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press! That I love thee for what thou art to thy creatures, who are in their various forms, every moment deriving being, knowledge, and happiness from thee, in numbers and degrees, far beyond what my narrow imagination can conceive. But O I adore and love thee, yet far more, for what thou art in thyself, for those stores of perfection which creation has not diminished, and which can never be exhausted by all the effects of it which thou impartest to thy creatures; that infinite perfection which makes thee thine own happiness, thine own end; amiable, infinitely amiable, and venerable, were all derived excellence and happiness forgot.
"O thou first, thou greatest, thou fairest of all objects! Thou only great, thou only fair, possess all my soul! and surel thou dost possess it. While I thus feel thy sacred spirit breathing on my heart, and exciting these fervours of love to thee, I cannot doubt it any more, than I can doubt the reality of this animal life, while I exert the actings of it, and feel its sensations. Surely if ever I knew the appetite of hunger, my soul hungers after righteousness*, and longs for a greater conformity to thy blessed nature and holy will. If ever my palate felt thirst, my soul thirsteth for God, even for the living God+, and panteth for the more abundant communication of his favour. If ever this body, when wearied with labours or journies, knew what it was to wish for the refreshment of my bed, and rejoice to rest there, my soul with sweet acquiescence rests upon thy gracious bosom, O my heavenly Father, and returns to its repose in the embraces of its God, who hath dealt so bountifully with it. And if ever I saw the face of a beloved friend with complacency and joy, I rejoice in beholding thy face, O Lord, and in calling thee my Father in Christ. Such thou art, and such thou wilt be, for time and for eternity. What have I more to do, but to commit myself to thee for both? Leaving it to thee to chuse my inheritance, and to order my affairs for me, while all my business is to serve thec, and all my delight to praise thee. My soul follows hard after God, because his right hand upholds mell. Let it still bear me up, and I shall press on towards thee, till all my desires be accomplished in the eternal enjoyment of thee! Amen."
* Mat. v, 6. † Psal. xlii. 2. ‡ Psal. cxvi. 7. § Psal. xlvii. 4. || Psal. Ixiii. 8.
The established Christian urged to exert himself for Purposes of Usefulness.
A sincere Love to God will express itself, not only in Devotion, but in Benevolence to Men, §. 1, 2. This is the Command of God, §. 3. The true Christian feels his Soul wrought to a holy Conformity to it: §. 4. And therefore will desire Instruction on this Head, §. 5. Accordingly Directions are given for the Improvement of various Talents: Particularly, (1.) Genius and Learning, §. 6. (2.) Power, §. 7. (3.) Domestic Authority, §. 8. (4.) Esteem, §. 9. (5.) Riches, §. 10. Several good Ways of employing them hinted at, §. 11. Prudence in Expence urged, for the Support of Charity, §. 12, 13. Divine Direction in this Respect to be sought, §. 14. The Christian breathing after more extensive Usefulness.
§ 1. SUCH as I have described in the former chapter, I trust,
are and will be the frequent exercises of your soul before God. Thus will your love and gratitude breath itself forth in the divine presence, and will, through Jesus the great Mediator, come up before it as incense, and yield an acceptable savour. But then you must remember, this will not be the only effect of that love to God, which I have suposed so warm in your heart. If it be sincere, it will not spend itself in words alone; but will discover itself in actions, and will produce, as its genuine fruit, an unfeigned love to your fellow-creatures, and an unwearied desire and labour to do them good continually.
. §. 2. Has the great Father of mercies," will you say, "looked upon me with so gracious an eye; has he not only forgiven me ten thousand offences, but enriched me with such a variety of benefits! Oh what shall I render to him for them all! Instruct me, Oh ye oracles of eternal truth! Instruct me, ye elder brethren in the family of my heavenly Father! Instruct me, above all, O thou spirit of wisdom and of love, what I may be able to do, to express my love to the eternal fountain of love, and to approve my fidelity to him, who has already done so much to engage it, and who will take so much pleasure in owning and rewarding it!
§. 3. This, O christian, is the command which we have heard from the beginning, and it will ever continue in unimpaired force, that he who loveth God, should love his brother also*; and should express that love, not in word and in profession alone, but in deed and in truth. You are to love your neighbour as yourself: to love the whole creation of God;
+1 John iii. 18.
1 John iv. 21.
and, so far as your influence can extend, must endeavour to make it happy.
§. 4. "Yes," you will say, and "I do love it. I feel the golden chain of divine love incircling us all, and binding us close to each other, joining us in one body, and diffusing (as it were) one soul through all. May happiness, true and sublime, perpetual and ever-growing happiness, reign through the whole world of God's rational and obedient creatures in Heaven and on Earth! and may every revolted creature, that is capable of being recovered and restored, be made obedient! Yea, may the necessary punishment of those, who are irrecoverable, be overruled by infinite wisdom and love to the good of the whole !"
§. 5. These are right sentiments; and if they are indeed the sentiments of your heart, O reader, and not an empty form of vain words, they will be attended with a serious concern to act in subordination to this great scheme of divine Providence, according to your abilities, in their utmost extent. And to this purpose, they will put you on surveying the peculiar circumstances of your life and being; that you may discover what opportunities of usefulness they now afford, and how those. opportunities and capacities may be improved. Enter therefore into such a survey; not that you may pride yourself in the distinction of divine Providence or Grace towards you, or having received, may glory as if you had not received *; but that you may deal faithfully with the great proprietor, whose steward you are, and by whom you are intrusted with every talent, which with respect to any claim from your fellow-creatures, you may call your own. And here, having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us†, let us hold the balance with an impartial hand, that so we may determine what it is that God requires of us; which is nothing less, than doing the most we can invent, contrive, and effect, for the general good. But, Oh how seldom is this estimate faithfully made! And how much does the world around us, and how much do our own souls suffer, for want of that fidelity!
§. 6. Hath God given you genius and learning? It was not that you might amuse or deck yourself with it, and kindle a blaze which should only serve to attract and dazzle the eyes of men. It was intended to be the means of leading both yourself and them to the Father of lights. And it will be your duty, according to the peculiar turn of that genius and capacity, either to endeavour to improve and adorn human life, or, by a
† Rom, xii. 6.
* 1 Cor. iv. 7.
more direct application of it to divine subjects, to plead the cause of religion, to defend its truths, to enforce and recommend its practice, to deter men from courses which would be dishonourable to God and fatal to themselves, and to try the utmost efforts of all the solemnity and tenderness with which you can clothe your addresses, to lead them into the paths of virtue and happiness.
5. 7. Has God invested you with power, whether it be in a larger or smaller society? Remember that this power was given you, that God might be honoured, and those placed under your government, whether domestic or public, might be made happy. Be concerned therefore, that whether you be intrusted with the rod, or the sword, it may not be borne in vain*. Are you a magistrate? Have you any share in the great and tremendous charge of enacting laws? Reverence the authority of the supreme legislator, the great guardian of society: promote none, consent to none, which you do not in your own conscience esteem, in present circumstances, an intimation of his will; and in the establishment of which you do not firmly believe you shall be his minister for good+. Have you the charge of executing laws? Put life into them by a vigorous and strenuous execution, according to the nature of the particular office you bear. Retain not an empty name of authority. Permit not yourself, as it were, to fall asleep on the tribunal. Be active, be wakeful, be observant of what passeth around you. Protect the upright, and the innocent. Break in pieces the power of the oppressor. Unveil every dishonest heart. Disgrace, as well as defeat the wretch, that makes his distinguished abilities the disguise or protection of the wickedness which he ought rather to endeavour to expose, and to drive out of the world with abhorrence.
§. 8. Are you placed only at the head of a private family? Rule it for God. Administer the concerns of that little kingdom with the same views, and on the same principle, which I have been inculcating on the powerful and the great; if by an unexpected accident any of them should suffer their eye to glance upon the passage above. Your children and servants are your natural subjects. Let good order be established among them, and keep them under a regular discipline. Let them be instructed in the principles of religion, that they may know how reasonable such a discipline is; and let them be accustomed to act accordingly. You cannot indeed change their hearts,
but you may very much influence their conduct; and by that means may preserve them from many snares, may do a great deal to make them good members of society, and may set them, as it were, in the way of God's steps*, if peradventure passing by he may bless them with the riches of his grace. And fail not to do your utmost to convince them of their need of those blessings; labour to engage them to an high esteem of them, and to an earnest desire of them, as incomparably more valuable than any thing else.
§. 9. Again, has God been pleased to raise you to esteem among your fellow-creatures, which is not always in proportion to a man's rank or possession in human life? Are your counsels heard with attention? Is your company sought? Does God give you good acceptance in the eyes of men, so that they do not only put the fairest construction on your words, but overlook faults of which you are conscious to yourself, and consider your actions and performances in the most indulgent aud favourable light? You ought to regard this, not only as a favour of Providence, and as an encouragement to you cheerfully to pursue your duty, in the several branches of it, for the time to come; but also, as giving you much greater opportunities of usefulness, than in your present station you could otherwise have had. If your character has any weight in the world, throw it into the right scale. Endeavour to keep virtue and goodness in countenance. Affectionately give your hand to modest worth, where it seems to be depressed or overlooked; though shining, when viewed in its proper light, with a lustre which you may think much superior to your own. Be an advocate for truth, be a counsellor of peace; be an example of candour; and do all you can to reconcile the hearts of men, and especially of good men, to each other, however they may differ in their opinions about matters which it is possible for good men to dispute. And let the caution and humility of your behaviour in circumstances of such superior eminence, and amidst so many tokens of general esteem, silently reprove the rashness and haughtiness of those, who perhaps are remarkable for little else; or who, if their abilities were indeed considerable, must be despised, and whose talents must be in a great measure lost to the public, till that rashness and haughtiness of spirit be subdued. Nor suffer yourself to be interrupted in this generous and worthy course, by the little attacks of envy and