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that, which alone can satisfy our understanding and satiate our desires; especially if we add hereto,
3. The freeing of our hearts also from immoderate affection to ourselves; (I mean not from a sober desire or an earnest regard to our own true good; for this, as nature enforces to, so all reason allows, and even God's command obligeth us to; nor can it be excessive; but a high conceit of ourselves as worthy or able, a high confidence in any thing we have within us or about us;) for this is a very strong bar against the entrance, as of all other charity, so especially of this; for as the love of an external object doth thrust, as it were, our soul outwards towards it ; so the love of ourselves detains it within, or draws it inwards; and consequently these inclinations crossing each other cannot both have effect, but one will subdue and destroy the other. If our mind be-ipsa suis contenta bonissatisfied with her own (taking them for her own) endowments, abilities, or fancied perfections; if we imagine ourselves wise enough to perceive, good enough to choose, resolute enough to undertake, strong enough to achieve, constant enough to pursue whatever is conducible to our real happiness and best content; we shall not care to go farther; we will not be at the trouble to search abroad for that which, in our opinion, we can so readily find, so easily enjoy at home. If we so admire and dote on ourselves, we thereby put ourselves into God's stead, and usurp the throne due to him in our hearts; comparing ourselves to God, and in effect preferring ourselves before him ; thereby consequently shutting out that unparalleled esteem, that predominant affection we owe to him; while we are busy in dressing and decking, in courting and worshiping this idol of our fancy, we shall be estranged from the true object of our devotion; both we shall willingly neglect him, and he in just indignation will desert us. But if as all other things, so even ourselves do appear exceedingly vile and contemptible, foul and ugly in comparison to God; if we take ourselves to be (as truly we are) mere nothings, or somethings worse ; not only destitute of all considerable perfections, but full of great defects ; blind and fond in our conceits, crooked and perverse in our wills, infirm and unstable in all our powers, unable to discern, unwilling to embrace, backward to set on,
inconstant in prosecuting those things which are truly good and advantageous to us; if we have, I say, this right opinion and judgment of ourselves, seeing within us nothing lovely or desirable, no proper object there of our esteem or affection, no bottom to rest our mind on, no ground of solid comfort at home, we shall then be apt to look abroad, to direct our eyes, and settle our affections on somewhat more excellent in itself, or more beneficial to us, that seems better to deserve our regard, and more able to supply our defects. And if all other things about us appear alike deformed and deficient, unworthy our affection, and unable to satisfy our desires, then may we be disposed to seek, to find, to fasten and repose our soul on the only proper object of our love; in whom we shall obtain all that we need, infallible wisdom to guide us, omnipotent strength to help us, infinite goodness for us to admire and enjoy.
These are the chief obstacles, the removing of which conduces to the begetting and increasing the love of God in us. A soul so cleansed from love to bad and filthy things, so emptied of affection to vain and unprofitable things, so opened and dilated by excluding all conceit of, all confidence in itself, is a vessel proper for the divine love to be infused into; into so large and pure a vacuity (as finer substances are apt to flow of themselves into spaces void of grosser matter) that free and moveable spirit of divine grace will be ready to succeed, and therein to disperse itself. As all other things in nature, the clogs being removed which hinder them, do presently tend with all their force to the place of their rest and well-being; so would, it seems, our souls, being loosed from baser affections obstructing them, willingly incline toward God, the natural centre, as it were, and bosom of their affection; would resume, as Origen speaks, that natural philtre (that intrinsic spring, or incentive of love) which all creatures have toward their Creator; especially, if to these we add those positive instruments, which are more immediately and directly subservient to the production of this love; they are these :
1. Attentive consideration of the divine perfections, with endeavor to obtain a right and clear apprehension of them.
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. XXII.-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