Taken from, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ
Written by, Thomas Vincent
Excerpts adapted and edited for thought and sense.
“If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed!”
–1 Corinthians 16:22
Our Savior sent an epistle from heaven to the church of Ephesus…
…wherein He reproved her because she had left her first love, and threatened the removal of her candlestick. He would take away her light—if she did not recover her love. By the same hand, at the same time, He sent another epistle to the church of Laodicea, wherein He reproved her lukewarmness, and threatened, because she was neither hot nor cold—that He would spew her out of His mouth, Revelation 2:45 and 3:15-16. And are professors in under no such sin, in no such danger—when some scoff at the flames of love to Christ, like dogs that bark at the moon so far above them; when the most nominal professors are wholly strangers to this love?
The cold professors looking upon it as but a fancy, the scoffers having it only in the theory and when, among those Christians who love Christ in sincerity, there are so few that know what it is to love Christ with fervor and ardency, when there is so general a decay of love to Christ in the land, Lord, what is likely to become of Britain! Have we not provoked the Lord to take away our candlestick? Have we not provoked the Lord to suffer worse than Egyptian darkness to overspread us again, and cover our light because it shines with such cold beams, because the light of knowledge in the head, is accompanied with so little warmth of love to Christ in the hearts of most Christians? Everyone will fetch water to quench fire in a general conflagration, and surely there is need in a day of such general decay of love to Christ, that some such fetch fire from heaven, and use bellows too; arguments, I mean, to enkindle and blow up the spark of love to Christ which seems so ready to expire.
–1 Peter 1:8
The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ…
Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life—as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christ is a dead faith, and a professor without love to Christ is a dead professor, dead in sins and trespasses. Without love to Christ we may have the name of Christians—but we are wholly without the nature of Christians. We may have the form of godliness—but are wholly without the power of godliness. “Give me your heart!” is the language of God to all people, Proverbs 23:26; and “Give me your love!” is the language of Christ to all His disciples.
Christ knows the priorities and the thoughts of those which love Him in the truth and strength of it, has; how it will engage all the other affections of His disciples for Him; that if He has their love, their desires will be chiefly after Him. Their delights will be chiefly in Him; their hopes and expectations will be chiefly from Him; their hatred, fear, grief, anger, will be carried forth chiefly unto sin—as it is offensive unto Him. He knows that love will engage and employ for Him, all the powers and faculties of their souls; their thoughts will be brought into captivity and obedience unto Him; their understandings will be employed in seeking and finding out His truths; their memories will be receptacles to retain them; their consciences will be ready to accuse and excuse as His faithful deputies; their wills will choose and refuse, according to His direction and revealed pleasure.
All their senses and the members of their bodies will be His servants.
Their eyes will see for Him, their ears will hear for Him, their tongues will speak for Him, their hands will work for Him, their feet will walk for Him. All their gifts and talents will be at His devotion and service.
If He has their love—they will be ready to do for Him what He requires. They will suffer for Him whatever He calls them to. If they have much love to Him, they will not think much of denying themselves, taking up His cross, and following Him wherever He leads them. Love to Christ, then, being so essential unto true Christianity, so earnestly looked for by our Lord and Master, so powerfully commanding in the soul and over the whole man, so greatly influential on duty—I have made choice to treat this subject of love to Christ, and my chief endeavor herein shall be to excite and provoke Christians unto the lively and vigorous exercise of this grace of love unto the Lord Jesus Christ, of which incentive there is great and universal need.
The epistle wherein my text lies was written by Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, and is directed “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,” as in verse one of this chapter. By these strangers we are to understand the scattered Jews who were strangers in these several countries which they inhabited. We read in chapter two of the Acts, that many of these Jews came from these and other countries, unto Jerusalem to worship; and in the Temple, hearing the Apostle speak with several languages, which were of use in the divers places where they lived, and that without instruction from man—but as the Spirit gave them utterance, they were amazed and confounded. Afterward, hearing Peter preach through the wonderful power of the Spirit, three thousand of them were converted by one sermon unto the Christian faith, and were added to the Christian church. When the feast of Pentecost being over, these converted Jews returned into the countries where their several dwellings, families, and callings were; which countries, being heathenish and idolatrous, no doubt but there they met with opposition and suffering upon the account of the Christian religion, which they became zealous professors of, besides what they endured from their own countrymen, or unconverted Jews, who hated Christianity more than the heathens did.
The Apostle seems to have a respect unto these in this epistle wherein he encourages them, under their sufferings for the sake of Christ, by many consolatory arguments. In verse 2, he wished that grace and peace might be multiplied in them and towards them; and then, though their sufferings abounded, their consolation would abound much more. In verses 3, 4, and 5, he blesses God for His abundant mercy towards them in begetting them into a living hope of the glorious and never-fading heavenly inheritance, which was reserved for them through God’s infinite grace, and unto which they were reserved and kept through faith by God’s infinite power. In the 6th and 7th verses he tells them that, however they were in heaviness through manifold afflictions, which are the world’s left-hand temptations—yet he gives them to understand that these afflictions were but for a season. Weeping may endure for a night—but joy comes in the morning. They were needful to humble them, to purify them, to crucify them to the world, to make them conformable to their head, the Lord Jesus Christ; and that they were for the trial of their faith, that the truth of it might appear both to themselves and others, and that the worth of it might appear more precious than gold when it is tried in the fire, which, carrying them through their sufferings, might be found both to their own praise and their Master’s honor at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
…because of the need which they have of Him. Men love their necessary food, without which their bodies would starve with hunger; men love their necessary raiment and habitations, without which, in winter seasons, their bodies would freeze with cold. Men love their necessary friends, upon whom (under God) they have their dependence, and from whom they have all their subsistence. But nothing in the world is as needful to the body—as the Lord Jesus Christ is unto the soul. And, as the excellencies of the soul are far beyond the excellencies of the body, so the necessities of the soul are far beyond the necessities of the body; which necessities can be answered by none but Jesus Christ, and, therefore, true Christians love Him.
At first conversion, when they were convinced of sin and awakened out of their carnal security, O what need had they of Christ! They perceived themselves to be lost, and that it was Christ alone, who could save them! They felt the wounds of conscience, and it was Christ alone, who could heal them! They feared the wrath of a sin-revenging God, and it was Christ alone, who could deliver them! The remission, reconciliation, and salvation, which they had by Christ laid the first foundation of a most endeared love unto Christ; and still they perceive a continual need of Christ to procure daily pardon for them, and to convey daily supplies of grace unto them.
They have need of Christ when they are dark—to enlighten them; when they are dead—to quicken them; when they are straitened—to enlarge them; when they are weak—to strengthen them; when they are sad—to comfort them; when they are tempted—to support them; when they are fallen—to raise them; when they are in doubts—to resolve them; when they are under fears—to encourage them; when they stagger—to establish them; when they wander—to restore them! None but Christ can do all this, and more than this for them. And, therefore, because of the need and usefulness of Christ, true Christians love Him.
True Christians love an unseen Christ—because of the loveliness of Christ; which loveliness, though it is not seen, and cannot here be seen by the eye of the body—yet it is evident unto the eye of faith. See the description which is given of Christ the Beloved by His spouse, the Church, Song of Solomon 5:9. The daughters of Jerusalem there inquire of the love-sick spouse, “What makes the one you love better than another, most beautiful of women? What makes him better than another?” Hereupon the spouse gives a description, verse 10, “My beloved is dark and dazzling, better than ten thousand others!” And after she had set forth His graces, beauties, and excellent accomplishments, in metaphors taken from beauties in the several parts of man’s body, in the 11th-14th verses; she concludes, in the 16th verse, “Yes! He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend!”
The spouse is here acknowledged to be the fairest among women, and not only by the daughters of Jerusalem—but her beloved, who had a more insightful eye, both commends her loveliness and admires it, chapter 6:4-5, “O my beloved, you are as beautiful as the lovely town of Tirzah. Yes, as beautiful as Jerusalem! Look away, for your eyes overcome me!” And, verse 10, “Who is this arising like the dawn, as fair as the moon, as bright as the sun, as majestic as an army with banners?”
If the church is beautiful beyond all others, how beautiful is Jesus Christ, from whom the Church derives all its loveliness! He is said to bewhite and ruddy, that shows the beauty of His face; and His countenance is said to be as Lebanon, and like the lofty cedars thereof, that shows the majesty of His face. His mouth is said to be most sweet; and sweet it is indeed, in regard of the gracious words which proceed from it. No doctrine is so sweet—as Christ’s doctrine; no precepts are so sweet—as Christ’s precepts; no promises are so sweet—as Christ’s promises. But to sum up all excellencies and perfections, in a word, He is said to be “altogether lovely!”
There is no lovely person or thing in the world—which can properly be called “altogether lovely.” Many defects may be found in the most amiable people, and much insufficiency may be found in the most desirable things—but Christ is “altogether lovely!” He is unlovely in no respect, there being no spot or blemish, no defect or imperfection, to be found in Him. And He is lovely in every respect; there is an incomparable and transcendent amiableness in Christ’s person in every regard. In the person of Christ, the human nature and the divine nature are in conjunction. He is most lovely in regard of both. His human nature is compounded of both body and soul.
His body is most beautiful, a most glorious beauty and luster is put upon it. Whatever it was in His state of humiliation, be sure it has a glorious beauty now in His state of exaltation. It is called a glorious body, Philippians 3:21. If the face of Moses shone with resplendent glory, after his conversing forty days with God in Mount Sinai which was below, how does the body of Christ shine, which has been over seventeen hundred years in Mount Zion, which is above? I am persuaded that Christ’s body is the most beautiful of all visible creatures—but the beauty of Christ’s soul excels. No creature whatever has such shining excellencies as are in the soul of Christ. All the excellencies that are, or ever were, in any creature are like a feather laid in the balance with the exceeding weight of His glorious excellencies and perfections!
Christ excelled the most excellent man who ever lived, as to spiritual endowments, when He was here upon earth. He excelled Moses in meekness, Solomon in wisdom, Job in patience; and how much does He excel—now that He is in heaven! He excels not only the spirits of just men made perfect—but also the most glorious and holy angels that never sinned. If any creatures have wisdom, it is but a beam; Christ is the sun! If they have goodness, it is but a drop; in Christ is the ocean! If they have holiness, it is but a spark or dark shadow; Christ is the brightness of His Father’s glory! If they have the Spirit, they have it but in some measure; the Spirit is given to Christ without measure! John 3:34.
Christ is most lovely in His manhood, so nearly united unto His Godhead; and how lovely is He in His Godhead! As God, He is equal in all glorious excellencies with the Father. Christ’s Godhead implies excellency of being; He calls Himself “I am,” John 8:28; excellency of glory, therefore called the “Lord of glory,” I Corinthians 2:8; and “King of glory,” Psalm 24:7, “Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be you lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.” This is interpreted by some to be spoken of Christ’s ascension, and the angels and saints making way for His triumphant entrance and possession of His heavenly palace. Many descriptions are given in the New Testament of this lovely person, I shall mention only one, Colossians 1:15-19, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” If we read, believe, and consider this great description of Christ, we must see and say that Christ is most excellent and amiable—and that no beloved is like the beloved of true Christians. Therefore it is, that true Christians love Christ because of His loveliness.
He loves them with a first love and with a free love. He loves them with a tender and compassionate love, with an active or doing love, with a passive or suffering love. His love is infinite, without bounds of limits. His love is superlative, without comparison. His love is transcendent, beyond comprehension. His love is immutable—without change. His love is eternal—without termination or end. He loved them when they were polluted in their sins, and washed them with His own blood; He loved them when they were naked in their souls, and clothed them with robes of His righteousness. He loves them in their sickness and sorrows, and is their Comforter; He loves them in their needs and straits, and is their Benefactor. He loves them in life, and is the life of their souls; He loves them at death, and is the stay of their hearts; and He loves them after death, and will be their portion forever! “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand!” Ephesians 3:19.
…and there is further reason that they should love Him because of His love; especially when both are incomparable, both are incomprehensible. I shall further speak (God willing) unto both these with other reasons, under the motives in the exhortation to excite Christians to the love of Christ.
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage, Thomas Vincent: (May 1634 – 15 October 1678) was an English Puritan minister and author.
Biographical note regarding Thomas Vincent:
The night before his death, he broke out in the following language, expressive of his comfort, peace and joy, “Farewell world—the pleasures, profits, and honors of the world! Farewell sin! I shall forever be with the Lord! Farewell my dear wife, farewell my dear children, farewell my servants, and farewell my spiritual children.”
With the latter, he left the following advice, “Be careful in your choice of a pastor; choose one who in his doctrine, life, and manners, may adorn the gospel. I shall be glad to meet you all in heaven.”
The approach of the last enemy he hailed thusly, “Hasten, hasten, oh hasten death! Where is your bow, where your arrows? Come, come, come, I am yet in the body, I am yet on earth—but it is heaven, heaven, heaven I would gladly be at! I seek death—but cannot find it. How long, O Lord, holy and true?”
He could scarcely reconcile the thoughts of his recovery, and said to his physician, “Why do you come to keep me out of heaven?” His holy longing to be with Christ he expressed thus, “Dear Jesus, come and take me away! I have no business here; my work is done, my hour-glass has run out, my strength is gone, why shall I stay behind? Oh, come, come! Be as a roe upon the mountains of spices. How long shall I wait and cry? How long shall I be absent from You? Oh, come and take me to Yourself, and give me possession of that happiness which is above—the vision of Yourself, perfect likeness to Yourself, full fruition of Yourself, without any interruption or end! O come, dear Jesus, how long before You send Your chariots? O come down to me—and take me up to You!”