Sunday, March 21, 2010

On the Love of Christ

Benjamin Bennet (1674-1726), The Christian Oratory, or, The Devotion of the Closet Displayed, pp. 272-276:

A Meditation on the Love of Christ

Rev. i.5. Unto him that loved us.

The mystery of redemption is a mystery of love; so the scripture represents it, every where celebrating the love of the Father and the Son, in the great and glorious work: God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, John iii.16. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, 1 John iv.9, 10. Walk in love, as Christ hath loved us, and hath given himself for us -- Eph. v.2. Christ loved the church, and gave himself, &c. Eph. v.22. Christ hath loved the church. And so eminent and signal his love, that it is made his character and description: Through him that hath loved us, Rom. viii.37. To him that loved us, Rev. i.5. To him; it is not said who he is; he is not distinguished by any proper name; and yet what is said of him is a sufficient designation of the person intended, was there nothing more: Him that loved us. He hath loved, and so loved, as never any did; love is his name, and love his memorial in the church forever.

O my soul! contemplate this glorious subject, the love of thy Redeemer. Lord, help me by thy grace; enlighten, enliven, scatter the clouds that too often, and even now, alas! overspread my mind. Give me a more distinct apprehension, a clearer view of thy love, thy wondrous love; touch a dead and dull heart; tune my earthly affections; raise them to a more suitable pitch, that I may feel the power and influence of the subject I have before me. Awake, O my soul! awake psaltery and harp, awake every faculty, all that is within me be stirred up: While I am musing may the fire burn.

As the whole doctrine concerning Christ, his person, offices, mediation, and so his love in all, is owing to revelation; we must from thence derive our notions, and thereby regulate our conceptions and discourses about them. Let me therefore view the present subject in the glass of the scripture; of the gospel particularly, which alone can shew it in a true and proper light.

And here are two things I shall propose to myself, briefly to consider; what this love is, what sort of a love; and wherein it appears, and is expressed.

I. What this love is. And (1st.) I find compassion and bounty included in the scripture notion of it: Love, in us, has generally a great deal of selfishness in it; we are sensible of a penury and want in our own beings, and therefore seek some augmentation, or addition by union with the object we love: Either there is something agreeable and beneficial in the object, that recommends it to our esteem, and engages our affections; or we are laid under obligations by the love, friendship, &c. of those we love, and therefore love, because we are first loved. But the love of Christ is not this way excited; we had neither done any thing to oblige him, nor have we any thing that could engage him, any farther than the misery, he saw us involved in, might move him: Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, 1 John iv.10. Which is equally true of the Father and of the Son.

2dly. It is a free, generous, heroic love, like that of some great and public benefactor, who, touched with the miseries and distresses of mankind, undertakes their relief. When we were without strength, ungodly, sinners, enemies, Christ died for us, Rom. v.6, 8, 10. The fall had impoverished us, brought us under a curse, and the sentence of death; the love of Christ ransomed us: If one died for all, then were all dead, 2 Cor. v.14.

3dly. And how great, as well as free this love! No instance of human love can equal it; The highest that ever rose, was for one friend to die for another (as in the case of Damon and Pythias): Greater love hath no man, than that a man lay down his life for his friends, John xv.13. But greater love hath God-Man, who laid down his life for enemies.

4thly. It is a love beyond all thought and conception of ours; as the apostle intimates, Eph. iii.18, 19. That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ; he adds, which passeth knowledge. It is above our understanding; we cannot find it out to perfection; we know not the full dignity of his person, the greatness of his condescension; and therefore cannot pretend to measure his love in its utmost latitude; on which account, it may be, the apostle ascribes a fourfold dimension to it.

But why doth he desire the Ephesians might comprehend it, and that with all saints, if it really passeth knowledge, and cannot be so comprehended? I answer, all the saints study it, search into it, and endeavour to comprehend more and more of it: Something they know, more they desire to know; they stoop down with the angels, and look into these things; they are comprehending; and though they have not already attained, they are pressing forward towards the mark. Now the apostle prays for the Ephesians, that the same mind may be in them, that they may, with all saints, study this love. And, O my soul! join thou in the subject; nothing more worthy of thy inquiries; Lord, shed abroad thy love in my heart; let Christ dwell there by faith, that I being rooted and grounded in love, may better understand and take in more of the love of my Redeemer.

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