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Close up of antique love letter on parchment

Here are twenty thought-provoking motives for loving God from the 17th-century Puritan, Thomas Watson, in his little volume All Things for Good.  He writes:  This is meant to persuade all who bear the name of Christian to become lovers of God.  All the strength in men or angels cannot make the heart love God… it is only the almighty and invincible power of the Spirit of God [which] can infuse [this] love into the soul.

To excite and inflame our desires after it, here are Watson’s twenty motives for loving God as prescribed:

  1. Without love for God, all our religion is vain for it is not how much we do, but how much we love. To do duty without love is not sacrifice, but penance.
  2. Love is the most noble and excellent grace; by it we resemble God, who is love. Believing and obeying do not make us like God, but by love we grow like Him (1 John 4:16).  Love is a grace which most delights in God.  Love is the incense which makes all our services fragrant and acceptable to God.
  3. Is that unreasonable which God requires? It is but our love.  If He should ask our estate or the fruit of our bodies, could we deny Him?  But He asks only our love.  Is this a hard request?  Was there ever any debt so easily paid as this?  Love is no burden.  Is it any labor for the bride to love her husband?  No; it is delightful.
  4. God is the most adequate and complete object of our love. All the excellences that lie scattered in the creatures are united in Him.  He is wisdom, beauty, love; yea, the very essence of goodness.   There is nothing in God can cause a loathing.  The more we enjoy of him, the more we are ravished with delight.
  5. Love facilitates religion. Love makes duty a pleasure.  He that loves God is never weary of telling it; never weary of serving him.
  6. God desires our love. We have lost our beauty and stained our blood, yet the King of Heaven is a suitor to us!  What is there in our love that God should seek it?  What is God the better for our love?  He does not need it – He is infinitely blessed in Himself, yet He seeks it.
  7. He deserves our love for how He has loved us! What a miracle of love is it that God should love us when there was nothing lovely in us.  We had something in us to provoke fury, but nothing to excite love.  What love, passing understanding, was it to give Christ to us!  That Christ should die for sinners!  God has set all the angels in heaven wondering at this love.
    Oh the living love of a dying Savior!  I think I hear him say to us, “Reach hither your hands.  Put them into my side.  Feel my bleeding heart.  See if I do not love you.  And will you not bestow your love upon me?  Will you love the world more than me?  Did the world appease the wrath of God for you?”
  8. Love to God is the best self-love. It is self-love to get the soul saved and He is sure to dwell with God in heaven that has God dwelling in his heart.  He that does not love God, does not love himself.
  9. Love to God evidences sincerity. Loving God evidences that God has the heart, and if the heart be his, that will command all the rest.
  10. By our love to God, we may conclude God’s love to us. “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  Do you love God? Then you may be sure of God’s love to you.  Our love is nothing but the reflection of God’s love.
  11. If you do not love God, you will love something else, either the world or sin; and are those worthy of your love? Is it not better to love God than these?  It is better to love God than the world as appears in the following particulars.

a.  Worldly things will not satisfy. You may as well satisfy your body with air.  If the globe of the world were yours, it would not fill your soul.  And will you set your love on that which will never give you contentment?  When I awake out of the sleep of death, and shall have some of the rays and beams of God’s glory put upon me, I shall then be satisfied with his likeness (“When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness” – Psalm 17:15).

b.  Worldly things cannot remove trouble of mind. King Saul, being perplexed in mind, all his crown jewels could not comfort him (I Sam. 28:15).  But if you love God, He can give you peace when nothing else can; He can turn the “shadow of death into the morning” (Amos 5:8).   He can apply Christ’s blood to refresh your soul.

c.  If you love the world, you love that which may keep you out of heaven. Prosperity, to many, is like the sail to the boat which quickly overturns it; so that by loving the world, you love that which will endanger you.  But if you love God, there is no fear of losing heaven.  He will be a Rock to hide you, but not to hurt you.

d.  You may love worldly things, but they cannot love you in return. You love gold and silver, but your gold cannot love you in return.  But if you love God, He will love you in return.  God will not be behindhand in love to us: for our drop, we shall receive an ocean.

e.  When you love the world, you love that which is worse than yourselves. As Christ speaks in another sense of the fowls of the air, “Are ye not much better than they?” (Mttw 6:26).  So I say of worldly things, Are ye not much better than they?  You love a fair house, a beautiful picture; are you not much better than they?  But if you love God, you place your love on the most noble and sublime object; you love that which is better than yourselves.  God is better than the soul, better than angels, better than heaven.

f.  You may love the world and have hatred for your love. Thus it is with all sublunary things:  we love them and they prove nettles to sting.  We meet with nothing but disappointment.  God may chastise, but He cannot hate.  Every believer is part of Christ and God can as well hate Christ as hate a believer.

g.  You may over-love the creature. You may love wine too much, and silver too much, but you cannot love God too much.  If it were possible to exceed, excess here were a virtue; but it is our sin that we cannot love God enough.

h.  You may love worldly things, and they die and leave you. Riches take wings, relations drop away.  But if you love God, He is “a portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

i.  If it is better to love God than the world, surely also it better to love God than sin. What is there in sin that any should love it?   Sin is a debt.  “Forgive us our debts” (Mttw 6:12).  It is a debt which binds over to the wrath of God; why should we love sin?  Does any man love to be in debt?  Sin is a disease.   And will you love sin?  Will any man hug a disease?  Will he love his plague-sores?  Sin is a pollution.  The apostle calls it “filthiness” (James 1:21).  It is compared to leprosy and to poison of asps.  God’s heart rises against sinners.  “My soul loathed them” (Zech. 11:8).  What is in sin to be loved?  Shall we love deformity? Sin is an enemy.  It has four stings – shame, guilt, horror, death.  Will a man love that which seeks his death?  Surely then it is better to love God than sin.  God will save you, sin will damn you.

12.  The relation we stand in to God calls for love. “Thy Maker is thy husband” (Is. 54:5).  And shall a wife not love her husband?  He is full of tenderness: His spouse is to him as the apple of his eye.  He rejoices over her, as the bridegroom over the bride (Is. 62:5).  He loves the believer as He loves Christ (John 17:26).  Either we must love God or we give ground of suspicion that we are not yet united to Him.

13.  Love is the most abiding grace. This will stay with us when other graces take their farewell.  In heaven, we shall need no repentance; we shall not need patience; we shall need no faith (Heb. 11:1).  Faith is the staff we walk with in this life.  “We walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7).  But we shall leave this staff at heaven’s door and only love shall enter.  How should we strive to excel in this grace, which alone shall live with us in heaven, and shall accompany us to the marriage-supper of the Lamb!

14.  Love to God will never let sin thrive in the heart. The flower of love kills the weed of sin; though sin does not die perfectly, yet it dies daily.  How should we labor for that grace which is the only corrosive to destroy sin!

15.  Love to God is an excellent means for growth of grace. “But grow in grace” (2 Pet. 3:18).  Love is like watering of the root which makes the tree grow.  This grace of love would nurse and cherish all the graces.

16.  There is a great benefit which will accrue to us if we love God. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).  God has promised a crown of life to them that love Him (Js 1:12).  It is a crown that fades not away (1 Pet. 5:4).  Thus God would draw us to Him by rewards.

17.  Love to God is armor against error. Why are men given up to strong delusions?  Because “they receive not the love of truth” (2 Thes. 2:10-11).  The more we love God, the more we hate those heterodox opinions that would draw us off from God into libertinism.

18.  If we love God, we have all winds blowing for us; everything in the world shall conspire for our good. We know not what fiery trials we may meet with, but to them that love God all things shall work for good.  Those things which work against them shall work for them; their cross shall make way for a crown.

19.  Want of love to God is the ground of apostasy. That soldier, who has no love to his commander, when he sees an opportunity, will leave him and run over to the enemy’s side. He who has no love in his heart to God, you may set him down for an apostate.

20.  Love is the only thing in which we can retaliate with God. There is nothing in which we can answer God again, but love.  We must not give Him word for word, but we must give Him Love for love.

 

Question:  What shall we do to love God?

Answer:

1) Study God.  Take a view of his superlative excellences, his holiness, and his incomprehensible goodness.

2) Labor for an interest in God.

3) Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love him.  Surely God will not deny it.  Cry to God, “Lord, give me a heart to love Thee.  It is my grief; I can love Thee no more.  Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the altar of my heart!” Surely this prayer pleases the Lord and He will pour of his Spirit upon you, whose golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright.

 

Love influences the graces, it excites the affections,
it makes us grieve for sin, it makes us cheerful in God;
it is like oil to the wheels; it quickens us in God’s service.
How careful then should we be to keep alive or love for God!

– – – – –

Watson, Thomas. “An Exhortation to Love God.” All Things for Good. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986. 88 -103. Print.

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Refreshing Dew by Dr. Pardington

I am reading through The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by the Puritan preacher, Jeremiah Burroughs, published post-humously in 1648 (1). Dana and I have a special affinity for Jeremiah Burroughs. It was in studying his book, Gospel Worship, and in discussions with the teacher and his wife, Chris and Mary Axtel, that we realized our theology aligned joyfully to Reformed theology.

Burroughs spends the first third of The Rare Jewel defining godly contentment which is not to be confused with resignation or simple happiness. The contentment of which Burroughs speaks is the same that Paul claimed in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (2).  Paul’s contentment is a settled, pleased, resting in the sovereign, benevolent rule and reign of King Jesus in his life, no matter his circumstances.

In his first chapters, Burroughs dives deep into “the mystery of contentment” of which the world can only speculate and wonder. One of the fifteen mysteries identified by Burroughs is that the godly (Burrough’s word for the redeemed) live on the dew of God’s blessing, that the Christian can get food that the world does not know of; he is fed in a secret way by the dew of the blessing of God (pp. 56 – 60).

Burroughs observes that the poor man or woman who has but a little with grace, lives a more contented life than his rich neighbor who has a great income… though they have but a little, yet they have a secret blessing of God with it, which they cannot express to anyone else. If you were to come to them, Burroughs contends, and say, “How is it that you live as happily as you do?” they cannot tell you what they have; but they find there is a sweetness in what they enjoy and they know by experience that they never had such sweetness in former times. Even though they had a greater abundance in former times than they have now, yet they know they never had such sweetness; but how this comes about they cannot tell.

Burroughs identifies considerations with which a godly man finds contentment in what he has, “though it is ever so little.”

1. In what he has, he has the love of God to him.  Every good thing the people of God enjoy, they enjoy it in God’s love, as a token of God’s love, and coming from God’s eternal love to them, and this can’t help but be sweet to them.

2. What they have is sanctified to them for good.  A gracious heart (i.e. one who has received God’s grace) finds contentment in this: I have it and I have a sanctified use of it too. I find God goes along with what I have – to draw my heart nearer to him and sanctify my heart to him. If I find my heart drawn nearer to God by what I enjoy, that is much more than if I have it without any sanctifying of my heart by it. “There is a secret dew that goes along with it.”

3. A godly man may very well be content though he has only a little, for what he does have he has by right of Jesus Christ, by the purchase of Jesus Christ. A child of God has not a right merely by donation; what he has is his own, through the purchase of Christ. Every bit of bread you eat, if you are a godly man or woman, Jesus Christ has bought it for you. You go to market and buy your meat and drink with your money, but know that before you buy it, or pay money, Christ has bought it at the hand of God the Father with his blood. You have it at the hands of men for money, but Christ has bought it at the hand of his father by his blood.

4. Every little that they have is as an earnest payment for all the glory that is reserved for them; it is given them by God as the forerunner of those eternal mercies that the Lord intends for them. Just as every affliction the unsaved have here is but the beginning of sorrows, and forerunner of those eternal sorrows that they are likely to have hereafter in Hell, so every comfort the child of God has is a forerunner of those eternal mercies he shall have with God in Heaven. Not only are the consolations of God’s Spirit the forerunners of those eternal comforts you shall have in Heaven, but when you sit at your table and rejoice with your wife and children and friends you may look upon every one of those as a forerunner, yea, the very earnest payment of eternal life to you.

I can testify to this dew, this sweetness of life, which I first experienced shortly after the Lord saved me from my religion of works. I was in college at the time and I just remember walking through campus marveling at God’s creation – everything just seemed to invoke praise in my heart and was more beautiful, more awe-inspiring than I had ever known it to be prior to my conversion. My experience is echoed in the the second verse of George Wade Robinson’s hymn, “I am His and He is Mine”:

Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.

“Christless eyes have never seen.” In his book A Praying Life (2), Dr. Paul Miller recounts an article he read in The New York Times Magazine by Dana Tierney. Dana and her husband, John, both rejected the faith presented to them in childhood. Yet Dana feels as if she’s missing out. When she watches her religious friends, she notices that they “have an expansiveness of spirit. When they walk along a stream, they don’t just see water falling over rocks; the sight fills them with ecstasy. [They] see a realm of hope beyond this world. I just see a babbling brook” (pp.109-110).

This dew of God’s blessing brings a sweet aroma to our celebrations as we remember the giver of all good things and know that he attends us in our joys. It lends eternal significance to our present realities, even our sufferings. It comforts us in difficult days – our Father, who controls the path of every speck of dust and particle of water, is working all of history to his great glory and our good. Oh, yes… “There is a secret dew of God’s goodness and blessing upon [God’s people] in his estate that others have not.”

Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.

Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine?

~ “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”

(1) Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1964. 56-60. Print. Puritan Paperbacks.

(2) My Dana is right to observe that the oft-claimed v. 13 of Philippians 4 is not meant by Paul to be an affirmation of how we can achieve great things because Christ will give us the strength to do so (often proclaimed loudly and with great conviction and determination). Instead, it is a testimony to the sufficiency of Christ, knowing he will attend us and strengthen us when we are “brought low.”

(3) Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009. Print.
[Photo: Refreshing Dew by Dr. Pardington]

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