The Nature of Love to God and Christ, Opened and Enforced - Conclusion
Based on a Sermon by Samuel Davies
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." John 21:17 ESV
"If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed!" 1 Cor 16:22 ESV
Last week, our discourse started with the statement that ‘there is nothing more essential to religion, or of more importance in it, than divine love.’
That is, the great question is, “do I love God or not?”. There can be no true religion without the love of God and so we were given four marks by which to test ourselves with respect to this question. I hope you all have done so.
1. How did your love for God come about? If you really have this love, you know by experience and can definitely confess that it was a supernatural work of God and not your own doing. That is the first mark.
2. You frequently and affectionately think of him. Your thoughts, turn to him, as they do, and more so, than to your closest friend on earth.
3. You truly delight in communion with him. Going to church, praying in public and in secret is not a burden to you, but the highlight, the very best part of your day and week.
4. You earnestly study and endeavor to please him in all you do. He has the very first place in your life. Your frequent question is not, what will be of greatest advantage to me or my family, what will please others, but rather, what has God commanded and what will be pleasing to him according to what he has revealed in his Word.
And so, from these marks, you were asked to honestly test yourselves to see to what category of people you really belong. The sobering truth is that you are either a friend of Jesus, or his enemy, and there is nothing in between. The marks are simple and easy to apply and must lead to an answer. And consider that even the act of not wanting to, not finding the time to apply the marks to yourselves, is itself a warning that you do not have the love of God in you.
And now, the second part of our discourse, will address both categories of people.
I. I begin, in the first place, to address myself to you who have now discovered that you are sincere lovers of Jesus Christ, notwithstanding your many imperfections. And our time will allow me to offer only two things to you.
1. The one is, your heaven is sure! I repeat it again; your heaven is sure; as sure as the sincerity of your love. Love is the great qualification for the enjoyment of God. You can be happy in his presence, because you love him; happy in his service, because you love him; happy in the contemplation of his glories, because you love him. In short, love makes you fit for heaven, and all its employments and fruits, and therefore you will certainly be admitted there; for God will never exclude one soul that is fit for it, or that could delight in the happiness there.
Love is the substance of all religion and obedience; love is the fulfilling of the law; and that love you have in your hearts. You are truly happy, "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" for, as the apostle reasons, our "hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit." (Rom 5:2, 5) Love is an important principle. “Love never ends.” (1 Cor13. 8) It is, therefore, not only your privilege, but your duty, to rejoice: and how can you not, when in a few years, at most, you will be with that Jesus whom you love though you do not see him, in all the glories, and in all the wonders, of the heavenly world.
2. The other thing I would mention to you is, how faint and how imperfect is your love! And what great reason you have to prize it, and work to strengthen it! I do not need to say much to convince you of this; for you yourself cannot but be aware that your love falls far short of what it ought to be towards the excellency of the divine nature, the dying love of Jesus, and your obligations to him.
You know it is but a feeble spark, and sometimes so buried and suffocated under the weight of your corruptions, that you can hardly discern it at all, and fear it is entirely extinguished. I encourage you to love your God more: love your dear Redeemer more. Do not offend him with such a poor and lazy love: meditate on his excellences, his relations to you, his unbounded love and grace to you; and these considerations may fire up your hearts, cold as they are.
Cry to him to awaken this love in your hearts, and avoid everything that tends to dampen it: guard against the friendship of this world, which is hostility against God, and against all the workings of sin: avoid all causes of conflict and distance between God and you, and work to maintain a settled peace and a constant contact with him.
But the other class of my hearers stand in greater need of immediate help, and therefore,
II. I will address myself to such of you as may have discovered, by this test of whether or not the love of God is in you, that you do not have a sincere love to Christ, and what I have to say to you, my dear fellow-mortals, may be reduced under two headings:
i) your sin and danger; and
ii) what are the means you must use to save yourselves.
i) To convince you of your sin and danger in not loving God and his Son Jesus Christ,
1. It is the supreme excellency, whom you have refused to love!
The most venerable Majesty, the most perfect wisdom, the richest goodness and grace, the most agreeable justice; these are the things which you dislike and refuse, while you remain hostile towards God; for these are his very nature. You neglect and refuse faithfulness, justice, truth, mercy, benevolence, and every moral beauty in the highest perfection. You are enemies to the origin, and the sum total of all excellency! Now this may bring you to conviction if you stop to consider it under various perspectives:
First, consider how depraved and corrupt must your souls be, which can dislike and refuse such a glorious object! How must your taste be debased, which cannot delight in the supreme good! You can love the faint shadows of these perfections, in your fellow-creatures: you can love generosity, benevolence, mercy, justice, and such virtues, in mortals. And so, may you not fall down overwhelmed with astonishment, and cry out, "Lord, what is this that has befallen my soul, that I cannot love you! That I can love anything else that is lovely and yet cannot love you! What a perverse, depraved, abominable soul I have!"
Also, must you not be shocked, to think that you have such souls within you? If your bodies were all overrun with rotten ulcers; if your facial features were all convulsed and distorted into the most hideous forms; if your limbs were all shattered and dislocated; if your taste was so debased that you loathed all healthful food, and you should crawl on the earth, feeding on its dust and dirt; all this would not make you half so odious and horrible a monster, as a soul hating and refusing God!
Again, what an aggravated wickedness must this be? Your obligations to love him are just in proportion to his loveliness and excellency; and the wickedness of breaking these obligations is in exact proportion to their strength. And as his excellency and your obligations are infinite, then your wickedness in not loving him must be infinite as well.
How can we give a picture of this crime in its proper infernal colors? If you should be an enemy to the whole creation; and resolutely hate all men and angels; and detest your father and mother who nurtured you; if you should become a direct enemy to yourself, and be perpetually plotting against your own life, all this would not be as great as the crime of hating the ever-blessed God! For all these beings together, have no excellency when compared to him! And your obligation to love him comes before and is the foundation of all others. Here your love should begin, here it should center, and then extend its lines to all parts of the circle of creation. Therefore, do not plead that you are innocent any longer. If you had never committed one other sin in all your life, this sin of not loving God is sufficient to condemn you forever to the lowest hell.
On top of that, this sin will appear more aggravated, if you consider, that, by not loving God, you declare in the strongest way, that he has none of these excellences, but is a worthless being, undeserving of your love! When you do not love him, after all that he has revealed of himself to you, it is plain that deep down in your own opinion, he has no excellency worthy of your love! This is the language of your hearts; and this language is much stronger and expressive than that of your lips! You may speak things inadvertently, which your second thoughts would retract; but by being all your life destitute of the love of God, you have all your life been declaring that you look upon him as a worthless being, far inferior to a thousand trifles on earth, to which you have given your love.
Now you would not dare to utter such blasphemy as this, and how can you dare to declare it, much more strongly, by the attitude of your hearts, and stand to it as a truth? Will you never retract it, by becoming a lover of God? Stop one moment and can you imagine a more shocking, insolent wickedness than this? And what a hateful and despicable soul must that be, which has been guilty of it all its days! What is this but to say, with the atheistic fool, "No God for me!" For he is not God, if he is not supremely excellent and amiable. And if you wish there were no God, what do you do but wish universal misery, and wish destruction to yourself and every other being? For were there no God, there could be nothing else; there would not have been one spark of being through infinite space even for a moment!
2. Your not loving God, is a most unnatural wickedness!
He is your Father; and that in a higher sense than your earthly parents can be. He is the author of your bodies, because it was he who first established, and still continues in force, those laws of creation, by which they were produced. And had it not been for this, men could no more produce one another, than a stone or a lump of earth! As to your souls, the nobler part of your persons, they are his immediate offspring, directly created by him with the help of no other created thing.
In this way, he is your Father in the highest sense, and yet you have not loved him! You have not loved him, who gave you the power of love. You have not loved him, from whose creative hands you came a few years ago. What an unnatural wickedness is this!
What were you a hundred years ago? You were nothing! And you would have continued so to all eternity, had he not spoke you into being! And yet you have not sincerely loved him all your life to this moment. This is really astonishing! Should you not tremble at and loathe yourselves as the vilest and most unnatural monsters!
Should the child who received his being from you in a secondary sense, the child you held on your knees, and for whom you are working hard to provide for, should he hate the sight of you, shun your company, and do nothing to please you, how would you take it? Would you not be profoundly grieved?
And yet this is how you have effectively treated your heavenly Father, to whom you were under much higher and more heart-warming obligations. You have treated him as only a despised broken thing in whom you could take no pleasure. And are you nevertheless pleased with yourselves? Shall not such a shocking phenomenon, at which angels gaze with horror, be struck with horror at itself? Should all the world treat God as you have done, what would be the consequence? There would not be one lover of God to be found among all the vast numbers of the race of man! And yet, if you have a right to hate him, they have too. Have you any peculiar excuse in this case? Can you produce an exemption from that universal law, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might?” (Deut 6:5) You see, then, where your conduct leads, and do you not shudder to think of it? And can you still imagine yourselves innocent? Do you think you have adequately good hearts after all of this? I am sure your reason, if it is not entirely lost, will not allow you to think so!
3. Your not loving God is a most ungrateful wickedness!
Think what God has done for you: how many mercies he has given you, as many mercies as moments! Think how many deliverances he has brought about for you! Observe the world around you so well-adapted for your support. Think, consider seriously, of the love and sufferings of Jesus! See the abasement, the work, the hardships of his life! See the agonies of his crucifixion! See the crown of thorns, the mangled face, the disjointed limbs, the flowing blood, the bursting heart, the dying pangs of your blessed Redeemer!
And then consider; reflect and meditate on these things, and what will you think of your hostility against him, after all this? Can there be any greater ingratitude than this! Is this what you give back for all the kindness of God? for all the love of Jesus!
There was something very cutting in his question to the Jews, "I have shown you many good works," I have never provoked you by anything but good works; "for which of them are you going to stone me?” (John 10:32) This may be easily applied to you. He has done to you many kind actions, he has undergone many grievous sufferings for you; and for which of these do you hate him? Does this not touch your heart at all in any way and lead you to repentance? Can you continue as enemies to the very cross of Christ! Must that not disarm your resentment, and soften your hearts, as hard as they are, into the most sincere love?
4. Your not loving God, is a most complete wickedness!
You are repeatedly told, that love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8, 10; James 2:8) The first and great commandment upon which the whole law and the prophets depend, is, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might," (Deut 6:5) that is, love is the root, the principle, the substance of all obedience, because it constrains a man to cheerfully observe every divine teaching, and naturally disposes him to a dutiful conduct.
Now, if love is the fulfilling of the whole law, it follows, that the lack of love is the breaking of the whole law: it is dashing the two tables of the law in pieces at once! As love is the principle of all obedience; so, hostility is the principle of all disobedience! And while this hostility to God reigns in your hearts, it spreads a deadly poison through everything you do! And therefore, you cannot perform one action acceptable to God. All your endeavors are but the treacherous flattery of an enemy, or the forced homage of a rebel compelled to feign submission.
In short, the lack of love to God is the lack of everything that is morally good! It is the root of all evil! It is an aggregation of all wickedness! It is a summary, or rather, the sum total of all disobedience and rebellion!
And can you build your hopes any longer on the fewness or smallness of your sins? Consider that while this is your character, your hearts are full of every evil. This makes not only your actions, your words, and thoughts of every kind, guilty and vile; but the stated, settled bent and disposition of your minds, are most wicked and abominable. When the God who knows all things sees you asleep, when all lie there totally inactive, what can he say of you but this, "Here lies an enemy of God!" And, were you to realize your state but for a moment you would certainly fall on your faces before your offended Sovereign, and cry, "Guilty! Guilty!"
5. Your not loving God, is a most inexcusable wickedness.
All your objections must be silenced, and you have no plea left to excuse or lessen it. You cannot plead here, as you do in some other things, "There are so many different opinions about religion, that I do not know what to choose!" For here, as I told you earlier, everyone agrees. They are all unanimous in this, that love to God is essential to religion. Not only all denominations of Christians, but Jews, Moslems, Heathen, and all who believe the existence of a God, confess this. And are you of a religion that does not include the love of God in it? If so, then it is the religion of devils, or rather it is the most diabolical irreligion! I insist the more boldly upon this point, because it is a universal truth, free from all disagreement.
You cannot plead that you have no time to exercise love to God; since love is not the work of the hands, but of the heart; and may be performed while you are engaged in other business. Can you not think affectionately of a friend behind a counter, or over a tractor? So, you might love God, and perform your daily work. Nor can you excuse yourselves from your inability; for God has implanted the passion of love in your nature, and you find it easy to love other things: you can love the world, you can love a child or a friend, and why can you not love God? The act of love is the same in both cases, and one would think it would be an easier thing for you to love him who is the Supreme Excellence, than imperfect creatures, whose excellency is limited, or mingled with many hateful qualities.
From where does your inability to love God come in this case? It is nothing else but the strength of your hostility; that is, you are so rebellious against the ever-blessed God, that you cannot love him! And does this lessen your crime? Do the steadfastness and bitterness of your hostility, excuse it? Rather that makes it all the worse! Consider how wicked you must be, when you are so rebellious to the God who made you, and the Savior who died for you, that you cannot persuade your hearts to love him!
In addition, have you tried what can be done to root out and subdue this hostility by the power of the Holy Spirit? Have you cried to God in earnest prayer, and used all means for that end? If not, then it is plain you are an enemy to God, and delight to continue so; you hate him, and practically insist upon it, that you do right. Nor can you pretend ignorance in this case; for your own conscience tells you that it is your duty to love God. In short, you are entirely inexcusable; you sin against the full conviction of your own minds and you must join with God, angels, and men, in your own condemnation!
6. Your not loving God, if it continues, will certainly exclude you from the kingdom of heaven!
Think of this! What would you do with your wicked hearts in heaven? Heaven would be an enemy's country to you. What pleasure could you have in the society or service of that God whom you hate? What pleasure could you have in those exercises and enjoyments to which you are not at all attracted? Could you be happy in the practice of eternal flattery, bowing and singing insincere praises to an enemy? Could you be happy to be an eternal impostor? There is not one impostor like you in all that innumerable assembly: they all love that God whom you hate. And with what pleasure could you mingle among them? How could you live in a country where the laws, the customs, the employments, the disposition of the inhabitants, are all contrary to your character? Truly, you need no sentence from your Judge to exclude you; you would exclude yourselves, and choose to mingle with your fellow-devils! Which leads me to add,
7. Your not loving God, if it continues, will certainly lead you to hell.
You are fit for no other place. Where should the enemies of God be, but in an infernal prison? There is the same appropriateness in throwing you into hell, as there is in as shutting up convicts in a penitentiary! Why, you are devilized already! You have the very character of devils! Hostility to God is the main trait of a devil, it is the worst ingredient in that infernal disposition; and this you have in your hearts, and, as it were, folded up into your character. And what do you think will become of you? Judge for yourselves, must you not be doomed to that everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels, whom you resemble?
Here I must add, that if ever you are brought to love God, it must be in this present world. In heaven and hell, no new dispositions are planted; but those which are found prevalent in the soul, will ripen and grow to perfection. No one begins to grow wicked in hell, or to love God in heaven! The seeds are all sown in the present state, which then spring up to maturity. Therefore, if you would ever have the love of God poured out into your hearts, now, now is the time! Now or never!
ii) "But, moving to the second heading, what means (you will say) shall I use for this
Here I will be short; but if you are one of the blessed few who have been awakened to your real danger, you will easily understand the shortest hints:
1. Endeavor to be deeply aware of the aggravated sinfulness and danger of your present state. Deeply impress your minds with this. Restrain the levity of your minds, and nurture a serious, anxious, sorrowful frame of mind; for your case really requires it!
2. Be deeply aware of the necessity of divine grace to change your hearts, and inspire you with divine love. The disease has spread so far, that you cannot heal yourselves! But, blessed be God, he is able, he is able to make such an enemy as you, into his hearty friend and dutiful subject! Therefore,
3. Intently apply yourselves to earnest prayer; and confess your guilt, your vileness, your deserving of divine wrath! Cry for his Spirit to pour out his love into your hearts! Let your petitions focus here; for this is the main thing. Endeavor to devote yourselves to him, to give up your wicked hearts to him, to bow that rebellious soul at his feet.
4. Meditate on the glory of God, his kindness to you, the love and sufferings of Christ, and such subjects as tend to nurture and inflame your love to him.
5. Do not give up in the use of these means, but persevere, hold on, until you find a thorough change produced in your hearts. Your eternal all is concerned! Therefore, do not be inconsistent and careless; do not be soon tired out or discouraged. Never give up until your last breath;
and who knows but that hostile spirit of yours, may soon become the friend of God, and at length shine among his people in heaven in all their glories, and unspeakable and eternal joy!