« ForrigeFortsæt »
train, that glitter upon the vault of night. But to rise to this eminence, we must excel in love; we must put forth all its excellencies, and put them forth in all their vigour, and fulness, and harmony,-each in its time, and its place, and its occasion; for then shall we be like God: and to be like him is, in the highest sense, to glorify him; and to glorify him, by being made partakers of a divine nature, is to receive, so far as a creature can receive it, a kind of inferior apotheosis, and to live up to the very height of our being, our honour, and our bliss.
last we shall
5. Another motive, and it is the advance, for the cultivation of love is, that it is the state of mind which carries the soul on to its ultimate perfection in the celestial state, meetens it for that state, and gives it a foretaste of its felicity.
It has been observed by the learned CUDWORTH, who appears to have borrowed the idea from PLUTARCH, that Divine Wisdom hath so ordered the frame of the whole universe, that everything should have its own appropriate receptacle, to which it shall be drawn by all the mighty force of an irresistible affinity and as all heavenly bodies press towards the common centre of gravity, so is all sin, by a kind of strong sympathy and magnetic influence, drawn towards hell; while, on the other hand, all holiness is continually drawn upwards to heaven, to embosom itself in glory. Hell is nothing else but that orb in which all evil moves; and heaven is the opposite hemisphere of light, where holiness, which is perfect love, eternally revolves. Remove sin and disobedience out of bell, it will immediately lose its darkness, and shine
out in all the serenity and beauty of heaven; remove love from heaven, and its sun will set amidst the darkness and the storms of everlasting night. Heaven is not merely a thing to come; it is in one sense a present possession; for "he that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life." It is rather a state than a place,—a state within us, rather than a thing without us; it is the likeness, and the enjoyment, and the service, of God; that which every true Christian carries in his bosom now, and to which he will fully enter hereafter, when he shall be made perfect in love. To this state all true religion is ever tending: the spirit of love is the motion and progress of the soul towards its eternal rest in the presence of God. No man can be prepared for the celestial felicity, while his heart is destitute of this; and whosoever has most of it, knows most of the unseen and ineffable joys of the righteous. He lives in the vestibule of the heavenly temple; and is ready, whenever its doors shall be opened, to enter into the dwelling place of God. The image of God is upon him, and the likeness of Deity is always attended with something of the happiness of the Deity. O the bliss of that state, where the faculties of the mind, inconceivably expanded, shall let in the full streams of the divine beneficence, and open themselves to the uttermost to comprehend the breadth and length, the depth and height, of that love which passeth knowledge; where divine goodness will so act directly upon the soul, as to raise it to a state of holy enjoyment surpassing all our present imaginations.
What a motive to go on in the pursuit of charity!
Who does not wish to become better acquainted with his eternal state? Who does not wish to have a more correct knowledge of that condition in which he is to remain for ever? To attain to this, we cannot turn aside the veil which conceals the holy of holies from our view; we cannot look upon the throne of God: we cannot be rapt like Paul into the third heaven: no; but we may, like John, see the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and feel it taking possession of our hearts in the spirit of love. Rarely, indeed, do Christians attain, in the present state, in this unquiet world, to that calm repose of mind, that serene enjoyment, attendant upon the subjugation of the passions to the gentle dominion of benevolence, which conveys to them any very high notion of the supreme felicity which must be connected with the consummation of such a temper. Happy seasons do occur; but, alas! how seldom, when they are so far released from the influence of every selfish and angry affection-when they so far feel the transforming influence of that divine beneficence which they contemplate-as to be conscious of the perfect felicity which must arise from their being filled with all the fulness of love. Let us seek more and more after these anticipations of our eternal state: we have not already attained, neither are we already perfect; but, forgetting the things that are behind, let us reach onward, that we may apprehend that for which also we are apprehended in Christ Jesus. Heaven is not only above us, before us, beyond us, but may be within us: we may all know more of it than we do: let us become more and more anxious to accumulate, not the perishing
riches of silver and gold, but the imperishable wealth of a holy and heavenly temper: let us aspire to immortality beyond the grave, and to the spirit of it upon earth,-ever remembering that a Christian is one who professes to be born from heaven and to be bound to it; one who has more of heaven than of earth in his disposition; one who already dwelleth in heaven by dwelling in God; one who is meetened for converse with the innumerable company of angels, with the spirits of just men made perfect, with God the judge of all, and with Jesus the mediator of the new covenant; one who bears the impress of eternity, and is irradiated with some beams of the celestial glory; and how can he give meaning, or consistency, or truth, to professions so high and so holy, except it be by that love which is the fruit of regeneration, the effect of faith, the necessary operation of love to God; and which, being cherished in the soul by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, comprehends in its embraces the whole universe, and, in the exercise of its good-will towards those who come under its influence, "suffereth long and is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth covereth all things; believeth all things;" endureth all things; and of which it is sublimely said, that "CHARITY NEVER FAILETH."
G. Duckworth, Priuter, 76, Fleet Street.