Redeeming Love deserves our highest Admiration, and humble Acknowledgments. The illustration of it by several Considerations. God is infinitely amiable in Himself, yet his Love is transient to the Crea∣ture. 'Tis admirable in Creating and Preserving Man, more in Redeeming him and by the Death of his Son. The discovery of God's Love in our Re∣demption is the strongest persuasiue to Repentance. The Law is ineffectual to produce real Repentance. The common benefits of Providence are insuff•cient to cause Faith and Repentance in the guilty Creature. The clear discovery of pardoning Mercy in the Gospel can only remove our Fears, and induce us to return to God. The transcendent Love of God should kindle in us a reciprocal Love to Him. His Excellency, and His ordinary Bounty to Mankind cannot prevail upon us to love Him. His Love to us in Christ only conquers our Hatred. Our Love to Him must be sincere and superlative. The despising of Saving Mercy is the highest Provocation. It makes the Con∣demnation of Men most just certain, and heavy.
1. 'THis Redeeming Love deserves our highest Admiration, and most humble acknowledg∣ments. If we consider God aright, it may raise our wonder, that He is pleased to bestow kindness upon any created being. For in Him is all that is excellent and amiable; and 'tis essential to the Deity, to have the perfect knowledg of Himself, and perfect Love to Himself. His Love being proportioned to his Excellencies, the act is infinite, as the object: And Page 207 the perfections of the Divine Nature, being equal to his Love, 'tis a just cause of admiration that 'tis not confined to himself, but is transient and goes forth to the Creature. When David looked up to the Heavens, and saw the Majesty of God written in Characters of light, he admires that Love which first made Man a litle lower then the Angels, and Crown∣ed him with Glory and Honour,* and that providential care which is mindful of him, and visits him every moment. Such an inconceivable distance there is between God and Man, that 'tis wonderful, God will spend a thought upon us. Lord, what is Man that thou takest knowledge of him? or the Son of Man that thou makest account of him? Man is like to vanity,*his dayes are as a shadow that passeth away. His being in this world hath nothing firm, or solid; 'tis like a shadow, that depends upon a cause that is in per∣petual motion, the light of the Sun, and is alwayes changing, till it vanishes in the darkness of the night. But if we consider Man in the quality of a sinner, and what God hath wrought for his recovery, we are overcome with amazement. All temporal favours are but foils to this miraculous Mercy, and unspeak∣ably below the least instance of it: without it all the priviledges we enjoy above inferior Creatures in this life, will prove aggravations of our future misery. God saw us in our degenerate state, destroyed by our selves, and yet, O Goodness truly Divine! he loved us so far, as to make the way for our recovery. High Mountains were to be levelled, and great depths to be filled up, before we could arrive at blessedness: all this God hath done. He hath brought the Curse of the guilty upon the innocent, and exposed his be∣loved Son to the Sword of his Justice, to turn the Page 208 blow from us. What astonishing goodness is it, that God who is the Author and end of all things, should become the means of our Salvation? And by the lowest abasement? What is so worthy of admiration as that the Eternal should become mortal, that being in the form of God, he should take on him the form of a Servant, that the Judge of the World should be condemned by the guilty, that he should leave his Throne in Heaven to be nailed to the Cross, that the Prince of Life should taste of Death? These are the great Wonders which the Lord of Love hath performed, and all for sinful, miserable and unworthy Man, who deserved not the least drop of that Sweat and Blood he spent for him: and without any ad∣vantage to himself, for what content can be add∣ed to his felicity by a cursed Creature? Infinite Love, that is as admirable as saving! Love that passeth Knowledge! and is as much above our comprehensi∣on as desert. In natural things, admiration is the effect of ignorance, but here 'tis increased by Know∣ledg. For the more we understand the excellent Greatness of God, and the vileness of Man, the more we shall admire saving Mercy.
And the most humble acknowledgments are due for it. When David told Mephibosheth, that he should eat bread with him at his T•ble continually,*he bowed himself, and said, What is thy Servant, that thou shouldest look on such a dead Dog as I am? A speech ful of gratitude, and humility; yet he was of a Royal extraction, though at that time in a low con∣dition. With a far greater sense of our unworthi∣ness, we should reflect upon that condescending Love, that provides the Bread of God for the food of our Souls, without which we had perisht for want. Da∣vidPage 209 in that divine thanksgiving recorded in the Scripture, reflects upon his own meanness, and from that magnifies the favour of God towards him. Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house,*that thou hast brought me hitherto? and this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God, but thou hast spoken of thy Servants house, for a great while to come, and is this the manner of Man, O Lord God? if such humble and thankful acknowledgments were due for the Scepter of Israel, what is for the Crown of Heaven? and and that procured for us by the sufferings of the Son of God. Briefly, Goodness is the foundation of Glory, therefore the most solemn and affectionate Praise is to be rendered for transcendent Goodness, The consent of Heaven and Earth, is; in ascribing blessing, and honour,*and glory to him that sits on the Throne, and the Lamb for ever.
2. The Love of God discovered in our Redemp∣tion, is the most powerful persuasive to Repentance. For the discovery of this we must consider, that real Repentance is the consequent of Faith, and always in proportion to it. Therefore, the Law which re∣presents to us the Divine Purity and Justice, with∣out any allay of Mercy, can never work true Re∣pentance in a Sinner. When Conscience is under the strong conviction of guilt, and of Gods Justice as implacable, it causes a dreadful flight from him, and a retchless neglect of means. Despair hardens. Neither is the discovery of God in Nature, prevailing over the impenitent Hearts of men. 'Tis true, the visible frame of the World, and the continual bene∣fits of Providence, instruct Men in those prime Truths, the Being and Bounty of God to those that serve Him, and invite them to their Duty. God Page 210 never left himself without a witness in any age:* His Goodness is design'd To lead men to Repentance. And the Apostle aggravates the obstinacy of Men, that render'd that method entirely fruitless. But the Declaration of Gods Goodness in the Gospel is infi∣nitely more clear and powerful, than the silent reve∣lation by the works of Creation and Providence. For although the Patience and general Goodness of God offered some intimations that he is placable, yet not a sufficient support for a guilty and jealous Crea∣ture to rely on. The natural notion of Gods Justice is so deeply rooted in the Humane Soul, that till He is pleased to proclaim an Act of Grace and Pardon, on the conditions of Faith and Repentance, 'tis hardly possible that convinced Sinners should apprehend Him otherwise than an Enemy; and that all the common Benefits they enjoy, are but Provisions allowed in the interval between the Sentence pro∣nounc'd by the Law, and the Execution of it at Death. Therefore God to overcome our fears, and to melt us into a compliance, hath given in the Scripture the highest assurance of his willingness to receive all relenting and returning Sinners. He in∣terposes the most solemn Oath to remove our suspi∣cions.*As I live, saith the Lord, I delight not in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.*And have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: And not that he should return from his ways and live? The majesty and ardency of the Expressions testifie the truth and vehemency of his desire, so far as the Excellency of his Nature is capable to feel our Affections. And the Reason of it is clear; for the Conversion of a Sinner implies a thorough change in the Will and Page 211 Affections from Sin to Grace, and that is infinitely pleasing to Gods Holiness, and the giving of Life to the converted is most suitable to his Mercy. The Angels who are infinitly inferiour to Him in Good∣ness, rejoyce in the Repentance and Salvation of Men; Much more God doth. There is an eminent difference between his inclinations to exercise Mer∣cy, and Justice. He uses expressions of regret when He is constrained to punish.*O that my People had hearkned to me, and Israel had walked in my wayes. And how shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? mine heart is turned within me: As a merciful Judg, that pities the Man when he con∣demns the Malefactor. But He dispenses Acts of Grace with pleasure, He pardons Iniquity,*and passes by transgressions, because He delights in Mercy. 'Tis true, when Sinners are finally obdurate, God is pleased in their Ruine, for the honour of his Justice; yet, tis not in such a manner as in their Conversion and Life. He doth not invite Sinners to transgress, that He may condemn them: He is not pleased when they give oc∣casion for the exercise of his Anger. And above all, we have the clearest and surest discovery of pardoning Mercy in the Death of Christ. For what stronger evidence can there be of God's readiness to pardon, than sending his Son into the World to be a Sacrifice for Sin, that Mercy without prejudice to his other Per∣fections might upon our Repentance forgive us? And what more rational argument is there, and more con∣gruous to the Breast of a Man, to work in him a se∣rious grief and hearty detestation of Sin, not only as a cursed thing, but as 'tis contrary to the Divine Will, than the belief that God, in whose Power alone Page 212 it is to pardon Sinners, is most desirous to pardon them, if they will return to Obedience? The Prodigal in his extream distress resolved to go to his Father with penitential acknowledgments and submission: and, to use the words of a devout Wri∣ter, His guilty Conscience as desperate asks him, Qua spe, with what hope? He replies to himself, Illa qua Pater est. Ego perdidi quod erat filii; ille quod pa∣tris est n•n amisit: Though I have neglected the du∣ty and lost the confidence of a Son, he hath not lost the compassion of a Father. That Parable represents Man in his degenerate forlorn state, and that the Di∣vine Goodness is the Motive that prevails upon him to return to his duty.
3. The transcendent Love that God hath exprest in our Redemption by Christ, should kindle in us a reciprocal affection to him. For what is more natural than that one flame should produce another? We love him, because he loved us first. The original of our Love to God is from the evidence of his to us: this alone can strongly and sweetly draw the heart to him. 'Tis true, the divine excellencies as they deserve a superlative esteem, so the highest affection: but the bare contemplation of them is ineffectual to fire the Heart with a zealous Love to God. For Man in his Corrupt state hath a Diabolical Seed in him; he is inclined not only to Sensuality, which is an implicit hatred of God, (for an eager Appetite to those things which God forbids, and a fixed Aver∣sation from what He commands, are the Natural effects of Hatred,) But to malignity and direct ha∣tred against God.*He is an enemy in his mind through Page 213 wicked Works: and this enmity ariseth from the con∣sideration of Gods Justice, and the effects of it. Man cannot Sin and be happy, therefore he wishes there were no God to whom he must be accountable. He is no more wrought on by the Divine perfections and beauties to love the Deity, than a guilty per∣son, who resolvedly goes on to break the Laws, can be perswaded to love the Judge, for his excellent knowledg, and his inflexible integrity, who will cer∣tainly condemn him. Besides, the great and abundant blessings, which God, as Creator, and Preserver, be∣stows upon all, cannot prevail upon guilty Crea∣tures to love him. Indeed the goodness that raised us from a state of nothing, is unspeakably great, and layes an Eternal Obligation upon us. The whole stock of our affections is due to Him, for conferring upon us the humane Nature, that is common to Kings and the meanest Beggar. All the Riches and Dignity of the greatest Prince, whereby he exceeds the poorest Wretch, compared to this benefit which they both share in▪ have no more proportion than a Farthing to an immense Treasure. The Innumerable Expressions of God's Love to us every Day should infinitely en∣dear Him to us. For who is so inhumane as not to love his Parents, or his Friend, who defended him from his deadly Enemies, or relieved him in his po∣verty, especially if the vein of his bounty be not dryed up, but alwayes diffuses it self in new favours? If we love the memory of that Emperour, who re∣flecting upon one day that past without his bestow∣ing some benefit, with grief said, Diem perdidi, I have lost a day; how much more should we love God who every moment bestows innumerable blessings upon his Creatures. But sinful Man hath contracted such Page 214 an unnatural hardness, that he receives no impressions from the renewed Mercies of God. He violates the Principles of Nature, and Reason. For how unna∣tural is it, not to love our Benefactour, when the dull Ox and the stupid Ass serve those that feed them? and how unreasonable, when the Publicans return love for love? Now there is nothing that can per∣fectly overcome our hatred, but the consideration of that Love, which hath freed us from Eternal Mise∣ry: for the guilty Creature will be alwayes suspi∣cious, that notwithstanding the ordinary benefits of Providence, God is an enemy to it: and till Man is convinced, that in loving God, he most truly loves him∣self, he will never sincerely affect him. This was one great design of God in the Way, as well as in the Work of our Redemption, to gain our hearts intire∣ly to himself. He saves us in the most endearing, and obliging manner. As Davids affection declared its self, I will not serve the Lord with that which cost me nothing: So God would not save Man with that which cost him nothing, but with the dearest price hath purchased a Title to our Love. God was in Christ re∣conciling the World to himself, as well as through Christ reconciling himself to the World. He hath propounded such Arguments for our Love, so power∣ful, and sublime, that Adam in Innocence was unac∣quainted with. He sent down his own Bowels to testifie His Affection to us. And that should be the greatest indearment of our Love, which was the greatest evidence of his.
And if we consider the Person of our Redeemer, what more worthy object of our affection than Christ? And Christ dying with all the circumstances of disho∣nour and pain, and dying thus for Love, and this Page 215 Love terminated on Man. If He had no attractive excellencies in himself, yet his dying for us should make him infinitely precious and dear to our Souls. He is more amiable on the Cross, than in the Throne: For there we see the clearest Testimony, and the most Glorious Triumph of his Love. There he en∣dured the Anger of Heaven, and the scorn of the Earth. There we might see Joy sadned, Faith fear∣ing, Salvation suffering, and Life dying.* Blessed Redeemer, what couldst thou have done or Suffered more, to quicken our dead Powers, and inflame our cold Hearts toward thee? How can we remember thy bleeding, dying Love without an Extasy of af∣fection? If we are not more insensible than the Rocks, 'tis impossible but we must be toucht and softened by it.
Suppose an Angel by special delegation had been enabled to have trod Satan under our feet, our obliga∣tions to him had been inexpressible, and our love might have been intercepted from ascending to our Creator. For Salvation is a greater benefit, than the meer giving to us our natural being. As the priva∣tion of felicity with the actual misery that is joyned with it, is infinitely worse than the negation of be∣ing. Our Lord pronounced concerning Judas;*It had been good for that Man that he had never been born. Redeeming Goodness exceeds creating. Now the Son of God that he might have our highest Love, alone wrought Salvation for us.
And what admirable Goodness is it, that he puts a value upon our affection, and accepts such a small re∣turn! our most intense and ardent love bears no more proportion to his, than a spark to the Element of Fire. Besides, His Love to us was pure, and Page 216 without any benefit to himself; but ours to him is profitable to our Souls, for their eternal advantage. Yet with this He is fully satisfied; when we love Him in the quality of a Saviour, we give Him the Glory of that he designs most to be Glorified in, that is, of his Mercy to the miserable. For this reason he instituted the Sacrament of the Supper, the contri∣vance of his Love, to refresh the memory of his Death, and quicken our fainting love to him. Now the Love that our Saviour requires must be.
1. Sincere and Unfeigned. This declares it self by a care to please Him in all things. If a Man love me, saith our Saviour, he will keep my Commandments. Obedience is the most natural and necessary product of Love. For Love is the spring of Action, and em∣ploys all the faculties in the service of the person lo∣ved.* The Apostle expresses the force of it by an em∣phatical Word, The Love of Christ constrains us: it signifies to have one bound, and so much under power that he cannot move without leave. As the inspired Prophets were carried by the Spirit, and intirely acted by his motions.* Such an absolute Empire had the Love of Christ over him, ruling all the inclinations of his Heart, and actions of his Life. 'Tis this alone makes Obedience chearful, and constant. For Love is seated in the Will, and the Obedience that proceeds from it, is out of choice, and purely voluntary. No Commandment is grievous that is performed from Love.* And it makes Obedience constant: that which is forced from the impression of fear is unsteadfast; but what is mixt with delight is lasting.
2. Our Love to Christ must be supreme, exceed∣ing that which is given to all inferiour Objects. The most elevated and entire Affection is due to Him who Page 217 saves us from Torments that are extreme and eter∣nal, and bestows upon us an Inheritance immortal and undefiled. Life it self and all the endearments of it, Relations, Estates are to be disvalued, when set in comparison with Him. Nay if (by an impossi∣ble supposition) they could be separated, our Savi∣our should be more dear to us than Salvation. For He declared greater Love in giving Himself for our Ransom, than in giving Heaven to be our Reward. When we love Him in the highest degree we are ca∣pable of, we have reason to mourn for the imper∣fection of it. In short, A Superlative Love as 'tis due to our Redeemer, so 'tis only accepted by Him. He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter more than Him, is not worthy of Him.* And He tells us in other places that we must hate them, to shew, that this Love should so far exceed the Affection that is due to those persons, that in all occasions where •hey divide from Christ, we should demean our selves as if we had only for them an indifference, and even an aversation. Indeed the preferring of any thing before Him, who is altogether desirable in Himself, and infinitely deserves our Love, is brutishly to un∣dervalue Him, and in effect not to love Him. For in a Temptation where Christ and the beloved object are set in competition; as a greater weight turns the Scales, so the stronger Affection will cause a person to renounce Christ, for the possession of what he loves better. 'Tis the Love of Christ reigning in the Heart, that is the only Principle of Perseverance.
4. What an high Provocation is it to despise Re∣deeming Mercy, and to defeat that infinite Goodness which hath been at such expence for our Recovery? The Son of God hath emptied all the Treasures of his Page 218 Love, to purchase Deliverance for guilty and wretched Captives, He hath past through so many pains and thorns to come and offer it to them; He sollicits them to receive Pardon and Liberty, upon the conditions of Acceptance and Amendment, which are absolutely necessary to qualifie them for Felicity: Now if they slight the Benefit, and re∣nounce their Redemption; if they sell themselves again under the Servitude of Sin, and gratifie the Devil with a new conquest over them; what a bloody Cruelty is this to their own Souls, and a vile indig∣nity to the Lord of Glory? And are there any ser∣vile spirits so charm'd with their misery, and so in love with their chains, who will stoop under their cruel Captivity, to be reserved for eternal Punish∣ment? Who can believe it? But alas Examples are numerous and ordinary: The most by a Folly as prodigious as their Ingratitude, prefer their Sins be∣fore their Saviour, and love that which is the only just object of Hatred, and hate Him who is the most worthy object of Love. 'Tis a most astonishing con∣sideration, that Love should persuade Christ to die for Men, and that they should trample upon his Blood, and choose rather to die by themselves, than to live by Him. That God should be so easie to for∣give, and Man so hard to be forgiven. This is a Sin of that transcendent height, that all the abomina∣tions of Sodom and Gomorrah, are not equal to it. This exasperates Mercy, that dear and tender Attri∣bute; the only Advocate in God's Bosom for us: This makes the Judge irreconcilable. The rejecting of life upon the gracious terms of the Gospel, makes the condemnation of Men most just, certain, and hea∣vy
Page 2191. Most Just: for when Christ hath performed what was necessary for the expiation of sin, and hath opened the Throne of Grace, which was before shut against us, and by this God hath declared how wil∣ling he is to save Sinners; if they are wilful to be damned, and frustrate the blessed methods of Grace, 'tis most equal they should inherit their own choice: They judge themselves unworthy of Eternal Life. Conscience will justifie the severest doom against them.
2. It makes their condemnation certain, and final. The Sentence of the Law is reversible by an ap∣peal to an Higher Court; but that of the Gospel against the refusers of Mercy will remain in its full force for ever. He that believes not,*is condemn'd al∣ready. 'Tis some consolation to a Malefactor, that the Sentence is not pronounced against him: but an unbeliever hath no respite. The Gospel assures the sincere Believer, that he shall not enter into Condemna∣tion, to prevent his fears of an after sentence, but it denounces a present doom, against those who reject it. The Wrath of God abides on them. Obstinate in∣fidelity sets beyond all possibility of Pardon: there is no Sacrifice for that Sin. Salvation is self cannot save the impenitent Infidel: For he excludes the only means whereby Mercy is conveyed. How despe∣rate then is the case of such a Sinner? To what Sanctuary will he fly? all the other Attributes con∣demn him, Holiness excites Justice, and Justice awa∣kens Power for his destruction; and if Mercy inter∣pose not between him and ruin, he must perish ir∣recoverably. Who ever loves not the Lord Christ is Anathema Maranatha; He is under an irrevocable Page 220 Curse, which the Redeemer will confirm at his coming.
3. Wilful neglect of Redeeming Mercy aggra∣vates the Sentence, and brings an extraordinary damnation upon Sinners. Besides the doom of the Law which continues in its vigour against transgres∣sors, the Gospel adds a more heavy one against the impenitent, because he beleives not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Infidelity is an outrage not to a Man or an Angel,* but to the Eternal Son. For the Redemption of Souls is reckoned as a part of his reward, He shall see of the travel of his soul and be satisfied.* Those therefore that spurn at Salvation, deny him the honour of his sufferings: and are guilty of the defiance of his Love, of the contempt of his Clemency, of the provocation of the most sensible and severe Attribute when 'tis incensed. This is to strike him at the Heart, and to kick against his Bowels.* This increases the anguish of his sufferings, and imbitters the Cup of his Passion. This renews his Sorrows, and makes his Wounds bleed afresh. Ingrateful Wretches! that refuse to bring Glory to their Redeemer, and blessedness to themselves: that rather chuse that the accuser should triumph in their misery,* then their Saviour rejoyce in their felicity. This is the great condemnation, that Christ came into the World to exempt Men from Death, and they refuse the Pardon. 'Tis an aggravation of sin above what the Devils are capable of, for Pardon was never offered to those rebellious spirits. In short, so deadly a ma∣lignity there is in it, that it poysons the Gospel it self, and turns the sweetest Mercy into the sorest Judg∣ment. The Sun of Righteousness who is a reviving Page 221 light to the penitent Believer, is a consuming Fire to the obdurate. How much more tolerable had been the condition of such Sinners, if saving Grace had never appeared unto Men, or they had never heard of it? for the Degrees of Wrath shall be in proportion to the riches of neglected goodness. The refusing Life from Christ, makes us guilty of his Death. And when he shall come in his Glo∣ry, and be visible to all that Pierced Him, what Ven∣gence will be the portion of those who despised the Majesty of his Person, the mystery of his Compassi∣ons and Sufferings? Those that lived and dyed in the darkness of Heathenism, shall have a cooler Cli∣mate in Hell, then those who neglect the great Sal∣vation.