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things are working together for your good. Jesus, the beloved of your souls, is at the head of the universe, and is the appointed Judge of all
. Lift up your heads, and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. You shall soon see him at the head of his most glorious kingdom, with all his enemies under his feet. He will completely fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness towards you. All things are for your sakes, that his abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God. Be entreated, then, not to faint, but lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees. Let us not cease to pray for one another, and for all the saints, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto us more of the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, that we may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance, which he has provided for all the saints.
III. But who are these most happy persons, the true friends of Jesus Christ? Many are doubtless deceiving themselves in this important point. They are professing great love to Jesus Christ, and are confident that he is their friend, while indeed they know him not, and are real enemies to his true character, and will be found at last the workers of iniquity, of whom he will be ashamed, and reject them as those whom he never knew. There may be others who, though they are his real friends, are often calling their love and friendship to Christ in question, and ready sometimes even to conclude against them. selves. It may, therefore, be worth while to attend to this question a little, to which the subject we are upon naturally leads us.
Doubtless many readers have had this serious and important question in view through the whole of the preceding discourses; and while we have attended to the nature, peculiar circumstances, and exercises of this friendship, much has been said to give light in this matter, and assist persons in determining whether they are in any degree acquainted with this divine friendship or not. But, for the further assistance of those who are seriously inquiring whether they are true friends to Christ or not, - that the truly sincere may be encouraged and comforted, and the presumptuous self-deceiver may be detected and convinced, it may be worth while to attend to the following particulars, which this subject naturally brings into view :
1. True friendship to Jesus Christ is not grounded on, and does not originate from, a conviction and belief that he loves them and is their friend.
This has been apparent in the whole description that has
been given of this love and friendship, and is most evident from the reason and nature of things. Where one loves, and is a friend to another only because he is persuaded that the other loves him, there is no real benevolence, esteem, complacency, or true friendship in the case. It is nothing but self-love, called out to exercise in this particular way, in which there is not a spark of true friendship, but is a principle most directly opposite to it of any in nature. The man is a friend to himsell, he is wholly bound up in his own private interest, and values and seeks nothing else, and takes no complacency and delight in any thing else, in no person or thing, any further than in his view it is friendly to him, or tends some way to promote his interest, or that which he looks upon so. Such a one continuing so is not capable of true friendship, to which disinterested benevolence is essential. This is so plain a dictate of the common sense and feeling of mankind, that it cannot be disputed. If the affection and friendship of any one to us is evidently wholly grounded in the kindness he has received from us and our friendship towards him, and all his affection and regard is excited and kept up by this consideration only, - so that if we should leave off to show kindness to him, or he should suppose that we were not his friends, all his affection and friendship would immediately cease, - if this was evidently all the friendship he has for us, we cannot help look. ing on such a one not to be our true friend. Such sort of friendship as this may take place between persons who have not the least degree of true benevolence, and who are real enemies to each other's true character; and all mankind have joined to pronounce it a worthless thing, and not worthy the name of true friendship; and it is as distant from true friendship, and as worthless, when exercised towards Jesus Christ, as if it was exercised towards us. Yet many are here deceiving themselves, and offering that to Christ for his acceptance which, if we should offer to any of our fellow-men, they would despise and abhor.
But the true friends of Christ have had their affection and love to him excited, and they have commenced his true friends, from a view of his true character exhibited in divine revela. tion, entirely independent of the consideration of his loving and being a friend to them. When his character was once opened to their view, and they saw what manner of person he was, they were pleased and charmed with him, and their hearts became friendly to him in a moment. They did not, neither could they, stay till they knew he was their friend and loved them before they commenced his friends and gave their hearts to him. No; they could not but love him, whether he loved them or no. That this is always true of the real friends of Christ is evident to a demonstration, not only from what has been just now observed of the nature of true friendship, there being no other such, but that which is founded in a disinterested love and affection, but from this plain and infallible truth, viz., that we can have no evidence that Christ is our friend and loves us until it is evident that we are his friends. There is no other possible way for any person to know, or have the least ground to think, that Christ is his friend, but by first becoming a friend to him. If, therefore, he waits, and neglects to become friendly to Christ, till he has some evidence that Christ is more a friend to him than to every other person, he never will be a friend to himn. We are, therefore, certain, that if there are any friends to Christ in this world, they be. came so antecedent to any evidence which they had that Christ was their friend and loved them; for it is impossible they should have any such evidence antecedent to their love to him, and as the ground and spring of it; this evidence being always consequent on our love to Christ, and never before it. Christ says, “ He that loveth me, I will love him; or, I will love them that love me.” Here we see Christ's love and friendship is grounded on a person's love to him, and is the consequence of it; therefore, the latter cannot be the consequence of the former, and grounded on that; and here Christ promises his love and friendship to them who love him; therefore, according to this promise, our love to him is the only evidence that he is our friend; and there is not one promise in the Bible of Christ's special love and friendship to any one, unless he has that character which implies true love to Christ; or, they who are not the true friends to Christ have no promise made to theni of Christ's special love and favor; therefore, can have no degree of evidence of it while they continue such. They, therefore, who think they have had any token or evidence of Christ's special love to them antecedent to their loving him, or before they become his friends, are most certainly deluded ; and they whose friendship to Christ is built on such a supposition, and has originated wholly from the belief that he was their special friend, are founding all their friendship on a gross delusion, and are indeed no true friends to Christ, and need nothing but to see the truth, in order to know they are not; and they who will not love Christ, and become friends to him, till they first know, or believe on good evidence, that he is their special friend, will never be his friends in this world; therefore, will certainly remain his enemies to all eternity.
The true friends of Christ love him for what he is in himself, and all their friendship to him consists originally and funda
mentally in this. He has worthiness and excellency, beauty and charms enough in his person and character to win the heart of any one who has the least degree of true discerning and right taste and disposition. If persons have no degree of such taste and discerning, all the possible manifestations and testimonies of Christ's special love to them would not beget the least spark of such a disposition, so would not produce the least degree of true friendship; therefore, would do no manner of good to such a one, but hurt, as it would be the occasion of the exercise of the wickedness and lusts of his heart, and leave him really a more confirmed enemy to Christ than he was before. But if persons have any degree of right taste and discerning implanted in their hearts, - which is always done in regeneration, - they will love and be charmed with the beauty and excellence of Christ's character, and commence his true friends immediately, before they know or have the least evidence that he is their friend or has any special love to them. And it is in consequence of their thus loving and cleaving to him that he manifests himself to them as their special Friend and Redeemer. And this manifestation is made by the medium of their love to him, which, as has been before observed, is in all cases the only evidence that any person can have that Christ is indeed his friend. Christ himself has, on design, stated this matter as plain as words can make it. He
says, “ He that loveth me, I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him.”
It is granted that the manifestation and evidence of Christ's special love to his true friends will greatly increase their love to him; and, therefore, in a sense and degree, they love him because he first loved them; or, his love to them, manifested in the way just mentioned, does render him more dear to them, and greatly increase and sweeten their love and friendship for him. But if they had no antecedent love to him, grounded upon what he is in himself, such manifestation would not be the occasion of any true love, as has been observed. When, therefore, a sense and manifestation of Christ's love to them is said to be the occasion of their love to him, it is supposed that they were already, and antecedent to this, his true friends. The more true love and friendship we have for any one, grounded on the true worth and excellence of his character, the more pleasing will it be to us to be beloved by him, and the more will it increase our love and friendship.
The view of this matter which we have now had is sufficient to demonstrate to every considerate, unprejudiced person that those remarkable words of the apostle John, “We love him because he first loved us," cannot mean that our
love to Christ originates from a belief and sense of his love to us, as the proper cause and reason of it, so that men never love him in any other view, or on any other account, and our love to him is in proportion to the evidence and manifestation of his love to us, so that when this evidence ceases, and we call in question his love to us, our love to him ceases, and again rises in proportion to our belief and assurance that he is our friend. This is the meaning that many have put on them and earnestly contended for. But what has been said is sufficient to show that they herein contend for a love and friendship to Christ which is not true friendship, but is perfectly selfish and mercenary, so cannot be that in which true Christianity consists. The worst of men will love those that love them, without any alteration in their moral character at all. Such a love is no virtue, but rather a vice, as it is only the exercise of their lusts. And these same men will love Christ if they can be persuaded to believe that Christ loves them, and yet be as destitute of true religion, and as vicious,
And whoever is a friend to Christ only in this view, and on this account, has no true religion, and is, at bottom, a real enemy to Christ. The meaning of these words, then, “ We love him because he first loved us,” must be, that God's love and benevolence to us is the ground and reason of our ever being brought to love him, as we never should have been brought to such a temper and disposition, but have continued his enemies, had he not, from his eternal, electing love given us a new heart, a heart to love him; so that, in this sense,
his love to us, which is first, even from eternity, is the cause of our love to him. This is a certain truth, and these words are as well adapted to express it as any that can be thought of. Our Savior, speaking of the same thing, viz., the love and friendship between his disciples and himself, expresses it in different words. He says to them, “ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you;' i. e., my previous choice of you to be my disciples and friends has been the reason of your becoming my friends and followers, as you never would have become my friends had I not brought it about; so you now love me, and are become my friends, because I first loved you, looked you up, and called you by my influences and grace. What the apostle plainly means to assert here is, that in the work of redemption, in which a reconciliation is brought about between God and man, and a mutual love and friendship takes place, God is the first mover, and not man. This is the theme he is upon, as appears by the tenth verse : “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” God is first in his