Since God has given us a commandment to love Him, I thought we should know what it means to love God and do a check up to find out if indeed what we have in our hearts for Him is actually "Love"
Nothing seems to be a more natural duty for a creature—nothing is more essential to true religion—nothing more necessary as a principle of obedience, or a qualification for everlasting happiness—than the love of God; and it is universally confessed to be so. Whatever is the object, or whatever is the religion—all acknowledge that the love of God is an essential ingredient in it.
Should we consider only the excellency of the divine Being, and the numerous and endearing obligations of all reasonable creatures to him—we would naturally think that the love of God must be universal among mankind; and not one heart can be destitute of that sacred, filial passion. But, alas! if we regard the evidence of Scripture or observation, we must conclude the contrary. The love of God is a rare thing among his own offspring in our degenerate world.
Here in my text, a company of Jews, highly privileged above all nations then upon earth, and making large professions of regard to God, are charged with the lack of his love; charged by one who thoroughly knew them and could not be deceived. "I know you—that you have not the love of God in you."
But, blessed be God, his love is not entirely extinct and lost—even on our guilty globe. There are some hearts that feel the sacred flame, even among the degenerate sons of Adam.
These two sorts of people widely differ in their inward disposition; and God, who knows their hearts, makes a proper distinction between them. But in this world they are mixed—mixed in families, and in public assemblies; and sometimes the eyes of their fellow mortals can discern but little difference. And they themselves, very often mistake their own true character, and rank themselves in that class to which they do not belong! While they continue in this mistake, the one cannot possess the pleasure either of enjoyment or hope; and the other cannot receive those alarms of danger which alone can rouse them out of their ruinous security, nor earnestly use means for the implantation of the sacred principle of divine love in their souls. To remove this mistake, is therefore a necessary and benevolent attempt; benevolent not only to the former sort—but even to those who are unwilling to submit to the search, and who shut their eyes against the light of all conviction.
I am afraid many of my hearers, especially in places where I have not frequently officiated, are excited to attend by curiosity, and not by an eager thirst for pious instruction. And while hearing, they are either staring with eager expectation to hear something new and strange—or they are lying in wait to catch at some word or sentiment to furnish them with matter for cavil or ridicule; or they stand upon their guard, lest they should be caught and ensnared inadvertently to a party, or seized with the infection of some false doctrine.
And thus all my labors and their attendance are in vain; and immortal souls perish in the midst of the means of salvation!
But I tell you, once for all, you need not indulge an eager curiosity; for I have nothing new to communicate to you, unless it be a new thing to you to hear that the love of God is essential to a Christian, and an absolutely necessary pre-requisite to your salvation; and that you cannot be lovers of God, while your disposition and conduct have the evident marks of enmity or disaffection to him.
Or, if cavil or ridicule is an agreeable entertainment to any of you—then you are not likely to be gratified: for the things I have to say are too plain and convictive to be cavilled at by men of sense and candor, and too serious and important to be laughed at.
Nor need you be cautiously upon your guard; for I assure you, once for all, I have something else to do, than to come here to hang out baits to catch graceless proselytes to a party, or to propagate the infection of some false opinion. I come here to use my poor endeavors to build up such of you as love God, in your most holy faith; and to reconcile such of you to him as are now destitute of his love. This is my professed design: and when you find that the drift and tendency of my labors here aim at something opposite to this, pronounce my anathema, and reject me with just abhorrence. This I not only allow—but invite and charge you to do!
The subject now before us is this: Since it is evident that some, under the profession of religion, are destitute of true love of God; and since it is of the utmost importance that we should know our true character in this respect, let us inquire what are those MARKS whereby we may know whether the love of God dwells in us or not. Let us follow this inquiry with impartiality and self-application; and receive the conviction which may result from it, whether for or against us.