Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

Virtue, Knowledge ; and to Knowledge, Godliness ; and to Godliness, Brotherly-Kindness, &c. for if these Things be in us, and abound, they will make us acceptable to God, as being Partakers of the Divine Nature.

3. Again : Nothing is more uneasy, than the Mind of a Lover, when separated from the Object of his Affections. His Thoughts, his Dreams, his Wishes, and Desires run continually upon it ; nor can he recover his Ease and Tranquillity, till he is happily restored to his former Enjoyment. And, in like Manner, when God, for the Trial of our Faith or Patience, bides bis Face from us for a Seafon, either with-holding from us that ready Aid in Distress, or Comfort in our Obedience, or Pleafure in our Devotion, which we formerly experienced ; if Love reside in our Hearts, it will surely dispose them to sensible Grief, and inspire them with such ardent Petitions as these ; Hide not tby Face from thy Servant ; for I am in Trouble : Turn unto me, according to the Multitude of thy Mercies, and draw nigh unto my Soul, and save it. But especially, when our Iniquities, as the Prophet expresses it, have separated between our God and us, and our Sins have bid his Face from us ; when that thick Cloud hath eclipsed the Light of his Countenance, and intercepted his gracious Influences ; then, if any Love be alive in our Breasts, it will prompt us, with the good Men of old, in their

penitential Agonies, sorely to bewail our wretched Condition. There will be no Soundness in our Flesh, nor Rest in our Bones ; our Spirit will be overwhelmed within us, and our Heart within us defolate, till, by an humble Deprecation, we have regained some Glimpse of God's Favour, and are in Hopes of being re-instated in our Poffefsion of him.

4. Once more. Love is a bold and active Paf. fign, which warms and animates the Heart with

such

such a generous Fire, as disdains all Opposition, and out-braves the greatest Dangers and Difficulties. If therefore we love God sincerely, our Love will quicken our Endeavours to serve him, and carry us, with such a Spirit and Alacrity, through all the weary Stages of our Duty, that it will be our Joy and Recreation to do his Will. The more Difficulties we meet with in our Way, the more will they whet our Activity, as being proper Opportunities to manifest the Sincerity of our Love, and thereby to recommend our Services to our Beloved. Andin this Sense I conceive these Words of St Jobn, berein is our Love made perfea, i. e. this will try the Perfection of our Love to God, namely, that we may bave Boldness in the Day of Judgment, i. e. that, in the Time of Danger, when we are brought before Rulers and Judges, and are in Peril of losing our Lives for the Cause of Christ, we then manfully confess him, and seal the Truth of our Testimony with the Price of our Blood.

These are the genuine Signs and Properties of the Love of God in our Hearts : And from hence we may observe the great Mistake, that several Perfons may lie under, in their Computation of this Matter; fuch, I mean, as measure their Affection to God by the mere Impression of sensitive Passion ; who, because, upon some affecting Representations of his amiable Perfections, they feel in themselves the same Emotions they were wont to do, when they fall in Love with other Things, do instantly conclude, that they are infinitely in Love with God: Whereas all this is, many Times, nothing else, but the Effect of a fanguine Complexion, tinctured and infamed with religious Ideas, which is the most distant Thing imaginable from the Virtue of Divine Love. For, as there are sincerely good Men, that cannot raise their sensitive Paffions in their religious Offices; that are heartily sorry

for

for their Sins, and yet cannot weep for them ; and do entirely love God, and delight in his Service, and yet cannot move their Blood and Spirits into the ravishing Transports of Love and Joy ; soare there many gross Hypocrites, that have not the least Tincture of true Piety, who yet, in their religious Exercises, can put themselves into wonderful Extafies of bodily Pallion ; can pour out their Con- . feffions in Floods of Tears, and make their Hearts dilate into Raptures of Love and Joy And yet, all the while, this is no more than the different Temper of Mens Bodies, which in some is calm and sedate, and not easily to be disturbed ; in others is soft and tender, and so very susceptible of Impression, that any frivolous Fancy can raise a Commotion in them. Unless therefore we are minded to deceive ourselves in this important Affair, we must not trust to such fallacious Evidences as these, but try our Love to God by his own Touchstone, viz. by our Obedience to his heavenly Will; for fo himself hath instructed us, ye are my Friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you; for ke that hath my Commandments, and keepeth thein, he is is, that loveth me.

How then shall we raise in our Minds this Af. fection, and by what Means shall we improve and cultivate the Love of God in our Hearts? The Apostle has directed us to the proper Method; love not the World, neither the Things which are in the World ; for, if any Man love the World, the Love of the Father is not in him. We must therefore call home our roving Appetites, which run gadding a. broad after worldly Objects, fondly pursuing every Shadow and Phantom of Pleasure, that they meet with : This Love of ours, I say, which runs out into so many little Streams, and is dispersed among so many Objects in the visible World, we must colleft together, and cast into one great Channel, and 3

let

let it flow in one great Tide towards God. And indeed, how can we reflect upon the Beauties of his Nature, his Goodness, and Justice, and Mercy, &c. without being charmed and captivated with the Love of them? How can we think of the stupendous Love, which he hath expressed towards us, in giving us our Being, and all the Blessings we enjoy, in preparing an Heaven of immortal Joys for us, and sending his Son from thence, to conduct us thither, without being all inflamed with Love to him ? Our Business therefore must be, to set ourselves seriously to the Contemplation of God, of the Loveliness of his Nature, and of his infinite Kindness to us, and to all his Creation ; to be constant and diligent in Prayer and Supplication, in praising him, and celebrating the Memory of his Mercies, in consulting the Scriptures, hearing the Word, and attending to all other religious Offices and Employments; for in these the God of Heaven communicates himself, and by these Divine Love is infused into the Soul.

2. Of Delight in God.

[ocr errors]

O delight in God, is to poffefs our Minds

with such a proper Sense of his Goodness, as may produce an habitual Comfort and Pleasure in the Contemplation of him ; as may excite us to Diligence and Alacrity in his Worship and Service; to approach his Altars with Joy and Thanksgiving; to hear his Word with Reverence and Attention ; to converse with him bere in Meditation and Prayer ; and to long to enjoy what his beatific Presence imparts bereafter. This is the Duty. And our Business must be, 1. To point out the Reasonableness and Expediency of it ; and then, 2. To observe by what Means we may be enabled to perform it.

1. Now all the delectable Things in Nature, which we either know or can imagine, are but of three Kinds, Natural, Moral, and Heavenly. In the first consist the Pleasures of the World, in the second the Pleasures of the Godly, and in the third the Pleasures of the Blessed: And, to evince the Reasonableness of our delighting in God, we shall separately observe how each of these directs us to God, as an Object much more deserving of our Affections and Complacency.

1. Wonderful is the Variety of the Things in Nature, that are accommodated to our Liking, and their Power of pleasing us is but too manifest from the strange Ascendant they have over our Affections : And yet all these Things do naturally lead us to something better, and more satisfying, as we must needs acknowledge, whenever we reflect on their transient and empty Nature, and how, by Reason either of their offensive Mixtures, or necessary Decay, they leave our Souls lean and pining in the very Midst

of their Enjoyments. This is the Thing, which, to confirm our Experience, God himself has been pleased to signify to us, when he complains of his People, that they bad forsaken him, the Fountain of living Water, and bad bewed to themselves Cifterns, broken Cisterns, that could hold no Water: For, by comparing himself to a Fountain of living Water, he plainly intimates, that he is the Source of solid Refreshment, of sincere and lasting Delectation, such as is adequate to the Desires of our Soul; and by comparing all worldly Enjoyments to broken Cisterns, that can bold no Water, he likewife intimates how vain and imperfect they are, how transient, uncertain, and unsatisfactory.

Nor are they only deceitful in their Use, and unsatisfying in their Nature, but are likewise une able to serve us, when we have most Need of them, in the Bitterness of Afiction, in the Destitutions

of

« PreviousContinue »