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2. The consideration of God’s works and actions; his works and actions of nature, of providence, of grace.
3. Serious regard and reflexion on the peculiar benefits by the divine goodness vouchsafed to ourselves.
4. An earnest resolution and endeavor to perform God's commandments, although on inferior considerations of reason ; on hope, fear, desire to attain the benefits of obedience, to shun the mischiefs from sin.
5. Assiduous prayer to Almighty God, that he in mercy would please to bestow his love on us, and by his grace to work it in us.
But I must forbear the prosecution of these things, rather than farther trespass on your patience. Let us conclude all with a good Collect, sometimes used by our church.
“O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth, send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee; grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.”
SUMMARY OF SERMON XXIV.
MATTHEW, CHAP. xx II.-VERSE 37.
PREvious observations on the great duty recommended in the text, as the main spring of all other duties: review of what was said in the preceding discourse, regarding the essential properties of love towards God, and the means proposed for removing all impediments in the way of it. Observations on the instruments there enumerated, which are immediately and directly subservient to its production.
1. Attentive consideration on the divine perfections, &c. As counterfeit worth and beauty receive advantage by distance and darkness, so real excellence, the greater light you view it in, and the nearer you approach it, the more you will approve and like it: thus the more we think of God, the better we know him, the fuller and clearer conceptions we have of him, the more we shall be apt to esteem and desire him, the more excellent and beneficent to us he will appear: this topic enlarged on.
2. Consideration of God’s works and actions. Even the contemplation of the lower works of nature, of this visible frame of things, hath in many minds excited a very high degree of reverence and affection towards God: instance of the holy psalmist. The same effect also may be produced by considering the common proceedings of divine providence, such as are discernible to every attentive mind from history and daily experience; but especially by the study and contemplation of those more high and rare proceedings of God, in managing his gracious design of our redemption from sin and misery. Miserably cold and damp must our affections be, if all these powerful rays of heavenly light and heat, shining through our minds, cannot inflame them. 3. Serious reflexions on personal benefits by the divine goodness vouchsafed to ourselves. Every man's experience will inform him that he has received many such, from a hand, invisible indeed to sense, yet easily discernible, if he attends to the circumstances and seasons in which they came ; nor is there any one who may not perceive himself singularly indebted to God’s patience in forbearing to punish, to his mercy in pardoning offences: the reason and nature of things therefore will urge us to follow the Apostle's precept, Let us therefore love God, because God first loved us. 4. To these means may be added, as a special help, the setting ourselves in good earnest, with a strong and constant resolution, to endeavor to perform all our duty towards God, on the inferior considerations of reason, as fear, hope, desire to avoid the mischiefs arising from sin, and to attain the benefits attached to virtue. If we cannot immediately raise our hearts to that higher pitch of acting from the nobler principle of love, let us practise that which we can reach, striving as we are able to perform what God requires of us: so from doing good out of a regard to our own welfare, we shall come to like it in itself, and consequently to love him, unto whose nature and will it renders us conformable. 5. But as a most necessary mean of attaining this disposition, let us adopt earnest and assiduous prayer to God, that he would in mercy bestow it on us, and by his grace work it in us; which practice is indeed doubly conducive to this purpose, both in way of impetration, and by real efficacy: it will not fail to obtain it as a gift from God; it will help to produce it as an instrument of God's grace : this topic enlarged on. III. The inducements arising from a consideration of the blessed fruits of this love, and the miserable consequences arising from the want of it, are lastly enumerated, but not dilated on; such as the manner in which it perfects and advances our nature; how it ennobles us with a glorious alliance, rendering us friends and favorites of the sovereign Lord of all, and brethren of the first-born; enriches us with a right and title to inestimable treasures, and affords us the most unspeakable delights: how contrariwise the want of it will depress us into a state of the greatest imperfection and baseness, setting us at a distance from God in all respects; how it will impoverish us, divest us of all right to any good thing, and render us incapable of any portion but that of utter darkness; how it will exclude us from all safety, rest, true comfort or joy, and expose us to all mischief and misery imaginable.
This love might have been compared with other loves, and thus recommended by the comparison; some particular advantages of it might also have been subjoined, and its practice shown to be, not only a mean and way to happiness, but our very formal happiness itself, a real enjoyment of the best good which we are capable of; that in which heaven itself consists. Conclusion.
BAR. WOL. 11. G
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.
‘WHICH is the great commandment” was the question, in answer whereto our Saviour returns this text; and that with highest reason, (discernible by every man,) for that of necessity the love of God is the principal duty we owe unto him: the great duty indeed, as being largest in extent, and comprehending in a manner all other duties of piety; as that which exceeds in proper worth and dignity, (employing the noblest faculties of our souls in their best operations on the most excellent object,) as that which communicates virtue unto, and hath a special influence on all other duties; in fine, as that which is the sum, the soul, the spring of all other duties: in discoursing whereon, I did formerly propound this method; first, to declare the nature thereof; then, to show some means apt to beget and improve that excellent virtue in us; lastly, to propose some inducements to the practice thereof.
The first part I endeavored to perform, by describing it according to its essential properties (common to love in general, and more particularly to this) of duly esteeming God, of desiring, according as we are capable, to possess and enjoy him, of receiving delight and satisfaction in the enjoyment of him, of feeling displeasure in being deprived hereof, of bearing good