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desires after the vanities of the world are consistent with an entire love of God with all our hearts.
It may be said, that though this appears true in the reason of the thing, as considered in speculation; yet that this is a love for angels, and not suited to the state of man.
I answer, it is what God has required, and the same objection may be made against all other Christian virtues, for they are all required in a perfect degree.
Secondly, If it is a degree of affection hardly attainable, this makes for the doctrine which I have delivered, and shows the absolute necessity of having no more enjoyments in the world than such as necessity requires.
For if it is so hard to raise the soul to this degree of love, surely it must be stupid to add to the dilliculty by foolish and contrary affections.
Thirdly, If this is the proper love of angels, this proves that it is as proper for us, who are taught by God to pray, that his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
At least, if this is the love of angels, it shows us, that we are to imitate it as far as our nature will allow, and to stop at no degrees short of it, but such as we cannot possibly reach.
But can he be said to be doing his utmost to love like an angel, that is building schemes of felicity on earth, and seeking satisfaction in its imaginary enjoyments.
As sure therefore as this is the love of angels, as sure as we are called to an angelical state of life with God; so surely are we obliged to lay aside every hinderance, to part with every enjoyment that may stop or retard the soul in its rise and affection towards God.
We differ from angels, as we are in a state of probation, and loaded with flesh; and though till the trial be over, we must bear with infirmities and
necessities, to which they are not subject; yet we must no more choose follies, or find out false delights for ourselves, than if we were, like them, free from all infirmities.
The love of enemies is said to be a love that becomes the perfection of God; but yet we see that we are so far from being excused from this manner of love, because it is divine, and suits the nature of God, that we are, for that reason expressly called to it, that we may be children of our Father which is in heaven.
If therefore we are called to that spirit of love, which becomes the perfection of God, surely the manner of angelic love is not too high for us to aspire after.
All therefore that we are to learn from this matter is this, th :ta renunciation of the world is necessary, that this holy love cannot be attained, unless we only use the world so far as our needs and infirmities require, and think of no happiness but what is prepared for us at the right hand of God.
Fourthly, This entire love of God is as possible as the attainment of several other duties, which still are the rules of our behaviour, and such as we are obliged to aspire after in the utmost perfection.
The sincere love of our enemies, is, perhaps, of all other tempers the hardest to be acquired, and the motions of envy and spight the most difficult to be entirely laid aside; yet, without this temper, we are unqualified to say the Lord's Prayer. We see examples of this love of God in the first followers of our Saviour; and though we cannot work miracles as they did, yet we may arrive at their personal holiness, if we would but be so humble to imitate their examples.
Our Saviour told them the infallible way of arriving at piety, which was by renouncing the world, and taking up the cross, and following him, that they might have treasure in heaven. This was
the only way then, and it would still be as successful now, had we but the faith and humility to put it in practice.
But we are now, it seems, become so wise and prudent, we see so much farther into the nature of virtue and vice, than the simplicity of the first Christians, that we can take all the enjoyments of the world along with us in our road to heaven.
They took Christ at his word, and parted with all; but we take úpon us to reason ahout the innocency of wealth and stately- enjoyments, and to possess every thing, but the spirit of our religion.
It is sometimes said in defence of the dulness of our affections towards God, that affections are tempers which we cannot command, and depend much upon constitution; so that persons, who are possessed of a true fear of God, may yet by reason of their constitution feel less vehemency of love, than others who are less piously disposed. This is partly true, and partly false.
It is true, that our affections are very much influenced by our constitutions; but then it is false, that this is any defence of our want of affection towards God.
Two persons, that equally feel the want of something to quench their thirst, may show a different passion
after water, by a difference in their constitutions; but still, thirst after water is the ruling desire in both of them.
Two epicures, by a difference in their constitution, may differ in the manner of their eagerness after dainties; but still it is the love of dainties that is the governing love in both of them.
It is the same thing in the case before us, two persons may equally look upon God as their sole happiness; by reason of their different tempers, one may be capable of greater fervours of desire of him than the other, but still, it is the ruling desire of the other.
Therefore though good men may content themselves, though they have not such flames of desire, as they may see or hear of in other people; yet there is no foundation for this content, unless they know that they seek and desire no other happiness than God, and that their love, though not so fervent as some others, is still the ruling and governing affection of their soul.
Notwithstanding the difference in constitution, we see all people are affected with what they reckon their happiness: if therefore people are not full of a desire of God, it is because they are full, or at least engaged with another happiness; it is not any slowness of spirits, but a variety of enjoyments, that have taken hold of their hearts, and rendered them insensible of that happiness that is to be found in God.
When any man has followed the counsels of our blessed Saviour, when he has renounced the world, I rejected all the flattering appearances of worldly
happiness, emptied himself of all idle affections, and practised all the means of fixing his heart upon God alone, he may be pardoned if he still wants such warmth of affection as so great a good might justly raise.
But till all this be done, we as vainly appeal to our constitutions, tempers, and infirmities of our state, as the unprofitable servant appealed to the hardness of his master, and therefore hid his talent in the earth.
And as it is there said, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant; thou knewest that I was an austere man, &c. Wherefore then garest not thou my money into the bank ? &c.
So we may justly fear that we shall be judged out of our own mouths; for, if we know the loving God with all our heart and soul, to be so difficult to the temper and infirmities of our nature, why therefore do we not remove every hinderance, re
nounce every vain affection, and with double diligence practise all the means of forming this divine temper? For this we may be assured of, that the seeking happiness in the enjoyments of wealth, is as contrary to the entire love of God, as wrapping up the talent in a napkin is contrary to improve ing it.
He that has renounced the world, as having nothing in it that can render him happy, will find his heart at liberty to aspire to God in the highest degrees of love and desire; he will then know what the Psalmist means by those expressions, My heart is athirst for God; when shall I appear before the presence of God?
And till we do thus renounce the world, we are strangers to the temper and spirit of piety; we do but act the part of religion, and are no more affected with those devotions which are put into our mouths, than an actor upon the stage is really angry himself, when he speaks an angry speech.
Religion is only what it should be, when its happiness has entered into our soul, and filled our hearts with its proper tempers, when it is the settled object of our minds, and governs and affects us, as worldly men are atfected with that happiness which governs their actions.
The ambitious man naturally rejoices at every thing that leads to his greatness, and as naturally grieves at such accidents as oppose it.
Good Christians, that are so wise as to aim only at one happiness, will as naturally be affected in this manner, with that which promotes or hinders their endeavours after it.
For happiness, in whatever it is placed, equally governs the heart of him that aspires after it.
It is therefore as necessary to renounce all the satisfactions of riches and fortune, and place our sole happiness in God, as it is necessary to love him