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requires precisely the same pure and disinterested love, that the law requires. Both the law and the gospel require sinners to love a holy, just, sin-hating, and sin.condemning God, and that upon pain of eternal destruction. The gospel is not a mere declaration of pardoning mercy to sinners, without any condition to be performed on their part. The condition of the gospel is that faith in Christ, which immediately flows from love to God the Father, who insists upon sinners returning to him, and submitting to his absolute sovereignty, before they know whether he intends to save or destroy them. And can there be any thing more disagreeable to their carnal hearts, in either the precept or penalty of the law, than such unreserved submission? The same selfish heart which hates the law, equally hates the gospel, when rightly understood. Christ did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil. He did not come to save sinners in their native enmity and opposition to God; but to pardon them upon condition of their renouncing their groundless disaffection, and becoming cordially reconciled to his whole law and his whole character. It is impossible for sinners to approve of the gospel before they approve of the law, or to love the gospel before they love the law. It is a dangerous deception for any to think, that they love and embrace the gospel, while they inwardly hate and complain of the rigor of the law, either in its precept or penalty. None but those who delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man, really love the gospel, and stand entitled to the blessings of it.
5. If God loves those who first love him; then he is willing to receive them into his favour upon the most gracious and condescending terms. This is the plain import of all his free and universal offers of mer
cy in his word. “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him;and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” Can we conceive, that God could offer to pardon and save sinners, upon low- . er or easier terms than these? They are the very same terms, upon which a kind and indulgent parent would offer to forgive and receive a child, who had disobeyed his commands, abused his favours, and left his house and family. So our Saviour more than intimates in the parable of the penitent publican, and in that of the returning prodigal. As soon as the publican cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner," he went away pardoned and accepted; and as soon as the prodigal said in his heart, “I will arise, and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am 'no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants;" his father met him, embraced him, and forgave him all his faults. The father loved the prodigal as soon as the prodigal loved him; so God loves sinners, as soon as they love him. The father returned to the prodigal, as soon as the prodigal returned to him; so God will return to sinners, as soon as they return to him. This is loving, pardoning, and
accepting sinners, upon the most gracious and conde. ? scending terms possible. It is impossible to conceive,
that God should be willing to save sinners, or that they should be willing to be saved, before they first love him, and become cordially reconciled to his ami
able and glorious character. His offers of mercy to sinners, are as low, as easy, and as condescending, as infinite grace can propose. .
6. If God does not love sinners before they love him; then they have no right to desire or pray, that he would become reconciled to them, while they continue to hate and oppose him. Though they always cast off fear and restrain prayer as long as they can; yet when they are awakened to realize their guilty and perishing state, they never fail to call upon God to become reconciled to them while their hearts rise in sensible opposition to him. But what right have they to pray in such an unholy and unreasonable manner? Who hath required this at their hands? Though God has required them to ask for his love and mercy; yet he has never required them to ask amiss. Nay, he has expressly told them, that if they turn away their ear from hearing the law, even their prayer will be an abomination in his sight. And the reason of this is plain. They pray that he would become reconciled to them, while they are unreconciled to him, and that he would love them, while they are perfectly unholy and unlovely. God is of purer eyes than to behold sin. It is morally impossible, that he should love it in any of his creatures. What right, then, can unholy, unlovely, and impenitent sinners have to pray, that God would love them with complacency, while they are devoid of every amiably quality, and in the exercise of perfect malevolence? They have no more right to do this, than they have to pray, that God would change his nature, and become as unholy and sinful as themselves.
7. If God loves sinners as soon as they love him; then if they properly seek him, they shall certainly find him. This God expressly promises to all sincere seekers. “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” If sinners will only follow these directions in seeking God, they not only may be, but must be saved. The benevolence of God disposes him, and the promise of God obliges him, to love those that love him, and to make them forever happy. This is the only proper way of seeking God, and the only certain way of finding him. And it is impossible to point out any other way of seeking God, which is either proper or safe. There is no propriety nor safety in directing sinners to seek God in an unholy and impenitent manner; for if they follow this direction, they will certainly be lost.
But if they will renounce their own righteousness, become reconciled to God, and penitently ask for mercy, he will hear their prayers, and grant them all the blessings which he has promised to them that love him,
Finally, if God loves those who love him, then it is not so difficult as some imagine, for them to detemine whether they are personally the objects of the divine favour and stand entitled to eternal life. They have no occasion of prying into the secret counsels of God, in order to determine this most serious and important point. They have only to look into their own hearts, and see whether they themselves love God. If they are conscious of loving him sincerely and supremely, they have the witness within themselves, that he loves them, and will be their friend and portion forever, because he has expressly said, “I love them that love me.” Though we cannot know that our fellow men love us, merely by knowing that we love them; yet we can know that God loves us, merely by being conscious that we love him. If we love God as a Father, we may know that he loves us as Children. Hence says the apostle to christians, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The spirit itself (that is, the spirit of adoption) beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Let every one, therefore, who entertains any doubt, whether God be his friend, examine his own heart, and see whether he is the friend of God. If he finds in his heart a sincere and supreme affection to God, he may be assured, that God loves him as a child, will treat him as a child; and make him an heir of eternal life,