THURSDAY AFTER LOW SUNDAY
ON THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES
Consider first, that as God is the sovereign spirit, and the sovereign truth, so they that would offer him an acceptable homage must worship him in spirit and truth, John iv. 24, by joining with the external adoration, praise, prayer, and sacrifice, which is offered him in the church of Christ, the internal homage of their hearts, and the pure worship of the three divine virtues of faith, hope, and love. Where these are daily exercised all is well; there God is, and all good; but where any one of these is wanting all goes wrong; nothing else can supply that defect. Embrace then, O my soul, these three virtues, with thy whole heart and affection, and they will bring thee to God. There is no other way to heaven and a happy eternity, but by faith, hope, and charity.
Consider 2ndly, that these three virtues are called theological and divine, from the immediate relation they have to God. They flow from him into our souls, and they take our souls along with them to him. They tend to him as the sovereign object with which they are taken up, and upon which they are wholly employed; and they are entirely grounded on him and on his divine attributes as their sole motive and foundation. Thus faith believes in him as the sovereign truth, and obliges the soul to bow down and to adore him as such; and to give an undoubted assent to all the truths revealed by him, because he is the sovereign truth, who neither can deceive nor be deceived. Thus hope puts her whole trust in him, worships him as the inexhaustible source of all good, and raises the soul to a lively expectation of mercy, grace, and salvation from him; grounding herself upon his almighty power, goodness, promises, and mercy, and the precious blood of his Son. Thus charity or divine love embraces him above all things; worships him by offering herself and all things else to him; loves him for his own infinite goodness’ sake, and all others that are made after his image and likeness for his sake. Thus these three virtues derive the excellence which they have above all others, from this immediate relation to the source of all excellence. O my soul, see thou give them the first place in thy inward house, and continually entertain them there. Make them thy favourites, and they will make thee the favourite of heaven.
Consider 3rdly, that to entertain these divine virtues in the soul, we must make frequent acts of them, otherwise they will quickly fade away and die. The soul that does not often exercise her faith by employing her thoughts upon the great truths of God and eternity, quickly forgets both God and herself; and by forgetting God and herself, is exposed to all manner of evils. In like manner, where hope is not frequently exercised by the help of prayer and consideration, it quickly degenerates into presumption. And as for charity or love, which is in the nature of a fire that is always active, it must needs die away if it be not maintained and kept alive by frequent exercise. As the just man lives by faith, according to the Scripture, so he must also live by hope and by charity; so that the whole life of a Christian ought to be continually influenced by these three virtues, which cannot be, without frequent acts of all the three. And this is the shortest and easiest way to all perfection.
Conclude to labour to acquire, and to entertain these divine virtues by frequent acts of them; and in order thereunto to be diligent in the daily exercise of mental prayer. In this school they are best learnt, improved, and brought to perfection.