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think proper to do, on this Head, is to instance in some of the chief Impediments of this Kind, as well as the Means, that may be of Use to remove them.
1. What I reckon, then, the first Hindrance to this Duty, is Inconfideration ; for in this State a Man will not delight in God : And, to this Purpose, we find him complaining, in that noted Place of the Prophet, The Ox knoweth bis Owner, i. e. loveth and takes Pleasure in its Owner, and the Ass his Master's Crib, but Israel will not know me, Ifrael will not love and take Pleasure in me; and the Reason of all follows, My People will not consder. If ever therefore we intend to bring our Minds to take Pleasure in God, we must be careful to make them as active as possible, and every Day appoint certain Portions of our Time, to be expended in Contemplation, and other religious Exercises : I say, appoint and allot certain Portions of our Time ; for, without doing this, by the specious Delays, which our deceitful Hearts are able to suggest, we may possibly be prevailed with to neglect them altogether.
2. Sin and Sensuality is another Hindrance, that puts us at a greater Distance from delighting in God; for in this State we cannot do it : And the Reason is, because, when once the Soul begins to tafte Things forbidden with Complacency, it becomes gross and fleshly, and loses its spiritual Taste and Relish; the Wisdom of God having contrived it so, that none should be able to enjoy him, who presume to set up his Creatures in Competition with him. That God therefore may reign in our Affections, and be the supreme Ohject of our Delight, it is necessary that we moderate our Appetites in the Enjoyment of fuch Things, as are but too ape to engross them, and, above all, that we abstain from Sin, and be constant in our Duty. For
this will keep us in Friendship, and reconcile our Minds to God; and, when we are reconciled, his Excellencies will command our Love and Admiration, which, when placed on him, will produce in ụs boundless Joy and Satisfaction.
3. But there is a worse Obstruction still to this Duty, and that is fad and uncomfortable Apprehensions of the Nature of God, for, in this Cafe, we dare not delight in him. To form Conceptions of God, not according to the Image of his Word, but according to Mens particular Tempers, has been a customary Thing in all Ages. The Stoicks were a rigid Sort of People, and accordingly, their Notion of God was, not that he governed himself by the Reason of Things, but by a stern and inexorable Fate. Whether the Doctrine of God's absolute. Decrees has descended from the same Original, we will not here dispute ; but to believe that he has determined a great Part of Mankind to eternal Mi, sery, merely to shew the Arbitrariness of his Dominion, what a dark and cloudy Scene does this draw over the Face of the Almighty, and, when we consider it, how must it damp our Rejoicing in him, and every now and then strike us with Affrightment; unless we could be sure of our own Exception, which none, without a particular Revelation, can? If therefore we would delight in God, and take Pleasure in the Contemplation of him, we must be careful to represent him fairly to our Minds, not according to our own sullen Temper, but as he has represented himself in Scripture, in some such Lineaments as thefe, viz. That he is a bountiful Benefactor to his Creation, and an universal Lover of Souls, who would have all Men be saved, and come to the Knowledge of the Truth, and heartily contributes to their eternal Welfare ; that he leaves no Art of Love, or Method of Kindness, Hnattempted to do us good ; calls us back, when
we have gone astray ; upon our Return, graciously receives us; when he hath received us, fits us for Happiness; when he hath fitted us, abundantly rewards us; and, when he hath rewarded us, everlastingly triumphs in our Glory and Happiness. These are Thoughts truly worthy of God, and befitting the infinite Goodness of his Nature : They will kindle in our Hearts a true Love and Delight in him, and make us serve him, at all Times, with a chearful Heart and liberal Affections.
3. Of fearing God.
O fear God, is to have such a due Sense of
his Majesty, and Holiness, and Justice, and Goodness, as fhall make us not dare to offend him ; for each of these Attributes is proper to raise a suitable Fear in every considering Mind. His Majesty, a Fear, left we affront it by being irreverent his Holiness, a Fear, left we offend it by being carnal ; his Justice, a Fear, left we provoke it by being presumptuous; and his Goodness, a Fear, left we forfeit it by being unthankful. Úpon which it follows, that the Fear of God is, in a great Measure, the same reverential Affection, which a dutiful and loving Child pays to his Parents, such as will make him very careful in his whole Behaviour, and reftrain him from the Commission of Sin, even tho' God had threatened no Punishment against it: And accordingly we shall, 1. Observe how reasonable and beneficial this Duty is ; and then, 2. Suggest an Argument or two to enforce it.
1. If we reflect upon the many Evils and Calamities, we are exposed to in this Life, we must agree, that it is no small Happiness to us to have the Passion of Fear implanted in our Nature. For, as in a Town, alarmed by an Enemy, Centinels are ser to watch their Approaches, and to prevent the
Danger of a Surprize ; so Fear in the Soul is appointed to this Office, to watch when and which Way all Evils come upon us, and to give us timely Warning of their Coming, that either we may decline their Attack, or be provided to receive it. But the same God, who hath given us Fear, for a Caution against Evil in general, has, in the mean Time, given us Notice, that his Displeasure is the greatest of all Evils; and therefore, as we account it a Point of Wisdom to be watchful against other Evils, so it is necessarily the highest Point of Wifdom to be watchful against this.
Considering indeed the infinite Distance between God and us, as he is our Maker, and we his Creaa tures ; as he is our Benefa&tor, and we his Dependants; as he is our Supreme Lord, and we his Subjects; and as he infinitely excels us in all the Perfections of his Nature; we cannot but esteem him the only proper Object of our Dread and awful Apprehenfions. For what are our shallow, and dark, and confused Conceptions, compared to that Wifdom, by which he comprehends all the Differences of Times at one View, and has all the Reasons and and Poflibilities of Things lying open and naked before him? What is all the Force of Mankind, though collected into one, in Comparison of that Divine Power, which gave Being to the World, when it was not, and governs and orders all Things in it, with greater Ease, than we can move a Finger ? If we attend to these, I say, and several other Properties of the Divine Nature, shall not his Exçellency make us afraid, and his Dread fall upon us? Especially considering, that the best of Men have Sins, and Guilt enough, to make them apprehend the utmost Expresses of his Wrath : For, if he charges his Angels with Folly, and the Heavens are not clean in his Sight, how much more abominable and filthy is Man, which. drịnket) Iniquity like Water, i. e,
whose natural Propensity to Evil is like that of the thirsty Traveller, to drink of every Brook that he meets in his Way? I have finned, therefore says holy Job, in the Anguilh and Bitterness of his Soul, I bave finned, and what fall I do unto thee, Othcu Preserver of Men ? For thou writest bitter Things against me, and makejt me poless the Iniquities of my Youth.
And indeed, when once God hath fet himself to write bitter Things against us, Losses and Cares, Pains and Diseases, are some of his least Inflictions : He can send Terrors into the Soul, and, by letting loose our Thoughts upon us, make us more miserable, than all the Tyrants in the World can do by the most exquisite Torments. The Arrows of the Almighty are within me, says Job, in such Circumstances, the Poison whereof drinketh up my Spirit ; the Terrors of the Lord do set themselves in Array against me : And therefore he begs Compasfion from his Friends, Have Pity upon me, have Pity upon me, O ye my Friends ; for the Hand of the Lord bath touched me. And indeed, considering how exceedingly heavy this Hand is, when once it is raised to give the Blow, that it cannot only kill the Body, but, after it bath killed the Body, bas Power to cast both Body and Soul into Hell, there to be tormented Day and Night for ever and ever, we cannot but break out into the Pfalmift's Acknowledgment, Thou, even thou, art to be feared ; and who may stand in thy Sight, when once thou art angry?
But, how much soever God deserves to be feared, we cannot but observe, that nothing is more customary among us, than to have our Actions more influenced by the Fear of Man, than of God., Thus, when we commit any Sin in Secret, which we are afraid to commit openly; when we seek Retirement and Solitude, in order to cover our Guilt from the Cognizance of Men, we then shew,