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SERMON XII.6666   Preached November 8, 1676.

WE have already in the preceding discourse offered sundry considerations to those, who are apt to take it for granted that they are lovers of God, though they never really discerned any motion of love to him in their hearts at all; or who fondly imagine that the conviction of their judgment in this matter, is to be taken for the affection of the heart. We have also spoken in several particulars to another sort, who suspect they are no true lovers of God, and are many times ready to conclude so; because their love to him is not so fervent and passionate as they think it ought to be. And now

III. We come to the third sort that we have to do with, to, wit, those who are apt to censure other persons, merely upon this account; because they make profession of such a fervent love to God, as they themselves are altogether strangers to. All expressions of such a fervent passionate love to God fall under a suspicious censure, and accusation from these men. As for instance, they charge all such expressions of love with hypocrisy, or with enthusiasm: thinking it proceeds from, nothing else but a fantastic representation of the object they pretend 115to love; or else, they resolve it all into the temper of the body, and say it owes itself to nothing else but to such or such a crasis, a present habit and temperature, or a freer circulation of the blood, and quicker agitation of certain brisk and agile spirits. And thus they think that a mechanical account is to be given of all such kind of affections; and that whoso ever well understands the structure of the brain, or the nature of the spleen, and hypochondria, and the various twistings of the nerves about the veins and arteries, may very well be able to give a good account of all such kind of love.

1 Now as to the first of these, to wit, the charge of hypocrisy, we must allow (as there will be further occasion to evince hereafter when we come to the last doctrine) that if any do pretend to such a love to God, and join with it an immoral conversation, there is a great deal of reason for the charge; and in such a case we must fall in with the accuser and say the same. But if this charge be fastened upon persons, whose walk and conversation is sober and just, we have then several things to say to it. As

(1.) It is a most uncharitable censure to say that all pretence to a more fervent and vehement love to God, is for this very reason hypocritical. I wonder why so? Does not this seem to say, that there can be no such thing as a real, and fervent love to God? This is surely a very strange accusation, at once without warrant, and against the express law of charity, which requires us to “think no evil.” 1 Cor. xiii. 5. And it is an essential character of it to be absolutely disinclined to take up an evil surmise, or bad thoughts of any one, where there is not a very manifest and apparent cause.

(2.) The charge is most unreasonable. There is not the least ground for such a censure, supposing the persons to be in the main of a sober, just, and unexceptionable deportment among men. Of such it may most unrighteously be said, that they are hypocrites, while they pretend to love God. But how will you prove your charge? by what medium will you make it out, that all pretences of love to God, by such persons, are hypocritical? And surely that is most unreasonable censure, for which no reason can be given.

(3.) Such a charge or accusation must needs proceed from a most idle and pragmatic temper. For these censurers shew themselves to be vain busy-bodies, who meddle out of their own province. But what have they to do to judge the hearts of other men? That is a province they have nothing at all to do in. What is it then but a vain pragmatic humour that prompts 116 them to meddle in a sphere wherein they have no concern? “Who art thou,” saith the Scripture, “that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth”. Rom. xiv. 4. Nay,

(4.) It is to be guilty of the most insolent presumption; for it is to encroach upon the prerogative of God, to whom alone it belongs to search, and judge the heart. Who are they that take upon them to judge one another? “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Rom. xiv. 10. Whoever they are that do judge so, they subject themselves to the judgment of God. Therefore says our Lord, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Matt. vii. 1. That is, in effect, if you judge so at random, and where you have nothing to do, you shall know what judging means, when you shall be judged also.

(5.) I would further say, by way of question, Pray what is the thing you find fault with in this case? Is it this love itself, or is it the appearance of it? Sure it will not be said, it is the love itself. Who would be so impudently profane as to say, it is a crime to love God? or that such love is criminal, when it is warm and vehement? as if it were possible to love God too much. Sure this will never be said by those who consider that we are required to “love him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind.” Matt. xxii. 37 And besides, this were to make the accusation to contradict itself; for whensoever the charge of hypocrisy is alleged against anyone, the thing pretended to is implied to be good and commendable.

Or is it the appearance of such love that is found fault with? That is just the same thing as to find fault with the sun for shining. It is true, all discovery of this or any other excellency whatsoever ought to be modest, and sober; most remote from any thing of boasting or vain-glorious ostentation, than which, in such a case as this, nothing in all the world can be more fulsome. But what! should a man be ashamed to be come, and appear an earnest lover of God? Was the Psalmist shy of appearing so, when he again and again avowed it with so much solemnity? when he made professions of his love to God, which he designed, and no doubt knew would be recorded to all future times? And the noble personage whom we spoke of before, was he ashamed to have it recorded, that he was such a one’s friend? It is so remarkable that we cannot look over a page in the book of Psalms, but we shall find some or other expression now made public to the world, of an avowed love to God. “I love the Lord,” says he, “because he 117hath heard my voice and my supplications.” Ps. cxvi. 1. And again, “I will love thee, O Lord my strength.” xviii. 1. The word there used is most emphatically expressive of the most vehement, ardent, fervent love. “I will love thee from my very bowels.” And what! is this a thing for a man to be ashamed of? to profess himself an earnest lover of God, if indeed he is so. He only has reason to be ashamed of saying he is so, who is not so in reality. But I say further,

(6.) That this same accusation is hypocritical. It carries the most palpable hypocrisy in it; for it is manifest that such persons do only pretend to be angry at the pretence of love to God; when it plainly appears they are angry that the love of God should really be in any one. And this is easy to be made out. For do not all men generally profess love to God? Now they are not angry with those that profess, but love him not. But what religion is there without love? and whoever professes religion, does consequently profess love to God. But let them make it appear by their practice, that their profession is but a mockery, that they do but say, “Hail!” and strike at the divine Majesty at the same time; let them I say with their pretence of religion, or love to God, but join some practical signification that they are not in good earnest, and they please well enough, no fault is found with them.

So that it is very plain the fault they are bent against is not hypocrisy, but sincerity. They are angry that there is any such thing as sincere love to God in the world. Therefore as Plato said to the Cynic, who trod upon a fine bed of his, and cried out, “I tread on Plato’s pride,” that he the Cynic discovered greater pride by this action; so we may say to these men who accuse professors of love to God, with hypocrisy, that it is with more hypocrisy. It is not the mere pretence of love to God, that they intend to accuse, as supposing it false, or that there is no such thing, but because they really suspect it is true. They think that such men have that in them, which they have not, and therefore they pass a kind of judgment upon them in their own consciences. This they cannot endure; and since they would fain malign them in their report, therefore they would do it as plausible as they can, and are more witty than to say, they censure them for loving truly, but for pretending to it falsely. But then again

2 The affection of this kind is by some charged with enthusiasm. “If (say they) there be any such affection, it is altogether enthusiastic. It owes itself entirely to the fantastical representation of the object, and so can have nothing sincere, or genuine belonging to it.” To this, I say,

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(1.) Why so? why must it needs be thought enthusiastical? What! because it is more than ordinarily vehement or fervent? as if no sober exercise or expression of love to God could be so. And we know too, though I lay very little stress upon it,

(2.) That the name of enthusiasm hath sometimes had a gentler sound than now it hath; since the Εμπνευστοι, and phrases signifying inspiration from God, are so frequently to be found in the writings of Plato, and others of the philosophers. And yet they were never twitted as enthusiasts, nor treated as if that name carried any thing of evil signification, or the import of a bad character in it. But

(3.) Why should it be wondered at that there should be expressions of love to God which import great fervour and intenseness; since we know that such as have been professedly related and devoted to God heretofore, and of whom Scripture-records give us an account, have been all along very full of such expressions? What would they think of such expressions as these of David? “I opened my mouth, and panted; for I longed for thy commandments,” Ps. cxix. 131. “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” ver. 20. “Oh how love I thy holy law!” ver. 97. “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” xlii. 1. Yea we find that there have been such appearances, and expressions obvious to view, of this divine spiritual affection, that have incurred the censure of insanity; and yet they have been reckoned a glory. Thus it was with David, who when he was censured for dancing before the Lord, answers, “I will play before the Lord, I will yet be more vile, &c.” 2 Sam vi. 21, 22. And says the apostle, “Whether we be besides ourselves it is to God; or whether we be sober it is for your cause: for the love of Christ constraineth us.” 2 Cor. v. 13, 14. It is very likely he speaks here with reference to the censure of those false teachers, with whom you find him conflicting in that very chapter; as very frequently he does in both the epistles to the Corinthians, and also in others. They perhaps went about to represent him as a wild enthusiast; as one that was acted by an enthusiastical fury. Therefore he speaks according to their sense. Admit it, be it so; If I be really besides myself as they talk; it is the love of Christ which constrains me! He thinks himself not at all disparaged in the case. But I further say,

(4 ) I make little doubt but many do attribute too much to rapture, and ecstatic motions and transports of otherwise pious love. I refer therefore to what was said under a foregoing head, 119especially to that distinction which was given you of the act, and of the passion of love, which are not only distinguishable, but sometimes plainly separable things. There may be very intense love, very strong and mighty love, where there is nothing of passion felt. This is a thing altogether accidental to the nature of love, which may be diverse and distinct from passion; otherwise there would be no such thing as loving God at all in any other way. And we must further say,

(5.) That no doubt it is a very great fault to frame representations and ideas of God, and of divine things in our minds by the use of a liberty indulged to our own fancy and imagination, if therein we go beyond, or besides the warrant of his own revelation. And even there too we must be very careful, when we find God representing himself, or other matters of a divine and spiritual nature under borrowed expressions or similitudes, that we mind the thing that is to be represented, and held forth to us, and that we drain and defecate it from all the dregs of materiality, which belong to the metaphor; otherwise we may be greatly injurious, more than we are aware of, both to the divine honour, and to ourselves.

Too many do greatly gratify the luxury of their fancies in such cases. We read of one, but very likely there may be more instances than one, I say we read of one, a popish female saint, who pretended in vision to such a communion with our Saviour, that forsooth she took upon her to describe him; what sort of eyes he had, and what kind of features; and pretended to be most passionately enamoured of him. And per haps there are too many over-prone to frame imaginations concerning the Deity, altogether unworthy of, and disagreeable to that glorious and ever-blessed Being; and having thereupon formed such and such ideas of him in their own minds, are variously affected according to the import of the idea about him. For instance, those of very melancholy tempers are apt to frame ideas altogether unlike God, and such as render him in their eyes a dreadful, and hateful object. Or if the idea be such as imports loveliness; yet if it be fantastical, and an affection of love be raised thereupon, it is most plain and evident that such a person is all the while but hugging his own shadow, and entertaining himself with an empty cloud, or an idol of his own forming. And I do not know wherein he is, less guilty, than in falling down before an image. When we do in our own fancies create a God to ourselves, and an extraordinary motion of affection is working towards it, in one kind or another, it is our own creature that we are all this 120 while entertaining ourselves with, and not God. Therefore we ought to take heed that our apprehensions of things be scriptural and regular; such as that light which shines in God’s word, or that clear flame which reason, when it argues according to the word of God, doth give us. Otherwise we are mere idolaters, while we imagine that we have only complacency in doing homage to God. But I add,

Lastly, That the most regular, true, and rational apprehensions of God, do give ground for the most fervent and vehement love of him that is possible. And therefore it is a very foolish, idle thing, to charge love to God with being enthusiastical merely because it is fervent. For though it be such as answers truly, it can never answer fully such apprehensions of the object, as are agreeable to God, and such as God’s own revelation gives ground and warrant for. Certainly there is no warrant to say that there is any thing of enthusiasm in such a pretence as this. There is no need that any such exorbitant digressions and excursions should be made to by-ways of representing God to ourselves, that so he may be amiable and lovely in our eyes. A true, and right apprehension of him, that is most agreeable to the Object itself, and his revelation, s the best and truest ground of the strongest and most vehement love. And certainly to a sober christian, a fantastical representation of a divine object will rather greatly cool and check his love, than contribute to the heat of it. But

3. Such an affection, as we are speaking of, is by others resolved into the temper and disposition of the bodily humours; or the various structure of our frame, and the freer motion of the blood and animal spirits. And to this also it is,

(1.) To be acknowledged that there is undoubtedly very much truth in the matter so far as that the affection may be the more intense, and exercised with a more sensible vigour, according as the body is so and so disposed, or as the habit of it is at that time.

(2.) Do not we also know that there are pious men of all tempers and constitutions of body? and is not every man the more pious, by how much the more he is a lover of God? And

(3.) Admit that bodily tempers signify any thing in this matter, that is, in the present exercise of the affections in general, what is to be inferred? Will it follow, that such an affection as this, in which the blood and spirits may be so and so concerned, hath therefore nothing spiritual and divine in it? which way should that follow? Why is it not as apprehensible, 121that divine and spiritual love may run in the same natural channel, and follow the same common course of operations with other love, as that wine and water may alternately flow through the same conduit pipes? Or why should it be more unreasonable and absurd, that divine and spiritual love should exert itself by the same corporeal organs with love of another kind, as having the same seat and subject, the faculties of the soul? I hope it is not one faculty in the soul that common love hath its seat in, and another faculty that divine love hath its seat in. Why should it be necessary there should be other internal organs for divine than, for common love, more than other external ones? Why may not divine love run the same course with common love in the respect that hath been mentioned? And why may not that be promoted, in its bent and exertions, by a brisk and quick agitation of the vital and animal spirits? What great inconvenience is there in this? Or what greater necessity is there for it to be otherwise, than there is for a man to have one pair of hands to do his common business, and another to lift up to God in prayer? May not a man speak of God or of divine things, and of other matters with the same tongue? and may not the same eyes which serve to read the Bible, serve to read any other book? But this carries more of folly, and foolery at the bottom, than to deserve more words to be said about it.

Therefore to wind up all, Will we severally resolve, upon all that hat!) been at so many times discoursed to you upon this subject, namely, the love of an unseen God, are we I say resolved to apply ourselves in good earnest to the exercise and practice of it? It is a very dismal thing, if all our hearing at such times and occasions as these are, must be for nothing else, but only to give the ear a present pleasure. Or that we must take such an opportunity as this to meet together, only to see one another’s faces, without ever minding to lay up a stock, and to add to a treasure of that light and grace, that may actually influence our future course. Certainly we should be most inexcusable persons, if after all this we should make as little conscience of the actual frequent exercise of love to God as heretofore. If any that have heard so much of this matter, shall go hereafter from day to day, and have reason to say, “This day I have not loved God at all, I do not know there has ever been a pleasant thought of him,” and so indulge themselves in the liberty of running on in this course, it will not admit of being said all this hath been to no purpose. For it will certainly be found to have been to some purpose, but to a sad and dismal one, when the day comes, that every one 122 must be judged according to the light they had. And the word that hath been spoken to those that live under the Gospel is that by which they must be judged.

Let us bethink ourselves, What is our life, if love run not through it? if a vein of love to God be not carried through the course of it? Alas, without this, life is but a dream, and all our religion but a fancy! What do such assemblies as these signify! What a cold pitiful business is it, for so many of us to come together, if no love to God stir among us! We pretend to come to a God, whom we do not love. What a pitiful account can we give of our coming together, if this be all! The shew, and shadow of a duty! a holy flourish! and that is all. This, I say is all, if the love of God do not animate our worship.

We cannot pretend to doubt whether God ought to be loved or no. It is a plain indisputable case. There are a great many things in religion, that are matter of doubt and disputation, and many things are made so more than need. And truly I take this occasion to say, it is no wonder there is so little love of God, and of true, living religion; because there is so much unnecessary disputing about the formalities of religion. It is a very sad and dreadful contemplation to think of, that so many persons can make the matters of religion a topic barely to please themselves with. If they can but toss an argument, cavil, and contend about this or that matter, then they are enamoured with, and highly applaud themselves, as if they could do some great thing in the business of religion; but all this while, and even by these very means, the love of God, and all practical religion vanishes. These things have exhausted, and wasted the strength, spirits, and vigour of religion itself, and made it look so languidly, and become so pitiful a thing as it is grown to be in our days; so that professors are now but the spectres, and umbrae of christians, mere skeletons. They are so in comparison of what christians were in former days, when every one might discern that in their behaviour, which might justly make them cry out, Aye! these are heavenly persons indeed! Heaven was seen in their converse, and all savoured of love to God. The Lord knoweth to what degree our religion is degenerated, and what it is like to come to at last!

And let us consider with ourselves, that we fill up our days with calamities, and make our souls desolate, and forlorn; we involve ourselves in all manner of miseries by estranging ourselves from God, and not living in the actual exercise of love to him.

Moreover let us consider that we are not always to live in 123this world. A dying hour doth expect us. We are hovering upon the brink of the grave. And what! is it a good preparation for death to live strangers to God, as long as we live in this world? Oh! with what horror must that thought strike a man in a dying hour, when his own heart shall tell him, “Thou hast not lived in the love of God!” Dare we, can we think, have we, I say, the confidence to think of going to God at length! to one that we have never loved, and to whom we have lived strangers all our days. But, oh blessed preparation for death! when a man shall be able, under the expectation of expiring his last breath, to reflect and say, that his life hath been a continual walk with God. How easy a death must that man die! Death conveys him to no stranger, to no unknown presence; to die, in regard to him, is but to know that Being better, whom he knew before; and to love him better whom he loved before; and to have those enjoyments improved in degree, with the nature and kind of which he had a former acquaintance.

Let us then be serious, and in good earnest in this business; and know, we can never do any thing to purpose in it, if we labour not to have our spirits more entirely abstracted from the world. Alas! do we think we can serve two masters, God and the world? If we love the one, we shall despise the other; for as our Lord tells us,6767   Matt. vi. 24. we cannot love both. How often should these monitory, these weighty and wounding words be thought of, by them, whom they more especially concern? “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John ii. 15. Therefore saith the apostle, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” And is not this a cutting word of our Saviour’s to the Jews, “I know you, that you have not the love of God in you?6868   John v. 42. See a moving discourse on these words by the Author in Vol. II. p. 481. entitled, A Sermon directing what we are to do, after a strict inquiry, whether or no we truly love God? It is only one single discourse out of seven or eight upon the same subject; and seems to have been published without his full consent, on account of the great impressions it had made upon the audience. And would we be branded for such? We had need then to watch the more strictly over ourselves, when we have to do with the affairs of this world, that our spirits be not ruffled, nor suffer a discomposure by the amusements of sensible things, or the variety of occurrences and affairs that we meet with in this our earthly pilgrimage.

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Constant watchfulness, and much dependance upon God, and having him still before our eyes, would he a great help to us in this matter. It might make you wonder to hear, what some have professed to have attained unto, who were not of your religion. For instance, we are told of a nobleman of a foreign country, a romanist, who professed to have had such times, that when he passed along the streets of Paris, where continual diversions might easily have disturbed him, and could scarce be imagined to do otherwise, his soul was so taken up with God as to be no more moved, than if he had been in a desert. And Seneca himself, a pagan, writing a letter to his friend says to this purpose; for I remember not the very words, nor have lately seen the book. “You write to me to give you an account how I passed yesterday. Truly you have a very good opinion of me, to think I so pass a day as to be able to give you an account of what took it up. But since you desire it I will tell you. My window opens to the theatre, where are all the shews, and the noise and clamour that you well know the theatrical sports carry with them. Why (saith he) all these things (so much have I been taken up with divine matters) have no more moved me, than the whistling of the wind among the leaves of the trees in a wood &c.”

These things that I mention should be upbraiding to us, that we so little mind our spirits, and inward man, with the operative motions, and reflections thereof, and never look after a composed spirit, that is employed in minding God and taken up with the exercise of his love, through the worldly affairs and occurrences we meet with here. If we would do any thing to purpose in the exercise of love to God; if we would not be as those, that busy themselves about trifles; like the pharisaical hypocrites whom our Saviour speaks of, who were so zealous in tithing of mint, anise, and cummin, that in the mean while they forgot judgment, and mercy and the love of God; I say, if we would not be like them, but would do any thing to purpose, there must be times set apart for us to quit the world, with the torturing and distracting thoughts thereof, and let us labour to do it so totally as to forget that there is any thing in it but God, and misery.

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