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for you, they weep for you, they tremble as you are entering more upon life, lest you should consent to the enticements of sinners ; lest you should be drawn into the way of the impure, which leads down to the chambers of death ; lest, after the days of mourning for your parents are passed, you should throw off all restraint, and commit all iniquity with greediness. But if this should not be the case, still they cannot be satisfied unless you become decidedly religious, unless you devote yourselves to God, and follow the Lord fully. Oh, do not let parents, and ministers, and friends, thus long for you in vain ! And you professors, I long for the strongest evidence that none of you will be missing in the day when the Lord maketh up his jewels. O let there not be one apostate, one hypocrite, one selfdeceiver, one barren or unfruitful among you. Plead that promise, “ To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly.” Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. Now we live, if ye stand fast; for ye are our glory and joy.
PRAYER FOR THE INCREASE OF LOVE AMONG
Phil. i, 9. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge, and in all judgment.
Every part of God's word is, by the true believer, accounted precious, and found to be useful. As he values the doctrines, histories, promises, and precepts of scripture ; so he finds the petitionary parts of the Bible peculiarly beneficial, as instructing and encouraging him in prayer. They teach him what he wants, what he should desire, what other good men have needed, and for what the Holy Spirit taught them to pray ; and greatly encourage him to hope and ask for the same.
Paul, who, in the preceding verses, especially the 8th, had expressed the strongest regard for the believing
Philippians, here specifies what were his principal requests on their behalf; and doubtless he was directed to insert this summary of his prayer, with a view to the general benefit of the church in all ages. Three observations naturally arise :
First: The best thing for which we can pray, on behalf of ourselves or our dearest friends, is love to God and man.
None can doubt but that the Apostle here refers to holy love, or true Christian benevolence, including both love to God and love to our fellow-creatures. This is the great thing originally required in the holy law, by violating which we have apostatized from our God. And the great design of the gospel is, not to vindicate us in our rebellion, nor to obtain for us impunity in sin; but to bring us back again to God, to a state of willing subjection, and real conformity to him, without which it is utterly impossible we should enjoy him. Were it even possible for a man to be assured of God's love to him, without being brought to love God, it could not afford any pleasure comparable to that which is felt by a true friend of God. Such a one might be glad to be assured of safety ; but would still be looking to some object below him for happiness, instead of making God his exceeding joy. All true believers are taught to love God and one another; yea, to love all mankind, even their enemies. Men do not possess this disposition by nature. God himself is the author of holy love. We are encouraged, in the scriptures, to request that he would work in us those holy dispositions which he approves, and which he requires of us. Surely more is intended in this and similar passages, than barely a request that God would cause the reasons of love to be exhibited to our view by his word and providence. That is done already; and, as to many, without any saving effect. Neither will his bounty allure thousands to God, who have the largest share of present comforts. Nor will their necessities urge others to forsake the world, who feel the sorest disappointments there. But scripture phrases evidently imply an immediate exertion of divine energy on the heart. Deut. xxx. 6. 2 Thess. iii. 5. Sacred love, as it is infinitely due and reasonable, so it tends immediately to the promotion of
present happiness, and is evidently a necessary preparation for future felicity.
SecondLY : Those who have already the largest measure of Christian love, are still very deficient, and need to abound in it more and more.
There is a very great difference, even among true Christians, as to the degree of their love to divine things. God forbid we should ever suppose it to be otherwise. Instead of the miserable comfort that others are as bad as I am, I would wish to encourage the idea that thousands of Christians know more of God; and enjoy, love, and glorify him more than I do. Doubtless, there may be a difference among ourselves; but he who has the most love, will not be apt to think that he has a larger measure than others, but will be most ready to hope that others are better than himself. At best, our love to God certainly falls short of our obligations, and short of the full extent of our faculties; which is the only limit which should be set to it. Were it not for sin, fatally criminal defect, we should love God much more than we do. But for this, should we not feel a more ardent thirst after the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus? More value for the blessed Mediator, through whom we are restored to the enjoyment of the divine favor ? More admiration of the glorious plan of redemption ? Should we not feel more joy in God; be more happy in the idea of his greatness and universal government; as well as more grateful for the personal benefits we receive? Should we not exemplify more love to his ordinances, and delight in his service ? More activity and unwearied zeal in the discharge of every duty, with singleness of eye to his glory? Should we not be more unreservedly resigned to his disposal ? More bent upon promoting the cause of God upon earth ? Feel more grief at whatever tends to dishonor his name? More zeal to glorify him ourselves, and to excite others to glorify him ? Would there not be more longing for heaven, and joy in the prospect of it?
As to our love to the brethren-Is there not room to abound more in this also ? If we did, it would co-operate with love to God, in exciting us to seek the welfare of the
church at large, and in our own connexion especially. It would grieve us to see the falls of professors ; to see them live below their privileges, going on mourning and dejected ; and more so, to see them cold and trifling. It would lead us to sympathise with them, and succour them, and to take pleasure in associating, conversing, praying together, and doing one another good.
Love to men in general, did it suitably abound, would lead professors evidently to act agreeably to the Golden Rule in their civil concerns. And would excite an anxious regard to their immortal interests; for the souls of our relatives, and those committed to our care; for our country; and for heathen nations. Yea, what readiness would it produce in us to pray for our very persecutors, and render good for evil. As Christianity becomes more general, and better understood, and love abounds in all knowledge and judgment, men will see the evil of war, and slavery, and reprobate those wicked practices.
One thing especially we may depend upon, viz. That the more we have of this love, the more we shall want. The Apostle did not wish them to stop at any degree.
THIRDLY: It is of great importance that our love should be connected with knowledge and judgment.
There is a mere speculative knowledge, which only puffeth up; while love edifieth. But there can be no genuine love without some spiritual knowledge, and the more that is increased, the more will divine love be promoted. While some lay an undue stress upon mere notions without love, others have run into an opposite extreme, and said, " It is no matter what a man's principles are, if his life be good.” As if external regularity, without love to God, could be justly called a good life; or, as if a man could love God, without having just ideas of him! So, some, who profess to be more evangelical, have said, " It is no matter what a man's principles are, if he loves our Saviour." As if it was no matter what ideas we form of the Saviour, if we do but love him ! Paul thought otherwise, and therefore prayed that their love might abound in all knowledge. If the heart be made honest, all divine truth will promote love; for every thing in God is
amiable. Therefore, we shall love him the better, the more we know of his perfections, works, word, law, and gospel. The best and brightest display of the divine excellencies is made in the cross of Christ, and the most attractive and encouraging ; yet a just view of the gospel, will never make us despise the law. For both had one author; both tend to the same end ; nor can we understand the gospel, without some previous knowledge of the law. Some are ready to say, They do not like to hear or think of the law; they want only to hear the gospel. This is as if a debtor should refuse to talk of his debts, or to examine into them : he would only think of his surety. But how could he know what his surety had done for him, if her efused to examine into the state of his affairs, and know how great his debts were, and how just were his creditors' demands?
Besides, we want knowledge and judgment to direct us how to express our love and gratitude, or we may injure the cause we wish to promote. So, here, again, comes in the use of the preceptive part of God's word. These two things we should pray for, as necessary to our actual abounding in love: 1. An extensive knowledge of the grounds of love. How worthy God is of our supreme affection, and how justly he demands it. And also, how justly he requires us to love our fellow-christians, and fellow-creatures, for his sake.
2. A sound judgment. That we may know how to manifest our love, and exercise it to the best advantage. As to private affections, it is desirable to have love connected with knowledge and judgment, lest we should love particular objects too much, and so idolize and injure them. But God cannot be loved too much. All the fear is lest we should love him too little. He cannot be injured; but we may, for want of judgment.
Phil. i. 12.
The furtherance of the gospel. The furtherance of the gospel was an object so dear to the heart of the Apostle, that he accounted no exertion too great,