« PreviousContinue »
wrath, and attempted with violence to destroy his life. Thus some who loved Christ merely for his favors, discovered their real disaffection to his true character on particular occasions. But finally they all threw off the mask, and exhibited their mortal enmity in the most open and astonishing manner. The same multitudes, who conducted him into Jerusalem with acclamations of joy and triumph, in a few days after, cried with equal zeal and ardor, Crucify him, crucify him! and at last, stood around his cross, exulting in his dying agonies. These facts demonstrate that those who love Christ from merely selfish motives, are his mortal enemies. They perfectly hate all his human and divine excellences, and would destroy him, if it were in the power of their feeble hands. This Christ knows, and for this he may justly exclude them from his blissful presence, and consign them to a state of everlasting alienation and despair.
2. Those who love Christ merely for his favors, are real enemies to all his sincere friends, who bear his image and imbibe his spirit. This is a necessary consequence of their hatred to Christ, which he forewarned his true disciples to expect. “ If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." The spirit here predicted, was acted out as soon as the Christian church was formed in Jerusalem. The same men who followed Christ for the loaves, who hated his doctrines, and who procured his death on the cross, afterwards imbrued their hands in the blood of James and Stephen, and opposed all the true followers of the crucified Saviour. The same spirit still exists, in its full strength, in all who love Christ merely for his favors. They are heartily opposed to those who feel and act agreeably to his precepts and example. And though their present love to Christ for his supposed love to them, restrains their enmity to his friends, yet nothing is wanting but a proper view of their real condition, to draw forth the native malignity of their hearts. And since Christ knows they are real enemies to both himself and to those who love him in sincerity, he may righteously separate them from the society of the blessed, and appoint them their portion with the great accuser of the brethren.
3. Another reason why Christ should finally reject such as love him merely for his favors, is, because they are enemies to his whole work of redemption. He came into the world to save his people from their sins, and bring them into a perfectly holy and happy state. And in executing his gracious design, he will bring all the elect to a cordial reconciliation to God, to
himself, to one another, and to all holy beings in the universe. But those who love him merely for his favors, can have no portion or lot in this matter. They love themselves solely and supremely, and can never enjoy the holiness and happiness of others. The whole scheme of redemption and all the steps taken to accomplish it, will cross their views, wound their feelings, and destroy all their mercenary love to Christ, and to every other holy being. If such persons were permitted to enter the gates of heaven, they would feel a perfect contrariety, of heart to all its objects, employments and enjoyments. There the law of love will be completely fulfilled. There purely disinterested affections will be universally and mutually displayed. And there the most sensible opposition to selfishness and all selfish creatures will be fully, freely and perpetually manifested. So that the last act of Christ, in completing the work of redemption, must be to fix all his real friends in those mansions he has prepared for them, and to banish all his and their enemies from his and their presence for ever.
It now remains to improve the subject, which is adapted to throw light upon pure, experimental religion.
1. If Christ condemns all those religious affections which flow from a selfish heart, then there appears to be one essential error prevailing in the Christian world. The number is large, among various denominations of christians, who maintain that none can or ought to love Christ, until they know or believe that he loves them in particular, and intends to give them eternal life. They say, in support of this sentiment, that the apostle tells us, “ We love him because he hath first loved us." They suppose faith is before love, repentance, or any other gracious exercise. To this purpose they apply another text, which says, “ faith worketh by love." That is, according to their construction, produces love. They hold that the first and great duty of
er is to make himself believe, “ without any evidence from scripture, sense, or reason," that Christ has died for him in particular, has pardoned his sins, and will finally conduct him to heaven. And this appropriating faith, they imagine, will produce true love, repentance, submission, joy, hope, and all the Christian graces. Thus their whole scheme of experimental religion is built upon the supposition that we ought to love Christ merely for his favors, and not for the intrinsic beauty and excellence of his moral and mediatorial character. This sentiment universally prevails among Antinomians. In some form or other, many Calvinists really believe it. Arminians equally deny disinterested benevolence, and suppose men never do nor can act from any higher principle than self love. And every scheme of Universalism is evidently founded in selfishness. But this and all other selfish schemes of religion, are, according to the whole tenor of Christ's preaching, fundamentally false and fatal. He abundantly taught that no part of his religion consists in selfishness, and that no love to him which flows from that corrupt source, will ever meet his approbation. And the reason is plain to the meanest capacity. Selfishness is the essence of total depravity, and constitutes the carnal mind, which is enmity to God, to Christ, to his friends, and to all true holiness. It is, therefore, an essential and fatal error, to maintain and believe that we cannot and ought not to love God nor Christ until we are persuaded we have a saving interest in their love. Those who build their hopes of salvation upon this sandy foundation, will be fatally disappointed, unless they seasonably renounce their error, become reconciled to the true character of God, and esteem Christ, not merely for his favors, but for what he is in himself, as the chief among ten thousands and altogether lovely.
2. If Christ will reject all those who love him merely for his favors, then there is great danger of men's deceiving themselves in regard to their spiritual state. They are naturally disposed to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think, and to mistake the ground of their religious affections. If they love Christ merely for his favors, they are apt to conclude they love him sincerely, and shall meet his approbation at the last day. This is a fatal mistake, which thousands have made. The multitudes who loved Christ for the loaves, and followed him with joyful hopes, thus mistook the motives of their love, and imagined their selfish feelings were holy affections. The Israelites made the same mistake, who sang God's praise, but soon forgot his works. In times of the out-pouring of the Spirit and a general revival of religion, it is often the case that the awakened and convinced, by some means or other, obtain a hope of pardon and acceptance, which fills their selfish hearts with raptures of joy. Some hope they are forgiven, because a text of scripture comes suddenly and unexpectedly into their mind; some, because they happen to open to a certain passage in the Bible; some, because they imagine they hear a voice assuring them of their good estate; some, because they dream of seeing Christ in all his glory, and as manifesting peculiar love to them; some, because they hear the wonderful love of God and Christ towards sinners pathetically described; and some, because they apply to themselves the gracious promises made to true believers. In these and various other ways, men may deceive themselves with a false hope of a saving interest in Christ. The devil and a wicked heart concur to lead them into this fatal delusion, which is greatly strengthened and confirmed by those, who maintain and teach that they ought to love Christ merely for his favors, and cannot love him from any higher motives. Surrounded by such powerful temptations, , from within and without, to mistake selfish love to Christ for true love, there is awful danger of multitudes' falling into this soul ruining deception. Yea, there is reason to fear that thousands and thousands of the professed followers of Christ, who appear zealous in his cause, are mistaking their selfish love and zeal for true religion, and deceiving themselves with raised hopes and expectations of entering into the kingdom of glory, which will be finally and awfully blasted.
3. Since Christ has so fully condemned all religious affections which flow from selfish motives, there is no necessity of men's deceiving themselves in regard to their spiritual state. The distinction which he has made between false religion and true, is plain and intelligible to all, who are willing to know their own hearts. All men know what it is to love or hate from selfish considerations, and are able to distinguish between loving Christ for his favors, and loving him for his true character, or divine beauty and excellence. Those who loved him here on earth for his favors, knew the motives of their love. Some knew that they loved him merely for affording them food. Some knew they loved him merely for restoring their sight. Some knew they loved him merely for enabling them to hear and speak. Some knew they loved him merely for raising them from sickness, weakness and lameness, to health, strength and activity. And some knew they loved him merely for coming, as they supposed, to save their nation from the calamities which they had long endured from the power and oppression of their enemies. These were all selfish motives for loving Christ, which those who felt them and acted from them, might have certainly known and distinguished from that pure, disinterested love, which he so plainly taught and inculcated. It was entirely their own fault, if they mistook their selfish, mercenary love to Christ for a truly holy and pious affection. He gave them no occasion to deceive themselves upon this interesting point, but favored them with abundant means of knowing their character and condition. The same is true of all who now enjoy the gospel, which contains the marks he has given of true and false religion. Every man may know, if he loves Christ merely for his favors, that he has no true religion. And, on the other hand, every man may know, if he loves Christ for his divine excellence and glory, that he is a real christian. No man, under the light of the gospel, can entertain a false hope of salvation, unless he chooses to deceive himself. Of this there is great danger, but no necessity. Men are however, extremely apt to hold themselves in doubt, and to plead in excuse, that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" This is a perversion of the words of the prophet, who does not mean to say, that men cannot know their own hearts, but only the hearts of others. There is an essential difference between selfishness, in every form and degree of it, and that disinterested charity which seeketh not her own, and is the bond of perfection. This difference every man is capable of distinguishing, by only attending to the real motives of his love or hatred towards God, or towards Christ, or towards himself and fellow creatures. Peter knew how to distinguish his true love from every false affection towards his divine Master. When he forsook and denied him, he knew he felt and acted wrong; but when he repented and returned to him, he knew his love was pure and disinterested. This ena. bled him to answer promptly the trying question which Christ put to him.
“ Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” He replied, “ Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” He would not say, as he once did too presumptuously, that he loved Christ more than the other disciples; but he would say what he knew to be true, that he loved him sincerely. If any who are the true friends of Christ are ignorant of their true character and happy state, it is because they deceive themselves. And if any imagine they are real christians, whilst they are under the entire dominion of a selfish heart, it is because they choose to live in quiet under a fatal delusion. Let all hearken to the solemn exhortation of the apostle upon this deeply and universally interesting subject. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, — how that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates."
4. If sinners love Christ merely for his favors, then nothing can induce them to love him for any thing else. No motives of temporal or spiritual good have the least tendency to alter the nature of their love, but only to increase it. This was clearly manifested by their conduct towards Christ whilst he dwelt amongst them. When he fed them, or healed them, or relieved them from any natural evil, they loved him for doing them good, but not for his own divine excellence and glory. And when he offered them all the blessings of his kingdom, if they would give up their own interests for his and the gospel's, they would not accept the gracious proposal. He assured the rich young man, if he would sell all that he had, and come and follow him, he should have treasure in heaven; but he rejected the offer, and went away sorrowful. He promised sinners in general, if they would renounce their houses, or lands, or friends,