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world to come; and Christ's entrance thither is the main security for it ; he has that eternal life to give, and from him he waits to receive the inheritance. Upon such accounts as these, he loves and esteems the Redeemer, as worth infinitely more to him than all the world; as the person by whom alone he comes to God, through whom God is fayorable to him, and by whom his final expectations are to be accomplished.
II. I proceed to offer some scripture-characters of a true Christian's love to Christ upon such grounds as these.
In the general, they may all be summed up in this, that it is sincere and unfeigned. “Grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” Eph. vi. 24. Which, on the one hand, distinguishes it from absolute perfection ; no Christian in this world loves Christ in the degree that he ought to do, or that he would do, or that the saints in glory arrive at : but on the other hand, every acceptable Christian loves him truly, that is,
It is the temper of his soul, and not a mere outward appearance. We read of some, Ezek. xxxiii. 31. who with their mouth shewed much love, but their heart went after their covetousness.
So it may be with reference to the Lord Jesus. Men may speak honourably of him, his person, his offices, his laws; and so they ought to do : but yet all this may be without any sincere affection to him ; his enemies may still be on the throne in the heart. A true Christian satisfies not himself with professions of respect without correspondent affections ofsoul.
He loves Christ in his whole character. If Christ could be divided, ungodly men might entertain some liking of him : If they could be excused from wrath' to come by virtue of bis sufferings without forsaking their sins, they might be content so far to be beholden to him ; but they have a fixed enmity to the main design of his coming ; to save them from their sins. Now here is an essential difference in the character of a real Christian from that of others : Christ entirely is amiable and acceptable to such a man. He values Christ as his teacher and lawgiver ; and not only the atonement for his sins, and his advocate with the Father. He esteems his yoke easy as well as his promises precious ; and sees a glory in his pattern, as well as his propitiation. He loves him, because a conquest over the body of death is begun, and shall be completed
through Jesus Christ, as well as because he will deliver him from the wrath to come.
He loves Christ more than any thing else. Great stress is laid upon this in scripture. “ He that loveth (saith Christ,) father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me,” Matt. x. 37. And therefore, when Christ would set Peter upon the examination of his sincere affection to his Lord, he expresses the question thus, John xxi. 15. “Lovest thou me more than these?” either than these thy friends and companions, or these thy nets, (for he was then fishing) that is, thy secular gains and advantages ?
And lastly, genuine love to Christ is productive of proper fruit.
As faith produces love, so it “works by love," Gal. v. 6. Thence we read of “the work of faith, and labour of love," 1 Thess. i. 3. A Christian expresses his high esteem and sincere affection, in the natural effects of such a temper of mind. And this leads me to the third general head I proposed, viz.
III. To shew the ways, in which a Christian is to express his affection to Christ.
Now the circumstance observed in the text, of the present state of our case, that “now we see him not,” naturally leads us to such expressions of affection as are suitable to that state, wherein we know him not after the flesh. Those who lived in the time of his abode upon earth, had opportunities to shew their love to him in some ways of personal respect and outward civilities, wherein we can bear no part with them : but indeed such marks of affection were not of so great account with Christ then, as many of those, wherein we in this state of separation may evidence our love to him, as well as his disciples at that time could do. Some principal instances of that kind I would now mention. Our love to an unseen Saviour should express itself,
1. In frequent thoughts of him. Our thoughts will often present a dear friend to our remembrance, when he is absent in body. So they should frequently bring to our minds our peculiar friend, the Lord Jesus ; and so they will, if we truly value him as our best friend. “ If our delight be in the law of God, we shall meditate therein day and night,” Psal. i. 2. And so the Son of God will be a chosen, pleasing theme of frequent meditation, if he be really the object of our affection. We shall often think with enlarged hearts what he is, what he has done for us, what his present state is. We shall desire to “know nothing so much as him," 1 Cor. ii. 2. "to grow in the knowledge of him," 2 Pet. ii. 18. as a subject, of which we can never have too much.
2. In a careful observance of what he has left us in charge. Love will make a friend's desires as binding as commands ; and we shall not forget, when he is out of sight, any intimations he has given of his mind. Indeed this is the principal way, wherein Christ expects his disciples to testify their love to him ; so he signified to those, who attended him on earth. “If ye love me keep my commandments,” John xiv. 15. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you, John xv. 14. The gospel comprehends the charge he has left behind him ; and the last words we find of his, when he was leaving the world, contain a general admonition to observe his instructions. His parting charge to his apostles was, that they should “ teach men to observe all things, whatsoever he had commanded them,” Matt. xxyii. 20. Love to him will enforce all this, will sweeten his yoke, and write his laws in our hearts with an indelible character.
3. In maintaining our fidelity during his bodily absence. Christ is gone above “to receive for himself a kingdom, and we are by his rightful claim the subjects of it. There are many enemies, who would usurp his throne, and draw off our allegiance; and they have the advantage of therefore without a firm affection to our Lord, we are in danger of proving unfaithful. A deceitful world is ensnaring us ; the old serpent manages the snares of it, to remove us from our stedfastness; and we have deceitful lusts within ourselves, ready to side with the opposite party. Here is the great trial of our affection : whether we maintain hearts loyal to the Lord Jesus, in opposition to these enemies of his. In every snare we meet with, we should remember that there is a plot of treason against our chosen Sovereigti, our rightful Head and Lord ; and our affection to Christ will be shewn, in maintaining a resolute conflict against them all, in the strength of his grace.
may be exposed to sufferings of various kinds in the course of our adherence to him, to the loss of the most valuable comforts of this life, or even of life itself, unless we
presence : and
will be unfaithful to him : now in case of such a trial, if we love Christ supremely, we shall “not love our lives unto the death,” as is said of the martyrs, Rey. xii, 11. 4. In a dutiful regard to the Holy Spirit
, whom he has left to supply his room. If a prince have the hearts of his subjects, when his occasions call him away from them for a season, they will shew their love to him by subjection and respect to such as he leaves behind to fill his place. Now Christ has told us, that “it was expedient, and for us too, that he should go away; for if he went not away, the Comforter would not come ; but if he went, he would send him," John xvi. 7. He has sent him accordingly, to take care of his concerns and interest in the world ; and by him he is still graciously present
The Holy Spirit deserves our love and subjection, not only upon his own account, as he is God; but also upon account of the character he sustains, as sent to supply Christ's
We should therefore shew our affection to Christ, by a care that we “grieve not his Holy Spirit," Eph. iv. 30. that we quench him not, by neglecting his kind motions ; but that we thankfully accept and improve so gracious and suitable a provision ; which our exalted Head has made to carry us through our state of trial.
5. In respect to his friends and favourites for his sake. It is always an acceptable piece of affection to a friend, when he is out of our reach himself, if yet we are kind to his friends or relations upon his account.
Christ himself is above receiving in his own person, any acts of beneficence from us : but he has left friends and relations in our world, who are capable of receiving the sensible effects of our love, and to whom we may shew kindness for his sake, And he has pointed us to them as such, who would always be at hand to receive our kind of fices, when he was himself about to be advanced above all need of any such thing, John xii. 8,
poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” * He has condescend- , ed to say, that what we do to them for his sake, he will take as done to himself, Matt. xxv. 40. And they, who cannot find in their hearts, upon such a declaration of Christ, to shew kindness to his members according to their power, would hardly do it to Christ himself, if he were among them, and needed their assistance.
6. In a concern for his interest, and endeavours to promote it, according to our stations and capacities. Though he is gone in person above; yet he has still a cause and interest below, which he has much at heart. The salvation of lost sinners, the refining and enlargement of his church, the propagation of truth, and charity, and holiness, the reformation of manners, and the overthrow of Satan's kingdom, make the interest of Christ in our world. And for promoting these ends, he is pleased to make use of his servants on earth; and in order to it, furnishes them with various talents, which he expects them “to occupy till he comes,” for the advancement of his service. Now the principle, which should animate us to do this in good earnest, is love to Christ. That will induce us to lift our gifts and graces, our interest and substance, our time and furniture, in the service of the cause of Christ around us; and will make us unwearied in well doing. When Christ put the question to Peter, “ lovest thou me ?” he directs him to shew it by vigilance, in his proper sphere for his master's service, by “feeding his sheep and lambs,” John xxi. 15, &c. And the case is the same as to any other capacities or opportunities of service, with which he has intrusted us.
7. In a delightful regard for those things, by which we may be helped to remember him, or to converse with him in our present state.
We take pleasure in any thing, that is the memorial of a valuable friend, when he has left us; or in conversing by letter, when we cannot do so in person. Some of the ordinances of the gospel are memorials of Christ ; and all of them are ways, whereby we are directed to maintain a spiritual converse with him, while he is absent in body. He has appointed all his disciples to observe his “supper in remembrance of him," Luke xxii. 19. How then can a lively affection for him consist with an indisposition to comply with his call herein ? The weekly day of our public worship has his name fixed upon it by St John, the Lord's day, Rev. i. 10. It was the day, when his exaltation commenced by his discharge from the prison of the grave, and therefore was made the accustomed season of the solemn assemblies of his disciples from the most primitive times, John xx. 19, 26. Acts xx. 7. 1 Cor. xvi. 2. And shall not our love to him induce us to. esteem that day our delight, and cheerfully to employ it in thinking of him, in hearing from him, in serving him, and converse with him ? He has promised his presence in every gospel