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loves the fallen angels and the spirits in prison, and no otherwise. But sinners are extremely apt to believe, that since God loves them with the love of benevolence, and treats them kindly, he must also love them with the love of complacence. In this case, therefore, the most important point to be illustrated and inculcated is, that God hates sinners with perfect hatred, notwithstanding all his benevolence towards them. But here many, and I had almost said, the greater part of ministers insinuate, to sinners, that God loves them, while they have not the least spark of love to him. And some really advance this doctrine in plain terms, and assert that they cannot love God first. This is contrary to the whole tenor of scripture, and calculated to lead sinners into a fatal delusion; and there is reason to fear, that many have been finally ruined by it. It is, therefore, the great business of ministers, to teach sinners how vile and hateful they appear in the eyes of a holy and sin-hating God. Our benevolent Saviour, who came to suffer and die for sinners, never gave the least intimation, that God loved them with the love of complacence; but, on the other hand, addressed them as objects worthy of universal detestation and abhorrence. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John the baptist preached to sinners in the same manner. "When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" This mode of preaching is directly suited to convince sinners of their guilty and deplorable condition, and to prepare them cordially to embrace the
gospel. There is nothing so alarming to stupid sinners as to be told, that the great God is their enemy, that his wrath abides upon them, and will abide upon them, until they first love him. Accordingly the first and best preachers of the gospel, made it their main object to impress this awful truth upon the minds of sinners. The apostle Paul says, in the name of the rest, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." It is not the love, but wrath of God, that is best adapted to persuade sinners to flee from the wrath to
2. If God does not love sinners before they love him; then their first exercise of love to him must be before they know that he loves them. Many seem to think, that sinners must have some evidence, that God loves them, before they can put forth any exercises of love to him. But how is it possible, that they should get any evidence that he loves them, before they love him? He does not love them, until they have first loved him. Their love to him must go before, and be the evidence of his love to them; for the only evidence they can have, that he loves them, is a consciousness of their first loving him. His being worthy of their love does not depend upon his loving them; but their being worthy of his love depends upon their loving him. They may love him first, because he is really worthy to be loved, on account of his intrinsic excellence and glory; but he cannot love them first, because they are totally destitute of every holy and amiable quality. Whenever they begin to love God, they must necessarily know, that he does not and cannot love them as they then are. It is certain, even to a demonstration, that when renewed sinners first turn their eyes to God, their hearts rise in supreme affection to him, before they do or can know that he loves them. His
supreme excellence is the primary and sole ground of their supreme love to him, and not ary supposed interest in his favour. For they are not in reality the objects of his complacency, and have no special interest in his pardoning mercy, until they have actually given him the supreme affection of their hearts.
3. If God does not love sinners before they love him; then they must love him, while they know that he hates them, and is disposed to punish them forever. He is a sin-hating, sin-condemning, and sin-punishing God, and all sinners, under genuine convictions, always view him in this light; yea, they realize that his wrath abides upon them, and that nothing but his abused patience prevents the immediate execution of his justice. It is in this situation, and while they view, God as looking upon them as perfectly odious and hell-deserving creatures, that they first love him for his own intrinsic excellence, while they are totally ignorant whether he will save or destroy them. This is always the case, when convinced sinners are converted. Their conversion consists in a reconciliation to a holy, sovereign, sin-revenging God. They love him for hating just such creatures as they are, and being disposed to give them a just recompense of reward for all their groundless enmity and opposition to him and his cause. The penitent malefactor, who was crucified with Christ, first loved God, and became reconciled to his vindictive justice towards himself, while he expected nothing but to sink down to hell, in a very few moments. "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this
man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." This instance of a sound conversion demonstrates, that every sinner, in order to be saved, must love a holy, sin-hating, and sin-revenging God, while he has no evidence of any interest in his special favour; but even while he looks up to him as ready to cast him off forThe awakened and convinced sinner hates God for his holiness, his justice, and his sovereignty; but before he can become an object of the divine complacency, he must love God for these very same perfections, which for aught he knows, may be displayed in his everlasting destruction. And in the exercise of this true love to God, he must go to him for pardoning mercy, as the servants of Ben-hadad advised him to go to Ahab in his distress. "And his servants said unto him. Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life." When the sinner first leaves God for what he is in himself, and asks for mercy, he cannot possibly know whether God will grant or deny his request; but without knowing this, he is willing that God should do his pleasure, and glorify himself by him, either as a vessel of mercy, or a vessel of wrath. 4. If sinners must love God before he loves them, then they are naturally as unwilling to embrace the Many, who hate the law, which requires true love to God and man, pretend to like the gospel, which they imagine speaks a milder language. But this can be owing to nothing but a misapprehension of the true spirit of the gospel, which
gospel, as to obey the law.
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