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The Christian, on the contrary, loves the invisible God with as much sincerity of affection, as the covetous love their possessions, or the sensualist the joys of voluptuous
He loves God as that blessed Being who is infinitely glorious in himself, in whom all excellencies meet together, and who possesses them all without the possibility of ever suffering them to be impaired or sullied. Enlightened by the Scriptures and the Holy Ghost, he beholds such goodness in God, as disparages whatever bears the name of it amongst the creatures. Almighty power and unerring wisdom, unblemished truth, spotless holiness, and tender mercies; every thing fit to raise the admiration of an intelligent being, he perceives in God. His glory shines out in the works of creation and of providence, and manifests itself in the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ in its strongest light. From these views he is excited to love God, and he expresses that love by discovering high and admiring thoughts of him; by reflecting with pleasure on his perfections as they appear in the works of nature, the wonders of grace, or the prospects of glory. This love of God for his own perfections, though not ordinarily discerned in the Christian at the first, yet as he grows in knowledge and faith, becomes indisputably evident. It is discovered, even whilst he is in doubt about his own interest in God: because he will yet esteem and value him, be careful to commend his precepts, be faithful in his service, and speak good of his name.
Besides the incomparable excellency of God, a Christian has also other motives to love him. For, the more completely an object is suited to produce benefit and advantage to us, so much the more will our hearts be united to it, and feel a proportionate affection towards it. Accordingly the Christian loves God as his chief good. “God alone," says he, “can be a heart-satisfying portion to me. In his favour is my life, whilst all beneath or beside him is replete with vanity and disappointment, too mean and too transient fully to satisfy even one appetite; but God is all-sufficient: Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I can desire besides thee.'
This love to God expresses itself in frequent longings
that he may share in his pardoning mercy, and be happy for ever in his acceptance. For this he is content to part with all; the love of God is to him above every thing. He can say with David, “ I intreated thy favour with niy whole heart:-Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me.” He cannot be easy while a oud obscures his Father's face. The apprehension of his displeasure is most grievous to him; nor can he be satisfied till God be reconciled. He cries with vehemence like David, “ Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me: restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit. He discovers also the sincerity of his love to God by a delight in him, no less than by desires after him. His soul is at rest whilst he can call God, his God. In such a view he rejoices in the divine favour more than he would in calling the whole world his own. It animates him in the highest degree, to think that God is “ his portion." And so truly does he rejoice in God, and delight in him with sincere affection, as to be satisfied under all the troubles to which he can be exposed. Amidst shame and reproach he can support and solace himself in the thought that God knoweth his innocency, and approves of him. In necessities, distresses, and afflictions, it is a strong consolation, that in this state the Lord “knoweth his path,” and that “when he is tried, he shall come forth as gold.”
Even in the most perilous and dismaying circumstances, when the judgments of an incensed God are spreading consternation over whole countries, the Christian in his love to God still finds a spring to cheer and refresh his soul, to which none but himself
“God is my refuge and strength,” says he, "a very present help in trouble. Therefore will I not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” For in the midst of all this fiery indignation issuing forth against his adversaries, he still beholds God in Christ Jesus, reconciled to him and to every humbled sinner.
Such as these were the glorious expressions of love to God even before the Lord Jesus Christ had ascended up on high, “ leading captivity captive;" it cannot therefore
reasonably be supposed that the more explicit knowledgeof salvation which we enjoy should not be more than equal to such a blessed effect. If the inspired Habakkuk could find such love to God in his heart as to say, “ Although the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” If a man of like passions with ourselves could so love God as to find comfort in him amidst the horrors of an universal dearth; certainly we may conclude that now the Messenger of the covenant, the Day-spring from on high, hath visited the church, the love which a real Christian bears to his God will enable his soul to feel at least as high a delight and exultation in his favour. And though, alas! few are observed in our own day to love God in a degree so fervent and intense as this, yet the endeavour and desire of all who are Christians in sincerity is to do so. And they discover a principle of love the very same as this in kind, by their opposing the first tendencies in themselves to complain, though in a season of great tribulation ; by rebuking themselves for the defectiveness of their delight in God; saying
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God : for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance," Psalm xlii. 5. Whether therefore the Christian be weak or strong, still it is apparent that he delights himself in the Lord.
When he rejoices and triumphs in the midst of outward troubles, his delight in God flames forth with vigour and brightness. And when it is his grief and heavy burden that he cannot do so, this is still as true an expression of love to God, struggling in a sore conflict under the weight of oppression. For, were it not the very joy of his heart to be glad in the Lord, and in every thing to give thanks, he could not possibly feel any pain on account of his dejection or want of joy in God in time of tribulation. Such delight in God, even in the midst of prosperity, is a thing unintelligible to the world; and the utmost they can conceive attainable by man, is to bear distressing troubles with calmness. Therefore the very
desire of a Christian to be “strengthened with all might, according to God's glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyful ness;” that is, to bear afflictions with holy triumphs, in consideration of what God is to him and has done for him, is a demonstration that he delights in God.
9. It is an eminent part of the disposition of a Christian towards God, to engage with diligence and pleasure in all the various exercises of devotion, and the use of the means of grace. Men have naturally a strong aversion to confession of sin, to prayer and praise, to hearing and reading God's word, and to receiving the holy sacrament. They engage in these duties only from custom, or are dragged to them merely to pacify conscience. They are therefore as little employed in this manner as may be, being weary of the irksome employment. Hence all the devotion of the natural man is generally comprised in a few minutes' vain repetition each morning or evening, and in an attendance at church on Sundays, in which he is conscious of no more pleasure than a child feels when repeating by rote, words of which he understands not the meaning. Or should there be more outward practice of devotion than this, it is from the popish notion that religious duties have in them an atoning virtue, and constitute a man holy, when punctually performed.
How different the temper of a Christian! He lives in the constant exercise of a devout spirit. His recollection of the sinfulness of his past life, of that hateful period, when“ all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually;" when self was his god; and God was nothing to him but a name; his consciousness of blindness and depravity, still too much remaining, render it a relief to his soul to pour out before God complaints against himself. As he increases in the knowledge of God and his own duty, the more strong are his desires to prostrate himself before the greatness of eternal Excellency, and to be filled with holy shame and confusion at his own sin and defilement. Sometinies he finds the springs of ingenuous sorrow opened within, and tastes a most solid satisfaction in giving glory to the holiness of God and his law. And when his affections are not thus influenced, he still engages diligently in the confession of his sin, as a means of beholding more clearly its enormity and guilt, and of being impressed with a more sted
fast hatred of it. With pleasure also he addresses his prayer to the Father of lights, from whom every good and perfect gift cometh, that divine grace may be imparted to him; because he is fully persuaded that the strength and the increase of grace must be maintained by God, and not by himself. Human virtues and social qualities will grow, he sees, in nature's garden: but affiance in God, spiritual obedience, delight in him, and all the tempers becoming a creature and a sinner, must be the workmanship of God by his Spirit, which is given only to them that ask it. Therefore as natural hunger and thirst seek their proper gratifications, and the desire of every living soul is always turned towards that which it apprehends as its chiefest good: so is it his bunger and thirst to receive out of the fulness there is in Christ “grace
for grace.” So far therefore from thinking prayer a burden, or performing it merely as a duty, at particular times and seasons, the Christian may be said to “ pray without ceasing." All places, as well as his closet and his church are witnesses of the fellowship he maintains in this manner with an invisible God. If his sleep depart from him, he is awake to the sublime sensations of prayer and devotion. “With my soul, O God,” says he, “have I desired thee in the night, yea with my spirit within me will I seek thee early.
From the same love to God springs a real joy to praise and extol him. “ It becometh well the just,” says he,“ to be thankful. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy name. For he hath delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my
feet from falling. My mouth shall therefore be filled as it were with marrow and fatness, while, I am praising thee with joyful lips. This spiritual entertainment shall prove as delicious to my mind as the feast of the epicure does to his palate, when he is swallowing the richest dainties which luxury can procure."
And from the same love which the real Christian bears to his God and Saviour, all things which belong to God, his word, his institutions and assemblies, will be objects of his pleasure and delight. “ Hath God (says he) “ written a book of knowledge and grace for the use of man, and shall I not be glad to read and hear the in