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wishes for their happiness, and blessing every person that we see ; and when we have done any thing for the relief of the miserable, we may second it with earnest desires that God would take care of them, and deliver them out of all their distresses.
Thus should we exercise ourselves unto godliness. And when we are employing the powers that we have, the Spirit of God is wont to strike in, and elevate these acts of our soul beyond the pitch of nature, and give them a divine impression: and, after the frequent reiteration of these, we shall find ourselves more inclined unto them, they flowing with greater freedom and
Consideration a great instrument of religion.
I shall mention but two other means for begetting that holy and divine temper of spirit which is the subject of the present discourse. And the first is, a deep and serious consideration of the truths of our religion, and that both as to the certainty and importance of them. The assent which is ordinarily given to divine truths, is very faint and languid; very weak and ineffectual; flowing only from a blind inclination to follow that religion which is in fashion, or a lazy indifference and unconcernedness whether things be so or not.
Men are unwilling to quarrel with the religion of their country, and since all their neighbours are christians, they are content to be so too; but they are seldom at the pains to consider the evidences of those truths, or to ponder the importance and tendency of them; and thence it is that they have so little influence on their affections and practice. Those spiritless and paralytic thoughts (as one doth rightly term them) are not able to move the will and direct the hand: we must therefore endeavour to work up our minds to a serious belief and full persuasion of divine truths, unto a sense and feeling of spiritual things. Our thoughts must dwell upon them, till we are both convinced of them, and deeply affected with them. Let us urge forward our spirits, and make them approach the invisible world; and fix our minds upon immaterial
things, till we clearly perceive that these are no dreams; nay, that all things are dreams and shadows besides them. When we look about us and behold the beauty and magnificence of this goodly frame, the order and harmony of the whole creation, let our thoughts from thence take their flight towards that omnipotent wisdom and goodness which did at first produce, and doth still establish and uphold the same. When we reflect upon ourselves, let us consider that we are not a mere piece of organized matter; a curious and well contrived engine; that there is more in us than flesh, and blood, and bones; even a divine spark, capable to know, and love, and enjoy our Maker; and though it be now exceedingly clogged with its dull and lumpish companion, yet ere long it shall be delivered, and can subsist without the body, as well as that can do without the clothes which we throw off at our pleasure. Let us often withdraw our thoughts from this earth, this scene of misery, folly, and sin, and raise them towards that more vast and glorious world, whose innocent and blessed inhabitants solace themselves eternally in the divine presence, and know no other passion but an unmixed joy, and an unbounded love: and then consider how the blessed Son of God came down to this lower world to live among us, and die for us, that he might bring us to a portion of the same felicity; and think how he hath overcome the sharpness of death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, and is now set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; and yet is not the less mindful of us, but receiveth our prayers, and presenteth them unto his Father; and is daily visiting his church with the influences of his Spirit, as the sun reacheth us with his beams. To beget divine love, we must consider the excel
lency of the divine nature. The serious and frequent consideration of these, and such other divine truths, is the most proper method to beget that lively faith which is the foundation of religion, the spring and root of the divine life. Let me further suggest some particular subjects of meditation for pro
ducing the several branches of it. And, first, to infiame our souls with the love of God, let us consider the excellency of his nature, and his love and kindness towards us. It is little we know of the divine perfection, and yet that little may suffice to fill our souls with admiration and love; to ravish our affections as well as to raise our wonder: for we are not merely creatures of sense, that we should be incapable of any other affection but that which entereth by the eyes. The character of any excellent person whom we have never seen, will many times engage our hearts, and make us hugely concerned in all his interests. And what is it, I pray you, that engages us so much to those with whom we converse? I cannot think that it is merely the colour of their face, or their comely proportions; for then we should fall in love with statues, and pictures, and flowers. These outward accomplishments may a little delight the eye, but would never be able to prevail so much on the heart, if they did not represent some vital perfection. We either see or apprehend some greatness of mind, or vigour of spirit, or sweetness of disposition; some sprightliness, or wisdom, or goodness, which charm our spirit, and command our love. Now these perfections are not obvious to the sight, the eyes can only discern the signs and effects of them; and if it be the understanding that directs the affection, and vital perfections prevail with it, certainly the excellencies of the divine nature (the traces whereof we cannot but discover in every thing we behold) would not fail to engage our hearts, if we did seriously view and regard them. Shall we not be infinitely more transported with that almighty wisdom and goodness which fills the universe, and displays itself in all the parts of creation, which establisheth the frame of nature, and turneth the mighty wheels of providence, and keepeth the world from disorder and ruin, than with the faint rays of the same perfections which we meet with in our fellow-creatures? Shall we doat on the scattered pieces of a rude and imperfect picture, and never be affected with the original beauty? This were an unaccountable stupidity and blindness. Whatever we find
lovely in a friend, or in a saint, ought not to engross, but to elevate our affection. We should conclude with ourselves, that if there be so much sweetness in a drop, there must be infinitely more in the fountain; if there be so much splendour in a ray, what must the sun be in its glory?
Nor can we pretend the remoteness of the object, as if God were at too great a distance for our converse or our love: He is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being. We cannot open our eyes, but we must behold some footsteps of his glory; and we cannot turn them toward bim, but we shall be sure to find his intent upon us; waiting as it were to catch a look, ready to entertain the most intimate fellowship and communion with us. therefore endeavour to raise our minds to the clearest conceptions of the divine nature. Let us consider all that his works do declare, or his word doth discover of him unto us; and let us especially contemplate that visible representation of him which was made in our own nature by his Son, who was the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person; and who appeared in the world to discover at once what God is, and what we ought to be. Let us represent him unto our minds as we find him described in the gospel; and there we shall behold the perfections of the divine nature, though covered with the veil of human infirmities; and when we have framed unto ourselves the clearest notion that we can of a Being, infinite in power, in wisdom, and goodness; the author and fountain of all perfections, let us fix the eyes of our soul upon it, that our eyes may affect our heart, and while we are musing the fire will burn. We should meditate on God's goodness and love.
Especially, if hereunto we add the consideration of God's favour and good-will towards us; nothing is more powerful to engage our affection, than to find that we are beloved. Expressions of kindness are always pleasing and acceptable unto us, though the person should be
otherwise mean and contemptible: but to have the love of one who is altogether 'lovely, to know that the glorious Majesty of heaven hath any regard unto us, how must it astonish and delight us! how must it overcome our spirits, and melt our hearts, and put our whole soul into a flame! Now as the word of God is full of the expressions of his love towards man, so all his works do loudly proclaim it; he gave us our being, and by preserving us in it, doth renew the donation every moment. He hath placed us in a rich and well furnished world, and liberally provided for all our necessities; he raineth down lessings from heaven upon us, and causeth the earth to bring forth our provision; he giveth us our food and raiment, and while we are spending the productions of one year, he is preparing for us ngainst another. He sweeteneth our lives with innumerable comforts, and gratifieth every faculty with suitable objects; the eye of his providence is always upon us, and he watcheth for our safety when we are fast asleep, neither minding him nor ourselves. But lest we should think these testimonies of his kindness less considerable, because they are the easy issues of his omnipotent power, and do not put him to any trouble or pain, he hath taken a more wonderful method to endear himself to us; he hath testified his affection to us, by suffering as well as by doing; and because he could not suffer in his own nature he assumed
The eternal Son of God did clothe himself with the infirmities of our flesh, and left the company of those innocent and blessed spirits, who knew well how to love and adore him, that he might dwell among men, and wrestle with the obstinacy of that rebellious race, to reduce them to their allegiance and fidelity, and then to offer himself up as a sacrifice and propitiation for them. I remember one of the poets hath an ingenious fancy to express the passion wherewith he found himself overcome after a long resistance: “ That the god of love had shot all his golden arrows at him, but could never pierce his heart, till at length he put himself into the bow, and darted himself straight into his breast.” Methinks this doth some way adumbrate God's method