by Samuel Davies,
And is it not as evident to some of you, as almost anything you know of yourselves, that your affectionate thoughts are not frequently fixed upon the blessed God? Nay, are you not conscious, that your thoughts fly off from this object, and pursue a thousand other things with more eagerness and pleasure? Certainly, by a little inquiry—you may easily find out the beaten road of your thoughts and affections, or their favorite object.
And why will you not push the inquiry to a determination? Is there any matter of daily sensation and experience more plain to some of you than this—that God is not the object of your highest reverential love, and of your eager desires and hopes? Do you not know in your consciences, that you delight more in a thousand other things: nay, that the thoughts of him, and whatever forces serious thoughts of him upon your minds—are disagreeable to you—and that you turn every way to avoid them? Do you not know that you can give your hearts for days and weeks together, to pursue some favorite creature, without once calling them off, to think seriously and affectionately upon the ever-blessed God? Are not even all the arts of self-flattery unable to keep some of you from discovering a fact at once so notorious, and so melancholy?
Well, if this is your case—then never pretend that you love God. You may have many commendable qualities—you may have many splendid appearances of virtue— you may have done many actions materially good: but it is evident to a demonstration, that the love of God—the first principle and root of all true religion and virtue—is not in you.
Thirdly, The love of God is not in you, unless you give him and his interests the preference above all other things.
I have told you already, that if you love God at all in sincerity, you love him above all. And now, I add, as the consequence of this, that if you love him at all, you will give him and his interest the preference before all things that may come in competition with him. You will cleave, with a pious obstinacy, to that which he enjoins upon you, whatever be the consequence: and you will cheerfully resign all your other interests, however dear, when they clash with his.
This you will do, not only in speculation—but in practice. That is, you will not only allow him the chief place in your hearts—but you will show that you do allow him the supremacy there, by your habitual practice. I beg you to examine yourselves by this test: for here lies the dangerous delusion of multitudes. Multitudes find it easy to flatter themselves, that they love God above all his creatures, while, in the meantime, they will hardly part with anything for his sake, that their own imaginary interest recommends to them.
But this is made the decisive test by Christ himself: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26. By hating these dear relatives, and even life itself, Jesus does not mean positive hatred: for, in a subordinate degree, it is our duty to love them. But he means that every sincere disciple of his must act as if he hated all these—when they come in competition with his infinitely dearer Lord and Savior. That is, he must part with them all, as we do with things that are hateful to us. This was, in fact, the effect of this love in Paul. "But whatever was to my profit—I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss—compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Phil. 3:7, 8.
Now, perhaps, this trial, in all its extent, may never be your lot: though this is not at all unlikely, if a mongrel race of Indian savages and French papists, by whom your country now bleeds in a thousand veins, should carry their schemes into execution! For popery has always been a bloody, persecuting power, and gained its proselytes by the terror of fire and faggot, and the tortures of the inquisition—and not by argument, or any of the methods adapted to the make of a reasonable being. But though this severe trial should never come in your way—yet, from your conduct in lesser trials—you may judge how you would behave in greater.
Therefore, inquire, when the pleasures of sin—and your duty to God interfere—then which do you part with? When the will of God—and your own will clash—then which do you obey? When the pleasing of God—and the pleasing of men come in competition—then which do you choose? When you must give up with your carnal ease or applause among mortals—or violate your duty to God—then which has most weight with you? When you must deny yourself—or deny your Savior—then which do you submit to?
What is your habitual conduct in such trying circumstances? Do you in such cases give to God and his interests the preference in your practice? If not, your pretended love is reprobated, and appears to be counterfeit. Friends, it is little matter in this case, what you profess, or speculatively believe: but the grand inquiry is—what is your habitual practice? And if you must be judged by this—is it not evident, that some of you have not the love of God in you?