[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 study, Mr. Annesley lists some effects of 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).

(II.) Effects of love to God,—they relate either to God Himself, or to ourselves, or they are mutual. I will speak briefly of each.

1. Effects that relate to God, are such as these; I do not say only these, but these, and such as these:

(1.) Hatred of and flight from all that is evil.—Joseph may be our instance. His mistress would have inveigled him into sin; but though "she spake to him day by day," yet he "hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her" (Gen. 39:10). He that fears sin will get as far as he can out of the reach of a temptation. Hatred of sin always holds proportion with our love to God; our inward hatred of sin, with our inward love of God; our return to sin, with the decay of our love to God. The renewing of our repentance answers the reviving of our love to God. Every one that doth not love God, loves sin, plain, down-right sin, sin without any excuse; for instance, either some moral wickedness, or a resting in their own righteousness.

(2.) The fear of God.—A reverential tenderness of conscience, lest we sin against God. It is not only fear of hell, but fear of God’s goodness. "They shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days" (Hosea 3:5). The soul that loves God is troubled that he either does or omits anything for fear of hell, and that he is no more affected with love-arguments. Though, pray take notice, by the way, that all fear of hell doth not presently argue a spirit of bondage: hopes and fears poise the soul while in this world. I would therefore leave this charge upon you; namely, be sure that you love God better than the blessed apostle loved Him, before you censure any for want of love who are diligent in duty upon this motive, lest they be at last cast-aways (see I Cor. 9:27). But, to return: though God’s gracious condescension be so great as to allow those that love Him a non-such familiarity, yet that never breeds the least contempt. Sense of distance between God and the soul, between the holy God and a sinful soul, between the faithful God and the fickle soul,—O this causeth holy tremblings, and humble apologies in our most familiar pleadings with God. The father of the faithful, whom God honoured with the title of his "friend," (of whose love to God you have already heard)—when he pleaded with Christ face to face in so familiar a way (never any like Him!), see how He then prefaced His prayer: "Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes." Again: "O let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak" (Gen. 18:27,30). "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him" (Psalm 89:7). Methinks that passage of Christ to His disciples, with the circumstance of time when He spake it, just upon the most servile action of His life, may forever keep an awe upon our hearts: "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am" (John 13:12,13). When God deals most familiarly with us as with friends, let us carry it reverently as becomes servants.

(3.) Obedience to the commands of God, and to those commands which would never be obeyed but out of love to God.—"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3); that is, to obey those commands that are unpleasing and troublesome, those commands that thwart our carnal reason, and so part with things present for the hopes of that we never saw, nor any man living that told us of them. "Whoso keepeth His word, in Him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him" (I John 2:5). Once more: hear what Christ saith: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." And again: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:21,23).

(4.) Resignation of ourselves to God.—Whereby we devote ourselves wholly to God, to be wholly His, to be every way disposed of as He pleaseth. "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them," &c. (II Cor. 5:14, 15). This resignation is like that in the conjugal relation: it debars so much as treating with any other; it, as it were, proclaims an irreconcilable hatred to any that would partake of any such love. God doth not deal with us as with slaves, but takes us into that relation which speaks most delight and happiness; and we are never more our own than when we are most absolutely His.

(5.) Adhesion and cleaving unto God, in every case, and in every condition.—"In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul followeth hard after thee" (Psalm 63:7,8). Methinks we may say of the law concerning birds (see Deut. 22:6), what the apostle saith of the law concerning oxen: "Doth God take care for birds? For our sakes, no doubt, it is written," to instruct us against cruelty; but may we not learn a further lesson? The bird was safe while on her nest: our only safety is with God. Now, to cleave to God in all conditions, not only when we fly to Him as our only refuge in our pressures, but, in our highest prosperity and outward happiness, when we have many things to take-to whence the world expects happiness; this is a fruit of great and humble love, this demonstrates an undervaluing of the world, and a voluntary choosing of God; this is somewhat like heavenly love.

(6.) Tears and sighs through desires and joys.—When the spiritual, love-sick soul would, in some such, but an unexpressible, manner, breathe out its sorrows and joys into the bosom of God: "Lord, why thus loving to me, and why is my heart no more overcome with Divine Love? Those that never received so much from Thee, love Thee more. O I am weary of my want of love! O I am weary of my distance from God! O I am weary of my unspiritual frame!" "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (II Cor. 5:4). Here, when the heart is ready to die away through excess of love, it is passionately complaining of defects: "Dear Lord! What shall I say? What shall I do? What shall I render? O for more endearing communications of Divine Love! O for more answerable returns of love to God!" Thus much of effects as to God.

2. The only effect I shall name as to us, is a seeking of heaven and things above, with contempt of the world, and all worldly excellencies. One that loves God thinks he can never do enough in heavenly employments. A person that abounds in love to God is too apt to neglect secondary duties, which are in their places necessary: they are apt to justle out one duty with another. For example: those duties wherein they have most sensible communion with God bear down lesser duties before them; whereas, could we keep within scripture-bounds, and mind every duty according to its moment, then this is an excellent effect of Divine Love. For instance, to be afraid of worldly enjoyments, lest they should steal the heart from God; yet, at the same time, not to dare to omit any worldly duty, lest I should prove partial in the work of Christianity: to make conscience of the least duties, because no sin is little; but to be proportionably careful of the greatest duties, lest I should prove an hypocrite: such a carriage is an excellent effect of Divine Love. This is fruit that none who are not planted near the tree of life can bear.

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