ON THE MEANS OF ATTAINING THE LOVE OF GOD
Consider first, that as the desire of wisdom is the true beginning of wisdom, so the first step to the love of God, (which is true wisdom indeed,) is an earnest desire to love God. ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after this heavenly justice, for they shall be filled,’ Matt. v. This desire makes us pray frequently, seek incessantly, knock earnestly at the gate of divine love. It makes us rise early in quest of the heavenly wisdom; it makes us glad to part with all things else, that we may purchase this precious pearl, that we may acquire this incomparable treasure. He that with this desire aspires after divine love, already begins to possess what he desires; and the more he relishes the sweetness of what he begins to possess, the more he aspires after it. Thus the desire of love begets love, and love begets a stronger desire, which begets a stronger love. So that the great means of learning to love God is, by repeated desires and acts of love to taste and see how sweet God is, and how sweet a thing it is to love.
Consider 2ndly, that divine love will not be found by us, nor come to dwell in our souls, if we take no care to keep our inward house clean and pure for our beloved. ‘Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God,’ Matt. v. So that if we entertain in our interior any irregular company, that is, if our affections are set upon worldly vanities, upon filthy lucre, upon sensual pleasures, upon gratifying our corrupt inclinations, divine love will not come near us; because it cannot endure such unclean company as this is, nor dwell in a soul that is enslaved to worldly desires and disorderly passions. These are to be parted with, or at least brought into order and subjection, if we would learn to love God. This is the meaning of that Gospel lesson of selling all to acquire the precious pearl of the kingdom of God, by his love reigning in our souls. The kingdom of divine love will allow of no rival, no usurper, no rebel in its dominions. The spouse of divine love must belong wholly to her spouse alone, she must be a garden close shut to all others, a ‘fountain sealed up’ for him alone, Cantic. iv. So that another necessary means of attaining divine love is a general mortification of all foreign and irregular affections.
Consider 3rdly, that the sovereign means of acquiring divine love is the daily exercise of mental prayer, which employs all the powers of the soul in waiting upon God. Here the memory represents all the motives we have to love him; here the understanding is taught to know him; here the affections of the will are inflamed by his presence – this then is the true school of love. O my soul, let us daily frequent it, not only by having a regular time fixed for this great exercise of love, but by practising it in some measure at all times, by a spirit of recollection, by a continual sense and remembrance of God’s presence, by frequently calling back the soul to him from all her distractions and evagations, by repeated aspirations and ejaculations of love, &c. This is walking with God indeed, like the ancient saints this is taking God along with us wherever we are going, and whatever we are doing; this is walking in love. O how happy is that life which is thus dedicated to divine love.
Conclude to embrace all the means that may bring thee to this happiness. O begin now from this hour to set out in quest of this fountain of life! Let no opposition of earth or hell discourage thee. Never leave off thy search till thou come to drink of this heavenly water, which will become in thee a fountain springing up to everlasting life.