In the next section of the sermon, Sibbes notes the nature of the Savior’s love to his people. He takes this doctrine from the clause which contains the words “my love”, “Open my unto me, my love.” The appellation “my love” demonstrates the fact of love. Sibbes makes two observations about this love. First,
his love was settled upon her. It was in his own breast, but it rested not there, but seated itself upon, and in the heart of his spouse, so that she became Christ’s love.
Her status as being the beloved comes about because of the action of the lover. It is Christ’s love which makes the Church is beloved. This may seem obvious in human relationships: you are loved because you are loved. But when this comes to God, it demonstrates that the Church’s position is solely a matter of grace. It is one thing for a man to love a woman; it is quite another thing for the Creator to love the rebellious creature.
And since there is love, there is a “going out”:
We know the heart of a lover is more where it loves than where it lives, as we use to speak; and indeed, there is a kind of a going out, as it were, to the thing beloved, with a heedlessness of all other things. Where the affection is in any excess, it carries the whole soul with it.
The next observation of Sibbes concern manner in which this love finds expression in act. First this love is uniquely upon the Church
But, besides this, when Christ saith my love, he shews, that as his love goes, and plants, and seats itself in the church, so it is united to that, and is not scattered to other objects. There are beams of God’s general love scattered in the whole world; but this love, this exceeding love, is only fastened upon the church.
Next, this love is a quality which exceeds all other loves:
And, indeed, there is no love comparable to this love of Christ, which is above the love of women, of father, or mother, if we consider what course he takes to shew it.
The most that any lover could give would be himself. And thus God gives the greatest gift of all, by giving God:
For there could be nothing in the world so great to discover his love, as this gift, and gift of himself. And therefore he gave himself, the best thing in heaven or in earth withal, to shew his love. The Father gave him, when he was God equal with his Father. He loved his church, and gave himself for it.
This act of self giving is manifested in the Incarnation:
How could he discover his love better, than to take our nature to shew how he loved us? How could he come nearer to us, than by being incarnate, so to be bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; and took our nature to shew how he loved it, Eph. 5:30.
Sibbes then details the chain of love in the Incarnation:
Love draws things nearer wheresoever it is.
It drew him out of heaven to the womb of the virgin, there to be incarnate;
and, after that, when he was born not only to be a man,
but a miserable man,
because we could not be his spouse unless he purchased us by his death.
We must be his spouse by a satisfaction made to divine justice.
God would not give us to him, but with salving [preserving] his justice.
Unlike other doctors, this doctor suffers the treatment and we are healed:
What sweet love is it to heal us not by searing, or lancing, but by making a plaster of his own blood, which he shed for those that shed his, in malice and hatred.
William Gurnall used a very similar image in The Christian in Complete Armor:
He lived and died for you; he will live and die with you; for mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, none like him. Trajan, it is said, rent his clothes to bind up his soldiers’ wounds; Christ poured out his blood as balm to heal his saints’ wounds; tears off his flesh to bind them up.
William Gurnall The Christian in Complete Armour
And this love ties the Church to Christ now with the promise of an eternity with him.
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