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and the brightness of his glory, wherein he might behold all his own excellencies and perfections; but with respect unto his love, and his delight in the sons of men. So the order of the words require us to understand it ; 'I was daily his delight;' and 'my delights were with the sons of men.? That is, in, the thoughts of kindness and redemption for them : and in that respect also, was he his Father's delight. It was from eternity that he laid in his own bosom a design for our happiness. The very thoughts of this, is enough to make all that is within us, like the babe in the womb of Elizabeth, to leap for joy. A sense of it cannot but prostrate our souls to the lowest abasement of a humble, holy reverence, and make us rejoice before him with trembling.
2dly. Free. Hef loves us because he will; there was, there is, nothing in us, for which we should be beloved. Did we deserve his love, it must go less in its valuation. Things of due debt, are seldom the matter of thankfulness ; but that which is eternally antecedent to our being, must needs be absolutely free in its respects to our well-being. This gives it life and being, is the reason of it, and sets a price upon it; Rom. ix. 12. Eph. i. 3, 4. Titus iii. 5. James i. 18.
3dly. Unchangeable. Though we change every day, yet his love changeth not. Could any kind of provocation turn it away, it had long since ceased. Its 'unchangeableness is that which carrieth out the Father, unto that infiniteness of patience and forbearance, without which we die, we perish; 2 Pet. iii. 9. which he exerciseth towards us. And it is,
4thly. ”Distinguishing. He hath not thus loved all the world." Jacob have I loved, but I hated Esau;' why should he fix his love on us, and pass by millions from whom we differ not by nature : that he should make us sharers in that, and all the fruits of it, which most of the great and wise men of the world are excluded from : I name but the heads of things. Let them enlarge whose hearts are touched,
Let, I say, the soul frequently eye the love of the Father,
f Matt. xi. 25, 26. Hoc tanto et tam ineffabili bono, nemo inventus est dignus ; sordet natura sine gratia. Pros. de lib. Arb. ad Ruff.
& Mal. iii. 6. James i. 17. Hos. xi. 9. h Rom. ix. 12. Omnia diligit Deus, quæ fecit et inter ea magis diligit creaturas rationales, et de illis eas amplius quæ sunt membra unigeniti sui. Et multo magis ipsum unigenitum. August. i Eph. ii. 3.
k Matt. xi. 26, 27. i Cor. i. 20.
and that under these considerations : they are all soul-conquering and endearing.
(2.) So eye it, as to receive it; unless this be added, all is in vain as to any communion with God. We do not hold communion with bim in any thing, until it be received by faith. This then is that which I would provoke the saints of God unto, even to'l believe this love of God for themselves, and their own part; believe that such is the heart of the Father towards them, accept of his witness herein. His love is not ours in the sweetness of it, until it be so received. Continually then act thoughts of faith on God, as love to thee, as embracing thee with the eternal free loye before described. When the Lord is by his word presented as such unto thee, let thy mind know it, and assent that it is so ; and thy will embrace it, in its being so; and all thy affections be filled with it. Set thy whole heart to it; let it be bound with the cords of this love. If the king be bound in the galleries with thy love, shouldest thou not be bound in heaven with his?
(3.) Let it have its proper fruit and efficacy upon thy heart, in return of love to him again. So shall we walk in the light of God's countenance, and hold holy communion with our Father all the day long. Let us not deal unkindly with him, and return him slighting for his good will. Let there not be such a heart in us, as to deal so unthankfully with our God.
Now to further us in this duty and the daily constant practice of it, I shall add one or two considerations that may be of importance thereunto. As,
[1.] It is exceeding acceptable unto God even our Father, that we should thus hold communion with him in his love ; that he may be received into our souls, as one full of love, tenderness, and kindness, towards us. Flesh and blood is apt to have very hard thoughts of him: to think he is always angry, yea, implacable : that it is not for poor creatures to draw nigh to him: that nothing in the world is more desirable than never to come into his presence, or, as they say, where he hath any thing to do. Who amongst us shall dwell with that devouring fire, who amongst us shall inhabit with those everlasting burnings ? say the sinners in Sion,
1 1 John iv. 16. . m Cant. vii. 5. n Isa. xxxjii. 15, 16,
o* And I knew thou wast an austere man,' saith the evil servant in the gospel. Now there is not any thing more grievous to the Lord, nor more subservient to the design of Satan upon the soul, than such thoughts as these. Satan claps his hands (if I may so say) when he can take up the soul with such thoughts of God: he hath enough, all that he doth desire. This hath been his design and way from the beginning. The first blood that murderer shed, was by this means. He leads our first parents into hard thoughts of God; hath God said so ? hath he threatened you with death ? he knows well enough, it will be better with you: with this engine did he batter and overthrow all mankind in one: and being mindful of his ancient conquest, he readily useth the same weapons wherewith then he so successfully contended. Now it is exceeding grievous to the Spirit of God, to be so slandered in the hearts of those whom he dearly loves. How doth he expostulate this with Sion? What iniquity" have you seen in me?' saith he, • have I been a wilderness unto you, or a land of darkness ? ! Sion hath said, The Lord hath forgotten me, and my God hath forsaken me; but, can a mother ? &c. The Lord takes nothing worse at the hands of his, than such hard thoughts of him, knowing full well what fruit this bitter root is like to bear: what alienations of heart, what drawings back, what unbelief, and tergiversations in our walking with him. How unwilling is a child to come into the presence of an angry father? Consider then this in the first place: receiving of the Father as he holds out love to the soul, gives him the honour he aims at, and is exceeding acceptable unto him. He often sets it out in an eminent manner that it may be so received. He commendeth his love unto us ;' Rom. v. 8. • Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us?' John iii. l. Whence then is this folly ? men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it a boldness to eye God, as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving : I speak of saints; but for the other side, they can judge him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated
o Luke xix. 12.
Gen. iii. 21. 1 E' Ñ Trávtesýpastov. Rom. v. 12. * Jer. iii. 5. 31.
Isa. xl. 97—29. xlix. 15, 16.
of him; Rom. i. 31. 2 Tim. iii. 3.) and think herein they do well. Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure thyself then, there is nothing more acceptable unto the Father, than for us to keep up our hearts unto him, as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace, which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus. And,
[2.] This will be exceeding effectual to endear thy soul unto God, to cause thee to delight in him, and to make thy abode with him. Many saints have no greater burden in their lives, than that their hearts do not come clearly and. fully up constantly to delight and rejoice in God: that there is still an indisposedness of spirit unto close walking with him. What is at the bottom of this distemper? Is it not their unskilfulness in, or neglect of this duty, even of holding communion with the Father in love ? So much as we see of the love of God, so much shall we delight in him, and no more. Every other discovery of God without this, will but make the soul fly from him. But if the heart be once much taken up with this, the eminency of the Father's love, it cannot choose but be overpowered, conquered, and endeared unto him. This, if any thing, will work upon us, to make our abode with him. If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?. Put then this to the venture; exercise your thoughts upon this very thing, the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father, and see if your hearts be not wrought upon to delight in him. I dare boldly say, believers will find it as thriving a course, as ever they pitched on in their lives. Sit down a little at the fountain, and you will quickly have a farther discovery of the sweetness of the streams. You who have run from him, will not be able after awhile, to keep at a distance for a moment.
Ob. But some may say, “ Alas, how shall I hold communion with the Father in love? I know not at all whether he loves me or no; and shall I venture to cast myself upon it? How if I should not be accepted ? should I not rather perish for my presumption, than find sweetness in his bosoni? God seems to me, only as a consuming fire, and everlasting burnings, so that I dread to look up unto him.'
Ans. I know not what may be understood by knowing of the love of God : though it be carried on by spiritual sense
up on this
and experience, yet it is received purely by believing. Our knowing of it, is our believing of it, as revealed. We have known and believed the love that God hath to us, God is love;' 1 John iv. 16. This is the assurance which at the very entrance of walking with God thou mayest have of this love. He who is truth hath said it: and whatever thy heart says, or Satan
account, thoudoest thy endeavour to make him a liar, who hath spoken it; 1 John v. 10.
Ob. 2. I can believe that God is love to others, for he hath said he is love; but that he will be so to me, I see no ground of persuasion ; there is no cause, no reason in the world, why he should turn one thought of love or kindness towards me; and therefore I dare not cast myself upon it, to hold communion with him in his special love.'
Ans. He hath spoken it as particularly to thee, as to any one in the world. And for cause of love, he hath as much to fix it on thee, as on any of the children of men; that is, none at all without himself. So that I shall make speedy work with this objection. Never any one from the foundation of the world, who believed such love in the Father, and made returns of love to him again, was deceived, neither shall ever any to the world's end be so, in so doing. Thou art then in this upon a most sure bottom. If thou believest and receivest the Father as love, he will infallibly be so to thee, though others may fall under his severity. But,
Ob. 3. 'I cannot find my heart making returns of love unto God. Could I find my soul set upon him, I could then believe his soul delighted in me.'
Ans. This is the most preposterous course, that possibly thy thoughts can pitch upon, à most ready way to rob God of his glory. 'Herein is love (saith the Holy Ghost) not that we loved God, but that he loved us first;' 1 John iv. 10. 19. Now, thou wouldst invert this order, and say, ' herein is love, not that God loved me, but that I love him first.' This is to take the glory of God from him : that, whereas he loves us without a cause that is in ourselves, and we have all cause in the world to love him, thou wouldst have the contrary, viz. that something should be in thee, for which God should love thee, even thy love to him; and that thou shouldst love God, before thou knowest any thing lovely in-him, viz. whether