[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 concludes his list of some effects of loving God, by listing effects that concern both the one who loves God, and God Himself.]—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.

3. Mutual effects are these, and such like as these:—

(l.) Union with God.—Union is the foundation of communion, and communion is the exercise of union. The Spirit of God is the immediate efficient cause of this union, and faith is the internal instrument on our part; but love is the internal instrument both on God’s part and ours. Christ "dwells in our hearts by faith, we being rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17). This union is most immediately with Christ, and, through Him, with the Father and Holy Ghost. It is an amazing and comfortable truth, that our union with Christ does much resemble the personal union of the two natures in Christ. I grant it is unlike it in more considerations, because of the transcendency of the mystery; but yet there is some resemblance. For example: the human nature in Christ is destitute of its subsistence and personality, by its union with and its assumption to the divine; so the gracious soul hath no kind of denomination but what it hath from its union with Christ: its gracious being is bound up in its union with Christ. Other men can live without Christ; but so cannot the gracious soul. Again: in Christ there is a communication of properties, that is, that which is proper to the Divine Nature is attributed to the human; and, contrarily, that which is proper to the human nature is attributed to the Divine: so here, in the soul’s union with Christ, Christ is made sin for us, and dealt with as if He were a sinner; we are made the righteousness of God in Him, and privileged as righteous persons. Christ’s riches are ours, and our poverty His; yea, more, the offices of Christ are attributed to believers; they are "an holy and a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5, 9); and Christ "hath made us kings and priests unto his Father" (Rev. 1:6). Christ hath a stock of created grace: it was for us: "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16). The apostle bids us "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 2:1). What shall I say? Is Christ the natural Son of God? They are the adopted. Is Christ the beloved Son of God? Believers, in their measure, are so too. They are dead with Christ, buried with Christ, risen with Christ, sit together in heavenly places with Christ, fellow-heirs with Christ. In short, as there never was such another union in the world as the union of this two natures in Christ, so there never was, nor ever can be, such another union in the world as between Christ and the believer. It is beyond what any metaphors from art or nature can fully express. That of a foundation and building, of a vine and branches, of head and members, of soul and body, are but dark shadows of this union. But I must not enlarge.

(2.) Communion with God.—Communion consists in communication; when there is a kind of community of property. I might run over the former particulars, and enlarge them; but the subject is not so barren, that I need name one thing twice. Christians, I beg of you that you would be careful of receiving, because I can be but brief in delivering a few hints of the communication of divine love between God and us. For example: God communicates "the divine nature" to us through his fulfilling "exceeding great and precious promises" (II Peter 1:4). We make returns as those that are born of God, in obeying His commands. Because God loves us, He communicates unto us His communicable properties of holiness, wisdom, goodness. Seeing we have nothing to return, we prostrate ourselves at His feet, and ingenuously acknowledge our unholiness, folly, and badness. God and the soul hold communication in all gracious actions. God communicates strength to the doing of those things which He cannot do, but which we must: to repent, believe, obey God,—these are our actions through His strength. Again: we exercise our graces upon God for those actions which we cannot do, but which we may, through His covenant-engagement, with humble thankfulness say He must. For example: for the pardon of sin, speaking peace to the conscience, giving-out of gracious influences, etc.; for these we admire God, we praise Him, rejoice in Him. Once more: in those things wherein we can make no return to God, but may to others for God’s sake; our love to God necessitates us to do it. For instance: God pities us, is merciful and kind to us; God is infinitely above all such returns. Ay, but so are not the members of Christ, who are the best visible image of God in the world: I will give them not only my alms, but my very bowels, etc. In short, in this communication, God and the gracious soul have the same interest, drive on the same design (the advancement of Christ and the gospel), have the same friends, and the same enemies. They communicate secrets to each other: none but the loving soul knows the secrets of Divine Love; and none but God hears all the secrets of the soul without a reserve. Among the dearest friends in the world, there is some reserve. Some things we will rather speak to a stranger than to our dearest bosom-friend; we think them not fit to mention, or we are loath to trouble them: but there is none of this between God and the soul: God tells us all that may benefit, not overcharge, us: we tell God all the very worst of our own hearts, which we are ashamed to mention to those that most love us. God deals with us according to our capacities; our bottles would break should God over-fill them; but we deal with God according to the utmost of our active graces: God is both compassionate to pity and pardon what is no way acceptable, and even incredibly condescending to accept of what none but His infinite grace would accept.

(3.) Familiar love-visits.—When God makes sad visits to the disquieting of conscience, and the breaking of our peace; yet even then the soul, under trouble of conscience, would not change its spiritual trouble for the best of the world’s peace, no, not for its former peace, with which it was so well pleased before conversion. The soul that loves God cannot construe that to be a visit which others count so. The soul never goes to God as we go to visit those we care not for, that we are glad at their being from home; so the visit be but paid, we care not. Pray compare some passages in that Song of Loves: one while you have the spouse inquiring of Christ, "Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" (Song. 1:7). As if he had said: "Tell me, O Lord, my love and life, where I may have both instruction and protection in an hour of trouble; lest through Thy absence I be seduced by those that only pretend to love Thee." Christ gives a present answer, and quickly after returns an invitation: "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely" (Songs 2:14). As if he had said: "O my mourning dove, that darest not stir out of thy secret place, stir up thy faith, hold up thy face with comfort, let me hear thy prayers and praises: though others censure them, I esteem them; though others count thee deformed, thou art in my eyes beautiful." Here is something of affection; but see more: "Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits" (Songs 4:16). As if he had said: "O my Lord, what I have from Thee, I return to Thee: accept, I beseech Thee, the fruits of obedience and praise." Christ presently accepts the invitation: "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved" (Songs. 5:1). As if He had said, "Thou shalt no sooner ask, than be answered; I accept thy graces and duties, thy bitter repentance and thy fragrant holiness: they are most sweet to me, notwithstanding their imperfections. And ye, O my friends, whether blessed angels, or gracious souls, do you cheer yourselves with the same spiritual dainties wherewith I am refreshed." This is much; but there is more in the next expression I shall name: "Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me" (Song. 6:5), as if he had said, "I am ravished and vanquished by thy fixed eye of faith." In short, see the spouse’s closing request: "Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices" (Song. 8:14). As if he had said, "As I began this song, my dearest Saviour, with passionate desires of Thy first coming by the preaching of the gospel; so, though I thankfully praise thee for all the communion I have had with Thee, yet I cannot, my Lord, but more passionately long for Thy glorious coming, to take me with Thee from these bottoms of death and valleys of tears, to those eternal heights where nothing springs but life and glory; that, instead of this song, I may sing a new one to the Lamb, and to Him that sits upon the throne unto all eternity." Thus, but in a far more seraphic manner than I am able to express, the soul-loving God, as the God-loving soul, are rejoicing in each other with joy, till they rest in each other’s love (see Zeph. 3:17). In short, the soul that loves God is never so well as when most immediately with Him; and while there is any distance, many a love-glance passeth between God and the soul, even in the greatest crowd of business and diversions.

(4.) A putting a love-interpretation upon all things.—God looks upon the very miscarriages of those whom He loves as their infirmities, and puts a better interpretation upon them, than they dare do themselves. The disciples slept when Christ bade them watch: they knew not what to answer Him. Christ Himself excuseth it better than they could, in saying, "The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:37, 38, 40). And the loving soul is as loath to take any thing ill at the hands of God: when it is never so bad with the soul, he blesseth God that it is no worse. God and the loving soul do those things towards each other, which nothing but love can put a good interpretation upon: the truth is, without love it were intolerable. For example: God requires that service of the gracious soul that He requires of no other; namely, to bless God when persecuted, to rejoice in tribulations, to hope against hope, etc. God puts the soul that loves Him upon those trials that He puts upon no other; namely, those chastisements from Himself, those reproaches from men, those buffetings from Satan, which are peculiar to saints. But the soul heartily loveth God under all these. Again: the soul grows upon God in prayer; and the more it receives from God, the more insatiable it is, and God loves the soul the better for it. When afflictions are extreme, those that love God put the affliction upon the account of God’s faithfulness: on the other hand, when the poor soul is foiled, and Satan runs with the tidings of it to set God against Him, God pities the soul, and rates the accuser: "And He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments: Take away the filthy garments from him," etc. (Zech. 3:1-4). Here is Joshua the high priest: while executing his office in offering sacrifices and prayers for the people, Satan arraigns him as a prisoner at the bar, and the accusation being true and vehement, Satan takes the upper hand; but now, Jesus Christ, as well the patron as the Judge of saints, cuts him short with a vehement reproof, and tells him those sins could not make void that choice, which they could not at first hinder; and, further, Christ, as it were, tells him they had been severely punished, half burnt and wasted by the heat of God’s displeasure; and would he now re-kindle that fire? No, Satan, thy charge is, as it were, thrown out of the court: his sins shall be pardoned, his graces multiplied, and upon the well-discharging of his office he shall have "places to walk among them that stand by" (alluding to the walks and galleries about the temple). As if he had said, "Thou shalt walk with these glorious angels: they shall be thy companions and guardians, where Satan hath no place." So that Christ loves a soul the more, not the less, for Satan’s accusations.

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