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Helps to increase our Love to God, by Way of Exercise.

1. Cut off all earthly and sensual loves, for they pollute and unhallow the pure and spiritual love. Every degree of inordinate affection to the things of this world, and every act of love to a sin, is a perfect enemy to the love of God; and it is a great shame to take any part of our affection from the eternal God, to bestow it upon his creature in defiance of the Creator, or to give it to the devil, our open enemy, in disparagement of him, who is the fountain of all excellences and celestial amities.

2. Lay fetters and restraints upon the imaginative and fantastic part; because our fancy, being an imperfect and higher faculty, is usually pleased with the entertainment of shadows and gauds; and because the things of the world fill it with such beauties and fantastic imagery, the fancy, presents such objects as are amiable to the affections and elective powers. Persons of fancy such as are women and children, have always the most violent loves; but, therefore, if we be careful with what representments we fill our fancy, we may the sooner rectify our love. To this purpose it is good that we transplant the instruments of fancy into religion, and for this reason music was brought into churches, and ornaments, and perfumes, and comely garments, and solemnities, and decent ceremonies, that the busy and less discerning fancy, being bribed with its proper objects, may be instrumental to a more celestial and spiritual love.

3. Remove solicitude or worldly cares, and multitudes of secular businesses, for if these take up the intention and actual application of our thoughts and our employments, they will also possess our passions, which, if they be filled with one object, though ignoble, cannot attend another, though more excellent. We always contract a friendship and relation with those with whom we converse; our very country is dear to us for our being in it; and the neighbours of the same village, and those that buy and sell with us, have seized upon some portions of our love; and, therefore, if we dwell in the affairs of the world we shall also grow in love with them; and all our love or all our hatred, all our hopes or all our fears, which the eternal God would willingly secure to himself, and esteem amongst his treasures and precious things, shall be spent upon trifles and vanities.

4. Do not only choose the things of God, but secure your inclinations and aptnesses for God and for religion; for it will be a hard thing for a man to do such a personal violence to his first desires as to choose whatsoever he hath no mind to. A man will many times satisfy the importunity and daily solicitations of his first longings; and, therefore, there is nothing can secure our loves to God but stopping the natural fountains, and making religion to grow near the first desires of the soul.

5. Converse with God by frequent prayer. In particular, desire that your desires may be right and love to have your affections regular and holy. To which purpose make very frequent addresses to God by ejaculations and communions, and an assiduous daily devotion; discover to him all your wants, complain to him of all your affronts; do as Hezekiah did, lay your misfortunes and your ill news before him, spread them before the Lord, call to him for health, run to him for counsel, beg of him for pardon; and it is as natural to love him to whom we make such addresses, and on whom we have such dependencies, as it is for children to love their parents.

6. Consider the immensity and vastness of the divine love to us, expressed in all the emanations of his providence; 1. In his creation; 2. In his conservation of us. For it is not my prince, or my patron, or my friend, that supports me, or relieves my needs; but God who made the corn that my friend sends me; who created the grapes, and supported him, who hath as many dependencies, and as many natural necessities, and as perfect disabilities, as myself. God, indeed, made him the instrument of his providence to me, as he hath made his own land or his own cattle to him, with this only difference, that God, by his ministration to me, intends to do him a favour and a reward which to natural instruments he does not; 3. In giving his Son; 4. In forgiving our sins; 5. In adopting us to glory; and ten thousand times ten thousand little addicents and instances happening in the doing every of these — and it is not possible but for so great love we should give love again; for God, we should give man; for felicity, we should part with our misery. Nay, so great is the love of the holy Jesus, God incarnate, that he would leave all his triumphant glories, and die once more for man, if it were necessary for procuring felicity to him.208208Sic Jesus dixit. S. Carpo apud Dionysium epist. ad Demophilum.

In the use of these instruments, love will grow in several knots and steps, like the sugar-canes of India, according to a thousand varieties in the persons loving; and it will be great or less in several persons, and in the same, according to his growth in Christianity. But in general discoursing there are but two states of love; and those are labour of love, and the zeal of love: the first is duty; the second if perfection.

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