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THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
SECT. I. The Love of Christ how passing knowledge; how free; of us, before
What is it, 0 Blessed Apostle, what is it, for which thou dost so earnestly bow thy knees, in the behalf of thine Ephesians, unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? even this, that they may know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; Eph. iii. 14, 19.
Give me leave, first, to wonder at thy suit; and, tben, much more at what thou suest for. Were thine affections raised so high to thine Ephesians, that thou shouldst crave for them impossible favours? Did thy love so far overshoot thy reason, as to pray they might attain to the knowledge of that, which cannot be known? It is the love of Christ, which thou wishest they may know; and it is that love, which thou sayest is past all knowledge. What shall we say to this? Is it, for that there may be holy ambitions of those heights of grace, which we can never hope actually to obtain? Or is it rather, that thou supposest and prayest they may reach to the knowledge of that love, the measure whereof they could never aspire to know?
Surely so it is, O blessed Jesu. That thou hast loved us, we know; but how much thou hast loved us, is past the comprehension of angels. Those glorious spirits, as they desire to look into the deep mystery of our redemption, so they wonder to behold that divine love whereby it is wrought; but they can no more reach to the bottom of it, than they can affect to be infinite: for, surely, no less than an endless line can serve to fathom a bottomless depth. Such, O Saviour, is the abyss of thy love to miserable man. Alas! what do we poor wretched dust of the earth go about to measure it, by the spans and inches of our shallow thoughts? Far, far be such presumption from us: only admit us, O blessed Lord, to look at, to admire and adore that, which we give up for incomprehensible.
What shall we then say to this love, O Dear Jesu; both as thine, and as cast upon us ? All earthly love supposeth some kind of equality, or proportion at least, betwixt the person that loves, and is loved: here, is none at all. So as, which is past wonder, extremes meet without a mean: for, lo, thou, who art the eternal and absolute Being, God blessed for ever, lovedst me, that had no being at all: thou lovedst me, both when I was not, and could never have been but by thee. It was from thy love, that I had any being at all: much more, that, when thou hadst given me a being, thou shouldest follow me with succeeding mercies. Who but thou, who art infinite in goodness, would love that, which is not? Our poor sensual love is drawn from us, by the sight of a face or picture; neither is ever raised, but upon some pleasing motive: thou wouldest make that, which thou wouldest love; and wouldest love that, which thou hadst made. ( God, was there ever love so free, so gracious, as this of thine? Who can be capable to love us, but men or angels? Men love us, because they see something in us, which they think amiable: angels love us, because thou doest so: but why dost thou, O Blessed Lord, love us, but because thou wouldest? There can be no cause of thy will, which is the cause of all things. Even so, Lord, since this love did rise only from thee, let the praise and glory of it rest only in thee.
SECT. II. How free of us, that had inade ourselves vile and miserable. Yet more, Lord, we had lost ourselves, before we were; and, haying forfeited what we should be, had made ourselves perfectly mi. serable. Even when we were worse than nothing, thou wouldest
Was there ever any eye enamoured of deformity ? can there be any bodily deformity comparable to that of sin? yet, Lord, when sin had made us abominably loathsome, didst thou cast thy love upon us.
A little scurf of leprosy, or some few nasty spots of morphew, or but some unsavoury scent, sets us off; and turns our love into detestation. But, for thee, O God, when we were become as foul and as ugly as sin could make us, even then was thy love enAamed towards us: even when we were weltering in our blood, thou saidst, “ Live;" and washedst, and anointedst us, and clothedst us with a broidered work, and deckedst us with ornaments, and graciously espousedst us to thyself, and receivedst us into thine own bosom. Lord, what is man, that thou art thus mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou thus visitest him?
Oh, what are we, in comparison of thy once glorious angels ? They sinned, and fell; never to be recovered; never to be loosed from those everlasting chains, wherein they are reserved to the Judgment of the Great Day. Whence is it then, O Saviour, whence is it, that thou hast shut up thy mercy from those thy more excellent creatures, and hast extended it to us vile sinful dust? whence, but that thou wouldest love man because thou wouldest ?
Alas! it is discouragement enough to our feeble friendship, that he, to whom we wished well is miserable. Our love doth gladly attend upon and enjoy his prosperity; but, when his estate is utterly sunk, and his person exposed to contempt and ignominy, yea to torture and death, who is there, that will then put forth himself to own a forlorn and perishing friend? But for thee, O Blessed Jesu, so ardent was thy love to us, that it was not in the power of our extreme misery to abate it; yea so, as that the deploredness of our condition did but heighten that holy flame. What speak I of shame or sufferings? hell itself could not keep thee off from us: even from
that pit of eternal perdition didst thou fetch our condemned souls, and hast contrarily vouchsafed to put us into a state of everlasting blessedness.
SECT. III. How yet free, of us, that were professed enemies. The common disposition of men pretends to a kind of justice, in giving men their own: so as they will repay love for love; and think they may for hatred return enmity. Nature itself then teacheth us, to love our friends : it is only grace, that can love an enemy.
But, as of injuries, so of enmities thereupon grounded, there are certain degrees: some are slight and trivial; some, main and capital. If a man do but scratch my face, or give some light dash to my fame, it is no great mastery, upon submission to receive such an offender to favour: but, if he have endeavoured to ruin my estate, to wound my reputation, to cut my throat; not only to pardon this man, but to hug him in my arms, to lodge him in my bosom as my entire friend, this would be no other than a high improvement of my charity.
O Lord Jesu, what was I, but the worst of enemies, when thou vouchsafedst to embrace me with thy loving mercy ? how had I shamefully rebelled against thee; and yielded up
my members, as instruments of unrighteousness and sin! how had I crucified thee, the Lord of Life! how had I done little other, than trod under foot the Blessed Son of God; and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing ! how had I, in some sort, done despite unto the Spirit of Grace! yet, even then, in despite of all my most odious unworthiness, didst thou spread thine arms to receive me; yea, thou openedst thy heart to let me in. O love, passing not knowledge only, but wonder also! O mercy, not incident into any thing less comprehensible!
SECT. IV. The wonderful Effects of the Love of Christ. His Incarnation. BUT, O Dear Lord, when, from the object of thy mercy, I cast mine eyes upon the effects and improvement of thy divine favours, and see what thy love hath drawn from thee towards the sons of men, how am I lost in a just amazement !
It is that, which fetched thee down from the glory of the highest heavens; from the bosom of thine Eternal Father to this lower world, the region of sorrow and death. It is that, which, to the wonder of angels, clothed thee with this flesh of ours; and brought thee, who thoughtest it no robbery to be equal with God, to an estate, lower than thine own creatures.
O mercy, transcending the admiration of all the glorious spirits of heaven, that God would be incarnate! Surely, that all those celestial powers should be redacted to either worms or nothing, that all this goodly frame of creation should run back into its first con
fusion or be reduced to one single atom, it is not so high a wonder, as for God to become man: those changes, though the highest nature is capable of, are yet but of things finite; this, is of an infinite subject, with which the most excellent of finite things can hold no proportion.
Oh, the great mystery of Godliness; God manifested in the flesh, and seen of angels! Those heavenly spirits had, ever since they were made, seeu his most glorious Deity, and adored him as their omnipotent Creator: but, to see that God of Spirits invested with flesh, was such a wonder as had been enough, if their nature could have been capable of it, to have astonished even glory itself; and whether, to see him that was their God so bumbled below themselves, or to see Humanity thus advanced above themselves, were the greater wonder to them, they only know.
It was your foolish misprision, () ye ignorant Lystrians, that you took the servants for the Master: here only is it verified, which you supposed, that God is come down to us in the likeness of man, and as man conversed with men.
What a disparagement do we think it was for the great monarch of Babylon, for seven years together as a beast to converse with the beasts of the field! yet, alas, beasts and men are fellow-creatures ; made of one earth; drawing in the same air; returning, for their bodily part, to the same dust; symbolizing in many qualitjes, and in some mutually transcending each others': so as here may. seem to be some terms of a tolerable proportion; since many men are in disposition too like unto beasts, and some beasts are in outward shape somewhat like unto men: but for him that was, aud is, God blessed for ever, Eternal, Infinite, Incomprehensible, to put on flesh, and become a man amongst men, was to stoop below all. possible disparities that heaven and earth can afford. Ò Saviour, the lower thine abasement was for us, the higher was the pitch of thy divine love to us.
His Love, in his Sufferings. Yet, in this our human condition, there are degrees: one rules and glitters in all earthly glory; another sits despised in the dust: one passes the time of his life in much jollity and pleasure; another wears out his days in sorrow and discontentment. Blessed Jesu, since thou wouldest be a man, why wouldest thou not be the king of Men? since thou wouldest come down to our earth, why wouldest thou not enjoy the best entertainment the earth could yield thee? yea, since thou, who art the Eternal Son of God, wouldest be the Son of Man, why didst thou not appear in a state like to the King of Heaven, attended with the glorious retinue of angels? () yet, greater wonder of mercies, the same infinite love, that brought thee down to the form of man, would also bring thee down, being man, to the form of a servant! So didst thou love man, that thou wouldest take part with him of his misery, that he might take part
with thee of thy blessedness: thou wouldest be poor, to enrich us: thou wouldest be burthened, for our ease; tempted, for our victory; despised, for our glory.
With what less than ravishment of spirit can I behold thee, who wert from everlasting clothed with glory and majesty, wrapped in rags! thee, who fillest heaven and earth with the majesty of thy glory, cradled in a manger! thee, who art the God of Power, fleeing in thy mother's arms from the rage of a weak man! thee, who art the God of Israel, driven to be nursed out of the bosom of thy Church! thee, who madest the heaven of heavens, busily working in the homely trade of a foster-father! thee, who commandest the devils to their chains, transported and tempted with that foul spirit! thee, who art God all-sufficient, exposed to hunger, thirst, weariness, danger, contempt, poverty, revilings, scourgings, persecution ! thee, who art the just Judge of all the World, accused and condemned! thee, who art the Lord of Life, dying upon the tree of shame and curse! thee, who art the Eternal Son of God, struggling with thy Father's wrath! thee, who hast said, I and my Father are one, sweating drops of blood in thine agony; and crying out on the cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? thee, who hast the keys of hell and of death, lying sealed up in another man's grave!
O Saviour, whither hath thy love to mankind carried thee? What sighs, and groans, and tears, and blood hast thou spent upon us wretched men! How dear a price hast thou paid for our ransom! What raptures of spirit can be sufficient, for the admiration of thy so infinite mercy? Be thou swallowed up, O my soul, in this depth of divine love; and hate to spend thy thoughts any more upon the base objects of this wretched world, when thou hast such a Saviour to take them up
SECT. VI. His Love, in preparing Hearen for us. BUT, O Blessed Jesu, if, from what thou hast suffered for me, I shall cast mine eyes upon what thou hast done for my soul, how is my heart divided betwixt the wonders of both! and may as soon tell how great either of them is, as whether of them is the greatest.
It is in thee, that I was elected from all eternity; and ordained to a glorious inheritance, before there was a world. We are wont, O God, to marvel at and bless thy provident beneficence to the first man; that, before thou wouldest bring him forth into the world, thou wert pleased to furnish such a world for him; so goodly a house over his head; so pleasant a paradise under his feet; such variety of creatures round about him, for his subjection and attendance. But how should I magnify thy mercy, who, before that man or that world had any being, hast so far loved me, as to pre-ordain me to a place of blessedness, in that beaven which should be; and to make me a coheir with my Christ of thy glory!
And oh, what a heaven is this, that thou hast laid out for me; how resplendent, how transcendently glorious! Even that lower pa