Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
If all those who love Christ are to receive a crown of life at His hands, what more natural improvement follows from it, than to exhort and persuade all towards love to Christ?
But we shall offer some other motives to persuade all to this duty:
FIRST. The first and greatest motive, is the loveliness of Christ. As all the loveliness that is to be seen in Heaven and earth is only the reflection of the rays of His lovely glory, so there is scarcely anything that is glorious, sweet, beautiful, and lovely, but what is used to set forth the beauty of Christ.
What is more glorious to look upon than the sun, that bright orb that enlightens Heaven and earth with its rays? Christ is called the Sun of Righteousness, and He is a sun to whom our sun in the heavens is as darkness.
He is also called the bright and the morning star.
For His innocence, His sweet condescension, love, and mercy, He is called a Lamb—although He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
He is called the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley. Sharon, being a delightful and pleasant land, bore the sweetest roses; and the lily of the valley, excelling all other lilies for beauty, sweetness, and excellent beneficial virtue.
He is represented thus to flowers because they are pleasant to behold, beautiful to the eye, and pleasing to the smell. He is compared to a rose and lily because they are the chief of flowers for beauty and sweetness. He is compared to the rose of Sharon and lily of the valley, because they are the chief and most excellent of all roses and lilies.
What kind of rose and lily is the Son of God, the blessed Jesus? How wonderful and astonishing that God the Son should compare Himself to a rose and lily! What kind of rose and lily is here—how sweet, how beautiful, how fragrant! Here is too great a beauty, too divine a loveliness and heavenly fragrance to belong to any creature.
Certainly, Jesus, this lovely rose and lily has divine perfections. Here is all the loveliness in the universe contained in this rose. Yes, here are the beauties and glories of Jehovah Himself in this lily—this flower is certainly no creature, but the Creator.
Here, O believers, O lovers of Christ—He is a rose for you to be ravished with the fragrance of it, for your eyes to be delighted with the infinite beauty of, for you to be delighted to all eternity in the enjoyment of. This rose and lily is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person, which is so amiable and fragrant that it is the eternal and infinite delight of the Father Himself. This infinitely beautiful rose, this spotless and fragrant lily—was once despised with the loathsome spittle of wicked men, was torn and rent by their rage, and it was for you, O believers, the vials of God’s wrath against your sins were poured out upon it.
Here is a sweet bundle of myrrh for you to lie in your bosom forever. He is as the apple tree among the trees of the forest—you may sit down under His shadow with great delight and His fruit will be sweet to your taste.
SECOND. Consider for motive, the excellent effects of love to Christ. It makes the soul to be of an excellent disposition—it is of a transforming nature. It brings on the soul some of the loveliness of the person beloved, exceedingly to soften and sweeten the mind and to make it meek, humble and charitable, and full of brotherly love.
Love to Christ, if it be ardent and lively—transforms the soul very much into love, destroys envy and malice of every kind, and softens and sweetens every action. It makes the soul in love with religion and holiness—and sweetens obedience and mortification.
Earthly and temporal love makes men glad of an opportunity to labor and spend themselves for the person beloved; they love to deny themselves for them; it takes away the force of pain, and turns it into pleasure.
So much more does heavenly love, or love to Christ, make all that they do for Christ pleasant and easy. Although they spend and are spent for Him, it extracts honey from repentance and mortification. Of such an excellent nature and tendency, is love to Christ—it makes as great a difference in the soul, as there is upon the face of the earth in the dead of winter when there is nothing but clouds, cold storms, rain, hail, and snow, and in the spring or summer when all things look green and pleasant. Before, the soul hated everything that is truly excellent—and loved all that is abominable; but now the soul is transformed, is lovely itself, and it is in love with everything else that is truly so.
And it not only makes duty easy and repentance and mortification pleasant—but it sweetens troubles and crosses themselves because the Christian knows that they are ordered to him by the person whom He dearly loves and Who dearly loves him! How easily can we bear things that come from those we love! These are the excellent effects, and this is the usefulness of love to Christ.
THIRD. Consider the pleasantness of a life of love to Christ. A life of love, if it is from rational principles, is the most pleasant life in the world. Hatred, malice, and revenge are the greatest disturbers of the pleasures of the mind—and fill it with uneasiness. But in the soul where rational love reigns, there is always pleasure and delight, for love is the principle of all happiness. But especially must a life of love to Christ be very pleasant, above all other kinds of living. Because as Christ is of all things most excellent—so is the love of Him a more excellent kind of love than any other. The more excellent and refined the love is, the greater and purer is the pleasure of it.
There is no love so reasonable, as love to Christ. Some love those things that are not truly lovely—they love from false grounds. Yes, some love those things that are above all things hateful. Now, from such a love as this can arise no true pleasure, inasmuch as it is without a reason or foundation, and at last will end in bitterness.
But the love of Christ is the love of that which is truly above all things excellent and lovely, and therefore the pleasures that result from it must be solid, real, substantial and never-fading. If any godly man’s life is unpleasant to him—then it must be only because his love to Christ is but small and not vigorous and active enough, because it lies dormant and is not frequently put into exercise. For it is utterly impossible but that those who live in the lively exercise of love to Him—should have those sweet meditations, as to make his life far from unpleasant.
Those who have a vehement love to any person, can with pleasure spend their time in thinking of that person and of his perfections and actions. So, with what great delight may those who love Christ with an active love spend their thoughts upon His glories. With what pleasure may they meditate upon those infinite perfections which He is possessed of, and which make Him lovely in their eyes! How must it please them to find out continually new beauties and glories that they saw not before; for the excellencies of Christ are infinite, and we may make new discoveries to all eternity—and yet not have discovered all.
How does it fill the soul with a kind of rapture when it has discovered something more of excellence in Him Who is the object of his highest love! If men have a dear love to any of their fellow creatures, they desire to see them yet more excellent; they delight to see them attain to new perfections. But now those who are the dear lovers of Christ have the pleasure of thinking that He has all possible excellence already. There is no room for desiring that He should be yet more excellent, because there is no excellence or beauty, nor any degree of excellence that they can possibly think of, but what He possesses already. They have no new beauties to desire for Christ—but only new beauties to discover in Him!
Now, what a pleasure must it raise in those who love Christ to think that He is so perfectly amiable. This is a peculiar delight that is raised from no other love, but love to Christ. With what pleasure may he think of the perfections of His divine nature, of His immense greatness, of His eternity, power, and wisdom, etc. With what delight may he think that Him Whom he loves with his whole heart and soul, is God as well as man—is so great that all the nations of the world are to Him as the drop of the bucket and small dust of the balance; so powerful that He weighs the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance and takes up the islands as a very little thing; so wise that He charges His angels with folly; so holy that the heavens are unclean in His sight.
With what pleasure may he think that the object of his highest love has made the world by His power and wisdom; that the sun, moon, and stars are the work of His fingers; and that He rules all. How sweet will the thoughts of the perfections of His human nature raise, when he thinks of Christ’s innocence, condescension, humility, meekness, patience, and love. With what joy may the lovers of Christ think and meditate on all that He has done for them. When men dearly love any person, with what joy do they catch at kindnesses and expressions of love from them! With what pleasure will they think it over again!
In the same way, with what inexpressible joy may those who love Christ think of His bowing the heavens and coming to earth in the form of a servant, of His lying in a manger, of His suffering the reproach of men, of His agony and bloody sweat—of His dying on the cross for their sakes. How pleasing must it be to read over the history of all those wonderful things that their well-beloved has done for them while on earth, as it is recorded in the Scriptures, and to think that Christ has done all this for them! To know that He was born for their sake and lived for their sake, sweat blood for their sake, and died for their sake! This must needs beget an uncommon delight.
With what pleasure may the Christian’s soul think on Christ in His exalted state. We love to see those whom we truly love highly honored and exalted; so those who ardently love Christ may sweetly spend their time in meditating on Christ triumphing over His enemies, of His glorious ascension into Heaven, of His being made head over all things to the church, of His being crowned with a crown of great glory, of His coming to judge the world at the conflagration.
The love of Christ is far more pleasant than any other love upon these following accounts:
1. Christ is far more amiable than any other object in the world.
2. No other love is of so pure, heavenly, and divine a nature as the love of Christ is; and, therefore, no other love can raise such a divine and heavenly and exalted pleasure.
3. All who love Christ are certain that they are loved by Him. Herein is the pleasure of love—to be loved in return. If love is not mutual, it is a torment and not a pleasure; but he who knows he loves Christ—knows that Christ loves him with a far higher and dearer love.
4. Nothing can deprive those who love Christ either of present communion with, or future enjoyment of, the person loved. Now, it is not so in other kinds of love, but they are full of perplexities for fear of being deprived of enjoyment. There are a thousand accidents that may spoil all—and death certainly will separate them. But Christ will be enjoyed to all eternity, and all the world cannot hinder it! Christ will receive them into His closest embrace, and in His arms shall they rest forevermore in spite of all the world.
5. The union between Christ and those who love Him is closer, and the communion more intimate—than between any other lovers. The believers have the pleasure to think that He Whom they love has also loved them so well as to receive them so near to Himself as to make them His bone and His flesh. The believer is joined to Christ and has become one with Him. How pleasant must this be, to those who love Him in truth! Love naturally desires a close and inseparable union and intimate communion, but there is no such near or intimate conversation between any other lovers, as between Christ and the Christian.
6. There is no other love so advantageous as love to Christ—and therefore none so pleasant. Love is sweet when the ones loving each other enjoy one another in prosperous circumstances. Now, Christ is already crowned with glory, and He will crown those who love Him with glory too, so that they shall eternally be in the greatest glory with each other.
So that upon these reasons and many others that might be mentioned, the love of Christ is far the most delightful love in the world. And in short, to sum up the whole—the love of Christ tends to fill the soul with an inexpressible sweetness. It sweetens every thought and makes every meditation pleasant. It brings a divine calm upon the mind and spreads a heavenly fragrance like Mary’s box of ointment. It bedews the soul with the dew of Heaven, begets a bright sunshine, and diffuses the beginnings of glory and happiness in embryo. Such a mind is like a little Heaven upon earth!