On the Motto of a Seal
BELIEVE! — LOVE! — OBEY!
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2011. Volume 29.
Date Posted Dec., 2011
This motto is indeed a very short one, but surely it contains much in little. It is replete with every instruction necessary to teach us how to be happy both in time and in eternity. Let us then examine a little into each of its particulars, beginning with the first:
When the jailer asked of the apostle, what he should do to be saved, he was answered — Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. This answer is what remains to be given to everyone who shall make the same enquiry, to the end of the world. This being the case, let us next enquire what it is to believe in Jesus Christ. Our Savior tells us in John 3:16 that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. Now the whole tenor of the Old Testament teaches us that Christ should come to be a sacrifice and a propitiation for the sins of the world, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.
All which he has done, according to the Scriptures: being raised from the dead, and ascended on high: for when he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, to give eternal life to all that should come unto him. In consequence of this, remission of sins is preached in his Name to all who believe. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his Name, whosoever shall believe in him shall receive remission of sins, Acts 10:23. Now, as Christ's blood was shed for the remission of sins, so faith in his blood received the remission of sins, and Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Every true believer experiences the same thing in his own soul, whereof the Holy Ghost is the witness. He that believeth hath the witness in himself.
And we are all called; we are all invited; we are all commanded, to believe in him whom God hath sent. May we all accept this great salvation, and by faith receive the Atonement! Now let us proceed to the next particular,
This can never be separated from true Faith. For Faith, when it is real, always works by love. How is it possible that we can really believe that God hath loved us and forgiven us our sins without loving him again? It can never be. For as St. John says, We love him, because he first loved us. And he that says he believes in Jesus Christ, and does not find love to God, may be assured he deceives himself with only a notion of Faith. A picture of fire is without heat, but a real fire cannot be without it. A notional Faith is without love, but a real one is never without it. But to you, who are indeed Believers, Christ is precious, yea more precious than all things. Love then; and walk in love; increase in love; and let love be your element, your business, your every thing: but remember! The flower withers when cut off from the stalk — so your love will wither, unless you stand fast, and grow in the Faith. Unless you abide in the Faith, the fire of love will go out.
If this is the case with any, let them believe again, and love will come again, for they always come and go together. Do we profess to believe? and do we profess to love? Say, my friends, is our Faith unfeigned? And is our love without dissimulation? If so, let us proceed to the third particular; which is,
As a heart-felt Faith in Jesus Christ produces a heart-felt love to him, so Obedience to his commands will follow as the opening flowers, and ripening fruits follow the genial heat of the sun. Christ saith, If ye love me, keep my commandments. What are his commandments? Love to God, and love to one another: the first shows itself in doing his will, both actively and passively. Doing what we know is our duty, and patiently suffering, yea and resigning ourselves to his disposal in all things. The second shows itself in doing to others as we would be done by. In all loving and kind offices, in forgiving injuries, in all things being just and true, also in patience, long-suffering, and forbearance, and all other duties, mentioned in the law. Also loving our enemies, returning good for evil, and praying for our persecutors. Obedience to God, is showing the reality of our love to him, in following the example of Christ in all his imitable perfections. And this Obedience is the result of having his Spirit dwelling in us, inclining us to walk in all the ways of holiness: summed up in loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves: in which are contained all the precepts of the moral law - which law is written in the hearts of all true Believers. See 1 Corinthians 13.
Thus we see in these three particulars - Believe-Love-Obey are contained the very essentials of all true Religion. What then remains, my Friends, but that we give all diligence to be found, believing, loving, obedient Followers of the Lamb of God? If so, let us not quarrel about other matters. Let us keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and bear with one another's different opinions and forms, that do not clash with true Faith, true Love and true Obedience. Let us not wrangle about circumcision, or uncircumcision, but let us contend for the Faith, which worketh by love. Let the strong bear with the weak, and let the weak not be offended with the strong. May the Motto of the seal be engraved in all our hearts, and may our sober, godly and righteous lives and conversations demonstrate to all the world that it is really so! In a word: may we all believe; may we all love; and may we all obey! So prays, from his very heart, one who is a Lover of all the true Church of Christ; one who is for Christ's sake a truly affectionate Servant in the Ministry of the Gospel of Peace and Salvation.
The Arminian Magazine 4 (August 1781) 439-442. John Wesley, editor.