“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
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I live in a part of the country that has not so honestly come to terms with its rejection of Christ’s rule in the lives of many of its people, not so honestly as perhaps many on the coasts did years and years ago. Many here, out of tradition or sentimentality, claim an alliance, if not with Christ himself, at least with a local church or sometimes just the mere title “Christian” (like when asked to fill out a form, etc.). They have some past echo or rhythm or tie to the Christian faith, but in reality, there aren’t too many ties that bind anymore and they live like practical atheists.
Forgive me my bluntness. I used to think that I was a “glass half empty” person until someone told me they see me more as a realist. That sounds a lot better to me, so I claim that title when I wish to relate sobering observations without coming off depressingly down… right?
As mentioned before, I’ve been making my way through the Puritan Thomas Watson’s book All Things for Good. Many will recognize his title as taken from Romans 8:28 (above). In this relatively short book (127 pp), Watson breaks down the verse and exhaustively examines each phrase.
Thomas Watson set out to comfort his readers by assuring them that “nothing hurts the godly; that ALL things which fall out shall co-operate for their good.” The snag, though, is that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” It appears this promise is not for all humanity, but those who bear a love to God. To help his readers examine themselves in this regard, Watson puts forth fourteen signs or fruits of love to God by which we might impartially test ourselves.
In our weakness, these fruits may bear imperfections. They may be a bit bruised. However according to Watson, the test is not in their perfection, but in their appearing and steady growth since they are not native to the natural man, but born of the Spirit: “Happy are they who can find these fruits, so foreign to their natures, growing in their souls.”
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The Tests of Love to God (chapter five)
A. The first fruit of love to God is the musing of the mind upon God.
He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God. A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts.
B. The next fruit of love to God is desire of communion.
“My heart and flesh crieth out for the living God (Ps. 84:2) – King David breathes after God and in a holy pathos of desire, cries out for the living God. By this, let us examine our love to God. Do we desire intimacy of communion with God? Lovers cannot be long away from each other. Those who have a holy affection toward God can bear the want of anything but his presence – they can do without health and friends and without a full table, but they cannot be happy without God. Sinners shun acquaintance with God. They count his presence a burden and are these lovers of God? Does that woman love her husband who cannot endure to be in his presence?
C. Another fruit of love to God is grief.
Where there is love to God, there is a grieving for our sins of unkindness against Him. Oh! That I should abuse the love of so dear a Savior! Did not my Lord suffer enough upon the cross, but must I make him suffer more? Shall I give him more gall and vinegar to drink? How have I grieved his Spirit, trampled upon His royal command, slighted His blood! By this let us test our love to God. Do we shed the tears of godly sorrow? Do we grieve for our unkindness against God, our abuse of his mercy, our non-improvement of talents (Mt. 25:14-30)?
D. Another fruit of love to God is magnanimity.
Love is valorous, it turns cowardice into courage. He that loves God will stand up in his cause and be an advocate for him. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Does he love God that can hear his blessed truths spoken against and be silent? He who loves his friend will stand up for him and vindicate him when he is reproached. Love animates a Christian; it fires his heart with zeal and steels it with courage.
E. The fifth fruit of love to God is sensitiveness.
If we love God our hearts ache for the dishonor done to God by wicked men. To see, not only the banks of religion, but morality, broken down and a flood of wickedness coming in, to see God’s Sabbaths profaned, his oaths violated, his name dishonored; if there be any love to God in us, we shall lay these things to heart. Did men love God, they would grieve to see his glory suffer and religion itself become a martyr.
F. The sixth fruit of love to God is hatred against sin.
He that loves God will have nothing to do with sin unless to give battle to it. Sin strikes not only at God’s honor, but his being. The love of God and the love of sin cannot dwell together. He who has any secret sin in his heart allowed, is as far from loving God as heaven and earth are distant, one from the other.
G. Another fruit of love to God is crucifixion.
A lover of God is dead to the world, to its honors and pleasures. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Love to God swallows up all other love so when a man’s heart is raised above the world in the admiring and loving of God, how poor and slender are the set things below! What is there in the earth that we should so set our hearts upon it! Only the devil makes us look upon it through a magnifying glass. The world has no real intrinsic worth; it is but paint and deception.
H. The next fruit of love to God is fear. In the godly, love and fear do kiss each other. There is a double fear arises from love.
- A fear of displeasing arises from our love to God. The more we love God, the more fearful we are of grieving his Spirit, making one shake and tremble and not dare willingly to offend God. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
- A fear mixed with jealousy arises from our love to God. He that loves God is full of fear lest it should go ill with the church, lest God should go from his people. The presence of God in his ordinances is the beauty and strength of a nation. So long as God’s presence is with a people, so long they are safe; but the soul inflamed with love to God fears lest the visible tokens of God’s presence should be removed. Let us test our love to God by this – many fear lest peace and trading go, but not lest God and his gospel go. If the Sun of righteousness remove out of our horizon, what can follow but darkness?
I. If we are lovers of God, we love what God loves.
- We love God’s Word – the sweetness of it, above honey, and the value of it, above gold (Ps. 119: 103, 72). Well may we love the Word; it is the lode-star that directs us to heaven, it is the field in which the Pearl is hid.
- We love God’s day. “If thou call the Sabbath a delight” (Is. 58:13). The house of God is the palace of the great King; on the Sabbath God shows himself there through the lattice. If we love God we prize his day above all other days. All the week would be dark if it were not for this day; on this day manna falls double. Now, if ever, heaven-gate stands open and God comes down in a golden shower. How does a gracious heart prize that day which was made on purpose to enjoy God in!
- We love God’s laws which check our sinful excesses. The heart would be ready to run wild in sin if it had not some blessed restraints put upon it by the law of God – the law of repentance, the law of self-denial. Many say they love God but they hate his laws; they pretend to love Christ as a Savior, but hate him as a King. He were a strange king that should rule without laws.
- We love God’s image shining in the saints. “He that loves Him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1). To love a saint as he is a saint, this is a sign of love to God in the communion of the saints. Do they love God who hate them that are like God? If we love a saint for his saintship, as having something of God in him, then we love him in these four cases:
a. We love a saint though he be poor. Though a saint be in rags, we love him because there is something of Christ in him.
b. We love a saint though he has many personal failing. There is no perfection here. A saint is like a fair face with a scar; we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scare in it. You that cannot love another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?
c. We love the saints though in some lesser things they differ from us. Perhaps another Christian has not so much light as you and that may make him err in some things, will you presently un-saint him because he cannot come up to your light?
d. We love the saints though they are persecuted. Those marks were like the soldier’s scars, honorable. We must love a saint as well in chains as in scarlet. If we love Christ, we love his persecuted members.
J. Another blessed sign of love to God is to entertain good thoughts of God.
“Love thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5). He that loves God has a good opinion of God. Though He afflicts sharply, the soul takes all well – this severe dispensation is either to mortify some corruption or to exercise some grace. How good is God that will not let me alone in my sins, but smites my body to save my soul!
K. Another fruit of love to God is obedience.
“He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). If we love God, we shall obey him in those things which cross flesh and blood – in things difficult and in things dangerous.
- We shall obey him in things difficult. One difficult obedience is mortifying sin. There are some sins which are not only near to us as the garment, but dear to us as the eye. If we love God, we shall set ourselves against these, both in purpose and practice. Another difficult obedience is in forgiving our enemies. This is hard; it is crossing the stream. We are apt to forget kindnesses and remember injuries, but if we love God, we shall pass by offenses. When we seriously consider how many talents God has forgiven us (Mt. 25:14-30), how many affronts and provocations He has put up with at our hands, this makes us endeavor rather to bury an injury than to retaliate it.
- We shall obey him in things dangerous. When God calls us to suffer for him, we shall obey. It is true that every Christian is not a martyr, but he has the spirit of martyrdom in him. He says as Paul, “I am ready not only to be bound, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). He has a disposition of mind to suffer if God call. If love to their country will make men suffer, much more should love to Christ. By this, let us test our love to God. Have we the spirit of martyrdom? Many will not forego the least comfort or undergo the least cross for his sake, yet how did divine affection carry the early saints above the love of life and the fear of death (ex: Stephen’s stoning, Luke, hung on an olive tree, and Peter, crucified with his head downwards)! These divine heroes were willing to suffer rather than by their cowardice to make the name of God suffer.
L. He who loves God will endeavor to make him appear glorious in the eyes of others.
If we love God, we shall spread abroad his excellences that so we may raise his fame and esteem and may induce others to fall in love with him.
M. Another fruit of love to God is to long for Christ’s appearing.
“Henceforth, there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me,
and not for me only, but for them also which love Christ’s appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
His appearing now is very comforting, when He appears for us as an Advocate (Heb. 9:24). But his second appearing will be infinitely more so, when He shall appear for us as our Husband! Such as love Christ are joyful to think of his coming in the clouds. They shall then be delivered from all their sins and fears; they shall be acquitted before men and angels; and shall be forever translated into the paradise of God.
N. For the sake of love to God, we will stoop to the meanest offices.
Love is a humble grace and will creep upon its hands; it will stoop and submit to anything whereby it may be serviceable to Christ. If we love God, we shall not think any work too mean for us, by which we may be helpful to Christ’s members. Love is not squeamish; it will visit the sick, relieve the poor, wash the saints’ wounds.
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