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transformed into the will of God, and whose greatest desire is, that his maker should be pleased. O the peace, the rest, the satisfaction that attendeth such a temper of mind! He that loveth God finds sweetness in every
dispensation. What an infinite pleasure must it needs be, thus, as it were, to lose ourselves in him, and, being swallowed up in the overcoming sense of his goodness, to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, always ascending unto him in flames of love! Never doth a soul know what solid joy and substantial pleasure is, till, once being weary of itself, it renounces all property, gives itself up to the author of its being, and feels itself become a hallowed and devoted thing; and can say, from an inward sense and feeling, My beloved is mine, (I account all his interest mine own) and I am his: I am content to be any thing for him, and care not for myself, but that I may serve him. A person moulded into this temper, would find pleasure in all the dispensations of providence. · Temporal enjoyments would have another relish, when he should taste the divine goodness in them, and consider them as tokens of love sent by his dearest Lord and master. And chastisements, though they be not joyous but grievous, would hereby lose their sting: the rod as well as the staff would comfort him: he would snatch a kiss from the hand that was smiting him, and gather sweetness from that severity. Nay, he would rejoice, that though God did not the will of such a worthless and foolish creature as himself, yet he did his own will, and accomplished his own designs, which are infinitely more holy and wise.
The duties of Religion are delightful to him. The exercises of religion, which to others are insipid and tedious, do yield the highest pleasure and delight to souls possessed with divine love. · They rejoice when they are called to go up to the house of the Lord, that they may see his power and his glory, as they
have formerly seen it in his sanctuary. They never think themselves so happy as when, having retired from the world, and gotten free from the noise and hurry of affairs, and silenced all their clamorous passions, (those troublesome guests within,) they have placed themselves in the presence of God, and entertain fellowship and communion with him. They delight to adore his perfections, and recount his favours, and to protest their affection to him, and tell him a thousand times that they love him; to lay out their troubles or wants before him, and disburden their hearts in his bosom. Repentance itself is a delightful exercise, when it floweth from the principle of love: there is a secret sweetness which accompanieth those tears of remorse, those meltings and relentings of a soul returning unto God, and lamenting its former unkindness.
The severities of a holy life, and that constant watch which we are obliged to keep over our hearts and ways, are very troublesome to those who are overruled and acted by an external law, and have no law in their minds inclining them to the performance of their duty. But where divine love possesseth the soul, it stands as sentinel to keep out every thing that may offend the beloved, and doth disdainfülly repulse those temptations which assault it. It complieth cheerfully, not only with explicit commands, but with the most secret notices of the beloved's pleasure; and is ingenious in discovering what will be most grateful and acceptable unto him. It makes mortification and self-denial change their harsh and drcadful names, and become easy, sweet and delightful things.
But I find this part of my letter swell bigger than I designed: indeed who would not be tempted to dwell on so pleasant a theme? I shall endeavour to compensate it by brevity in the other points.
The excellency of charity. The next branch of the divine life is an universal charity and love. The excellency of this grace will be easily acknowledged, For what can be more noble and gener
ous than a heart enlarged to embrace the whole world, whose wishes and designs are leveiled at the good and welfare of the universe, which considereth every man's interest as its own? He who loveth his neighbour as himself can never entertain any base or injurious thought, or be wanting in expressions of bounty: he had rather suffer a thousand wrongs, than be guilty of one; and never accounts himself happy, but when some one or other hath been benefited by him. The malice or ingratitude of men is not able to resist his love: he overlooks their injuries, and pities their folly, and overcomes their evil with good; and never designs any other revenge against his most bitter and malicious enemies, than to put all the obligations he can upon them, whether they will or not. Is it any wonder that such a person be reverenced and admired, and accounted the darling of mankind? This inward goodness and benignity of spirit reflects a certain sweetness and serenity upon the very countenance, and makes it amiable and lovely. It inspireth the soul with a noble resolution and courage, and makes it capable of enterprising and effecting the highest things. Those heroic actions which we are wont to read with admiration, have for the most part been the effects of the love of one's country, or of particular friendships; and certainly a more extensive and universal affection must be much more powerful and efficacious.
The pleasure that attends charity. Again, as charity flows from a noble and excellent temper, so it is accompanied with the greatest satisfaction and pleasure. It delights the soul to feel itself thus enlarged,
and to be delivered from those disquieting as well as deformed passions, malice, hatred, and envy; and become gentle, sweet, and benign. Had I my choice of all things that might tend to my present felicity, I would pitch upon this, to have my heart possessed with the greatest kindness and affection towards all men in the world. I am sure this would make me partake in all the happiness of others; their inward endowments, and outward prosperity: every thing that did
benefit and advantage them, would afford me comfort and pleasure. And though I should frequently meet with occasions of grief and compassion, yet there is a sweetness in commiseration, which makes it infinitely more desirable than a stupid insensibility: and the consideration of that infinite goodness and wisdom which governs the world, might repress any excessive trouble for particular calamities that happen in it: and the hopes or possibility of men's after-happiness, might moderate their sorrow for their present misfortunes. Certainly, next to the love and enjoyment of God, that ardent charity and affection wherewith blessed souls do embrace one another, is justly to be reckoned as the greatest felicity of those regions above: and did it universally prevail in the world, it would anticipate that blessedness, and make us taste of the joys of heaven upon earth.
The excellency of purity. That which I named as a third branch of religion, was purity: and you may remember I described it to consist in a contempt of sensual pleasures, and resoluteness to undergo those troubles and pains we may meet with in the performance of our duty. Now, the naming of this may suffice to recommend it as a most noble and excellent quality. There is no slavery so base, as that whereby a man becomes a drudge to his own lusts; nor any victory so glorious, as that which is obtained over them. Never can that person be capable of any thing that is noble and worthy, who is sunk in the gross and feculent pleasures of sense, or bewitched with the light and airy gratifications of fancy. But the religious soul is of a more sublime and divine temper; it knows it was made for higher things, and scorns to step aside one foot out of the way of holiness, for the obtaining any of these.
The delight afforded by purity. And this purity is. accompanied with a great deal of pleasure: whatsoever defiles the soul disturbs it too; all impure delights have a sting in them, and leave smart
and trouble behind them. Excess and intemperance, and all inordinate lusts, are so much enemies to the health of the body, and the interests of this present life, that a little consideration might oblige any rational man to forbear them on that very score: and if the religious person go higher, and do not only abstain from noxious pleasures, but neglect those that are innocent, this is not to be looked upon as any violent and uneasy restraint, but as the effect of better choice, that their minds are taken up in the pursuit of more sublime and refined delights, so that they cannot be concerned in these. Any person that is engaged in a violent and passionate affection, will easily forget his ordinary gratifications, will be little curious about his diet, or his bodily ease, or the divertisements he was wont to delight in. No wonder then if souls overpowered with divine love, despise inferior pleasures, and be almost ready to grudge the body its necessary attendance for the common accommodations of life, judging all these impertinent to their main happiness, and those higher enjoyments they are pursuing. As for the hardships they meet with, they rejoice in them, as opportunities to exercise and testify their affection: and since they are able to do so litte for God, they are glad of the honour to suffer for him.
The excellency of humility. The last branch of religion is humility; and however to vulgar and carnal eyes this may appear an abject, base, and despicable quality, yet really the soul of man is not capable of a higher and more noble endowment. It is a silly ignorance that begets pride: but humility arises from a nearer acquaintance with excellent things, which keeps men from doating on trifles, or admiring themselves because of some pretty attainments. Noble and well educated souls have no such high opinion of riches, beauty, strength, and other such like advantages, as to value themselves for them, or despise those that want them: and as for inward worth and real goodness, the sense they have of the divine perfections makes them think very