by Samuel Davies,
Now it is evident that the love of God does not dwell in you:
if the native enmity of your hearts against him has not been subdued;
if your thoughts and affections do not fix upon him with peculiar endearment, above all other things;
if you do not give him and his interests the preference of all things that may come in competition with him;
if you do not labor for conformity to him;
if you do not love to converse with him in his ordinances; and
if you do not make it the great business of your lives to please him by keeping his commandments.
First, The love of God is not in you—if the native enmity of your hearts against him has not been subdued.
This will appear evident to everyone who believes the Scripture account of human nature, in its present degenerate state. By nature we are "children of wrath," (Ephesians 2:3:) and certainly the children of wrath cannot be the lovers of God, while such. "That which is born of the flesh—is flesh," John 3:6. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Romans 8:7. And hence it is, that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Romans 8:8. Paul gives this character of the Colossians, in their natural state; and there is no reason to confine it to them: that they "were once alienated, and enemies in their minds by wicked works." Col. 1:21.
In short, it is evident from the uniform tenor of the gospel, that it is a dispensation for reconciling enemies and rebels—to God. Hence it is so often expressly called the ministry of reconciliation; and ministers are represented as ambassadors for Christ, whose business it is to beseech men, in his stead, to be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
But reconciliation presupposes variance and alienation to God. From these things, it is evident, that, according to the Scripture account, the present state of nature is a state of disaffection and hostility against God. The authority of Scripture must be sufficient evidence to us, who call ourselves Christians. But this is not all the evidence we have in this case.
This is a sensible matter of fact and experience. For I appeal to all of you that have the least self-acquaintance, whether you are not conscious that your disposition, ever since you can remember, and consequently your natural disposition, has habitually been indisposed and disaffected, or, which is the same, lukewarm and indifferent—towards the blessed God—whether you have had the same delight in him and his service, as in many other things—whether your earliest affections fixed upon him, with all the reverence and endearment of a filial heart. You cannot but know—that the answer to such inquiries will be against you, and convince you that you are by nature enemies to the God that made you, however much you have flattered yourselves to the contrary.
Now, it is most evident, that since you are by nature enemies to God, that your natural enmity to him must be subdued; or, in the language of the New Testament, you must be reconciled to him—before you can be lovers of him. And have you ever felt such a change of disposition? Such a change of disposition could not be wrought in you while you were asleep, or in a state of insensibility.
I will not say, that every one who has experienced this, is assured that it is a real sufficient change, and that he is now a sincere lover of God; but this I will say, and this is obvious to common sense—that every one who has experienced this, is assured that he has felt a great change, of some kind or other, and that his disposition towards God is not the same now as it once was. This, therefore, may be a decisive evidence to you: If divine grace has never changed your disposition towards God—but you still continue the same, you may be sure the love of God is not in you.
And if this change has been wrought, you have felt it. It was preceded by a glaring conviction of your enmity, and the utmost horror and detestation of yourselves upon the account of it. It was attended with affecting views of the attractive excellencies of God, and of your obligations to love him; and with those tender and affectionate emotions of the heart towards him, which the passion of love always includes. And it was followed with a cheerful universal dedication of yourselves to God and his service. And does conscience (for to that I now address) speak in your favor in this inquiry? Listen to its voice—as the voice of God.
Secondly, It is evident, that you have not the love of God in you—if your thoughts and affections do not fix upon him with affectionate endearment above all other things.
This is so obvious to common sense, that I need not take up your time with Scripture quotations: for you would not have the face to profess to a person that you loved him—if, in the mean time, you have told him that he had little or no share in your thoughts and affections. You know by experience, that your affectionate thoughts will eagerly pursue the object of your love over wide-extended countries and oceans: and that in proportion to the degree of your love.
Now if you love God sincerely at all—then you love him supremely; you love him above all people and things in the universe. To offer subordinate love to supreme perfection and excellency, what a gross affront! It is essential to the love of God, that it be prevalent, or habitually uppermost in your souls. Now if every degree of love will engage a proportionable degree of your affectionate thoughts, can you imagine, that you may love God in the highest degree—and yet hardly ever have one affectionate thought of him? Can you love him above all—and yet think of him with less endearment and frequency than of many other things that you love in an inferior degree? Certainly, it is impossible.