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the obeying his commands, his very service is more profitable than the world's rewards; his commands more excellent than the perfection of the world's enjoyments: To be subject to him is truer happiness than to command the whole world. Pure love reckons thus, "Though no further reward were to follow, obedience to God (the perfection of his creature, and its very happiness) carries its full recompense in its own bosom." Yea, love delights most in the hardest services: It is self-love to love the embraces and rest of love, but it is love to him indeed to love the labour of love, and the service of it; and that not so much because it leads to rest, and ends in it, but because it is service to him whom we love: Yea, that labour is in itself a rest; it is so natural and sweet to a soul that loves, as the revolution of the Heavens, which is a motion in rest, and rest in motion; changes not place, though running still: So the motion of love is truly heavenly, and circular still in God; beginning in him, and ending in him; and so not ending, but still moving without weariness.
Let us see what the commandment is, and that will clear it; for it is nothing but love: All is in that one, Love the Lord, &c. So the command that is here called so broad, is love; there is no measuring that, for its object is immeasurable. We readily exceed in the love of any other thing; but in the love of God, there is no danger of exceeding; its true measure is to know no measure.
According as the love is, so is the soul; it is made like to, yea, it is made one with, that which it loves. By loving gross base things, it becomes gross, and turns to flesh, or earth; and so, by the love of God, is made divine, is one with him*. So this is the excellency of the command enjoining love. God hath a good-will to all his creatures; but that he should make a creature capable
* Si terram amas, terra es; si Deum amas, quid vis ut dicam, Deus es? AUG.
of loving him, and appoint this for his command, Oh! herein his goodness shines brightest. Now, though fallen from this, we are again invited to it; though degenerated and accursed in our sinful nature, yet we are renewed in Christ, and this command is renewed in him, and a new way of fulfilling it is pointed out.
This command is broad; there is room enough for the soul in God, that is hampered and pinched in all other things. Here, love with all thy soul, with all thy mind, &c. stretch it to the utmost; there is enough for it here, it must contract and draw itself to other things. I will walk at liberty, says David, for I seek thy precepts: That which perverse nature judges thraldom, once truly known, is only freedom; this because the law is love, and such a love as brings full content to the soul. Man hath not an object of love beside God; too many that can torment and trouble him, but not one that by being loved of him, satisfies and quiets him; whether he loves things without him, or himself, still he is pained and restless. All other things he loves naturally, in reference to himself; but himself is not a sufficient object for him: It must be something that adds to, and perfects his nature, to which he must be united in love, somewhat higher than himself, yea, the highest of all, the Father of Spirits, that alone compleats a spirit and blesses it, to love him, the spring of spirits.
Now, this love, as obedience to his commands, is a thing in itself due, and expressly commanded too. This is the thing that surpasses all pursuits, and all enjoyments under Heaven, not only to be loved of God, but to love him; yea, could they be severed, this rather would be the deformity and misery of the creature, to hate him. This is the hell of hell.
And to love him, not only with complacency, a desire to enjoy him; but, moreover, wishing him glory, doing him service, desiring he may be ho
noured by all his creatures, and endeavouring ourselves to honour him; that is our work, applauding the praises of angels and all creatures, and adding ours, sweet, willing, entire submission to his will, ready to do, to suffer any thing for him. Oh! away all base muddy pleasures, all false night shows of earthly glories, all high attempts and heroic virtues; these have their measure and their close, and prove in the end but lies. This command, this love alone, is the endless perfection and delight of souls, that begins here, and is compleated above. The happiness of glory is the perfection of holiness; that is the full beauty and loveliness of the spouse, the Lamb's wife.
Oh! how much are the multitudes of men to be pitied, that are hunting they know not what, still pursuing content, and it still flying before, and they at as great a distance as when they promised themselves to lay hold on it. It is strange what men are doing. Ephraim feedeth on the wind. The most serious designs of men are more foolish than the plays of children; all the difference is, that these are sourer and more sad trifles *.
Oh! that ye would turn this way, and not still lay out your money for that which is not bread, &c. You would find the saddest part of a spiritual course of life hath under it more true sweetness, than all your empty mirths, that sound much, and are nothing, like the crackling of thorns under the pot : There is more joy in enduring a cross for God, than in the smiles of the world; in a private despised affliction, without the name of suffering for his cause, or any thing in it like martyrdom, but only as coming from his hand, kissing it, and bearing it patiently, yea, gladly for his sake, out of love to him because it is his will so to try thee, what can come amiss to a soul thus composed?
I wish that even they, who have renounced the wain world, and have the faces of their hearts * Tristes ineptiæ.
Psal, ciii. 22.
turned God-wards, would learn more this happy life, and enjoy it more, not to hang so much upon sensible comforts, as to delight in obedience, and to wait for those at his pleasure, whether he gives much or little, any or none. Learn to be still
finding the sweetness of his commands, which no outward or inward change can disrelish; rejoicing in the actings of that divine love within thee: continue thy conflicts with sin, and though thou mayest at times be foiled, yet cry to him for help; and getting up, redouble thy hatred of it, and attempts against it. Still stir this flame of God, that will overcome: Many waters cannot quench it. It is a renewed pleasure, to be offering up thyself every day to God. Oh! the sweetest life in the world, to be crossing thyself, to please him; trampling on thy own will, to follow his.
HABAKKUK iii. 17, 18.
Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
OST mens industries and employments are most without them, but certainly our main and worthiest business lies within us: nor is ever a man fit for the varieties and vicissitudes of time and affairs without, till he have taken some pains to some good purpose within himself. A distempered discomposed mind is as a limb out of joint, which is fit for no action, and moves both deformedly and painfully. That which we have to do, my brethren, for which these our meetings are commanded of God, and should be attended by us, and that we should follow out, when we are gone from hence, is this, the reducing of our souls to God: their disunion from him is their disjointing, and they are never right till they refix on him; and being there, they are so right, that nothing can come wrong to them. As they are not readily ensnared with ease and plenty, so neither lightly astonished with want and trouble; but, in the ebb of all other comforts, can hold the Prophet's purpose, to joy in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of their salvation.
This we may hear and speak of, but truly few attain it. I fear many of us are not so much as seeking after it, and aspiring to it. A soul really con