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for a sweet-smelling savour.
The Father is well pleased with him, and is also well pleased with them who have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. For the prophet, speaking of them, says, (Psal. lxxxv. 2, 3, “thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath, thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.” God was once in wrath with them who are now his people, yea, the fierceness of his anger was stirred up against them; but he is now reconciled. By what means? He is well pleased with them for Christ's righteousness' sake, through whom he has forgiven their iniquity, and has covered all their sin.
When the sinner, convinced of his want of divine love, is thus satisfied that Christ has paid the full price to purcbase it, having answered all the demands of law and justice, and that sinners may now be brought nigh to a reconciled Father, and may taste and see how gracious he is, then he waits for this blessing which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is his work and office to bring convinced sinners to the knowledge and experience of the love of God, and this is the third particular I was to treat of.
The Holy Spirit directs the hearts of awakened and convinced sinners into the love of God in this
way and method.
He makes them sensible of their wants, and then shows them where they may have a supply. He gives them evidence to believe the all-sufficiency of Christ, whose obedience and sufferings were divine and infinitely meritorious, and made a full and perfect satisfaction for sin. God the Father accepted them as such, and since his justice was well pleased and satisfied with them, the sinner thinks he may be satisfied with them also: for as there is no objection against them in the court of heaven, so there ought to be none in the court of his conscience. Then ihe Holy Spirit helps him to put forth an act of faith, and to rely upon Christ as a tried foundation. He ventures his all upon Christ's power to save, believing him to be Jehovah, the Lord God Almighty; and hearing and reading the gracious promises of Christ's readiness to save all that come to him, he sees there is no reason for him to doubt either of Christ's
power, or of Christ's love to fulfil his promises ; upon wbich he is enabled thus to address the Lord Christ :
O, almighty and most merciful Saviour, who hast reconciled the Father to returning sinners, and hast the residue of the Spirit with thee, by whom they may be reconciled to God, I bless thee, I praise thee, and glorify thee, for the inestimable gift of thy good Spirit, by whom I have been enabled to rest upon thy promises, and to rely upon thy faithfulness to fulfil them, even to me a miserable, helpless sinner. O Lord, strengthen my faith by the grace of the same Spirit; that it may work by love, that having still more clear evidence of the Father's being reconciled to me, I may love him with all my heart and with all iny soul !
With such actions of faith in prayer God is well pleased, for they are the breathings of his own Spirit in the believer's heart, and he will answer them; he strengthens faith and increases love, according to what. is written, Rom. v. 5, “ the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The Holy Spirit is given to the believer to bear witness with his spirit that he is a child of God: and when the Word of God and the Spirit of God thus bear their joint testimony to his being beloved of the Father for Christ's sake, then he is rooted and grounded in love, and is disposed and mightily strengthened in the inner man to perform every work and labour of love.
Thus the gospel represents the whole Trinity as concerned in directing the sinner's heart into the love of God. The Father forgives all his offences through the merits of his beloved Son, who did and suffered all that was required to reconcile the Father, and the Holy Spirit disposes the sinner to be reconciled to God, and to believe his word, and then gives him faith to apply the promises to himself, and to love
God, who first loved him. Our love to him arises from the evidence we have of his love to us: for without this evidence an awakened sinner cannot love God. While he looks upon God as the just avenger of his sins, it is impossible that he should love him, and so long as guilt remains in his conscience he cannot but fear and dread the justice of the Almighty; and these terrors will entirely shut out all love: for it is against nature to love pain; and how then can the awakened sinner love that offended God who is to inflict it upon him ? He cannot love him, until he has some sense of God's pardoning love, and bis interest in the corenant of grace. The text declares this truth “thou shalt love the Lord thy God;" thy covenant God, not an absolute God, such as the deists worship, but a God related to thee in the covenant of grace.
Thy God is a relative term, implying the relation which God stood in to the believer, and which is here expressed by the word Alchim, thy Alehim. The Trinity bound in covenant to redeem man are thine, and stand related to thee in all their covenant offices; the l'ather is thy father, the Son is thy saviour, the Holy Spirit is thy counsellor, guide, sanctifier, and strengthener; all the graces and blessings of the covenant are thine in time and in eternity: therefore thou shalt love Jehovah, thy Alehim, for these inestimable mercies, with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength.
My brethren, is this your experience? You were once haters of God, have you been brought to love him, and do you know him to be your reconciled Father? The gospel has revealed no other way of attaining his love, but seeking it through Christ, and receiving it by the grace of his Spirit. Have you then sought and received it in this way? If you have, you will gladly follow me to my
Fourth general head, which was to treat of the promises made to them who love God. These promises are exceeding great and exceeding precious, containing every covenant blessing of grace and glory.
The Lord has engaged to preserve them that love him, (Psal. cxlv. 20,) and to keep covenant and mercy with them that love him; (Deut. vii. 9;) yea, they that love the Lord shall be like the sun when he goeth forth in his might; (Judges, v. 31 ;) nothing shall stop their course, afflictions, sickness, temptations, all manner of trials shall help them forward : for all things shall work together for good to them that love God, (Rom. viii. 28). But it is impossible to describe the great things which God hath prepared for them that love him." If any man love me, says Christ, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him.John, xiv. 23. This fellowship with the Father and the Son, by the bond of the Spirit, is the greatest happiness which can be enjoyed, next to the crown of life which God hath promised to them who love him, (James, i. 12,) and who shall be for ever happy in the enjoyment of his love. Are not these promises exceeding great and precious ? and on whom, my brethren, can you place your affections, who has any such promises to make you ? Can the world bid so -high for your hearts ? Are its pleasures worthy to be compared with the pleasures laid up at God's right hand for evermore? Are its honours and riches like the honours and riches which come from God? What can sin offer you, what can Satan propose, what can the flesh covet, that can be put in competition with the blessedness which God has promised to them who love him? If they promise more than God, they are liars; and if you trust them, you will be deceived. But God's promises are, like himself, unchangeable. He is faithful and just to fulfil them. And he does fulfil them daily. His people are witnesses for him: they declare that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord hath promised in his word to them that love him. Ail are come to pass unto them, and not one thing hath failed thereof. O that you were all his witnesses, and knew the happiness of his love! May he shed ic Are your
abroad in all your hearts for his mercies' sake, and enrich you with the blessings of his love in time and in eternity!
Having considered the nature of the first and great commandment, it behoves us to apply what has been spoken, and make it useful to ourselves. My brethren, have you found any use in it?
hearts placed upon the Lord God? Is he the reigning object of your affections? How. were you brought to love him? Did you ever find yourselves miserable because you were at enmity with him ? and did you seek the Father's love through Christ, as the purchase of his obedience and sufferings, hoping that the Father would be reconciled to you for the righteousness' sake of his beloved Son ? and did you continue in this way seeking, until you received the faith which worketh by love? If this be your experience, bless God for this unspeakable gift. It becometh you well to be thankful. *Praise him with your lips; praise him with your lives, and give him every testimony of your love which he requires; especially give him your hearts, and let him reign in them. There let Christ set up his kingdom, and by his sovereign power subdue your enemies and his: for when Christ dwells in your hearts, by faith, ye shall then be rooted and grounded in love, and shall be strengthened with might in the inner man to do his will and to suffer it. Then your constant language will be, what shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall
any trouble because painful, shall any temptation because strong, shall any duty because hard? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Are there any
you, my brethren, who are not thus rejoicing in the love of God, but are wishing and desiring to be in this happy state? From whence arise your
desires? Do they come from the conviction of your sin and misery? Do you feel the enmity of your wills, and the rebellion of your hearts against God? And do you therefore wish, that although you