« Prev Sermon VIII. Preached October 11, 1676. Next »

SERMON VIII.5858   Preached October 11, 1676.

HAVING in the three last discourses shewn the invalidity of the excuse for not loving God, drawn from his invisibility, we now proceed in the

2. Place, to evince more fully the obligation we are under to this duty, and to shew the intolerable absurdity of this excuse, that is, of pleading that we do not love God, only because we cannot see him.5959   See Sermon V. p. 47. For

(1.) It would infer, that we are to be affected or moved with no invisible thing whatsoever; or that nothing but what can strike our senses, ought to touch our hearts. For if this be a good reason in the present case, we do not love God because we cannot see him, wheresoever the case is alike, the reason will be so too; and so we are to be moved by nothing at all, but what is to be seen. No threatening danger then is to be feared or provided against, and no distant good to be cared for; and so our greatest concernments that should urge us more than all others, must be quite thrown aside. Our business for eternity and another world, the apprehensions of which, men cannot quite abolish out of their minds, must all stand still; and we live at such a rate that no man will be able to give a tolerable account what he liveth for, or what his business in this world is. For it is altogether inconceivable for what purpose 73such a creature as man is, should be here in this world, furnished with so much higher and nobler faculties than the brute beasts, and yet to do no other business but what they might do as well as we.

(2.) It would hence be consequent, that the blessed God would be everlastingly excluded our love, or that he could never be loved by his reasonable intelligent creature, for an eternal reason; because he can never be seen, as we see our brother with eyes of flesh. None of us in this sense can ever behold God; and if this reason be conclusive, to all eternity he must be excluded our love. And so it may be affirmed even of his reasonable creatures, “None do love him, nor ever shall.” And again,

(3.) According to this way of reasoning, God would lose his interest in our love by the excellency of his nature. And how monstrously absurd is it, that by how much the more excellent an object is, so much the less it should be loved! For it is owing to the excellency of his nature and being, that God cannot be seen. And is it not a horrid consequence, that be cause he is so excellent as he is, therefore he is not to be loved? Nothing is more manifest, than that by how much the more excellent any thing is, so much the more it is remote from our sight. And shall this be admitted as a principle, that by how much the more excellent any thing is, the less it shall be loved? Shall God lose his interest in our love, merely because he is so excellent and perfect as he is? or shall he for this reason be less loved than visible objects are? Again,

(4.) All commerce would hereupon cease, or rather never be, between the blessed God and his intelligent creature, at least all intellectual commerce suitable to such a creature. For if this were a good reason, He is not to be seen, therefore he is not to be loved, it would also follow, that he is not to be trusted, feared or obeyed. All which would infer, that God hath made an intelligent being with whom he can converse no way suitable to its nature, than which nothing can be thought more absurd. Further,

(5.) All differences of moral good and evil, in such a case, would be quite taken away, or all apprehensions of them, from among men. For the rectitude or irrectitude of actions is not to be judged of, nor discerned by the sight of our eye. We cannot by this means alone, tell whether this or that thing be right or wrong. And this by consequence would necessarily render mankind incapable of being governed by laws; because the reason why a law should oblige, doth not fall under any man’s sight. The decency and fitness of a thing the eye does 74 not reach; for to discern this is the business of the mind. And so it would be left altogether impossible for any one to assign a reason, why it should be more congruous to equity and justice for one to embrace his friend, than to murder him; why a man should relieve the poor who cannot help themselves, rather than oppress them; or why a man should not as well, and with as great reason and equity, affront a ruler, as obey him and be subject to his authority? So that in short you take away the foundation of converse with man, at the same time you take away the foundation of religious converse with God and invisible things. By this kind of argument you not only overturn the practice of godliness and piety, which is a great part of that love to God we ought to be exercised in, but you do as effectually by the same means destroy all civil commerce between man and man, howsoever related; and leave no foundation for human society, considering the members of it in relation to governors or rulers, and to one another. And

(6.) It would hence follow, that the original constitution of man’s nature was made up of inconsistencies; nothing else but a piece of self-contradiction. That is, it would be necessary to do a thing, and yet at the same time impossible. It is necessary by the constitution of the human nature that man do love a known good, and therefore most of all the Supreme Good, which may be certainly known to be what it is, the absolutely best, the highest and most excellent Good, as hath been already shewn; and yet by this argument it would be impossible to do this. So absurd is this maxim or pretence, that we are not to be affected with invisible things, and are under no obligation to love God, because we see him not! In the last place,

(7.) It would also be consequent from hence, that man must be a creature from the very first, made only to be miserable. For it is impossible that sense should ever afford him relief against internal evils, or ever supply him with suitable and satisfying good. How then can he be otherwise than miserable?

Sense cannot afford him relief against internal evils, and no man can exempt himself from them, nor give himself any security that he shall never be invaded by such. Let there be never so great a calm, and according to his present apprehension let all things be never so well now; yet no man can assure himself, that he shall never meet with any inward pangs; that he shall never have cause to complain of the terrors of the Almighty besetting and overwhelming his soul, even ready to cut him off. These things have invaded as fortified breasts as any our age can afford; and no man knows when he is secure from them. 75And suppose they do invade a man, and conscience molested by known and often repeated wickedness does at length awake, and grow furious; pray where shall relief be had? Will the things of sense afford it? Will they ease such pangs, or work off agonies of this nature? In such a state of mind, for a man to feast himself with the objects of sense, or with that which pleases the eye, would be as impertinent as music to a broken leg, or fine clothes for the cure of a fever or an ulcerous body.

Nor can sense be the inlet to a man of any suitable or satisfying good. Let experience witness. To those who have all sensible enjoyments to the full, I would say, “Are you happy? Can you pretend to want any thing that sense can possibly supply you with to give pleasure to your spirits? Have you not what you would have? and yet can you say, All is full and well? “Undoubtedly what was the wise man’s experience, would be every man’s that were at leisure to consider the case; The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Eccles. i. 8. Sense, let it be gratified never so much, will still live unsatisfied, will be always craving and never contented. And therefore by this supposition it must needs be consequent, that man could be created for no other state, than a state of misery. But how absurd were it to suppose, that the God of all goodness had made a creature, whom it should be impossible, even to himself, to make happy! (for it is impossible to his nature ever to make himself visible to an eye of flesh) and that it should be only possible to terrify and torment his creature, but not to satisfy it and do it good! All these things do plainly evince that this excuse, to wit, we cannot love God, because we see him not, is not only insufficient, but also most absurd. Then, say we, it ought not to be admitted as an excuse at all, and men are still under an indispensable obligation to the love of God notwithstanding.

But here it may possibly be suggested to the thoughts of some, “Admit it to be a duty to love God, although we cannot see him. We acknowledge that his invisibility renders it not impossible nor unreasonable to love him; and therefore we see the excuse is insufficient, and that many inconveniencies and absurdities would ensue upon making it. But though it will be no entire excuse, yet it will sure be a great alleviation. And methinks the love of God in this world should not be so strictly urged; or though we should not live in the exercise of this duty, it should not be represented as so very great a crime.” Therefore in answer to this we are to evince to you according to what was proposed:6060   See page 54.

76

II. The greatness and heinousness of the sin of not loving God, notwithstanding this excuse that we do not see him: that it not only leaves it a sin still, but a most horrid one. And this will appear if we consider sundry things that I have to mention to you, which will shew it to be injurious to ourselves and others, but chiefly to the blessed God himself, the great Author of our being.

1. It cannot but be a most horrid thing, inasmuch as it is a most injurious distortion of our natural faculties. And therein it is injurious even to ourselves, to our own nature, and to God the great Author and Parent of all nature, at once. For what do we think he has given us such faculties for, as we find the nature of man to be enriched with? Why hath he given us a mind, originally capable of knowing him, and that could once retain God in his knowledge; or a will that could then embrace him by love? It must needs be “very injurious perversion of our own faculties, to withhold and divert them from the prime, the best and highest use, whereof they were originally capable. And it is a very unaccountable thing that it should be thus, that man should have a power given him, originally ordained by the very designation of the God of nature to such and such purposes, and that it should never be applied there unto. Not to love God is to set those faculties one against the other, and both of them against him.

2. It is a most vile debasing of ourselves, and a sordid depression of our own souls. By love we most strictly join ourselves to that which is the object of our love, and enter into the closest and most inward union with it. And what is it that we love, while we love not God? Are not the things which our love terminates upon, such as we should even be ashamed to think of separately and apart from him? What is there that is not base, when severed from God, or if we do not eye and consider him in it? We cannot conceive of any creature whatsoever, not even of the best and most noble, but as of a most horrid idol, if made the terminative object of our love, taken apart from God, and not considered or regarded in subordination to him who is supreme. And as to the mind and spirit of a man, there is nothing that so defiles it, that renders it so impure as spiritual idolatry does. A vile and filthy thing, that the spirit of a man should be alienated from God, and prostituted to an idol! For we make any thing so, that we make the supreme object of our love. And so in effect we join ourselves to vanity, as idols are wont to be called; to that which is not only vain, but by this means made odious and loathsome.

And how deep a resentment should this be to us, that so excellent 77a thing as the spirit of man, God’s own offspring, should suffer so vile a dejection! that it should he depressed and debased unto such meanness as to join itself to vanity and dirt, when it might be united with the God of glory, with the fulness and excellency of the Deity; yea, and when it is apparent, that by the original designation of that nature he hath given us, we were at first made capable thereof! For how came we by that love which we find in our nature? We plainly see we can love somewhere? While we love not God there is something or other that we do love; yea and it is altogether impossible to our nature, not to love something or other. And hath he “planted a vineyard and shall he not eat of the fruit thereof?” 1 Cor. ix. 7. He hath planted that love in our natures which we have made vile, by alienating it from him, and which may yet be made a sacred thing by being sanctified and turned upon God again. For it is the object and a suitableness thereunto, wherein consists the sanctification of the affections. And again,

3. Not to love “God is a most merciless self-destruction. It is a divulsion of ourselves from him who is our life. It is to rend our souls from the Supreme Good, and so abandon ourselves by our own choice unto misery. How infamous among men is the name of a felo de se, one that hath done violence to his own life, and perisheth by his own hands! Though the nature of the thing doth exempt him from personal punishment in this world; yet you know that human laws do very severely animadvert upon, and punish the crime as far as the matter can admit. Juries are impanelled, a strict inquiry is made into the nature of the case. “What did he do it voluntarily? was he compos sui? did he understand himself when he did it?” And if this be found to be the case; his goods are confiscated, and his memory branded with all the infamy that can be devised. And there is a great deal of reason for it. For the wrong that is done does not terminate upon himself, or his own relatives; but the prince is wronged, being robbed of a subject; and the community is wronged also, being deprived of one that otherwise might have been a useful member.

No man, as I remember Cicero somewhere speaks, Nemo sibi nascitur, is born for himself. Many claim a part in us besides ourselves, to wit, our prince, our country, and our friends. And when one destroys himself, many are injured by that self-destruction. And though some heathens have spoken of self-destruction as a very noble and generous act, yet Plato who had more light (speaking, as I remember, to this very case) says, “We are here in the body like soldiers in a garrison, 78 who are not to stir out without the general’s order and direction; no more may any one dare to go out of the body, till the great Ruler of the world, who hath placed him there, gives him leave, or a call.” And he appeals to men themselves. “If you” (saith he) “had a slave that should kill himself, would you not say he had wronged you, as well as himself, who had an interest in him and his service?” And what! do we think all this while that God’s dominion is less over our spiritual and eternal being? over these souls of ours that are capable of being employed in his love and praise eternally? And is not this injurious to him, that men, who are naturally capable of all this, should yet throw themselves off from God, and cast themselves among a crew of damned spirits, whose business will be always to curse their Maker? Is not this, I say, an injury to the blessed God himself, who is the Author of that being and capacity to serve him, which we find ourselves possessed of? Moreover,

4. By not loving God we render ourselves altogether incapable of doing him any faithful service, upon which our great comfort and advantage, and his honour and glory do at once depend. For God is glorified only by our voluntary action and devotedness to him, And is it not also more pleasant to serve God cheerfully than otherwise? but can we do that without loving him? And doth it not cast a most intolerable calumny upon him, that we should serve such a master unpleasantly, and with uncheerful service? Further,

5. We should, in breaking of this one law of love to God, break all. It is a breach of all the law at once, and so makes us incapable of doing God any service at all. For we can never serve him while we obey him not, and we can never obey him without love. We find that the whole law is summed up in it. Therefore we break the whole law of love to God in epitome, when we do not love him. All the law is fulfilled and comprehended in the one word Love. And though it is plain that the Apostle when he says (Rom. xiii. 8, 10.) “Love is the fulfilling of the law,” speaks there with a more direct reference to love to men, or one another; yet it is plain too that both branches may be reduced to one; for no man loves his brother or neighbour truly, if he do not love him for God’s sake, and upon his account. That great law against murder in the book of Genesis (ix. 6.) is founded upon this reason, “For in the image of God made he man;” so that it is God who is principally struck at, when one man murders another. Thus our Saviour made the summary of the law twofold, when he said, (to the lawyer, who had asked him, which was the great commandment,) 79“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. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt. xxii. 37-40.

The whole of our duty therefore centers in this one thing, love to God. This is the radical principle whence all is to proceed; and every command doth bind us with this reduplication, “Do this and love God, and do that as a lover of God,” otherwise what we do is no more the same thing which the law enjoins, than the carcass of a man is the man. That which is the soul of the duty is wanting, and that is love. What signify, think you, those prayers to God, which are put up by one that does not love him? or of what avail is any other act of worship that is performed by such a one? And if we do any part of our duty which respects man, and that duty be not animated by the love of God, the love that one man can have to another in this case is nothing else but a sort of friendly intercourse among rebels, that have cut off themselves from their supreme Ruler; and take no more notice of his interest which he hath in common in them, but as they are confederated, and join in a conspiracy against him. Love among men, why do we talk of that? To love such men as have quite cut off themselves from God, as well as we ourselves have done, is only such a love as is among rebels, that treat one another kindly in a state of rebellion. To proceed,

6. It is a violation of the most merciful indulgent law, enjoining us a duty most agreeable to our own necessities, and the least toilsome and expensive of all others. How intolerable then is it to affront God, and even to do it with no pretence of advantage to ourselves, but greatly to our own disadvantage and loss! How merciful is the law of love! how direct a provision is there made in it for the necessity of man! Pray what shall we do, nay what can we do with ourselves, if we place not our love upon God? It may be we do not find our present need of him, as long as we find objects of sense courting and flattering us in our way; but do not we know that this world must break up, and this frame of earth and flesh in which we dwell, dissolve! What then will become of him at last that will be found to have been no lover of God? How dreadful a thing is it for a soul to be stripped naked and to have nothing to enjoy! It cannot enjoy God, because it never loved him. For sure, what we love not, we can never enjoy.

Therefore it was a most merciful law that said unto us, w Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” It is a law teaching us to be 80 happy, and to solace ourselves in the rich plenitude of divine goodness. Our necessity doth at once urge us, and the divine goodness invite us here to place our love. This is the true solution of Plato’s riddle, “That Love is the daughter of Pluto and Penia.” For it plainly appears that the rich plenty of divine goodness, and the poverty and indigence of the poor creature that cannot otherwise dispose of itself, are the true parents of love.

This is a thing also that will cost us nothing. To love God therefore is the most unexceptionable thing in the world. It is what we are capable of in the worst external circumstances. If a man he never so poor he may yet love God. If he be sick and infirm, if lie be never so mean, if he have no estate, no interest, or be never so little in repute, he is yet capable of loving God. This he can do any where, in any place, in any desert, or cave, or upon the most afflictive bed of languishing. There is no pretence against loving God, let a man’s case be what it will, or supposed to be. it is therefore a most intolerable thing to offend against a law that provides so directly for our happiness and most urgent necessities. It is such a law, an obedience to which will cost us nothing, neither can there be the least pretence of gaining any thing by the neglect of it. The sin is therefore the more horrid: and foul and shameful it is to disobey in a case wherein we have nothing to say for ourselves. And again,

7. It is a direct contradiction to our own light, and the common sentiments of mankind. For this is no disputable thing, whether we are to love God yea or no. There are many things in religion, and many things more that are affixed to it, that make much matter of disputation, and great ventilating of arguments, there is pro and con, this way and that; but pray who can tell how to form an argument against the love of God? To deny this is to affront our own light, and that of the world in common; for there is no man that will profess himself to be no lover of God. Did you ever meet with any one that would profess enmity to him? And the soul of man cannot be indifferent in this case. It must either be a friend or an enemy, must cither love or hate. God is not indifferent, or a mere nothing to us, and how should we be affected to him, if not by love? And we further add,

8. It is a most unnatural wickedness to the Parent of that being which we are each of us furnished with, to disaffect our own Original. That men should disaffect him from whom they immediately sprang, and whose image they expressly bear, is, I say, a most unnatural crime. Suppose there were a son to be 81found that never could love his father, and always hated the womb that bare him; what a strange prodigy in nature would he be thought! But is not this infinitely more prodigious to disaffect the entire and supreme Author of our own life and being, of which parents are but partial, or at most but subordinate authors. And in the

9. And last place, not to add more, it is blasphemy against the divine goodness. It is a practical blasphemy. It is the most emphatical way of denying God. For as the man that does not believe him, denieth his truth and makes him a liar, so by manifest parity, he that doth not love him denieth his goodness, a great deal more significantly than can be done by words. For men many times earnestly speak what is not their settled judgment, and what they are afterwards ready to retract. But how horrid a thing is this, that a man by a continued course and series of practice should discover this to be the fixed sense of his soul, that God is not worthy of his love! that a race of reasonable creatures should bear their joint testimony against the great and blessed God, the common Author and Cause of all being, that he is not worthy the love of any of them! For we practically say so while we live in the neglect of this duty. What do we talk of words in this case, when deeds and our constant practice do more significantly and directly speak? and what doth the course of a man speak, who loves not God, but this, that he is not to be loved? Therefore sure, not to love God, though we see him not, is not only a sin, but a most monstrous and horrid one.

We should go on to make some practical inferences from all that has been said on this part of our subject, that we might thereby the more closely apply all; but of this hereafter.

82
« Prev Sermon VIII. Preached October 11, 1676. Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |