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bears, must needs discern himself obliged first and chiefly to perform those acts of mind and will toward him, which most true and earnest love do imply : different expressions of love may be prescribed, peculiar grounds of love may be declared in several ways of religion ; but in the general and main substance of the duty all will conspire, all will acknowlege readily, that it is love we chiefly owe to God; the duty which he may most justly require of us, and which will be most acceptable to him. It was then indeed the great commandment of the old (or rather of the young and less perfect) religion of the Jews, and it is no less of the more adult and improved religion which the Son of God did institute and teach : the difference only is, that Christianity declares more fully how we should exercise it; and more highly engages us to observe it; requires more proper and more substantial expressions thereof; extends our obligation as to the matter, and intends it as to the degree thereof: for as it represents almighty God in his nature and in his doings more lovely than any other way of religion, either natural or instituted, bath done, or could do ; so it proportionably raises our obligation to love him : it is, as St. Paul speaketh, το τέλος της παραγγελίας, the last drift, or the supreme pitch of the evangelical profession and institution to love; to love God first, and then our neighbor 'out of a pure heart, and good conscience, and faith unfeigned:' it is the bond, or knot of that perfection which the gospel enjoins us to aspire to : it is the first and principal of those goodly fruits, which the Holy Spirit of Christ produceth in good Christians. It is therefore plainly with us also the great commandment and chief duty : chiefly great in its extent, in its worth, in its efficacy, and influence: most great it is, in that it doth (eminently at least, or virtually) contain all other laws and duties of piety; they being all as branches making up its body, or growing out of it as their root. St. Paul saith of the love toward our neighbor, that it is akúpwua toū vópov,' a full performance of the laws' concerning him: and that all commandments, árakepalatūrai, are recapitulated, or summed up in this one saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself:' and by like, or greater reason are all the duties of piety comprised in the love of God; which is the chief of those two hinges, on which,' as our
Saviour here subjoins, the whole law and the prophets do bang.' So great is this duty in extent: and it is no less in proper worth ; both as it immediately respects the most excellent and most necessary performances of duty, (employing our highest faculties in their best operations, and as it imparts yirtue and value to all other acts of duty: for no sacrifice is acceptable, which is not kindled by this heavenly fire; no offering sweet and pure, which is not seasoned by this holy salt; no action is truly good or commendable, which is not conjoined with, or doth not proceed from the love of God; that is not performed with a design to please God, or, at least, with an opinion that we shall do so thereby. If a man perform any good work not out of love to God, but from any other principle, or for any other design, (to please himself or others, to get honor or gain thereby,) how can it be acceptable to God, to whom it hath not any due regard ? And what action hath it for its principle, or its ingredient, becomes sanctified thereby, in great measure pleasing and acceptable to God; such is the worth and value thereof. It is also the great commandment for efficacy and influence, being naturally productive of obedience to all other commandments; especially of the most genuine and sincere obedience; no other principle being in force and activity comparable thereto; (fear may drive to a compliance with some, and hope may draw to an observance of others; but it is love, that with a kind of willing constraint and kindly violence carries on cheerfully, vigorously, and swiftly to the performance of all God's commandments: • If any man loves me,' saith our Saviour, ‘he will keep my word :' to keep his word is a natural and necessary result of love to him : This is the love of God,' saith St. John, “ that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous ;' it is the uatuse of that love to beget a free and delightful obedience :) such then is the subject of our discourse ; even the sum, the soul, the spring of all our religion and duty. And because it is requisite, both for our direction how to do, and the examination of ourselves whether we do as we ought, that we sbould understand what we are so far obliged to; that we may be able to perform it, and that we be effectually disposed thereto, I shall use this method ; I will first endeavor to explain the
nature of this love commanded us; then, to show some means of attaining it; lastly, to propound some inducements to the purchase and practice thereof.
I. For the first part; we may describe love in general (for it seems not so easy to define it exactly) to be an affection or inclination of the soul toward an object, proceeding from an apprehension and esteem of some excellency or some conveniency therein, (its beauty, worth, or usefulness,) producing thereon, if the object be absent or wanting, a proportionable desire, and consequently an endeavor to obtain such a propriety therein, such a possession thereof, such an approximation or union thereto, as the thing is capable of; also a regret and displeasure in the failing so to obtain it; or in the want, absence, and loss thereof; likewise begetting a complacence, satisfaction, and delight in its presence, possession, or enjoyment; which is moreover attended with a good-will thereto, suitable to its nature ; that is, with a desire that it should arrive unto and continue in its best state ; with a delight to perceive it so to thrive and flourish; with a displeasure to see it suffer or decay in any wise; with a consequent endeavor to advance it in all good, and preserve it from all evil. Which description containing the chief properties of love in common, do in some sort (not to insist on abstracted notions, or in examples remote from our purpose) all of them well agree to that love which we owe to God, according to the tenor of this law, and in the degree therein expressed ; that is, in the best manner and highest degree; for even of this divine love the chief properties (prerequisite thereto, or intimately conjoined therewith, or naturally resulting from it) I conceive are these.
1. A right apprehension and firm persuasion concerning God, and consequently a high esteem of him as most excellent in himself and most beneficial to us: for such is the frame of our soul, that the perceptive part doth always go before the appetitive, that affection follows opinion, that no object otherwise moves our desire, than as represented by reason, or by fancy, good unto us : what effect will the goodliest beauty, or the sweetest harmony have on him, who wants sense to discern, or judgment to prize them? This is our natural way of acting; and according to it, that we may in due measure love God, he must appear proportionably amiable, and desirable to us; we must entertain worthy thoughts of him, as full of all perfection in himself; as the fountain of all good; as the sole author of all that happiness we can hope for or receive : as he, in
possession of whom we shall possess all things desirable; in effect and virtue, all riches, all honors, all pleasure, all good that we are capable of; and without whom we can enjoy no real good or true content: which esteem of him, how can it otherwise than beget affection toward him? If the faint resemblances, or the slender participations of such excellences (of that incomprehensible wisdom, that uncontrollable power, that unconfined bounty, that unblemished purity, which are united in him, and shine from him with a perfect lustre ; if, I say, the very faint resemblances, and imperfect participations of these excellences) discerned in other things, are apt to raise our admiration, and allure our affection toward them; if the glimmering of some small inconsiderable benefit, the shadow of real profit discovered in these inferior empty things, is able so strongly to attract our eyes, and fix our hearts on them, why should not from a like, but so much greater cause, the like effect proceed? whence can it be that the apprehension of an object so infinitely lovely, so incomparably beneficial (if not passing cursorily through our fancy, but deeply impressed on our mind) should not proportionably affect and incline us toward him with all that desire, that delight, that good-will which are proper to love? If we think, as the psalmist did, that there is none in heaven or in earth comparable to God,' (comparable in essential perfection, comparable in beneficial influence,) why should we not be disposed also to say with him ; · Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee. Such a reverent esteem is the
foundation on which true love is built, and which upholds it: whence, as the love of God doth commonly denote all the duties of religion; so doth fear (or reverence to him) likewise in Scripture style comprehend and express them all; it being the root from whence love doth sprout, and by which it is nourished; it being the beginning of that true wisdom by which we embrace and fasten our affection on the sovereign good. Hence we may observe that those devout persons, whose hearts were fullest of
this love, their minds were most employed in meditation on the divine excellences, and on the beneficial emanations from them in bounty and mercy on the creatures; their tongues being tuned by their thoughts, and their inward esteem breaking forth into praise. Every day, all the day long, at all times did they bless God, praise his name, speak of his righteousness, show forth his salvation,' as the psalmist expresses his practice, arising from love enlivened by the esteem of God, and the apprehension of his excellent goodness : from whence also that strong faith, that constant hope, that cheerful confidence they reposed in him; that hearty approbation of all his counsels and purposes; that full acquiescence of mind in his proceedings; that intire submission of their understanding to his discipline, and resignation of their will to his good pleasure; that yielding up themselves (their souls and bodies, their lives and goods) to his disposal, with all the like high effects and pregnant signs of love did flow: but,
2. Another property of this love is an earnest desire of obtaining a propriety in God; of possessing him, in a manner, and enjoying him; of approaching him, and being, so far as may be, united to him. When we stand on such terms with any person, that we have a free access unto and a familiar intercourse with him ; that his conversation is profitable and delightful to us; that we can on all occasions have his advice and assistauce; that he is always ready in our needs, and at our desire, to employ what is in him of ability for our good and advantage, we may be said to own such a person, to possess and enjoy him; to be tied, as it were, and joined to him (as it is said
1 • the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, so that he loved him as his own soul.') And such a propriety in, such a possession of, such an alliance and conjunction to himself, God vouchsafes to them who are duly qualified for so great a good. He was not ashamed,' saith the Apostle concerning the faithful patriarchs, to be called their God;' to be appropriated in a manner unto them; and, · He that acknowlegeth the Son,' saith St. John concerning good Christians, kai ròn marépa exei, ' hath' (or possesseth) the Father also :' and to seek; to find; to draw near to; to cleave unto; to abide with, to abide in; and such other phrases frequently do occur in