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Preached May 31, 1676.
1 JOHN IV. 20. He that loveth not bis Brother, whom he hath feen; how can be love God, whom he hath not seen?
N my former discourse I told you, that my design from this Scripture was not to handle
singly and apart either the love of God, or of our brother : but to speak of them comparatively, with respect to the greater or less facility attending the exercise of the one or the other, according to their different objects; the object of the one being visible, and of the other, invisible,
The first observation raised from the words, after settling the acceptation of love, was this : That it is more difficult to live in the exercise of love to God, than towards men ; because he is not the object of sight as we are one to another. In which doctrine, as we observed, there are two things to be considered.
I. That it is more difficult to love God, than our brother. This has been proved from
experience, and the common observation of the Serm. world, in several particulars. The
II. II BRANCH contained in this proposition, which we are now to speak to is this; that one great reason of this difficulty is, that men cannot see God, whereas they do fee one another. In the prosecuting of this part of
my subject it will be more necessary to insist on the explication, than on the proof of it; and still more upon the application than on either of the former. Something I shall endeavour to say to all, as the time Thall allow,
For the explication of this matter, namely, how we are to understand, that the not seeing God as we do men, is a cause of its being more difficult to love him than it is to love them, take these few propositions. As,
1. That it is not an impoffible thing in itself to love the unseen God; for if the not seeing him, did make it impossible to love him, he could never be loved by any one ; because he is seen by none with the bodily eye, as we see one another. But it is plainly implied in our text, that there are some that love Gon, notwithstanding his invisibility. And the Apostle therefore endeavours only to evince the absurdity and guilt of not loving our brother, because from thence a man may be convicted of being no lover of God, which he accounts as a most intolerable thing. The not seeing him therefore doth not make it impossible to love God, but only renders-it less
VOL. easy. That is, it is not simply impoffible, and 1, therefore he who can do all possible things, can
make the nature of man to love him; he, I fay, can form the nature of man to the love of himself.
2. The not seeing of God cannot be understood to be a necessary cause of this fad thing. It is not such a cause as doth necessitate this evil, and horrid effect. For that would be to reflect upon God, as if he had made a reasonable and intelligent creature, that was by the necessity of his nature prevented from loving him. This would be to suppose, that the seeing of God with the bodily eye, were necessary to the loving of him ; which would make it altogether imporsible that he should be loved by any of us at all, since he is visible to none. Nay we might say further, he were never to be loved by any being, no not by himself, on the fame grounds. The cause therefore of this difficulty is such as doth not necessitate the thing caused : for that indeed would imply that the nature of man is fuch as would never admit of his loving God, and so there would be a contradiction in men's very nature ; to wit, that they should be capable of being blessed in him only, whom at the fame time they are not capable of loving. For experience sheweth, that there is nothing else in which we can be blessed; nothing below; or besides God. Therefore this would infer, that man must be a creature made on purpose for misery ; for it is evident he can be happy in no creature ; neither
in God could he be happy, if it were simply im- Serm. poffible he should ever love him, which is to cast II. the whole matter upon God himself. For if this were the case, then a man might say, “GOD “ hath given me such a nature as renders it im
poffible for me ever to exercise love towards
him." But far be it from us that we should entertain such a thought of God! that he should make man, a creature indued with an intellectual mind, and yet not capable of loving him, who is the author and original of his life and being! This it were even horrid to think of. And again,
3. Nor hath this always been the cause of such an effect; for there are some that are actually brought to love God, though they never faw him in the sense we speak of, to wit, with the bodily eye. It was not so with man from the beginning, that because he could not see God, therefore he loved him not, or was for that reafon the less inclined to love him. He was formed, at first, for the love of his Maker, so as to take the highest complacency in hiin, and to make him his supreme delight. Man, I say, was made thus upright; but he hath since been trying inventions, to see if he could be happy any other way, or upon other terms. And therefore since this is not the necessary, nor the constant cause of such an effect as this, we must add,
4. That it cannot be a cause of it self alone, but must needs be a cause in conjunction with some other caufe ; by the intervention of fome
VOL. other thing, by the concurrence of which this fad I.
effect is brought about. For if it be true, that there have been men who have loved GOD, though they never saw him with the bodily eye, there must be some other cause of the want of love to God in those persons who love him not, besides his invisibility. Because otherwise, since Gon was always invisible, and never seen with the bodily eye, it would necessarily follow that he could never have been loved at all. And hence again we may observe,
5. That the other cause therefore, which is i considerable in this case, must needs be the des
generacy of man's nature. It is not to be imagined, that man in a state of integrity should be incapable of loving God further than he could see him : or that the sight of his eye should be the conductor of his affections, and of the motions of his soul, which is a reasonable intelligent spirit. But the nature of man is not now, what it was. Certainly the case was better with him formerly, than it is now in this lapsed state, in which we must confess him to be; since there is so great an alteration in his very nature. This even the Heathens themselves have seen, confefsed, and lamented. I remember Plato brings in Socrates, somewhere speaking to this sense, upon a supposition of the pre-existence of his soul : “ There was a time, says he, when I could have
feen, and did see the FIRST BEAUTY, the
highest and most perfect comeliness, and loveli“ ness; but now being subject to the body, all