If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
~ John 12:26, John 14:3
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
~ Matthew 25:21
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
~ Matthew 26:29
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
~ Luke 12:37
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:8
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
~ Revelation 3:21
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
~ Revelation 7:14-17
And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.
~ Genesis 45:13
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:18
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
~ 1 John 3:2
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
~ John 17:5
And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
~ John 6:39
A Sermon on John 17:24, by Thomas Manton.
A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.
~ Psalm 24:1-10
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
~ John 17:20-23
Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Secondly, NOW I come to our work and employment in heaven, ‘That we may behold his glory.’
Observe, our work, or rather our happiness in heaven, mainly consists in the sight of Christ’s glory: 1 John 3:2, ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but this we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ We see him now under a veil, then in person: 1 Cor. 13:12, ‘Now we see but through a glass darkly, then face to face.’
Here I shall show—(1.) What is this glory; (2.) What it is to behold this glory; (3.) Why our happiness lieth in it.
First, What is this glory?
1. The excellency of his person. The union of the two natures in Christ’s person is one of the mysteries that shall then be unfolded: John 14:20, ‘At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.’ How he is God-man in one person, how the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. We were made for the understanding of this mystery. God had happiness enough in himself; he made creatures on purpose, angels and blessed men, to contemplate his excellency.
2. The clarity of his human nature. It is happiness enough to see Jesus Christ upon his white throne: Rev. 22:4, ‘They shall see his face, and hisname shall be in their foreheads.’ We shall be eyewitnesses of the honour which the Father puts upon him as mediator. It will be a wonderful glory; we want words to make it intelligible; the visible sun hath scarce the honour to be Christ’s shadow. We may guess at it by his appearance on Mount Sinai, when he gave the law, Exod. 19, compared with Heb. 12:18, 19; by the transfiguration, Mat. 17, when the disciples were astonished; by the glimpse given to Paul, when a light from heaven shined round about him, Acts 9:3; Paul was three days without sight, and could neither eat nor drink; by those emissions of light and glory, John 18:6, ‘As soon as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.’ All these apparitions were formidable, but in heaven they are comfortable. We are more able to bear it, the natural faculties being fortified; and we come to consider it as a glory put upon him for our sakes.
Secondly, What is this beholding? It is either ocular or mental.
1. Ocular; our senses have their happiness as well as the soul; there is a glorified eye as well as a glorified mind: 2 Cor. 5:7, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’ He doth not mean present sense, and the present view of things; the life of faith is sometimes opposed to that; but now he meaneth our privileges in heaven. Job pointed to his eyes: Job 19:26, 27, ‘Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.’ We shall see that person that redeemed us, and that nature wherein he suffered so much for us. God intendeth good to the body, he hath intrusted it with the soul, and the soul with so much grace, that he will not lose the outward cask and vessel. There is a glory to entertain our eyes in heaven; not only the beautiful mansion, and the glorious inhabitants, but the face of the Lamb. We shall be always looking on that book.
2. There is mental vision or contemplation. The angels, that are not corporeal, are said ‘always to behold the face of our heavenly Father,’ Mat. 18:10. Angels have no eyes, yet they see God. When we are said to see God, it is not meant of the bodily eye; a spirit cannot be seen with bodily eyes. And therefore God is called ἄορατος, ‘the invisible God,’ Col. 1:15. And seeing face to face is opposed to knowing in part: 1 Cor. 13:12,
‘Now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face; now we know but in part, then we shall know even as also we are known.’ The mind is the noblest faculty, and therefore it must be satisfied in heaven, or else we cannot be happy. It is the mind maketh the man; it is our preferment above the beasts that God hath given us a mind to know him. Man is a rational creature, and there is as great an inclination to knowledge in the soul as in beasts to carnal pleasures. Drunkards may talk of their pleasures, and the gratifications of sense; but the pleasure and delight of the soul is knowledge. And besides this general capacity, there is a particular inclination in believers by grace; and therefore, that we may be completely happy, the mind must be satisfied with the sight of God.
Thirdly, Why our happiness lieth in beholding Christ?
1. It is the cause of all our fruition and enjoyment in heaven. 2. All fruition and enjoyment is resolved into it again.
1. It is the cause of all our fruition in heaven. Ocular vision maketh way for mental, and mental vision for complete holiness or conformity to God, and conformity for love, and love for delight, and delight for fruition.
(1.) Ocular vision maketh way for mental. We go to heaven to study divinity in the Lamb’s face: Rev. 22:4, ‘They shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads.’ There is an assembly sitting round about the throne, and the Lamb is in the midst of them, and there, by looking upon his face, they learn more of God. We need no other books than beholding his glory. We converse with Christ that we may know more of God. Thus we come to knowledge without labour and difficulty; Christ in his glory and eminency is bible enough.
(2.) Mental vision maketh way for likeness and conformity to God. Knowledge in this life changeth us: Col. 3:10, ‘And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.’ Much more are we sanctified and made holy by the light of glory. The sight that we have of Christ in the gospel transformeth us: 2 Cor. 3:18, ‘For we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ By looking upon Christ through the light of the Spirit we are made like him; but now in glory, when we see him face to face, we are more like him: 1 John 3:2, ‘We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ Moses, by conversing with God, his face shone. As a glass held up against the sun, the image and brightness of the sun is reflected upon it; so the more we behold Christ, the more we do bear the image of the heavenly; τὴν ὄψιν ἀναχρωνυόμενος, saith Basil, he dyeth his own spirit with a tincture of glory.
(3.) This light and conformity maketh way for love, that is, knowledge increaseth love. As light is, so is love; our affection is still according to the rate of our knowledge. In this world love is but weak, because light is imperfect; we love little, because we know little: John 4:10, ‘If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked, and he would have given to thee living water.’ And conformity is a ground of love, it is the highest pitch of love to love God out of the communion of the same nature. The lowest love is to love him out of interest, as the highest love is to love him out of a principle of holiness, not because he is good and bountiful, but because he is holy. Whilst holiness is weak, love is imperfect. We wander and estrange ourselves from him, and go a-whoring from him, for there is some suitableness between us and the creature as long as flesh remaineth; but when we are perfectly holy, there is no suitableness between us and anything but God, and the saints and angels which partake with us of his image. And we love the creatures for the need we have of them, as well as the suitableness of them to us; but when we are likened to God in holiness and in happiness, we are above these wants, we are above all baits and snares, so that our love is entirely carried out to God.
(4.) Love maketh way for delight. Can a man cleave to God, and not rejoice in him? Rejoicing in God is not only a duty but a reward: Isa. 58:14, ‘Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.’ The saints love God, and delight in him, in his essence and being, as much as in their own glory. This maketh heaven comfortable. It would be a torment to a carnal heart to be always thinking of God, and employed in acts of love and service to God; but the saints delight in him, they delight in his presence, and in their own happiness, because God is glorified in it. There is an inconceivable delight in seeing, knowing, and being beloved of God.
(5.) Delight maketh way for fruition; for the more we delight in God, the more doth God delight in us, and giveth us the actual fruition of himself for our blessedness, so that we are fully satisfied. It is fruition maketh us happy. We can only speak of it in general terms, the filling up of the soul with God, and of the ‘glory that shall be revealed in us,’ Rom. 8:18. We are in God, and God in us; as fire in iron that is red hot, it seemeth all on fire. Thus can we prattle a little, and darken counsel with words.
2. Backward again. Fruition maketh way for delight. We enjoy God to the full, therefore we delight in him. We are bidden to rejoice in our pilgrimage: Phil. 4:4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.’ God hath made our work a part of our wages, to train us up by degrees. But now, when we come to heaven, we enter into our master’s joy. It is our only work in heaven; painful affections have no more use. And joy maketh way for love; these mutual endearments pass between God and us to increase love. We delight in God, therefore we are never weary of him. And love maketh way for likeness, and light for likeness, eadem velle et nolle. There is the most perfect imitation and resemblance of God, because the most perfect love. And for light, there is light in this fire; blunt iron, if it be made red hot, pierceth deeper than a sharp tool: we have but one object. And likeness maketh way for knowledge: Mat. 5:8, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ A dusky glass doth not give a perfect representation. Ignorance is the fruit of sin. Man never knew less than since he tasted of the tree of knowledge. Holiness clarifies the eye: ‘We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,’ 1 John 3:2. There is little proportion between God and men, and therefore we do not know him; when we are conformed to God, we are in a greater capacity to understand his nature. And then light, or mental sight, maketh way for ocular sight, that we may look upon Christ. It is a sweet employment to see the brightness of the Father’s glory in Christ’s face; there is God best to be seen at the rebound and by reflection; it is a delightful spectacle.
Use 1. To ravish your hearts with the contemplation of this happiness. Oh! what an affective sight is Christ’s glory!
1. The sight itself is a privilege.
2. That we shall be able to see it with comfort.
1. The sight itself is a privilege. Abraham had a sight of his incarnation, when it was a thing long after to come, and it filled him with joy: John 8:56, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.’ Simeon saw him when he was a child, and then said, ‘Now it is enough;’ Luke 2:29, 30, ‘Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’ Zaccheus climbed up into a tree to see him. When he was grown up, Luke 19:4, yet then he went up and down as the carpenter’s son. Many saw Christ in person that had no benefit by him. So to see him by faith and spiritual illumination fills the soul with joy: 1 Peter 1:8, ‘Whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ To know Christ by hearsay is lovely and glorious; but now what will it be to see Christ in the midst of angels and blessed saints face to face? He is another manner of Christ than ever we thought him to be. It is ravishing to behold him in ordinances; feasts are poor things to be spoken of to that; but yet there is a veil upon his glory. Oh! that there should be such a glorious spectacle provided for us! It is God’s own blessedness to see himself and enjoy himself.
2. That we are able to behold it, and that with comfort. That we are able to behold it: The world is a dark place, and we are weak creatures; our eyes now are like the eyes of an owl before the sun; we cannot take in a full representation of his greatness, nor bear the lustre of his majesty. God is sometimes represented as dwelling in light, to show the lustre of his majesty: 1 Tim. 6:16, ‘Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.’ And sometimes as dwelling in darkness, as noting the weakness of our apprehensions: Ps. 18:11, ‘He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters, and thick clouds of the sky.’ We are dark creatures, and can but guess; all is mystery and riddle to us. The children of Israel cried out, ‘We cannot see God and live;’ Deut. 5:25, ‘Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die.’ God is fain to dwell in the heavens, and fix his throne there; his glory would drive us to our wits’ end, the very happiness of heaven would not be a mercy upon earth. And then, that we may behold it with comfort. God in Christ is not formidable. Wicked men shall see Christ, but they shall see him as a judge; but, saith Job, with these eyes shall I see my redeemer: Job 19:25–27, ‘I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom mine eyes shall behold, and not another’s.’ Every time we look upon Christ, we have the liveliest and sweetest sense of God’s love, it bringeth to remembrance his passion and sufferings. Wicked men shall see him as a judge to their terror, as Joseph’s brethren were ashamed to look on him, they cannot hold up their guilty heads; but we come to behold our best and beloved friend, to see him that laid down his life for us: John 15:13, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.’ To see such a friend will be comfortable.
Use 2. Strive to get an interest in so great a privilege. Who are those that shall have an interest in it?
1. They that are careful to serve Christ here: John 12:26, ‘If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be;’ ‘His servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face,’ &c., Rev. 22:3, 4. Those that have suffered with him and sighed with him, that have owned him now, a hidden Christ, shall have the honour to behold him a glorious Christ; they that encourage themselves with these hopes, One day I shall see Christ: Ps. 27:13, ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.’ The true land of the living is heaven; the world is but the valley of the dead, or the place of mortality. The queen of Sheba took a long journey to behold the glory of Solomon, which yet was but a temporal, fading, and earthly glory.
2. They that begin their happiness here make it their study to know Christ: John 17:3, ‘This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent;’ there is the foundation and the beginning of it. Study Christ in his natures, person, offices; this is fit work for saints. Saith Moses, Exod. 33:18, ‘show me thy glory.’
(1.) It is an increasing light, but to the wicked it is a growing darkness; σκότος ἐξώτερον, ‘outer darkness,’ Mat. 25:30; there they are held in chains of darkness. You love darkness better than light, and you shall have darkness enough one day. Now there is a thick curtain and veil drawn between you and Christ, and hereafter there will be a deep gulf; but our work in heaven is to behold Christ’s glory. Can a man look for it, and not follow on to know the Lord? None shall have a sight of Christ hereafter that do not know him now.
(2.) It must be such a light as carries proportion with the light of glory, that is, an affective, transforming light.
(1.) An affective light. Many may study to warm the brain, but not the heart: Rom. 2:20, ‘Which hast, μόρφην τῆς γνῶσεως, the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law.’ They may discourse more exactly than a good christian, have a map and model of truth in the brain; they dig in the mines of knowledge that christians may have the gold. Do you see him with any affection? Do you strive, above all things, to see his face? Ps. 27:4, ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.’ It is David’s unicum, Moses’ ravishment, when he saw God’s back parts: Exod. 34:9, ‘If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go amongst us.’ That is one effect of the sight of God; a man would not be without his company: ‘I pray thee go amongst us;’ as Absalom said, 2 Sam. 14:32, ‘Come hither, that I may send thee to the king, to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? It had been good for me to have been there still: now therefore let me see the king’s face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me;’ as if he should say, Let him kill me rather than deny me the king’s face. Prize this above all the world: Ps. 4:6, 7, ‘Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased;’ Ps. 80:3, ‘Cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.’
(2.) It is transforming: 2 Cor. 3:18, ‘We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ Light and grace do always go together. It is such a looking upon Christ as Laban’s sheep looked upon the peeled rods in the gutter; it maketh us more like Christ. Sight worketh upon the imagination in brute beasts; shall not the eye of faith be more strong to change than natural imagination? A bare empty contemplation will do you no good; those that find themselves to be the old man still, let them have never so much knowledge, it is no sign of grace, nor of an interest in glory.
Use 3. Let the foresight of this glorious estate wean thee from all inordinate affections to human and earthly glory. There is ‘the lust of the eyes,’ 1 John 2:16. By the eyes we fire our hearts. Doth a stately glorious house allure thee? What is this to heaven, the palace of God, and the mansion of blessed spirits? Do’ glorious garments and apparel bewitch thee? What is this to our robes of righteousness, and those garments of salvation wherewith the saints shall be clothed in the day of the manifestation of the sons of God? Doth the face of earthly majesty astonish thee? What will it be to behold the Lord Jesus in all his majesty and glory? As the sun puts out the candle, so thould the forethought of these excellences extinguish in us carnal desire, and dissolve the enchantment that would. otherwise bewitch our souls, and make us impatient under the cross. Beware of the vanity of the eye, if it be consecrated to behold Christ’s glory.
Fifthly, The next thing is the reason of all this, the Father’s eternal love to Christ, and in Christ to us: ‘For thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,’ that is, from all eternity, as the phrase is often used in this sense in scripture. But how was Christ loved from all eternity? I answer— Partly as the eternal Son of God: Prov. 8:21–30, before the mountains were settled, before the hills were brought forth; partly as mediator, designed from all eternity, and so ‘loved before the foundation of the world,’ as he was ‘slain before the foundation of the world,’ Rev. 13:8. Christ was our mediator from all eternity; not only before we were born, but before ever he came in the flesh. To the eyes of God all things are present, nothing is past, nothing is to come. But why is this made a reason? I answer—It is a reason:—
1. Of the last clause; the glory given to Christ is a fruit and evidence of God’s eternal love to him as mediator; for so he is considered here; for whatever was given to Christ was given to him as mediator, for to the divine nature nothing can be given; though the Father be the fountain of the godhead, yet he is not so properly said to give glory to Christ as God, because he loved him.
2. Of the whole verse, and so you may conceive it either thus, that he improved his whole interest in the Father, conjuring him by his infinite and eternal love, or rather from love to himself inferreth love to us; thou hast loved me, and them in me; for we also are loved before the foundation of the world: Mat. 25:34, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.’
The point to be discussed is, the eternity of God’s love to Christ, and in Christ to us.
1. The eternity of God’s love to Christ, as God, as his Son; the love of parents to children is but a shadow of it. We are finite, so are our affections. As his image: Heb. 1:3, ‘Who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.’ Likeness is the ground of love. God loves Christ, not only as like him, but as being of the same essence with himself: 1 John 5:7, ‘For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.’ There is no created instance to answer it: all that we love are without us, but Christ is of the same essence with God. Then he loveth him as mediator and head of the church. He doth not only love us in Christ, but in a sort he loveth Christ in us, because of the complacency that he took in his obedience: John 10:17, ‘Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again.’ God did therefore eternally love him, and glorify his manhood for his love to us.
2. In God’s loving Christ he loved us. We are elected in him before the foundation of the world: Eph. 1:4, ‘According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.’ When God chose Christ to be mediator, he chose us in Christ. This is the method of the divine decrees. God from all eternity resolved to create man pure and innocent, but with a changeable will, to permit him to fall; and he resolved on the remedy, Christ, and in Christ to receive them to grace, and accept them to life again. First he loveth Christ, and then us in him; as a king doth not only love a subject that hath done him service, but all his friends and kindred, they are brought to court, and preferred for his sake.
3. This love to us was eternal also: 2 Tim. 1:9, ‘Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.’ So Titus 1:2, ‘In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.’ But how then are we children of wrath by nature, the elect as well as others? Eph. 2:3, ‘And were by nature children of wrath, even as others.’ Ans. That showeth the merit of the natural estate, not the purpose and decree of God. There are vessels of wrath, viz., the reprobate; and children of wrath, viz., the unregenerate elect; and children under wrath, viz., children of God under desertion. It notes not what God hath determined in his everlasting counsel, but what we deserve by nature and in the course of his justice.
Use 1. It is a ground of hope why we may look for everlasting life, because of God’s eternal love. So it is urged here. There are two grounds of hope— the eternity of his love, and his love to Christ.
1. The eternity of his love. From eternity it began, and to eternity it continueth; before the world was, and when the world shall be no more: Ps. 103:17, ‘The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him; and his righteousness unto children’s children.’ It is the weakness of man to change purposes; God’s love is not fickle and inconstant. We have good purposes, but they are speedily blasted, but certainly God’s eternal purpose shall stand. So that the great foundation of our hope is, the immutable love of God the Father. He that seeth all things at once cannot be deceived; we are ignorant of futurity, and therefore upon new events change our minds. Whatever falleth out, God repenteth not: Rom. 11:29, ‘For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ His ancient love continues still. We have many backsliding thoughts; we think to love God, but new temptations carry us away, and so we are fickle and changeable; but God changeth not, he cannot deny himself.
2. His love to Christ, which is the ground of his love to us. It is the wisdom of God that the reasons why man should be loved should be out of man himself, in and among the persons of the godhead. The Son loveth us, because the Father requireth it; and the Father loveth us, because the Son merited it; and the Holy Ghost, that proceedeth from the Father and the Son, loveth us, because of the Father’s purpose and the Son’s purchase. And then the Holy Ghost’s work is a new ground of love. As long as the Son is faithful to the Father, and God regardeth the obedience of Christ and the work of the Spirit, we are sure to be loved. But will not such an absolute certainty make way for looseness? It is possible it may with a carnal heart, for the very gospel is to some the savour of death unto death, but to the elect it cannot be. The great gift of God’s eternal love is holiness: Eph. 1:4, ‘According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.’ And so for Christ’s love: Eph. 5:25, 26, ‘Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word.’ And the Holy Ghost worketh us to this very thing: 2 Thes. 2:13, ‘Through sanctification of the Spirit.’ If we turn a wheel round, the wheel of necessity must run round. If God loveth us eternally, we must be holy. There is not only a necessity of precept, but of consequence; he hath not only commanded it, but it must be so.
Use 2. It commendeth God’s love, that you may admire it. Remember it is eternal, of an old standing; and all that is done to us in time are but the issues and fruits of eternal love.
1. It is eternal, as ancient as God himself. There was no time when God did not think of us and love us. We are wont to prize an ancient friend: the oldest friend that we have is God; he loved us, not only before we were lovely, but before we were at all; he thought of us before we could have a thought of him. In our infancy we could not so much as know that he loved us; and when we came to years of discretion, we knew how to offend him before we knew how to love him and serve him. Many times God is not in all our thoughts, when he is thinking how to bless us and do us good. Let us measure the short scantling of our lives with eternity, wherein God showeth love to us. We began but as yesterday, and are sinners from the womb; the more liberal we find God to be, the more obstinate are we, yet he repenteth not of his ancient love. Certainly if God should stay till he found cause of love in us, we should never be loved.
2. Look to the effects of his love in time. We receive new effects of his love every day, but all cometh out of his ancient and eternal love in Christ; though the effects be new, the love is ancient. It is good sometimes to trace God in the paths of his love, by what strange providences our parents came together, that we might have a being, how wonderfully were we preserved, that we might not be cut off in our natural estate! How were we converted many times, when we did think of no such matter! Everlasting love sets itself awork: Jer. 31:3, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ What could move God when Paul was in the heat of his persecution? How wonderfully did God take us in our month, send afflictions to stop the course and career of sin! 1 Cor. 11:32, ‘For when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.’ How many disappointments did we meet with in a carnal course! As David said to Abigail, 1 Sam. 25:32, 33, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me. And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.’ Oh! how sweet is it to see eternal love in all that befalleth us! It will be our speculation in heaven; we shall know as we are known, and be able to interpret all the windings and circuits of providence.
Use 3. It shameth us that we adjourn and put off our love to God till old age. When we have spent our strength in the world, and wasted ourselves in Satan’s work, we dream of a devout retirement. Oh! consider, God’s love to us is as ancient as his being; and are not we ashamed that we should put off God till the latter and more decrepid part of our lives? It is a commendation to be an old disciple, and God loveth an early love: Jer. 2:2, ‘Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals;’ before our affections are prostituted to other objects. Under the law, the first-fruits were the Lord’s; he should have the first. God’s children are wont to return love for love, and like love; therefore let it be as ancient as you can. Do not say, Art thou come to torment me before my time? and dream of a more convenient season.
Use 4. It teacheth us to disclaim merit.
1. God’s love was before our being and acting. Paul, out of a less circumstance, concludeth election not to be of works: Rom. 9:11, ‘For the children being yet unborn, neither having done good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said, The elder shall serve the younger.’ God’s election is before all acts of ours; therefore we deserve nothing, but all is from God. It is not a thing of yesterday; our love is not the cause of God’s, neither is it a fit reward and satisfaction.
Object. But doth not God foresee our good works, or at least faith and final perseverance? He knew who would believe the gospel, who would live holy, and who would remain in their sins.
I answer—If this were true, there were not such a gracious freedom in grace. It is true God foreseeth all things that shall be, but first he fore- ordaineth them. Prescience includeth and supposeth preordination. Things are not because they are foreseen; but they are foreseen, because they shall be. From predestination issueth faith, sanctification, perseverance. So that we are not chosen because we are holy, but to be holy: Eph. 1:4, ‘According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love.’ And to be rich in faith: James 2:5, ‘Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him?’ As Paul saith of himself, 1 Cor. 7:25, ‘I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful;’ not that God foresaw that he was so. Our ordination to life is the cause of faith: Acts 13:48, ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.’
2. When we were, we were not lovely; there was nothing to excite God to show us mercy. Our natural condition is described, Titus 3:3, ‘For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, στύγητοι, μισοῦντες ἀλλήλους, hateful, and hating one another.’ All are abominable and worthy of hatred, yet one hateth another, as if he were lovely, and the other only abominable.
There are two causes of self-conceit; we have not a spiritual discerning, and are partial in our own cause, and guilty of self-love.
(1.) We have not a spiritual discerning, στύγητοι; we are filthy, deformed, hateful in the eyes of God, stink in the nostrils of God. If we see a deformed creature, overgrown with scurf and sores, or a stinking carcass, we turn away the head in great abomination, and cry, Oh, filthy! yet we are all so before God. A toad, a stinking carcass, cannot be so loathsome to us as a sinner is to God. If a man had but a glass to see his own natural face, he would wonder that God should love him. Indeed we have a glass, but we have not eyes. What could God see in us to excite him to show mercy? God is not blinded with the vehemence of any passion; yea, the object is uncomely, uncomely to a spiritual eye, much more to the Father of spirits.
(2.) Self-love blindeth us, μισοῦντες ἀλλήλους. If men would hold together, and like one another, all would be well; but now we cannot love one another and live with one another in safety, we seem such odd creatures. Fratrum concordia rara est. We are hateful creatures to God, to angels, to devils, to ourselves.
Object. But some are more civil and refined.
Ans. It is true natural corruption doth not break out in all with a like violence; but a benumbed snake is a snake, a sow washed is not changed. As when the liver groweth, other parts languish; one great lust intercepteth the nourishment of other corruptions.
Object. But do not some use free-will better than others? Sure God loveth them more!
Ans. No; ‘Not according to the works which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,’ Titus 3:5. God’s original motives to do good are from himself.
Use 5. We are not to measure God’s love by temporal accidents. That which cometh from eternity, and tendeth to eternity, that is an evidence of his special love: Eccles. 9:1, ‘No man knoweth either love or hatred, by all that is before him;’ ‘The pleasures of sin are for a season,’ Heb. 11:25, and afflictions are for a season; but spiritual blessings in heavenly places, which come from heaven, and tend to heaven, which have no dependence upon this world, whether it stand or no, these evidence the best love, God’s special mercy. Why, they were devised before ever the foundations of the world were laid, and it is most of all showed when the world is at an end. Therefore moderate your desires of earthly things, which the apostle calls ‘this world’s goods,’ 1 John 3:17; they are of no use in eternity. And bear afflictions with more patience; you do but lose a little for the present, that you may be safe for ever. Hic ure, hic seca, ut in œternum parcus.
Use 6. It presseth us to get an interest in this eternal love. How shall we discern it?
1. By the scope and aim of your lives and actions. Do you labour for another world? 2 Cor. 4:18, ‘While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,’ μὴ σκοπούντων ἡμῶν. What is your heart set upon, and what do you make your scope and aim? A child of God prayeth, professeth, in order to eternity. A man shall know his general scope by what satisfieth him. Are you contented with the world, to have your names written in earth, to have your whole portion in this life, for other things you will give God a discharge? Luther would not give God an acquittance, valde protestatus sum me nolle sic a Deo satiari. Grace must have eternity, for it would fain answer God’s love; it would live for ever, for ever to praise God and serve God. All the world will not satisfy it without this eternal enjoyment of God.
2. Have you an eternal principle? Is there a life begun that cannot be quenched? Is the immortal seed conveyed into your hearts? 1 Peter 1:23, ‘Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.’ Then certainly thou art loved from eternity, for thou hast a pledge of it. First or last there is a work wrought in their souls, that can never be undone and disannulled, something that is of an everlasting nature. And therefore what seeds of eternity hath God planted in your hearts? Common graces and moral virtues, these are of no long continuance; the soul must have an abiding work, an immortal work.
3. You may know it by this: you will be much in trial, whether this be wrought in you or no, whether there be such an eternal principle conveyed into your hearts. Morality is puffed up, never suspects itself, and common grace puts us into good moods, now and then gives some tastes and flashes: Heb. 6:4, 5, ‘They were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.’ Morality doth not labour to see that all is sure and safe, and common grace only gives us some taste and flashes; but a child of God is looking after the unction that will abide, the seed that remaineth; and is careful to see that there is grace, and to be increasing in grace, and is always examining whether it be real.