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they have espoused, and be very desirous that others should submit unto their judgment, and approve the choice of religion which they themselves have made. It may make them delight to hear and compose excellent discourses about the matters of religion; for eloquence is
very pleasant whatever be the subject. Nay, some it may dispose to no small height of sensible devotion. The glorious things that are spoken of heaven, may make even a carnal heart in love with it; the metaphors and similitudes made use of in scripture, of crowns and sceptres, and rivers of pleasure, &c. will easily affect a man's fancy, and make him wish to be there, though he neither understand nor desire those spiritual pleasures which are described and shadowed forth by them: and when such a person comes to believe that Christ has purchased those glorious things for him, he may feel a kind of tenderness and affection towards so great a benefactor, and imagine that he is mightily enamoured with him, and yet all the while continue a stranger to the holy temper and spirit of the blessed Jesus. And what band the natural constitution may have in the rapturous devotions of some melancholy persons, hath been excellently discovered of late by several learned and judi
To conclude: there is nothing proper to make a man's life pleasant, or himself eminent and conspicuous in the world, but this natural principle, assisted by wit and reason, may prompt him to it. And though I do not condemn these things in themselves, yet it concerns us nearly to know and consider their nature, both that we may keep within due bounds, and also that we may learn never to value ourselves on the account of such attainments, nor lay the stress of religion upon our natural appetites or performances.
Wherein the divine life doth consist. It is now time to return to the consideration of that divine life whereof I was discoursing before; that life which is hid with Christ in God, and therefore hath no glorious show or appearance in the world, and to
the natural inan will seem a mean and insipid notion As the animal life consisteth in that narrow and confined love which is terminated on a man's self, and in his propension towards those things that are pleasing to nature; so the divine life stands in an universal and unbounded affection, and in the mastery over our natural inclinations, that they may never be able to betray us to those things which we know to be blameable. The root of the divine life is faith; the chief branches are, love to God, charity to man, purity and humility: for (as an excellent person hath well observed) however these names be common and vulgar, and make no extraordinary sound; yet do they carry such a mighty sense, the tongue of man or angel can pronounce nothing more weighty or excellent.
Faith hath the same place in the divine life which sense hath in the natural, being indeed nothing else but a kind of sense, or feeling persuasion of spiritual things. It extends itself unto ali divine truths: but, in our lapsed estate, it hath a peculiar relation to the declarations of God's mercy and reconcilableness to sinners through a Mediator; and therefore, receiving its denomination from that principal object, is ordinarily termed faith in Jesus Christ.
The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the divine perfections, which makes the soul resign and sacrifice itself wholly unto him, desiring above all things to please him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with him, and being. ready to do or suffer any thing for his sake, or at his pleasure. Though this affection may have its first rise from the favours and mercies of God towards ourselves, yet doth it in its growth and progress transcend such particular considerations, and ground itself on bis infinite goodness manifested in all the works of creation and providence. A soul thus possessed with divine love, must needs be enlarged towards all mankind in a sincere and unbounded affection, because of the relation they have to God, being his creatures, and having something of his image stamped upon then). And this is that chara ity I named as the second branch of religion, and under
which all the parts of justice, all the duties we owe to our neighbour, are eminently comprehended: for he who doth truly love all the world, will he nearly concerned in the interest of every one; and so far from wronging or injuring any person, that he will resent any evil that befalls others, as if it happened to himself.
By purity, I understand a due abstractedness from the body, and mastery over the inferior appetites; or such a temper and disposition of mind, as makes a man despise, and abstain from all pleasures and delights of sense or fancy which are sinful in themselves or tend to extinguish or lessen our relish of more divine and intellectual pleasures; which doth also infer a resoluteness to andergo all those hardships he may meet with in the performance of his duty. So that not only chastity and temperance, but also Christian courage and magnanimity may come under this head.
Humility imports a deep sense of our own weakness, with a hearty and affectionate acknowledgement of our owing all that we are to the divine bounty; which is always accompanied with a profound submission to the will of God, and great deadness towards the glory of the world, and applause of men.
These are the highest perfections that either men or angels are capable of; the very foundation of heaven laid in the soul. “And he who hath attained them, needs not desire to pry into the hidden rolls of God's decrees, or search the volumes of heaven, to know what is determined about his everlasting condition; but he may find a copy of God's thoughts concerning him written in his own breast. His love to God may give him assurance of God's favour to him; and those beginnings of happiness which he feels in the conformity of the powers of his soul to the nature of God, and compliance with his will, are a sure pledge that his felicity shall be perfected, and continued to all eternity. And it is not without reason that one said, • I had rather see the real impregsions of a God-like nature upon my own soul, than have a visiou from heaven, or an angel sent to tell mo that my name was enrolled in the book of life.”
Religion better understood by actions than by
words. When we have said all that we can, the secret mysteries of a new nature and divine life can never be sufficiently expressed; language and words cannot reach them: nor can they be truly understood but by those souls that are enkindled within, and awakened unto the sense and relish of spiritual things. There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding. The power and life of religion may be better expressed in actions than in words; because actions are more lively things, and do better represent the inward principle whence they proceed; and therefore we may take the best measure of those gracious endowments from the deportment of those in whom they reside; especially as they are perfectly exemplified in the holy life of our blessed Saviour; a main part of whose business in this world, was, to teach by his practice what he did require of others, and to make his own conversation an exact resemblance of those unparalleled rules which he prescribed: so that if ever true goodness was visible to mortal eyes, it was then when his presence did beautify and illustrate this lower world. Divine love exemplified in our Saviour:-His dili
gence in doing God's will, and His patience in bearing it.
That sincere and devout affection wherewith his blessed soul did constantly burn towards his heavenly Father, did express itself in an entire resignation to his will. It was his very meat, to do the will, and finish the work of him that sent him. This was the exercise of his childhood, and the constant employment of his riper age. He spared no travail or pains while he was about his Father's business, but took such infinite content and satisfaction in the performance of it, that when, being faint and weary with his journey, he rested himself on Jacob's well, and entreated water of the Samaritan woman; the success of his conference with her,
and the accession that was made to the kingdom of God, filled his mind with such delight, as seemed to have redounded to his very body, refreshing his spirits, and making him forget the thirst whereof he complained before, and refuse the meat which he had sent his disciples to buy. Nor was he less patient and submissive in suffering the will of God, than diligent in doing of it. He endured the sharpest afflictions and extremest miseries that ever were inflicted on any mortal, without a repining thought, or discontented word. For though he was far from a stupid insensibility, or a fantastic or Stoical obstinacy, and had as quick a sense of pain as other men, and the deepest apprehension of what he was to suffer in his soul, (as his bloody sweat, and the sore amazement and sorrow which he professed, do abundantly declare); yet did he entirely submit to that severe dispensation of providence, and willingly acquiesced in it.
And he prayed to God, that if it were possible, (or, as one of the Evangelists hath it, if he were willing,) that cup might be removed; yet he gently added, Nevertheless, not my will, but' thine be done, Of what strange importance are the expressions, John xii. 27, where he first acknowledgeth the anguish of his spirit, Now is my soul troubled; which would seem to produce a kind of demur, And what shall I say? and then he goes on to deprecate his sufferings, Father, save me from this hour; which he had no sooner uttered, but he doth, as it were, on second thoughts, recall it, in these words, But for this cause came I into the world; and concludes, Father, glorify thy
Now, we must not look on this as any levity, or blameable weakness in the blessed Jesus. He knew all along what he was to suffer, and did most resolutely undergo it. But it shows us the inconceivable weight and pressure that he was to bear; which, being so afflicting, and contrary to nature, he could not think of without terror; yet, considering the will of God, and the glory which was to redound to him from thence, he was not only content but desirous to suffer it.