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fulfil every jot of God's law, if it were possible: “This is the love of God,” saith the apostle, “that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” True love overcomes all difficulties; is not apt to pretend occasions for neglecting any service of God, nor to conceive any prejudices against it, but puts an edge and alacrity upon the spirit of a man. He can no more be said to love Christ, who doth not willingly undergo his yoke, than that woman to love her husband, who is ever grieved at his presence, and delighteth more in the society of strangers.
Fifthly, This willingness of Christ's people ariseth from the beauty and preciousness of those ample promises, which, by the love of Christ, are made unto us. It is said of Moses, that he did “ choose” (and that is the greatest act of willingness)“ rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;" and the ground of this willingness was, “ he had a respect unto the recompense of the reward u.” So Christ endured the cross, and despised the shame; that is, the shame (which would much have staggered and disheartened an unresolved man) was no prejudice or discouragement unto him, to abate any of his most willing obedience; and the motive was, “ for the joy that was set before him *." And St. Paul professeth of himself, that he " pressed forward;" he was not only willing, but importunate and contentious, to put forth all his spirits, and, like riders in a race, to rouse up himself in a holy fervour and emulation ; and all this was “for the price of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” which was, as it were, before his face in the promises thereofy. So the apostle assureth us, that a Christian's hope to be like unto Christ hereafter, will cause him “to purify himself even as he is pure” When a man shall sit down and recount with David, what God hath done for him already; “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto ?” And what God hath farther promised to do for him more,—" Thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come :” of a child of wrath, thou hast called me to an inheritance of the saints in light, and into the fellowship of more glory than can be
u Heb. xi. 25, 26.
x Heb. xii. 2.
y Phil. iii. 14.
2 John iii. 3.
shadowed forth by all the lights of Heaven, though every star were turned into a sun ;-I say, when the soul shall thus recount the goodness of God, how can it be but wonderfully enlarged with thoughts of thankfulness, and grieved at the slow and narrow abilities of the other parts to answer the urgent and wide desires of a willing soul?
Sixthly, This willingness of Christ's people ariseth from the experience of that peace, comfort, liberty, triumph, and security, which accompanieth the Spirit and the service of Christ. Nothing makes a man more fearful of wars, than the dangers and bazards which are incident thereunto. But if a man can serve under such a prince, whose employments are not only honourable but safe; if he, who is able and faithful to make good his words, promise us, that none either of the stratagems or forces of the enemy shall do us hurt, but that they shall fly before us, whilst we resist them; who would not be a voluntary in such services, as are not liable to the casualties and vicissitudes, which usually attend other wars, wherein he might fight with safety, and come off with honour ?-David had experience of God's power in delivering him from the lion and the bear; and was well assured, that God, who was careful of sheep, would be more pitiful to his people Israel ; and that made him with much willingness ready to encounter Goliah, whose assurance was only in himself, and not in God. When a man shall consider what God might have done with him,-he might have sent him from the womb to Hell; deprived him of the means of grace; left him to the rebellion and hardness of his evil heart, and to the rage of Satan; burnt his bones, and dried up his bowels with the view of that wrath which is due to sin :--And what he hath done with him ;-he hath called him to the knowledge of his will, refreshed him with the light of his countenance, heard his prayers, given an issue to his temptations, and a reviving out of bondage, fastened him as a nail in his holy place, given him his favour which is better than life, and spoken of his servant for a long time to come; -O how readily will the spirit of such a man conclude, “ Lord, according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this unto me, and I have found so much sweetness in thy service above all mine own thoughts or expectations, that
now, O Lord, my heart is prepared, my heart is prepared, I will sing and rejoice in thy service."
Lastly, This willingness of Christ's people ariseth from that excellent beauty and attractive virtue, which is in holiness. “Thy law is pure; therefore thy servant loveth it." And therefore we find Christ and his church do kindle the coals of love, and stir up those flames of mutual dearness towards one another ; do cherish those longing, languishing, and ravishing affections, and suspirings of hearts, by the frequent contemplations of each other's beauty. “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast dove's eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea pleasant,” &c.a. These are the principles of that great devotion and willingness, which is in the people of Christ unto his service.
And hereby we may make trial of the truth of that profession, subjection, and obedience, which we all pretend to the gospel of Christ. It is then only sound, when it proceeds from a willing and devoted heart, from purpose, fervour, and earnestness of spirit b. For as God, in mercy, accounts the will for the deed; because where there is a willing mind, there will certainly be all answerable endeavours to execute that will, and reduce it into an act; so he esteems the deed nothing without the will. Cain and Abel did both sacrifice; it was the heart, which made the difference between them. Let the outward conversation be what it will, yet if a man regard iniquity in his heart, God will not hear him. “Gravius est diligere peccatum quam facere:” It is a worse token (saith Gregory) of an evil man to love sin, than to commit; for it may be committed out of temptation and infirmity, and so may be either in part the sin of another that tempteth us, or at least not the sin of our whole selves, but of those remainders of corruption which dwell within us. But our love is all our own;-Satan can but offer a temptation, the heart itself must love it: and love is strong as death, it worketh by the strength of the whole man; and therefore ever such as the will is, which is the seat of love, such is the service too. And the reason is :
* Cant. i. 15, 16. b Acts xi. 23. Rom. xii. 11. Gal. iv. 18. • Qui perspicit apud te paratam fuisse virtutem, reddet pro virtute mercedem. Nunquid Cain cum Deo munus offerret, jam peremerat fratrem ? Et tamen parricidium mente conceptum Deus providus ante damnavit; ut illic cogitatio prava, et perniciosa conceptio Deo providente prospecta est: ita et in Dei servis, apud quos confessio cogitatur et martyrium mente concipitur, animus ad bonum dedicus, Deo judice coronatur. Aliud est martyrio animum deesse, aliud animo defuisse martyrium-nec enim sanguinem vestrum quærit Deus, sed fidem. Cypr. de mortal.-Neque enim in sacrificiis quæ Abel et Cain primi obtulerunt, muncra eorum Deus, sed corda intuebatur, ut ille placeret in munere qui placebat in corde. Idem de Orat. Domini.
First, Because the will is the first mover, and the masterwheel in spiritual work, that which regulateth all the rest, and keepeth them right and constant; that which holdeth together all the faculties of the soul and body in the execution of God's will. In which sense, among others I understand that of the apostle, that “love is the bond of perfection;" because when love resideth in the heart, it will put together every faculty to do that work of God perfectly, which it goes about. And therefore by a like expression it is called, “ The fulfilling of the law;" because love aims still at the highest and at the best, in that thing which it loves ;-it is ever an enemy to defects. He that loves learning, will never stop, and say, “I have enough ;”-in this likewise, love is as death. And he that loves grace, will be still ambitious to abound in the work of the Lord, and to press forward unto perfection; to make up that which is wanting to his faith; to be sanctified throughout; to bring forth more fruit; to walk in all pleasing; to be holy, and unblamable, and unreprovable, without spot or wrinkle. It is an absurd thing in religion to dote upon mediocrities of grace: “in eo non potest esse nimium, quod esse maximum debet;"—He that, with all the exactness and rigour of his heart, can never gather together all grace, can surely never have too much. In false religions, no man is so much magnified as he that is strictest : that Papist which is most cruel to his flesh, most assiduous at his beads, most canonical in his hours, macerated with superstitious penance, most frequently prostrated before his idols, is, of all other, most admired for the greatest saint. O why should not a holy strictness be as much honoured as a superstitious ? Why should not exactness, purity, and a contending unto perfection, be as much pursued in a true as in a false religion ? Why should not every man strive to be filled with grace, since he can never have enough till he have it all, till he is brimful? He that truly loves wealth, would be the richest; and he that loves honour, would be the highest of any other: certainly grace is in itself more lovely than any of these things. Why then should not every man strive to be most unlike the evil world, and to be more excellent than his neighbour; to be holy as God is holy, to be as Christ himself was in this world, to grow up in unity of faith, and in the knowledge of him, unto a perfect man? Certainly if a man once set his will and his heart upon grace, he will never rest in mediocrities; he will labour to abound more and more; he will never think himself to have apprehended; but forgetting the things which are behind, he will reach forth to those things which are before him ;-for all the desires of the heart are strong, and will overrule any other natural desire. The grief of David's heart made him forget to eat his bread. The desire of Christ's heart to convert the Samaritan woman, made him careless of his own hunger : “It is my meat to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”-A true heart will go on to finish the work which it hath begun. “ The wicked sleep not," saith Solomon, “except they have done mischief;" and the enemies of St. Paul, provided to stop the clamours and demands of an empty stomach, with a solemn vow that they would neither eat nor drink, till they had slain Paul. Lust never gives over, till it finish sin; and therefore the love of Christ should never give over, till it finish grace.
Secondly, Because God is more honoured in the obedience of the will, than of the outward man. Human restraints may rule this, but nothing but grace can rule the other; for herein we acknowledge God to be the searcher of hearts, the discerner of secret thoughts, the judge and Lord over our consciences. “Whatsoever ye do,” saith the apostle,“ do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men :"_noting unto us that a man doth never respect the Lord in any service which cometh not willingly, and from the inner man. Now he worketh in vain, and loseth all that he hath wrought, who doth not work for him who is the master of the business he goes about, and who only doth reward it. Therefore saith the apostle, “Do it beartily as to the Lord, knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.” He only is the pay