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SERMON IX.6161   Preached October 11, 1676.

IN speaking to the second part of our subject we have largely insisted in shewing you, that our not seeing God is no excuse for our not loving him. We have shewn particularly, that it is insufficient, and also very absurd to be alleged as an excuse; and that it is not only a sinful omission, but a most horrid wickedness, not to live in the exercise of love to God, notwithstanding this excuse that we cannot see him.

It now remains, as we promised in our last, to deduce from the whole some practical inferences, by which (if God will so direct his word) all may be applied, and brought home with the greater pungency to our own hearts. And,

1. We may hence take notice of the insolent wickedness of the world, that they so generally agree to confine the little love that is left in it to one another, and to exclude the Blessed God. That men do not love God speaks them very wicked: that they continue in the neglect of this duty, without any excuse, speaks the insolency of their wickedness. While they .have not a cloak left them, not a colourable pretence, nor any thing to say for themselves that is so much as plausible, yet they continue their course of excluding God out of their hearts, 83and live as if they owed him nothing, and had no concern at all with him.

That men do not love God is a thing that cannot be excused, as you have heard; and it is as little capable of denial, as of excuse. The matter is open and manifest. The general face and aspect of this world sheweth, how little there is of the love of God in it. The very shew of its countenance speaks it plainly. Men do in this matter even declare their sin as Sodom. They openly testify to one another that they are God’s enemies. So that every man that runs, may read how the matter commonly is with men in this respect.

Alas, how little doth God’s interest signify in this world! this shews how little he is beloved. How little is his interest valued, in comparison of that which is merely secular, and human! We have instanced to you already in this and many other things, for the eviction of the matter of fact in this case. As for the matter of right and wrong in the case, you have fully seen, from the demonstration which hath been given you, that our not seeing, excuseth us not from loving God. Nothing can be more plain, than (as we noted heretofore) that although too little respect be paid in the most important matters to human laws, yet there is a great deal less paid to divine. Men are more prone to be observant of the laws of men than of God. But there is no true obedience to the one or the other which doth not proceed from love, so far as it is true. We are to owe nothing to any man but love, or what may spring from thence. It was the complaint you know of old, “The statutes of Omri are kept.” Micah vi. 16. A very scrupulous care, as is intimated and complained of, there was to observe them; while the statutes of God were neglected, or not so much respected among those that professed his name.

Yea, and which Is more than that; how much more frequent are the instances that may be assigned of laws made directly against God’s interest, and the precepts of the first table, than against those of the second! The world in the several successive ages of it, hath been full of instances of laws made for polytheism, infidelity, idolatry, the worshipping of false gods, and the abolishing, or very much depraving the worship of the true. But when did you ever hear of laws made for theft, false witness bearing, and the like? so as to oblige men under certain penal ties to invade each other’s interests, as they generally make bold with God. We have heard and read very frequently of men persecuted even to the death by laws, for not burning incense to idols, for not denying of Christ, and the like; but when did you ever hear of a man exposed to such penalties for not stealing, 84 for not cozening, not defrauding this, or that, or the other man? So apparent is it, that men can express somewhat of tenderness one to another, in respect of their own private and secular interest; when, in the mean time, there is no concern at all for the common interest of the Lord of all this world. So that what interest is in the world is shut up almost entirely among men themselves. And though there is too little regard to that interest; yet they confine what there is among one another, excluding the blessed God from having any part or share in their love at all.

And truly, sirs, I fear we are too little concerned about this sad case. We do not consider this matter as it deserves, nor with that solemnity that it challenges. We are not so affected about the rights and interest of him, whom we call our God, as we ought to be. It doth not pain us to the heart as it should, to think how little God is made of in his own creation, and among the works of his own hands. We sometimes, when we hear the matter spoken of, say it is a sad case, but we know not how to help it, and so pass it very slightly over. But do not we indeed know how to help it r And should not this affect us ten thousand times more, when it is a case, that we can only lament? Sure methinks, at least we should do that if we can do no more. But how prone are we to alleviate the matter by considering it as a common case. “Oh! this is a matter of observation every day. It may be seen in every place, that there is little of the love of God to be found among men.” And is it a common case? Is it not then a thousand times more horrid that it should be so common? If there had been but one apostate creature from God in all the world, one person of whom it might be said, “He doth not love God,” how shocking and horrid would this man look in our eye! But is it not inconceivably worse and more horrid, that there should be so general a revolt from God? and that the hearts and love of his poor creatures are so averted without cause, and wickedly alienated from him all the world over?

2. We further collect hence, that the conviction of the unreconciled part of the world must needs be very clear and easy in the great day. When this shall be the common case brought into trial (as indeed it will be with every man) “Was he a lover of God, or was he not?” how easy and clear, I say, must the conviction needs be, since, as you have heard, it is a matter that admits of no excuse? If this be a matter not defensible at our own bar, among ourselves, when we controvert the matter one with another; how easily and gloriously will divine justice triumph in the eviction of his right, and of the wrong, 85that hath been done him by his creatures in the matter? Be hold a whole race of creatures, originally capable of his love and communion, gone off from him with one consent! alienated in heart and spirit, from the life and love of God! transmitting their enmity and disloyalty from age to age, from generation to generation! and, in a word, emboldening themselves in wickedness against him, because they see him not; and as they vainly think, because he sees not them.

And yet in the mean time it is very plain, that men might know him if they would; for they live, and move, and have their whole subsistence in, and by him. He is not far from any one of them. He supplies them with breath from moment to moment. They entirely owe themselves, their being, and preservation, to an every where present, and apprehensible Deity. Yet they do not, neither will they know him; and in this voluntary ignorance they sufficiently shew, that they love him not. How glorious then will the triumphs of justice be, when this case comes to be stated! when this shall be the charge brought against men, be they who they will, or whatsoever they have been in other respects, that they have been no lovers of God.

3. We are hence to note, and admire the wonderful patience, and bounty of God to this wretched world. How admirable are the riches of his goodness, and his sparing and sustaining mercy! that the treasures of wrath are shut up, and the treasures of bounty opened to a world, where he hath, upon the matter, but little or no love! One would wonder that this world should not have been in flames many an age ago, considering how enmity against God hath been transmitted from age to age. But how much more reason have we to wonder, that he so concerns himself about, and takes such care for a company of wretched miscreants, among whom he is not valued! Still his treasures are opened to us; his sun shines, his rain falls, and in ways of grace and mercy he leaves not himself without witness, in that he is continually doing us good, “Giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness;” (Acts xiv. 17) though in the mean time men will not know who feeds them, and maintains their life; and parcels out their breath to them, every moment, from time to time.

Surely it becomes us deeply to adore that patience and bounty, that are so continually exercised towards such creatures, who are here shut up in the dark, as it were, from one day to another. God appears not to them; they see him not, and in the mean time agree in this, that they will have no thoughts of him, but have him in perpetual oblivion. Yet all the while they 86 have natural powers and faculties, which if employed in the inquiry, might easily inform them, that they did not make themselves; that they have not their life in their own hands, neither can they prolong it at their own pleasure, inasmuch as all of us “live, and move, and have our being in God.” Acts xvii. 28. However, they content themselves with their ignorance of him; and yet he hath sustained the world, and upheld the pillars of it, when sometimes it hath been ready to dissolve, and burst asunder, with that weight of wickedness that hath overwhelmed it for a time.

We ought surely in the contemplation of this to say, “How far are his ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts!” Men sometimes when they receive but a petty injury, and an apparent wrong from another, are presently wondering, that the earth doth not swallow up the man that hath done them this palpable wrong; that vengeance spares him; or that God suffers such a one to live. Oh! why do not we turn all our wonder this way; that God spares those that are perpetually affronting him! making it as it were the whole business of their life to testify to all the world, how little they care for him that made them! We ought then to consider with great admiration that vast and immense goodness, which is so indulgent to men all this while. Again,

4. We may hence learn too, the absolute necessity, and proper business of the Redeemer; how great need there was of a Redeemer, and what work and business he has to do on the behalf of sinful men. We may learn, I say, how great need there was of such a one. For who can stand under the weight of this charge, to have lived days, and months, and years in this world, destitute of the love of God? Any man that apprehends the horror of the thing, and knows how inexcusable a wickedness it is, and how horrid, notwithstanding any pretence of excuse, cannot but be greatly affected by it; methinks paleness must possess his face, and pining his heart, to be subject to so heavy a charge, and also liable to be convicted of not loving God. And then, one would think, it should be easy to understand what need there was of a Redeemer. The creation would not be able to sustain this burden, to have creatures in it that loved not God, and were disaffected to their own Original. If this guilt were to be parceled out among the creation, how soon would it make all things fly asunder! and how impossible would it be for things to subsist and hold together! How great then was the need of a Redeemer in this case!

And we may see what his business hereupon must be also; that is, both to expiate the guilt of such as have not loved God, 87and to procure that they may do so for the time to come. And these two we are to consider not as separate and apart from one another. We are not to fancy or imagine, that Christ hath only this to do, namely, to procure pardon for our not having loved God. Sure he is to procure grace also, that we may, and effectually shall do so for the future, or else he will profit us but little. If we have to do with Christ at all, if ever we receive any benefit at all by him, it must be this double benefit in conjunction; not the one separate from the other.

The imagination runs in common among men, as if Christ’s business as mediator was only to reconcile God to man, and not man to God. But how expressly doth the Scripture speak of this part too! You that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled. Col. i. 21. He must reconcile us to God. And therefore the apostle again saith, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. 2. Cor. v. 19. To take out of the hearts of men the enmity that is reigning every where against God, and bring them into love with him, is the very business of the gospel.

There did not need a gospel to be preached to heaven, to incline God to man; but there was a necessity of dispensing one on earth to men, to incline them to God. If the business had only been to reconcile God to man, there had been no need of a gospel at all. The affair of our redemption might have been transacted between the Father, and the Son, in God’s eternal counsel. Christ might have died as he did, and the ends of his dying be never known to us, were it not that this was the means, that the Spirit of Christ was to work by, in order to overcome men’s hearts, and slay the enmity in them, not to be done by any other way. And shall any of us think, that Christ came into the world to procure the salvation of those, that loved not God? This were to think, that he came into the world to banish the love of God out of it.

Therefore we must know, that if ever we be the better for Christ it must be both in his expiating our guilt, for not loving God; and in removing our enmity, that our love may be set upon him, our hearts joined with him, and engaged in communion and fellowship with him, in our future course. For this is the business of a Mediator between God and man: to salve the breach on both sides; to make a mutual agreement between both parties; to vindicate God’s right, and so to act the part of a just Redeemer, and to procure man’s righteousness, which is the part of a merciful Redeemer. This was his thought: “This case must be either redressed in men by 88 working a change in them, or else vindicated upon them.” This he is obliged to as Redeemer. The Father hath given all judgment into his hand; and as it were, deposited his rights there, to be vindicated by him, or restored. John v. 22.

5. Learn hence the generous nature of divine love in men. The love that we owe, and that good souls do live in the exercise of, and actually bear to God, of how noble and generous a nature I say, is it? Their love is of so refined and solid a nature, that it breaks through the whole sphere of sense, and flies above all visible things, and pitcheth upon an invisible object. There it terminates, and takes up its residence. It never rests till it has flown up thither, and seeks no excuse from the duty of love to God, merely because he is invisible. It despiseth to be so excused, and neglects, and disregards the dictates of sense in the case. This is the genius of divine love and the inward spiritual sense of the new creature, whereof this love is the heart, and life, and soul. “What! shall external sense impose upon me, and tell me what is fit for me to love, and what not? What! shall I love no higher than so? no higher than a brute?” Therefore, how much more noble and excellent a spirit is that of the truly good man, than the men of this world are of! and how excellent is the spirit of divine love, which is in the saints, above that which is earthly and sensual! Let us believe this therefore, and be convinced, that the spirit that is peculiar to godly men is quite another thing, from a vulgar and mundane spirit; and its strain and genius different, from that of the men of this world. These love only what they see, and think they are excused from loving any but sensible objects. But says the good man, “When I have seen, and viewed all the good, and all the excellency that this sensible creation can offer to my view, I must have something unseen for my love to pitch upon which is beyond all this.” Therefore a gracious spirit is an excellent spirit. It cannot grovel upon this earth. It must ascend above all visible things, and get up to that God who is invisible.

6. Since we are so strictly obliged to the love of God though we cannot see him; what reason have we to charge and condemn ourselves, and even loathe and abhor ourselves that we have loved him so little, and that so small a part of our life can be said to have been spent in this divine exercise! It is high time for us to understand the state of our case, and to consider it in this respect: though it is very much to be feared that it is but little considered; for alas, how generally do people carry it as if they thought themselves innocent in this point! After all the injury that has been done to God by our not loving him, this 89is the most intolerable aggravation that we should think ourselves innocent therein, and maintain that temper of spirit as if we apprehended all was well. And how plain is it that it will not enter into the souls of men, that they are guilty creatures before the Lord on this account, that they have not loved him?

If a man had secretly and privily been guilty of the death of another on such a day, and the matter was closely covered up and no body knew it; yet how would his own thoughts dog him and accuse him at night! The blood of that man would so cry in his conscience, that certainly he would have but a hard matter of it to compose himself to quiet peaceful repose. Why, men in not loving God are guilty of deicide, as much as they can be, or as far as their power extends. It is an attempt against God. It is saying in their hearts, “No God!” For it is a plain denial of his goodness, and therefore of his being. It is as much a denial of his goodness, as infidelity is of his truth. What a strange thing is it, that men can be so much at peace with themselves, can pass over whole days one after another, yet no such thing as the love of God to be found among them! and at night can sleep and rest, and their hearts never smite them for it.

Methinks it is strange that men can make so slight a matter of breaking all laws at once, as you have heard this is of not loving God; of subverting the whole frame of the divine government over us. For how do we obey it in any thing, who comport not with the first principle of obedience, namely love to God? Oh that men should be guilty of a more horrid fact, than it would be, if it were in their power, to turn all things out of order, and yet not only be able to rest but even to think themselves innocent all the while!

These things, in my apprehension, do make a most wonderful conjuncture, where they happen to meet together; these four things especially,—that it should be so plain to every man that he ought to love God,—that it should be so plainly demonstrable, as to the most, that they do not love God; that it should be so confessedly a foul and horrid thing not to love him, even by every man’s acknowledgement; and yet,—that so many can be guilty of this horrid crime all their lives, and yet live as if all was well, and they were innocent all the while.—All these things make, I say, an amazing conjuncture. I appeal to you if they do not.

But that none of us may be so stupid under such guilt as this, let us since we cannot excuse it, freely condemn ourselves. For who is there among us but must be forced to acknowledge, that the love of God is too little exercised, or is very faint and 90 languid among us? Methinks we should hate ourselves for this, that we do not love God. It ought to be looked upon as a frightful thing, a monstrous indisposition in us. We should then in our own thoughts, commune with ourselves, and reason thus. “Why, what a creature am I! what a strange creature am I! of how amazing a composition! I have an understanding about me. I know that which is good and what is best. I know the Author of all goodness and excellency, must needs be the highest excellency and goodness himself. I have also love in my nature, which I can employ upon inferior things, and which I confess to be of unspeakably less, and of diminutive goodness. How monstrously strange is it then that I cannot feel daily emotions of love in my heart to God! that I cannot find my heart to beat for him! that every thought of him is not pleasant to me! How amazing and wonderful is this!” Why sure it is a very befitting posture, that we should be covered with shame and confusion before the Lord; and be even wallowing in our own tears, lamenting that there should be so stupid and cool an ascent in our hearts towards him: that we can spend whole days without him; give him no visits, and receive none that are of concernment to us; and in a word, lead our life as it were without God in the world.

It should make us ashamed to read that precept of an heathen emperor,6262   Antoninus. who expresses himself to this effect, and, “You must lead your lives with God. Then,” says he, “you will be said to lead your life with God, when you approve yourselves well pleased with every thing that he dispenseth to you, and take all kindly at his hands; and when also you obey that leader and ruler,” (he can mean nothing but the conscience that is in man) “which he has set to be the guide of your actions. So shall you lead your lives with God, and have daily converse with him.” And now to have daily our conversation in the world without God, and yet have no scruple about it, nor remorse upon it, is a marvellous thing; especially among us, who hear of him and from him so often, and know that we must be happy in him at last, or else eternally miserable. In the

Last place, Since our not seeing God cannot excuse us from loving him, how much we are concerned to see to it that it be no hindrance or impediment to this our duty of loving God. And that it may not, it is very necessary that it be some way or other supplied. Since it is impossible for us to see God, we ought to consider seriously with ourselves, whether there 91be not something or other that may serve us instead of the sight of God, and be a means of our living in his love. And here I had several things in my thoughts to have hinted to you, and intended to have gone through them at this time; but I must leave them to the next opportunity.

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