ON ACTS OF DIVINE LOVE
Consider first, that the love of God is like a fire: its nature is to be always in motion, and always tending upwards towards its heavenly element; it quickly expires and dies if it lies idle. Wherefore if we would keep it alive, we must nourish it, and blow it up by frequent acts of love; and those not mere verbal acts, by telling God that we love him, whilst our heart perhaps is far from him, but by the real exercise of loving God both in our heart and in our works. We exercise the love of God in our heart, by affection; we exercise the love of God in our works, by effects. We love God with a love of chaste concupiscence, when in heart and work we tend to him as our sovereign good, and aspire after the eternal enjoyment of him. We love him with a love of benevolence, that is of sincere and perfect friendship and charity, when both in heart and work we give our whole selves, with all our thoughts, words, and deeds, and all things else to him, as being infinitely good in himself. It is just we should exercise ourselves in acts of the love of God in both these ways, as in both these ways he is infinitely amiable but more especially that we should tend to love him with the love of benevolence, by giving ourselves and all things to him.
Consider 2ndly, that benevolence is a love by which we wish all manner of good to the person beloved; a love by which we earnestly seek and procure whatever may be for his honour, interest, or pleasure; by which we delight in all his advantages, and are concerned at all his losses, &c. Wherefore, if we would make proper acts of the love of benevolence towards God, we must desire, seek, and procure, as much as lies in us, the greater honour and glory of his name, and the propagation of his kingdom, both in our own hearts and throughout the whole world, and pray that all men may know him, love him, and serve him; we must rejoice at every thing that is agreeable to his holy will, and be concerned at every thing that offends him. This is the proper exercise of the love of benevolence; these are far better acts of divine charity than merely telling God that we love him. My soul, what are thy dispositions? Dost thou sincerely desire and heartily pray that all the world may know, love, and serve thy God; that all his creatures in heaven and earth may give perpetual glory to him; that the reign of sin may be abolished; and that the kingdom of God may take possession of all hearts; that none may resist or rebel against his orders; but that all may embrace and bow down, and adore his divine will? If so, there is no doubt but thou lovest God. Such as these are perfect acts of the love of God.
Consider 3rdly, that the exercise of the love of God, which, above all others, is recommended in holy Scriptures, is the loving of his divine law and the keeping of his commandments. 'This is the charity (that is the love) of God that we keep his commandments,’ 1 John v. 3. ‘He that keepeth his word, in him, in very deed, the charity of God is perfected,’ chap. ii. 5. The beloved disciple continually recommends acts of this kind of divine love, and the Psalms are full of aspirations or breathings of a soul that is in love with the holy law and commandments of God. This devotion to the commandments of God is loving God indeed with a true and effectual love, because it is giving up for his sake what is most dear to us, viz., our own will and liberty, and making a present of it to him; it is giving him what he chiefly calls for at our hands; whatsoever else we give him can never content him. He always prefers the sacrifice of obedience before all other sacrifices, because here we sacrifice to him our own clear will, and immolate it, as it were, to his honour and glory. This kind of love is the safest from illusions, for whosoever loves the commandments of God and his divine will, and makes all that is in him submit thereunto, most certainly loves God, and is in the right way that will bring bins safe to God. No other devotion without this can secure any man.
Conclude to exercise thyself daily in all these ways of loving God, and ever remember that loving God and keeping his commandments go always hand-in-hand, because we cannot love God without loving his will, notified to us by his commandments.