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things, nay, almost any thing, is dearer to most persons than Christ. Why so ? Because any bitter thing is more bitter to their depraved taste than fin. As when God intended to endear the promised land to the Israelites, and make them content to leave the flesh-pots of Egypt, Exod. i. 14. their lives then were made bitter to them ; fo God gives his people deep wounds for fin, till their consciences be made to dread it, and their hearts to loathe it ;' he makes them fick at the heart with it, and puts more and more bitterness in the cup to them, till it be of all things the bittereft, to this very end, that Christ may be the dearest to them, and that whatever they may afterwards meet with in his way, they may embrace it rather than fin. Sin has been bitter to many, but not extremely bitter; therefore they fay, as the drunkard, Prov. xxiii
. 35. "When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.” But the experience of fin duly embittered quickly determines the Chriftian which side to chuse, when they are brought to this alternative, to suffer or fin.-Another reafon is,
2. That God is man's chief end; and when he made him, he made him pointing towards himself as his chief end : Eccles. vii. 29. “ God made man upright.”. But man finning, turned off from God, turned his intention, his love, and desire, beside the mark set before him, turned these in to himself, made himself his chief end. So that the whole of every natural man's religion, however refined, resolves itself into that curfed principle, Master, spare thyself. Hence they chuse new gods, father, mother, &c. setting their heart on them more than on God. Hence is their war in the gates against heaven, those things which were to be subordinate to God are set in opposition to him ; those which were to be below him in their love and esteem, are set above him. If the grace of God rectify not this diforder, it does nothing; for it is impossible, while the soul is perverted as to its chief end, that any thing can be right with that person ; as a watch that is once wrong set, though it
go, never fo regularly, it is still wrong, for it never points right. But grace truly, though not perfectly while here, brings back the Chriftian to God as his chief end. It makes him say, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides thee ?»*. Pfal. lxxiii. 25. ; and again, « For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” Phil. i. 21. It makes him holy in all manner of conversation ; fo that whatever way the Christian turns, he points habitually towards God.--Another reason is,
3. That as there unquestionably is, so they have feen, a vanity and emptiness in all things of the world, even the things that are dearest to them : Psal. cxix. 96. “ I have seen an end of all perfeca tion, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” God has hung the sign of vanity at the door of all the creatures, yet do men throng into the house, every one calling and looking for a fill, and promising it to themselves after a thousand disappointments : Ifa. lvii. 10. 66 Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet faidst thou not, There is no hope : thou haft found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved." They fee not the sign by the light of grace, though they may have a rational conviction of it, which will be as far from producing a true weaning of the heart from the world, as painted fire is from burning off a man's bands. But Christians are made to see it with the light of grace, which is the light of life, which makes them go by the creatures.
door to him, in whom “it hath pleased the Fa. ther that all fulness should dwell,” Col. i. 19. The Lord squeezes the fap out of all things, befides himself, to his own, so as that when the heart is seeking its rest, they are tasteless to them as the white of an egg : Phil. iii. 7. 8. “ But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord;
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.”—Another reason is,
4. Because they find Christ of all objects the most suitable to them, and therefore he cannot but be dearer to them than the dearest thing in the world. The soul which has long gone through the dry places of the world, seeking rest, and finding none, when it comes to Christ, finds rest to the conscience under the covert of his blood, and reft to his heart in that all-fulness dwelling in Christ, which is commensurate to the unbounded desires of the heart, desires which can never be fatisfied but by an infinite good ; and therefore of necessity, and from choice, settles here, saying, « This is my reft;" and that soul is not to be drawn
away from Christ by any means whatever : Rom. viii. 35:38. “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He is fully suited to their case; and, what is more, he is suited to their mind, they have no fault whatever to him : Song, v. 16. “ His mouth is most sweet, yea, he is altogether lovely, this is my beloved,
this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." There is nothing in him they would have out of him, and nothing out of him they would have in him ; whereas every created enjoyment is lame, and defective to a great degree; the faireft role has some sharp prickles about it. Now, that soul which has traversed all created enjoyments diffatisfied, and could never find contentment, is completely satisfied in him. How, then, can it otherwise be, than that he is dearer to it than all other persons and things whatever ? - Another reason is,
5. Because he is their greatest benefactor ; his unparalleled benefits command their hearts to be all his; he has done for them what none other could do. When Lebanon was not sufficient to burn, nor the cattle on a thousand hills for a sacrifice, when rivers of oil were too shallow, and the fruit of their bodies for the sin of their souls would have been rejected, he redeemed them with his own blood; he left the bosom of his Father, and came and poured out his foul unto death for them, when they deserved to have died for ever. He is doing for them what none can do, he is their Refident at the court of heaven, taking up emergent differences betwixt God and them, preparing a place for them in his Father's house of many fions. And he will do for them what none but he himself can do; he will at laft bring them to his glory, and make them perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of their God and Saviour through all eternity.--Another reason is,
6. Because they are sensible, that whatever they have in the world, they have it through and by him. And so they behold him as the fountain of all their mercies. Thus,
(1.) They have the enjoyment of their blessings through him. It is by him they enjoy father and
mother, wife and children, &c.; not only by his common providence, as the wicked enjoy their mercies, but by his blood, whereby the malefactor is not only pardoned, but also is set down with these, and far better things, as the purchase of Christ's blood; whereas, had not the Mediator intervened betwixt them and the stroke of justice, they had been stripped of all their enjoyments in the world, even life itself, and shut up for ever in the prison of hell *.
(2.) They have the comfort of them through him. Every creature is to us what the Lord makes it to be, and it is no more; no more it can be. The creature in itself is a mere nothing ; what drops of sweetness are to be found in it, are distilled into it from himfelf, the fountain of goodness ; none good but one, that is, God. And surely the Lord never puts any sweetness in the creature to arrest our hearts upon it, but rather that, finding the sweetness of the streams, we might thereby be drawn up to the Fountain, where sweet water is always sweetest. Let God call in his own from our enjoyments, our dearest relations shall be utterly uncomfortable ; yea, our very life a burden. If it be by him only, then, that our enjoyments are desirable, surely himfelf is much more so. And seeing the Christian loves these things for what of God is in them, and with them, and can never be satisfied with them without Christ, sure Christ himself must be dearest of all.-Another reason is,
The worthy author is doubtless here to be understood as referring to that comfort and benefit which is enjoyed in such relations; for it is only in the nature and extent of this kind of enjoyment, that a difference arifes between the Christian and the finner, or that the former, with propriety, can contemplate the enjoyment of these relations as the fruit of Christ's blood. Edit.