« FöregåendeFortsätt »
most strict and pious course of life. How small a word will do much, when God sets it into the heart ! But sure this one thing would make the soul more calm and sober in the pursuit of present things, if their term were truly computed and considered. How soon shall youth, and health, and carnal delights, be at an end? How soon shall state-craft and king-craft, and all the great projects of the highest wits and spirits be laid in the dust? This casts a damp upon all those fine things. But to a soul acquainted with God, and, in affection, removed hence already, no thought so sweet as this; it helps much to carry it cheerfully through wrestlings and difficulties, through better and worse ; they see land near, and shall quickly be at home; that is the way. The end of all things is at hand: an end of a few poor delights, and the many vexations of this wretched life; an end of temptations and sins, the worst of all evils ; yea, an end of the imperfect fashion of our best things here, an end of prayer itself, to which succeeds that new song of endless praises. Ver. 8. And, above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves : for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
The graces of the Spirit are an entire frame, making up the new creature, and none of them can be wanting ; therefore the doctrine and exhortation of the apostles speak of them usually, not only as inseparable, but as. one. But there is amongst them all none more comprehensive than tủis of love, insomuch that St. Paul calls it the fulfilling of the law. Love to God is the sum of all relative to him, and so likewise is it towards our brethren, Love to God is that which makes us live to him, and be wholly his; that which most powerfully weans us from this world, and causeth us delight in communion with him, in .holy meditation and prayer.
Now the apostle adding here the duty of Christians to one another, gives this is as the prime, yea, the sum of all; Above all have fervent love.
a Rom. xiii. 10. VOL. II.
Concerning this, consider 1. The nature of it. 2. The eminent degree of it. And, 3. The excellent. fruit of it.
I. The nature of this love. 1. It is an union, therefore called a bond or chain, that links things together. 2. It is not a mere external union, that holds in customs, or words, or outward carriage, but an union of hearts. 3. It is here not a natural, but a spiritual supernatural union ; it is that mutual love of Christians as brethren. There is a common benevolence and good will due to all ; but a more particular uniting affection amongst Christians, which makes them interchangeably one.
The devil being an apostate spirit, revolted and separated from God, doth naturally project and work division. This was his first exploit, and still his grand design and business in the world. He first divided man from God; put them at an enmity by the first sin of our first parents; and the next we read of in their first child, was enmity against his brother. So Satan is called by our Saviour, justly, a liar and a murderer from the beginning o; he murdered man by lying, and made him a murderer.
And as the devil's work is division, Christ's work is union; he came to dissolve the works of the devil, iva acon", by a contrary work. He came to make all friends; to recollect and reunite all men to God, and man to man; and both those unions hold in him by virtue of that marvellous union of natures in his
person, and that mysterious union of the persons of believers with him as their head. So the word, åvarepanarbono las", To unite all in one head.
This was his great project in all; this he died and suffered for, and this he prayed foro; and this is strong above all ties, natural or civil, union in Christ, This they have that are indeed Christians; this they pretend to have, if they understood it, who profess themselves Christians. If natural friendship be capable of that expression, one spirit in two bodies, o John viii44. (1 John iii. 8. d Eph. i. 10.
e John xvii.
Christian union hath it much more really and properly : for there is, indeed, one spirit more extensive in all the faithful : yea, so one spirit, that it makes them up into one body more extensive: they are not so much as divers bodies, only divers members of one body.
Now, this love of our brethren is not another from the love of God, it is but the streaming forth of it, or the reflection of it. Jesus Christ sending in his Spirit into the heart, unites it to God in himself by love, which is indeed all, that loving of God supremely and entirely, with all the mind and soul, all the combined strength of the heart! And then that same love, first wholly carried to him, is not divided or impaired by the love of our brethren, but is dilàted, as derived from the other. God allows, yea, commands, yea causes, that it stream forth, and act itself toward them ; remaining still in him, as in its source and centre ; beginning at him, and returning to him, as the beams that diffuse themselves from the sun, and the light and heat, yet are not divided or cut off from it, but remain in it, and, by emanation, issue from it. Loving our brethren in God, and for him not only because he commands us to love them; and so the law of love to him ties us to it, as his will but because that love of God doth naturally extend itself thus, and acts thus; in loving our brethren after a spiritual Christian manner, we do even in that love our God.
Loving of God makes us one with God, and so gives us an impression of his divine bounty in his Spirit; and his love, the proper work of his Spirit, dwelling in the heart, enlarges and dilates it, as selflove contracts and straitens it: so that as self-love is the perfect opposite to the love of God, it is likewise sò to brotherly love ; it shuts out and undoes both: and where the love of God is rekindled and enters the heart, it destroys and burns up self-love, and so carries the affection up to himself, and in him forth to our brethren. This is that bitter root of all enmity in man against
God, and amongst men, against one another, self, man's heart turned from God towards himself; and the very work of renewing grace is, to annul and destroy self, to replace God in his right, that the heart and all its affections and motions, may be at his disposal. So that, instead of self-will and self-love that ruled before, now the will of God, and the love of God, command all.
And where it is thus, there this qiradiapia, this love of our brethren will be sincere. Whence is it that wars, and contests, and mutual disgracings and despisings, do so much abound, but that men love themselves, and nothing but themselves, or in relation to themselves, as it pleases, or is advantageous to them? That is the standard and rule; all is carried by interest, so thence are strifes and defamings, and bitterness against one another; but the Spirit of Christ coming in undoes all selfishness. And now, according to God, what he wills and loves, that is law, and a powerful law; the law of love is so written on the heart, that it obeys not unpleasantly, but with delight, and knows no constraint, but the sweet constraint of love. To forgive a wrong, to love even thine enemy for him, is not only easy now but delectable, although a little while ago thou thoughtest it was quite impossible.
That Spirit of Christ, which is all sweetness and love, so calmns and composes the heart, that peace with God, and that unspeakably blessed correspondence of love with him, doth so fill the soul with lovingness and sweetness, that it can breathe nothing else. It hates nothing but sin, pities the sinner, and carries to the worst that love of good will, desiring their return and salvation. But as for those, in whom appears the image of their Father, their heart cleaves to them as brethren indeed. No natural advantages, no birth, no beauty, nor wit, draws a Christian's love so much, as the resemblance of Christ; wherever that is found, it is comely, and lovely to a soul that loves him.
Much communion with God sweetens and calms
the mind, cures the distempers of passion and pride, that are the avowed enemies of love ; particularly prayer and love suit well. : (1.) Prayer disposes to this love ; he that loveth not, knoweth not God, saith the beloved Apostle, for God is love'. He that is most conversant with love, the spring of it, where it is purest and fullest, cannot but have the fullest measure of it, Aowing in from thence into his heart, and flowing forth from thence unto his brethren. If they that use the society of mild and good men, are insensibly assimilated to them, grow like them, and contract somewhat of their temper ; much more doth familiar walking with God powerfully transform the soul into his likeness; makes it merciful and love ing, and ready to forgive, as he is. On the other hand.
(2.) This love disposes to prayer, to pray together. Hearts must be consorted and tuned together; otherwise, how can they sound the same suits harmoniously? How unpleasant, in the exquisite ear of God, that made the ear, are the jarring disunited hearts, that often seem to join in the same prayer, and yet are not set together in love. And when thou prayest alone, while thy heart is imbittered and disaffected to thy brother, although upon an offence done to thee, it is as a mistuned instrument; the strings are not accorded, are not in tune amongst themselves, and so the sound is harsh and offensive. Try it well thyself, and thou wilt perceive it ; how much more he, to whom thou prayest, when thou art stirred, and in passion against thy brother, or not, on the contrary, lovingly affected towards him; what broken, disordered, unfastened stuff are thy requests! Therefore the Lord will have this done first, the heart tuned ; Go thy way, (says he), leave thy gift and be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gifts.
Why is this so much recommended by Christ, and so little regarded by Christians? It is given by him as the characteristic and badge of his followers, and of them that pretend to be so, how few wear it? f John iv. 8. '
& Mat. V, 23, 24,