Knowing that we are beloved, Sibbes draws three “uses” of this doctrine:
First, to be “persuaded of his love”. The result of such persuasion is that it will draw us to him: love creates a reciprocal love in the beloved:
Now this should stir us up to be fully persuaded of his love, that loves us so much. Christ’s love in us, is as the loadstone to the iron. Our hearts are heavy and downwards of themselves. We may especially know his love by this, that it draws us upwards, and makes us heavenly minded. It makes us desire further and further communion with him. Still there is a magnetical attractive force in Christ’s love. Wheresoever it is, it draws the heart and affections after it.
This “use” forms the basis for sanctification. One aspect of sanctification is a fear of sin; a loathing of sin. As Thomas Brooks writes:
‘Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good.’ When we meet with anything extremely evil and contrary to us, nature abhors it, and retires as far as it can from it. The Greek word that is there rendered ‘abhor,’ is very significant; it signifies to hate it as hell itself, to hate it with horror.
Anselm used to say, ‘That if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one, he would rather be thrust into hell without sin, than to go into heaven with sin,’ so great was his hatred and detestation of sin. It is our wisest and our safest course to stand at the farthest distance from sin; not to go near the house of the harlot, but to fly from all appearance of evil, Prov. 5:8, 1 Thes. 5:22.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 13. However, abhorrence is only one step. We must move away; but we also must move toward. Romans 12:9 is to abhor on one hand and cling on the other. The love of Christ toward us impels our love toward him.
Second, it is an argument for the perseveration of the Church. Since the ground of the Church lies in the love of Christ, and since Christ’s is not shaken by the Church’s fluctuations, the Church is secure:
Use 2. And we may know from hence one argument to prove the stability of the saints, and the immortality of the soul, because Christ calls the church his love.
Sibbes does something interesting here. He does not merely assert that Christ has unchangeable love; he grounds that stability in the nature of law:
The want of love again, where it is entire, and in any great measure, is a misery. Christ therefore should suffer, if those he hath planted his love upon, whom he loves truly, either should fall away for ever, or should not be immortal for ever. Christ will not lose his love.
Because Christ loves the Church, Christ will not lose his church. He then draws that argument out further: Christ will not only not lose his Church in time; he will not lose his Church in eternity:
And as it is an argument of persevering in grace, so is it of an everlasting being, that this soul of ours hath; because it is capable of the love of Christ, seeing there is a sweet union and communion between Christ and the soul. It should make Christ miserable, as it were, in heaven, the place of happiness, if there should not be a meeting of him and his spouse. There must therefore be a meeting; which marriage is for ever, that both may be for ever happy one in another.
Here he cites to Hosea 2:20, “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”
Finally, when we consider the Incarnation, it should cause of “warm our hearts” with love toward him:
Use 3. Let us often warm our hearts with the consideration hereof, because all our love is from this love of his.
Sibbes lays out a series of elements in this love. First, it is a mixgure of love and majesty together:
Oh the wonderful love of God, that both such transcendent majesty, and such an infinite love should dwell together. We say majesty and love never dwell together, because love is an abasing of the soul to all services. But herein it is false, for here majesty and love dwell together in the heart of one Christ, which majesty hath stooped as low as his almighty power could give leave. Nay, it was an almighty power that he could stoop so low and yet be God, keeping his majesty still. For God to become man, to hide his majesty for a while, not to be known to be God, and to hide so far in this nature as to die for us: what an almighty power was this, that could go so low and yet preserve himself God still!
Christ is the great combination of opposites; the greatest and most abased, because he descended from such a height:
Yet this we see in this our blessed Saviour, the greatest majesty met with the greatest abasement that ever was, and all out of love to our poor souls. There was no stooping, no abasement that was ever so low as Christ was abased unto us, to want for a time even the comfort of the presence of his Father. There was an union of grace; but the union of solace and comfort that he had from him was suspended for a time, out of love to us. For he had a right in his own person to be in heaven presently.
This was driven by love:
Now for him to live so long out of heaven, and ofttimes, especially towards his suffering, to be without that solace (that he might be a sacrifice for our sins), to have it suspended for a time, what a condescending was this? It is said, Ps. 113:6, that God stoops ‘to behold the things done here below.’ It is indeed a wondrous condescending, that God will look upon things below; but that he would become man, and out of love to save us, suffer as he did here, this is wondrous humility to astonishment! We think humility is not a proper grace becoming the majesty of God. So it is not indeed, but there is some resemblance of that grace in God, especially in Christ, that he should, to reveal himself, veil himself with flesh, and all out of love to us.
And our response:
The consideration of these things are wondrous effectual, as to strengthen faith, so to kindle love. Let these be for a taste to direct our meditations herein.