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Chapter XXIX.

Showing How The Loving Soul Considers God In His Benefits As The Most Liberal Bountifulness.

In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.—1 John 4:9, 10.

All that God does with reference to man, be it benefits or punishments, he does to this end, that man, who is turned away from him, may be turned to him again.

2. But man is foolish and brutish, like the beasts (Ps. 32:9), and does not understand the reason for which God bestows upon him so great benefits, namely, that thereby he might be invited and encouraged to love God: nor does he, on the other hand, consider why God punishes him, namely, that he may turn himself unto God.

3. Let us consider, first, bodily and temporal benefits, and then those that are spiritual and eternal.

4. I. God has created nothing, either visible or invisible, which may not be serviceable to man. The invisible creatures which minister to us, are the holy angels (Heb. 1:14), whose wisdom, strength, diligence, and watchfulness over us, are declared and praised in many places of Scripture; so that even many angels wait upon one man: witness the history of the patriarch Jacob and the prophet Elisha. Gen. 32:1, 2; 2 Kings 6:17. Because many evil spirits lie in wait for one man, seeking to destroy him; therefore also many holy watchers are ordered by God for his defence. That there is joy also in the presence of the angels, over our repentance and prayers, the Lord teaches us. Luke 15:10. This benefit, because it is bestowed upon us after an invisible manner, many people little consider; but a wise man, who considers not only the visible world, but the 259 invisible also, understands well, that in the invisible world, wherein God dwelleth, there is much greater glory, and there are much greater numbers or hosts, and greater principalities and dominions (Col. 1:16) than in this visible world. And as God makes his own ministers and princes defend and watch over us, it is plain that this is an exceedingly great benefit; even as that is to be accounted an honor and favor, when a prince appoints his own ministers to conduct and defend one that is to travel through a wilderness or through a hostile country.

5. Look upon the firmament, and consider how God has appointed it for thy service. Behold the wondrous course of the sun and moon. Why do they run so incessantly, day and night, and rest not so much as for one moment? Gen. 1:16; Ps. 19:6. Are they not diligent and industrious servants of man? For God hath no need of their service; he wants not their operations nor their light; it is for man that they were created. The sun serves thee as an unwearied servant, which every morning rises early, and carries before thee the beautiful light, and puts thee in remembrance of the eternal light, which is Christ, and his divine word; this shall be the light of thy soul, that thou mayest walk as a child of the light. The moon and the night cover thee with a shadow, bringing rest unto thee, and teaching thee to abide and to dwell under the shadow of the Most High. Ps. 91:1. The moon, like an unwearied handmaid, conducts water to fertilize the earth. Nay, there is not a star which does not shine, and has not received some blessing for the benefit of man.

6. Behold the air and the winds, how clear they make the firmament, dispelling the clouds; or they gather them together and cause them to pour forth afterwards upon the earth. It is very wonderful that God “bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them.” Job 26:8. The air bears and sustains the clouds, those moist vapors which are afterwards resolved into small drops of water. Job 36:27. Thunder, lightnings, and hail (Job 37:3), must lead us to acknowledge the power of God, to pray to him, and to thank him when he has preserved us in a terrible tempest. Ps. 18:8, 13, 14.

7. Behold the various winds which govern navigation; so that where a wind blows, there the ship is driven, and sails on her way as a bird flies through the air. Thus all places of the world can be found out, and all the secrets thereof discovered, that nothing may be kept hid of what God hath created for the benefit of man.

8. Behold the various kinds of fish in the sea. Gen. 1:20, 21; Ps. 104:25. They have their appointed times and seasons, in which they, as it were, rise out of the depths and present themselves, crowded together as the corn in the field, as if they would say, Now we are in season, now is the time of harvest for the sea; gather therefore, O ye men! And so it is with the birds also; when their time is come, they fly together in great multitudes, and show themselves to mankind.

9. Behold the earth, that great storehouse of food and treasury of God. It furnishes forth meat and drink, medicine and clothing, houses and abodes, and all the various metals. Each month produces its flowers, which present themselves to our notice, as if they would say, Here we are; we bring our gifts, and present them to 260 you, as good as we received them from our Creator. Nay, even the forest, which is the habitation of roving beasts, God hath put under man, and made him to have dominion over them. And were we to attempt to enumerate all the temporal benefits of God, we should find it impossible to number only them that are in one particular country. There is no fruit, but it is a benefit of God; and let man enumerate them, one by one, if he be able. Should not we learn from this to know our good and bountiful God? Ps. 65:10, 11. If a great potentate were to subject to thee his whole kingdom, and all his dominions, nobles, and powerful men, nay, all his subjects, and were to command them to guard, defend, preserve, clothe, cure, and feed thee, and to take care that thou want nothing at all, wouldest thou not love him and account him a loving, bountiful lord? How then oughtest thou to love the Lord thy God, who has reserved nothing for himself, but appointed for thy service all that is in heaven, or comes from heaven, and all that is upon earth. He needs no creatures for himself, and has excepted nothing from thy service, neither in all the hosts of holy angels, nor in any of his creatures under the stars. If we but desire it, they are ready to serve us; nay, hell itself must serve us by bringing upon us fear and terror, that we may not sin; and by punishing and tormenting our enemies and all the wicked, more than man can desire.

10. II. Let us, upon this ladder of the creatures, ascend unto God our Creator, and consider his spiritual benefits. Has not the Holy Trinity, each Person in particular, bestowed upon man great grace and beneficence? The Father has given us his own Son, and “how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom. 8:32. Has not God the Son given us himself, and all he is, and all he has? “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8. Is not the Holy Ghost within us, illuminating, purifying, teaching, comforting, and adorning our souls with his gifts? He “beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Rom. 8:16.

11. In a word, God's mercy pours forth itself entirely upon us, and omits nothing whereby men could be moved to love God. The benefits God bestows upon us, are so many messengers which he sends for inviting us to come and to enjoy his love. If thou shouldest ask the Scriptures, the angels, all the prophets and all the saints of God, nay, all creatures besides, “From whence come you?” they would answer, “We are the messengers of the mercy of God; we carry fire and flames, that the heart of man, which is cold and incrusted, as it were, with ice, might be warmed again by the love of God.” Yet all these numbers of flaming messengers of God are not able to warm the dead, cold, and frozen heart. This, therefore, is the greatest wonder the devil can effect, that he makes a human heart so cold, that warmth cannot be raised therein, by so many flames of the love of God.

12. Therefore, hearken, thou human heart, and consider where thy Creator has placed thee: namely, in the middle of so many fiery benefits, where the glorious angels surround thee with their flaming love, and where there are so many creatures and messengers of God, all proclaiming his love unto thee. Wherein now has God Almighty transgressed against thee? Whereby 261 has he deserved, that thou shouldst not, or canst not, love and praise him? If what he has done for thee be too little, behold, he offers to do still more. He will create for thee a new heaven and a new earth, and will build a new, glorious, heavenly city, which his glory will lighten; nay, he will illuminate thee with his own light and glory. Rev. 21:10, etc. Could a young woman be so cold, as not to love a fair and youthful bridegroom, whose beauty and goodness were praised day and night, nay, who had delivered her from death, and adorned her with the fairest ornaments? Therefore know, thou human soul, how cold the devil has made thee, since thou canst not be at all warmed by the love of God.

13. And since God has implanted love in all human hearts, tell me, if thy love could be bought of thee, to whom wouldest thou sell it rather than to the Lord thy God? But thinkest thou, that God has not bought of thee thy love dear enough, and has not paid for it a price sufficient? Hath He not given thee his dear Son for it, and Heaven and Earth besides? All that thou expectest to gain for thy love from the world, is as nothing, in comparison with what God has given thee, and what He further has prepared for them that love him. 1 Cor. 2:9; Isa. 64:4. The world, perhaps, gives thee a handful of honor and riches, accompanied with many troubles, and yet thou lovest it! Why dost thou not rather love God, the everlasting Good? But if thy love is not to be bought or sold, but rather will bestow itself freely upon that which thou likest best, what can love find that is to be esteemed more than the supreme, eternal, and most glorious Good? Everything we love, is our beauty and ornament: and if thou lovest God, thou shalt make him thereby thy beauty and thy ornament. And since that is lovely which is beautiful, nothing can ever make thee more lovely and comely, than the love of God in thy soul.

14. And lastly, it is but just and reasonable, that we should love him “who first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. Take account of all the benefits of God, and sum them up; so shalt thou find that all creatures are full of the love of God. This love follows and surrounds thee everywhere, so that thou canst not be rid of it, nor hide thyself from it. It is too powerful and overcometh thee; thou must enjoy it whether thou wilt or not, unless thou wouldest live no more.

15. Now we know that brutes love those by whom they are loved; wouldest thou be worse than a brute, hating thy Benefactor, in whose love thou livest and movest, standest and walkest, sleepest and wakest? But as a thing that is to be kindled, must be held to the fire till it take the flame: so also art thou to expose thy heart to the fire of the love of God, till it be kindled and inflamed therein, which is effected by continual contemplations of the benefits of God. As formerly the priests were commanded to kindle the sacrifices by the holy fire (Lev. 6:12), so must the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, kindle the sacrifice of thine heart, by the fire of his Holy Spirit. And this holy fire of his love was burning toward us from eternity; for He loved us before the foundation of the world. Since that, it has gloriously shown forth itself in the Lord's incarnation and birth; and chiefly in his sufferings and death, whereby He has bestowed upon us the highest love; and this fire of his 262 flaming love to us will not be extinguished to all eternity. Near this fire continue thou with thy cold heart, that thou mayest he kindled with, and united to, the love of Christ.

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