How May We Attain to Love God
by Samuel Annesley (1620 –1696)
What It Is to Love God with the Heart
3. (1.) Now then let us resume the inquiry, "What it is to love the Lord our God with all our heart."—Some refer this to the thoughts, some to the vegetative soul, some to the understanding, that it may be free from error, others as if He had said, "Lay up all these things in your hearts." But the other injunctions will take in most of these. Therefore, according to scripture, we must understand the heart to signify the will and affections; and so the word is taken: "Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Josh. 22:5). As out of the heart proceeds life, so from the will proceed all operations. The will ought to be carried towards God with its whole force: All the affections of a pure and holy heart are directed to the only love of God. Love riseth from the will. Now, there is a two-fold act of the will: that which is immediately drawn forth of the will itself, the will’s own act, and such an act the will exerts in loving God; and then there is the commanded act of the will, which is the act of some other power moved to that act by the will. Where the will is filled with the love of God, it moves the understanding to meditate of God whom we love, and to inquire after the excellency of the object loved.
What It Is to Love God with the Whole Heart
We must not love God only with the heart, but with the whole heart. Pray mark this: perfect hatred and perfect love know no such thing as the world calls prudence. If you perfectly hate any one, all things about him displease you; whatever he says or does, though it be never so good, it seems to you to be evil. So also if you perfectly love anyone, all things about him please you. Some expound this totality by this distinction: We are to love God with the whole heart positively and negatively: positively, where all powers of the will are set to love God, and this we cannot perfectly do while we are travellers, till we come to our heavenly country; but, negatively, thou shalt so love God, that nothing contrary to the love of God shall be entertained in thy heart, and this we may attain to a pretty tolerable perfection of in this life.
The whole heart is opposed either to a divided and dispersed heart, or to a remiss and a sluggish heart: God doth as much abominate a partnership in our love, as a husband or wife abhors any such thing in their conjugal relation. We must love nothing but God, or that which may please God. He that loves God with his heart, and not with his whole heart, loves something else, and not God.
As the whole heart is opposed to a remiss and sluggish heart, the meaning is this: The care of our heart should be set upon nothing so much as upon the loving and pleasing of God. We must prefer God alone before all other objects of our love, and there must be an ardency of affection: whatever we do, it must be for His sake, and according to His will.
What It Is to Love God with the Soul
(2.) "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul."—I forbear to mention the different conjectures of those that try the acuteness of their parts to produce some peculiar interpretation which others have not. By comparing scripture with scripture, the sensitive life, or the sensitive appetite, is here meant. Thus: "His soul clave unto Dinah, and he loved the damsel" (Gen. 34:3). Again: "Thy soul" (thy sensual affections) "longeth to eat flesh" (Deut. 12:20). And because "the soul" is in many places taken for "life", as Exod. 4:19: "All the men are dead that sought thy life" (in Hebrew, "thy soul"); so Exod. 21:23: "Thou shalt give life for life" (in Hebrew, "soul for soul"); and so we may take it here intensively for the sensitive appetite, and extensively for the life. The soul is here taken for the animal life, which comprehends both the vegetative and sensitive part. To love God with the soul is to subject all those works that pertain to an animal life unto the love of God. Plainly, and in short: it is not enough to love God in our will, but we must not admit anything contrary to the love of God in our sensual delights. Whatsoever sensualists do for the gratifying of their lusts and desires, let those things be drained from the dregs of sin, and consecrate them all unto God. Whatever use wicked men make of their souls in a way of hatred of God, we must make the contrary use in a way of loving of God.
What It Is to Love God with All the Soul
"Thou must love God with all thy soul."—We must be ready to lay down our lives for God. If anyone should be asked what in all the world was most dear unto him, he would answer, his life. For life-sake, tender mothers have cast off the sense of nature, and fed upon their own children. It is life that affords us being, sense, motion, understanding, riches, dominions. If a man had the empire of the world, he could enjoy it no longer than he hath his soul in his body: when that is gone, he presently becomes a horrid carcass, or rather a loathsome dunghill. Now then, if a man love his life so much, why should he not love God more, by whom he lives, and from whom he expects greater things than this life? God is the soul of our soul, and the life of our life; He is nearer to us than our very souls: "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). He that doth but indifferently weigh these things, will acknowledge that it is no rashness to call that man a monster that loves not God: how, then, can we think of it without grief, that the whole world is full of these monsters? Almost all men prefer their money, or pleasures, or their honours, or their lusts, before God. So oft as you willingly break any law of God to raise your credit or estate, you prefer the dirt and dust of the world before God. Alas! What use does a wicked man make of his soul, but to serve his body? Whereas both soul and body should be wholly taken up with, not only the service, but the love, of God. Then may you be said to love God with all your souls: when your whole life is filled with the love of God; when your worldly business truckles under the love of God; when the love of the dearest relations should be but hatred when compared with your love to God; when you eat and drink to the glory of God; when you sleep no more than may make you serviceable unto God; when your solitary musings are about the engaging your souls to God; when your social conference is about the things of God; when all acts of worship endear God to you; when all your duties bring you nearer to God; when the love of God is the sweetness of your mercies, and your cordial under afflictions; when you can love God under amazing providences, as well as under refreshing deliverances: then you may be said to love God with all your souls.
What It Is to Love God with the Mind
(3.) "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind."—Though Anselm take this for the memory, that we should remember nothing whereby we are hindered in our thinking of God, yet generally this is taken for the understanding. And so the evangelist Mark expressly interprets it, when he renders this command in these words: "With all the understanding" (Mark 12:33). To love God with our minds is to have the understanding moved and commanded by the love of God, to assent unto those things that are to be believed, and to admit nothing into the understanding which is contrary to the love of God. The mind should let nothing go in or out but what pays tribute of love to God. There is one who interprets the word by the etymology of the word "mind", from "measuring." The mind must be so full of love to God that love must measure all our works. When we eat, we should think how hateful it is to God should we overly indulge our palate, and thence shun gluttony; when we drink, we should think how abominable drunkenness is in the sight of God, and thence drink temperately (see I Cor. 10:31), so that "whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s" (Rom. 14:8). Our life and our death must be measured by our love to God.
What It Is to Love God with All Our Mind
"We must love God with all our mind."—We must always converse with God in our minds and thoughts; our thoughts must kindle our affections of love. Love to God makes the hardest commands easy: while our thoughts are immersed in love to God, love to enemies will be an easy command; the keeping under of our bodies by mortification will be an easy work; persecution for righteousness will be a welcome trial. Love will change death itself into life.
There is another word added by Mark, which, indeed, is in Deut. 6:5; whence this is taken: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength."—Now, because this word doth not express any other species or power of the soul, but only notes the highest and most intense degree of love that flows from all the faculties of the soul, I will close this inquiry with a word of this. We are to love God with all the powers of our soul, with all the members of our bodies. Our understandings, wills, inward and outward senses, appetite, speech, whatever we have, whatever we are, must be all directed into the love of God, and into obedience flowing from love. You commonly hear that of Bernard, "The cause of loving God is God Himself, and the only measure is to love Him without measure." We must love God strongly, because with all our strength. Our love to God must get above interruptions; no threatenings, calamities, or discommidities whatsoever, must pull us away from God, but that all the powers of soul and body must be taken up into His service; that our eyes, beholding the wonderful works of God, the sun, moon, and stars, the clear evidences of His Divinity, we may be in love with Him; that our ears, piously hearkening to his instructions, may be in love with him; that our mouth may love to praise Him, our hands to act for Him; that our feet may be swift to run the way of His commandments; that our affections may be withdrawn from earthly things, and delivered over to the love of God; that whatever is within us, it may be bound over to the service of God. He that thus loves God, need not trouble himself how to order and dispose the several words here used,—his heart, soul, mind, will; whatever he is, hath, knows, understands, obtains, is all due to God; neither is there anything in the whole world to be valued before God. And thus I have given you a lame account, what it is to love God.