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our blessed Lord unto you; yours now begins, which is, to put them into practice. I know you all hope and desire to be saved by Christ: but I beseech you to consider, upon what terms you can be saved by Him. For here you see, that this very person, from Whom you expect Salvation, hath strictly enjoined you, in order to it, to take His yoke upon you, and to learn of Him to be meek and lowly. So that you must make Him the pattern of your lives here, or else you cannot expect that He should be the portion of your souls hereafter. Unless you follow Him in the ways of holiness upon earth, you cannot come to Him in Heaven. And therefore, let me advise you to go home, and bethink yourselves of your Saviour's words, and what you have heard upon them: and if you matter not whether you be saved, or no, think of them no more: but if you do, follow His directions, “Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
AN EXHORTATION TO THE LOVE OF GOD.
Matt. xxii. 37.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with
all thy mind.
LET me now bespeak your affection for the Lord your God; not the love you have for other things, but a love above all things: gather up your scattered affections from all things here below, and place them upon Him that made them: put Him not off any longer with overpowered passions, but love Him most, Whom be sure you can never love too much ; no, never fear excess in your love to God, which is capable of no other extreme but only of defect. In other things, mediocrity is a virtue, but here it is a vice: for we must love Him exceedingly, or we cannot love Him truly ; so that the only measure of our loving Him, is to love Him without measure: and, therefore, he that thinks he loves God enough, doth not love Him at all. In creature-comforts our affections may grow excessive, and our love exorbitant; but the transcendent perfections that reside in God render Him so incapable of being loved too much, that the highest passions that we can raise up to Him, are still infinitely below what He deserves from us. No, take it for a certain truth, you can never love the world too little, nor God too much. Our love to other things is like other rivers, the best when it keeps within its bounds; but our love to God is like the river Nilus in Egypt, most welcome when it
overflows. Bridle, therefore, your passions to the creatures, but let them run loose to their Creator: never fear loving Him too much, seeing the highest of your passions is no more than finite; whereas the lowest of His perfections is no less than infinite: you can never love God more than you ought, and therefore love Him as much as you can.
Where, when I say, you must always love Him, I do not mean as if you should have some love for Him as well as for other things, but that you should have more love for Him than all things; for that is not accounted as love to God, which is either surpassed or equalled with our love to the creatures: and, therefore, whensoever you hear me mention “ loving of God,” you must still apprehend me speaking of such a love to Him as exceeds and outstrips our love to all things besides; for we love God no more than we love Him more than all things else. He that loves God no more than other things, loves the other things more than God; for he hath no love for God at all, because he doth not love Him above all. For I say again, we have no more love for Him, than we have more love for Him than other things: so long as our love is matched or over-topped with our love to other things, we may love the other things, but we do not love God; but the least degree of our love to God more than to all things else, makes it to be true and acceptable love to Him. Some may love God many degrees beyond all things else, others few; and so one man may have more love to God than another; but he that loveth Him never a degree beyond all things else, he hath no love for Him at all. And therefore, I say again, when you hear me advising you“ to love God," I would have you all along remember, I mean only such a love to Him as surmounts and exceeds your affections to all things in the world besides. This is the love that God requires of us, and this is the love that we owe to God. This, therefore, is the love that I counsel you all, as you will answer it at the dreadful day of judgment, to fix upon the great God. It is too long already that you have loved other things more than God; now, for shame, begin to love God more than all other things.
O, therefore, that I knew what words to take unto myself, that whilst I am speaking, this sacred fire may kindle in all your souls, that you may no longer commit sacrilege, in rob
SERM. bing God of that which He hath commanded you to appro
priate to Himself. I know your affections are so glued to the world, that it is not in the power of man to rend them thence, much less is it within the reach of human strength to raise them up from earth to heaven, and from sin to God. But I know also it is by such counsels, commands, and exhortations to you, that God is pleased to work this and all other graces in you: it is by His ministers that He useth to strike this sacred fire out of our flinty hearts. To raise up, therefore, your affections to the Most High God, give me leave to present some motives to you; and the Lord of His infinite mercy be pleased to work them upon you, that whilst you hear the voice of your fellow-creature sounding in your ears, you may feel the power of your great Creator reaching to your hearts, wrenching your affections from all things here below, and mounting them up unto Himself above.
Well, then : what motives shall I use to prevail upon you ? Verily, my brethren, whilst I consider what considerations to lay before you, to blow up your affections unto God, there are so many crowd themselves into my busy thoughts, to be presented unto yours, that I scarce know where to begin, and when I have begun, I fear I shall scarce know where to end. I cannot look upon you as being in this place, but I must tell you, you are bound to love the Great God for it; for had not He loved you, you would not been in God's House, but the Devil's dungeon, at this very moment; and certainly His love to you may well deserve your love to Him. Nay, I cannot send mine eye any way, but it still brings me in new motives to love God. If I look above me, there are the Heavens that He hath made for our future happi. ness; if beneath me, there is the earth He hath made for our present abode; if about me, there are the creatures He hath made for our use and comfort, all calling upon us to love that God that made them. Nay, verily, my very calling upon you to love God is a mercy for which you are bound to love Him; and the more I call upon you to love Him, the more you are bound to love Him for my calling upon you. Nay, to speak plainly, if there be ever a soul in the congregation that loves God, let me tell thee thou art bound to love Him more for thy loving Him at all; so that not only His love to thee, but thy love to Him, should stir up in thee still
greater affections for Him; for assure thyself thou art infinitely engaged to Him for thy loving of Him, as well as for His loving of thee ; for had He not first loved thee, thou couldst never have loved Him.
Thus, I say, I can fix mine eyes upon nothing, but it supplies me with fresh motives to love God. But, for my more orderly presenting them unto your thoughts, I shall digest them all into two heads; endeavouring to raise up your affections unto God from the consideration,
I. Of the properties of that love we ought to have for God.
II. Of the perfections of that God we ought to love.
I. From the properties of the love we owe to God. And certainly, did we but know what it was to love God experimentally, as well as notionally, we should find there is greater happiness to be enjoyed in the performance of this one duty, than in all the enjoyments that this world can afford us. Give me leave to shew you some of the rare properties of this Divine love. 1. It is the first and the great commandment.
Matt.22.38. [i.] First in order, for this is the first of all the Ten Commandments, “ Thou shalt have none other gods before me;" Exod. 20.3. which is as much as if He should have said, Thou shalt love nothing as God before Me, worship nothing as God before Me, serve nothing as God before Me; nay, thou shalt not so much as have any other gods before Me. Whereas it is plain, that he that loves any thing more than God, or doth not love God more than all things, he hath,and loveth, other gods before Jehovah. For whatsoever a man loves and prefers before other things, that is his God. Thus a voluptuous person is said “ to make his belly his god,” because he minds his belly before all Phil. 3. 19. things else: and therefore is covetousness called “ idolatry,” Colos. 3. 5. because the covetous man minds and loves his riches more than all things else: and the reason is, because it is to God only to Whom we owe the choicest of our affections. And, therefore, whatsoever we love most, to that we give what is proper and peculiar to the true God : and so, though it be not a god in itself, yet we make it one in our esteem: and therefore every one that loves any thing more than Jehovah, hath other gods before Him. Know ye then of a certainty, that every soul amongst you that loves any thing more than