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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 ye 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 for ever 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 determine whether they are personally the objects of the divine favor 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 for ever; 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, 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.
SERMON X X XVI.
CHRIST WILL REJECT MERCENARY FOLLOWERS.
Jeeds answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not be
cause ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the
loaves, and were Elled.- JOEx, vi. 26.
These words refer to Christ's feeding the five thousand, with only five barley loaves and two small fishes. This miracle convinced the multitude that he was the Messiah whom they had long expected to come, and deliver them from their national calamities. Under this impression, they formed a secret design to take him by force and make him king. But he perceived their thoughts, and defeated their purpose by departing into a mountain alone. When the evening came on, the disciples also left the multitude, and attempted to cross the sea of Tiberias, which, by means of a mighty wind, threatened to overwhelm them. But in the midst of their distress, they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and approaching the ship, which greatly surprised them at first; but as soon as he made himself known, they invited him on board, and were instantaneously conveyed to land. The next day, the multitude, whom he had miraculously fed, crossed the same sea in order to find him, and when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they were surprised, and said, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?" Christ took no notice of this appearance of respect, but pointedly reproved them for their mercenary motives in following him. “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." These persons had no love to the character of Christ, but only to his benefits. He said they loved him for the loaves; by which he meant, not merely the bread they had eaten, but all the favors which they had received, and which they expected to receive, from his beneficent hand. He saw the selfishness of all their friendly affections, and, for that reason alone, refused to acknowledge them as his sincere followers. The plain language of this instance of his conduct is,
That he will reject sinners, while they love him merely for his favors.
Here two things are to be illustrated.
II. That he will reject them, while they love him from no higher motives.
1. Let us consider that sinners may love Christ merely for his favors. Though they are entirely destitute of grace,
and see no beauty nor comeliness in the character of the Redeemner, yet they may love him for seeking and promoting their own personal good.
1. This appears from their conduct towards the Saviour in the days of his humanity. They manifested a great regard to him, while he went about doing good and dispensing his favors with peculiar liberality and compassion. They loved him for his miracles, for his public discourses, and for all the blessings which they expected he would bestow upon the nation in general. No man, perhaps, was ever more admired and beloved by the Jews, for a time, than Jesus of Nazareth. It is said in the history of his life, “ The common people heard him gladly.” It is said, “ All the people came early in the morning to him in the temple for to hear him.” It is said, "He taught daily in the temple," and, “all the people were very attentive to hear him.” It is said, “ Then drew near all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.” It is said, “ There followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." These were really great multitudes, for they consisted sometimes of three, or four, or five thousand people. The followers of Christ were so numerous, that it was extremely difficult to approach him. At one time Zaccheus, and at another time his mother and brethren, could not make their way to him by reason of the press. And all these multitudes followed him with peculiar ardor and zeal. “It came to pass that as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennessaret." This fond attachment to Christ continued and increased until his last entrance into Jerusalem, just before his crucifixion. Then their affections for their long expected and long desired Messiah, kindled into a flame of enthusiasm, and brake forth into songs of joy and exultation. “A great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way; and the multitudes that went before and that followed after, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, 'This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” Such were the views and feelings of sinners in Zion, in regard to the divine Redeemer. They loved, admired and praised him for his favors. They felt and acted just as all other sinners would in a similar situation. For,
2. It is altogether agreeable to their selfish hearts, to love their benefactors. Our Lord laid it down as a universal truth, that “ sinners love those who love them.” It is their nature, to be lovers of their own selves, and to seek their own things. Hence, they as spontaneously love Christ for his benefits, as they love their own interest. They wish to be happy as long as they exist. And so far as they view Christ as disposed to promote either their temporal or eternal happiness, their selfish feelings are pleased and gratified. While he actually lived among them, some loved him for giving them food, some for giving them health, hearing and sight, and some for giving them hopes of happiness in a future state. In these days, sinners as naturally love him for his death, for his gospel, for his gracious invitations, and for every thing he has said, and done, and suffered, which they imagine bears a favorable aspect upon their spiritual and eternal interests. They are indeed no less disposed to love Christ for his favors, than to love themselves supremely. But
II. Christ will reject them, so long as they love him from no higher motives. It was his uniform practice to frown upon those who professed to love him, or proposed to follow him, from selfish views. We find several other instances, besides that in the text, of his rejecting such as he knew were attached to him from mercenary motives. When one came and said, “ Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,” he gave him this forbidding reply: “ The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Another accosted him with equal zeal and presumption : "I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.” This Christ considered as an expression of a selfish heart; for which he excluded him from his service. He said unto him, “No man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” And when the amiable young ruler
came to him and discovered his totally selfish heart, he sent him away sorrowful. His conduct in all these instances was exactly correspondent to his plain and repeated declarations upon this subject. He declared, " Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." “ For if them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same ?" “ He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” “ Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath,
, he cannot be my disciple.” Yea he solemnly declared, that he would as final Judge at the last day, condemn even those who had done ever so many acts of kindness to their fellow men, without a supreme and ultimate regard to himself. Both his preaching and conduct put it beyond a doubt, that he will finally reject all, who never love nor serve him from any higher motives than his favors.
But here some may be ready to ask, Why will the gracious and compassionate Saviour exclude from his favor and kingdom all such as love him from no other than selfish considerations ? The reasons are plain, and sufficient to carry conviction to every conscience.
1. It is because those who love him merely for his favors, are mortal enemies to his person. "He knew Judas was his enemy, and would betray him, notwithstanding all his apparent expressions of love. And he saw the same disposition in others, who loved and followed him for his favors. The evangelist tells us,
66 When Christ was at Jerusalem at the Passover in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man." It is related in the context, that Christ delivered a discourse which offended his mercenary disciples, and it is said, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” In the eighth chapter of this evangelist we read, “As he spake these words, many believed on him." But after he had more fully explained himself
, we are told, “ Then took they up stones to cast at him; but Jesus hid himself.” When he was preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, the people “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” But as soon as they perceived that he had no par. tial affection for them in particular, they were filled with VOL. VI.