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will not perhaps be unfit to fix our meditations a little on the excellency and advantages of it; that we may be excited to the more vigorous and diligent prosecution of those methods whereby we may'attain so great a felicity. But alas! what words shall we find to express that inward satisfaction, those hidden pleasures which can never be rightly understood, but by those holy souls who feel them? A stranger intermeddleth not with their joy. Holiness is the right temper, the vigorous and healthful constitution of the soul. Its faculties had formerly been enfeebled and disordered, so that they could not exercise their natural functions; it had wearied itself with endless tossings and rollings, and was never able to find any rest: now, that distemper being removed, it feels itself well; there is a due harmony in its faculties, and a sprightly vigour possesseth every part. The understanding can discern what is good, and the will can cleave unto it: the affections are not tied to the motions of sense, and the influence of external objects; but they are stirred by more divine impressions, are touched by a sense of invisible things,
The excellency of divine love. Let us descend, if you please, into a nearer and more particular view of religion, in those several branches of it which were named before. Let us consider that love and affection wherewith holy souls are united to God, that we may see what excellency and felicity is involved in it. Love is that powerful and prevalent passion, by which all the faculties and inclinations of the soul are determined, and on which both its perfection and happiness depend. The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love. He who loveth mean and sordid things, doth thereby become base and vile; but a noble and well-placed affection, doth advance and improve the spirit into a conformity with the perfections which it loves. The images of these do frequently present themselves unto the mind, and, by a secret force and energy, insinuate into the very constitution of the soul, and mould and fashion it unto their
own likenesg. Hence we may see how easily lovers or friends do slide into the imitation of the persons whom they affect, and how, even before they are aware, they begin to resemble them, not only in the more considerable instances of their deportment, but also in their voice and gesture, and that which we call their mein and air. And certainly we should as well transcribe the virtues and inward beauties of the soul, if they were the object and motive of our love. But now, as all the creatures we converse with have their mixture and alloy, we are always in hazard to be sullied and corrupted by placing our affections on them. Passion doth easily blind our eyes, so that we first approve, and then imitate the things that are blameable in them. The true way to improve and ennoble our souls, is, by fixing our love on the divine perfections, that we may have them always
and derive an impression of them on ourselves, and beholding with open face, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory. He who with a generous and holy ambition hath raised his eyes towards that uncreated beauty and goodness, and fixed his affection there, is quite of another spirit, of a more excelleut and heroic temper than the rest of the world; and cannot but infinitely disdain all mean and unworthy things; will not entertain any low or base thoughts which might disparage his high and noble pretensions. Love is the greatest and most excellent thing we are masters of; and therefore it is folly and baseness to bestow it unworthily. It is indeed the only thing we can call our own. Other things may be taken from us by violence; but none can ravish our love. If any thing else be counted ours, by giving our love we give all, so far as we make over our hearts and wills, by which we possess our other enjoy
It is not possible to refuse him any thing, to whom hy love we have given ourselves. Nay, since it is the privilege of gifts to receive their value from the mind of the giver, and not to be measured by the event, bat by the desire; he who loveth may in some sense be said not only to bestow all that he hath, but all things
else which may make the beloved person happy, since he doth heartily wish them, and would readily give them, if they were in his power. In which sense it is that one makes bold to say, That divine love doth in a manner give God unto himself, by the complacency it takes in the happiness and perfection of his nature. But though this may seem too strained an expression, certainly love is the worthiest present we can offer unto God; and it is extremely debased when we bestow it another way.
When this affection is misplaced, it doth often vent itself in such expressions as point at its genuine and proper object, and insinuate where it ought to be placed. The flattering and blasphemous terms of adoration, wherein men do sometimes express their passion, are the language of that affection which was made and designed for God; as he who is accustomed to speak to some great person, doth, perhaps, unawares, accost another with those titles he was wont to give to him, But certainly that passion which accounteth its object a Deity, ought to be bestowed on him who really is so. Those unlimited submissions, which would debase the soul if directed to any other, will exalt and ennoble it when placed here. Those chains and cords of love are infinitely more glorious than liberty itself; this slavery is more noble than all the empires in the world.
The advantages of divine love. Again, as divine love doth advance and elevate the soul, so it is that alone which can make it happy. The highest and most ravishing pleasures, the most solid and substantial delights, that human nature is capable of, are those which arise from the endearments of a well-placed and successful affection. That which imbitters love, and makes it ordinarily a very troublesome and hurtful passion, is the placing it on those who have not worth enough to deserve it, or affection and gratitude to require it, or whose absence may deprive us of the pleasure of their converse, or their miseries occasion our
trouble. To all these evils are they exposed, whose chief and supreme affection is placed on creatures like themselves: but the love of God delivers us from them all.
The worth of the object. First, I say, love must needs be miserable, and full of trouble and disquietude, when there is not worth and excellency enough in the object to answer the vastness of its capacity. So eager and violent a passion, cannot but fret and torment the spirit, where it finds not wherewith to satisfy its cravings. And, indeed, so large and unbounded is its nature, that it must be extremely pinched and straitened, when confined to any creature; nothing below an infinite good can afford it room to stretch itself, and exert its vigour and activity. What is a little skindeep beauty, or some small degrees of goodness, to match or satisfy a passion which was made for God, designed to embrace an infinite good? No wonder lovers do so hardly suffer any rival, and do not desire that others should approve their passion by imitating it. They know the scantiness and narrowness of the good which they love, that it cannot suffice two, being in effect too little for one. Hence love, which is strong as death, occasioneth jealousy which is cruel as the grave; the coals whereot' are coals of fire, which hath a most violent flame.
But divine love hath no mixture of this gall; when once the soul is fixed on that supreme and all-sufficient good, it finds so much perfection and goodness, as doth not only answer and satisfy its affection, but master and overpower it too: it finds all its love to be too faint and languid for such a noble object, and is only sorry that it can command no more. It wisheth for the flames of a seraph, and longs for the time when it shall be wholly melted and dissolved into love: and because it can do so little itself, it desires the assistance of the whole creation, that angels and men would concur with it in the admiration and love of those infinite perfections
The certainty to be beloved again, Again, love is accompanied with trouble, when it misseth a suitable return of affection: love is the most valuable thing we can bestow, and by giving it, we do in effect give all that we have; and therefore it needs must be afflicting to find so great a gift despised, that the present which one hath made of his whole heart, cannot prevail to obtain any return. Perfect love is a kind of self-dereliction, a wandering out of ourselves; it is a kind of voluntary death, wherein the lover dies to himself, and all his own interest, not thinking of them, nor caring for them any more, and minding nothing but how he may please and gratify the party whom he loves. Thus he is quite undone unless he meets with reciprocal affection; he neglects himself, and the other hath no regard 10 him; but if he be beloved, he is revived, as it were, and liveth in the soul and care of the person whom he loves; and now he begins to mind his own concernments, not so much because they are his, as because the heloved is pleased to own an interest in them. He becomes dear unto himself, because he is so unto the other.
But why should I enlarge on so known a matter? Nothing can be more clear, than that the happiness of love depends on the return it meets with. And herein the divine lover hath unspeakably the advantage, having placed his affection on him whose nature is love; whose goodness is as infinite as his being; whose mercy prevented us when we were his enemies, therefore cannot choose but embrace us when we are become his friends. It is utterly impossible that God should deny his love to a soul wholly devoted to him, and which desires nothing so much as to serve and please him. He cannot disdain his own image, nor the heart in which it is engraven. Love is all the tribute which we can pay him, and it is the sacrifice which he will not despise.
The presence of the beloved person. Another thing which disturbs the pleasure of love, and renders it a miserable and unquiet passion, is absence