Love is a passion planted in the human bosom, which once was wholly a holy seed—but is now turned into the degenerate plant of a corrupted vine. Before sin entered into the world, love wholly centered on God; then the fire burnt purely, and the soul ascended in the sacred flame to God. Then there was sweet fellowship between heaven and earth, and man maintained communion with his Maker. Admiring the beauties of creation, his soul with pleasure ascended up the streams of created excellencies, to the fountain of uncreated glory and ravished with the view, he saw his interest in his Maker to be of a nobler kind than the lower world could claim. This was bliss, and it was this which made paradise so near akin to heaven. This, and not the blooming flowers; this, and not the verdant groves; this, and not the spreading streams; this, and not the fragrant oils; this, and not the bending boughs; this, and not the warbling birds; this, and not a cloudless sky; this, and not the sight of angels; this, and not their mutual love—made our first parents happy in their first abode.
But man no sooner admitted sin and Satan in, than God in justice drove him out of paradise, and from his noble station too; and what tongue can tell his sad condition now? His love is not only cooled towards God—but corrupted against God; hence he worships the creature more than the Creator, who is God over all blessed forever. As the lion with terrible majesty hunts his prey through the trembling forest; while the spider, with silent cunning, catches the fly sporting on the window, or entangled under the web; so, from the throne to the ash-heap, every person pursues vanities adapted to his state—and which are destructive to his immortal soul.
O how has man gone back by a perpetual backsliding! God punishes it in a dreadful manner; for as they do not retain God in their knowledge, so God gives them up to a reprobate mind. They choose their ways, and God chooses their delusions. God is not in the plans of their heart, and they are not under the conduct of his Spirit. They provoke God to anger by their vanities, and he puts them to pain with vexation and woe!
But what is still more to be wondered at, is, that after God has given the brightest manifestations of his infinite love, in readmitting the rebel into friendship, through the sufferings of his well-beloved Son, man should still pursue shadows, and pour his love on perishing trifles! And are not you, my soul, blameworthy here, who is busied every day about vanities—but cold, ice-cold, in love to the Perfection of beauty!
Surely the angels of light, and the spirits of just men made perfect, are surprised to see the expectants of the same glory, deluded, charmed, and enchanted with perishing vanities; and not enraptured with the Chief among ten thousand. The inhabitants of the better country despise our sin-burnt beauties, and worm-eaten excellences! Yes, they would blush to mention our delights, or to take up the objects of our love in their lips. What would a seraph care for the scepter of a terrestrial empire? or a glorified saint or the government of an earthly kingdom? And why should I, then, care so much for less things, who am traveling to eternal glory?
May I, then, for a moment draw aside the curtain of time, glance into the eternal world, and get a glimpse of the object of my love. Ah me! the vision is too bright, the glory too refulgent for my feeble sight! See all the heavens enlightened with his glory; crowned with majesty divine—he fills his lofty throne, and sways the scepter far through all existence! See seraphim and cherubim bow before him, and mighty angels fall prostrate at his feet! Yes, see him in your nature stand and plead for you, not forgetful of your need, nor deaf to your distress—amidst his boundless glory. See approaching myriads, even the ransomed multitudes, overwhelmed with love to Jesus—adoring him in unutterable strains!
And why do you not love him? You cannot doubt his power, for he is God; nor his compassion, for he is man; nor his salvation, for he is God-man in one person. All heaven is eternally enamored with him; and it would be rebellion to bid them lift their love, and lay it on any other. The Father loves him, angels love him, saints love him; and it is pleasant in the eye of God that the excellency of all fullness should dwell in him.
Under how many ties am I to love him! for what he has been, what he is, and what he will be—to me! For what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do—for me!
Before he made the world my salvation was secured in the sure decree; thus with an everlasting love he loved me; and why with loving-kindness should not I be drawn? Then his delights were with the sons of men.
Again, I should love him for what he is to me. But here words cannot express my thoughts, nor my thoughts my subject. He is the mighty God—on my side? The creator of both worlds—for me! His perfections are infinite, innumerable, and eternal! He is self-existent, self-sufficient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, unchangeable, and independent. He is holy, just, and good; merciful, faithful, long-suffering and compassionate. In a word, God is love; and love begets its like in the soul of every saint, who is filled with wonder at the person of Immanuel, who is everything that they can need. He satisfies every longing desire; performs every endearing office—as prophet, priest, and king; fills every tender relation—as kinsman, friend, brother, father, husband. Love shall be the subject of my song forever!
Again, I should love him for what he will be to me. Now, he will be my God even unto death; my shield and sun in the dark valley of dissolution. He will bring me to the palace of the King, with joy on every side; will be my temple in the highest heavens, and my portion through the endless ages of eternity.
Likewise, how should I love him for what he has done, is doing, and will do—to me!
For me he has done great things, whereof my soul is glad. He has, by making his soul an offering for for my sin—satisfied justice, magnified the law, removed my guilt, and reconciled my soul to God.
For what he is doing. He is appearing in the presence of God for me, pleading my cause, interceding on my behalf, and offering my prayers with his own incense at his Father’s throne. He is ordering all things well for me, perfecting what concerns me, hearing my petitions, marking my requests, numbering my groans, correcting my wanderings, and putting my tears into his bottle! And, as my loving High Priest, sympathizing with me in all my afflictions.
Lastly, for what he will do. Who, besides you, O God! know what you have laid up for those who love you? Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor can the most capacious soul conceive—of that abundant bliss, which only can be revealed in the enjoyment, and known in the possession! O happy day! when I shall put off mortality, and this clay tabernacle, and join the shining assembly of sinless adorers, whom he feeds and feasts with the fatness of the higher house, satisfies with his likeness, replenishing every grace with his plenitude, and ravishing the whole soul with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Come, then, my soul! look from these present perishing things—to the city of God, where every soul glows with sacred love, and dwells among the assimilating flames.
If you saw a man of thirty years chasing flies and feathers, like the child of three, what would you think of him? And while the world is your chase, what, O my vulgar soul! shall I conclude of you? Ransack the whole creation of God, and see if all its excellences together can vie with one ray of his glory, one beam of his love! Then let his love to you constrain your love to him—and thus begin the work of heaven on earth.
The perfection of bliss in heaven shall consist in the perfection of love, for love is the sum of felicity. Take away love from heaven, heaven could no more boast of its unbounded bliss. Life, light, love, are the trinity of perfection, and the perfection of the adorable Trinity. Of all the heavenly graces, love only returns to heaven, without any change—but of putting on perfection, and casting out fear. To dwell in love, and to dwell in God, cannot be separated. And the more I dwell in love, the nearer I dwell to God below; and when at last I rise to the highest degrees of love, I shall arrive at the nearest communion with God!
Roll on, time—and come, everlasting dawn—that I may plunge into this sea of bliss, this ocean of eternal love, and know what it is to love him to the full—whom here I scarcely dare allege I love!
by James Meikle, 1730-1799