Before all else let us remember, our love to God is a sign of his love to us. ‘We love him because he first loved us.’ I John 4: 19. By nature we have no love to God; we have hearts of stone. Ezek 36: 26. And how can any love be in hearts of stone? Our loving him is from his loving us. If the glass burn, it is because the sun has shone on it; so if our hearts burn in love, it is a sign the Sun of Righteousness has shone upon us.
The First Sign. If we love God, our desire will be after him. ‘The desire of our soul is to thy name.’ Isa 26: 8. He who loves God, breathes after communion with him. ‘My soul thirsteth for the living God.’ Psa 42: 2. Persons in love desire to be often conferring together. He who loves God, desires to be much in his presence; he loves the ordinances: they are the glass where the glory of God is resplendent; in the ordinances we meet with him whom our souls love; we have God’s smiles and whispers, and some foretastes of heaven. Such as have no desire after ordinances, have no love to God.
The second visible sign is, that he who loves God cannot find contentment in any thing without him. Give a hypocrite who pretends to love God corn and wine, and he can be content without God; but a soul fired with love to God, cannot be without him. Lovers faint away if they have not a sight of the object loved. A gracious soul can do without health, but cannot do without God, who is the health of his countenance. Psa 43: 5. If God should say to a soul that entirely loves him, ‘Take thy ease, swim in pleasure, solace thyself in the delights of the world; but thou shalt not enjoy my presence:’ this would not content it. Nay, if God should say, ‘I will let thee be taken up to heaven, but I will retire into another room, and thou shalt not see my face;’ it would not content the soul. It is hell to be without God. The philosopher says there can be no gold without the influence of the sun; certainly there can be no golden joy in the soul without God’s sweet presence and influence.
The third visible sign is that he who loves God, hates that which would separate between him and God, and that is sin. Sin makes God hide his face; it is like an incendiary, which parts chief friends; therefore, the keenness of a Christian’s hatred is set against it. ‘I hate every false way.’ Psa 119: 128. Antipathies can never be reconciled; one cannot love health but he must hate poison; so we cannot love God but we must hate sin, which would destroy our communion with him.
The fourth visible sign is sympathy. Friends that love, grieve for the evils which befall each other. Homer, describing Agamemnon’s grief, when he was forced to sacrifice his daughter, brings in all his friends weeping with him, and accompanying him to the sacrifice, in mourning. Lovers grieve together. If we have true love in our heart to God, we cannot but grieve for those things which grieve him; we shall lay to heart his dishonours; the luxury, drunkenness, contempt of God and religion. ‘Rivers of waters run down mine eyes,’ &c. Psa 119: 136. Some speak of the sins of others, and laugh at them; but they surely have no love to God who can laugh at that which grieves his Spirit! Does he love his father who can laugh to hear him reproached?
The fifth visible sign is, that he who loves God, labours to render him lovely to others. He not only admires God, but speaks in his praises, that he may allure and draw others to be in love with him. She that is in love will commend her lover. The lovesick spouse extols Christ, she makes a panegyrical oration of his worth, that she might persuade others to be in love with him. ‘His head is as the most fine gold.’ Cant 5: 11. True love to God cannot be silent, it will be eloquent in setting forth his renown. There is no better sign of loving God than to make him appear lovely, and to draw proselytes to him.
The sixth visible sign is, that he who loves God, weeps bitterly for his absence. Mary comes weeping, ‘They have taken away my Lord.’ John 20: 13. One cries, ‘My health is gone!’ another, ‘My estate is gone!’ but he who is a lover of God, cries out, ‘My God is gone! I cannot enjoy him whom I love.’ What can all worldly comforts do, when once God is absent? It is like a funeral banquet, where there is much meat, but no cheer. ‘I went mourning without the sun.’ Job 30: 28. If Rachel mourned greatly for the loss of her children, what vail or pencil can shadow out the sorrow of that Christian who has lost God’s sweet presence? Such a soul pours forth floods of tears; and while it is lamenting, seems to say thus to God, ‘Lord, thou art in heaven, hearing the melodious songs and triumph of angels; but I sit here in the valley of tears, weeping because thou art gone. Oh, when wilt thou come to me, and revive me with the light of thy countenance! Or, Lord, if thou wilt not come to me, let me come to thee, where I shall have a perpetual smile of thy face in heaven and shall never more complain, ‘My beloved has withdrawn himself.'”
The seventh visible sign is, that he who loves God is willing to do and suffer for him. He subscribes to God’s commands, he submits to his will. He subscribes to his commands. If God bids him mortify sin, love his enemies, be crucified to the world, he obeys. It is a vain thing for a man to say he loves God, and slight his commands. He submits to his will. If God would have him suffer for him, he does not dispute, but obeys. ‘Love endureth all things.’ 1 Cor 13: 7. Love made Christ suffer for us, and love will make us suffer for him. It is true that every Christian is not a martyr but he has a spirit of martyrdom in him; he has a disposition of mind to suffer, if God call him to it. ‘I am ready to be offered.’ 2 Tim 4: 6. Not only the sufferings were ready for Paul, but he was ready for the sufferings. Origin chose rather to live despised in Alexandria, than with Plotinus to deny the faith, and be great in the prince’s favour. Rev 12: 11. Many say they love God, but will not suffer the loss of anything for him. If Christ should have said to us, ‘I love you well, you are dear to me, but I cannot suffer for you, I cannot lay down my life for you,’ we should have questioned his love very much; and may not the Lord question ours, when we pretend love to him, but will endure nothing for his sake?
Use one. What shall we say to those who have not a drachm of love in their hearts to God? They have their life from him, yet do not love him. He spreads their table every day, yet they do not love him. Sinners dread God as a judge, but do not love him as a father. All the strength in the angels cannot make the heart love God; judgements will not do it; omnipotent grace only can make a stony heart melt in love. How sad is it to be void of love to God. When the body is cold, and has no heat, it is a sign of death; so he is spiritually dead who has no heat of love in his heart to God. Shall such live with God that do not love him? Will God lay an enemy in his bosom? They shall be bound in chains of darkness who will not be drawn with cords of love.
Use two. Let us be persuaded to love God with all our heart and might. O let us take our love off from other things, and place it upon God. Love is the heart of religion, the fat of the offering; it is the grace which Christ inquires most after. ‘Simon lovest thou me?’ John 21: 15. Love makes all our services acceptable, it is the musk that perfumes them. It is not so much duty, as love to duty, God delights in; therefore serving and loving God are put together. Isa 56: 6. It is better to love him than to serve him; obedience without love, is like wine without the spirit. O then, be persuaded to love God with all your heart and might.