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ject is qualified, not only by its own nature, but also by a habit long indulged, to give us strong and high sensations of pleasure, then it is that it begins to engross all our thoughts, to excite a vehement desire, and through that so to work itself into our nature, that, from thenceforward, we insensibly assimilate ourselves to it. We naturally grow into a resemblance of what we love, if it is a thing that admits of imitation. Such is the ductility of the heart, that nature herself gives place to impressions this way acquired; insomuch that most men, through the influence of this operative affection, generally assume distinctions, both in the eye of God and man, very different from those they set out with.
Now, as God is of all objects the most amiable and excellent, of all beings infinitely the most gracious and beneficent, he is by nature entitled, at least, to the first and highest place in the heart of man, if not to the whole. If in virtue of this title from the superior excellence of his nature, and the resemblance between that and the nature of man, God hath been early and long possessed of the throne in any heart, we may be assured, it is now a heart after God's own heart; and that he whose life or conversation takes its warmth and motion from it, is a godlike man. A soul deeply penetrated with the admiration of infinite excellence, continually inflamed with the contemplation of infinite beauty, and long transported with a grateful sense, with an ardent and vehement love, of infinite goodness, must have copied into itself a lasting and happy resemblance of God. An object, so habitually admired and loved, cannot fail to strike its image irresistibly on the heart.
As there is nothing so delightful to him who loves, as the return of love from an object absolutely possessed of all his affections, so there is nothing he pants after, and woos, with such an ardour of heart. While he hath this animating end in view, no labours seem fatiguing, no pains tormenting, no dangers shocking, if, by resolutely encountering with them, he hopes to render himself, and his services, acceptable to the being he thus ardently loves.
Now, he who loves God, knows that the blessed object of all his desires is not like a man, who, being ignorant of our hearts, may suspect the sincerity of our professions,
nay, even the purity and disinterestedness of our services; not like a man, who, being proud or ungrateful, may happen not to set the proper value on our love. No; he is sensible God searches and sees through the heart. He is sure the best of things cannot but love those that love him. He remembers the words of Christ, 'He that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him. He remembers the words of the Psalmist, *God preserveth all those that love him ;' and of the Apostle, ‘All things work together for good to those that love God.'
In full assurance that his love will be abundantly returned, he makes it the ruling study and endeavour of bis whole life, to give such proofs of his love towards God, as he believes God will be best pleased with, and to render himself, to the uttermost of his power, a fit object of the divine love. To this end he labours to suppress and extinguish in himself every inordinate passion, every impure and corrupt desire; and, for so good a purpose, spares no necessary act of mortification; and therefore consults not with flesh and blood, but with God himself, through his word, as well about the dispositions that are offensive to him, as about the severities requisite to subdue them.
Having made some progress in this, he takes courage, with the hope of pleasing God on yet a nobler plan, namely, that of introducing into his mind, thus cleansed and emptied, a copy drawn from the divine original, of those imitable attributes, which he adores in God, and which he knows God is pleased to see us cultivate in ourselves. God, looking down with the tenderness of a most indulgent father on the well-meant endeavours of a beloved child, willing to do his best, but weak and unequal to so great a design, sends his Holy Spirit to perfect what his poor creature and servant is unable, through the infirmities of flesh and blood, to accomplish.
Thus assisted by his Maker, the lover of God is, as it were, created anew. A plentiful stream of wisdom, justice, mercy, holiness, flows from the divine fountain into his soul, and refreshes it with the water of life. From this time forth he is highly acceptable in the sight of God, who will never forsake or forget him. •Can a woman forget her
sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget; yet will not God forget this soul that loves him, and is now so like him, that, as far as the influence of his ability and station extend, he is in the stead of God to other men, enlightening the ignorant, guiding the blind, relieving the distressed, and, in a word, doing the work of God with a zeal and love resembling that of his ' ministering spirits, who are sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.'
The love of God, having led a man by such steps to so high a pitch of improvement, neither leaves him there, nor suffers his excellent gifts to be buried in mere speculative contemplations on the goodness and perfection of God; but rouses him to an active service of the blessed Being he loves. He knows that keeping God's commandments is the
very precise thing by which his love is to be judged of, and his virtue tried; and, of consequence, that it is the great foundation (for so much as rests in his power) on which his hope of enjoying God to all eternity must be built. Christ says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.' He who says he loves Christ, and yet keeps not his commandments, does but insult him with empty professions. On the other hand, it is impossible to keep the commandments as Christians ought to do, without making the love of God the principle of our obedience. It is the peculiar excellence of Christianity, by which it raises its beautiful head above all other religions, that those who enter rightly into its true genius and spirit, obey the Divine Being, not through superstitious fears, as the heathen, nor through a low hope of worldly blessings, as the Jews do, but through a noble principle of gratitude and love towards God. St. John tells us, “God is love;' and common sense must tell us, that we are to serve him, not according to our nature, which is sinful, but according to his, which is holy, and pure, and good; for the purity of his service, and of our true happiness, requires that we should renounce our own corrupt nature, and be conformed to his ; it being infinitely more reasonable, that man should aspire towards God, than that God should descend towards man, in order to the happy intercourse of mutual love.
As, on the one hand, the lover of God cannot but love virtue, because it is the will and pleasure of God that we should be truly virtuous, which is impossible without a cordial love for virtue ; so, on the other, he cannot but hate vice, because he knows it is hateful to God; nay, he must, in proportion to his love of God, hate every thing that tempts him to sin; for whatsoever does so, is the enemy of God; and surely the friend of God, who loves him with all his heart,' &c. must, according to the rule of opposites, hate his enemies with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind.
It is worth observing here, that, although the fear of God is a most useful instrument of reformation in a mind not yet raised to a higher principle of obedience, it is nevertheless reasonable to suppose, God is much better pleased with a less perfect service, proceeding from the love of him, and our duty, than with a very punctual observance of his commandments, that takes its rise from fear only. We are told by the apostle, that love casteth out fear. However, it is happy for us that fear continues to awe us, till love is strong enough to sweeten our duty to us. But, when love is perfect, there is no farther occasion for fear; the operation of a lower motive being superseded by the presence and power of another, infinitely more worthy of a reasonable creature, and more acceptable to God.
Thus it is that the love of God inspires the soul with a love of virtue, and an hatred to vice; and, by a pleasing power, alike delightful both to God and the heart that feels it, prompts us to the performance of our duty. Hence arises a most comfortable assurance of God's favour through Christ, which imparts a happiness to the mind, not liable to be greatly impaired, much less to be entirely taken from it, by sicknesses, disasters, or death itself.
But, what is infinitely more than all this, the love of God is the very means and foundation of eternal happiness, not only as the principle of piety and goodness here, but as the soul's internal qualification for, and spring of, all enjoyment hereafter. It is not to be believed, that God will admit such into heaven as do not love him ; nor that, if they were there, they could be happy ; because it is the favour of God, rather than his presence, or the created glories of his court, that constitute heaven, and everlasting
happiness. God himself is the happiness of heaven, and of all its hosts. Where God manifests himself in his glory, the highest lustre of all created thrones, and principalities, and powers, is totally eclipsed, and entirely swallowed up, in the immensity of that brightness which breaks from the Infinite Being, as the stars are, when the sun shineth upon us in his strength.
To those who are blessed with this glorious vision of God, so ravishing is his beauty, so commanding his majesty, so infinitely sweet the smiles of his favour, that it is impossible, even for a moment, to turn their eyes from him, to all the pomp of heaven. The whole host of glorified spirits, transported out of themselves with infinite love, centre all their attention in him, and drink unutterable happiness from the river of his pleasures. But still it must be remembered, that they enjoy him only in proportion to their love. Without love there is no enjoyment, neither here on earth, nor there in heaven.
Having thus seen that the love of God is the most powerful instrument to refine and dignify our nature, and the only spring of our eternal happiness, it follows, that, of all our endeavours, this of possessing our hearts with a high and ardent love of God, ought to be the first, the most vehement, and the most constant.
Here the important question may be put, By what means shall we excite in our dead and fleshly hearts a sufficient love of God, who hides himself' from us in his secret places, in the dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies?' The answer is easy. Thus indeed it is that he comes in 'storm, and tempest, and thunder,' to execute judgment on the oppressors of those he loves, as we find it in the eighteenth Psalm. Par otherwise does he shew himself to such as love him. To them he is a Father, a Saviour, and a Comforter. To them he every day manifests himself by ten thousand instances of his wisdom and goodness. If we would love God, these gracious manifestations are continually and closely to be attended to. We should consider, that God created us out of nothing, and fitted our souls for immortality, and for great and endless enjoyments. As to the enjoyments of this life, though they are not endless, they are, or may be, too considerable to be overlooked by