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defires, for a fealed and clear interest in his love this day: Tell him, it is a mercy thou valueft above life; thy favour is better than life, Pfal. Ixii. 3. Tell him, thou art not able to live with the jealoufies and fufpicions of his love; thou art but a torment to thyself, whilst thy interest in his love abides under a cloud. Befeech him to pity thy poor afflicted foul, which hath lain down and risen fo long with these fears and tremblings, and been a stranger to comfort for fo many days. Tell him, how weak thy hands have been, and still are, in duties of obedience, for want of this strength and encouragement. Engage thy foul to him this day, to be more active, chearful, and fruitful, in his fervice; if it will please him now, to free thee from those fears and doubts, that have clogged thee in all thy former duties. O, cry unto him in the words, and with the deep sense of the fponfe in this text; "Set me as a feal upon thy heart, (which hath a most vehement heat,) as a feal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire," &c.
EPH. iii. 19. And to know the love of Chrift, which passeth knowledge.
THE HE knowledge of Chrift, and of his love, is defervedly, in this place, fet down among the defiderata Chriftianorum, the most defirable enjoyments of believers in this world. This love of Christ had centered the apostle's heart; he was fwallowed up in the meditation and admiration of it, and would have all hearts inflamed and affected with it, as his was.
Some think the apostle speaks extatically in this place, and knows not how to make the parts of his difcourfe confiftent with each other, when he puts them upon endeavours to know that love of Chrift, which himself confeffes to pafs knowledge.
But though his heart was ravished with the love of Christ, yet there is no contradiction or inconfiftency in his difcourfe. He doth earnestly defire for the Ephefians, that they may know the love of Chrift; i. e. that they might experimentally know his love, which paffeth knowledge: That is, as fome expound it, all other kinds of knowledge; yea, and all knowledge of Chritt, which is not practical and experimental. Or thus:
Labour to get the clearest and fulleft apprehenfive knowledge of Chrift, and his love, that is attainable in this world, though you cannot arrive to a perfect comprehensive knowledge of either. Mens humana hoc et capit, et non capit; atque in eo capit, quod rapitur in admirationem; as others reconcile it.
The note from it is,
Doct. That the love of Chrift furpasses, and tranfcends, the knowledge of the moft illuminated believers.
The love of Chrift is too deep for any created understanding to fathom; it is unfearchable love, and it is fo in divers refpects.
I. It is unfearchable, in refpect of its antiquity: No underftanding of man can trace it back to its firft fpring; it flows from one eternity to another. We receive the fruits and effects of it now; but, O how ancient is that root that bears them! He loved us before this world was made, and will continue fo to do, when it shall be reduced into afhes. It is faid, Prov. viii. 29. 30, 31. "When he gave the fea his decree, when he appoint"ed the foundations of the earth; then was I by him, as one "brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing "always before him: rejoicing in the habitable parts of his "earth, and my delights were with the fons of men.”
2. The freenefs of the love of Chrift paffes knowledge. No man knows, nor can any words exprefs, how free the love of Chrift to his people is: It is faid, Ifa. lv. 8. My thoughts are not your thoughts. The meaning is, My grace, mercy, and love to you, is one thing, as it is in my thoughts, and quite another thing when it comes into your thoughts. In my thoughts, it is like itself, free, rich, and unchangeable; but in your thoughts it is limited and narrowed, pinched in within your ftrait and narrow conceptions; that it is not like itself, but altered according to the model and platform of creatures, according to which you draw it in your minds. Alas! we do but alter and fpoil his love, when we think there is any thing in us, or done by us, that can be a motive, inducement, or recompence to it. His love is fo free, that it pitched itself upon us, before we had any loveliness in us at all: "When we were "in our blood, he faid unto us, live;" and that was the time of love. It did not stay till we had our ornaments upon us; but embraced, us in our blood, in our most loathfome state; and of all feafons, that is the feafon of love, the chofen time of love, Ezek. xvi. 7, 8. Chrift loved us, not upon the account of any foreseen excellency in us, or upon any expectation of recompence from us: Nay, he loved us not only without, but
against our deferts. Nothing in nature is found fo free, as the love of Chrift is; our thoughts therefore of this love going beyond all examples and inftances that are found amongst men, quickly lose themfelves in an immenfe ocean of free grace, where they can find neither bank nor bottom.
The bounty and liberality of the love of Chrift to his peoplu, paffeth knowledge. Who can number, or value the fruits of his love? They are more than the fands upon the fea shore. It would weary the arm of an angel, to write down the thoufandth part of the effects of his love, which come to the share of any particular Chriftian in this world. Who can tell how many fins it pardons ? "The free gift is of many offences "unto juftification;" Rom. v. 10. How many dangers it prevents; or how many wants it fupplies? This, we know, that "of his fulaefs we all receive grace for grace," Joha i. 16. But how full of grace Chrift is, and how many mercies have flowed, and fhall flow to us out of that fountain of love; this is unknown to men, to the beft, wifeft, and moft obfervant men. O if the records of the mercies of our lives were, or could be gathered and kept, what vaft volumes would they fwell to! It is true, indeed, you have the total fum given you in 1 Cor. iii. 22. All are yours; but it is fuch a number,
as no man can number.
The conftancy of Chrift's love to his people paffeth knowledge: No length of time, no diftance of place, no change of condition, either with him or us, can poffibly make any alteration of his affections towards us; "He is the fame yesterday;
to-day, and for ever," Heb. xiii. 8. It is noted also by the evangelift, John xiii. 1. "That having loved his own which "were in the world, he loved them to the end." It is true, his condition is altered; he is no more in this world converfing with his people, as he did once in the days of his flefb: He is now at the right-hand of God, in the highest glory; but yet his heart is the fame that ever it was, for love and tenderness to his people. Our conditions alfo are often altered in this world; but his love fuffers no alteration. Yea, which is much more admirable, we do many things daily, that grieve him, and offend him; yet he takes not away his loving-kindness from us, nor fuffers his faithfulness to fail. We pour out fo much cold water of unkindness and provocation, as is enough to cool and quench any love in the world, except his love; but notwithing all, he continues unchangeable in love to us. This Peter found, notwithstanding that great offence of his: No fooner was the Lord rifen from the dead, but he greets him in the
file of his former love and antient refpect; Go tell the difciples,
and tell Peter.
So then the love of Chrift is a love tranfcending all creaturelove, and human understanding. We read in Rom. v. 7, 8. that " peradventure for a good man, fome would even dare to die," but we never find where any, befide Jefus Chrift, would lay down his life for enemies. It is recorded as an unparalleled inftance of love in Damon and Pythias, the two Sieilian philofophers, that each had courage enough to die for his friend One of them being condemned to die by the tyrant ; and defiring to give the laft farewel to his family; his friend went into prifon for him, as his furety to die for him, if he returned not at the appointed time: But he did not die; yea, he had fuch a confidence in his friend, that he would not fuffer him by default to die for him; and if he had, yet he had died for his friend. But fuch was the love of Chrift, that it did not only put him into danger of death, but put him actually unto death, yea, the worst of deaths, and that for his enemies. O what manner of love is this! We read of the love that Jacob had for Rachel, and how he endured both the cold of winter, and heat of fummer, for her fake. But what is this to the love of Jefus, who for us endured the heat of God's wrath? Befide, the was beautiful, but we unlovely. David withed for Abfalom his fon, Would God I had died for thee! But it was but á wish; and had it come to the proof, David would have fhrinked from death, for all the affection he bare his beautiful fon. But Chrift actually gave his life for us, and did not only wish he had done it. O love, tranfcending the love of creatures; yea, and furmounting all creature-knowledge!
The uses follow.
1. Ufe. If the love of Chrift pafs knowledge, O then admire it! yea, live and die in the wonder and admiration of the love of Chrift! As it is a figa of great weakness, to admire fmall and common things; fo it fpeaks great ftupidity not to be affected with great and unusual things, O Chriftian! if thou bé on that converfeft with the thoughts of this love, thou canst not but admire it; and the more thou ftudieft, the more fil wilt thou be astonished at it. And among the many wonders that will appear in the love of Chrift, thefe two will most of all affect thee, viz.
1. That ever it pitched at firft on thee.
2. That it is not, by fo many fins, quenched towards thee.
upon thee; for are there not millions in the world, of sweeter tempers, and better conftitutions than thyfelf, whom it hath paffed by, and yet embraced thee? "Lord, (faid the disciples) how is it, that thou wilt manifeft thyfelf unto us, and not unto the world?" John xiv. 22. Surely he did not fet his love upon thee, nor chufe thee, because thou waft better than others, but because he loved thee.
2. It is admirable, that his love to thee is not extinguished by fo many fins, as thou haft committed against him. Lay thy hand, Christian, this day upon thy heart; and bethink thyself, how many have been the provocations, wrongs, and dishonours thou hast been guilty of against thy God, and that fince he called thee by his grace, and fet his love upon thee. What, and yet love thee still! Yea, notwithstanding all, he is still thy God, and loves thee with an unchangeable love. O, with how many notwithstandings is his love continued to thy foul! All this is juft matter of admiration and wonder for ever.
3. Is the love of Chrift paft knowledge, an unfearchable love? Then learn, whence and why it is, that the fouls of believers never are, nor can be tired, in beholding and enjoying Jefus Chrift. We use to fay, one thing is tirefome; and it is very true, if it be an earthly thing, it will be fo, how fweet or excellent foever it seems, at firft: And the reafon is, becaule the best creature-enjoyment is but a fhallow thing, and a few thoughts will found it to the bottom; and there being no fupply of new matter, to feed the hungry foul upon, it is quickly fated and cloyed with the repetition of the fame thing over and over. But it is far otherwife in Chrift: For though he be but one, yet in that one thing all things are virtually and eminently contained; fo that every day he seems a new Chrift for sweetness, and yet is the fame Chrift ftill. And in heaven the redeemed fhall view him with as much wonder, and love him with as much ardour, after millions of years, as they did at their firft fight of him. O, there is no bottom in the love of Chrift; it paffeth knowledge.
4. In a word; Bestow your best and chiefeft love upon Christ, whofe love to you paffeth all knowledge. Let no creature be loved equally with Chrift; but as his love to you paffeth all creature-love, fo let yours to him be a matchlefs love.
Believer; Chrift loves thee with an unfearchable love; he loves thee more than the dearest friend, that is as thine own foul, loves thee. He loves thee more than thou lovest thy child, or the wife of thy bofom; more than thy foul loves thy body, with which it is fo intimately united: And wilt thou content