Love to Jesus
Charles H. Spurgeon
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted ã 1999 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved.
‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’—John 21:17
Christ rightly known is most surely Christ beloved. No sooner do we discern his excellencies, behold his glories, and partake of his bounties, than our heart is at once moved with love towards him. Let him but speak pardon to our guilty souls, then we shall not delay for long to speak words of love to his most adorable person. It is utterly impossible for a man to know himself to be complete in Christ, and to be destitute of love towards Christ Jesus. A believer may be in Christ, and yet, from a holy jealousy, he may doubt his own affection to his Lord; but love is most assuredly in his bosom, for that breast which has never heaved with love to Jesus, is yet a stranger to the blood of sprinkling. He that does not love, has not seen Christ, neither has he known him. As the seed expands in the moisture and the heat, and sends forth its green blade—so also when the soul becomes affected with the mercy of the Saviour, it puts forth its shoots of love to him and desire after him.
This love is no mere heat of excitement, nor does it end in a flow of rapturous words; but it causes the soul to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, to its own joy and the Lord's glory. It is a principle, active and strong, which exercises itself unto godliness, and produces abundantly things which are lovely and of good repute. Some of these we intend to mention, earnestly desiring that all of us may exhibit them in our lives. Dr. Owen very concisely sums up the effects of true love in the two words, adherence and assimilation: the one knitting the heart to Jesus, and the other conforming us to his image. This is an excellent summary; but as our design is to be more explicit, we shall in detail review the more usual and pleasing of the displays of the power of grace, afforded by the soul which is under the influence of love to Christ.
1. One of the earliest and most important signs of love to Jesus is the deed of solemn dedication of ourselves, with all we have and are, most unreservedly to the Lord's service.
Dr. Doddridge has recommended a solemn covenant between the soul and God, to be signed and sealed with due deliberation and most fervent prayer. Many of the most eminent of the saints have adopted this excellent method of devoting themselves in very deed unto the Lord, and have reaped great benefits from the review of that solemn document when they have freshly renewed the act of dedication. The writer of the present volume conceives that burial with Christ in Baptism is a far more scriptural and expressive sign of dedication; but he is not inclined to deny his brethren the liberty of confirming that act by the other, if it seem good to them. The remarks of John Newton upon this subject are therefore cautious and terse [See ‘Life of Grimshaw,’ p.13], that we cannot refrain from quoting them at length:—‘Many judicious persons have differed in their sentiments with respect to the propriety or utility of such written engagements. They are usually entered into, if at all, in an early stage of profession, when, though the heart is warm, there has been little actual experience of its deceitfulness. In the day when the Lord turns our mourning into joy, and speaks peace, by the blood of his cross, to the conscience burdened by guilt and fear, resolutions are formed which, though honest and sincere, prove, like Peter's promise to our lord, too weak to withstand the force of subsequent unforeseen temptation. Such vows, made in too much dependence upon our own strength, not only occasion a farther discovery of our weakness, but frequently give the enemy advantage to terrify and distress the mind. Therefore, some persons, of more mature experience, discount the practice as legal and improper. But, as a scaffold, though no part of an edifice, and designed to be taken down when the building is finished, is yet useful for a time in carrying on the work—so many young converts have been helped by expedients which, when their judgments are more ripened, and their faith more confirmed, are no longer necessary. Every true believer, of course, ought to devote himself to the service of the Redeemer; yea, he must and will, for he is constrained by love. He will do it not once only, but daily. And many who have done it in writing can look back upon the transaction with thankfulness to the end of life, recollecting it as a season of peculiar solemnity and impression, accompanied with emotions of heart neither to be forgotten nor recalled. And the Lord, who does not despise the day of small things, nor break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax accepts and ratifies the desire; and mercifully pardons the mistakes which they discover, as they attain to more knowledge of him and of themselves. And they are encouraged, if not warranted, to make their surrender in this manner, by the words of the prophet Isaiah:—“One shall say, I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand to the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel”’ (Isa. 44:5).
Whatever view we may take of the form of consecration, we must all agree that the deed itself is absolutely necessary as a firstfruit of the Spirit, and that where it is absent there is none of the love of which we are treating. We are also, all of us, in union on the point that the surrender must be sincere, entire, unconditional, and deliberate; and that it must be accompanied by deep humility, from a sense of our unworthiness, simple faith in the blood of Jesus as the only medium of acceptance, and constant reliance upon the Holy Spirit for the fulfilment of our vows. We must give ourselves to Jesus, to be his, to honour and to obey, if necessary, even unto death. We must be ready with Mary to break the alabaster box, with Abraham to offer up our Isaac, with the apostles to renounce our worldly wealth at the bidding of Christ, with Moses to despise the riches of Egypt, with Daniel to enter the lion's den, and with the three holy children to step into the furnace. We cannot retain a portion of the price, like Ananias, nor love this present world with Demas, if we are the genuine followers of the Lamb. We consecrate our all when we receive Christ as all.
The professing Church has many in its midst who, if they have ever given themselves to Christ, appear to be very oblivious of their solemn obligation. They can scarcely afford a fragment of their wealth for the Master's cause; their time is wasted, or employed in any service but that of Jesus; their talents are absorbed in worldly pursuits; and the absolute waste of their influence is thought to be an abundant satisfaction of all the claims of heaven. Can such men be honest in their professions of attachment to the Lamb? Was their dedication a sincere one? Do they not afford us grave suspicion of hypocrisy? Could they live in such a fashion if their hearts were right with God? Can they have any right idea of what the Saviour deserves? Are their hearts really renewed? We leave them to answer for themselves; but re must entreat them also to ponder the following questions, as they shall one day have to render an account to their Judge. Does not God abhor the lying lip? And is it not lying against God to profess that which are do not carry out? Doe not the Saviour loathe those who are neither cold nor hot? And are not those most truly in that case who serve God with half a heart? What must be the doom of those who have insulted Heaven with empty vows? Will not a false profession entail a fearful punishment upon the soul forever? And is he not false who does not serve the Lord with all his might? Is it a little thing to be branded as a robber of God? Is it a trifle to break our vows with the Almighty? Shall a man mock his Maker, and go unpunished? And how shall he abide the day of the wrath of God ?
May God make us ever careful that, by his Holy Spirit's aid, we may be able to live unto him as those that are alive from the dead; and since in many things we fall short of his perfect will, let us humble ourselves, and devoutly seek the moulding of his hand to renew us day by day. We ought always desire a perfect life as the result of full consecration, even though we shall often groan that ‘it is not yet attained.’ Our prayer should be—
‘Take my soul and body’s powers;
Take my memory, mind, and will;
All my goods, and all my hours;
All I know, and all I feel;
All I think, or speak, or do;
Take my heart—but make it new.’
2. Love to Christ will make us ‘timid and tender to offend.’—We shall be most careful lest the Saviour should be grieved by our ill manners. When some much loved friend is visiting our house, we are ever fearful lest he should be ill at ease; we therefore watch every movement in the family, that nothing may disturb the quiet we desire him to enjoy. How frequently do we apologise for the homeliness of our provisions, our own apparent inattention, the forgetfulness of our servants, or the rudeness of our children. If we suppose him to be uncomfortable, how readily will we disarrange our household to give him pleasure, and how disturbed are we at the least symptom that he is not satisfied with our hospitality. We are grieved if our words appear cold towards him, or our acts unkind. We would sooner that he should grieve us than that we should displease him. Surely we should not treat our heavenly Friend worse than our earthly acquaintance; but we should constantly endeavour to please Him in all things who did not please himself. Such is the influence of real devotion to our precious Redeemer, that the more the mind is saturated with affection to him, the more watchful shall we be to give no offense in anything, and the more sorrow shall we suffer because our nature is yet so imperfect that in many things we come short of his glory. A believer, in a healthy state of mind, will be extremely sensitive; he will avoid the appearance of evil, and guard against the beginnings of sin. He will often be afraid to put one foot before another, lest he should tread upon forbidden ground; he will tremble to speak, lest his words should not be ordered aright; he will be timid in the world, lest he should be surprised into transgression; and even in his holy deeds he will be watchful over his heart, lest he should mock his Lord. This feeling of fear lest we should ‘slip with our feet,’ is a precious feature of true spiritual life. It is to be greatly regretted that it is so lightly prized by many, in comparison with the more martial virtues; for, despite its apparent insignificance, it is one of the choicest fruits of the Spirit, and its absence is one of the most deplorable evidences of spiritual decay. A heedless spirit is a curse to the soul; a rash, presumptuous conversation will eat like a cancer does. ‘Too bold’ was never Too-wise nor Too‑loving. Careful walking is one of the best securities of safe and happy standing. It is solemn cause for doubting when we are indifferent in our behaviour to our best Friend. When the new creature is active, it will be indignant at the very name of sin; it will condemn it as the murderer of the Redeemer, and wage as fierce a war against it as the Lord did with Amalek. Christ's foes are our foes when we are Christ's friends. Love of Christ and love of sin are elements too hostile to reign in the same heart. We shall hate iniquity simply because Jesus hates it. A good divine [John Brine] writes:—‘If any pretend unto an assurance of forgiveness through the merits of Jesus, without any experience of shame, sorrow, and hatred of sin, on account of its vile nature, I dare boldly pronounce such a pretension to be no other than a vain presumption, that is likely to be followed by an eternal loss of their immortal souls.’
He that is not afraid of sinning has good reason to be afraid of damning. Truth hates error, holiness abhors guilt, and grace cannot but detest sin. If we do not desire to be cautious to avoid offending our Lord, we may rest confident that we have no part in him, for true love to Christ will rather die than wound him. Hence love to Christ is ‘the best antidote to idolatry;’ [James Hamilton] for it prevent any object from occupying the rightful throne of the Saviour. The believer dares not admit a rival into his heart, knowing that this would grievously offend the King. The simplest way of preventing an excessive love of the creature is to set all our affection upon the Creator. Give your whole heart to your Lord, and you cannot idolize the things of earth, for thou will have nothing left with which to worship them.
B. If we love the Lord Jesus we shall be obedient to his commands.—False, vain, and boasting pretenders to friendship with Christ think it enough to talk fluently of him; but humble, sincere, and faithful lovers of the Lord are not content with words—they must be doing the will of their Master. As the affectionate wife obeys because she loves her husband, so does the redeemed soul delight in keeping the commands of Jesus, although compelled by no force but that of love. This divine principle will render every duty pleasant; yes, when the labour is in itself irksome, this heavenly grace will quicken us in its performance by reminding us that it is honourable to suffer for our Lord. It will induce an universal obedience to all known commands, and overcome that critical spirit of rebellion which takes exception to many precepts, and obeys only as far as it chooses to do so. It infuses not the mere act, but the very spirit of obedience, inclining the inmost heart to feel that its new born nature cannot but obey. True, old corruption is still there; but this only proves the hearty willingness of the soul to be faithful to the laws of its King, seeing that it is the cause of a perpetual and violent contest—the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit striving against the flesh. We are willing to serve God when we love his Son: there may be obstacles, but no unwillingness. We would be holy even as God is holy, and perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. And to proceed yet further, love not only removes all unwillingness, but inspires the soul with a delight in the service of God, by making the lowest act of service to appear honourable. A heathen [Seneca] once exclaimed, Deo servire est regnare—‘to serve God is to reign:’ so does the renewed heart joyfully acknowledge the high honour which it receives by obedience to its Lord. He counts it not only his reasonable, but his delightful service, to be a humble and submissive disciple of his gracious Friend. He would be unhappy if he had no opportunity of obedience—his love requires channels for its fullness: he would pray for work if there were none, for he includes his duties among his privileges. In the young dawn of true religion this is very observable—would that it were equally so ever after! Oh! how jealous we were lest one divine ordinance should be neglected, or one rule violated. Nothing pained us more than our own too frequent wanderings, and nothing gratified us more than to be allowed to cut wood or draw water at his bidding. Why is it not so now with all of us? Why are those wings, once outstretched for speedy flight, now folded in sloth? Is our Redeemer less deserving? Or could it be that we are less loving? Let us seek by greater meditation on the work and love of our Saviour, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to renew our love to him: otherwise our lamentation will soon be—‘How the gold has become dim! How the glory has departed!’ (Lam. 4:1).
4. Love to Christ will impel us to defend him against his foes.—
‘If any touch my friend, or his good name,
It is my honour and my love to free his blasted fame
From the least spot or thought of blame.’ [Herbert].
Good men are more tender over the reputation of Christ than over their own good name; for they are willing to lose the world's favourable opinion rather than that Christ should be dishonoured. This is no more than Jesus has a right to expect. Would he not be a sorry brother who should hear me insulted and slandered, and yet be silent? Would he not be destitute of affection who would allow the character of his nearest relative to be trampled in the dust, without a struggle on his behalf? And is he not a poor style of Christian who would calmly submit to hear his Lord abused? We could bear to be trampled in the very mire that He might be exalted; but to see our glorious Head dishonoured, is a sight we cannot tamely behold. We would not, like Peter, strike his enemies with the sword of man; but we would use the sword of the Spirit as well as we are enabled. Oh! how has our blood boiled when the name of Jesus has been the theme of scornful jest! How we have been ready to invoke the fire of Elijah on the guilty blasphemers! Or when our more carnal heat has subsided, how have we wept, even to the sobbing of a child, at the reproach cast upon his most hallowed name! Many a time we have been ready to burst with anguish when we have been speechless before the scoffer, because the Lord had shut us up, that we could not come forth; but at other seasons, with courage more than we had considered to be within the range of our capability, we have boldly reproved the wicked, and sent them back abashed.
It is a lovely spectacle to behold the timid and feeble defending the citadel of truth: not with hard blows of logic, or bombardments of rhetoric—but with that tearful earnestness, and implicit confidence, against which the attacks of revilers are utterly powerless. Overthrown in argument, they overcome by faith; covered with contempt, they think it all joy if they can only avert a solitary stain from the escutcheon [shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms] of their Lord. ‘Call me what you will,’ says the believer, ‘but do not speak ill of my Beloved. Here, plough these shoulders with your lashes, but spare yourselves the sin of cursing him! Yes, let me die: I am all too happy to be slain, if my Lord's most glorious cause shall live!’
Ask every regenerate child of God whether he does not count it his privilege to maintain the honour of his Master's name; and though his answer may be worded with holy caution, you will not fail to discover in it enough of that determined resolution which, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, will enable him to stand fast in the evil day. He may be careful to reply to such a question, lest he should be presumptuous; but should he stand like the three holy children before an enraged tyrant, in the very mouth of a burning fiery furnace, his answer, like theirs, would be, ‘We have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up’ (Dan. 3:16-18).
In some circles it is believed that in the event of another reign of persecution, there are very few in our churches who would endure the fiery trial: nothing, we think, is more unfounded. It is our firm opinion that the feeblest saint in our midst would receive grace for the struggle, and come off more than a conqueror. God's children are the same now as ever. Real piety will as well endure the fire in one century as another. There is the same love to impel the martyrdom, the same grace to sustain the sufferer, the same promises to cheer his heart, and the same crown to adorn his head. We believe that those followers of Jesus who may perhaps one day be called to the stake, will die as readily as any who have gone before. Love is still as strong as death, and grace is still made perfect in weakness.
‘Sweet is the cross, above all sweets,
To souls enamoured with His smiles;
The keenest woe life ever meets,
Love strips of all its
terrors, and beguiles.’
This is as true today, as it was a thousand years ago. We may be weak in grace, but grace is not weak: it is still omnipotent, and able to endure the trying day.
There is one form of this jealousy for the honour of the cross, which will always distinguish the devout Christian:—he win tremble lest he himself, by word or deed, by omission of duty or commission of sin, should dishonour the holy religion which he has professed. He will hold perpetual controversy with ‘sinful self’ on this account, and will loathe himself when he has inadvertently given occasion to the enemy to blaspheme. The King's favourite will be sad if, by mistake or carelessness, he has been the accomplice of traitors: he desires to be beyond reproach, that his Monarch may suffer no disgrace from his courtier. Nothing has injured the cause of Christ more than the inconsistencies of his avowed friends. Jealousy for the honour of Christ is an admirable mark of grace.
5. A firm attachment to the person of Christ will create a constant anxiety to promote his cause.
With some it has produced that burning zeal which enabled them to endure banishment, to brave dangers, and to forsake comforts, in order to evangelise an ungrateful people, among whom they were not unwilling to suffer persecution, or even death, so that they might but enlarge the borders of Immanuel's land. This has inspired the evangelist with inexhaustible strength to proclaim the word of his Lord from place to place, amid the slander of foes and the coldness of friends; this has moved the generous heart to devise liberal things, that the cause might not fade for lack of temporal supplies; and this, in a thousand ways, has stirred up the host of God, with various weapons and in several fields, to fight the battles of their Lord. There is little or no love to Jesus in that man who is indifferent concerning the progress of the truth. The man whose soul is saturated with grateful affection to his crucified Lord will weep when the enemy seems to get an advantage; he will water his couch with tears when he sees a declining church; he will lift up his voice like a trumpet to arouse the slumbering, and with his own hand will labour day and night to build up the breaches of Zion; and should his efforts be successful, with what joyous gratitude will he lift up his heart unto the King of Israel, extolling him as much—yes, more—for mercies given to the Church than for bounties conferred upon himself. How diligently and tirelessly will he labour for his Lord, humbly conceiving that he cannot do too much, or even enough, for one who gave his heart's blood as the price of our peace.
We lament that too many among us are like Issachar, who was described as ‘a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens,’—too lazy to perform the works of piety so urgently demanded at our hands: but the reason of this sad condition is not that fervent love is unable to produce activity, but that such are deplorably destitute of that intense affection which grace begets in the soul.
Love to Christ smoothes the path of duty, and dispatches the feet to travel it: it is the bow which impels the arrow of obedience; it is the mainspring moving the wheels of duty; it is the strong arm tugging the oar of diligence. Love is the marrow of the bones of fidelity, the blood in the veins of piety, the sinew of spiritual strength—yes, the life of sincere devotion. He that has love can no more be motionless than the aspen tree in the gale, the withered leaf in the hurricane, or the spray in the tempest. Likewise, as hearts must beat, so also love must labour. Love is instinct with activity, it cannot be idle; it is full of energy, it cannot content itself with little things: it is the well spring of heroism, and great deeds are the gushings of its fountain; it is a giant—it heaps mountains upon mountains, and thinks it a little pile; it is a mighty mystery, for it changes bitter into sweet; it calls death life, and life death, and it makes pain less painful than enjoyment. Love has a clear eye, but it can see only one thing— it is blind to every interest but that of its Lord; it sees things in the light of his glory, and weighs actions in the scales of his honour; it counts royalty but drudgery if it cannot reign for Christ, but it delights in servitude as much as in honour, if it can thereby advance the Master's kingdom; its end sweetens all its means; its object lightens its toil, and removes its weariness. Love, with refreshing influence, girds up the loins of the pilgrim, so that he forgets fatigue; it casts a shadow for the traveling man, so that he does not feel the burning heat; and it puts the bottle to the lip of thirst. Have we not found it so? And, under the influence of love, are we not prepared by the Spirit's sacred aid to do or suffer all that thought can suggest, as being likely to promote his honour?
He who does not desire the good of the kingdom is no friend to the king; so he who forgets the interests of Zion can scarcely be a favourite with her Prince. We wish prosperity in estate and household to all those in whom we delight; and if we take pleasure in Jesus, we shall pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and labour for her increase.
May ‘the Father of lights’ give unto his Church more love to her Head, then she will be zealous, valiant, and persevering, and then shall her Lord be glorified.
6. It is a notable fact that fervent love to Jesus will enable us to endure anything he is pleased to lay upon us.
Love is the mother of resignation: we gladly receive buffeting and blows from Jesus when our heart is fully occupied with his love. Even as a dearly cherished friend does but delight us when he uses freedoms with us, or when he takes a good deal of liberty in our house—so Jesus, when we love him heartily, will never offend us by anything that he may do. Should he take our gold, we would think his hand to be a noble treasury for our wealth; should he remove our joys, we reckon it a greater bliss to lose than gain, when his will runs in such a channel. Yes, should he smite us very deeply, we shall turn to his hand and kiss the rod. To believe that Christ has done it, is to extract the sting of an affliction. We remember hearing a preacher at a funeral most beautifully setting forth this truth in parable. He said:—‘A certain nobleman had a spacious garden, which he left to the care of a faithful servant, whose delight it was to train the climbing plants along the trellis, to water the seeds in the time of drought, to support the stalks of the tender plants, and to do every work which could render the garden a Paradise of flowers. One morning he rose with joy, expecting to tend his beloved flowers, and hoping to find his favourites increased in beauty. To his surprise, he found one of his choicest beauties torn from its stem, and, looking around him, he missed from every bed the pride of his garden, the most precious of his blooming flowers. Full of grief and anger, he hurried to his fellow servants, and demanded who had thus robbed him of his treasures. They had not done it and he did not charge them with it; but he found no solace for his grief till one of them remarked:—“My lord was walking in the garden this morning, and I saw him pluck the flowers and carry them away.” Then truly he found he had no cause for his trouble. He felt it was well that his master had been pleased to take his own, and he went away, smiling at his loss, because his lord had taken them. So,’ said the preacher, turning to the mourners, ‘you have lost one whom you regarded with much tender affection. The bonds of endearment have not availed for her retention upon earth. I know your wounded feelings when, instead of the lovely form which was the embodiment of all that is excellent and amiable, you behold nothing but ashes and corruption. But remember, my beloved, THE LORD has done it; He has removed the tender mother, the affectionate wife, the inestimable friend. I say again, remember your own Lord has done it; therefore do not murmur, or yield yourselves to an excess of grief’ There was as much force as well as beauty in the simple allegory: it would be good if all the Lord’s family had grace to practice its heavenly lesson, in all times of bereavement and affliction.
Our favourite master of quaint conceits [Herbert] has singularly said in his poem entitled ‘Unkindness’—
‘My friend may spit upon my curious floor.’
True, most true, our Beloved may do as he pleases in our house, even if he would break its ornaments and stain its glories. Come in, you heavenly guest, even though each footstep on our floor should crush a thousand of our earthly joys. You are yourself more than sufficient recompense for all that you can take away. Come in, you brother of our souls, even though your rod comes with you. We would rather have you, and trials with you, than lament your absence even though surrounded with all the wealth the universe can bestow.
The Lord’s prisoner in the dungeon of Aberdeen thus penned his belief in the love of his ‘sweet Lord Jesus,’ and his acquiescence in his Master’s will:—
‘Oh, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace, of my Lord Jesus! who hath now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is, which goeth through his mill, to be made bread for his own table. Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace—it is glory in its infancy. When Christ blesses his own crosses with a tongue, they breathe out Christ's love, wisdom, kindness, and care of us. Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh deep furrows upon my soul? 1 know that He is no idle husbandman; He purposeth a crop. Oh, that this white, withered lea‑ground [pasture] were made fertile to bear a crop for him, by whom it is so painfully dressed, and that this fallow‑ground were broken up! Why was I (a fool!) grieved that He put his garland and his rose upon my head—the glory and honour of his faithful witnesses? I desire now to make no more pleas with Christ. Verily, He hath not put me to a loss by what I suffered; he oweth me nothing; for in my bonds how sweet and comfortable have the thoughts of Him been to me, wherein I find a sufficient recompense of reward!’
7. To avoid tiring the reader with a longer list of ‘the precious fruits put forth by the Sun’ of love, we will sum up everything in the last remark—that the gracious soul will labour after an entire annihilation of selfishness, and a complete absorption into Christ of its aims, joys, desires, and hope. The highest conceivable state of spirituality is produced by a concentration of all the powers and passions of the soul upon the person of Christ. We have asked a great thing when we have begged to be wholly surrendered to be crucified. It is the highest stage of manhood to have no wish, no thought, no desire, but Christ—to feel that to die would be bliss, if it were for Christ—that to live in poverty, and woe, and scorn, and contempt, and misery, would be sweet, if it were for Christ—to feel that it matters nothing what becomes of one's self, as long as our Master is exalted—to feel that though we are like a withered leaf, we are blown in the blast, we are quite careless where we are going, so long as we feel that the Master’s hand is guiding us according to his will; or, rather, to feel that though like the diamond, we must be cut with sharp tools, yet we do not care how sharply we may be cut, as long as we are made fit jewels to adorn his crown. If any of us have attained to this sweet feeling of self-annihilation, then we shall look up to Christ as if He were the sun, and we shall say within ourselves, ‘O Lord, I see your beams; I feel myself to be—not a beam from you—but darkness, swallowed up in your light. The most I ask is, that you would live in me—that the life I live in the flesh may not be my life, but your life in me; that I may say with emphasis, as Paul did, ‘For me to live is Christ.’
A man who has attained this high position has indeed ‘entered into rest.’ To him the praise or the censure of men are both contemptible, for he has learned to look upon the one as unworthy of his pursuit, and the other as beneath his regard. He is no longer vulnerable, since he has in himself no separate sensitiveness, but has united his whole being with the cause and person of the Redeemer. As long as there is a particle of selfishness remaining in us, it will mar our sweet enjoyment of Christ; and until we get a complete riddance of it, our joy will never be unmixed with grief. We must dig at the roots of our selfishness to find the worm which eats away at our happiness. The soul of the believer will always pant for this serene condition of passive surrender, and will not be content until it has thoroughly plunged itself into the sea of divine love. Its normal condition is that of complete dedication, and it regards every deviation from such a state as a
mark of the plague and a breaking forth of disease. Here, in the lowest valley of self-renunciation, the believer walks upon a very pinnacle of exaltation; bowing himself, he knows that he rising immeasurably high when he is sinking into nothing, and, falling flat upon his face, he feels that he is thus mounting to the highest elevation of mental grandeur.
It is the ambition of most men to absorb others into their own life, that they may shine all the more brightly by the stolen rays of other lights; but it is the Christian's highest aspiration to be absorbed into another, and lose himself in the glories of his sovereign and Saviour. Proud men hope that the names of others shall only be remembered as single words in their own long titles of honour; but loving children of God long for nothing more than to see their own names used as letters in the bright records of the accomplishments of the Wonderful, and the Councillor.
Heaven is a state of entire acquiescence in the will of God, and perfect sympathy with his purposes; it is, therefore, easy to discern that the desires we have just been describing are true promises of the inheritance? and sure signs of preparation for it.
And now, how is it with the reader? Is he a lover of Jesus in verity and truth? or does he confess that these signs are not seen in him? If he is indeed without love to Jesus, then he has good reason to humble himself and turn unto the Lord, for his soul is in as evil a condition as it can be this side of hell; and, alas! will soon be, unless grace prevents it, in a plight so pitiable, that eternity will scarcely be long enough for its regrets.
It is more than probable that some of our readers are troubled with doubts concerning the truth of their affection for Jesus, although they are indeed his faithful friends. Permit us to address such with a word of consolation.
You have some of the marks of true piety about you—at least, you can join in some of the feelings to which we have been expressing—but still you fear that you are not right in your heart towards Christ. What then is your reason for such a suspicion? You reply that your excess of attachment towards your friends and relatives is proof that you are not sincere, for if you truly loved Jesus, you would love him more than these. Your complaint is:—‘I fear I love the creature more than Christ, and if so my love is hypocritical. I frequently feel more vehement and more devoted longings of my heart to my beloved relatives than I do towards heavenly objects, and I therefore believe that I am still carnal, and the love of God does not inhabit my heart.’
Far be it from us to plead the cause of sin, or extenuate the certain fault which you thus commit; but at the same time it would be even further from our design to blot out at once all the names of the living family of God. For if our love is to be measured by its temporary violence, then we fear there is not one among the saints who has not at some time or other had an excessive love to the creature, and; who has not, therefore, upon such reasoning, proved himself to be a hypocrite. Let it be remembered, therefore, that the strength of affection is rather to be measured by the hold it has upon the heart, than by the heat it displays at careless times and seasons. Flavel very wisely observes, ‘As rooted malice argues a stronger hatred than a sudden though more violent passion, so we must measure our love, not by a violent motion of it, now and then, but by the depth of the root and the constancy of its actings. Because David was so passionately moved for Absalom, Joab concludes that if he had lived, and all the people died, it would have pleased him well; but that was argued more like a soldier than a logician.’
If your love is constant in its steadfastness, faithful in its actions, and honest in its character, then you do not need to distrust it on account of certain more burning passions, which temporarily and wickedly inflame the mind. Avoid these as sinful, but do not therefore doubt the truthfulness of your attachment to your Master. True grace may be in the soul without being apparent, for, as Baxter truly observes, ‘grace is never apparent and sensible to the soul but while it is in action.’ Fire may be in the flint, and yet be unseen except when circumstances shall bring it out. As Dr. Sibbs observes in his Soul's Conflict, ‘There is sometimes grief for sin in us, when we think there is none;’ so may it be with love which may be there, but not discoverable till some circumstance shall lead to its discovery. The eminent Puritan pertinently remarks:—
‘You may go seeking for the hare or partridge many hours, and never find them while they lie close and stir not; but when once the hare betakes himself to his legs, and the bird to her wings, then you see them presently. So long as a Christian hath his graces in lively action, so long, for the most part, he is assured of them. How can you doubt whether you love God in the act of loving? Or whether you believe in the very act of believing. If, there, you would be assured whether this sacred fire be kindled in your hearts, blow it up, get it into a flame, and then you will know; believe till you feel that you do believe; and love till you feel that you love.’
Seek to keep your graces in action by living near to the author of them. Live very near to Jesus, and think much of his love to you: thus will your love to him become more deep and fervent.
We pause here, and pray to the most gracious Father of all good, that he would accept our love, as he has already accepted us, in the Beloved; and we humbly crave the kind influence of his Holy Spirit, that we may be made perfect in love, and may glorify him to whom we now present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.
‘Jesu, thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart to thee,
And reign without a rival there:
Thine wholly, thine alone, I am;
Be thou alone my constant flame!
O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone:
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown;
Strange flames far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought be love!’
TO THE UNCONVERTED READER
Again we turn to you; and are you still where we left you? Still without hope, still unforgiven? Surely, then, you have been condemning yourself while reading these signs of grace in others. Such experience is too high for you, you can no more attain unto it than a stone to sensibility; but, remember, it is not too high for the Lord. He can renew you, and make you know the highest enjoyment of the saints. He alone can do it, therefore despair of your own strength; but He can accomplish it, therefore hope in omnipotent grace. You are in a wrong state, and you know it: how fearful it will be if you should remain the same until death! Yet most assuredly you will unless Divine love shall change you. See, then, how absolutely you are in the hands of God. Labour to feel this. Seek to know the power of this dreaded but certain fact—that you lie entirely at his pleasure; and there is nothing more likely to humble and subdue you than the thoughts which it will beget within you.
Know and tremble, hear and be afraid. Bow yourself before the Most High, and confess his justice should He destroy you, and admire his grace which proclaims pardon to you. Do not think that the works of believers are their salvation; but seek first the root of their graces, which lies in Christ, not in themselves. This you can get nowhere but at the footstool of mercy from the hand of Jesus. You are shut up to one [standing at the?] door of life, and that door is Christ crucified. Receive him as God's free gift and your undeserved blessing. Renounce every other refuge, and embrace the Lord Jesus as your only hope. Put your soul in his hands. Sink or swim, let Him be your only support, and he will never fail you.
BELIEVE 0N THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND YOU WILL BE SAVED.
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