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sad and wearisome, and seems much longer than it is while it is detained here. I desire to be dissolved (saith St. Paul) and to be with Christo.
God is the sum of all things lovely. Thus excellently Greg. Nazian. expresseth himself, Orat. 1. “ If I have any possessions, health, credit, learn“ing, this is all the contentment I have of them, “ that I have somewhat I may despise for Christ, “who is totus desiderabilis, & totum desiderabile. And this love is the sum of all he requires of us; it is that which makes all our meanest services acceptable, and without which, all we offer to him is distasteful. God doth not only deserve our love by his matchless excellency and beauty; but by his matchless love to us, and that is the strongest loadstone of love, He hath loved me, saith the Apostle'. How appears that? in no less than this, he hath given himself for me. Certainly then there is no clearer character of our love than this, to give ourselves to him, that hath so loved us, and given himself for us.
This affection must be bestowed somewhere : there is no man but hath some prime choice, somewhat that is the predominant delight of his soul; will it not then be our wisdom to make the worthiest choice? seeing it is offered us, and is extreme folly to reject it.
Grace doth not pluck up by the roots, and wholly destroy the natural passions of the mind, because they are distempered by sin; that were an extreme remedy, to cure by killing, and heal by cutting off: no, but it corrects the distemper in them; it dries not up this main stream of love, but purifies it from the mud it is full of in its wrong course, or calls it to its right channel, by which it may run into happiness, and empty itself into the ocean of good
The Holy Spirit turns the love of the soul towards God in Christ, for in that way only can it apprehend his love: so then Jesus Christ is the first object of this divine love; he is medium unionis, 9 Philip. i. 23.
r Gal. ii. 20.
through whom God conveys the sense of his love to the soul, and receives back its love to him.
And if we will consider his incomparable beauty, ve may look on it in the holy scriptures, -particularly in that divine song of loves, wherein Solomon borrows all the beauties of the creatures, dips his pencil in all their several excellencies, to set him forth unto us, who is the chief of ten thousands. There is an inseparable intermixture of love with belief, and a pious affection, receiving divine truth; so that in effect, as we distinguish them, they are mutually strengthened, the one by the other, and so though it seem a circle, it is a divine one, and falls not under censure of the school's pedantry. If you ask, how shall I do to love? I answer, believe. If you ask, how shall I believe? I answer, love. AL though the expressions to a carnal mind are altogether unsavoury, by gross mistaking them; yet to a doul taught to read and hear them, by any measure of that same spirit of love wherewith they were penned, they are full of heavenly and unutterable sweetness.
Many directions, and means of begetting and increasing this love of Christ may be here offered, and they that delight in number may multiply them; but sure this one will comprehend the greatest and best part, if not all of them, Believe, and you shall love ; believe much, and you shall love much; labour for strong and deep persuasions of the glorious things that are spoken of Christ, and this will command love. Certainly did men indeed believe his worth, they would accordingly love him ; for the reasonable creature cannot but affect that most which it firmly believes to be worthy of affection. O! this mischievous unbelief is that which makes the heart cold and dead towards God. Seek then to believe Christ's excellency in himself, and his love to us, and our interest in him, and this will kindle such a fire in the heart as will make it ascend in a sacrifice of love to him.
Many signs likewise of this love may be multiplied, according to the many fruits and working's of it; but in them all, itself is its own most infallible evidence. When the soul finds that all its obedience and endeavour to keep the commands of Jesus Christ, which himself makes its character, do flow from love, then it is true and sincere: for do or suf. fer what you will, without love all passes for nothing; all are cyphers without it, they signify nothings
This is the message of the gospel, and that which the ministry aims at, and therefore the ministers ought to be suitors, not for themselves, but for Christ, to espouse souls to him, and to bring in many hearts to love him. And certainly this is the most compendious way to persuade to all other christian duties, this is to converse with Jesus Christ; and therefore where his love is, no other incentive will be needful: for love delights iu the presence and converse of the party loved. If we are to persuade to duties of the second table, the sum of those is love to our brethren, resulting from the love of Christ, which diffuseth such a sweetness into the soul, that it is all love, and meekness, and gentleness, and long-suffering.
If times be for suffering, love will make the soul not only bear, but welcome the bitterest afflictions of life, and the hardest kinds of death for his sake. In a word, there is in love a sweet constraint, or tying of the heart to all obedience and duty.
The love of God is requisite in ministers for their preaching of the word; so vur Saviour to St. Peter', Peter, lovest thou me ? then feed my lambs. It is requisite for the people that they receive the truth in the love of it, and that Christ preached may be entertained in the soul, and embraced by faith and love.
You that have made choice of Christ for your love, let not your hearts slip out, to renew your wonted base familiarity with sin; for that will bring new bitsi Cor. xiii.
Joh. xxi. 15. Vol. I.
terness to your souls, and at least for some time will deprive you of the sensible favour of your beloved Jesus. Delight always in God, and give him your whole heart; for he deserves it all, and is a satisfying good to it. The largest heart is all of it too strait for the riches of consolation that he brings with him. Seek to increase in this love; and though it is at first weak, yet labour to find it daily rise higher, and burn hotter and clearer, and consume the dross of earthly desires.
Receiving the end of your faith.] Although the soul that believes and loves, is put in present possession of God, as far as it is capable, in its sojourning bere; yet it desires a full enjoyment, which it cannot attain to, without removing hence. While We are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord, saith the Apostle. And because they are assured of that happy exchange, that being untied and freed of this body, they shall be present with the Lord, having his own word for it, that where he is, they shall be also; this begets such an assured hope, as bears the name of Possession. Therefore it is said here, Receiving the end of your faith. u
This receiving likewise flows from faith. Faith apprehends the present truth of the divine promises, and so makes the things to come present; and hope looks out to their after accomplishment: which it the promise's be true, as faith avers, then hope hath good reason firmly to expect. This desire and hope are the very wheels of the soul that carry it on, and faith the common axis on which they rest. .. In the words there are two things: 1. The good hoped for, in Christ so believed on and loved. 2. The assuredness of the hope itself, yea it is as sure as if it were already accomplished.
1. As for the good hoped for, it consists, 1. In the nature of it, viz. the salvation of their soul. 2. In a relative property of it, the end of their faith.
1st, The nature of it is, salvation, and salvation of the soul, it imports full deliverance from all kind of misery, and the safe possession of perfect happi
ness, when the soul shall be out of the reach of all adversaries, and adverse accidents, no more subjected to those evils that are properly its own, namely, the conscience of sin, and fear of wrath, and sad defectious; nor yet subject to those other evils it endured, by society with the body, outward distresses and afflictions, persecutions, poverty, diseases, &c.:
It is called salvation of the soul: Not excluding the body from the society of that glory, when it shall be raised and reunited to the soul; but because the soul is of itself an immortal substance, and both the more noble part of man, and the prime subject both of grace and glory, and because it arrives first at that blessedness, and for a time leaves the body in the dust to do homage to its original; therefore it is only named here. But Jesus is the Saviour of the body too, and he shall, at his coming, change our vile bodies, and make them like his glorious body. · 2dly, We have the relative property of this hope, the end of your faith. The end, or reward; for it is both. It is the end, either at which faith aims, or wherein it ceaseth. It is the reward, not of their works, nor of faith, as a work deserving it, but as the condition of the new covenant, which God, according to the tenor of that covenant, first works in his own, and then rewards as if it were their work. And this salvation, or fruition of Christ, is the proper reward of faith, which believes in him unseen, and so obtains that happy sight. It is the proper work of faith to believe what thou seest not, and the reward of faith, to see what thou hast believed. , · H. This is the certainty of their hope, that it is as if they had already received it. If the promise of God and the merit of Christ hold good, then they that believe in him, and love him, are made sure of salvation. The promises of God in Christ are not ýea and nay; but they are in hinı yea, and in him amen. Sooner may the rivers run backward, and the course of the Heavens change, and the frame of nature be dissolved, than any one soul that is united to Jesus Christ by faith and love can be severed from