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“ We know (fays St. John) we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”..“ And by this (says Christ himself) shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another." Love is the fulfilling of the gospel, as well as of the law : for “God is love; and whosoever dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God.
But by this love we are not to understand a softness and tenderness of mere nature, or a love founded on worldly motives (for this a natural man may have); but a lore of our brethren, proceeding from love towards God: loving all men in general, because of their relation to God; and loving good men in particular, for the grace we see in them, and because they love our LORD JESUS in fincerity.
This is christian charity, and that new commandment which Christ gave to his disciples. New, not in its object, but in the motive and example whereon it is founded, even JESUS CHRIST. This is that love which the primitive christians were so renowned for, that it became a proverb, See how these christians love one another. And without this love, though we should give all our goods to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burnt, it would profit us nothing.
Further, this love is not confined to any particular set of men, but is impartial and catholic: A love that embraces God's image wherever it beholds it, and that delights in nothing so much as to see Christ's kingdom come.
This is the love wherewith Jesus Christ loved mankind : He loved all, even the worst of men, as appears by his
weeping over the obftinately perverse ; but wherever he saw the least appearance of the divine likeness, that foul he loved in particular. Thus we read, that when he heard the young man fay, “ All these things have I kept from my youth," that so far he loved him. And when he saw any noble inftance of faith, though in a Centurion and a Syrophenician, aliens to the commonwealth of Ifraels how is he said to marvel at, to rejoice in, speak of, and commend it? So every spiritual disciple of JESUS CHRIST will cordially embrace all who worship God in fpirit and in truth, however they may differ as to the appendages of religion, and in thing's not essentially necessary to salvation,
I confefs, indeed, that the heart of a natural man is not thus enlarged all at once; and a person may really have received the Holy Ghost, (as Peter, no doubt, had when he was unwilling to go to Cornelius) though he be not arrived to this : but then, where a person is truly in Christ, all narsowness of spirit decreases in him daily; the partition wall of bigotry and party zeal is broken down more and more; and the nearer he comes to heaven, the more his heart is enlarged with that love, which there will make no difference between any people, nation, or language, but we shall all, with one heart, and one voice, fing praises to him that fitteth upon the throne for ever.
But I hasten to a
“ I say unto you, (says Jesus Christ) Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to those thar hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” And this duty of loving your enemies is so necesfary, that without it, our righteousness does not exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, or even of Publicans and finners : “ For if you do good to them only, who do good to you, what do you more than others ?” What do you extraordinary? "Do not even the Publicans the faire?” And these precepts our LORD confirmed by his own example; when he wept over the bloody city; when he suffered himself to be led as a sheep to the slaughter; when he made that mild reply to the traytor Judas, “ Judas, betrayelt thou the Son of man with a kiss;" and more especially, when in the agonies and pangs of death, he prayed for his very murderers, “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
This is a difficult duty to the natural man; but whosoever is made partaker of the promise of the Spirit, will find it practicable and easy : for if we are born again of God, we muft be like him, and consequently delight to be perfect in this duty of doing good to our worst enemies in the same manner, though not in the same degree as he is perfect : He fends his rain on the evil and the good ; causeth his fun to shine on the just and unjuft; and more especially commended his love towards us, that whilst we were his enemies, he sent forth his Son, born of a woman, made under the law, that he might become a curse for us.
Many Many other marks are scattered up and down the scriptures,, whereby we may know whether or not we have received the Holy Ghost : such as, to be carnally, minded, is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”.." Now the fruits of the Spirit are joy, peace, long-suffering, meekness,” with a multitude of texts to the same purposes. But as most, if not all of them, are comprehended in the duties already laid down, I dare affirm, whosoever upon an impartial examination, can find the aforesaid marks on his foul, may be as certain, as though an angel was to tell him, that his pardor is fealed in heaven.
As for my own part, I had rather see these divine graces, and this heavenly temper Itamped upon my soul, than to hear an angel from heaven saying unto me, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.
These are infallible witnefles; these are Emmanuel, God with and in us; these make up thạt white stone, which none knoweth, saving he who hath receiveth it; these are the earnests of the heavenly inheritance in our hearts: In short, thesesare glory begun, and are that good thing, that better part, and which if you continue to ftir up this gift of God, neither men por devils shall ever be able to take from us,
I proceed, as was proposed, in the Third place, to make an application of the doctrine delivered, to several distinct classes of profeffors. And
First, I shall address myself to those who are dead in trefa patles and fins. And, how could I weep over you, as our LORD wept over Jerusalem! For, alas ! how distant must you he from God? What a prodigious work have you to finish, uwho, instead of praying day and night, feldam or never pray atall,?. And, instead of being born again of Gop, so as not to commit fin, are so deeply funk into the nature of devils, as to make a mock at it? Or, instead of overcoming the world, so as not to follow or be led by it, are continually making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. And, inftead of being endued with the god-like disposition of loving all men, even your enemies, have your hearts, full of hatred, malice, and revenge, and deride those who are the fincere ollowers of the lowly Jesus. But think you, O finners,
that God will admit fuch polluted wretches into his fight? Or should he admit you, do you imagine you could take any pleasure in him? No; heaven itself would be no heaven to you; the devilish dispositions which are in your hearts, would render all the spiritual enjoyments of those blessed' mansions, ineffectual to make you happy. To qualify you to be blissful partakers of that heavenly inheritance with the faints in light, there is a meetness required : to attain which, ought to be the chief business of your lives.
It is true, you, as well as the righteous, in one sense, shall see God; (for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of CHRIST) but
you must see him once, never to see him more. For as you carry about in you the devil's image, with devils you must dwell : being of the same nature, you must fhare the same doom. “ Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." See that you receive the Holy Ghoft, before you go hence: for otherwise, how can you escape the damnation of hell?
Secondly, Let me apply myself to those who deceive them-'. selves with false' hopes of salvation. Some, through the inAuence of a good education, or other providential restraints, have not run into the same excess of riot with other men, and they think they have no need to receive the Holy Ghost, but Aatter themselves that they are really born again.
But do you thew it by bringing forth the fruits of the Spi-
your enemies, and all mankind, in the same manner, as JESUS CHRIST loved them?
If these things, brethren, be in you and abound, then may you have confidence towards God; but if not, although you may be civilized, yet you are not convested : no, you are yet in your sins. The nature of the old Adam still reigneth in your souls; and unless the nature of the second Adam be grafted in its room, you can never see God.
Think not, therefore, to dress yourselves up in the ornaments of a good nature, and civil education, and say with Agag, ^ surely the bitterness of death is paft :' For God's justice, notwithstanding that, like Samuel, shall hew-you to pieces. However you may be highly esteemed in the fight of men, yet,
in the fight of God, you are but like the apples of Sodom, dunghills covered over with snow, mere whited sepulchres, appearing a little beautiful without, but inwardly full of corruption and of all uncleanness : and consequently will be dismisfed at the last day with a “ Verily, I know you not. ”
But the word of God is profitable for comfort as well as correction.
Thirdly, Therefore I address myself to those who are under the drawings of the Father, and are exercised with the Spirit of bondage, and not finding the marks before mentioned, are crying out, Who shall deliver us from the body of this death?
But fear not, little flock; for notwithstanding your present infant state of grace, it fhall be your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. The grace of God, through Jesus CHRIST, shall deliver you, and give you what you thirst after : He hath promised, he will allo do it. Ye fhall receive the spirit of adoption, that promise of the Father, if you faint not : only persevere in seeking it; and determine not to be at rest in your soul, till you know and feel that you are thus born again from above, and God's Spirit witnesseth with your spirits that you are the children of God.
Fourthly and Lastly, I address myself to thofe who have received the Holy Ghost in all his fanctifying graces, and are almost ripe for glory.
Hail, happy faints ! for your heaven is begun on earth : you have already received the first fruits of the Spirit, and are patiently waiting till that blessed change come, when your barveft shall be compleat. I fee and admire you, though, alas ! at so great a distance from you : your life, I know, is hid with CHRIST in God. You have comforts, you have meat to eat, which a sinful, carnal, ridiculing world knows nothing of. Christ's yoke is now become easy to you, and his burden light. You have passed through the pangs of the new birth, and now rejoice that Christ Jesus is spiritually formed in your hearts. You know what it is to dwell in CHRIST, and CHRIST in you. Like Jacob's ladder, although your bodies are on earth, yet your fouls and hear:s are in heaven : and by your faith and constant recolle&tion, like the bleffed angels, you do always behold the face of your Father which is in heaven.