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Chapter VIII.

The Calling Of God Is Earnest And Sincere, And Directs Us To Come To Him.

He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.Ps. 50:4. He hath called us with a holy calling.—2 Tim. 1:9.

God, our heavenly Father, by all the methods and arguments of love, is continually calling and drawing us to himself. So great is his love towards us, that it is as if his own essence and blessedness were affected by our wandering from him. Hence, all his works of creation, both in heaven and earth, all the wonders of his providence, tend to this one great end, namely, to recall and bring back fallen man to himself. All his words and all his actions, call to the soul to return to the love of God from which it fell, by hearkening to the tempting insinuations of Satan.

2. God invites us to believe in his Son, and to follow the steps of his meekness and patience, and by this means, to be reunited to himself, our chief Good. For as when God called to Elijah, and the fire passed by, and the strong wind that rent the mountains; yet God was not in them, but came at last in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11, 12); so at this day he descends and manifests himself in humble, quiet, and peaceable souls. And as Ahasuerus sustained Esther when she fell down at his feet, for fear of his majesty (Esther 5:2; 8:3, 4); so God comforts and supports the humble man, who has a true sense of his own nothingness, and trusts not in his own strength. And were not God to support him with the everlasting arm of his omnipotence, he would sink under the apprehensions of his own unworthiness. Such a man is so humbled in his own eyes, that he would seem to sink below the vilest of all creatures. But no sooner does the mighty King of heaven cast a look upon such an humble soul, but it is strengthened and 394 refreshed with the divine consolation. This is the consequence of true humility, when deeply rooted in the soul; the lower the soul sinks in its own esteem, the higher it rises in the sight of God. If to this there be added, external contempt and reproaches, they sink the soul yet more deeply into self-abasement, and by consequence bring her so much the nearer to God. This is the soil most fit to produce that peace of spirit “which passeth all understanding.” Phil. 4:7. This is the fruit of trials, injuries, and afflictions. By these God prepares and purifies thee for himself, that at length thou mayest return to him, and he return to thee, and dwell in thee. And this consummation is not to be obtained by fine words and airy speculations, but by manifold afflictions. It is not talking or thinking of humility, that makes a man humble; but bearing the cross with patience; without which thou hast only the appearance, and not the reality of virtue. Upon this account the man that treats thee with reproach and contempt, ought to be regarded as in truth thy benefactor. For these two virtues, meekness and patience, are not to be gained except by various conflicts and severe trials, which are very great and grievous to human nature. For how canst thou exercise these virtues, unless in the time of suffering? Meekness regards the ground of the soul, which is best tried in the hour of adversity. And patience respects the inner man, who is to go out with Christ, bearing his reproach. Heb. 13:13. And thus the man is conformed to the most holy and innocent life of Christ; and Christ, with his death and passion, lives and governs in him.

3. There is also another, namely, an inward calling of God: when he kindles in the devout soul the fire of his love. By this means he conveys himself to the soul, for he himself is love. For it is as impossible to possess God without a true perception of his love, as for a man to live without a soul. For that Christ doth “dwell in our hearts by faith” (Ephes. 3:17), is only to be discovered by love ruling in us. 1 John 4:16. And this divine love cannot rest in our hearts, until they are emptied of the love of the world (1 John 2:15), and entirely and absolutely fixed upon God. It will be, therefore, a very useful exercise for a man often to examine his own heart, and see what is uppermost in his affections, God, or himself, or any creature: whether he loves life or death: what it is that principally engages his affections, and engrosses his thoughts. If upon inquiry thou findest thy heart set upon anything but God, that thou hast any affection that does not ultimately centre and terminate in him, then God cannot enter into thy soul, though thou shed as many tears as there are drops in the ocean, and thou must abide forever without him. Unhappy mortals, what are you doing? Why do you suffer a deceitful world to impose upon you by the love of the creatures, and insinuate itself into the centre of your souls, which God requires to be consecrated to his own use? It was for this end that we came into the world, that by mortification of our own will, and contempt of the world and creatures, we should return to God, and be reconciled to him; so that as the body is to return to the earth again, the spirit should also return to God that gave it. Eccl. 12:7. If thou returnest not in this life, thou art undone to all eternity. By that in which thou hast placed thy joy and thy delight here, shalt thou be judged hereafter. Let then this conviction 395 be deeply fixed in thy heart: Whensoever thy heart is emptied of the world and the creatures, it shall forthwith be filled with all the fulness of God; yea, assure thyself, that were it necessary to leave heaven and earth, God would certainly do it, in order to take possession of a soul thus emptied of the world, and prepared to receive him. On the other hand, if thou be full of the world, God cannot enter. The more delight any man takes in the creatures, the farther is he removed from God. How lamentable a case this is, I need not stay to explain. This then is a certain conclusion, that not through worldly joys and pleasures, but through many tribulations, we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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