends such books, but reads others, only shews that he praises one thing but values another, and that the best interpreter of his mind is not what he says, but what he chooses.

By this Moses undeniably proved both the strength and sincerity of his love to God and to the people of God, that he chose rather to suffer afflictions with them, than to enjoy all the pleasures of Pharaoh’s court. For to have solicited their cause with Pharaoh, to have procured them a mitigation of their bondage, to have won them favour and a good opinion from the Egyptians, had indeed been signs and effects of love; but this was love itself. His affection was in his choice; for had he still chose Pharaoh’s court, all other things that he could have done for his brethren had amounted rather to a good wish, than to a true affection.

Thus, on the contrary, wicked men are said to love death: but can any man make his greatest evil the object of his best desire, which is love? No, assuredly, while he considers it as such, he cannot; but because it is rational from men’s choice to infer and argue their love, they may be said therefore truly and properly to love death, because they choose it. And by the same reason, on the other side, a believer, though he may be sometimes ensnared in 281 sin, and so brought to commit it, yet he cannot be said indeed to love it, because it is seldom his choice, but his surprise; he makes it not his end and his design. It is rather a sudden invasion made upon his affections, than the resolved purpose of his will.

Thus therefore we see how the spirit and force of our love exerts itself in choice; for the design of love is to appropriate as well as to approximate its object to the soul: and to choose a thing is the first access to a propriety in it. For choice, as I may so say, is possession begun, and possession itself is nothing else but choice perfected. Barely to esteem Christ (if we may suppose a division of those things which indeed are not to be divided) is as much inferior to a choosing him, as a good look is below a good turn.

3. Love to Christ implies service and obedience to him; the same love that when it is between equals is friendship, when it is from an inferior to a superior is obedience. Love, of all the affections, is the most active; hence by those who express the nature of things by hieroglyphics, we have it compared to fire, certainly for nothing more than its activity. The same arms that embrace a friend, will be as ready to act for him. This is the natural progress of true love, from the heart to the hand: where there is an inward spring, there will quickly be an external visible motion.

When we have once placed our affection upon any person, the next inquiry naturally will be, what shall we do for him? And if this be the property of love when it lays itself out upon natural objects, we may be sure it will be heightened when it pitches upon supernatural. It is indeed changed, but withal 282advanced; the object altered, but the measure of the act increased. Divine and heavenly things do indeed refine and lop off the extravagancy, but they abate nothing of the vigour of our affections.

Christ has determined the case in short, John xiv. 15, If ye love me, keep my commandments. There is more real love to God shewn in the least sincere act of obedience, than in the greatest and the most pompous sacrifice. Many may please themselves in their fair professions, their orthodox opinions, and their judgment about the ways of Christ, but God knows there may be much of all this, and yet but little love. It is the command that must try that; and believe it, the grand inquiry hereafter will be, not what we have thought or what we have said, but what we have done for Christ.

Christ all along in scripture proposes himself to us as our Lord and Master; and a servant’s love to his master is his service. It was the idle servant that God dealt with as his enemy. How does a wicked man’s love to sin appear, but by his continual, indefatigable acting and working for it, obeying its commands, and fulfilling even its vilest lusts and most unreasonable desires! Now Christ requires that every believer should manifest his love to him in that height and measure, that a wicked person manifests his love to sin. So that when he required a testimonial of Peter’s affection, he did not ask him what he thought of him, or what he was ready to profess concerning him: for we know he thought him to be the Son of God, Matth. xvi. 16; and he professed, that if all others forsook him, yet he would not, Matth. xxvi. 33; yet for all this he afterwards both denied and foreswore him. Christ therefore 283exacts a demonstration of his love in service and obedience. Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep, John xxi. 17. He knew he that would obey and serve him, and execute his commands, loved him beyond all possibility of dissimulation. A man usually speaks, but he seldom does one thing and thinks another.

It is natural for love, where it is both sincere and predominant, to subdue the party possessed with it to undertake the most servile, laborious, and otherwise uncomfortable offices in the behalf of him whom he loves. If you will admit the paradox, it makes a man do more than he can do. Will is instead of power, and love supplies the room of ability. Had the love of Christ but once thoroughly seated itself in our hearts, we should find that, according to that most expressive phrase of the apostle, it would constrain us. It were but Christ’s saying, Go, and we should go; Do this, and we should do it. We should find a double command, one from Christ and one from our own affection. Love without works is a greater absurdity than faith without works; faith works by love, and love by obedience. Let none therefore ever think to divide himself between God and mammon; to afford his love to Christ, but his service to the world. If a man may honour his parents but not obey them, keep loyalty to his governor but rebel against him, then may also his love stand sincere to Christ while unseconded with obedience.

It is the masterpiece of Satan and our own corruptions, to bring us under this persuasion, that we may love Christ without serving him: but believe it, it is a destructive and a damnable delusion; equal 284in the absurdity and in the danger: and I believe, if we could divide these two, and give the Devil his choice, he would accept of one instead of both: give but the Devil your service, and he would give Christ your love. We are apt to place all upon persuasion; but how shall we be disappointed when God comes to reckon with us for performance!

4. Love to Christ implies an acting for him in opposition to all other things; and this is the undeceiving, infallible test of a true affection. We may not only value and commend, but think also that we serve Christ by reason of the undiscernible mixture of his and our interests sometimes wrapt together; so as to be persuaded that we serve and carry on his interest, while indeed we only serve our own in another dress. I believe that Jehu did not only persuade others, but himself also, that he served the cause of God in destroying the posterity of Ahab and the worshippers of Baal; when in truth, God’s honour and his own safety, the interest of religion and of his crown, at that time so particularly met and combined together, that he mistook his own meaning, and thought he was all the time honouring of God, while he was only endeavouring to establish himself, and pursuing the designs of policy under the mask of zeal.

But when two distinct interests are drawn forth in an open, avowed opposition, and visibly confront one another; when those that embrace one are apparently discriminated from the other, and none can embrace both, but a man must either testify a real affection on one side, or an odious indifference and neutrality, then love will appear to be love; dissimulation will be rendered impossible, and a man will 285be judged to love there only where he shall dare to appear.

When Christ and the world, Christ and our honour, Christ and our profit, shall make two opposite parties, then is the time to try our affections. If one servant should follow two several persons, it were hard to discern whose servant he was, while they both walked quietly together; but should they once quarrel and come to strokes, we should quickly see by his assistance where he had engaged his service. The truth is, it is but one and the same league, that is, defensive in respect of our friends, and offensive to their enemies. Neither is there any defending of Christ’s interest, without an active opposing that of Satan and the flesh, when the preservation of one lies in the destruction of the other. If Christ cannot increase, unless John decrease, the Baptist himself must not be spared. Because Peter would shew that he loved Christ above the rest, he drew his sword for him. He that fights for another pawns his life that he loves him: competition is the touchstone of reality.

It is not to make invectives against sin and the courses of the world, or to speak satires against the Devil, that infallibly concludes us to be Christ’s disciples. Those may chide very sharply, who are yet hearty and real friends. But shew me the person who can act with as keen a vigour as he speaks; who can put his foot upon the neck of his lust; who can be restless and active in circumventing, undermining, and defeating his corruption; and all this only for its implacable enmity to Christ; such an one indeed declares to the world by a demonstration 286of the highest evidence, that Christ bears the rule and preeminence in his affections.

Had king Josiah spoke great and glorious words of his love to God’s church, and of his hatred to idolatry, this indeed might have been a fair commendation of his zeal to the world, which is often deceived, and almost always governed by words: but it could not have at all commended his zeal to God, who weighs all such expressions in the balance of truth and reality, and finds them wanting.

But see how this royal person’s love to God manifested itself: as soon as he succeeded his father, and found the church generally corrupted, and idolatry like an usurper reigning in his kingdom, he presently throws down the altars, breaks the images, dismantles the high places; and all this in opposition to a potent, prevailing interest in his kingdom. A friend at court signified but little, when he was to speak for idolatry, where the king himself looked upon the church as his crown, and the purity of religion as his prerogative. And this was to love God and religion indeed, thus to assert them actively, by engaging against their fiercest opponents, and building up the divine worship upon the ruin of its adversaries. And surely between the most glittering professions, the most enlarged vows, and highest verbal engagements for God, and between this way of taking up and owning his quarrel, there is as much difference, as there is between wearing God’s colours and fighting his battles.

5. To assign the greatest and the sublimest instance in the last place. Love to Christ imports a full acquiescence in him alone, even in the absence 287and want of all other felicities: men can embrace Christ with riches, Christ with honour, Christ with interest, and abundantly satisfy themselves in so doing; though perhaps all the time they put but a cheat upon themselves, thinking that they follow Christ, while indeed they run only after the loaves. What Solomon says of wisdom, that they think of religion, that it is good with an inheritance.

The Devil granted it to be an easy matter for Job to serve God in the midst of that great affluence, while God set an hedge round about all that he had: but, says he to God, Put forth thine hand, and touch him, strip him of all his greatness, his wealth, and honour, and he will curse thee to thy face; and if Job’s heart had not been made of better metal than the heart of the most specious hypocrite in the world, the Devil had not been at all out in his advice, but would have certainly seen his prediction verified in Job’s behaviour.

Many love Christ as they love their temporal king; while he flourishes, and has the opportunity of obliging his dependents, they will be sure to stick close by his side: but would they follow him into banishment, and pay allegiance to majesty poor, and bare, and forlorn? And if Providence should debase him to so low a pitch, could they honour him in rags, as much as they do in purple? and give him the same homage wandering in the land of strangers, that they shew him riding in the head of his own armies?

No; the case comes to be altered here. When indeed duty and emolument conspire, one may easily be performed, because in the very same action the other may be intended: but when they part, and 288virtue is to set off itself merely upon the stock of its own worth, there men generally look upon it as upon a fair woman without a portion; all will commend, but none will marry her.

But this was the great and infallible demonstration, that all the ancient heroes in the faith gave of their love to God, that they took him alone for an inheritance and a patrimony, and embraced religion separate from all temporal accessions, as the utmost limit of their desires, the just measures of their designs, and the sole and ample object of their satisfaction. Abraham left his country, his family, his estate, following God upon his bare word and command. The disciples left all, and followed Christ; the primitive Christians and martyrs relinquished every worldly enjoyment even to life itself, and embarked all their hopes, all their fortunes and felicities, both present and future, in this one bottom, looking for all these, and that which was much better and greater than all, entirely in their religion.

But because human nature has great arguments and reluctancies against such an heroic act of piety, God, that he might cast all our duties within the rules and measures of reason, which is the proper drawing us with the cords of a man, has provided greater arguments to induce us to such an undertaking, than flesh and blood can produce against it.

For when he called Abraham from the very bosom of his friends and fortunes, he did not divert his will from one desirable object without proposing to it another: but he both answers his desires and obviates his fears, in that infinitely full and encouraging promise, Genesis xv. 1, Fear not, Abraham: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. A 289promise that might reach the very utmost of his thoughts, confute his doubts, and make good the reason of his obedience in all circumstances whatsoever. And Christ makes the same promise to all his, Matth. xix. 29, that there is none who should leave father, or mother, or lands for his sake and the gospel’s, but should receive an hundredfold in this world, and in the world to come everlasting life. That is, they should receive that high satisfaction, pleasure, and peace of mind, that should be an hundredfold greater than any that is conveyed to the heart of man from the vastest abundance of worldly treasures and enjoyments. So that in all these high instances of religion, God is pleased to convince as well as to command us to obedience, still interweaving argument with precept, and so making our love to him as rational as it can be religious.

And therefore let men frame to themselves what measures of religion they please, yet if they cannot love and acquiesce in it, when Providence shall leave them nothing in the world else to bestow their love upon, but dispossess them of all the former delights of their eyes and joys of their hearts, (of which we have but too frequent and pregnant examples in many, whose fortunes have been ground to nothing by some sad calamities,) such must assure themselves that all their love to Christ is trifling and superficial, and far from that sincerity that makes it genuine, saving, and victorious over the world.

And God knows how soon he may bring all our pretences to so severe a trial; and what need the weak heart of man will then have of such a principle to support it, when it shall find itself beat off from 290all its former holds, bereft of its supplies, and every thing on this side heaven frowning and looking sternly upon it. It will be then found that religion is not a chimera or a fancy, and that the pious man has something or other within him that makes him hold up his head, while others in the same calamity droop and despond.

Where the love of Christ has once possessed itself of the heart, though a man lives in the world, yet he lives not upon it. And therefore when nothing is imported from without, he can say to the world as Christ did once to his disciples, I have meat that ye know not of. A good man, says Solomon, is satisfied from himself; he carries his store, his plenty, his friends, and his preferments about him. Nothing could more excellently and divinely express this condition than those words of our Saviour, John vii. 38, He that believes on me, as the scripture saith, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Cisterns may be broke, and we removed from them, or they from us; but he that has a fountain within him can never be athirst.

Having thus despatched the first particular, and shewn those five things included in the love to Christ spoken of in the text, I proceed now to the

Second; which is, to shew what are the reasons and motives that may induce us to this love.

And for this I might insist upon that mighty and commanding cause of love, the amiableness and high perfection of Christ’s person; which contains in it the very fulness of the Godhead bodily, all the glories of the Deity are wrapt up and included in it; they reach as wide as infinity, and as far as eternity. His vast, unlimited knowledge and wisdom, his uncontrollable 291power and his boundless goodness, are all objects to excite such an esteem and admiration of him as must naturally pass into love.

Every thing that is but good attracts love, but that which is excellent commands it; and then how amiable must that nature needs be of which the sun, the gloriousest creature in the world, is but a glimpse, the light itself a shadow, and the whole universe, that is, the united glories of heaven and earth, but a broken copy and an imperfect transcript. Thou art fairer than the children of men, says the prophet David, Psalm xlv. 2; and beauty, all confess, is the grand, celebrated motive of affection. The whole song of Solomon is but a description of those raptures of love into which the church had been raised by a contemplation of the unparalleled beauties of Christ. All the perfections we behold and admire in the world, either in men or women, are but weak traces and faint imitations of the divine beauty, which is the original; and which would infinitely more captivate our desires, could we see things with an intellectual eye, as clearly as we do with a corporeal. But I shall not dwell upon these motives of love drawn from the perfection of Christ considered in himself, but as relating to us and to our concernments, and so I shall assign these two motives of our love to him.

1. That he is best able to reward our love.

2. That he has shewn the greatest love to us.

1. And first for the first of these, that he is best able to reward our love. I confess, that to love merely for reward, is not so properly to love as to traffic, and flows not from affection but design. But on the other side, to love a worthless thing, to embrace 292a cloud, or for a vine to cling about a bramble, is not to bestow, but throw away affection. The recompence of reward is a thing always to be respected, though not to be solely intended. And the very pleasure and satisfaction that the mind finds in loving a worthy and a noble object, is a considerable reward of that very love. Virtue and religion composes the thoughts, answers the desires, and satisfies the conscience of him that loves it. The absolving clearness of which is a gratuity much greater than any that either the pleasure of the sin or of the world can bestow. The sensual epicure catches at the delights of sense, and lets out the whole stream of his desires upon them. But what answer and return do they make him? Does he not find them like the apples of Sodom, rotten as well as alluring, fair to the sight, but crumbled into ashes by the touch? How do they vanish into smoke and air, and nothing, and lose all their credit upon experience! Trial puts a period to them, as it must do to all empty, phantastic enjoyments, that owe their value only to distance and expectation.

Those that have been the most insatiable lovers of pleasure, profit, and honour, and such other worldly incentives of love; and have had all their desires pursued and plied with constant surfeiting fruitions of them; let them at last run over all with a severe and a reflecting thought, and see whether they have not been rather wearied than satisfied, their love still determining in loathing, or at least in indifference. How have they been paid for all their love? Why, some have been paid with the wages of poverty, some of diseases, some of shame, but all with dissatisfaction. What fruit have we of those things? 293says the apostle most emphatically: which words are not so much the voice of a man, as of mankind, upon a survey of all temporal fruitions.. There is an emptiness during the enjoyment of them, and a sting in the remembrance: present they deceive, and being past they disturb. And now must vanity and vexation be took for a valuable price of that affection that Christ would purchase with the pleasures of virtue and the glories of heaven, with present satisfaction and future salvation?

Go over the regions of hell and mansions of the damned, and there you will see how sin and the world have rewarded men for all the love they have shewn them. They have made most men miserable, even in this life; but did they ever make any one happy in the other? in which alone happiness and misery are considerable, as being there alone unchangeable. Consider a man making his addresses to his beloved sin, as Samson did to his Delilah; he courts and caresses it, sacrifices his strength and unbosoms his very soul to it: he breaks through bars, and gates, and walls, to visit it; is impatient of wanting the delights of its company: and now how is he recompensed for all these heights of love? Why, he is answered with tricks and arts, with traps and treacheries; he is dissembled with, and betrayed to his mortal enemies: those eyes are put out by the person upon whom they doted, and the lap he slept in delivers him into perpetual imprisonment, misery, and intolerable disgrace. It is impossible for a man to shew more love than he does to sin, and it is not possible for his bitterest enemy to pay him with more fatal returns. The truth is, a man in all his converse with sin courts a serpent, 294and hugs a scorpion, which will be sure to strike and sting him to death for all his kindness.

But because there are other things besides sin that are apt to bid fair for our love, as the possessions and honours of the world, let us see what kind of requital they make for that great love that they find from their most passionate suitors and pursuers. A man perhaps loves riches with that vehemence of desire, that he thinks gold cannot be bought too dear, though the price of it be his natural rest, his health, his reputation, his soul, and every thing. But now after all this, what does he find in it to recompense such an unwearied, unconquerable love? Can it ease his conscience, when the injustice by which he gained it shall torment him? Can it reconcile him to Heaven? or afford him one drop of cold water in hell to cool his tongue when it has brought him thither?

And why then should a man fling away the very spirit and quintessence of his soul, his love, upon such an ungrateful object as can make him no return? Would he bestow half of his watchings, his labours, and painful attendances, in the matters of religion, in stating businesses between God and his soul, he might raise himself such an interest, as should scorn the batteries of fortune, the injuries of time, and the very powers of hell; such an one as should stand victorious and eternal, trample upon the world, conquer death, and even outlive time itself, Let that thing or person therefore have our love that will give most for it: and this shall be the first motive or argument for our placing it upon Christ.

2. The second shall be taken from this consideration, 295that Christ has shewn the greatest love to us. Love is the most natural, proper, and stated price of love. It is a debt that is not to be paid but in kind; it scorns all other return or retaliation: and Christ is so much beforehand with us in this respect, that should we shew him the utmost love that humanity is capable of exerting, yet our love could not come under the notion of kindness, but of gratitude: for we cannot prevent him in the first acts; but only answer him in the subsequent returns of it. It is not a giving, but a paying him our affection.

The united voice of all the world heretofore proclaimed the baseness of ingratitude, and you needed not have amplified upon the topic of several vices, to have represented a man vile; for that charge alone of being ungrateful was a compendious account of all ill qualities, and left a greater brand upon a man, than whole volumes of satires and loud declamations against him.

For the truth is, it is a vice that has in it a peculiar malignity, tending to dissolve and fret asunder the bands of society, and amicable converse between men; forasmuch as society subsists by a mutual intercourse of good offices; and if there were no correspondence and exchange of one friendly action for another, company could not be desirable: and a man might command the same enjoyment in the solitudes of a desert and an howling wilderness, that he could in a populous city, well inhabited, and wisely governed.

Every ungrateful person, that receives much kindness, but repays none, only acts another kind of robbery, for he really withholds a due, and is indeed 296a thief within the protection of the law. Ingratitude is as great a sin in the sight of God, as any that is punishable by the laws of men; and has as little to plead for itself upon the stock of human infirmity as any sin whatsoever. For nature prompts and even urges a man to acknowledge a benefit conferred on him; and that so far, that an obligation no ways answered lies like a load and a burden upon an ingenuous mind: and a man must have debauched and worn out the natural impressions of ingenuity to a very great degree, before he can be unconcerned where he has been much obliged.

Now Christ has obliged us with two of the highest instances of his love to us imaginable.

1. That he died for us. The love of life is naturally the greatest, and therefore that love that so far masters this, as to induce a man to lay it down, must needs be transcendent and supernatural. For life is the first thing that nature desires, and the last that it is willing to part with. But how poor and low, and in what a pitiful shallow channel does the love of the world commonly run! Let us come and desire such an one to speak a favourable word or two for us to a potent friend, and how much of coyness and excuse and shyness shall we find! the man is unwilling to spend his breath in speaking, much less in dying for his friend. Come to another, and ask him upon the stock of a long acquaintance and a professed kindness, to borrow but a little money of him, and how quickly does he fly to his shifts, pleading poverty, debts, and great occasions, and any thing, rather than open his own bowels to refresh those of his poor neighbour! The man will not 297bleed in his purse, much less otherwise, to rescue his friend from prison, from disgrace, and perhaps a great disaster.

But now how incomparably full and strong must the love of Christ needs have been, that could make him sacrifice even life itself for the good of mankind, and not only die, but die with all the heightening circumstances of pain and ignominy; that is, in such a manner, that death was the least part of the suffering! Let us but fix our thoughts upon Christ hanging, bleeding, and at length dying upon the cross, and we shall read his love to man there, in larger and more visible characters than the superscription that the Jews put over his head in so many languages. All which, and many more, were not sufficient to have fully expressed and set forth so incredibly great an affection. Every thorn was a pencil to represent, and every groan a trumpet to proclaim, how great a love he was then shewing to mankind.

And now surely our love must needs be very cold, if all the blood that ran in our Saviour’s veins cannot warm it; for all that was shed for us, and shed for that very purpose, that it might prevent the shedding of ours. Our obnoxiousness to the curse of the law for sin had exposed us to all the extremity of misery, and made death as due to us, as wages to the workman. And the divine justice (we may be sure) would never have been behindhand to pay us our due. The dreadful retribution was certain and unavoidable; and therefore, since Christ could not prevent, he was pleased at least to divert the blow, and to turn it upon himself; to take the cup of God’s fury out of our hands, and to 298drink off the very dregs of it. The greatest love that men usually bear one another is but shew and ceremony, compliment, and a mere appearance, in comparison of this. This was such a love as, Solomon says, is strong as death; and to express it yet higher, such an one as was stronger than the very desires of life.

2dly, The other transcendent instance of Christ’s love to mankind was, that he did not only die for us, but that he died for us while we were enemies, and (in the phrase of scripture) enmity itself against him. It is possible indeed that some natures, of a nobler mould and make than the generality of the world, may arise to such an heroic degree of love, as to induce one friend to die for another. For the apostle says, that for a good man one would even dare to die. And we may read in heathen story of the noble contention of two friends, which of them should have the pleasure and honour of dying in the other’s stead, and writing the inward love of his heart in the dearest blood that did enliven it.

Yet still the love of Christ to mankind runs in another and an higher strain: for admit that one man had died for another, yet still it has been for his friend, that is, for something, if not of equal, yet at least of next esteem to life itself, in the common judgment of all. Human love will indeed sometimes act highly and generously, but still it is upon a suitable object, upon something that is amiable; and if there be either no fuel, or that which is unsuitable, the flame will certainly go out.

But the love of Christ does not find, but make us lovely. It saw us in our blood, (as the prophet speaks,) wallowing in all the filth and impurities of 299our natural corruption, and then it said unto us, Live. Christ then laid down his life for us, when we had forfeited our own to him. Which strange action was, as if a prince should give himself a ransom for that traitor that would have murdered him; and sovereignty itself lie down upon the block to rescue the neck of a rebel from the stroke of justice. This was the method and way that Christ took in what he suffered for us; a method that reason might at first persuade us to be against nature, and that religion assures us to be above it.

But such an one that both reason and religion cannot but convince us to be the highest and the most unanswerable argument for a surpassing love to Christ on our parts, that (be it spoke with reverence) God himself could afford us. An argument that must render every sin of so black and dismal an hue under the economy of the gospel, that there is no monster comparable to the sinner, to him that can hate after so much love, and by his ingratitude rend open those wounds afresh that were made only to bleed for his offences.

Having thus shewn the reasons and arguments to enforce our love to Christ, I descend now to the

Third and last thing, which is to shew the signs and characters whereby we may discern this love. Love is a thing that is more easily extinguished than concealed. It needs no herald to proclaim it, but wheresoever it is, it will be sure to shew itself. Fire shines as well as burns, and needs nothing but its own light to make it visible and conspicuous.

But yet to make a clearer discovery of the sincerity of our love to Christ, I shall give these three signs of it.

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1. A frequent and indeed a continual thinking of him. Where your treasure is, (says our Saviour,) there will your heart be also. That is, whatsoever you love and value, that will be sure to take up your thoughts. Love desires the presence of the object loved, and there is no way to make distant things present but by thought. Thought gives a man the picture of his friend, by continually representing him to his imagination. O how love I thy law! says David; it is my meditation day and night. It kept him waking upon his bed, and was a greater refreshment to him than his natural repose. Let every man reflect upon his own experience, and consult the working of his own breast, and he will find how unable he is to shut the door upon his thoughts, and to keep them from running out after that thing (whatsoever it is) that has seized his affections. Whatsoever work he is about, whatsoever place he is in, still his thoughts are sure to be there.

And can that man then pretend a love to religion, who seldom makes it the business of his thoughts and meditations? He that thinks of God but now and then, and by chance, or upon the weekly returns of a sermon, when the preacher interrupts his other thoughts, shews that God and religion are strangers to his heart and his most inward affections. David makes this the proper mark and the very characteristic of a wicked and a profane person, that God is not in all his thoughts: the very bent and stream of his soul is another way. Love is the bias of the thoughts, and continually commands and governs the motion of them. And therefore if a man would have an infallible account of his own 301heart, let him impartially ask himself, what hours he sets aside to meditate upon the matters of religion, the state of his soul, the conditions upon which he must be saved, and what evidences he has of his repentance, and his interest in the second covenant; as also to consider with himself the quality of his sins, and the measures of his sorrow; and whether after all he gets ground of his sin, or his sin of him. Let every man, I say, inquire of his own heart what time he allots for these thoughts, and whether he is not delighted when he can retire for this purpose; and on the contrary, grieved and displeased when by some cross accident or other he is diverted and took off from thus retreating into himself. If he finds nothing of this in the course of his life, (as it is to be feared very few do,) let him rest assured that he is not in earnest when he calls himself a Christian. For Christianity is not his business, his design, and consequently not his religion: but applied to him is only a name, and nothing else.

2dly, The second sign of a sincere love to Christ is a willingness to leave the world, whensoever God shall think fit to send his messenger of death to summon us to a nearer converse with Christ. I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, says the blessed apostle. For is it possible for any to love a friend, and not to desire to be with him? Upon which account I have often marvelled how some people are able to reconcile the sincerity of their love to Christ, with such an excessive, immoderate dread of death. For do they fear to be in Abraham’s bosom, and in the arms of their Saviour? Are they unwilling to be completely happy, to be saved and 302glorified, and to have their hopes perfected into possession, and actually to enjoy what they profess themselves earnestly to expect?

Those who have a spiritual sight of these things, and a rational persuasion of their title to them, surely cannot look upon that, through which they must pass to them, with so much horror and consternation. The first effect that a true and a lively faith has upon the soul is to conquer the fear of death: for if Christ has done any thing for us, he has disarmed that, and took away the grimness, the sting, and terror of that grand adversary.

But some men have so set their heart and soul upon the things of this world, that it is death to them to think of dying: they do not so much depart, as are torn out of the world: and the separation between this and them is harder than that between their soul and their body. How intolerable is it to them, to think of parting with a fair estate, a flourishing family, and great honour! How hardly are they brought to exchange their heaven here below for one above! This is the mind of most men, and it shews itself through all their glorious pretences; but let those who are so minded, whatsoever love they may profess to Christ, rest assured of the truth of this, that they love that most which they are willing to relinquish last.

3dly, A third, and indeed the principal sign of a sincere love to Christ, is a zeal for his honour, and an impatience to hear or see any indignity offered him. A person truly pious will mourn for other men’s sins as well as for his own. Mine eyes run down with tears, says David, because men keep not thy commandments. He is grieved that God is dishonoured, 303whosoever the person be that does it. He weeps over the vicious lives of those that are round about him, though they cannot wound his conscience, yet because of the wound and blow that the scandal of them gives to religion. For it is the honour and reputation of that, that he espouses as his own concernment; forasmuch as every man even in temporal things looks upon his very personal interest as wrapt up in the credit of his profession. And therefore where such an one hears the name of God profaned, religion scoffed at and abused, his blood boils, and his heart grows hot within him, and he cannot but vindicate the honour of his Maker, in reproving the blasphemer to his teeth.

Some indeed will not discourse filthily or atheistically themselves, but can quietly and contentedly enough hear others do so: but let such know, that they go sharers in the blasphemy that they do not reprehend; and have as little love to Christ, as that son to his father, who should patiently hear him reviled and traduced in company, and acquit himself upon this account, that he did not revile him himself: or that subject to his prince, who could read a libel of him with pleasure, and make good his loyalty to him upon this ground, that he was not the author of it: though in all base and unworthy actions, the difference between the author and the approver of them, by the judgment of all knowing persons, is not great.

Never did our Saviour himself express so keen and fierce an indignation, as when he saw men profaning the temple, and turning his Father’s house into a den of thieves: he then added compulsion to 304complaint, force to his words, and drove out those hucksters in the face of danger, and in spite of resistance, fearing neither the authority of the rulers nor the insolence of the rabble. Thus did Christ manifest his love to his Father, which love he has left as the pattern and standard by which we should measure our love to him.

And thus I have given you some survey of the love that Christ exacts from all those who aspire to the name and privilege of Christians. You have seen the several parts and ingredients of it, the arguments for it, and, lastly, the marks and signs declaring it: which surely will be of some use and moment to every man to conduct him in that grand inquiry about his spiritual state and condition. If the love of Christ is not in him, the merits of Christ’s death belong not to him; but he is a member of Satan, and a vessel of reprobation. Certainly had men a deep and a lively sense of that eternal misery that Christ has declared the portion of those who relate not to him, they would give their eyes no sleep, nor their thoughts any rest, till they had satisfied themselves of that sincerity that alone must stand between them and eternal wrath; and withal entitle them to those numerous and great blessings that lie wrapt up in the womb of that one comprehensive promise, that all things shall work together for the good of those that love God.

To which God be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.

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