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fore they love him, as it is for God to deny himself. But the love of complacence towards God is truly virtuous and holy; and as soon as sinners exercise this love, they become lovely, and must appear so in the sight of God. Were it possible in the nature of things, God would exercise complacence, as well as benevolence, towards sinners first. This appears from his exercising benevolence towards them, before they exercise benevolence towards him. He is infinitely good, and ready to do all that goodness can do for them; but perfect goodness forbids him to exercise the love of complacence towards them, while they remain dead in trespasses and sins.

IMPROVEMENT.

1. If God does not love sinners before they first love him, then it is a point of more importance, in preaching the gospel, to make them sensible that he hates them, than that he loves them. It is true that he loves them with the love of benevolence; but at the same time it is equally true that he does not love them with the love of complacence. He loves them, just as he loves the fallen angels and the spirits in prison, and no otherwise. But sinners are extremely apt to believe that since God loves them with the love of benevolence, and treats them kindly, he must also love them with the love of complacence. In this case, therefore, the most important point to be illustrated and inculcated is, that God hates sinners with perfect hatred, notwithstanding all his benevolence towards them. But here many, and, I had almost said, the greater part of ministers insinuate to sinners, that God loves them while they have not the least spark of love to him. And some really advance this doctrine in plain terms, and assert that they cannot love God first. This is contrary to the whole tenor of scripture, and calculated to lead sinners into a fatal delusion; and there is reason to fear that many have been finally ruined by it. It is, therefore, the great business of ministers, to teach sinners how vile and hateful they appear in the eyes of a holy and sin hating God. Our benevolent Saviour, who came to suffer and die for sinners, never gave the least intimation that God loved them with the love of complacence; but, on the other hand, addressed them as objects worthy of universal detestation and abhorrence. “ Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” “ He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John the Baptist preached to sinners in the same manner. “ When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers! who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" This mode of preaching is directly suited to convince sinners of their guilty and deplorable condition, and to prepare them cordially to embrace the gospel. There is nothing so alarming to stupid sinners as to be told that the great God is their enemy, that his wrath abides upon them, and will abide upon them, until they first love him. Accordingly the first and best preachers of the gospel, made it their main object to impress this awful truth upon the minds of sinners. The apostle Paul says, in the name of the rest,“ Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." It is not the love, but wrath of God, that is best adapted to persuade sinners to flee from the wrath to come.

2. If God does not love sinners before they love him, then their first exercise of love to him must be before they know that he loves them. Many seem to think that sinners must have some evidence that God loves them, before they can put forth any exercises of love to him. But how is it possible that they should get any evidence that he loves them, before they love him? He does not love them, until they have first loved him. Their love to him must go before, and be the evidence of his love to them; for the only evidence they can have that he loves them, is a consciousness of their first loving him. His being worthy of their love does not depend upon his loving them; but their being worthy of his love depends upon their loving him. They may love him first, because he is really worthy to be loved, on account of his intrinsic excellence and glory; but he cannot love them first, because they are totally destitute of every holy and amiable quality. Whenever they begin to love God, they must necessarily know that he does not and cannot love them as they then are. It is certain, even to a demonstration, that when renewed sinners first turn their eyes to God, their hearts rise in supreme affection to him, before they do or can know that he loves them. His supreme excellence is the primary and sole ground of their supreme love to him, and not any supposed interest in his favor. For they are not in reality the objects of his complacence, and have no special interest in his pardoning mercy, until they have actually given him the supreme affection of their hearts.

3. If God does not love sinners before they love him, then they must love him, while they know that he hates them, and is disposed to punish them for ever. He is a sin hating, sin condemning, and sin punishing God; and all sinners, under genuine convictions, always view him in this light; yea, they realize that his wrath abides upon them, and that nothing but his abused patience prevents the immediate execution of his VOL. VI.

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justice. It is in this situation, and while they view God as looking upon them as perfectly odious and hell deserving creatures, that they first love him for his own intrinsic excellence; while they are totally ignorant whether he will save or destroy them. This is always the case, when convinced sinners are converted. Their conversion consists in a reconciliation to a holy, sovereign, sin revenging God. They love him for hating just such creatures as they are, and being disposed to give them a just recompense of reward for all their groundless enmity and opposition to him and his cause. The penitent malefactor who was crucified with Christ, first loved God, and became reconciled to his vindictive justice towards himself, while he expected nothing but to sink down to hell, in a very few moments. " And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy king. dom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” This instance of a sound conversion demonstrates that every sinner, in order to be saved, must love a holy, sin hating, and sin revenging God, while he has no evidence of any interest in his special favor; but even while he looks up to him as ready to cast him off for ever. The awakened and convinced sinner hates God for his holiness, his justice, and his sovereignty; but before he can become an object of the divine complacence, he must love God for these very same perfections, which, for aught he knows, may be displayed in his everlasting destruction. And in the exercise of this true love to God, he must go to him for pardoning mercy, as the servants of Ben-hadad advised him to go to Ahab in his distress. “And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings; let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; peradventure he will save thy life.When the sinner first loves God for what he is in himself, and asks for mercy, he cannot possibly know whether God will grant or deny his request; but without knowing this, he is willing that God should do his pleasure, and glorify himself by him, either as a vessel of mercy, or a vessel of wrath.

4. If sinners must love God before he loves them, then they are naturally as unwilling to embrace the gospel, as to obey the law. Many who hate the law, which requires true love to God

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and man, pretend to like the gospel, which they imagine speaks a milder language. But this can be owing to nothing but a misapprehension of the true spirit of the gospel, which requires precisely the same pure and disinterested love, that the law requires. Both the law and the gospel require sinners to love a holy, just, sin hating, and sin condemning God, and that upon pain of eternal destruction. The gospel is not a mere declaration of pardoning mercy to sinners, without any condition to be performed on their part. The condition of the gospel is that faith in Christ which immediately flows from love to God the Father, who insists upon sinners returning to him, and submitting to his absolute sovereignty, before they know whether he intends to save or destroy them. And can there be any thing more disagreeable to their carnal hearts, in either the precept or penalty of the law, than such unreserved submission ? The same selfish heart which hates the law, equally hates the gospel, when rightly understood. Christ did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil

. He did not come to save sinners in their native enmity and opposition to God, but to pardon them upon condition of their renouncing their groundless disaffection, and becoming cordially reconciled to his whole law and his whole character. It is impossible for sinners to approve of the gospel before they approve of the law, or to love the gospel before they love the law. It is a dangerous deception for any to think that they love and embrace the gospel, while they inwardly hate and complain of the rigor of the law, either in its precept or penalty. None but those who delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man, really love the gospel, and stand entitled to the blessings of it.

5. If God love those who first love him, then he is willing to receive them into his favor upon the most gracious and condescending terms. This is the plain import of all his free and universal offers of mercy in his word.

“ Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Can we conceive that God could offer to pardon and save sinners upon lower or easier terms than these? They are the very same terms upon which a kind and indulgent parent would offer to forgive and receive a child who had disobeyed his commands, abused his favors, and left his house and family.

So our Saviour more than intimates in the parable of the penitent

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publican, and in that of the returning prodigal. As soon as the publican cried, “ God be merciful to me a sinner," he went away pardoned and accepted ; and as soon as the prodigal said in his heart, “ I will arise, and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants ;” his father met him, embraced him, and forgave him all his faults. The father loved the prodigal as soon as the prodigal loved him; so God loves sinners, as soon as they love him. The father returned to the prodigal, as soon as the prodigal returned to him ; so God will return to sinners, as soon as they return to him. This is loving, pardoning and accepting sinners upon the most gracious and condescending terms possible. It is impossible to conceive that God should be willing to save sinners, or that they should be willing to be saved, before they first love him, and become cordially reconciled to his amiable and glorious character. His offers of mercy to sinners are as low, as easy, and as condescending, as infinite grace can propose.

6. If God does not love sinners before they love him, then they have no right to desire, or pray, that he would become reconciled to them, while they continue to hate and oppose him. Though they always cast off fear and restrain prayer as long as they can, yet when they are awakened to realize their guilty and perishing state, they never fail to call upon God to become reconciled to them while their hearts rise in sensible opposition to him. But what right have they to pray in such an unholy and unreasonable manner ? Who hath required this at their hands? Though God has required them to ask for his love and mercy, yet he has never required them to ask amiss. Nay, he has expressly told them that if they turn away their ear from hearing the law, even their prayer will be an abomination in his sight. And the reason of this is plain. They pray that he would become reconciled to them while they are unreconciled to him, and that he would love them while they are perfectly unholy and unlovely. God is of purer eyes than to behold sin. It is morally impossible that he should love it in any of his creatures. What right, then, can unholy, unlovely and impenitent sinners have, to pray that God would love them with complacence while they are devoid of every amiable quality, and in the exercise of perfect malevo. lence? They have no more right to do this, than they have to pray that God would change his nature, and become as unholy and sinful as themselves.

7. If God loves sinners as soon as they love him, then if they properly seek him, they shall certainly find him. This God expressly promises to all sincere seekers. “I love them

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