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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 favours, 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. Al men know what it is to love or hate from selfish considerations, and are able to distinguish between loving Christ for his favours, and loving him for his true character or divine beauty and excellence. Those who loved him here on earth for his favours, knew the motives of their love. Some knew 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 favoured 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 favours, that he has no true religion. And, on the other hand, every mån 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. Or 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 enabled 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 ownselves, how that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.”
4. If sinners love Christ merely for his favours, then nothing can induce them to love him for any thing else. Nomotives 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 theit 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 rejectted the offer, and went away sorrowful. He promised sinners in general, if they would renounce their houses or lands, or friends, for his sake, they should have an hundred fold more good in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. But these great and alluring motives, which he exhibited before them, had no influence to change their hearts, or to induce them to love him and his cause supremely. Many preachers of the gospel seem to imagine, that the hard selfish · hearts of sinners may be melted into true love and contrition, by displaying before them the beauties of holiness, the loveliness of Christ, and the joys of heaven; but though these motives may awaken their selfish love and gratitude and penitence, yet they will not excite a spark of holy love, or joy, or godly sorrow. There is nothing in God, nor Christ, nor heaven, that sinners will love more than themselves. They lie beyond the reach of all objective light, or external motives. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, without making any saving impressions upon their hearts. Though their love and joy may be raised ever so high by mercenary motives, still their hearts will remain to. tally selfish and impenitent. This is the charac. ter which the prophet ascribes to the sinner. “Let
favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.
5. If sinners love Christ merely for his favours, then it is easy to discover the only thing, which lies in the way of their salvation. They often complain of their inability to embrace the offers of mercy, and think it Very hard to be required to accept the terms of life, upon pain of eternal destruction. They say they wish, they desire, and earnestly strive to enter into the kingdom of God, but find themselves Unable. This is true. But why are they unable? what difficulty lies in their way of accepting the terms of salvation? Are they not as low and condescending as possible? Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Again they are told, “all things are ready. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come: and whoso. ever will, let him take the water of life freely.” What can hinder sinners from accepting these kind and gracious invitations? Can they not desire and love and choose other objects? Can they not even love Christ himself for his favours? What is the difficulty then? This subject clearly shows them what it is. It is nothing but their total selfishness. They love themselves supremely, which, as long as it continues, utterly prevents their loving Christ, or the gospel, or any other object, with a truly holy or benevolent affection, Self love can never rise above self; and so long as this love possesses the hearts of sinners, it is morally impoş. sible for them to love Christ sincerely and come to him for a holy salvation. Hence Christ plainly tells thems “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” While sinners love selfishness, they cannot love beneve