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dangerous course of life such doubts may tempt you, and how shocking a thing it is, to be under any uncertainties about a matter of such infinite concern. Even your doubts ought to make you extremely cautious and wary about your actions; for surely none but a madman would run any hazards in a thing of this, nature, so very frightful and alarming. A wise man will not stake all his fortune, if it will afford him a tolerable subsistence, against a hundred times the sum; for if he loses, he is undone. Much less ought you to play heaven and hell, if you think it possible there may be such places, against all the pleasures of sin, were they ten thousand times greater than they are.
But if you have no doubts in this matter, if you firmly believe in the extreme severity and eternity of those torments wherewith sin is said to be punished in the next life, you must be infinitely worse than mad if you are wicked; for, • What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give,' or what shall sin give him, ‘in exchange for his soul ?' Sin, indeed, may give you some sudden and violent transports of pleasure; but can you give a loose to them without considering in what they end? How dare you, as bishop Hall says, dance for a moment on the mouth of hell, with the peril of an everlasting burning ? If it shocks you to see a man burning alive at a stake, how would it wring your heart to see him in this horrible torture for an entire day,—for a month,-for a year,--for an age,-for a whole eternity ? Are you so deeply affected with the torment of another? Consider then, how you could endure the same yourself. When you are tempted with the sweets of sin, turn your thoughts to a deep reflection on the bitterness of its end ; eternal banishment from God; imprisonment under chains of darkness, under guilt, under shame, under the wrath of God; in the midst of fire, of devils, of horror, of anguish, of despair, of blasphemy; without intermission, without hope of mercy, without ease or end.
Are you shocked ? Be shocked at sin, not at my words; for they are the words of soberness and truth ;' nay, the words of tenderness and charity for you; words, which, I bless God for it, the holy Scriptures, and my conscience, ring aloud in mine own ears, as often as the tempting plea
sures of sin would smile, and sooth me to destruction. I deal by you, as I do by myself, as God hath dealt by us all ; and surely this is faithful dealing.
But remember, dearly beloved in the Lord, I have blown the trumpet;' I have endeavoured to rouse you from sleep : I have given you warning of your enemy, and your danger ; and, in so doing, have laboured to acquit myself, as well as to save you from sin here, and damnation hereafter. It is now your business to give all your thoughts, and all your fears, to what I have said, that the labour of this day 'may not be vain in the Lord.'
Let us now earnestly beseech the good God to fill our souls with a timely fear of his fipal judgment, and with such an apprehension of those dreadful torments, to which the wicked at that great event shall be condemned, as may rouse us from the dangerous sleep of sin, to a new and holy life, through Christ Jesus our blessed Redeemer; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
OF LOVE TOWARDS GOD.
LUKE X. 27.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.
WHOSOEVER is not convinced there is a God, must be an idiot, or a madman. Whosoever believes there is a God, and yet loves him not, must be as destitute of gratitude and goodness, as the Atheist is of understanding. If the proofs of his being are too many, and too strong, to leave the mind of one who can think in any uncertainty about it; the demonstrations of his goodness are too great, and too affecting, to suffer any coolness towards him in his heart, who
otherwise than as the devils are said to do. The faith of devils, because they are without hope, fills them with fear and trembling, and, in all probability, with envy and malice against God. But the faith of a man, whose virtue or reformation gives countenance to his hopes, if it is at all attended with reflection, must inspire him with gratitude and love.
So great is the natural inducement to this love, that it may seem to a good mind almost unnecessary to remind us of it by a command. But whereas there are numbers, who, by want of reflection, or generosity of nature, might become careless of improving in themselves so necessary, and so noble, a turn of mind; and whereas, of those who can and do think, there are not a few who might imagine the love of God not necessary in themselves, because not needed by a being infinitely perfect and happy; to leave it not in the power of ingratitude to hide itself either in want of thought, or in the base pretence of a compliment to the Divine perfection, we are, by an express commandment of God himself, ordered to love him with all the warmth and affection of
our hearts,' with all the faculties and powers of our souls,' with all the sense and vigour of our minds.' And this is the first and greatest commandment,' on which depends the second, which is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;' on both, but primarily and chiefly on the first, ' hang all the law and the prophets,' all our duty and happiness. On faith, the foundation of our religion, is erected the beautiful structure of hope; but it is charity, or the love of God, that raises this building to heaven, that puts the finishing hand, and gives perfection, to the religion of a Christian; and therefore it is said by St. Paul to be * greater than faith and hope.'
Now this commandment, in bidding us " love God with all our hearts,' &c. does by no means absolutely prohibit the love of every thing else; because, if it did this, it would almost wholly defeat itself; as we shall presently perceive, when we come to shew how God woos our love towards him by the enjoyment of the good things he hath bestowed on us; which nevertheless could be no enjoyment, did we not in some degree love and desire them. Besides, he who hath commanded us to love him with all our hearts,' hath also commanded us by Scripture, and moved us by nature, to love many other things, as our children, our parents, our wives, our benefactors. But these we are to love in a degree limited by the end for which we are to love them, and the useful purposes intended by the relation they are made to stand in to us. This, however, by no means hinders us from loving God in a much higher degree, even with all the ardour and affection that can possibly warm our hearts.
But how, will some libertines say, can we suppose God should command us to love him? Are not his benefits sufficient to win us to this, without his commands ? Is God like one of those selfish benefactors among men, who claim returns? No; but if any benefactor hath a right to the gratitude of such as he confers his favours on, it must be God, who gives of his own; whereas all other benefactors only borrow the power to oblige from him. God, having an unquestionable right to our love, may surely be allowed to claim it, if he pleases, were it for no other reason, but because the service we owe him would be wholly unworthy of his acceptance, did it not proceed from love. Besides, it ought to be observed, that this command is a reproach to the tardiness of our gratitude. God need never, I own, have told us what returns be expects from us for his infinite goodness, had we not been too stupid and insensible to render him those returns undemanded.
The truth, however, is, that he requires our love of hin, not for his own sake, but for our good, our greatest good; for, of all things, the love of God conduces the most directly to raise and dignify the nature of man; and, of consequence, conduces also most powerfully to make him happy. It ought therefore to be the first endeavour, the most earnest aim, of every man, to excite in himself, by all the ways and means pointed out by reason, and authorized by religion, a high and ardent love of God.
That the love of God is the most powerful instrument to refine and dignify our nature, and make us happy, will, I hope, be easily proved to a congregation of Christians.
Our minds naturally receive a strong turn and tincture from that which hath, for a long time, agreeably entertained them. Habit often renders things extremely pleasing, which at first were very harsh and distasteful. But, when any ob
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 intò 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,