Besides, love in us is apt to choose to itself undue and unlawful objects, and to reject those, that with leave of God, we may embrace and enjoy; so unruly, as to the laws and rules of divine government, oft-times is this passion of love in us.
Love in us, requires, that something pleasing and delightful be in the object loved, at least, so it must appear to the lust and fancy of the person loving, or else love cannot act; for the love that is in us, is not of power to set itself on work, where no allurement is in the thing to be beloved.
Love in us decays, though once never so warm and strongly fixed, if the object falls off, as to its first alluring provocation; or disappointeth our expectation with some unexpected reluctancy to our fancy or our mind.
All this we know to be true from nature, for every one of us are thus; nor can we refuse, or choose as to love, but upon, and after the rate, and the working thus of our passions. Wherefore our love, as we are natural, is weak, unorderly, fails and miscarries, either by being too much or too little; yea, though the thing which is beloved be allowed for an object of love, both by the law of nature and grace. We therefore must put a vast difference betwixt love, as found in us, and love as found in Christ, and that, both as to the nature, principle, or object of love.
Love in Christ is not love of the same nature, as is love in us; love in him is essential to his being (1 John 4:16); but in us it is not so, as has been already shewed. God is love; Christ is God; therefore Christ is love, love naturally. Love therefore is essential to His being. He may as well cease to be, as cease to love. Hence therefore it follows, that love in Christ floweth not from so low and beggarly a principle, as doth love in man; and consequently is not, nor can be attended with those infirmities or defects, that the love of man is attended with.
It is not attended with those unruly or uncertain motions that ours is attended with: here is no ebbing, no flowing, no going beyond, no coming short; and so nothing of uncertainty. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1).
True, there is a way of manifesting of this love, which is suited to our capacities, as men, and by that we see it sometimes more, sometimes less (Song 7:11,12): also it is manifested to us as we do, or do not walk with God in this world (John 14:23). I speak now of saints.
Love in Christ pitcheth not itself upon undue or unlawful objects; nor refuseth to embrace what by the eternal covenant is made capable thereof. It always acteth according to God; nor is there at any time the least shadow of swerving as to this.
Love in Christ requireth no taking beauteousness in the object to be beloved, as not being able to put forth itself without such attracting allurements (Eze 16:6-8). It can act of and from itself, without all such kind of dependencies. This is manifest to all who have the least true knowledge of what that object is in itself, on which the Lord Jesus has set his heart to love them.
Love in Christ decays not, nor can be tempted so to do by anything that happens, or that shall happen hereafter, in the object so beloved. But as this love at first acts by, and from itself, so it continueth to do until all things that are imperfections, are completely and everlastingly subdued. The reason is, because Christ loves to make us comely, not because we are so (Eze 16:9-14).
Object. But all along Christ compareth his love to ours; now, why doth he so, if they be so much alike?
Answer. Because we know not love but by the passions of love that work in our hearts; wherefore he condescends to our capacities, and speaketh of His love to us, according as we find love to work in ourselves to others. Hence he sets forth his love to us, by borrowing from us instances of our love to wife and children (Eph 5:25). Yea, he sometimes sets forth his love to us, by calling to our mind how sometimes a man loves a woman that is a whore, "Go," (saith God to the prophet) "love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the word of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine." (Hosea 3:1) But then, these things must not be understood with respect to the nature, but the dispensations and manifestations of love; no, nor with reference to these neither, any further than by making use of such suitable similitudes, thereby to commend his love to us, and thereby to beget in us affections to him for the love bestowed upon us. Wherefore Christ's love must be considered both with respect to the essence, and also as to the divers workings of it. For the essence thereof, it is as I said, natural with himself, and as such, it is the root and ground of all those actions of his, whereby he hath shewed that himself is loving to sinful man. But now, though the love that is in him is essential to his nature, and can vary no more than God himself: yet we see not this love but by the fruits of it, nor can it otherwise be discerned. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). We must then betake ourselves to the discoveries of this love, of which there are two sorts; [namely,] such as are the foundations, and such as are the consequences of those fundamental acts. Those which I call the foundations, are they upon which all other discoveries of his goodness depend, and they are two. 1. His dying for us. 2. His improving of his death for us at the right hand of God.
Third, And this leads me to the third particular, to wit, to shew you what the love of Christ is; namely, in the discovery of it. And to know the love of Christ.
The love of Christ is made known unto us, as I said, First, By his dying for us. Second, By his improving of his dying for us.
1. His dying for us appears, (1.) To be wonderful in itself. (2.) In his preparations for that work.
(1.) It appears to be wonderful in itself, and that both with respect to the nature of that death, as also, with respect to the persons for whom he so died.
The love of Christ appears to be wonderful by the death he died: In that he died, in that he died such a death. 'Twas strange love in Christ that moved him to die for us: strange, because not according to the custom of the world. Men do not use, in cool blood, deliberately to come upon the stage or ladder, to lay down their lives for others; but this did Jesus Christ, and that too for such, whose qualification, if it be duly considered, will make this act of his, far more amazing, He laid down his life for his enemies (Rom 5), and for those that could not abide him; yea, for those, even for those that brought him to the cross: not accidentally, or because it happened so, but knowingly, designedly, (Zech 12:10), he knew it was for those he died, and yet his love led him to lay down his life for them. I will add, That those very people for whom he laid down his life, though they by all sorts of carriages did what they could to provoke him to pray to God his Father, that he would send and cut them off by the flaming sword of angels (Matt 26:53), would not be provoked, but would lay down his life for them. Nor must I leave off here: We never read that Jesus Christ was more cheerful in all his life on earth, than when he was going to lay down his life for them, now he thanked God (Luke 22:19), now he sang (Matt 26:30).
But this is not all. He did not only die, but died such a death, as indeed cannot be expressed. He was content to be counted the sinner: yea, to be counted the sin of the sinner, nor could this but be odious to so holy a Lamb as he was, yet willing to be this and thus for that love that he bare to men.
This being thus, it follows, that his sufferings must be inconceivable; for that, what in justice was the proper wages of sin and sinners, he must undergo; and what that was can no man so well know as he himself and damned spirits; for the proper wages of sin, and of sinners for their sin, is that death which layeth pains, such pains which it deserveth upon the man that dieth so: But Christ died so, and consequently was seized by those pains not only in body but in soul. His tears, his cries, his bloody sweat (Luke 22:44), the hiding of his Father's face; yea, God's forsaking of him in his extremity (Matt 27:46), plainly enough declares the nature of the death he died (Mark 15:39). For my part, I stand amazed at those that would not have the world believe, that the death of Jesus Christ was, in itself, so terrible as it was.
I will not stand here to discourse of the place called Hell, where the spirits of the damned are, we are discoursing of the nature of Christ's sufferings: and I say, if Christ was put into the very capacity of one that must suffer what in justice ought to be inflicted for sin; then, how we can so diminish the greatness of his sufferings, as some do, without undervaluing of the greatness of his love, I know not; and how they will answer it, I know not. And on the contrary, what if I should say, that the soul of Christ suffered as long as his body lay in the grave, and that God's loosing of the pains of death at Christ's resurrection, must not so much be made mention of with reference to his body, as to his soul, if to his body at all. For what pain of death was his body capable of, when his soul was separate from it? (Acts 2:24) And yet God's loosing the pains of death, seems to be but an immediate antecedent to his rising from the dead. And this sense Peter doth indeed seem to pursue, saying, "For David speaketh concerning him; I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption" (Acts 2:25-27). This, saith Peter, was not spoken of David, but he being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath, that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne (verse 29,30): He seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption (verse 31). "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell"; his soul was not left in hell. Of what use are these expressions, if the soul of Christ suffered not, if it suffered not when separated from the body? for of that time the Apostle Peter seems to treat. Besides, if it be not improper to say, that soul was not left there, that never was there, I am at a loss. Thou wilt not leave, his soul was not left there; ergo, It was there, seems to be the natural conclusion. If it be objected, that by hell is meant the grave, 'tis foolish to think that the soul of Christ lay there while his body lay dead therein. But again, the Apostle seems clearly to distinguish between the places where the soul and body of Christ was; counting his body to be in the grave, and his soul, for the time, in hell. If there be objected what was said by him to the thief upon the cross (Luke 23:43), I can answer, Christ might speak that with reference to his God-head, and if so, that lies as no objection to what hath been insinuated. And why may not that be so understood, as well as where he said, when on earth, "The Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13), meaning himself. For the personality of the Son of God, call him Son of man, or what other term is fitting, resideth not in the human, but divine nature of Jesus Christ. However, since hell is sometimes taken for the place (Acts 1:25), sometimes for the grave, sometimes for the state (Psa 116:3), and sometimes but for a figure of the place where the damned are tormented (Jonah 2:2); I will not strictly assign to Christ the place, the prison where the damned spirits are (1 Peter 3:19), but will say, as I said before, that he was put into the place of sinners, into the sins of sinners, and received what by justice was the proper wages of sin both in body and soul: As is evident from that 53rd of Isaiah (verse 10,11). This soul of his I take to be that which the inwards and the fat of the burnt sacrifices was a figure, or shadow of. "And the fat and the inwards were burnt upon the altar, whilst the body was burned for sin without the camp" (Exo 29:13,14, Lev 8:14-17).
And now having said this much, wherein have I derogated from the glory and holiness of Christ? Yea, I have endeavoured to set forth something of the greatness of his sorrows, the odiousness of sin, the nature of justice, and the love of Christ. And be sure, by how much the sufferings of the Son of God abounded for us, by so much was this unsearchable love of Christ made manifest. Nor can they that would, before the people, pare away, and make but little these infinite sufferings of our Lord, make his love to be so great as they ought, let them use what rhetoric they can. For their objecting the odious names and place of hell, accounting it not to be fit to say, That so holy a person as the Son of God was there. I answer, though I have not asserted it, yet let me ask, which is more odious, hell or sin? Or whether such think that Christ Jesus was subject to be tainted by the badness of the place, had he been there? Or whether, when the scripture says, God is in hell, it is any disparagement to him? (Psa 139:8) Or if a man should be so bold as to say so, Whether by so saying, he confineth Christ to that place for ever? And whether by so thinking he has contradicted that called the Apostles' creed?6
(2.) Having thus spoken of the death and sufferings of Christ, I shall in the next place speak of his preparations for his so suffering for us; and by so doing, yet shew you something more of the greatness of his love.
Christ, as I have told you, was even before his sufferings, a person of no mean generation, being the Son of the eternal God: Neither had his Father any more such sons but he; consequently he of right was heir of all things, and so to have dominion over all worlds. For, "for him were all things created" (Col 1:16). And hence all creatures are subject to him; yea the angels of God worship him (Heb 1). Wherefore as so considered, he augmented not his state by becoming lower than the angels for us, for what can be added to him, that is naturally God. Indeed he did take, for our sakes, the human nature into union with himself, and so began to manifest his glory; and the kindness that he had for us before all worlds, began now eminently to shew itself. Had this Christ of God, our friend, given all he had to save us, had not his love been wonderful? But when he shall give for us himself, this is more wonderful. But this is not all, the case was so betwixt God and man, that this Son of God could not, as he was before the world was, give himself a ransom for us, he being altogether incapable so to do, being such an one as could not be subject to death, the condition that we by sin had put ourselves into.
Wherefore that which would have been a death to some, to wit, the laying aside of glory and becoming, of the King of princes, a servant of the meanest form; this he of his own good-will, was heartily content to do. Wherefore, he that once was the object of the fear of angels, is now become a little creature, a worm, an inferior one (Psa 22:6), born of a woman, brought forth in a stable, laid in a manger (Luke 2:7), scorned of men, tempted of devils (Luke 4:2), was beholden to his creatures for food, for raiment, for harbour, and a place wherein to lay his head when dead. In a word, he "made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:7), that he might become capable to do this kindness for us. And it is worth your noting, that all the while that he was in the world, putting himself upon those other preparations which were to be antecedent to his being made a sacrifice for us, no man, though he told what he came about to many, had, as we read of, an heart once to thank him for what he came about (Isa 53:3). No, they railed on him, they degraded him, they called him devil, they said he was mad, and a deceiver, a blasphemer of God, and a rebel against the state: They accused him to the governor; yea, one of his disciples sold him, another denied him, and they all forsook him, and left him to shift for himself in the hands of his horrible enemies; who beat him with their fists, spat on him, mocked him, crowned him with thorns, scourged him, made a gazing stock of him, and finally, hanged him up by the hands and the feet alive, and gave him vinegar to increase his affliction, when he complained that his anguish had made him thirsty. And yet all this could not take his heart off the work of our redemption. To die he came, die he would, and die he did before he made his return to the Father, for our sins, that we might live through him. 7 Nor may what we read of in the word concerning those temporal sufferings that he underwent be over-looked, and passed by without serious consideration; they being a part of the curse that our sin had deserved! For all temporal plagues are due to our sin while we live, as well as the curse of God to everlasting perdition, when we die. Wherefore this is the reason why the whole life of the Lord Jesus was such a life of affliction and sorrow, he therein bare our sicknesses, and took upon him our deserts: So that now the curse in temporals, as well as the curse in spirituals, and of everlasting malediction, is removed by him away from God's people; and since he overcame them, and got to the cross, it was by reason of the worthiness of the humble obedience that he yielded to his Father's law in our flesh. For his whole life (as well as his death) was a life of merit and purchase, and desert. Hence it is said, "he increased in favour with God" (Luke 2:52). For his works made him still more acceptable to him: For he standing in the room of man, and becoming our reconciler to God; by the heavenly majesty he was counted as such, and so got for us what he earned by his mediatory works; and also partook thereof as he was our head himself. And was there not in all these things love, and love that was infinite? Love which was not essential to his divine nature, could never have carried him through so great a work as this: Passions here would a failed, would a retreated, and have given the recoil; yea, his very humanity would here have flagged and fainted, had it not been managed, governed, and strengthened by his eternal Spirit. Wherefore it is said, that "through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God" (Heb 9:14). And that he was declared to be the Son of God, with so doing, and by the resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:4).
2. We come now to the second thing propounded, and by which his love is discovered, and that is his improving of his dying for us. But I must crave pardon of my reader, if he thinks that I can discover the ten hundred thousandth part thereof, for it is impossible; but my meaning is, to give a few hints what beginnings of improvement he made thereof, in order to his further progress therein.
(1.) Therefore, This his death for us, was so virtuous, that in the space of three days and three nights, it reconciled to God in the body of his flesh as a common person, all, and every one of God's elect. Christ, when he addressed himself to die, presented himself to the justice of the law, as a common person; standing in the sted, place, and room of all that he undertook for; He gave "his life a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28). "He came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1:15). And as he thus presented himself, so God, his Father, admitted him to this work; and therefore it is said, "The Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all": And again, "surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isa 53:4,6,12). Hence it unavoidably follows, that whatever he felt, and underwent in the manner, or nature, or horribleness of the death he died, he felt and underwent all as a common person; that is, as he stood in the sted of others: Therefore it is said, "He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities"; and that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Isa 53:5). And again "the just died for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18).
Now then, if he presented himself as a common person to justice, if God so admitted and accounted him, if also he laid the sins of the people, whose persons he represented, upon him, and under that consideration punishes him with those punishments and death, that he died. Then Christ in life and death is concluded by the Father to live and die as a common or public person, representing all in this life and death, for whom he undertook thus to live, and thus to die. So then, it must needs be, that what next befalls this common person, it befalls him with respect to them in whose room and place he stood and suffered. Now, the next that follows, is, "that he is justified of God": That is, acquitted and discharged from this punishment, for the sake of the worthiness of his death and merits; for that must be before he could be raised from the dead (Acts 2:24): God raised him not up as guilty, to justify him afterwards: His resurrection was the declaration of his precedent justification. He was raised from the dead, because it was neither in equity or justice possible that he should be holden longer there, his merits procured the contrary.
Now he was condemned of God's law, and died by the hand of justice, he was acquitted by God's law, and justified of justice; and all as a common person; so then, in his acquitting, we are acquitted, in his justification we are justified; and therefore the Apostle applieth God's justifying of Christ to himself; and that rightly (Isa 50:8, Rom 8:33,34). For if Christ be my undertaker, will stand in my place, and do for me, 'tis but reasonable that I should be a partaker: Wherefore we are also said to be "quickened together with him" (Eph 2:5): That is, when he was quickened in the grave; raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Therefore another scripture saith, "Hath He quickened you—together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col 2:13). This quickening, must not be understood of the renovation of our hearts, but of the restoring of Jesus Christ to life after he was crucified; and we are said to be quickened together with him, because we were quickened in him at his death, and were to fall or stand by him quite through the three days and three nights work; and were to take therefore our lot with him: Wherefore it is said again, That his resurrection is our justification (Rom 4:25). That by one offering he has purged our sins for ever (Heb 10:12); and that by his death he hath "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10). But I say, I would be understood aright: This life resideth yet in the Son, and is communicated from him to us, as we are called to believe his word; mean while we are secured from wrath and hell, being justified in his justification, quickened in his quickening, raised up in his resurrection; and made to sit already together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus! 8 And is not this a glorious improvement of his death, that after two days the whole body of the elect, in him, should be revived, and that in the third day we should live in the sight of God, in and by him (Heb 6:18-20).
(2.) Another improvement of his death for us, was this, By that he slew for us, our infernal foes; by it he abolished death (2 Tim 1:1); by death he destroyed him that had the power of death (Heb 2:14): By death he took away the sting of death (1 Cor 15:55,56); by death he made death a pleasant sleep to saints, and the grave for a while, an easy house and home for the body. By death he made death such an advantage to us, that it is become a means of translating of the souls of them that believe in him, to life. And all this is manifest, for that death is ours, a blessing to us, as well as Paul and Apollos, the world and life itself (1 Cor 3:22). And that all this is done for us by his death, is apparent, for that his person is where it is, and that by himself as a common person he has got the victory for us. For though as yet all things are not put under our feet, yet we see Jesus crowned with honour and glory, who by the grace of God tasteth death for every man. "For it became God, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:7-10). It became him; that is, it was but just and right, he should do so, if there was enough in the virtuousness of his death and blood to require such a thing. But there was so. Wherefore God has exalted him, and us in him, above these infernal foes. Let us therefore see ourselves delivered from death first, by the exaltation of our Jesus, let us behold him I say as crowned with glory and honour, as, or because, he tasted death for us. And then we shall see ourselves already in heaven by our head, our undertaker, our Jesus, our Saviour.
(3.) Another improvement that has already been made of his death for us, is thus, he hath at his entrance into the presence of God, for his worthiness sake, obtained that the Holy Ghost should be given unto him for us, that we by that might in all things, yet to be done, be made meet to be partakers personally, in ourselves, as well as virtually by our head and forerunner, of the inheritance of the saints in light. Wherefore the abundant pourings out of that was forborn until the resurrection, and glorification of our Lord Jesus. "For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). Nor was it given so soon as received: for he received it upon his entering into the holy place, when he had sprinkled the mercy seat with the blood of sprinkling, but it was not given out to us till sometimes after (Acts 4): however it was obtained before (Acts 2:32,33). And it was meet that it should in that infinite immeasurableness in which he received it, first abide upon him, that his human nature, which was the first fruits of the election of God, might receive by its abidings upon him, that glory for which it was ordained; and that we might receive, as we receive all other things, first by our head and undertaker, sanctification in the fullness of it. Hence it is written, that as he is made unto us of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and redemption, so sanctification too (1 Cor 1:30): For first we are sanctified in his flesh, as we are justified by his righteousness. Wherefore he is that holy one that setteth us, in himself, a holy lump before God, not only with reference to justification and life, but with reference to sanctification and holiness: For we that are elect, are all considered in him as he has received that, as well as in that he has taken possession of the heaven for us. I count not this all the benefit that accrueth to us by Jesus his receiving the Holy Ghost, at his entrance into the presence of God for us: For we also are to receive it ourselves from him, according as by God we are placed in the body at the times appointed of the Father. That we, as was said, may receive personal quickening, personal renovation, personal sanctification; and in conclusion, glory. But I say, for that he hath received this holy Spirit to himself, he received it as the effect of his ascension, which was the effect of his resurrection, and of the merit of his death and passion. And he received it as a common person, as a head and undertaker for the people.
(4.) Another improvement that has been made of his death, and of the merits thereof for us, is that he has obtained to be made of God, the chief and high Lord of heaven and earth, for us, (All this while we speak of the exaltation of the human nature, in, by, and with which, the Son of God became capable to be our reconciler unto God). "All things," saith he, "are delivered unto me of my Father. And all power in heaven and earth is given unto me"; and all this because he died. "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, of things in earth, or things under the earth: and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2). And all this is, as was said afore, for our sakes. He has given him to be head over all things to the church (Eph 1:22).
Wherefore, whoever is set up on earth, they are set up by our Lord. "By me," saith he, "kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth" (Prov 8:15,16). Nor are they when set up, left to do, though they should desire it, their own will and pleasure. The Metheg-Ammah,9 the bridle, is in his own hand, and he giveth reins, or check, even as it pleaseth him (2 Sam 8:1), He has this power, for the well-being of his people. Nor are the fallen angels exempted from being put under his rebuke: He is the "only potentate" (1 Tim 6:15), and in his times will shew it, Peter tells us, he "is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22).
This power, as I said, he has received for the sake of his church on earth, and for her conduct and well-being among the sons of men. Hence, as he is called the king of nations, in general (Jer 10:7); so the King of saints, in special (Rev 15:3): and as he is said to be head over all things in general; so to his church in special.
(5.) Another improvement that he hath made of his death for us, is, he hath obtained, and received into his own hand sufficiency of gifts to make ministers for his church withal. I say, to make and maintain, in opposition to all that would hinder, a sufficient ministry (1 Cor 12:28-30). Wherefore he saith, "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some Apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for edifying of the body of Christ. Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:8-14). Many ways has Satan devised to bring into contempt this blessed advantage that Christ has received of God for the benefit of his church; partly while he stirs up persons to revile the sufficiency of the Holy Ghost, as to this thing: partly, while he stirs up his own limbs and members, to broach his delusions in the world, in the name of Christ, and as they blasphemously call it by the assistance of the Holy Ghost;10 partly while he tempteth novices in their faith, to study and labour in nice distinctions, and the affecting of uncouth expressions, that vary from the form of sound words, thereby to get applause, and a name, a forerunner of their own destruction (John 3:6).
But, notwithstanding all this, "Wisdom is justified of her children" (Matt 11:19): and at the last day, when the outside, and inside of all things shall be seen and compared, it will appear that the Son of God has so managed his own servants in the ministry of his word, and so managed his word, while they have been labouring in it, as to put in his blessing by that, upon the souls of sinners, and has blown away all other things as chaff (James 1:18).
(6.) Another improvement that the Lord Christ has made of his death, for his, is the obtaining, and taking possession of heaven for them. "By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb 9:12). This heaven! who knows what it is? (Matt 22:23) This glory! who knows what it is? It is called God's throne, God's house (John 14:2), God's habitation; paradise (2 Cor 12:4), the kingdom of God, the high and holy place (Isa 57:15). Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22), and the place of heavenly pleasures (Psa 16:11); in this heaven is to be found, the face of God for ever (Psa 41:12): Immortality, the person of Christ, the prophets, the angels, the revelation of all mysteries, the knowledge of all the elect, ETERNITY.
Of this heaven, as was said afore, we are possessed already, we are in it, we are set down in it, and partake already of the benefits thereof, but all by our head and undertaker; and 'tis fit that we should believe this, rejoice in this, talk of this, tell one another of this, and live in the expectation of our own personal enjoyment of it. And as we should do all this, so we should bless and praise the name of God who has put over this house, this kingdom, and inheritance into the hand of so faithful a friend. Yea, a brother, a Saviour and blessed undertaker for us. And lastly, since all these things already mentioned, are the fruit of the sufferings of our Jesus, and his sufferings the fruit of that love of his that passeth knowledge: how should we bow the knee before him, and call him tender Father; yea, how should we love and obey him, and devote ourselves unto his service, and be willing to be also sufferers for his sake, to whom be honour and glory for ever. And thus much of the love of Christ in general.
I might here add many other things, but as I told you before, we would under the head but now touched upon, treat about the fundamentals or great and chief parts thereof, [Christ's love] and then.
SECOND, Of the exceeding greatness of it more particularly: Wherefore of that we must say something now.
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. In that it is said to pass knowledge, 'tis manifest it is exceeding great, or greatly going beyond what can be known; for to exceed, is to go beyond, be above, or to be out of the reach of what would comprehend that which is so. And since the expression is absolutely indefinite, and respecteth not the knowledge of this or the other creature only: it is manifest, that Paul by his thus saying, challengeth all creatures in heaven and earth to find out the bottom of this love if they can. The love of Christ which passeth knowledge. I will add, that forasmuch as he is indefinite also about the knowledge, as well as about the persons knowing, it is out of doubt that he here engageth all knowledge, in what enlargements, attainments, improvements, and heights soever it hath, or may for ever attain unto. It passeth knowledge (Eph 3:19).
Of the same import also is that other passage of the Apostle a little above in the self-same chapter. I preach, saith he, among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ: or those riches of Christ that cannot by searching, be found out in the all of them: The riches, the riches of his love and grace. The riches of his love and grace towards us. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be made 11 rich" (2 Cor 8:9). Ye know the grace, that is so far, and so far every believer knows it: for that his leaving heaven and taking upon him flesh, that he might bring us thither, is manifest to all. But yet, all the grace that was wrapped up in that amazing condescension, knoweth none, nor can know: for if that might be, that possibility would be a flat contradiction to the text: "The love of Christ which passeth knowledge." Wherefore the riches of this love in the utmost of it, is not, cannot be known by any: let their understanding and knowledge, be heightened and improved what it may. Yea, and being heightened and improved, let what search there can by it be made into this love and grace. "That which is afar off, and exceeding deep, who can find out?" (Eccl 7:24) And that this love of Christ is so, shall anon be made more apparent. But at present we will proceed to particular challenges for the making out of this, and then we will urge those reasons that will be for the further confirmation of the whole.
First, This love passes the knowledge of the wisest saint, we now single out the greatest proficient in this knowledge; and to confirm this, I need go no further than to the man that spake these words; to wit, Paul, for in his conclusion he includes himself. The love of Christ which passeth knowledge, even my knowledge. As who should say; though I have waded a great way in the grace of Christ, and have as much experience of his love as any he in all the world, yet I confess myself short, as to the fullness that is therein, nor will I stick to conclude of any other, That "he knows nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor 8:2, 13:12).
Second, This love passeth the knowledge of all the saints, were it all put together, we, we all, and every one, did we each of us contribute for the manifesting of this love, what it is, the whole of what we know, it would amount but to a broken knowledge; we know but in part, we see darkly (1 Cor 13:9-12), we walk not by sight, but faith (2 Cor 5:7). True, now we speak of saints on earth.
Third, But we will speak of saints in heaven; they cannot to the utmost, know this love of Christ. For though they know more thereof than saints on earth, because they are more in the open visions of it, and also are more enlarged, being spirits perfect, than we on earth. Yet, to say no more now, they do not see the rich and unsearchable runnings out thereof unto sinners here on earth. Nor may they there measure that, to others, by what they themselves knew of it here. For sins, and times and persons and other circumstances, may much alter the case, but were all the saints on earth, and all the saints in heaven to contribute all that they know of this love of Christ, and to put it into one sum of knowledge, they would greatly come short of knowing the utmost of this love, for that there is an infinite deal of this love, yet unknown by them. 'Tis said plainly, that they on earth do not yet know what they shall be (1 John 3:2). And as for them in heaven, they are not yet made perfect as they shall be (Heb 11:39,40). Besides, we find the souls under the altar, how perfect now soever, when compared with that state they were in when with the body (Isa 63:16); yet are not able in all points, though in glory, to know, and so to govern themselves there without directions (Rev 6:9-11). I say, they are not able, without directions and instructions, to know the kinds and manner of workings of the love of Christ towards us that dwell on earth.
Fourth, We will join with these, the angels, and when all of them, with men, have put all and every whit of what they know of this love of Christ together, they must come far short of reaching to, or of understanding the utmost bound thereof. I grant, that angels do know, in some certain parts of knowledge of the love of Christ, more than saints on earth can know while here; but then again, I know that even they do also learn many things of saints on earth, which shews that themselves know also but in part (Eph 3:10); so then, all, as yet, as to this love of Christ, and the utmost knowledge of it, are but as so many imperfects (1 Peter 1:12), nor can they all, put all their imperfects together, make up a perfect knowledge of this love of Christ; for the texts do yet stand where they did, and say, his riches are unsearchable, and his love that which passeth knowledge. We will come now to shew you, besides what has been already touched on.
THE REASON why this riches is unsearchable, and that love such as passeth knowledge; and the
Reason First is, Because It is eternal. All that is eternal, has attending of it, as to the utmost knowledge of it, a fourfold impossibility. 1. It is without beginning. 2. It is without end. 3. It is infinite. 4. It is incomprehensible.
1. It is without beginning: That which was before the world was, is without a beginning, but the love of Christ was before the world.
This is evident from Proverbs the eighth, "his delights," before God had made the world, are there said to be, "with the sons of men." Not that we then had being, for we were as yet uncreated; but though we had not beings created, we had being in the love and affections of Jesus Christ. Now this love of Christ must needs, as to the fullness of it, as to the utmost of it, be absolutely unknown to man. Who can tell how many heart-pleasing thoughts Christ had of us before the world began? Who can tell how much he then was delighted in that being we had in his affections; as also, in the consideration of our beings, believings, and being with him afterwards.
In general we may conclude, it was great; for there seems to be a parallel betwixt his Father's delights in him, and his delights in us. "I was daily his delight,—any my delights were with the sons of men" (Prov 8:22,30,31). But I say, who can tell, who can tell altogether, what and how much the Father delighted in his Son before the world began? Who can tell what kind of delight the Father had in the Son before the world began? Why there seems to be a parallel betwixt the Father's love to Christ, and Christ's love to us; the Father's delight in Christ, and his delight in us. Yea, Christ confirms it, saying, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you, continue ye in my love" (John 15:9). I know that I am not yet upon the nature of the word eternal; yet since, by eternal, we understand, before the world began, as well as forward, to an endless forever: We may a little enquire of folks as they may read, if they can tell the kind or measure of the love wherewith Christ then loved us. I remember the question that God asked Job, "Where," saith he, "wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding" (Job 38:4): Thereby insinuating that because it was done before he had his being, therefore he could not tell how it was done. Now, if a work so visible, as the creation is, is yet as to the manner of the workmanship thereof wholly unknown to them that commenced in their beings afterwards: How shall that which has, in all the circumstances of it, been more hidden and inward, be found out by them that have intelligence thereof by the ear, and but in part, and that in a mystery, and long afterwards. But to conclude this, That which is eternal is without all beginning. This was presented to consideration before, and therefore it cannot to perfection be known.
2. That which is eternal is without end, and how can an endless thing be known, that which has no end has no middle, wherefore it is impossible that the one half of the love that Christ has for his church should ever by them be known. I know that those visions that the saved shall have in heaven of this love, will far transcend our utmost knowledge here, even as far as the light of the sun at noon, goes beyond the light of a blinking candle at midnight; and hence it is, that when the days of those visions are come, the knowledge that we now have, shall be swallowed up. "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Cor 13:10). And although he speaks here of perfections, "when that which is perfect is come," &c., yet even that perfection must not be thought to be such as is the perfection of God; for then should all that are saved be so many externals and so many infinites, as he is infinite. But the meaning is, we shall then be with the eternal, shall immediately enjoy him with all the perfection of knowledge, as far as is possible for a creature, when he is wrought up to the utmost height that his created substance will bear to be capable of. But for all that, this perfection will yet come short of the perfection of him that made him, and consequently, short of knowing the utmost of his love; since that in the root is his very essence and nature. I know it says also, that we shall know even as we are known. But yet this must not be understood, as if we should know God as fully as he knows us. It would be folly and madness so to conclude; but the meaning is, we are known for happiness; we are known of God, for heaven and felicity; and when that which is perfect is come, then shall we perfectly know, and enjoy that for which we are now known of God. And this is that which the Apostle longed for, namely, If by any means, he might apprehend that for which he was also apprehended of Christ Jesus (Phil 3:12). That is, know, and see that, unto the which he was appointed of God and apprehended of Christ Jesus. 'Tis said again, "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). This text has respect to the Son, as to his humanity, and not as to his divinity. And not as to his divinity, simply, or distinctly considered; for as to that it is as possible for a spirit to drink up the sea, as for the most enlarged saint that is, or ever shall be in glory, so to see God as to know him altogether, to the utmost, or throughout. But the humanity of the Son of God, we shall see throughout, in all the beauty and glory that is upon him; and that was prepared for him before the foundation of the world. And Christ will that we see this glory, when he takes us up in glory to himself (John 17:24); but the utmost boundlessness of the divine majesty, the eternal deity of the Son of God, cannot be known to the utmost or altogether. I do not doubt, but that there will then in him, I mean in Christ, and in us, break forth these glorious rays and beams of the eternal majesty, as will make him in each of us admirable one to another (2 Thess 1:10); and that then, that of God shall be known of us, that now never entered into our hearts to think of. But the whole, is not, cannot, shall never be fully known of any. And therefore the love of Christ, it being essential to himself, cannot be known because of the endlessness that is in it. I said before, that which has no end, has no middle, how then shall those that shall be in heaven eternally, ever pass over half the breadth of eternity. True, I know that all enjoyments there will be enjoyments eternal. Yea, that whatever we shall there embrace, or what embraces we shall be embraced with, shall be eternal; but I put a difference betwixt that which is eternal, as to the nature, and that which is so as to the durableness thereof. The nature of eternal things we shall enjoy, so soon as ever we come to heaven, but the duration of eternal things, them we shall never be able to pass through, for they are endless. So then, the eternal love of Christ, as to the nature of it, will be perfectly known of saints, when they shall dwell in heaven; but the endlessness thereof they shall never attain unto. And this will be their happiness. For could it be, that we should in heaven ever reach the end of our blessedness: (as we should, could we reach to the end of this love of Christ) why then, as the saying is, We should be at the land's end, and feel the bottom of all our enjoyments. Besides, whatsoever has an end, has a time to decay, and to cease to be, as well as to have a time to shew forth its highest excellencies. Wherefore, from all these considerations it is most manifest, that the love of Christ is unsearchable, and that it passes knowledge.
3. and 4. Now the other two things follow of course, to wit, That this love is infinite and incomprehensible. Wherefore here is that that still is above and beyond even those that are arrived to the utmost of their perfections. And this, if I may so say, will keep them in an employ, even when they are in heaven; though not an employ that is laboursome, tiresome, burdensome, yet an employ that is dutiful, delightful and profitable; for although the work and worship of saints in heaven is not particularly revealed as yet, and so "it doth not yet appear what we shall be," yet in the general we may say, there will be that for them to do, that has not yet by them been done, and by that work which they shall do there, their delight will be delight unto them. The law was the shadow and not the very image of heavenly things (Heb 10:1). The image is an image, and not the heavenly things themselves (the heavenly things they are saints) there shall be worship in the heavens (Heb 9:23). Nor will this at all derogate from their glory. The angels now wait upon God and serve him (Psa 103:20); the Son of God, is now a minister, and waiteth upon his service in heaven (Heb 8:1,2); some saints have been employed about service for God after they have been in heaven (Luke 9:29-32); and why we should be idle spectators, when we come thither, I see not reason to believe. It may be said, "They there rest from their labours." True, but not from their delights. All things then that once were burdensome, whether in suffering or service, shall be done away, and that which is delightful and pleasurable shall remain. But then will be a time to receive, and not to work. True, if by work you mean such as we now count work; but what if our work be there, to receive and bless. The fishes in the sea do drink, swim and drink. But for a further discourse of this, let that alone till we come thither. But to come down again into the world, for now we are talking of things aloft:
Reason Second, This love of Christ must needs be beyond our knowledge, because we cannot possibly know the utmost of our sin. Sin is that which sets out, and off, the knowledge of the love of Christ. There are four things that must be spoken to for the clearing of this. 1. The nature of sin. 2. The aggravations of sin. 3. The utmost tendencies of sin. 4. And the perfect knowledge of all this.
1. Before we can know this love of Christ, as afore, we must necessarily know the nature of sin, that is, what sin is, what sin is in itself. But no man knows the nature of sin to the full; not what sin in itself is to the full. The Apostle saith, "That sin, [that is in itself] is exceeding sinful" (Rom 7:13). That is, exceeding it as to its filthiness, goes beyond our knowledge: But this is seen by the commandment. Now the reason why none can, to the full, know the horrible nature of sin, is because none, to the full, can know the blessed nature of the blessed God. For sin is the opposite to God. There is nothing that seeketh absolutely, and in its own nature to overcome, and to annihilate God, but sin, and sin doth so. Sin is worse than the devil; he therefore that is more afraid of the devil than of sin, knows not the badness of sin as he ought; nor but little of the love of Jesus Christ. He that knows not what sin would have done to the world, had not Christ stepped betwixt those harms and it. How can he know so much as the extent of the love of Christ in common? And he that knows not what sin would have done to him in particular, had not Christ the Lord, stepped in and saved, cannot know the utmost of the love of Christ to him in particular. Sin therefore in the utmost evil of it, cannot be known of us: so consequently the love of Christ in the utmost goodness of it, cannot be known of us.
Besides, there are many sins committed by us, dropping from us, and that pollute us, that we are not at all aware of; how then should we know that love of Christ by which we are delivered from them? Lord, "who can understand his errors?" said David (Psa 19:12). Consequently, who can understand the love that saves him from them? moreover, he that knows the love of Christ to the full, must also know to the full that wrath and anger of God, that like hell itself, burneth against sinners for the sake of sin: but this knows none. Lord, "who knoweth the power of thine anger?" said Moses (Psa 90:11). Therefore none knows this love of Christ to the full. The nature of sin is to get into our good, to mix itself with our good, to lie lurking many times under the formality and shew of good; and that so close, so cunningly, and invisibly, that the party concerned, embraces it for virtue, and knows not otherwise to do; and yet from this he is saved by the love of Christ; and therefore, as was hinted but now, if a man doth not know the nature of his wound, how should he know the nature and excellency of the balsam that hath cured him of his wound.
2. There are the due aggravations that belong to sin, which men are unacquainted with; it was one of the great things that the prophets were concerned with from God towards the people, (as to shew them their sins, so) to shew them what aggravations did belong thereto (Jer 2, Jer 3, Eze 16).
There are sins against light, sins against knowledge, sins against love, sins against learning, sins against threatenings, sins against promises, vows and resolutions, sins against experience, sins against examples of anger, and sins that have great, and high, and strange aggravations attending of them; the which we are ignorant of, though not altogether, yet in too great a measure. Now if these things be so, how can the love that saveth us from them be known or understood to the full?
Alas! our ignorance of these things is manifest by our unwillingness to abide affliction, by our secret murmuring under the hand of God; by our wondering why we are so chastised as we are, by our thinking long that the affliction is no sooner removed.
Or, if our ignorance of the vileness of our actions is not manifest this way, yet it is in our lightness under our guilt, our slight thoughts of our doings, our slovenly doing of duties, and asking of forgiveness after some evil or unbecoming actions. 'Tis to no boot to be particular, the whole course of our lives doth too fully make it manifest, that we are wonderful short in knowing both the nature, and also the aggravations of our sins: and how then should we know that love of Christ in its full dimensions, by which we are saved and delivered therefrom?
3. Who knows the utmost tendencies of sin? I mean, what the least sin driveth at, and what it would unavoidably run the sinner into. There is not a plague, a judgment, an affliction, an evil under heaven, that the least of our transgressions has not called for at the hands of the great God! nay, the least sin calleth for all the distresses that are under heaven, to fall upon the soul and body of the sinner at once. This is plain, for that the least sin deserveth hell; which is worse than all the plagues that are on earth. But I say, who understandeth this? And I say again, if one sin, the least sin deserveth all these things, what thinkest thou do all thy sins deserve? how many judgments! how many plagues! how many lashes with God's iron whip dost thou deserve? besides there is hell itself, the place itself, the fire itself, the nature of the torments, and the durableness of them, who can understand?
But this is not all, the tendencies of thy sins are to kill others. Men, good men little think how many of their neighbours one of their sins may kill. As, how many good men and good women do unawares, through their uncircumspectness, drive their own children down into the deep? (Psa 106:6,7) We will easily count them very hardhearted sinners, that used to offer their children in sacrifice to devils; when 'tis easy to do worse ourselves: they did but kill the body, but we body and soul in hell, if we have not a care.
Do we know how our sins provoke God? how they grieve the Holy Ghost? how they weaken our graces? how they spoil our prayers? how they weaken faith? how they tempt Christ to be ashamed of us? and how they hold back good from us? And if we know not every one of all these things to the full, how shall we know to the full the love of Christ which saveth us from them all?
4. Again, But who has the perfect knowledge of all these things? I will grant that some good souls may have waded a great way in some one, or more of them; but I know that there is not any that thoroughly know them all. And yet the love of Christ doth save us from all, notwithstanding all the vileness and soul-damning virtue12 that is in them. Alas! how short are we of the knowledge of ourselves, and of what is in us. How many are there that do not know that man consisteth of a body made of dust, and of an immortal soul? Yea, and how many be there of those that confess it, that know not the constitution of either. I will add, how many are there that profess themselves to be students of those two parts of man, that have oftentimes proved themselves to be but fools as to both? and I will conclude that there is not a man under heaven that knoweth it all together: For man is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa 139:14): nor can the manner of the union of these two parts be perfectly found out. How much more then must we needs be at loss as to the fullness of the knowledge of the love of Christ? But,
Reason Third, He that altogether knoweth the love of Christ, must, precedent to that, know not only all the wiles of the devil; but also all the plottings, contrivings and designs and attempts of that wicked one; yea, he must know, all the times that he hath been with God, together with all the motions that he has made that he might have leave to fall upon us, as upon Job and Peter, to try if he might swallow us up (Job 1 and 2, Luke 22:31). But who knows all this? no man, no angel. For, if the heart of man be so deep, that none, by all his actions, save God, can tell the utmost secrets that are therein; how should the heart of angels, which in all likelihood are deeper, be found out by any mortal man. And yet this must be found out before we can find out the utmost of the love of Christ to us. I conclude therefore from all these things, that the love of Christ passeth knowledge: or that by no means, the bottom, the utmost bounds thereof can be understood.
Reason Fourth, He that will presume to say, this love of Christ can be to the utmost known by us, must presume to say that he knoweth the utmost of the merits of his blood, the utmost exercise of his patience, the utmost of his intercession, the utmost of the glory that he has prepared and taken possession of for us. But I presume that there is none that can know all this, therefore I may without any fear assert, there is none that knows, that is, that knows to the full, the other.
We come now more particularly to speak of the knowledge of the love of Christ; we have spoken of the love of Christ; and of the exceeding greatness of it: and now we come,
THIRD, To speak of the knowledge of it; that is to say, we will shew
WHAT KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST'S LOVE IS ATTAINABLE IN THIS WORLD,
under these three heads. As to this, First, It may be known as to the nature of it. Second, It may be known in many of the degrees of it. Third, But the greatest knowledge that we can have of it here, is to know that it passes knowledge.
First, We may know it in the nature of it. That is, that it is love free, divine, heavenly, everlasting, incorruptible. And this no love is but the love of Christ; all other love is either love corruptible, transient, mixed, or earthly. It is divine, for 'tis the love of the holy nature of God. It is heavenly, for that it is from above: it is everlasting, for that it has no end: it is immortal, for that there is not the appearance of corruptibleness in it, or likelihood of decay.
This is general knowledge, and this is common among the saints, at leastwise in the notion of it. Though I confess, it is hard in time of temptation, practically to hold fast the soul to all these things. But, as I have said already, this love of Christ must be such, because love in the root of it, is essential to his nature, as also I have proved now, as is the root, such are the branches; and as is the spring, such are the streams, unless the channels in which those streams do run, should be corrupted, and so defile it; but I know no channels through which this love of Christ is conveyed unto us, but those made in his side, his hands, and his feet, &c. Or those gracious promises that dropped like honey from his holy lips, in the day of his love, in which he spake them: and seeing his love is conveyed to us, as through those channels, and so by the conduit of the holy and blessed spirit of God, to our hearts, it cannot be that it should hitherto be corrupted. I know the cisterns, to wit, our hearts, into which it is conveyed, are unclean, and may take away much, through the damp that they may put upon it, of the native savour and sweetness thereof. I know also, that there are those that tread down, and muddy those streams with their feet (Eze 34:18,19); but yet neither the love nor the channels in which it runs, should bear the blame of this. And I hope those that are saints indeed, will not only be preserved to eternal life, but nourished with this that is incorruptible unto the day of Christ. I told you before, that in the hour of temptation, it will be hard for the soul to hold fast to these things; that is, to the true definition of this love; for then, or at such seasons, it will not be admitted that the love of Christ is either transient, or mixed; but we count that we cannot be loved long, unless something better than yet we see in us, be found there, as an inducement to Christ to love, and to continue to love our poor souls (Isa 64:6). But these the Christian at length gets over; for he sees, by experience, he hath no such inducement (Deu 9:5); also, that Christ loves freely, and not for, or because of such poor, silly, imaginary enticements (Eze 16:60-62). Thus therefore the love of Christ may be known, that is, in the nature of it: it may, I say, but not easily (Eze 36:25-33). For this knowledge is neither easily got, though got, nor easily retained, though retained. There is nothing that Satan setteth himself more against, than the breaking forth of the love of Christ in its own proper native lustre. For he knows it destroys his kingdom, which standeth in profaneness, in errors and delusions, the only destruction of which is the knowledge of this love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14). What mean those swarms of opinions that are in the world? what is the reason that some are carried about as clouds, with a tempest? what mean men's waverings, men's changing, and interchanging truth for error, and one error for another? why, this is the thing, the devil is in it. This work is his, and he makes this ado, to make a dust; and a dust to darken the light of the gospel withal. And if he once attaineth to that, then farewell the true knowledge of the love of Christ.
Also he will assault the spirits of Christians with divers and sundry cogitations, such as shall have in them a tendency to darken the judgment, delude the fancy, to abuse the conscience. He has an art to metamorphose all things. He can make God seem to be to us, a most fierce and terrible destroyer; and Christ a terrible exactor of obedience, and most amazingly pinching of his love. He can make supposed sins unpardonable; and unpardonable ones, appear as virtues. He can make the law to be received for gospel, and cause that the gospel shall be thrown away as a fable. He can persuade, that faith is fancy, and that fancy is the best faith in the world. Besides, he can tickle the heart with false hope of a better life hereafter, even as if the love of Christ were there. But, as I said before, from all these things the true love of Christ in the right knowledge of it, delivereth those that have it shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost that he hath given (Rom 5). Wherefore it is for this purpose that Christ biddeth us to continue in his love (John 15:9); because the right knowledge, and faith of that to the soul, disperseth and driveth away all such fogs, and mists of darkness; and makes the soul to sit fast in the promise of eternal life by him; yea, and to grow up into him who is the head, "in all things."
Before I leave this head, I will present my reader with these things, as helps to the knowledge of the love of Christ. I mean the knowledge of the nature of it, and as HELPS to retain it.
Help First, Know thy self, what a vile, horrible, abominable sinner thou art: For thou canst not know the love of Christ, before thou knowest the badness of thy nature. "O wretched man that I am" (Rom 7:24), must be, before a man can perceive the nature of the love of Christ. He that sees himself but little, will hardly know much of the love of Christ: he that sees of himself nothing at all, will hardly ever see anything of the love of Christ. But he that sees most of what an abominable wretch he is, he is like to see most of what is the love of Christ. All errors in doctrine take their rise from the want of this (I mean errors in doctrine as to justification). All the idolizing of men's virtues, and human inventions, riseth also from the want of this. So then if a man would be kept sure and stedfast, let him labour before all things to know his own wretchedness. People naturally think that the knowledge of their sins is the way to destroy them; when in very deed, it is the first step to salvation. Now if thou wouldest know the badness of thy self, begin in the first place to study the law, then thy heart, and so thy life. The law thou must look into, for that's the glass; thy heart thou must look upon, for that's the face; thy life thou must look upon, for that's the body of a man, as to religion (James 1:25). And without the wary consideration of these three, 'tis not to be thought that a man can come at the knowledge of himself, and consequently to the knowledge of the love of Christ (James 1:26,27).
Help Second, Labour to see the emptiness, shortness, and the pollution that cleaveth to a man's own righteousness. This also must in some measure be known, before a man can know the nature of the love of Christ. They that see nothing of the loathsomeness of man's best things, will think, that the love of Christ is of that nature as to be procured, or won, obtained or purchased by man's good deeds. And although so much gospel light is broke forth as to stop men's mouths from saying this, yet 'tis nothing else but sound conviction of the vileness of man's righteousness, that will enable men to see that the love of Christ is of that nature, as to save a man without it; as to see that it is of that nature as to justify him without it: I say, without it, or not at all. There is shortness, there is hypocrisy, there is a desire of vain glory, there is pride, there is presumption in man's own righteousness: nor can it be without these wickednesses, when men know not the nature of the love of Christ. Now these defile it, and make it abominable. Yea, if there were no imperfection in it, but that which I first did mention, to wit, shortness; how could it cover the nakedness of him that hath it, or obtain for the man, in whole or in part, that Christ should love, and have respect unto him.
Occasions many thou hast given thee to see the emptiness of man's own righteousness, but all will not do unless thou hast help from heaven: wherefore thy wisdom will be, if thou canst tell where to find it, to lie in the way of God, that when he comes to visit the men that wait upon him in the means of his own appointing, thou mayest be there; if perhaps he may cast an eye of pity upon thy desolate soul, and make thee see the things above mentioned. That thou mayest know the nature of the love of Christ.
Help Third, If thou wouldest know the nature of this love, be much in acquainting of thy soul with the nature of the law, and the nature of the gospel (Gal 3:21). The which though they are not diametrically opposite one to another, yet do propound things so differently to man, that if he knows not where, when, and how to take them, 'tis impossible but that he should confound them, and in confounding of them, lose his own soul (Rom 9:31,32). The law is a servant, both first and last, to the gospel (Rom 10:3,4): when therefore it is made a Lord, it destroyeth: and then to be sure it is made a Lord and Saviour of, when its dictates and commands are depended upon for life.
Thy wisdom therefore will be to study these things distinctly, and thoroughly; for so far as thou art ignorant of the true knowledge of the nature of these, so far thou art ignorant of the true knowledge of the nature of the love of Christ. Read Paul to the Galatians, that epistle was indicted by the Holy Ghost, on purpose to direct the soul, in, and about this very thing.
Help Fourth, The right knowledge of the nature of the love of Christ, is obtained, and retained, by keeping of these two doctrines at an everlasting distance as to the conscience; to wit, not suffering the law to rule but over my outward man, not suffering the gospel to be removed one hair's breadth from my conscience. When Christ dwells in my heart by faith (Eph 3:17), and the moral law dwells in my members (Col 3:5), the one to keep up peace with God, the other to keep my conversation in a good decorum: then am I right, and not till then.
But this will not be done without much experience, diligence, and delight in Christ. For there is nothing that Satan more desireth, than that the law may abide in the conscience of an awakened Christian, and there take up the place of Christ, and faith; for he knows if this may be obtained, the vail is presently drawn over the face of the soul, and the heart darkened as to the knowledge of Christ; and being darkened, the man is driven into despair of mercy, or is put upon it to work for life (2 Cor 3:13-15). There is therefore, as I say, much diligence required of him that will keep these two in their places assigned them of God. I say much diligent study of the word, diligent prayer; with diligence to walk with God in the world. But we will pass this, and come to the second head.
Secondly, As the love of Christ may be known in the nature of it, so it may be known in many degrees of it. That which is knowable, admits of degrees of knowledge: the love of Christ is knowable. Again, that which is not possible to be known to the utmost, is to be known, we know not how much; and therefore they that seek to know it, should never be contented or satisfied to what degree of the knowledge of it soever they attain; but still should be reaching forward, because there is more to be known of it before them. "Brethren," said Paul, "I count not myself to have apprehended, (that is to the utmost) but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13,14). I might here discourse of many things, since I am upon this head of reaching after the knowledge of the love of Christ in many of the degrees of it. But I shall content myself with few.
1. He that would know the love of Christ in several degrees of it, must begin at his person, for in him dwells all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Nay, more; In him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3). In him, that is, in his person: For, for the godhead of Christ, and our nature to be united in one person, is the highest mystery, and the first appearance of the love of Christ by himself, to the world (1 Tim 3:16). Here I say, lie hid the treasures of wisdom, and here, to the world, springs forth the riches of his love (John 1:14). That the eternal word, for the salvation of sinners, should come down from heaven and be made flesh, is an act of such condescension, a discovery of such love, that can never to the full be found out. Only here we may see, love in him was deep, was broad, was long, and high: let us therefore first begin here to learn to know the love of Christ, in the high degrees thereof.
(1.) Here, in the first place, we perceive love, in that the human nature, the nature of man, not of angels, is taken into union with God. Who so could consider this, as it is possible for it to be considered, would stand amazed till he died with wonder. By this very act of the heavenly wisdom, we have an inconceivable pledge of the love of Christ to man: for in that he hath taken into union with himself our nature, what doth it signify, but that he intendeth to take into union with himself our person. For, for this very purpose did he assume our nature. Wherefore we read that in the flesh he took upon him, in that flesh, he died for us, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
(2.) As he was made flesh, so as was said afore, he became a public or common person for us: and hereby is perceived another degree of his love; undertaking to do for his, what was not possible they should do for themselves, perfecting of righteousness to the very end of the law, and doing for us, to the reconciling of us unto his Father, and himself (Rom 10:3,4, 3:24).
(3.) Herein also we may attain to another degree of knowledge of his love, by understanding that he has conquered, and so disabled our foes, that they cannot now accomplish their designed enmity upon us (Rom 5, Eph 5:26,27): but that when Satan, death, the grave and sin have done to his people, whatever can by them be done, we shall be still more than conquerors, (though on our side be many disadvantages), through him that has loved us, over them (Rom 8:37).
(4.) By this also we may yet see more of his love, in that as a forerunner, he is gone into heaven to take possession thereof for us (Heb 6:20): there to make ready, and to prepare for us our summer-houses, our mansion, dwelling-places. As if we were the lords, and he the servant! (John 14:2,3) Oh this love!
(5.) Also we may see another degree of his love, in this, that now in his absence, he has sent the third person in the Trinity to supply his place as another comforter of us (John 16:7, 15:26), that we may not think he has forgot us, not be left destitute of a revealer of truth unto us (John 14:16). Yea, he has sent him to fortify our spirits, and to strengthen us under all adversity; and against our enemies of what account, or degree soever (Luke 21:15).
(6.) In this also we may see yet more of the love of Christ, in that though he is in heaven and we on earth: Nothing can happen to his people to hurt them, but he feels it, is touched with it, and counteth it as done unto himself: Yea, sympathizes with them, and is afflicted, and grieved in their griefs, and their afflictions.
(7.) Another thing by which also yet more of the love of Christ is made manifest, and so may by us be known, is this: He is now, and has been ever since his ascension into glory, laying out himself as high-priest for us (Heb 7:24-26), that by the improving13 of his merits before the throne of grace, in way of intercession, he might preserve us from the ruins that our daily infirmities would bring upon us (Heb 8:12): yea, and make our persons and performances acceptable in his Father's sight (Rom 5:10, 1 Peter 2:5).
(8.) We also see yet more of his love by this, that he will have us where himself is, that we may behold and be partakers of his glory (John 17:24). And in this degree of his love, there are many loves.
Then he will come for us, as a bridegroom for his bride (Matt 25:6-10). Then shall a public marriage be solemnized, and eternized betwixt him and his church (Rev 19:6,7). Then she shall be wrapped up in his mantles and robes of glory (Col 3:4). Then they shall be separated, and separated from other sinners, and all things that offend shall be taken away from among them (Matt 25:31, 13:41). Then shall they be exalted to thrones, and power of judgment; and shall also sit in judgment on sinful men and fallen angels, acquiescing, by virtue of authority, with their king and head, upon them (1 Cor 6:2,3). Then or from thenceforth for ever, there shall be no more death, sorrow, hidings of his face, or eclipsing of their glory for ever (Luke 20:36). And thus you may see what rounds this our Jacob's ladder hath, and how by them we may climb, and climb, even until we are climbed up to heaven: but now we are set again; for all the glories, all the benefits, all the blessings, and all the good things that are laid up in heaven for these; Who can understand?
2. A second thing whereby the love of Christ is some degrees of it may be known, is this: That he should pass by angels and take hold of us. Who so considereth the nature of spirits, as they are God's workmanship, must needs confess, that as such, they have a pre-eminency above that which is made of dust: This then was the disparity 'twixt us and them; they being, by birth, far more noble than we. But now, when both are fallen, and by our fall, both in a state of condemnation, that Jesus Christ should choose to take up us, the most inconsiderable, and pass by them, to their eternal perdition and destruction: O love! love in a high degree to man: For verily he took not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham he took hold (Heb 2:16). Yet this is not all: In all probability this Lord Jesus has ten times as much to do now he has undertaken to be our Saviour, as he would have had, had he stepped over us and taken hold on them.
(1.) He needed not to have stooped so low as to take flesh upon him; theirs being a more noble nature.
(2.) Nor would he in all likelihood, have met with those contempts, those scorns, those reproaches and undervaluings from them, as he has all-along received in this his undertaking, and met with from sinful flesh. For they were more noble than we, and would sooner have perceived the design of grace, and so one would think more readily have fallen in therewith, than [creatures in] such darkness as we were, and still by sin are.
(3.) They would not have had those disadvantages as we, for that they would not have had a tempter, a destroyer, so strong and mighty as ours is. Alas! had God left us, and taken them, though we should have been ever so full of envy against their salvation; yet being but flesh, what could we have done to them to have laid obstacles in the way of their faith and hope, as they can and do in ours?
(4.) They, it may fairly be presumed, had they been taken, and we left, and made partakers in our sted, while we had been shut out, as they are, would not have put Christ so to it, now in heaven (pray bear with the expression, because I want a better) as we by our imperfections have done and do. Sin, methinks, would not have so hanged in their natures as it doth in ours: their reason, and sense, and apprehensions being more quick, and so more apt to have been taken with this love of Christ, and by it more easily have been sanctified.
(5.) The law which they have broken, being not so intricate, as that against which we have offended, theirs being a commandment with faithfulness to abide in the place in which their Creator had set them; methinks, considering also the aptness of their natures as angels, would not have made their complete obedience so difficult.
(6.) Nor can I imagine, but had they been taken, they, as creatures excelling in strength, would have been more capable of rendering these praises and blessings to God for eternal mercies, than such poor sorry creatures as we are, could. But! "behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God" (1 John 3:1). That we, not they, that we notwithstanding all that they have, or could have done to hinder it, should be called the children of God.
This therefore is an high degree of the love of Jesus Christ to us, that when we and they were fallen, he should stoop and take up us, the more ignoble, and leave so mighty a creature in his sins to perish.
3. A third thing whereby the love of Christ in some of the degrees of it may be known, will be to consider more particularly the way, and unwearied work that he hath with man to bring him to that kingdom, that by his blood he hath obtained for him.
(1.) Man, when the Lord Jesus takes him in hand to make him partaker of the benefit, is found an enemy to his redeemer; nor doth all the intelligence that he has had of the grace and love of Christ to such, mollify him at all, to wit, before the day of God's power comes (Rom 4:5, 5:7-10). And this is a strange thing. Had man, though he could not have come to Christ, been willing that Christ should have come to him, it had been something; it would have shewn that he had taken his grace to heart, and considered of it: yea, and that he was willing to be a sharer in it. But verily here is no such thing; man, though he has free will, yet is willing by no means to be saved God's way, to wit, by Jesus Christ, before (as was said before) the day of God's power comes upon him. When the good shepherd went to look for his sheep that was lost in the wilderness, and had found it: did it go one step homewards upon its own legs? did not the shepherd take her and lay her upon his shoulder, and bring her home rejoicing (Luke 15). This then is not love only, but love to a degree.
(2.) When man is taken, and laid under the day of God's power: When Christ is opening his ear to discipline, and speaking to him that his heart may receive instruction; many times that poor man is, as if the devil had found him, and not God. How frenzily he imagines? how crossly he thinks? How ungainly he carries it under convictions, counsels, and his present apprehension of things? I know some are more powerfully dealt withal, and more strongly bound at first by the world; but others more in an ordinary manner, that the flesh, and reason may be seen, to the glory of Christ. Yea, and where the will is made more quickly to comply with its salvation, 'tis no thanks to the sinner at all (Job 4:18). 'Tis the day of the power of the Lord that has made the work so soon to appear. Therefore count this an act of love, in the height of love; Love in a great degree (John 15:16).
(3.) When Christ Jesus has made this mad man to come to himself, and persuaded him to be willing to accept of his salvation: yet he may not be trusted, nor left alone, for then the corruptions that still lie scattering up and down in his flesh will tempt him to it, and he will be gone; yea, so desperately wicked is the flesh of saints, that should they be left to themselves but a little while, none knows what horrible transgressions would break out. Proof of this we have to amazement, plentifully scattered here and there in the word. Hence we have the patience of God, and his gentleness so admired (2 Chron 32:21): for through that it is that they are preserved. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psa 121:4), but watches for them, and over them every moment, for he knows else they will be hurt (Isa 27:3).
(4.) Yea, notwithstanding this, how often are saints found playing truant, and lurking like thieves in one hole or other. Now, in the guilt of backsliding by the power of this, and then in filth by the power of that corruption (Jer 2:26). Yea, and when found in such decayings, and under such revoltings from God, how commonly do they hide their sin with Adam, and David, even until their Saviour fireth out of their mouths a confession of the truth of their naughtiness. "When I keep silence," said David, (and yet he chose to keep silence after he had committed his wickedness) "my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer" (Psa 32:3,4). but why didst thou not confess what thou hadst done then? So I did, saith he, at last, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin (verse 5).
(5.) When the sins of saints are so visible and apparent to others, that God for the vindication of his name and honour must punish them in the sight of others; yea, must do it, as he is just: Yet then for Christ's sake, he waveth such judgments, and refuseth to inflict such punishments as naturally tend to their destruction, and chooseth to chastise them with such rods and scourges, as may do them good in the end; and that they may not be condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:31,32). Wherefore the Lord loves them, and they are blessed, whom he chasteneth and teacheth out of his law (Heb 12:5-8, Psa 94:12). And these things are love to a degree.
(6.) That Christ should supply out of his fullness the beginnings of grace in our souls, and carry on that work of so great concern, and that which at times we have so little esteem of, is none of the least of the aggravations of the love of Christ to his people. And this work is as common as any of the works of Christ, and as necessary to our salvation, as is his righteousness, and the imputation thereof to our justification: For else how could we hold out to the end (Matt 24:13); and yet none else can be saved.
(7.) And that the love of Christ should be such to us that he will thus act, thus do to, and for us, with gladness; (as afore is manifest by the parable of the lost sheep) is another degree of his love towards us: And such an one too, as is none of the lowest rate. I have seen hot love, soon cold; and love that has continued to act, yet act towards the end, as the man that by running, and has run himself off his legs, pants, and can hardly run any longer: but I never saw love like the love of Christ, who as a giant, and bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and as a strong man, rejoiceth to run his race (Psa 19:5). Loving higher and higher, stronger and stronger, I mean as to the lettings out of love, for he reserveth the best wine even till the last (John 2:10).
(8.) I will conclude with this, that his love may be known in many degrees of it, by that sort of sinners whose salvation he most rejoiceth in, and that is, in the salvation of the sinners that are of the biggest size: Great sinners, Jerusalem sinners, Samaritan sinners, publican sinners. I might urge moreover, how he hath proportioned invitations, promises and examples of his love, for the encouragement and support of those whose souls would trust in him: By which also great degrees of his love may be understood. But we will come now to the third thing that was propounded.
Thirdly, But the greatest attainment that as to the understanding of the love of Christ, we can arrive to here, is to know that it passes knowledge: And to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge. This truth discovereth itself,
1. By the text itself, for the Apostle here, in this prayer of his for the Ephesians, doth not only desire that they may know, but describeth that thing which he prays they may know, by this term, It passeth knowledge. And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. As our reason and carnal imagination will be rudely, and unduly tampering with any thing of Christ, so more especially with the love and kindness of Christ: Judging and concluding that just such it is, and none other, as may be apprehended by them: Yea, and will have a belief that just so, and no otherwise are the dimensions of this love; nor can it save beyond our carnal conceptions of it. Saying to the soul as Pharaoh once did to Israel in another case: "Let the Lord be with you as I shall" (judge it meet he should) "let you go." We think Christ loves us no more than we do think he can, and so conclude that his love is such as may by us be comprehended, or known to the utmost bounds thereof. But these are false conceptions, and this love of Christ that we think is such, is indeed none of the love of Christ, but a false image thereof, set before our eyes. I speak not now of weak knowledge, but of foolish and bold conclusions. A man through unbelief may think that Christ has no love for him, and yet Christ may love him with a love that passeth knowledge. But when men in the common course of their profession, will be always terminating here, that they know how, and how far Christ can love, and will thence be bold to conclude of their own safety, and of the loss and ruin of all that are not in the same notions, opinions, formalities, or judgments as they: this is the worst and greatest of all. The text therefore, to rectify those false and erroneous conclusions, says, It is a love that passeth knowledge.
And it will be worth our observation to take notice that men, erroneous men, do not put these limits so commonly to the Father and his love, as [to] the Son and his. Hence you have some that boast that God can save some who have not the knowledge of the person of the mediator Jesus Christ the righteous; as the heathens that have, and still do make a great improvement of the law and light of nature: crying out with disdain against the narrowness, rigidness, censoriousness, and pride of those that think the contrary. Being not ashamed all the while to eclipse, to degrade, to lessen and undervalue the love of Jesus Christ; making of him and his undertakings, to offer himself a sacrifice to appease the justice of God for our sins, but a thing indifferent, and in its own nature but as other smaller matters.
But all this while the devil knows full well at what game he plays, for he knows that without Christ, without faith in his blood, there is no remission of sins. Wherefore, saith he, let these men talk what they will of the greatness of the love of God as creator, so they sleight and undervalue the love of Christ as mediator. And yet it is worth our consideration, that the greatness of the love of God is most expressed in his giving of Christ to be a Saviour, and in bestowing his benefits upon us that we may be happy through him.
But to return, The love of Christ that is so indeed, is love that passeth knowledge: and the best and highest of our knowledge of it is, that we know it to be such.
2. Because I find that at this point, the great men of God, of old, were wont to stop, be set, and beyond which they could not pass. 'Twas this that made Moses wonder (Deu 4:31-34). 'Twas this that made David cry out, How great and wonderful are the works of God? "thy thoughts to usward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered" (Psa 40:5). And again, "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand" (Psa 139:17,18). And a little before, "such knowledge is too wonderful for me" (verse 6). Isaiah saith, there hath not entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for them that wait for him (Isa 64:4). Ezekiel says, this is the river that cannot be passed over (47:5): And Micah to the sea, (7:19) and Zechariah to a fountain, hath compared this unsearchable love (13:1). Wherefore the Apostle's position, That the love of Christ is that which passeth knowledge, is a truth not to be doubted of: Consequently, to know this, and that it is such, is the farthest that we can go. This is to justify God, who has said it, and to magnify the Son, who has loved us with such a love: And the contrary is to dishonour him, to lessen him, and to make him a deficient Saviour. For suppose this should be true, that thou couldest to the utmost comprehend this love; yet unless, by thy knowledge thou canst comprehend beyond all evil of sin, or beyond what any man sins, who shall be saved, can spread themselves or infect: Thou must leave some pardonable man in an unpardonable condition. For that thou canst comprehend this love, and yet canst not comprehend that sin. This makes Christ a deficient Saviour. Besides, if thou comprehendest truly; the word that says, it passeth knowledge, hast lost its sanctity, its truth.
It must therefore be, that this love passeth knowledge; and that the highest pitch that a man by knowledge can attain unto, as to this, is to know that it passeth knowledge. My reason is, for that all degrees of love, be they never so high, or many, and high, yet, if we can comprehend them, rest in the bowels of our knowledge, for that only which is beyond us, is that which passeth knowledge. That which we can reach, cannot be the highest: And if a man thinks there is nothing beyond what he can reach, he has no more knowledge as to that: but if he knows that together with what he hath already reached, there is that which he cannot reach, before [him]; then he has a knowledge for that also, even a knowledge, that it passeth knowledge. 'Tis true a man that thus knoweth may have divers conjectures about that thing that is beyond his knowledge. Yea, in reason it will be so, because he knows that there is something yet before him: But since the thing itself is truly beyond his knowledge, none of his conjectures about that thing may be counted knowledge. Or suppose a man that thus conjectureth, should hit right as to what he now conjectures; his right hitting about that thing may not be called knowledge: It is as yet to him but as an uncertain guess, and is still beyond this knowledge.
Quest. But, may some say, what good will it do a man to know that the love of Christ passeth knowledge? one would think that it should do one more good to believe that the knowledge of the whole love of Christ might be attainable.
Answer. That there is an advantage in knowing that the love of Christ passeth knowledge; must not be questioned, for that the Apostle saith it doth (2 Tim 3:16). For to know what the holy word affirms, is profitable: nor would he pray that we might know that which passeth knowledge, were there not by our knowing of it, some help to be administered. But to shew you some of the advantages that will come to us by knowing that the love of Christ passeth knowledge.
(1.) By knowing of this a child of God has in reserve for himself, at a day, when all that he otherwise knows, may be taken from him through the power of temptation. Sometimes a good man may be so put to it, that all that he knows comprehensively may be taken from him: to wit, the knowledge of the truth of his faith, or that he has the grace of God in him, or the like, that I say may be taken from him. Now if at this time, he knows the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, he knows a way in all probability to be recovered again. For if Christ Jesus loves with a love that passeth knowledge: then, saith the soul, that is thus in the dark, he may love me yet, for ought I know, for I know that he loves with a love that passeth knowledge; and therefore I will not utterly despond. Yea, if Satan should attempt to question whether ever Christ Jesus will look upon me or no: the answer is, if I know the love that passes knowledge: But he may look upon me, (O, Satan) yea, and love, and save me too, for ought I poor sinner know; for he loves with a love that passeth knowledge. If I be fallen into sin that lies hard upon me, and my conscience fears, that for this there is no forgiveness. The help for a stay from utter despair is at hand: but there may, say I, for Christ loves, with a love that passeth knowledge. If Satan would dissuade me from praying to God, by suggesting as if Christ would not regard the stammering, and chattering prayer of mine. The answer is ready, but he may regard for ought I know; for he loves with a love that passeth knowledge. If the tempter doth suggest that thy trials, and troubles, and afflictions, are so many, that it is to be thought thou shall never get beyond them. The answer is near, but for ought we know, Christ may carry me through them all, for he loves with a love that passeth knowledge. Thus I say, is relief at hand, and a help in reserve for the tempted, let their temptations be what they will. This therefore is the weapon that will baffle the devil when all other weapons fail; for ought I know, Christ may save me, for he loves with a love that passeth knowledge. Yea, suppose he should drive me to the worst of fears, and that is to doubt that I neither have nor shall have for ever the grace of God in my soul. The answer is at hand, but I have or may have it, for Christ loves with a love that passeth knowledge. Thus therefore you may see that in this prayer of Paul, there is a great deal of good. He prays, when he prays that we might know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge: that we may have a help at hand, and relief against all the horrible temptations of the devil. For this is a help at hand, a help that is ready to fall in with us, if there be yet remaining with us, but the least grain of right reasoning according to the nature of things. For if it be objected against a man that he is poor, because he has but a groat in his pocket; yet if he has an unknown deal of money in his trunks, how easy is it for him to recover himself from that slander, by returning the knowledge of what he has, upon the objector. This is the case, and thus it is, and will be with them that know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge. Wherefore,