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THE SIN AND DANGER OF EXCESS OF PARENTAL
MATTHEW X. 37.
And he that loveth son or daughter more than me,
is not worthy of me.
Was such a caution necessary? What are sons or daughters in comparison with Jesus? What are ties of blood to those much stronger cords which bind our souls to our infinitely amiable Saviour? It would seem impossible that mankind could be blind to his excellencies, or give any earthly object the preference. But, alas ! we are fallen creatures ; and the sinful disorder of our natures no where appears more sensibly, than in the irregularity and excess of our various affections. When we have to do with creatures, they are all active and alert, and presently transport us into extravagant emotions : but when we would converse with God, they are so faint and languid, that our devotion seenis scarcely to exist, where it ought to be fervent. He who knows what is in man, saw how miserably we are enslaved by our senses; and that there would be a particular occasion
This Sermon was preached on the birth of the Author's first
for the caution of the text. " He that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.”
He had mentioned “ father and mother” before: but because love is usually more rapid in its course downwards, he adds, “son or daughter;” intimating, that our strongest regards must yield to the affection and duty which we owe to our Saviour. In the other Evangelists, there is an addition of brethren and sisters; yea, and our own life also. All must give place to Christ, or, as it is said, “ we are not worthy of him.” We are not qualified for enjoying the benefits which he has procured; our temper is not suited to his kingdom, and we want those accomplishments which are necessary to all his disciples. In short, the meaning of the text is, that to love the dearest creatures, more than Christ, is highly dishonourable to him, and dangerous to ourselves. I shall now, therefore, attempt to describe that regard which Christ expects from his people; I shall then represent the evil of preferring any object before him; and I shall conclude with mentioning some particu. lar cases in which this caution is especially necessary. May the Lord bless our contemplations upon this subject, so that at the conclusion of it, we may be able to look round on houses and lands, father and mother, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters; and with hearts glowing with love to a dearer Savi. our, say, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.”
I. I shall speak of that love to Christ which he expects from his people.
It is necessary to do this, that we may not condemn the innocent and guilty together. Some truly
pious persons, because they have felt, on certain occasions, their passions most lively with regard to earthly objects, conclude that they love them more than the blessed Redeemer: but this is not a certain means of deciding; as religion is of a spiritual nature, and shows itself more in solid effects than by sensible emotions. This may be illustrated by the account of the different hearers described in the parable of the sower. Those represented by the stony ground, had more appearance of devotion; but the good and honest hearts brought forth the fruit to perfection.
That you may form a clear idea of this subject, you will observe, that there is a two-fold love, which may be denominated judicious and sensitive. As to that which is passionate and sensitive, it may produce more violent emotions than a sincere and supreme love to God will excite. A Christian may weep more plentifully for the loss of a child, or parént, or friend, or on account of any other outward afflic. tion, than for sin; and yet the inward sorrow on this account be deeper, and of much longer continuance. The heart may bleed when the eyes are not moistened. A man may be loathing himself, and repenting in dust and ashes, when by-standers may think him but little affected. He may talk more of the bitterness of affliction, but his soul be more averse to the evil of sin. So there
may greater express sions of joy for a temporal mercy, and yet the heart be much more delighted with one that is spiritual. A large and unexpected addition to a person's estate may be received with transport and a kind of tumul. tuous pleasure; while he is able, at the same time, to say with the Psalmist, “ There be many that say, Who
will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”
But as for judicious love, this must be placed more upon Christ than upon any creature, or all creatures united together. He must have the solid esteem of our judgment, and the determination of the will to accept of him in preference to any created good. Like the Apostle, we must say,
“What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." The dearest and most valuable creatures, instead of being loved equally with Christ, must in comparison be hated. They must no more stand in competition with him, than if they were objects of our sincere detestation.
Such, then, is the nature of supreme love to the Saviour. It will discover itself, not by transitory emotions of affection, or high professions of esteem and regard ; but by our readiness to do, or suffer, whatever our blessed Master appoints. Many talk much of their esteem for him, and pretend as if the world were crucified to them, and they to the world, while their “ hearts are going after their covetousness:” and when the interest of Christ and Mammon interfere, they hesitate not, visibly and repeatedly, to give the world the preference. But such apparent lovers of Christ, will at last be considered, and condemned, as his enemies. Those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, must evince the truth and superiority of their affection, by what they do and suffer. Where duty is prescribed by Christ, let the path be never so steep and rugged, neither regard
to our own ease, nor to any friend or relation, should keep us back, or turn us aside. When Christ said to a man, “ Follow me," and he replied, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father," we should not have thought this an unreasonable request; nature seemed to plead strongly for this last office to a de. ceased parent: But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God:” intimating, that we should rather seek to please the Lord Jesus, and endeavour to comply with his will, than gratify our strongest natural de. sires. As to suffering for Christ too, though this be the hardest part of duty, yet love to him will carry us through it. It sometimes happens, that a cross lies directly in the path in which it is our duty to walk; and we hear the voice of Christ bidding us to take it
up, and follow his steps: but just after we have been praying for grace and strength to carry it, and are stooping to lift it up for the purpose, some near and dear relative, to whom we know not how to give a denial, comes and dissuades us from it. - What,” says he, “ will you expose yourselves to ruin, or will you court trouble, when you might so easily avoid it? Why cannot you act like the rest of the world? You will only be laughed at for your singularity and preciseness." Thus will they some times endeavour to dissuade you, and perhaps add threatenings to it; and join with the world in pouring out wrath and execrations upon you, if you do not forsake a religion by which nothing is to be obtained.
II. I proceed, therefore, to show, that to love any creature more than Christ, is infinitely dishonourable to him, and dangerous to ourselves.