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will you turn religion into ridicule ? If you do, it will at last turn to a Sardonic laughter. Because we contend for a little, is the whole an invention? Will the pillars be brangled, because of the swarms of flies that are about them?
There is an eternal Mind that made all things, that stretched out the heavens, and formed the spirit of man within him. Let us tremble before him, and love the Lord Jesus. Our souls have indelible characters of their own excellency in them, and deep apprehensions of another state, wherein we shall receive according to what we have done upon earth. Was not Jesus, the Son of God, declared to be such by his miracles, but chiefly by his resurrection from the dead? Hath there not been received and transmitted to us, through all ages, many martyrs following him through racks, and fires, and their own blood, to his glory? And shall we throw off all these? Better be the poorest, weakest, and most distempered person upon earth, with the true fear of God, than the greatest wit and highest mind in the world, if profane, or, though not such, if void of any just or deep sense of the fear of God; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. Some religious persons are perhaps weak persons, yet, in all ages, there have been greater nobles and more generous souls truly religious, than ever were in the whole tribe of atheists and libertines.
Let us therefore follow the holy Jesus. Our own concernments concern us not, compared to this. What is that to thee? may be said of all things besides this. All the world is one great impertinency to him who contemplates God and his Son Jesus. Great things, coaches, furniture, or houses, concern the outward pomp or state of the world, but not the necessities of life; neither can they give ease to him that is pinched with any one trouble. He that hath twenty houses, lies but in one at once. He that hath twenty dishes on his table, hath but one belly to fill. All are uncertain. Sudden storms fall on, and riches fly away as a bird to heaven, and leave those who look after them, sinking to hell in sorrow,
A Christian is solicitous about nothing. If he be raised higher, it is that he desires not: if he fall down again, he Div. No. IX.
is where he was. A well-fixed mind, though the world should crack about him, will be in quiet. But when we come to be stretched on our death-bed, things will have another visage. It will pull the rich from his treasure, strip the great of his robes and glory, and snatch the amorous gallant from his fair, beloved mistress, and from all we either have or grasp at. Only sin will stick fast and follow us. Those black troops will clap fatal arrests on us, and deliver us over to the jailor. Are these contrivances, or the dark dreams of melancholy? All the sublimities of holiness may be arrived at, by the deep and profound belief of these things. Let us therefore ask, Have we walked thus, and dressed our souls by this pat
But this hath a nearer aspect to pastors, who should be copies of the fair original, and second patterns, who follow nearer Christ. They should be imitating him in humility, meekness, and contempt of the world, and particularly in affection to souls, feeding the flock of God. Should we spare labor, when he spared not his own blood? How precious must the sheep be, who were bought at so high a rate as the blood of God! O for more of this divine and evangelic heat, instead of our distempered heat. This is the substance of religion, to imitate him whom we worship. Can there be a higher or nobler design in the world, than to be God-like, and like Jesus Christ? He became like us, that we might be the more like him. He took our nature upon him, that he might transfuse his into us. His life was a track of doing good, and suffering ill. He spent the days in preaching and healing, and often the nights in prayers. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled, and separate from sinners. How then can heirs of wrath follow the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world? Humility, meekness, and charity were the darling virtues of Christ. He came to expiate and extirpate our pride; and when that Majesty did so humble himself, shall a worm swell? No grace can be where the mind is so swelled with this airy tumor. He was meek, and reviled not again; nor did he vent his anger, though he met with the greatest injuries. The rack of his cross could make him confess no anger against
those who were draining him of his life and blood: all he did was to pray for them. Charity was so dear to him, that he recommended it, as the characteristic by which all might know his disciples, if they loved one another. But, alas! by this may all know we are not his disciples, because we hate one another. But that we may imitate him in his life, we must run the back-trade, and begin with his death, and must die with him. Love is a death. He that loves, is gone and lost in God, and can esteem or take pleasure in nothing besides him. When the bitter cup of the Father's wrath was presented to our Lord, one drop of this elixir of love and union to the Father's will, sweetened it so, that he drank it without more complaining. This death of Jesus mystically acted in us, must strike down all things else, and he must become our all. O that we would resolve to live to him that died, and to be only his, and humbly to follow the crucified Jesus! All else will be quickly gone. How soon will the shadows that now amuse us and please our eyes, fly away!
Love the fulfilling of the Law.
MATTHEW Xxii, 37, 39.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
THE wisdom and meekness of our Saviour is the more remarkable and shines the brighter, by the malice of his adversaries; and their cavils and tempting questions, occasion our benefit and instruction. Thus was it here.
We see, the words are the sum of the whole law, and they are taken out of the book of the law. They are called two commandments: the former is the sum of the first, the latter of the second, table. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. That is, says our Saviour, the first and great commandment. Our first obligation is to God, and then, through him and for his sake, to men.
The second is like unto it. Seems it not rather contrary, than like to the former? Whereas in the former the whole stream of love is directed in one undivided current towards God, this other commandment seems to cut out a new channel for it, and to turn a great part of it to men; Thy neighbour as thyself. No, they are not contrary, if we take them right; yea, they do not only agree, but are inseparable. They do not divide our love, but they set it in its right course; first, wholly to God, as the sovereign good, and only for himself worthy to be loved; and then back from him, it is, according to his own will, derived downwards to our neighbour; for then only we love both ourselves and others aright, when we make our love to him the reason and the rule of both. So then our love is not to be immediately divided betwixt him and our neighbour or any creature, but is first all to be bestowed on him, and then he diffuses, by way of reflection, so much of it upon others as he thinks fit. Being all in his hands, it is at his disposal; and that which he disposes elsewhere is not taken off from him, but abiding still in him, as in its natural place, (as light doth in the sun) flows forth from him by such an emanation as divides it not; as beams flow forth from the suu and enlighten the air, and yet are not cut off from it.
So then the second is like unto the first, because it springs from it and depends on it. It commands the same affection; love, in the former, placed on God, and in this, extended from him to our neighbour. And it is like unto it in this too; that, as the former is the sum of the first table, and so the first and great commandment, so this is the sum of the second table, and therefore next unto it in greatness and importance..
All the precepts that can be found in the law and the prophets, are reducible to these, and all obedience depends upon this love. I. consider this, how these are the sum of the law; and, II. consider them particularly in themselves.
I. Not only because it is love that facilitates all obedience, and is the true principle of it, that makes it both easy to us and acceptable to God; but besides this, that love disposes the soul for all kinds of obedience, this very act of love is in effect all that is commanded in the law.
For the first is so much one with the first commandment, that it expresses most fitly the positive of it, opposite to that which is there forbidden; Thou shalt have no other gods before me-but shalt have me alone for thy God, or bestow all divine affection, and all worship that is the sign and expression of it, upon me only. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and, if thou lovest me alone, thou wilt not decline to any kind of false worship. That were to vitiate thy affection, and to break that conjugal love and fidelity to which thou art bound by cove nant, being my people as by a spiritual marriage. There fore is idolatry so frequently called, in the phrase of the prophets, adultery and uncleanness.
And in the letter of the second commandment, the Lord uses that word which in its usual sense is conjugal, and relates to marriage, I am a jealous Godv; and, in the close of that precept, expresseth particularly this affection of love, as particularly interested in it, though extended to all the rest, I show mercy to thousands of them that love
Is it not a genuine property of love, to honor and respect the name of those whom we love? And therefore it is altogether inconsistent with the love of God, to vilify and abuse his name.
They that understand the true use of that holy rest of the sabbath-day, do know that it frees the soul, and makes it vacant from earthly things for this purpose, that it may fully apply itself to the worship and contemplation of God, and converse with him at greater length. Then certainly, where there is this entire love to God, this will not weigh heavy, will be no grievous task to it; it will embrace and gladly obey this fourth commandment, not only as its duty, but as its great delight. For there is nothing that love rejoices in more, than in the converse and society of those on whom it is placed: It would willingly bestow most of its time that way, and thinks all hours too short that are spent in that society. Therefore not only they who profanely break, but they who keep it heavily and wearily, who find it rather a burthen than a delight, may justly suspect the love of God is not in them; but be that keeps his day cheerfully and loves it, because on it he