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And even when those friends with whom we have spent many a happy day, are separated from us by the stroke of death, we shall receive comfort from on high in time of need, by the assurance that God continues us and ours in life; or sends us away to the world of spirits, at such a time as may promote his glory and our good.
Finally, if we love God, we shall be prepared to hope for a happy immortality. In the present world, the hope of some future good awaiting us, is the usual source of comfort under the most distressing circumstances. But how often are our hopes disappointed; how often do the persons from whom we expected some benefit deceive us; how often do the scenes of bliss which we had figured to ourselves prove far less delightful in fruition, than they were in the prospect! Very different, however, is the happiness destined for those who have loved and served God, during the course of their lives. They shall enter into rest, each one walking in his uprightness:” and be put in possession of “ an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
These being the advantages of cherishing the love of God; it may be worthy of inquiry to consider,
IV. The means which may be successfully employed, for inspiring our minds with this affection,
For this purpose, let the two principal faculties of the soul ;-the understanding and the will, be engaged in the service of religion. Let us study to increase our informa tion of the nature, attributes, and character of God; as they are displayed in his works and in his word Thereby our understanding shall be enlightened, and we shall perceive more clearly his excellence and perfection.—We cannot love and esteem any person however amiable, unless we are acquainted with those qualities of his heart, which render him an object worthy of estimation. Neither shall we ever love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, unless we acquire right notions of those attributes of goodness, mercy, and benignity, which adorn his character. Let us therefore grow in the knowledge of God more and more, that our affectionate regard for him may be firmly established.—Also, let our wills be steadily resolved to attain the divine favour as our chief good : and pursue holiness as the means of attaining it. If we be bent on the prosecution of any purpose, our wills shall incline us to regard it as of superior importance in our estimation. In like manner, if we are determined to serve the Lord, as the chief business of our lives, and secure his approbation as the only source of happiness; we shall acquire a relish for his service, and take more delight in it than in any other enjoyment of the present world. Let us then engage our wills in the choice of religion; and our affections will be stirred up to love that better part, which shall never be taken away from us.
In order to fix our hearts more stedfastly on God, as our chief good; let us wean our affections as much as possible from the world and its enjoyments, regarding them only so far desirable as they are necessary for our subsistence and comfort. If we consider the distinctions and pleasures of life as the principal source of felicity, and the only object of our wishes; we shall never choose God as the portion of our inheritance. For, according to the scripture maxim, “ if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." « No man can serve two masters; we cannot serve God and Mammon." Let us therefore bestow only a secondary concern on the world, and the things of the world; and reserve the first place in our affections to God and the things above. To promote this end, let us often retire from society, and give vent to our feelings in immediate acts of devotion. It is only by enjoying the presence of an object whom we love, that our hearts are stirred up to cherish and strengthen our attachment. In like manner, it is only by the sacred intercourse which we hold with the Father of our spirits in acts of devotion, that' we can kindle the boly flame of divine love in our breasts. It is only by such an exercise that we can express our sense of his lov: ing kindness and tender mercies; it is only in this manner that we can pour out our ardent gratitude; it is only thus that we can renew our vows of confirmed attach. ment to his service. Let, therefore, the Christian who would love God, daily approach the divine presence by prayer and supplication; to make known his requests, and avouch the Lord to be the strength of his heart, and his portion for ever.
If also, we would have the love of God abiding in us, let us frequently entertain our thoughts with the contemplation of those instances of his goodness, manifested to us in the course of our lives. It is bý pondering on the kindness and endearments of our friends, that we are led to entertain sentiments of attachment towards them. So it is by considering the protection which we have experienced from divine providence; the deliverances from danger; the enjoyment of blessings; and the hopes of happiness'; which are all derived from our bountiful Creator; that our hearts and souls and all that is within us can be stirred up to bless and magnify his holy name.
Finally, if we would have the love of God to acquire more and more strength in our hearts, let us daily employ ourselves in elevating our affections to him and the things above. Thus we shall cherish the habit of regarding him as the only object worthy to engage our esteem. As all other habits are confirmed by practice; so shall the love of God be in this manner established in our souls, till it become the ruling principle of all our actions, and “ the desire of our hearts shall be towards him and towards the remembrance of his name.” That this may be our resolution, let us examine ourselves in application,
1. Whether we love God with that sincerity of affection, which his inherent excellencies, and his goodness to us require at our hands. Let us consider whether we are impressed with a sense of those amiable perfections, which are displayed in providing for the accommodation and happiness of every living thing; and which are more eminently conspicuous in making all things work together for our good. Can we think of that goodness and mercy which have followed us all the days of our lives and which still continue to give us all things richly to enjoy ; nay, which have blessed us with all spiritual and heavenly blessings in Christ Jesus, and our hearts remain untouched with such signal expressions of benignity? Nay, ,
though we are daily offending God by our transgressions, yet “ he is still waiting to be gracious, not willing that we shonld perish, but come to repentance.” And shall we not turn to him from whom we have revolted, and say unto him, if other gods have had dominion over us; henceforth we will love thee with all our heart, and soul, and cleave unto thee with full purpose of heart; and endeavour after new obedience.
2. Let us examine, whether we regard God as the supreme object which should engage our affection. Is he not more worthy of our estimation, than the enjoyments of the world; or our fellow-creatures on whom our hearts are set ? Have we not received every thing we enjoy from his bounty; and is he not able to bestow upon us still more abundant mercies? Is he not, therefore, entitled to the first place in our affections, and shall we not pay him that homage which is his due, by loving him more than any other being with whom we are connected?
3. Consider, that the love of God would have such an influence on our minds, as to banish all pursuit of objects incompetent to produce our happiness. When the divine favour in this world, and everlasting bliss in the world to come are proposed to our acceptance, shall we spurn them as beneath our regard ? Nay, shall we not rather esteem them as the only desirable enjoyments which we can possess; which will remain as our never failing portion, when the world, and the things of the world shall have passed away?
4. Let us recollect that the love of God, like every other principle, can only be cherished and matured in the soul by the use of those means which may be effectual for inspiring it. Let us be persuaded, that our understanding must be enlightened in religious knowledge, our wills disposed to obey God's commandments, and our affections set on things above; if we would improve in this heavenly grace. To conclude, if we would secure the blessing of God both here and hereafter, let us continue to love him with our whole heart; then shall we experience the truth of that sacred promise : “ I love them that love me; and they that seek me early shall find me.”
ON THE IMITATION OF CHRIST.
1 PETER II. 21. Leaving us an example, that ye should follow
IT is an observation no less true than it is common, that example is better than precept. For, the very best rules may be given for directing human actions, which have little or no influence ; either because they are in a great measure impracticable, or because they have not been exemplified in the lives of those who delivered them. Such was the case among the sages of antiquity, who, indeed, conveyed many useful lessons to their disciples ; but failed in the application of their instructions, since their practice did not correspond with their professions. Such also has been the fate of all human teachers of morality, in every age of the world. No one was found, who could live with that degree of rectitude, which his precepts inculcated; but some infirmity sullied the lustre of the most perfect character, which ever appeared among mankind.-And it is nothing wonderful, that it should be so; since human nature is now in a degraded and degenerate condition; incapable of arriving at that height of virtue, which reason and conscience dictate to be our duty. Though our understanding is still persuaded of the manifold obligations incumbent upon us, yet our wills, alas ! are averse to act according to the decisions of the