(a) His love cannot be corrupted. There have been such that have dared to tempt God, and court, yea bribe, ‘the Holy One of Israel’ to desert and come off from his people. Thus Balaam went to win God over to Balak’s side against Israel; which to obtain, he spared no cost, but built altar after altar, and heaped sacrifice upon sacrifice, yea, what would they not have done to have gained but a word or two out of God’s mouth against his people? But he kept true to them; yea, left a brand of his displeasure upon that nation for hiring Balaam, and sending him on such an errand to God, Deut. 23:4. This passage we find of God minding his people, to continue in them a persuasion of his sincere steadfast love to them; ‘O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal,’ Micah 6:5. And why should they remember this? ‘That ye may know the righteousness of the Lord;’ that is, that you may know how true and faithful a God I have been to you. Sometimes he makes use of it to provoke them to be sincere to him, as he, in that, proved himself to them, Joshua 24:9; he tells them how Balak sent Balaam to set God a cursing them, but saith the Lord, ‘I would not hearken unto him,’ but made him that came to curse you, with his own lips entail a blessing on you and yours. And why is this story mentioned? see ver. 14, ‘Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth’—a most natural and reasonable inference from the premises of God’s truth and faithfulness. O Christian! wouldst thou have thy love to God made incorruptible, embalm it often in thy thoughts, with the sweet spices of God’s sincere love to thee, which is immortal, and cannot see corruption. Believe God is true to thee, and be false to him if thou darest. It is a solecism and barbarism in love to return falseness for faithfulness.
(b) The love of God to his saints cannot be conquered. That which puts it hardest to it, is not the power of his people’s enemies, whether men or devils, but his people’s sins. God makes nothing of their whole power and wrath, when combined together; but truly, the sins of his people, these put omnipotency itself to the trial. We never hear God groaning under, or complaining of, the power of his enemies, but often sadly of his people’s sins and unkindnesses. These load him; these break his heart, and make him cry out as if he were at a stand in his thoughts, to use a human expression, and found it not easy what to do, whether to love them, or leave them—vote for their life or death. Well, whatever expressions God useth to make his people more deeply resent their unkindnesses shown to him, yet God is not at a loss what to do in this case. His love determines his thoughts in favour of his covenant people, when their carriage least deserves it, Hosea 11:9. The devil thought he had enough against Joshua, when he could find some filth on his garment, to carry this in a tale, and tell God what a dirty case his child was in, Zech. 3:6. He made just account to have set God against him, but he was mistaken; for instead of provoking him to wrath, it moved him to pity—instead of falling out with him, he find Christ praying for him. Now improve this in a meditation, Christian. Is the love of God so unconquerable that thy very sins cannot break or cut the knot of that covenant which ties thee to him? and does not it shame thee that thou shouldst be so fast and loose with him? Thou shouldst labour to have the very image of thy heavenly Father’s love more clearly stamped on the face of thy love to him. As nothing can conquer his love to thee, so neither let anything prejudice thy love to him. Say to thy soul, ‘Shall not I cleave close to God, when he hides his face from me, who hath not cast me off when I have sinfully turned my back on him? Shall not I give testimony to his truth and name—though others desert the one and reproach the other—who hath kept love burning in his heart to me, when I have been dishonouring him? What! God yet on my side, and gracious to me, after such backslidings as these; and shall I again grieve his Spirit, and put his love to shame with more undutifulness? God forbid! this were to do my utmost to make God accessory to my sin, by making his love fuel for it.’
- Direction. If thou wouldst walk in the exercise of thy sincerity, beware of presumptuous sins. These give the deepest wound to uprightness, yea they are inconsistent with it: ‘Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright,’ Ps. 19:13. One single act of presumption is inconsistent with the actual exercise of uprightness, as we see in David, who, by that one foul sin of murder, lost the present use of uprightness, and was in that particular too like one of the fools in Israel, and therefore stands as the only exception to the general testimony which God gave unto his uprightness. ‘Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite,’ I Kings 15:5. That is, there was not such presumption in any other sin committed by him, and therefore they are here discounted, as to this, that they did nor make such a breach on his uprightness as this one sin did. And as one act of a sin which is presumptuous is inconsistent with actual uprightness, so habitual uprightness is very hardly consistent with habitual presumption. If one act of a presumptuous sin, and, as I may so say, one sip of this poisonous cup, doth so sadly infect the spirits of a gracious person, and change his complexion, that he is not like himself, how deadly must its needs be to all uprightness, to drink from day to day in it? And therefore, as ‘But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat,’ Dan. 1:8, so do thou daily put thyself under some such holy bond, that thou wilt not defile thyself with any presumptuous sin; for indeed, this is properly ‘the king’s meat’—I mean the devil’s—that prince of darkness, who can himself commit none but presumptuous sins, and chiefly labours to defile souls by eating of this dish. Say, as Austin in another case, ‘Errare possum, hæreticus esse nolo—I may err, but I am resolved not to be a heretic. I may have many failings, but by the grace of God, I will labour that I be not a presumptuous sinner.’ And if thou wouldst not be in a presumptuous sin, take heed thou makest not light of less infirmities. When David’s heart smote him for rending the skirt of Saul, he stopped and made a happy retreat. His tender conscience giving him a privy check for rending his skirt, and would not suffer him to cut his throat, and take away his life, which was better than raiment. But at another time, when his conscience was more heavy-eyed, and did not do this friendly office to him, but let him shoot his amorous glances after Bathsheba, without giving him any alarm of his danger, the good man, like one whose senses are gone, and head dizzy at the first trip upon a steep hill—could not recover himself, but tumbled from one sin to another, till at last he fell into the deep pit of murder. When the river is frozen, a man will venture to walk, and run, where he durst not set his foot if the ice were but melted or broken. O when the heart of a godly man himself is so hardened that he can stand on an infirmity, though never so little, and his conscience not crack, under him, how far may he go! I tremble to think what sin he may fall into.