[Here we continue our series that has the goal of increasing our love for God and the things of God, while decreasing our love for the world and the things of the world. This resumes a multi-part study by Samuel Annesley, in which he examines, in detail, the greatest commandment. In this issue, Mr. Annesley continues looking at the means by which we may attain love to God.]—Ed.

How May We Attain to Love God

by Samuel Annesley (1620 –1696)

"Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment’" (Matt. 22:37–38, AV).

Means to Attain Love to God (cont.)

3. Sustaining and conserving means.—Here several graces are singularly useful. I shall name only three.

(1.) Faith, whereby we are persuaded that what God hath spoken is true and good.—"If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). Now, then, take some particular promise—why not that which hath already affected thy heart? You cannot press a promise as you squeeze an orange, to extract all that is in it; no; it is called drawing water out of a fountain (see Isa. 12:3), though you draw out ever so much, there is no less behind. Well, then, take that promise: "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me" (Prov. 8:17). I may here, by my love to God, make out God’s love to me; and so, by these claspings of love, have my love inflamed and preserved. But, Christians, be sure to remember this: Whenever you lay one hand on a promise, lay the other on Christ: you will thereby get your objections answered, and your fears removed. For instance: "I am unworthy of Divine Love," but Christ is not. "I know not how to come to God": but, our access is by Christ. "Though I come, I know not how to believe": thy coming is believing (see John 6:37). O for more acquaintance with the life of faith! It is mostly with us in spirituals according to our faith.

(2.) Hope, whereby we expect a future good.—Hope is the daughter of faith. Many a time the weak mother leans upon the daughter. Hope (at least to our apprehensions) hath not so many obstructions and hinderances as faith. I dare say, "I hope" what I dare not say, "I believe". Though I must tell you, that which the over-modest Christian calls a weak hope, God often calls a strong faith: "Remember the word onto thy servant, upon which thou last caused me to hope" (Psalm 119:49). There is a prayer of hope; and here is a promise-answer to faith: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee," etc. (Isa. 26:3). So that, in a word, as to the present case, though I yet cannot love God as I would, I hope God will help me, that my love shall be always growing.

(3.) Patience.—"Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:4). And do but with patience go on with your work, and no necessary grace shall be wanting unto you. Look that you be patient in waiting, and patient in bearing. Do not misinterpret God’s dealings with you. There are two passages I would have you take special notice of: that ground that brought such fruit as answered expectation, was "an honest and good heart, which kept the word, and brought forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). The other is: "In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19). Patience contributes much to both fruitfulness and comfort. Let us make an essay—Thou wouldest have God manifest His love to thee in a more ravishing manner: stay a while, thou wantest another kind of dispensation first and most, namely, to feel more of the evil of sin, that thou mayest be more watchful and more holy.—So soon as a trial comes, thou wouldest have it removed: stay a while; it hath not done the work for which God sent it. God in kindness binds-on the plaster, till He hath effected the cure.—Thou art at a loss; thou knowest not what God will do with thee: be it so, it is not fit thou shouldest; God doth not usually tell His children beforehand what He will do with them; God expects we should gather-up our duty from the precepts of His word, and from the hints of His providence. We read that when the prophet Elisha had given king Joash a promise, and a sign of deliverance from Syria, God expected that his own reason and faith should prompt him so to improve a second sign, as to pursue the victory to a conquest; but he understood it not, and so miscarried (II Kings 13:17–19). Do you learn to hold-on in the use of all means for the engaging of your hearts more to God? "We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:11–12), not expecting to obtain the promise till you have patiently endured. And the same apostle, in the same epistle, tells us that "ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36).

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