JOHN xvii. 24.
THERE are four marvellous things about salvation, that should be often thought on by us. 1. That there is so high a Saviour as Christ is, and so great a salvation as heaven is, provided for fallen man. There was no such provision made for standing Adam, to keep him from falling; no such provision for the fallen angels, to restore them to their first estate. But for fallen man this provision is made; not for all, but for a numerous remnant, according to the election of grace; and that to bring them to a far better estate than that Adam fell from by sin.
2. That the knowledge of this Saviour, and of this salvation, is kept from multitudes as needy thereof as any that have it. The Pagans, Indians in the east and west, are as needy of the gospel as you, and no more unworthy and undeserving than you; yet you have gospel-light, and they live and perish in gross darkness. This is only from his sovereign pleasure, as our Lord owns it, Luke x. 21. And that sovereignty shines, and is by us to be owned equally, both in dispensing and withholding the outward means of salvation, and also in dispensing and withholding the inward effectual grace, and blessing of the means.
3. It is marvellous, (though both very sinful and usual), that this Saviour and his salvation are so greatly despised, by the most part of them who need him and it extremely, and have the gospel-offer made daily to them. Alas! few mind him, and few care for the great salvation he brings with him, and offers so freely to men. No man under the gospel miscarries eternally, no man or woman perisheth, without Jesus Christ, but such as do not in heart care for him and his salvation. And justly do they deserve to perish, and dreadful shall their perdition be.
4. It is marvellous, that this blessed Saviour and his great salvation are yet given to a multitude of refusers. All by nature are unworthy, many reject the offer often; yet grace prevails at last on some of them, and makes them willing. There are many in the world (but they were thought on by him, before the world was made) from whom Christ will take no refusal, though they give him many; as Jer. xxii. 21. I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear: this hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice. Yet to many such there is a time of love fixed; and when it comes, they are spoken for, spoken to, dealt with, and prevailed upon. I cannot say, but that they that are early brought to Christ, have some special advantages, both in their being prevented from gross sins, and sad wanderings, and in the opportunities of serving Christ by his grace given them. But I am sure, that the longer any stand out in rebellion against Christ, when they are subdued, they should most of all men admire the grace of their conqueror. Paul, though called when a young man, yet counts that Jesus Christ did shew forth in him all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting, 1 Tim. i. 16. Yet, doubtless, Christ hath drawn forth more long-suffering to many sinners, than he did on Paul in his unregeneracy.
Of this Saviour, and of his salvation, I have been speaking from this part of this excellent prayer. I have been often commending this chapter to you: and though I hope none are so foolish as to think, that when they have got this chapter by heart, (and I know not any chapter in Godís word more worthy of a room in the heart and memory, than this), they may make a prayer of it, as of one of Davidís psalms; yet I am sure we may pray upon it; for though many of the words in it be only fit to be uttered in prayer by the blessed mouth that first spoke them; yet all of them may be food for the faith of every believer.
I have spoke of the manner of this prayer; Father, I will. I have also entered upon the matter of it; and have taken up four things therein. 1. The description of those he prays for: Those whom thou hast given me. None but Christ can describe those they pray for, this way. He only had the book of life before him in prayer. It is a great mercy, if we get spiritual light to read our own name in that book; but it is not allowed us, either to desire or expect to read any other name therein, but our own. 2. The blessing that Christ prays for to such persons. And it is expressed thus, That they may be with me where I am. Whence I did draw two points of doctrine.
OBS. 1. That the perfect blessedness of the people of God, stands in being with Christ where he is. On this I spoke last day.
Thus saith our Lord, Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am. This he saith of all them, without distinction or exception. This prayer is universal, for his whole body of the elect; and particular, for every individual member of that body. As they cannot be perfectly happy, till they be with him where is, (and that they all know); so our Lord gets not all his will and mind about them, till they are thus with him. And this we should believe. The meaning of this will of Christ about his peopleís bliss, is in these: 1. It is our Lordís heartís desire. 2. It is his delight to have them with him. 3. It is his fixed purpose and resolution. His heart is fixed in this, that he will have them all with him. 4. It is his will declared to his Father, in such a manner and season, and with such circumstances, as add great weight to it. 5. It is his will revealed unto us in his written word; and therefore is of great use to believe and rejoice in it. But who can tell (even when Christ hath told us it) what this his will is? The will of the Son of God, the will of a dying Redeemer, the will of a man personally united to the Son of God; how far doth it exceed all out thoughts?
In handling of this point, I would,
I. That it is Christís will to have his people with him, where he is, appears from these two. 1. The price he paid for them; and, 2. The pains he takes on them.
1. The great and dear price he paid for them. The price was of infinite value, and the purchase was great. He bought the heirs for the inheritance, and the inheritance for the heirs. Christ in redeeming had respect unto both; and himself, as slain, was the price for both. He bought us and our forfeited inheritance, as he oft declares. And this doth prove, that it is his will and mind that they should possess it. What wise or honest man is at cost to purchase that for another that he will not let him possess? When our Lord laid down his life, yea, staked down his crown and glory, and bore so much distress, and all for this, that he might at last have all his people with him where he is; sure we must conclude, that Christís heart and mind was greatly set upon it. The grand view of the good-will of Christ to the saving his people and having them in heaven, is to be had on his cross. The death of the Saviour proclaims his good-will to save. He knew he must save us by dying, and we know that we are saved by his death. Therefore he had a desire and delight to die for his people. It pleased the Lord to bruise him, Isa. liii. 10.; and Christ was pleased to be bruised, Heb. x. 5,-10.
2. The second proof is: The great pains that Christ takes en his people to bring them to heaven, proves that his heart is set on their possessing of it. On this proof I would insist in a few particulars.
1st, Christ draws them to himself whom he minds to save. By nature they are far off from Christ, and from salvation. By his grace they are brought near, Eph. ii. 13. Christ and salvation are inseparable. When Christ entered into Zaccheusís heart by faith, then salvation came into his house, Luke xix. 9, 10. Christís drawing of a sinner, is his working of faith ; and the sinnerís believing on Christ, is his coming to Christ. Thus the nearness is obtained. Christ is the author and finisher of faith, Heb. xii. 2. But this way of working of faith is a great mystery, John iii. 8. Believers themselves find their own faith a great mystery to themselves. They often know better the fruits and effects of their faith, than they know the actings of it. And again, they may know better what they do, and what way their hearts act towards Christ, when they believe, than they know what Christ was doing with them, when he was working faith in them, and making them believers. For usually Christís work in drawing men to himself, is so terrible, that they cannot think that any good is meant to them. Little did Paul know what Christ meant by his first visit and words to him, Acts ix. 3,-9. but well knew he afterwards, Gal. i. 15, 16. and oft did he tell it, Acts xxii. and xxvi. The sum of all he said was this: ďI was a bitter enemy to Jesus Christ; yet he was pleased to make me a believer on him, and called me to preach him, and faith in him, to the perishing world.Ē When Christ is drawing his chosen by the cords of love, (as Hosea xi. 4.), usually they are jealous that these cords of love are but the sins of an enemy. How is it possible that the charge of sin on the conscience, the discovery of the abominations in the manís heart, and the binding of him ever to the righteous judgment of God, (Rom. iii. 19.), can be looked on as gracious methods of Christ for drawing then to him? Yet afterwards they know, that all this was done in love, and for their good. Of all the sins the Lordís people are guilty of, this is the greatest, and should be deeply repented of, even the rebellion against, and resistance they made to the saving grace and drawing arm of Jesus Christ. That we walk after the imagination of our own hearts, that we love to wander, that, we may live in sin, and love and commit, it; all these things are proper and natural to sinners: so that though all should abhor it, yet none should wonder at it. But when Christ is drawing perishing sinners to himself, that he may save them; when he is plucking them out of the fire that will burn them, and out of the water that will drown them; then for men to oppose and resist him, (as all do till his grace make them willing), hath somewhat in it beyond the common sinfulness of men yea, it is a sin beyond the possibility of the devil, the father of sin and of sinners; for the grace of God was never in the offer of the fallen angels, nor did it ever make, any assault upon them. Yea the reprobates, though many of them sinfully resist the general drawing of Christ by the gospel, and his Spiritís dealing with them, as in Acts vii. 51. Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye; by which they draw on dreadful guilt and destruction, and are made inexcusable; as our Lord tells them, John xv. 22, 24. If had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin, viz, their sin of unbelief: yet they never resist the saving arm and design of Christ to save them; as many of the elect do for a while, till the Lordís day of power come, which always prevails over all resistance. For, sure, another sort of grace was applied unto blaspheming Saul, than on the traitor Judas; and on Peter stumbling, than on Judas falling. Herein Christ abundantly proves his mind and good-will to save his people, in his drawing them to himself, that he may save them. So saith he in John xii. 32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. And this he said in one of his saddest hours, as ver. 27, 28. The devil, and wicked world, (that lieth in his arms, as in 1 John v. 19. The whole world lieth in wickedness, or in that wicked one,) they thought, that if they could once get rid of Christ, and slay him, that they should never more be troubled with Christ, nor with believers on him. But they were utterly disappointed; and this Christ foretels and it was blessedly fulfilled, and will be till his second coming. It is as if he had said, ďThey despise the virtue and grace of a living Saviour; and think if they had him slain, there would be an end of him, and of his interest on earth. But when they have done what they would, they shall find themselves farther from their purpose; for I will put forth the virtue of my death, in drawing multitudes unto me.Ē And it is not unlike, but that within a few weeks after his death, and within a few days after his ascension, there was a greater multitude of sinners drawn to Christ by faith, than were in all the few years he lived and preached on the earth.
So much for this first proof of Christís will and mind to save his people, from his drawing them unto himself, or his working faith on him in them.
2dly, Another proof of this is from his making them meet to possess heaven, Col. i. 12. Take heed in this matter. No man is meet for Christ till he be in him. But he that is in Christ, is meet for heaven; and none shall possess it, but he that is made meet for it; and that is a divine work. Christ is meet for sinners, to save them. See how meet he is made of God, 1 Cor. i. 30. He is made all we want for salvation. Christ had no work in the world but for sinners. And none will employ Christ in his saving calling and office, but convinced and sensible sinners. None but such can see their need of Christ; and such as see no need of Christ, can never employ him by faith: for believing is nothing but a needy lost sinnerís trusting this able Saviour with his salvation. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke xix. 10. And the lost man comes to, and seeks salvation from Christ, and gets it. If a man disown his own name, a sinner, he therein disowns Christís name, a Saviour of sinners. If men pretend to use Christ as a Physician, and subscribe not their true name to their petitions, a lost, sick sinner, bleeding to death by the sting of sin and of the law, he will have nothing to do with them. He will say to them, ďI came to save sinners; but you are whole and righteous folks, and think you can save yourselves. It is but a little that ails you, and you think you can soon cure it. But if you try your own art, you perish; and your wound is deadly, and no balm can heal it but mine.Ē Now, no man is meet for Christ, till he gets Christ. But a man must be made meet for heaven, before he gets it. No man can get this meetness but by Christ; and Christís working of this meetness, is the proof I give of Christís mind to give glory to them in whom he works it.
A little on this, What this meetness for heaven is; wherein it stands; and how Christ works it in his people.
This meetness to possess heaven, is twofold; a meetness as to the state of the person; and a meetness as to his nature and frame, that is to be the possessor of heaven. And the apostle, in that scripture named, Col. i. 12, 13, 14. hints at both plainly enough.
(1.) Meetness in the state of the person for possessing of heaven, stands in two things. He must be reconciled to the Lord of this good land of heaven, and he must be related to this inheritance. Both come by Jesus Christ. Enemies and strangers are unmeet to possess it; and none such shall, to eternity. Yet all men by nature are both enemies to God, and unrelated to heaven. But Christ changeth the state of them whom he minds to save, and thus maketh them meet to possess the inheritance. They are made friends, and reconciled to God, by the grace of justification; they are made children and heirs, and so related to the inheritance, by the grace of adoption. And both are by Jesus Christ; as in Rom. v. 8, 9, 10. and viii. 14, 17. Gal. iii. 26. and iv. 5, 6. Can an enemy expect an inheritance from his enemy? And this is the natural state that God and man stand in to one another. Can a stranger expect an inheritance in a strange country, where he hath no friend nor relation to leave him any thing, and when the man is so poor that he can purchase nothing: The apostle in Eph. ii. 12. tells them what they were by nature, and what they should remember still: That at that time ye were without Christ; and what followed on it? They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, (Israelís peculiar right, Rom. ix. 4. Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises), having no hope, and without God in the world. How came the blessed change from this woeful state? But now in Christ Jesus, ye who were sometimes far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ, ver. 13. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners; but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, ver. 19. So that all that pretend to the hope of heaven, should search well, and make out, that they have a right to it, and friends there. And the great friend in heaven is Jesus Christ; who bought the kingdom dearly, and conveys the right unto it freely, to all that believe on him.
(2.) There is a meetness for heaven in the nature and frame of the heart of the heir of it. This meetness is necessary Heb. xii. 14. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. And it is wrought by Jesus Christ in the grace of sanctification. Thus the apostle discourseth plainly in 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, 11. where he expressly shews the equal necessity of justification and of sanctification, unto the inheriting of the kingdom of Christ, and of God, and of the interest that Christ hath in giving them both. It is very remarkable in Rom. viii. 30. one of the deepest, and yet one of the clearest scriptures (deepest for matter, and clearest for faith) about Godís method of salvation: Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. It seems to some to be strange, that there is no mention in it of sanctification. Only there is predestination, calling, justification and glory. The obvious reason of this is, that sanctification is included in glory. It is not so much the way to glory, as it is a piece, and part, and beginning of it. Now, this great work of Christ in sanctifying his people, is seen in all his work on them, and way with them, from their regeneration, until their welcome to heaven. About this meetness for glory by sanctification, these three things are well known 1. That they that study sanctification, the right way most diligently, do attain most of it. The only way is by faith in Christ Jesus, Acts xxvi. 18. 2. That they that attain most of it, think least of their attainments. They see so much evil remaining in them, as Rom. vii. and so much good before them, Phil. iii. 12, 13, 14. that they still press forward for more sanctification. If any man do think himself to be very holy, any Christian may not only justly question the truth of that pretence, but also his having any holiness at all. For true gospel-holiness is a frame of heart and soul wrought by the Spirit of Christ, that works in believers a holy hatred of all sin; a lothing of himself in whom so much of it still remains; and a pressing after that perfection in holiness, which only can be attained when he is where Christ is. 3. That all sensible and wise believers, in their building their faith and hope of possessing glory, and in their believing and pleadings with God for that possession, do lay far greater (yea, another sort of) weight on what Christ hath done for them, and hath promised to them, than on that small begun holiness he hath wrought in them; though that also be to be thankfully owned, tenderly cherished, and used as food to their faith.
So much for this second proof, That Christ proves his mind to have his people with him where he is, when he not only draws them to himself when they are on the earth, but makes them meet to be with him in heaven. All he hath done for his people when he was in this world, is applied to them for the change of their state and all he doth in them by his Spirit, is for the change of their frame. And thus by both he makes them meet for heaven.
3dly, Another proof of Christís will to have his people with him where he is, is, That he, by his Spirit, works in the hearts of his people, desires, faith, and hopes of this bliss. This is both a proof that they shall possess it, and that Christ hath a mind that they should have it. Christ raiseth no desires, raiseth no faith and hope of that which he hath no mind to give. So the apostle argues, 2 Cor. v. 1,-5. We know what heaven is, ver. 1. We groan earnestly, ver. 2. We groan, as being burdened, ver. 4. We are confident always in those groanings, ver. 6, 8. The reason of all is in ver. 5. Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing, is God; who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. So doth the apostle reason in Heb. xi. 16. speaking of the ancient believers before the law; But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; (and this desire they declared plainly, ver. 14. by word and deed); wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city, i.e. heaven. Their desiring of it is not the cause or reason of Godís preparing of it; but Godís preparing of it was the cause of his revealing of it; and his revealing of it by his promise to them, was the ground of their believing of it their faith was the cause of their desire of it and this desire, thus raised and thus grounded, was a demonstration to them, that they should surely possess it. And so should it be to every believer in all ages. Hath Christ raised desires in your hearts to be with him where he is? Do you feel them in your souls? And are you daily expressing them to him in prayer alone, and in all your attendance on him in gospel-ordinances? If he hath yet farther opened to you the door of hope, as the day-dawn to thy heavy darkened heart; lift up your heads and hearts, your redemption draweth near, Luke xxi. 28. Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed, Rom. xiii. 11.; nearer than when you first trusted in Christ, Eph. i. 12.; nearer than when you first begged it of him. Gracious Jesus will never baulk the desires of heaven which he himself hath put and kept up in thy heart Psal. x. 17. Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.
4thly, Christís good-will to give eternal life to his people, appears in the earnest he gives to them. This is oftner spoke of in the word, than known and felt by the readers and hearers of the word. It is called the earnest of the Spirit, from its immediate author, 2 Cor. v. 5.; the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts, for therein it is put, 2 Cor. i. 22.; the earnest of our inheritance, Eph. i. 14. for unto that it referreth. It is something of heaven given to believers on earth; some special presence of Christ manifested to them; some special fellowship with him, filling them with joy, and peace, and likeness to him. How well is this known to them that have it? And how sure is it, that no words can make any other to know it? It is the hidden manna, that Christ gives his people to eat of, (and no man knows its taste, but the eater of it, and while he eats of it); and the white stone Christ gives, and in the stone a new name written, (If it be written, may it not be read by any? No), which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it, Rev. ii. 17. Why is this earnest given? It is to secure the bargain of the new covenant to the believer, and to secure him of the possession of glory. Therefore is it called the first-fruits of the Spirit, Rom. viii. 23. sealing of believers, 2 Cor. i. 22. and to the day of redemption, Eph. iv. 30. This earnest must be a rich jewel, when the devil, that great thief and robber, sets himself so against them that have got it. It was more than an earnest that Paul got in 2 Cor. xii. 1, 2, 3. The devil hated Paul from the day that Christ took him out of his arms; he hated his gifts, grace, and service; and that Paul knew well, and felt often: but he never fell on him so fiercely, as when Paul came down enriched with extraordinary enjoyments. No believer shall get this earnest, if the devil can hinder it; and none can keep it, without a battle with hell. But though Satan by his malice and craft, and our unbelieving hearts, join together (as too oft they do) to rob us of this earnest, and the sense of it; yet Christ will never take it away, nor break the bargain of our salvation, Psalm lxxxix. 33, 34, 35. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail, is the voice of God in the new covenant. It may be a question with some, If this earnest be an universal blessing to all, or only a special kindness to some believers? On the one hand, the discouraged complaining mood of some Christians seems to say, that they have it not; on the other hand, many have this earnest, and that frequently repeated to them. What shall we say to this question? These things we may be sure of; that it is a choice mercy, and a great advantage to a believer to have it; (as the contraries are as sure, to such as have it not); that it is a great duty to press after it; that there are ways and means of Godís appointment for reaching it; that there are gracious promises of a blessing on those means; and that faith and diligence in seeking this blessing in Godís way, is usually successful. It seems far safer for us, to lay our want of it on our own belief, than to reflect upon his word and way.
So much for the first thing in this doctrine, Wherein appears Christís will and mind to have his people where he is?
II. Why it is, and must be his will and mind? Take these two accounts of it: 1. Because of his faithfulness in the covenant. And, 2. Of his love to his people.
1. Because of his faithfulness in the covenant of grace. The clearest and surest view of our salvation, is to be had in this covenant. Therein we see, 1. The elect are given by the Father to the Son, to be redeemed by him, and that he may give them eternal life; as John xvii. 2. thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. This charge the Son accepted from eternity, and, in the fulness of time, came into the world to fulfil, John vi. 38, 39. They were given to him, on condition of his coming, and redeeming of them by his blood; which condition he fulfilled. 2. They are promised to him as his purchase by the Father, When the Son hath bought them as he promised: Isaiah liii. 10, 11. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied, &c. 3. The bringing, them safe to glory, is charged the Son, and promised by him again to the Father: John vi. 38, 39. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Fatherís will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. John xii. 50. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting. Christ stands engaged by this covenant, to give a good account of all his charge; and he will do it fully one day, when he presents his people to his Father; and will say of all, as Heb. ii. 13. Behold, I and the children which God hath given me; and as he said of a few of them in this chapter, ver. 12. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name; those that thou gavest me, I have kept, and none of them is lost. And surely Christ is as good at keeping of his people when he is in heaven, as when he was on earth: for he is with them always, even unto the end of the world, Amen, Matth. xxviii. 20. 4. Christ yet further promiseth eternal life to his people: 1 John ii. 25. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life: as it is the grand comprehensive promise. Yea, Christ himself is called eternal life, 1 John i. 2. and ver. 20. When Christ came into the world, eternal life came into it: when Christ is shown and revealed, eternal life is made known; when Christ is embraced by faith, eternal life is got: 1 John v. 11, 12. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life: and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life. O that all men did but know, how closely, how inseparably, and how eternally, Christ and eternal life are linked together No eternal life without Christ; no Christ without eternal life. He also promiseth it, as well as contains it: John x. 27, 28. My sheep hear my voice, and I knew them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. It is this, and such like promises of eternal life, made by Jesus Christ, that every true believer builds his hope of heaven upon. And thus Christís faithfulness and truth is concerned in bringing all his people to glory.
2. Consider Christís wonderful love to his people. True love cannot bear long parting, much less everlasting parting. Christ loves his people so well, that he must have them with him; otherwise he should lose his love, and his beloved; and that cannot be. The love of Christ to his people may well be their delight, and their wonder. There is both pleasure and profit in studying of it. But all our thoughts can never reach to its infinite dimensions; for it hath height, and depth, and breadth, and length, and in all passeth knowledge, Eph. iii. 18, 19. And because of the sweetness of this theme of Christís love, and because all I shall say in the application of this doctrine at this time, is to require love to him again; I would speak a little of this blessed hove of Christ to his people, as it is the cause of his willing to have them with him where he is.
1st, Christís love to his people hath no cause nor reason for it, but itself. Love is the only cause of his love. Our love to him hath good cause, and strong reason for it. His own worth in himself, his love to us, and the great things he hath done for us, and hath promised to us, justly deserve more love than we can give him. But none of these things are with us to engage his love to us.
2dly, This love of Christ not only hath no cause in us to raise it; but it is a love that acts and moves against all things that may justly quench love and raise lothing. There is not only no worth nor beauty in us that he should desire us, (as the unbelieving world thought, and thinks falsely of Christ himself, Isa. liii. 2.) but there is a great deal in us to make us justly hateful and lothsome in his eyes. There is enmity to him in our heart and nature; there are provocations in our conversation and walk; there are vileness, lothsomeness, poverty, and all misery, in our state; yet Christís love overcomes all: Ezek. xvi. 6, 7, 8. Thy time was the time of love, saith the Lord. A strange time of love, and a strange love! A wretched, naked, polluted infant, cast out in the open field, to the lothing of its person, as ver. 5. Was that a time of love? Was that a time for the Prince of heaven to fall in love with the filthy perishing brat? Unto any but to the heart of a God, this would have been a time of lothing, and not of love. The same thing the apostle teacheth without a parable. Eph. ii. 1, 2, 3, 4.
3dly, It is a love that sets Christ on work in all his saving work. And hard, and dear, and costly work to him it was yet love made him to do it all; and delightfully he did it. He died for us in love; he called us in love; he planted his grace in us in love; he visits us in love; and when he corrects and rebukes, he doth that in love too, Rev. iii. 19, And though we do not like it, he likes it, and it is for our good. All that Christ doth for, and in, and with, and on, and about his people, (and who can tell all?), he doth all in and from his love to them. And this shews us both the nature of his love to us, and the debt we are under to love him again.
4thly, This love of Christ to his people, both designs and effects the greatest good to them he loves. Among creatures there is a deal of love to little purpose. Either they intend but little by their love; or, if they do design it, their love cannot reach it. But the greatest good, eternal life, is not only intended by Christ in his love to his people, but it is surely attained. All that Christ loves, are saved: why? because his love is saving. Salvation is designed by this lover, and is perfected by this love.
APPLICATION. Let me therefore exhort you to love Jesus Christ. Is his heart set upon the having all his people with him where he is? Surely we ought to return love to him back again. Most of them that pretend to the name of Christian, think they make some conscience of it, as being a most just debt and duty to him; and will be ready to say with Paul, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha. But as the love that Christ bears to his people, is not so well known and believed as it ought to be; so the love his people owe to him, is not so well paid as it ought to be; I would therefore advise you in five things about your love to Christ.
Advice 1. Take a serious view of the lover, and of the beloved, and of the love he bears them; of Christ that doth love, and of his people whom he doth love, and of the love he bears to them. When these three are seen by the eye of faith in the light of Godís word, his glory and greatness who loveth, the vileness of them he loveth, the greatness of the love he bears them, two thoughts will rise in the heart. 1. How marvellous is it, that such a person as he should love, in such a manner, such persons as we be! 2. How great should our returns of love be to him again! What is the cause of this usual and sad remark, That carnal, secure sinners count it an easy thing to believe that Christ loves them, though they never tasted of his special love; when many sincere Christians find the faith of Christís love to them so difficult, though they dare not deny their tasting sometimes that he is gracious? as 1 Pet. ii. 3. Yea, they find it hardest to believe it in such times, when either the divine dignity of Christ, or their own wretchedness, are seen by them; (and usually they go together). This is the cause of it, because this love of Christ is so mysterious and wonderful, (as the lover is, Isa. ix. 6.) We cannot easily think, that Christ doth love any, but such as are some way like him; nor do we rightly know, that Christ can, and doth love them that are not like him, so as to make them like to him by his love; for his love hath always this blessed effect in all them it falls upon.
Advice 2. Learn to believe Christís love. Usually, we would fain have his love proved and manifested to us. But I advise you to take this way, of getting your faith to fix on Christís love. Think not that I would persuade you rashly to conclude in yourselves, that Christ loves you. But what I design, is only this: Take Christís love-letters and Christís amiable picture in the gospel, (and the New Testament is full of them); and believe, and love them, and him by them. Behold Christ crucified, Gal. iii. 1.; behold him dying, and redeeming by his blood, and that in mere love to the redeemed. Read his love-letters, filled with gracious calls, offers, and promises: and all these letters sealed with his blood, shed in love. A blessed exercise, that you would soon find the advantage of.
Advice 3. Then pray much for his manifested love to you in particular. You are to give him glory in believing his love-letters, and his beautiful picture in the gospel, and in raising faith and love by those helps: But you may also beg his manifesting his love to you. See his promise, John xiv. 21, 23. words more precious than fine gold, He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. ďI will love him, and make him know it.Ē And when one of his disciples asks, either in ignorance or wonder, How this could be! verse 22. our Lord answers, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come (i.e. my Father and I) unto him, and make our abode with him, ver. 23. Very like his words in Rev. iii. 20. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me. Thus he manifests his love; John iv. 12. God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. ver. 15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Ver. 16. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us; (and so must we know and believe the love that his Son hath to us). God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. Ver. 17. Herein is our love made perfect. But how did it begin, and how is it advanced? ver. 19. We love him, because he first loved us. Alas! what are Christians doing? and how poorly they do? Where is the man who is sick of love for Christ? This blessed disease (or soulís health rather) is twofold; either in pining hunger for the manifestation of his love, as Cant, v, 8.; or in the overwhelming sweetness of his manifested love, Cant. ii. 5. If you know nothing of neither of these, your carcases may be well, but your souls do not prosper. I do not think that there ever was a poor believer, that did long breathe after Christís love, but he felt it. Most people do not care for it, and therefore they seek it not, and therefore they find it not; and some of them may say (as they in Acts xix. 2. We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.) ďWe have not felt any of the love of Christ; we know nothing of it, but as it is spoke of in the scriptures, and as it is to be enjoyed in heaven.Ē But how it doth burn as a hot fire in the heart, Cant. viii. 6, 7. even on earth, alas! few feel.
Advice 4. When Christ hath manifested his love, then light your torch of love at the warm beams of the Son of Righteousness. I mean, kindle your love to him at the fire of his love to you. No other fire will kindle true love to Christ, but the faith and feeling of Christís love to you. What made Paul such a fervent lover of Christ, but that he knew so well how Christ loved him? He loved me, and gave himself for me, Gal. ii. 20. No wonder he said, Acts xxi. 13. I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. ďChrist died at Jerusalem for my redemption; and shall I not die there for his glory, if he call me?Ē
Advice 5. When you have kindled your love to Christ at his love to you, then let it burn and spend (but it cannot spend, but grows by burning) in his service, and to his praise. Use and act that love in all holy worship, and in all gospel-obedience. That is the best worship, and the most acceptable obedience, that is performed from love to Christ. This love constrained Paul, 2 Cor. v. 14. unto his excellent living to Christ. That working and running that only the spur of the law in menís consciences constrains some unto, is of no account in the sight of God. Faith in Christ raiseth love to Christ; and faith and love enlivens to all holy obedience, and spiritual worship. Then the Christian reads and hears the word of Christ, because he loves to hear his voice. He prays; for he loves to speak, and to pour out his heart to his best friend. He sits down at the Lordís table, because he loves to see, and draw virtue from his slain Saviour. He hates evil, because he loves the Lord, Psal. xcvii 10. He keeps Christís commandments, because he loves the commander, John xiv. 15. Sirs, be assured of this, that you are not yet got into the right road of Christianity; you are not yet in that path, wherein you can be hearty and sincere, and wherein you will be constant, and never faint; until you get once into the power of the love of Christ. Then you will be sweetly carried on in all your way, and in his ways. Then may the believer in, and lover of Christ, say, ďLet the Lord lead me whither he pleaseth; I am still going to heaven, and am in the river of life, the love of Christ, that begun (if I may say so) from eternity, and carries me through time, unto the eternal enjoyment of the same love in heaven.Ē
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint ó Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ĎPentland Rebelí he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traillís literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owenís successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
The Works of Robert Traill are available through the Banner of Truth