« AnteriorContinuar »
* set his glory above the heavens.” Yea, he is perfectly, etere nally and immutably glorious; hence he is altogether amiable and worthy of the most exalted love of all his intelligent creatures throughout the unbounded extension of his dominions.
The next thing, as the ground of divine love, is proper apprehensions, and just conceptions of this transcendent amiableness and holy beauty. These the angels have, according to their various capacities, from the higliest archangel down to the lowestgrade ; these all the spirits of just men made perfect have ; the devils and wicked men, however they may believe, and fear and tremble, have not, neither can they have these conceptions. No such ideas ever did, or ever will enter into hell. And in this world, they are peculiar to the regenerated and spiritually illue minated. Spiritual beauties and glories, can only be discerned by spiritual minds.
The origin of this love, in every true believer, arises from bem holding God infinitely excellent, transcendently glorious, and als together lovely. Real and deluded christians, both love God; the one is true and sincere, the other false and hypocritical. The one takes its rise from views of the amiableness of God, and the beauty of all his glorious perfections; the other from mistaken apprehensions that God loves them, will do them good, and make them happy forever. The one is a genuine, and the other a spurious passion. The one a benevolent, and the other a selfish affection. The one arises from perceiving God altogether excellent, the other from behoiding himself as highly favoured. Hence, the language of the latter always is, “ We thank God, " we are not as other men.” Whereas the habitaal breathings of the former, in the valley of humility and self-abasement, are, “ Behold we are vile, God be merciful to us sinners."
Now a genuine or evangelical love to God, is to have the soul attracted to him under conceptions of the glories of his excellencles, an inclination of the whole heart to be near him and like kim; and supreme desires to be obedient, and submitted to all his pleasure. He is, in the view of the soul, “ The chief among « ten thousand and one altogether lovely. Beholding as in a “glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the sanie image “ from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This amiableness, being superior to all things, 'therefore, the soul loves him above all, more than the world and the things of the world, more than father or mother, or any other possiblc enjoyment,
The soul is also drawn to God, from the wonderful displays of his mercy and grace in the gospel. He has made such discoveries of the beauty of all his perfections in the admirable scheme of rea' demption, and has caused all his glory to shine in the face of Jesus Christ, that the soul is hereby captivated, charmed and delighted. He longs to be near him and like him, and to have commuvion with him, an open intercourse and perfect intimacy; or, in one word, to see him as he is.
The formal nature of this love seems to be not so much a sin, gle affection, as the general bent, inclination, and prevailing tendency of all the affections and powers of the soul towards God : Therefore, to love God, is as much as possible to have the whole heart elevated and directed towards him, and to exercise all the faculties on him as its chief object. Hence the words of the precept are, “ Thou shalt love with all thy heart, and with all thy Se soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” That is, with the united and combined force of all thy powers. But the beauty and excellency of this state of mind, or this love, is best seen in its operation and effects. The scriptures dwell little upon its nature, but they are abundant in the descriptions of its fruits and manifestations. Which leads me to the
Second head of this discourse, which was to consider how it operates or manifests itself. The definition which St. John gives of this affection, is very remarkable. “This is love, that we walk
& after his commandinents.” The Apostle does not say, that walking after the commandments of God is a proof or evidence of love, but he declares it is love itself. We are never to unders stand, that an observance of the divine precepts is one thing, and love another. They are inseparably the same, and mutually involve each other. To keep the commandments of God, not only intends a well adjusted external conduct, but also, that this conduct origniates from love, and that love is diffused throughout the whole. Love is often affirmed in the scriptures, “To be the “ falfillment of the law." Love is the grace or virtue flowing through and seasoning all our duties and obedience, which give the same acceptance with God. In want of this, all a person can er may do is nothing. He may give his body to the flames, be crowned with the honors of martyrdom, and bestow all his goods to feed the poor, yet all this will not admit him to heaven, or entitle him to any divine reward.
Let us reduce this inatter to a few particulars.
First, Divine love will awaken in the soul thoughts highlý honorable of God. It cannot allow us to think meanly, much less injuriously of its object. It is a contradiction to the very existence of love, to indulge any thought of God that is dishonorable to himn. The soul in the proper exercise of love can conceive nothing wrong in the divine character, judgments, punishments or Providential dispensations. In the most gloomy and dreadful scenes, the soul cries out, “ It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” Not all the reasoning and arguments in the world will produce this temper without love. But love will exalt and vindicate Gol in all his ways. This is its native exercise, its free and genuine operation.
Secondly, Love will manifest itself in rendering due homage, severence and worship to God. It will acknowledge with all the heart his greatness, goodness, dominion and authority. It will make a person extol God, and be pleased when he is extolled. It fills the soul with grief when it beholds him dishonored and contemned. It goes to our heart when one we sincerely love is abused or insulted. Thus love will operate when God is neglected or treated with contempt. Thus saith David, “ Rivers of wa
ters run down mine eyes because men keep not thy law.”
Thirdly, Love will dispose to all acts of obedience to God. This is the unfailing and efficacious spring of all that obedience which is gracious or saving. Love is the very essence of Gospel ebedience. It is as absurd to suppose obedience, without love, as day without light or night without darkness. Obedience flows from love as streams from a fountain. And as the water in the stream is the same with that in the source, so this love diffuses itself thro' the whole system of obedience. Thus where love is, due obedience will be practised. ,
· Fourthly, Divine love will display itself in thanksgiving and praise to God for his mercies and favours. The language of the heart is, “ What shall I render to the Lord, for all his benefits ?" The disposition to render praise and gratitude to the most High, is always as the degree of love, and respect to him. The more love, the more is the soul employed in blessing, prager and thanks, giving. All ingratitude originates from a destitution of love, We have little feeling of favors çonferred upon us by persons for whom we have no respect. But benefits received from those that we highly esteem, awaken the tender sensibilities of the heart. We feel our obligation to them in another manner, than to those for whom we have no such regard. That we should praise God, and give thanks unto his name, seems to be a kind of universal scripture precept, but we see there can be no acts or/performances of this sort without love. Hence love essentially forms the nature of all to thanksgiving and praise.
Fifthly, Love will exercise itself in resignation and submission to the disposing will of heaven. It will banish all hard thoughts of, all murmering and repinirg against the Sovereign of the Unie verse. Love will exhibit a subjection to, a satisfaction and contentment with the allotments of Divine Providence. This will dispose us to choose rather to be at the disposal of God, under all circumstances, than to be at our direction independent of his will. If our circumstances be low in the world, and our ta. bles covered with the coarsest fare, yet if the love of God be present in the heart, we shall have more pleasure than the wicked who fare sumptuously every day. Therefore says Solomon, “Bet« ter is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox with ha“ tred there with." If we are on beds of sickness and pain, love will be as a divine lenitive or a relieving medicine. It will crea ate patience in the soul, and cause it sweetly to resign to the will of its heavenly Father, saying, “ Not my will but thine be done.",
Lastly, Love will effectually dispose every person to walk with God. He will choose to have holy intercourse and communion with him. He will be much and fervent in prayer. The sabbath will be his delight He will have pleasure in all the public and private offices of religion. The participation of the holy sacraments fills his heart with consolation. How comes it so few'attend the table of the Lord througlout all our ckurches ? Is not the neglect of this ordinance owing to the want of love? Was there more love the holy table would be better filled with guests, Where love induces us to wait upon God thro' the medium of this institution, and we behold Jesus symbolically represented before us, how do our hearts receive him with a pleasing rapture, crying, “ This is our beloved and this is our friend.” But time would fail me to glance upon all the operations and manifestations of divine love. It is the soul of all religion ; diffuses itself thro every grace ; is the life of every duty; and the beauty of every virtue." Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, 6 and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy “strength : This is the first commandment ? · A few reflections must terminate this pleasing theme.