Page images

ticular notice of, his love; the rather, because the fragrant smell of his graces is here said to beget love. Now you know that one of the strongest attractives of love is love. What made him empty himself of his glory, as the apostle speaks, but because he was full of love? What made him take on him the form of a servant, suffer heat, and cold, and hunger, and poverty, but love? What else was it made him digest the persecutions, revilings, and the contradiction of sinners, but love? But the great wonder of his love is this, he died to become our life. Who hath loved me, and given himself for me, says the great apostle St. Paul; and, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, says the beloved apostle St. John. Was it the nails that held him fast to the cross, when they tauntingly bid him come down ? No; it was his love, that was stronger than death. But all this was nothing to the angry countenance of his Father, nor would he ever have ventured upon that, if infinite love had not persuaded bim. No wonder if the apostle call it a love that passeth knowledge ; That you may know, saith he, the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Know it we may and should, but we must know withal, that we cannot know it fully. And this is our comfort, that it is greater than we can comprehend ; for if it were not so, it would be less than we stand in need of. So much of his love we may understand, as may abundantly inflame our hearts with love to him. For this purpose hath he revealed it, and made his name like ointment poured out. ; II. And that is the second thing; his name; that is, the report and manifestation of his excellencies. And if you will take it properly of his name, Jesus, and Christ, or the Messiah, it is true of them, for they are significative of these excellencies. Ask an afflicted conscience, if Jesus, that is, a Saviour, be not a precious word that hath a sovereigu value, both a refreshing smell and a healing virtue. The hammer of the law may break a stony heart in pieces, but it is only the blood of Jesus that can soften it. And where it is effectually poured, either upon a wounded soul, it heals it; or upon a hard heart, it mollifies it. For that other name, Christ, well may it be called an ointment poured out, for it signifies his anointing. And that the sweet savour of this name may affect, read but that one passage, Isa, lxi, 1; The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, &c. What inestimable riches of consolation are there in each of those effects to which Christ was anointed! And yet we find not a word among them all for a proud stiff-necked sinner. Here are good tidings, but it is to the meek; comfortable binding up, but it is for the broken-hearted ; liberty, but it is for captives and prisoners groaning under their chains, and desirous to be delivered, not for such as delight in their bondage ; there is oil of joy and garments of praise, but they are provided for mourning, dejected spirits that need them; not for the impenitent. On the contrary, there is a terrible word interjected in the midst of these promises, The day of vengeance of our God; and that is the portion of Christ's enemies, and such are all incorrigible sinners.

Thus it is, that at the same banquet from which you come, one may be filled with spiritual joy, and the very person that sits next inay be filled with a secret curse, and return more miserable than he came. But let the disconsolate lamenting sinner lift up his head and behold Christ, the Son of God, anointed a Propbet, to preach salvation and liberty to such ; a Priest, to purchase it; and a King, to give it.

Now the pouring out of this name is diverse. Before the coming of the Messiah, his name was poured out in prophecies and promises, in types and legal ceremonies; but more fully when the Word was made flesh. Then angels, and holy men, yea, and women, spake clearly of him. What was his Father's voice at his baptism, the Holy Ghost's descending, what was his own preaching, and miracles, and conversation, but all the pouring forth of his precious name? And in his sufferings and death, what think you? Vas not his name then poured forth, yea, his blood with it? Yes, truly. Being extended on the cross and his body pierced in divers places, his precious ointments were shed abroad towards all the quarters of the world ; their smell reached both heaven and

the visible earth. God the Father, as he was said to do in Noah's sacrifice, did smell in his sacrifice a savour of rest, appeasing his wrath ; and all believers a savour of peace, a quieting of their consciences. And as aromatic spices, when they are pounded out and beaten, send forth their sweet smells most liberally, so in these his sufferings, did the obedience, patience, and love, and all the graces, and the name of our Saviour, most clearly manifest themselves to the world. After he was dead, they embalmed his body, but they knew not that his own virtue would do more than all the ointments and spices in the world could do, not only by preserving his body from corruption, but by raising it the third day. And truly after his resurrection, his own disciples knew his dame better than ever before, and yet more fully after his ascension, when the Holy Ghost came down upon them ; which was poured from heaven on them for this very end, that they might pour forth Christ's name to the ends of the earth ; Acts ii, 8. And they did so, carrying this precious treasure in earthen vessels, as that elect vessel St. Paul speaks; and ever since God hath continued the pouring forth of this name, by the ministry and preaching of the gospel. It is true, there are too many of those that are employed in this work, who seek themselves and their own ends, rather than his glory whom they preach; and they that are more upright, the very best of them, are sinful men; but how mean and unworthy soever they be, despise not the gospel. Let the sweet name which they pour forth, prevail for itself, that so you may reverence and love it, if you would have salvation by it; and there is no other name under heaven, by which that can be obtained.

As this name is poured forth in the gospel preached, so in the sacraments annexed to it; and particularly in this, when the bread is broken and the wine poured out. And was not this the earnest desire of the receivers of it this day (it should bave been) to have our share in it, for the refreshment and curing of our souls? Nor shall any that came thus, be disappointed. And if not immediately, yet most certainly, and that in due time, they shall find Ibe sweet fruits of it.

You have heard many ways how the name of Christ is poured out, yet there is one more, without which all the rest are ineffectual; it is this the secret and powerful working of the Spirit of God in the soul. The ordinances and means of salvation do indeed pour forth the name of Christ round about a man, bụt till the Spirit concur with them, not one drop falls within the soul. And is he not so much the more miserable, who hears much of Christ, and partakes nothing of him? Yes surely. A man may have much common knowledge of Christ, and may understand well, yea, may preach well concerning his worth and graces, and yet not love him. But there is a particular kuowledge of him by the infusion of the Spirit, and where the smallest measure of this is, it presently wins the affection. There is a shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts, that the apostle speaks of, and this draws us after him ; for our love to God is nothing else but the reflection of his love to us. So then, though many hear of Christ, yet because there are but few that have this special knowledge of him, therefore it is, that so few do truly esteem him and love him; and they are such as are here called virgins : and that is the third thing.

III. The correspondence in the character of those who love Christ; The virgins. Similitude and conformity of nature begets friendship. Pure affections delight in a pure object, and it makes them such, For the truth is, Christ doth not find men naturally suitable to himself, but as he took on him our nature, so he washeth away the sinfulness of our nature, which he took not on, and makes us that way conformable to his nature.

And they who are so changed, though they were formerly lovers of sin, yet, by conversion which is called regeneration, they are born again, and so become not only chaste, but even virgins spiritually; for by virgins here, are not meant such as Romish votaries fancy them to be. No; this virginity may well consist with any lawful state of life. These virgins are such as be truly holy and pure in heart and life, who, though they are not perfectly free from all sin, yet have affection to no sin. These are singularly delighted with the smell of Christ's name and graces, while the voluptuous person and the profane worldling dislike and despise it! These virgins bestow their affection whole and entire


Christ. How grossly do you delude yourselves, who make your hearts dens of pride, filthy lust, malice, and envy, and thousands of vanities, and yet think to find a corner in them to lodge Christ too! Truly, you would both straiten him in room, and give him very bad neighbours. No; they that think not a whole heart too little for him, shall never enjoy him.

The virgins love thee. Grace destroys not the natural passions of the soul, but corrects them only, by destroying their corruption, and so they become not merely Dot contrary to grace, but are made the subject and seat of grace.

This of love, which is the chief of them, we see, it abolisheth not, but rectifies it, recalling it to due object, and turning it into the right channel, by which it may empty itself into the ocean of goodness,

And this love may well consist with the purity of virgins ; yea, it is this love that purifies and makes them such. The virgins lovebut whom? Thee. And it is as reasonable a love as it is pure; Therefore they 'love thee, because thou hast made them in some measure apprehensive of thy worth, which commands the love of all that know it; not a cold and indifferent affection, but a superlative ardent love, far over-topping all their other desires : and with good reason, since Christ doth infinitely and beyond all comparison surpass all other things desirable. Ask your own hearts, if you love Christ thus; for if not thus, you love him not at all. The apostle St. Paul's love was of this size. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ. This love will not only undergo difficulties and sufferings for Christ without either repining or fainting, but it will even be glad to meet with them, as opportunity is, to exercise and testify itself. Hard things will seem most easy for his sake, and bitter things exceedingly sweet. 'In a word, to him that loves,

« EelmineJätka »