Love to the Unseen Christ (Vincent)

From Thomas Vincent’s “Love to the Unseen Christ“:

“You love Him, though you have not seen Him.” 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 command and influence which love to 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.

And then the Apostle takes occasion in the text to speak of their love, which they bore to this Jesus Christ, and of that unspeakable and glorious joy which results from believing in Him although they had no sight of Him, which no trouble or affliction could overwhelm or hinder; “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Hence observe:

Doctrine 1. That it is the property and duty of true Christians to love Jesus Christ, whom they have never seen; “Though you have not seen him, you love him.”

Doctrine 2. That true Christians believe in an unseen Christ; “even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

Doctrine 3. That true Christians do, or may, rejoice in believing with unspeakable and glorious joy. “you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

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