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Tapprehend, that, if we act faithfully up to those points concerning which there is no question, most especially, if we determine upon and choose our rule and course of life according to those princi. ples of choice, which all men whatever allow to be Vise and safe principles, and the only principles which are so; and conduct ourselves stedfast according to the rule thus chosen, the difficulties which remain in religion will not more or disturb us much; and will, as we proceed, become gradually less and fewer. Whereas, if we begin with objections; if all we consider about religion be its difficulties: but, most especially, if we permit the suggestion of these difficulties to drive us into a practical rejection of religion itself, and to afford Ds, which is what we wanted, an excuse to our
selves for casting off its restraints ; then the event Geld will be, that its difficulties will multiply upon us ; 190 its light grow more and more dim, and we shall el settle in the worst and most hopeless of all condi
tions, the last condition, I will venture to say, in which any man living would wish his son, or any one whom he loved, and for whose happiness he was anxious, to be placed, a life of confirmed vice and dissoluteness ; founded in a formal renuncia
He that has to preach Christianity to persons in this state has to preach to stones. He must not espect to be heard, either with complacency or seriousness, or patience, or even to escape contempt and derision. Habits of thinking are fixed y habits of acting; and both too solidly fixed to be moved by human persuasion. God in his merM%, and by his providences, as well as by his Spir.
Scan touch and soften the heart of stone. And Felis seldom perhaps that without some strong, 120 m, it may be, sudden impressions of this kind, 000 fi'om this source, serious sentiments ever penliberate dispositions, hardened in the manner which
Whave here described,
use of our limbs, the possession of our senses ; every degree of health, every hour of ease, every sort of satisfaction, which we enjoy, will carry our thoughts to the same object. But if our enjoy. ments raise our affections, still more wilt our hopes do the same; and, most of all beyond comparison those hopes which religion inspires. Think of man; and think of heaven; think what he is, and what it is in his power hereafter to become. Think of this again and again : and it is impossi. ble, but that the prospect of being so rewarded for our poor labours, so resting from our past trouples, so forgiven for our repented sins, must fill our hearts with the deepest thankfulness; and thankfulness is love. Towards the author of an obligation which is infinite, thankfulness is the only species of love that can exist.
But moreover, the love of God is specifically re. presented in Scripture as one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The love of God shed abroad in the heart, is described as one of the works of the Spi. rit upon the souls of Christians. Now whatever is represented in Scripture to be the gift of the Spirit is to be sought for by earnest and peculiar prayer. That is the practical use to be made of, id the practical conseqence to be drawn from, ch representations: the very purpose probably
which they were delivered; the mere point of (rine being seldom that in which Scripture larations rest. Let us not fail therefore ; let not cease to entreat the Father of mercies, that e love of him may be shed abroad in our hearts ontinually. It is one of the things in which we are sure that our prayers are right in their object; in which also we may humbly hope, that, unless obstructed by ourselves, they will not be vain.
Nor let it be said that this aid is superfluous, forasmuch as nature herself had provided suffi cient means for exciting this sentiment. This is true with respect to those, who are in the full, or in any thing near the full, enjoyment of the gifts of nature. With them I do allow that nothing but a criminal stupefaction can hinder the love of God from being felt. But this is not the case with all, nor with any at all times. Afictions, sickness, poverty, the maladies and misfortunes of life, will interrupt and damp this sensation, so far as it depends upon our actual experience of God's bounty. I do not say that the evils of life ought to have this effect : taken in connexion with a future state they certainly ought not; because, when viewed in that relation, afflictions aud calamities become trials, warnings, chastisements; and, when sanctified by their fruits, when made the means of weaning us from the world, bringing us nearer to God, and of purging away that dross and defilement which our souls have contracted, are in truth amongst the first of favours and of blessings : nevertheless, as an apostle himself confesses, they are for a season grievous : they are disheartening, and they are too apt to produce an unfavourable effect upon our gratitude. Wherefore it is upon these occasions most especially, that the aid of God's Spirit may be required to maintain in our souls the love of God.
Let those therefore, who are conscious to themselves that they have not the love of God within them, as they ought to have it, endeavour to acquire and to increase this holy principle by seri. ousness of mind, by habitual meditation, by devout reading, devout conversation, devout society.-T'hese are all aids and helps towards inducing up. on the mind this most desirable, nay, rather let me call it, this blessed frame and temper, and of fixing us in it: and forasmuch as it is declared in Scripture to be shed abroad in the heart by the Spirit of God, let us labour in our prayers for this best gift.
The next consideration upon the subject is the fruit and effect of this disposition upon onr lives. If it be asked how does the love of God operate in the production of virtuous conduct, I shall answer that it operates exactly in the same manner lection towards a parent or gratitude towi
human benefactor operates, by stirring up a strong rebuke in the mind upon the thought of offend. ing him. This lays a constant check upon our con. duct. And this sensation is the necessary accom. panyment of love; it cannot, I think, be separated from it. But it is not the whole of its influence. Love and gratitude towards a benefactor not only fill us with remorse and with internal shame whenever, by our wilful misbehaviour, we have given cause to that benefactor to be displea. sed with us; but also prompts us with a desire upon all occasions of doing what we believe he wills to be done, which, with respect to God, is in other cases a desire to serve him. Now this is not only a restraint from vice, but an incitement to action. Instructed as in Christian countries mankind generally are, in the main articles of hu. man duty, this motive will seldom mislead them.
In one important respect the love of God excels all moral principles whatever; and that is in its comprehensiveness. It reaches every action ; it includes every duty : you cannot mention another moral principle which has this property in the same perfection. For instance, I can hardly name a better moral principle than humanity. It is a principle which every one commends, and justly; yet in this very article of comprehensiveness it is deficient, when compared with the love of God. It will prompt us undoubtedly to do kind and generous and compassionate things towards our friends, r acquaintance, our neighbours, and towards
poor. In our relation to, and in our interce with, mankind, especially towards those are dependant upon us, or over whom we
power, it will keep us from hardness and bur and cruelty. In all this it is excellent. But will not regulate us as we require to be regula. dl, in another great branch of Christian duty,
government and self-restraint. We may be beedingly immoral and licentious in sinful inalgence without violating our priciples of humanv; at least without specifically violating it, and
without being sensible of violating it. And this is • by no means an uncommon case or character, name
ls, humanity of temper subsisting along with the most criminal licentiousness and under a total want of personal self-government. The reason is, that the principle of conduct, though excellent as far as it goes, fails in comprehensiveness. Not so with the love of God. He, who is influenced by that, feels its influence in all parts of duty, upon every occasion of action; throughout the whole course of conduct. The thing with most of us to be examined into and ascertained is, whether it indeed guide us at all; whether it be within us an effi. cient motive. I am far from taking upon me to say that it is essential to this principle to exclude all other principles of conduct, especially the dread of God's wrath and of its tremendous consequences : or that a person, who is deterred from evil actions by the dread of God's wrath, is obliged to conclude, that because he so much dreads God, he cannot love him. I will not venture to say any such thing. The Scripture, it is true, speaking of the love of God, hath said, that perfect love casteth out fear, but it hath not said that in the soul of man this love is ever perfect; what the Scripture has thus declared of perfect love is no more than what is just. The love of God, were it perfect, that is to say, were it such as his nature, his relation, his bounty to us deserves, were it ade. quate either to its object or to our obligation, were it carried up as high as in a perfectly virtuous and rational soul it might be carried, would, I believe. adsorb every other motive and every other princi. ple of action whatever, even the fear of God amongst the rest. This principle, by its nature, mighi gain a complete possession of the heart and will, so that a person acting under its influence would take nothing else into the account, we reflect upon no other consequence or consider whatever. Possibly, nay probably, this is the dition of some higher orders of spirits, and ma come ours by future improvement and in a