The Nature of Love to God and Christ, Opened and Enforced - Introduction.
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
There is nothing more essential to religion, or of more importance in it, than the love of God. The love of God is the only source of all acceptable obedience in this life, and the great pre-requisite for complete happiness in the enjoyment of God in the world to come; and without it, our religion, all our gifts and advancements, however high and showy, are all for nothing. Religion without love, is as great a contradiction as friendship without love. To worship a God whom we do not love; to adore excellences which we dislike; to profess a religion founded by an enemy, this is the greatest absurdity imaginable. Such a religion must appear abominable both to God and man.
There is so little careful examination among men concerning the sincerity of their love to God, that it would seem self-evident, and beyond all dispute. Whatever sins they indulge themselves in, however much they practically neglect God and true religion, yet still they insist that they love him sincerely.
But is divine love indeed a thing so common, so universal? We read that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” (Rom 8:7) And is there no such thing as a mind that is set on the flesh to be found on our earth in our day? We are told of some that were “haters of God;” (Rom 1:30) and “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”(Col. 1:21) And are there none such to be found among us?
The heart-searching Jesus, while he walked among mortals, told the Jews, who made so great a profession of their love to God, and suspected their own sincerity as little as any of us, "I know that you do not have the love of God within you." (John 5:42) And were he now to examine us, would he not make the same declaration with regard to many of us, who, perhaps, are least aware of it? Is it a needless thing for us to enter into a serious dialog with our own hearts, and ask them, "Do I indeed love the ever blessed God, and the only Savior? Will my love stand the test? What are its properties and effects?" Is this, my friends, a unnecessary or insulting question? I am sure it did not seem so to Christ, who tested Peter on this point no less than three times.
Our Lord made a meal with his disciples, to convince them of the reality of his body after his resurrection. When it was finished, he turns to Peter, and asks him a very serious question, "Simon, son of John, do you love?" (v.15) The very asking of the question seems to suppose that Peter had given some reason to suspect his love to him, as he had really done, a few days before, by denying him three times, in shocking circumstances; and with this background the question was very cutting to Peter, and no doubt made him think this to himself: "It is no wonder my Lord should call my love in question, who so lately most ungratefully denied him!" The question is put to him openly, before the whole company, which might perhaps increase his confusion; but it was prudently ordered, that he might declare his love to Jesus as openly as he had denied him, and that his brethren might be satisfied of his sincerity, and recovery from his recent fall.
The first form of the question implies a comparison: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" That is, more than these your fellow-disciples? "It is not long since, Peter, that you declared, ‘Though all should forsake you, yet I will not; though all my fellow disciples should prove treacherous, yet I am determined to stay with you, come what will;’ and are you still of the same mind?" Peter modestly replies, "Lord, you know that I love you!" As much as to say, "Lord, I admit that I have fallen in a worse way than any of my brethren, and I dare not say I love you more than they do. I dare say nothing of the high degree of my love, in comparison with others; but, Lord, I must affirm the sincerity of my love, as weak as it is, and I humbly appeal to you, who know all things, and cannot be deceived with nice pretensions, for the truth of my profession."
Peter, no doubt, hoped this declaration would satisfy his Lord. But Jesus, after a pause, put the question to him again, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" And Peter insists on his last answer, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!"
Now he hoped to escape all future questions on this point. But Jesus, as though he were still suspicious of him, asks him a third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved that this question should be asked of him successively no less than three times; it cut him to the heart with the memory of his base denial of his Master, and perhaps with a fear that Jesus would not now be convinced of his sincerity, but was about to expose him as a traitor, and reject him.
At this point he is moved, and replies with the most passionate intensity, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." As much as to say, "Lord, why do you test me so often on this point? Look only into my heart, which you are able to see, and judge yourself, whether I do not sincerely love you. I must confess my recent conduct looked very suspicious: and I remember it with shame and sorrow! I am unworthy to be ranked by you among your friends. But, Lord, as unworthy as I am, and as base and suspicious as my conduct was, I must insist on it, that I do love you; and it wounds me to the heart that you should seem so to doubt me. I cannot give up this point; and I appeal to yourself for the truth of it!"
Doubt in love, my brethren, suspicion among friends, is a very painful and anxious passion; and never so much so to a pious heart, as when the sincerity of our love to God is the object of it. Such a person cannot be easy, while a matter of so much importance lies under suspicion but must put it beyond all doubt.
And surely, this is a question in which we are all most directly concerned. Are our conduct and attitude towards God so entirely and uniformly friendly and dutiful, as to put it beyond all doubt that we do truly love him? Rather! are there not many things that look very suspicious in our case? Should Jesus now call each of us by our names, as he did Peter, and ask us, one by one, "Do you love me?" What could we answer? Could we honestly desire him to look into our hearts, that he might see what it there? And could we produce the genuine evidences of it in our lives?
Surely, if there is a question within the breath of human knowledge which deserves the most diligent attention, certainly this one does! And it is my goal at this time to help you to answer this question for yourselves. We are now going on this search, "Do I really love the Lord Jesus?"
Come, let us all join in it; let us all resolve to be clear on this point before we leave this place! And for this purpose,
First: I will point out some plain marks of genuine love. This will be the subject of our sermon this morning.
And then, next week, supposing that you will have discovered your real character in this respect, I will address you as divided into two different classes:
First, the friends, and then
Second, the enemies of Jesus.
And as to love to God the Father, and love to Jesus Christ, who is God as well as man, I will not distinguish between them, but speak to the one or the other, as may be most helpful to my goal.
I. I am to point out some plain, genuine marks of divine love.
And these I will derive either from plain Scripture; or from the evident nature and inseparable properties of love.
I need hardly tell you, that while there is so much hypocrisy, flattery, and compliment in the world; a man's mere professing the Christian religion, and a supreme regard to its Founder, is no certain evidence of sincere divine love. Insincerity and treachery, which have done so much mischief in private friendships, and betrayed so many kingdoms, has diffused itself, like a malignant poison, into the affairs of religion; and men dare to compliment and flatter even the heart-searching God!
Judas betrayed his Lord with a "Greetings, Rabbi!" (Mat 26:49) and a kiss! And his conduct before that, looked like sincere friendship, otherwise the disciples would have suspected him to be the traitor at the first hint. Therefore there must be something more substantial to prove the truth of our love, than a mere profession, or the external forms of religion.
Nor does true love consist in mere head knowledge, passive esteem, or a careless, general good opinion of Jesus Christ. We may think and speak highly of him, and believe very great things concerning him, while the heart is dead and cold towards him; yes, full of hostility against him.
All this may be the effect of education, or cool reasoning, and may hover in the head, without sinking deep into the heart, and becoming a governing principle in practice. It is this notional good opinion of him which, I am afraid, the majority mistake for divine love. They cannot but know that their hearts are normally careless and indifferent towards God, that they do not feel those affectionate emotions and strong tendencies of soul towards him, which they feel towards all other objects of their love. However, when they happen to think of him, it is sometimes with a kind of high esteem; and this they take to be a genuine love to him, though it has no corresponding effects on their attitude or conduct!
And in addition, some may love God by way of a mistake; that is, they love him supposing that he is quite another kind of being than he really is. But if they did know him as he is, he would appear to their depraved hearts rather an object of terror and revulsion, than of love and delight. For example, they suppose Him so soft, easy, and passive a being, as not to resent their rebellious conduct! They suppose God to be so merciful, as hardly ever to execute justice upon sinners! They suppose Him to be so careless of the honor of His law and government, as to pass by all their disobedience! They suppose God to be so foolishly fond of His creatures, as to advance them to happiness carelessly, without any regard to their moral character, or the honor of His perfections.
Such a God as this is formed exactly according to their taste, to encourage them in sin, and relieve them from horrors of conscience and the fears of eternity! It is no wonder that they should love such a 'god' as this… so like themselves. Even criminals would love a judge of this character. This is not the true God, but the creature of their own foolish imaginations! This is not that God before whom the multitude of angels cry, "Holy, holy, holy!" and who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; who is a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and righteous; who throws the wicked into hell, and all the nations that forget God; and who will not let one soul into heaven but that is made holy in character and practice beforehand. And did they view Him as He really is, they would be so far from loving him, that their carnal minds would rise in hostility against Him!
Now to love God on such a basis, is not to please him, but to reproach and affront him; and he resents it as the highest indignity! How would you take it, if a fool or a villain should love you based on a mistaken idea, that you were reckless, a thief, or a liar, like himself? Would you thank him for such a friendship? No! You would take it as a base insult. And when you had convinced him of his mistake, his love would be turned into hatred.
Do you see that we must love God for what He is, otherwise we do not love Him at all? We must, therefore, know Him in such measure as He is, before we can rationally love Him; and particularly we must know and delight in those perfections which are most unacceptable to guilty and depraved creatures: His justice, holiness, and infinite hatred of sin, before we can truly love Him!
Having cautioned you against these common and popular mistakes, I now resume my purpose, and will point out some undoubted marks of genuine and sincere love to God. And to help focus your attention, I will only mention these four:
1. that it has a divine and supernatural origin and;
2. that it produces frequent and affectionate thoughts of its object;
3. a delight in communing with him and
4. an earnest study and endeavor to please him by a life of universal obedience.
If you would answer this important question, "Do I really love the Lord Jesus Christ?" you must previously ask in the first place:
1. How you came by your love; what is its origin?
Was it the mere effect of human nature, of education, or of anything within the power of man; or was it was brought about in your hearts by the almighty power of God, after many rebellious struggles and battles, and a full conviction of the inborn hostility of your carnal minds against him? If it is the spontaneous production of your own hearts, or of natural causes, if you have always had it, and never found it difficult to obtain or cherish it; if you have not been aware of a supernatural power working it in you, then you may be sure that it is all a delusion!
For though the passion of love is inborn in our nature, and is easily excited by a thousand created beauties, yet, sadly! it has no natural tendency towards the true God. Human nature in its present state is strangely indisposed and contrary in this respect, as experience has abundantly convinced us, unless we have been completely blind with regard to ourselves. A state of nature is consistently described in Scripture as a state of hostility against God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” (John 3:6) and, therefore, by nature, we are all flesh by the account of Scripture. Now, "those who are in the flesh cannot please God," says Paul, "for the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God." (Rom 8:7, 8)
The Scriptures everywhere describe us as being saved by way of reconciliation; now reconciliation naturally supposes a previous opposition and hostility. Indeed, Paul expressly tells us, that "while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." (Rom 5:10) By nature, we are “children of wrath,” (Eph 2:3) and surely we cannot be children of wrath, and lovers of God, at one and the same time!
Here, then, you must all plead guilty. Whatever you now are, it is beyond all doubt that you were once enemies of God. It is sufficient conviction against you who you are men and women and children, and belong to a race which is universally alienated from God. And now have you ever been brought out of that state? If not, then you are still enemies of God.
You could not pass from death to life in a dream, or entirely unaware; but you must have experienced a great change, and you must have felt something of it, and may now remember a great many deep and stirring sensations that came with it. You must have seen and been shocked at your hostility towards God! You must have been brought to cry in the most urgent manner to God to give you a better character, and to pour out his love in your hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Rom 5:5) In short, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” (2 Cor 5:17, 18)
Now if these are the tests, what would you say to this question from the Lord, "Do you love Me?" Some of you, I trust, could answer; "Lord, I am afraid of the truth of my love; but this I am sure of, a great change has been brought about in my soul. Whether I am now a sincere lover of God or not, I am sure I am not what I once was; not only my outward practice but the inward attitude of my heart towards you is vastly changed; it is more as of a child, affectionate, and dutiful."
If any of you can go this far in your answer, it is grounds for encouragement, though you should still be cautious of yourselves. But, consider, let conscience now deal honestly with you: are there not many of you who are still in your natural state? All your religion is an earth-born, self-sprung thing. You have never been the subjects of a supernatural work of divine grace, nor felt such a great change in the attitude of your minds; and if this is your case, I must pronounce, that, however many pleasant qualities you may possess, and however fair a profession you make of religion, that you do not have the love of God in you; for how should you have it, when it is not natural to you, and when it has not been implanted in you by an operation above nature? Indeed, if this is your case, you are plainly convicted this day of being destitute of the very first principle of all true religion. Please see the truth of this: you may as well expect to be men without being born, as to love God without being born again.
But, if you truly love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity then
2. You frequently and affectionately think of him.
This you know is the characteristic and tendency of love in general: to fix our thoughts upon its object; and the Psalmist often mentions this, as a characteristic of his love to God. "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you." (Ps 139:17, 18) "I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night." (Ps 63:6) "May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD." (Ps 104:34.) Isaiah represents the whole church as saying, "In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you." (Is 26:8, 9) This you see, is the character of the lovers of God.
And on the other hand, his enemies are characterized as people who do not like to “acknowledge God,” (Rom 1:28) who “forget God,” (Ps 9:17) and do “not seek him; all their (his) thoughts are, “There is no God.”” (Ps 10:4) They practically say to the Almighty, "‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways!" (Job 21:14)
The thoughts of an enemy are always ungrateful, especially if he is unable to avenge himself of his adversaries; and the mind will turn every way to avoid them. But thoughts of one we love, how sweet, how welcome, how often do they return! How often does the dear image of an absent friend rise to the mind! and with what affectionate thoughts! Unless you are entire strangers to this sincere passion, you know, by experience, that this is the nature and tendency of love.
And do not these things enable some of you to give a favourable answer to this question, "Do you love Me?" You are often suspicious of your love; but if you do not love him, why do your thoughts make so many eager turns to him? Once your thoughts could dwell within the scope of created things, and fly from vanity to vanity, without attempting to rise to heaven. But now do they not often break through the limits of creation, in eager search after God as that supreme good? And with what affectionate eagerness do they at times dwell there? How do your souls delight to survey and gaze at his perfections, and contemplate the wonders of his works! And how often do your thoughts hover round a crucified Jesus, and, as it were, cling and cluster to his cross like the bees round the hive!
You do not indeed think of him as frequently, or with such affectionate thoughts as you should. But can you not appeal even to him, that the thoughts you have of him are welcome to your minds; that you do at times dwell with pleasure in the delightful contemplation, even when your hands are busy about other things; and that it is your daily sorrow that your hearts are not more intimate with him, and pay him more frequent visits?
Does not your experience tell you, that you cannot always let your thoughts grovel in the dust, or run out in an endless chase of things below, but that, in some happy hours, they rise as on wings, and most affectionately dwell on your dear Redeemer? And your thoughts are not the cold reasonings of a philosopher, but the warm, passionate, and heart-affecting thoughts of a Christian. If this is your burden, do take courage. You love the Lord Jesus Christ, and you may be sure he loves you, and will treat you as his friends!
But are there not some of you who may be convinced by those things, that you do not have the love of God in you? For are you not conscious that your affectionate thoughts cling to some trifle in this fleeting world, and hardly ever aspire to Jesus? Even, are not the thoughts of God, and divine and eternal things, unwelcome to you? And do you not cast them out of your minds as you would shake a spark of fire from your clothing? Do you not find yourselves uncomfortable with him, and alienated from him? Do not those things which would turn your thoughts towards him give you pain? You do not naturally dwell on such subjects of meditation or conversation, and you soon grow weary and uneasy when your minds are tied down to them. You have an aversion to speaking about, or meditating on, the things of God. And what can be the cause of this but a strong dislike of God, and a secret consciousness that he is your enemy because of this?
Truly what can be more astonishing, or what can be a stronger evidence of hostility to God, than that men should live in such a world as this, and yet hardly ever have one affectionate thought of their great Author, Preserver, and Benefactor! His glory shines on them from all his works, and meets their eye wherever they look! His Word exhibits him to their view in a still more bright and pleasant light. It represents the Lord Jesus in all the love and agonies of his crucifixion, and in all the glories of his exaltation! They are receiving mercies from him every moment of their lives; for in him they live, and move, and have their being. Their own reason and consciences tell them that he is the most excellent and lovely being, and worthy of supreme and universal love, and they profess to believe it; and yet he cannot, after all, gain so much as their frequent and affectionate thoughts!
Their thoughts, those cheap and easy things, are ungratefully denied to him, who gave them the power to think! Truly what senseless indifference about the supreme good, or rather what prevailing hostility is there here! Can you pretend to be lovers of Jesus Christ while this is your case? Can you excuse or extenuate this under the soft name of weakness? No, it is rank, inveterate, sullen hostility! And the righteous God resents it as such! But,
if you truly love God and the Lord Jesus Christ then
3. You delight in communion with them.
Friends, you know, delight to speak together, to open themselves up to one another, and to enjoy the freedoms of society. They are fond of meeting together, and seize every opportunity for that purpose; and being alone is tedious and painful to them. If you are so happy as to have a friend, you know by experience that this is the nature of love. Now, though God is a spirit yet he does not keep himself at a distance from his people. He has access to their spirits, and allows them to carry on a spiritual communication with him, which is the greatest happiness of their lives. And so God is so often said, in the Scriptures, to draw near to them, and they to him. (James 4:8; Hebrews 7:19; Psalm 69:18; and 73:28; Hebrews 10:22; Lam. 3:57)
And John, speaking of himself and his fellow-Christians, says, "Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3) This divine fellowship is promised by Jesus Christ to all his friends, as he says in John 14, "he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him; my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:21, 23) This mystical fellowship is peculiar to the friends of God, and others know nothing of it. They are described as rebellious strangers and aliens, who have no communication with God. (Ephesians 2:12, Col. 1:21) He is reserved with them, and they with him. They keep at a distance from one another like alienated people.
This communion on God's part, consists in his communicating to his people the influences of his grace, to awaken them, to inflame their love, to give them the boldness of children in drawing near to him, in assuring them of his love to them, and showing himself to them as reconciled and accessible. And on their part, it consists in a liberty of heart and speech in pouring out their prayers to him, a delightful freedom of spirit in all exercises of devotion, in returning him love for love, and dedicating themselves to him.
And so, there is a kind of interchange of thoughts and affections, mutual freedoms and endearments, between them. And how divinely sweet are some happy hours of sacred intimacy! This indeed is heaven on earth: and, might it but continue without interruption, the life of a lover of God would be a constant series of pure, unmingled happiness! But at times their Beloved withdraws himself, and goes from them, and then they languish, and pine away, and mourn. This fellowship with God may be a strange thing to some of you; and to validate the lack of it, you may give it some unpleasant name, such as enthusiasm, fanaticism, or a heated imagination. But I must tell you, if you know nothing of it, your character and experience is entirely different from all the friends of God, and, therefore, you cannot rank yourselves in that happy number.
Now the ordinances of the gospel are, as it were, the gathering places, where God and his people meet, and where they exercise those sacred freedoms. It is in prayer, in meditation, in reading or hearing his Word, in communion at his table, in the ordinance of baptism; it is in these and exercises like these that God communicates, and, as it were, opens himself up to those who love him; and they enjoy the freedom of children and friends with him: and on this account they delight in those ordinances, and take pleasure in being occupied in them. The workings of their hearts in this respect, you may discover in David, when, by the persecution of Saul, or the rebellion of his son Absalom, he was banished from the stated ordinances of public worship. (Psalm 62:1, 2, 4, and 84 throughout, and 27:4.) “My soul longs,”, he says, “yes, faints for the courts of the LORD.” (Ps 85:2)
And now, you who are gathered here today, to make it more personal: have not some of you experienced the sacred joys of communion with God? And were not those the sweetest hours of your life? Have you not found it good for you to draw near to him? And when he has withdrawn his presence, have you not languished and mourned, and could never be easy until he was pleased to return to you? Do you not also find a sacred pleasure in the institutions of the gospel, because there you hope to meet your God, and enjoy communion with him? Is this the principle that prompts you to pray, to hear, and perform every religious duty? Then you may appeal to a heart-searching God, "Lord, you know that I love you!"
But does not this view of the matter give the conscience of some of you reason to condemn you? You have neither known nor desire this fellowship with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. You know nothing of those freedoms of divine friendship; and you have no general pleasure in devotion. You either neglect the duties of religion, or else you perform them from custom, education, constraint of conscience, or some other base principle.
Let me point out one instance as an example; and that is secret prayer and private devotion. Nothing can be more explicitly commanded than this is by Christ. In the gospel of Matthew chapter 6, Christ’s words are: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” (Matt 6:6) And is this your daily practice? Is this the most pleasant exercise of your life? Or is it a mere formality, or a burden to you? Please think about this and honestly question yourself and face the answer!
And lastly, If you truly love the Lord Jesus Christ then
4. You earnestly study and endeavor to please him by a life of universal obedience.
Love is always wanting to please the person loved; and it will naturally lead to a conduct that is pleasing. This, then, you may be sure of, that if you love Jesus, then it is the great work of your life to please him. The big question with you is not: Will this or that please men? Will it please myself? Or will it promote my interest? But, Will it please my God and Savior? If not, then I will have nothing to do with it! This is the standing rule of your practice. Let others consult their own inclinations, or the taste of the age; let them consult their own secular interest, or the applause of mortals; you consult what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2. See also Ephesians 6:6; 1 Peter 3:17; Hebrews 13:21;) and if you may but please him, it is enough.
But are there not some of you who are hardly ever concerned with this duty to God? If you can please yourselves, and those whose approval you seek, if you can promote your own interest, then you are not concerned whether you please God or not. And this proves that you have no love for Him.
The only way to please God, and the best test of your love to Him, is obedience to His commandments. This is made the decisive mark by Christ himself. "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…Whoever does not love me does not keep my words." (John 14:23, 24) Jesus repeats this theme over and over in different forms: "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me." (v.21) "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (v.15) "You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:14) "This is the love of God," says John; that is, it is the surest evidence, and the natural, inseparable effect of our love to God, "that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome;" (1 John 5:3) that is, they will not seem grievous to one who obeys them from the sincere principle of love.
Here, then, you who profess to love the Lord Jesus, here is an infallible test of your love! Do you make it the great study of your life to keep his commandments? Do you honestly endeavor to perform every duty he has enjoined, and that, because he has commanded it? And do you vigorously resist and struggle against every sin, however constitutional, however fashionable, however gainful, because he forbids it? And is the way of obedience pleasant to you? Would you choose this holy way to heaven rather than any other, if it were left to your choice?
What does your conscience answer to this? Do not some of you stumble and hesitate here? If you should speak the truth, you must say, "I cannot but confess that I wilfully indulge myself in some things which Jesus has forbidden, and leave undone some duties which he has commanded." Consider! is this the case? Then his love does not dwell in you: you are undeniably his enemies, whatever your pretensions may be.
But if you can say, "Lord, I admit that in many things I offend; and in many things I come short of my duty; but if I know myself, I think I can honestly declare, that it is my sincere and earnest desire to do your will, and that it is my real endeavor in every instance in which it is made known to me;" I can say, if you can make this declaration, your case looks encouraging; this is the dutiful character and modest language of genuine love to God.
And now, if Jesus should put this question to each of you, "Do you love Me?" are you prepared to answer him? Can you want more plain or more certain evidences than have been given? Surely, not! And therefore, if you are still quite undetermined, it is owing to the real obscurity and perplexity of your case, or to your carelessness and inattention, or to your wilfully shutting your ears and eyes against conviction! And truly, if you have these characteristics of love to Jesus, then away with your painful doubts, and believe that your hearts are upright before him. But if you are destitute of them, be assured you are equally destitute of his love.
Love can never be separated from its natural fruits and effects; and therefore, without these, it is the greatest absurdity to pretend to it. Can you rise up now, and tell the Lord Jesus to his face, "Lord, it is true, I do not have the fruits and evidences of love, but I love you nonetheless! I love you above all, though I have no frequent affectionate thoughts of you! I love you, though I hate to think of you; though I have no pleasure in conversing with you, nor any concerns to please you, and keep your commandments! That is, I love you, though my character and conduct towards you are those of an enemy!"
Will you really presume to impose upon an all knowing God, with such absurd contradictory pretensions as these! Would a love like this have any value among people you know? Offer it now to your friends, and see if they will accept of it. Tell your friend, "I most sincerely love you, though I don’t like to think of you, or talk with you; I love you, though I don’t care whether I please you or not!" Would he not reject you as a friend, but rather see you as an inconsistent pretender, and be very offended, that you should think to fool him by such absurd pretensions!
And will that pass for sincere, supreme love to God, which would not be accepted as common friendship among men? Shall hostility, disguised under hypocritical pretensions, be offered to him, under the name of friendship?
This is a damning thought. And yet I must mention it, that you may be shocked at your conduct! Do you think that God can be fooled in this way? It is a plain case, that you do not have the least spark of true love for him! You are enemies to him in your minds, and by wicked works, so therefore, pass the sentence on yourselves! "Here is a soul so perverse and wicked, that it has never yet loved its divine Parent and the supreme excellency; it has never loved the blessed Jesus, the Friend of sinners!"
And now, should all the enemies of God in this assembly walk to the left side, and crowd together by themselves; how thin would the congregation be on the right! How few would be left behind! Well, the day is coming, when you must be separated, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. To the left hand, sinners, to the left hand of your Judge you must go, who continue destitute of his love. Then you will know the truth of your case; but, alas, dreadfully! it will be too late to correct it.
But now the discovering this is the first step towards correcting it. And, therefore, let your consciences now look forward to the proceedings of the great judgment day, and draw a line of separation between you, that I may address you according to the classes in which you are found: the friends and the enemies of Jesus.
This we will do, God willing, if the Lord tarries, next week.