Imatges de pàgina

what is involved in his own pleasure, to induce him to form it in any given manner. The things, which it requires, are the things which he approves, and is seen to approve; the things, in which he delights, and is seen to delight; the things, therefore, which entirely show his real character. But the things, actually required, include all, which are due from his moral creatures to Him, to each other, and to themselves; or, in other words, all their internal and external moral conduct. But it cannot be supposed, that God would exhibit his own perfect character imperfectly, in a case of this magnitude. That, in a law, expressing thus his own charac ter, and seen to express it; a law, from which they must of necessity learn his character more certainly, than from any thing else; a law, which regulated, and required, all the moral conduct ever required of them; he should not prescribe a perfect collection of rules; a collection absolutely perfect; is a supposition, amounting to nothing less than this: that in exhibiting his character to the Intelligent Universe he would present it in a false light; and lead them by a solemn act of his own, necessarily, to consider him either as a weak, or as an immoral, being.

2dly. The Law of God is perfectly fitted to the State, and Capacity. of Intelligent Creatures.

The divine Law is wholly included in two precepts: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and thy neighbour as thyself. These are so short, as to be necessarily included in a single very short sentence; so intelligible, as to be understood by every moral being, who is capable of comprehending the meaning of the words, God and Neighbour: so easily remembered, as to render it impossible for them to escape from our memory, unless by wanton, criminal negligence of ours: and so easily applicable to every case of moral action, as not to be mistaken, unless through indisposition to obey. At the same time, obedience to them is rendered perfectly obvious, and perfectly easy, to every mind, which is not indisposed to obey them. The very disposition itself, if sincere and entire, is either entire obedience, or the unfailing means of that external conduct, by which the obedience is, in some cases, completed. The disposition to obey, is also confined to a single affection of the heart, easily distinguishable from all other affections: viz. Love. Love, saith St. Paul, is the fulfilling of the Law. The humblest and most ignorant moral creatures, therefore, are in this manner efficaciously preserved from mistaking their duty.

In the mean time, these two precepts, notwithstanding their brevity, are so comprehensive, as to include every possible moral action. The Archangel is not raised above their control; nor can any action of his exceed that bound which they prescribe. The Child, who has passed the verge of moral agency, is not placed beneath their regulation; and whatever virtue he may exercise is no other than a fulfilment of their requisitions. All the duties, which we immediately owe to God, to our fellow-creatures, and to

ourselves, are by these precepts alike comprehended, and required. In a word, endlessly various as moral action may be, it exists in no form, or instance, in which he who perfectly obeys these precepts, will not have done his duty, and will not find himself justified and accepted by God.

3dly. The Law of God requires the best possible Moral Char


To require and accomplish this great object, an object in its importance literally immense, is supremely worthy of the wisdom and goodness of this glorious Being. To make his moral creatures. virtuous is unquestionably the only method of rendering them really and extensively useful, and laying the only solid foundation for their enduring happiness. But all virtue is summed up in the fulfilment of these two Commands: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and thy neighbour as thyself. In doing this, every individual becomes as amiable, excellent, dignified, and useful, as with his own capacity he can be. Should he advance in his capacity through endless duration, all the good, which he will ever do; all the honour, which he will ever render to his Creator; all the excellence, amiableness, and dignity, which he will ever acquire; will be nothing but obedience to these two commands. The beauty and glory of the Evangelical character; the rapturous flame which glows in the breast of a Seraph; the transcendent exaltation of an Archangel; is completely included in loving God with all the heart, and his neighbour as himself. Nay, the infinite loveliness, the supreme glory, of the Godhead, is no other than this disposition, boundlessly exerted in the Uncreated Mind, and producing, in an unlimited extent, and an eternal succession, its proper and divine effects on the Intelligent Universe. God, saith St. John, is Love.

4thly. The Law of God proposes, and accomplishes, the best possible End.

The only ultimate good is Happiness: by which I intend Enjoyment; whether springing from the mind itself, or flowing into it from external sources. Perfect happiness is perfect good; or, in other words, includes whatever is desirable: and this is the good, which the divine law proposes, as its own proper and supreme End.

This end is with exact propriety divisible, and is customarily divided, into two great parts: the first usually termed the Glory of God: the second, the Happiness of the Intelligent Creation.

The original, and essential, Glory of God is his Ability, and Disposition, to accomplish perfect happiness. This is his inherent, unchangeable, and eternal perfection. But the glory of God, to which I refer, is what is often called his declarative glory; and is no other than this very perfection, manifested in his conduct, immediately by himself, and, mediately in their conduct, by the Intelligent Creation. In this sense, the glory of God is proposed, and ac

complished, by his Law, when he prescribes to his Intelligent Creatures, and produces in them, a disposition to love Him with all the heart, and each other as themselves. This disposition is, beyond all estimation, the most lovely, the most excellent, the most glorious, work of the Creator's hands; incomparably the greatest proof of his sufficiency, and inclination, to effectuate perfect good; and, therefore, infinitely honourable to his character. In the exercise of this disposition, on their part, and in its genuine effects, they render to him also, voluntarily, and directly, all the honour, which can be rendered to the Infinite Mind by Intelligent Creatures.

At the same time, the divine Law is the source of perfect Happiness to them. Voluntary beings are the only original sources of happiness: and Virtue, which is nothing but this disposition, is, in them, the only productive cause of happiness. Under the influence of it, all beings, in whom it prevails, unite to do the utmost good in their power. The good, therefore, which is actually done by them, is the greatest good which can be derived from the efforts of Intelligent Creatures. As in this manner they become perfectly lovely, praiseworthy, and rewardable, in the sight of God; he can, with the utmost propriety, and therefore certainly will, reward them, by actually communicating to them the most exalted happiness, of which they are capable. The kingdom of glory in the heavens, with its endless and perfect Providential dispensations, will, to Saints and Angels, constitute this reward.

I have mentioned the Glory of God as the first great division of the perfect End, proposed by the divine law. The glory of God is that in which his happiness consists; the object, infinitely enjoyed by the Infinite Mind; the Sufficiency for all good, not only existing, and enjoyed by contemplation, but operating, also, and enjoyed in its genuine and proper effects..

It ought to be observed, that there are no other possible means of accomplishing this illustrious end, beside this disposition. Intelligent beings are the only beings, by whom God can be thus glorified. They are the only beings who can understand, either his character or his works; or perceive the glory, which he directly manifests in them. They are, also, the only beings who can render to him love, reverence, or obedience; and thus honour his character in such a manner, as this can be done by creatures. Without them the Universe, with all its furniture and splendour, would still be a solitude.

At the same time, Intelligent beings alone either produce, or enjoy, happiness in any great degree.

But there is no other disposition in such beings, besides this, which can voluntarily glorify God, or produce important and enduring happiness. It is hardly necessary for me to observe, that no obedience, and no regard whatever, rendered by rational creatures to God, can be of any value, or in any degree amiable, or VOL. III.


[ocr errors]

acceptable, except that which is voluntary; or that towards beings. who did not love him, he could not exercise any Complacency. It is scarcely more necessary to observe, that beings, who did not voluntarily produce happiness, could neither enjoy it themselves, nor yield it to others. The seat of happiness is the mind; and the first, or original happiness, which it finds, is ever found in its own approbation of its conduct, and the delightful nature of its affections. But no mind can be self-approved, which does not first love God and its fellow-creatures; and no affections can be delightful, except those which spring from the same disposition. Its views of God, and its affections towards Him, its apprehensions of His complacency towards itself, and its enjoyment of his blessings; constitute the second great division of its happiness. But no mind can have delightful views of God, or delightful affections towards him; or be the object of his complacency; except that which loves him supremely. The third great division of this subject consists in the esteem, the love, and the kind offices, mutually interchanged by Rational beings. It is perfectly obvious, that these can never exist in any material degree, where the second command of this law is not cordially obeyed. But the mind, influenced by the love which is the fulfilling of the law, is self-approved, approved by God, and approved by its fellow-creatures. All its affections, also, towards itself, its Creator, and the Intelligent Universe, are delightful. At the same time, all its actions are productive of glory to the Creator, and of good to his creation.

Thus the law of God, by laying hold on this single great principle, has directed the whole energy of the mind to the production of the best of all ends, in the best possible manner.


From these observations it appears,

1st. That the Law of God is, and must of necessity be, Unchangeable and Eternal.

Our Saviour informs us, that heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot, or one tittle, of the Law shall fail. This declaration has, I presume, seemed extraordinary to every reader of the New Testament. To many it has, in all probability, appeared incredible. But, if I mistake not, these observations furnish us not only with ample evidence of its truth, but with ample reasons, why it should be true. A law, which is the result of infinite Wisdom and Goodness; which is perfectly fitted to the state, and capacity, of Intelligent Creatures; which requires the best possible Moral Character; which proposes and accomplishes the best possible End; and without which neither the Glory of God, nor the Happiness of the Intelligent Creation, could be established, or perpetuated; plainly cannot, and ought not to be changed. Were God to change it, he must change it for the worse; from a perfect law to an imperfect one. Whatever rule he should prescribe, in its place,

for the conduct of his moral creatures, must require something, which is wrong, or fail to require something, which is right. Neither of these could be just, or wise, or good. Nor could his Wisdom, Justice, or Goodness, be manifested, or even preserved, in the establishment of such a law; much less in annulling a perfect law, and substituting an imperfect one in its place. To give up this law would be to sacrifice his own glory, and the happiness of his Intelligent creation. These, united, constitute the very End, for which the heavens and the earth were made. In the case supposed, therefore, the heavens and the earth would exist to no purpose; that is, to no purpose worthy of Jehovah.

2dly. This subject furnishes us with one affecting view of the Evil of Sin.

Sin is a transgression of the Law: that is, Sin is the disposition of the heart, and the conduct of the life, directly opposed to what the Law requires. It is directly opposed to the decisions of infinite wisdom and goodness; to the best possible character; and to the best possible end: the glory of God, and the supreme good of the Intelligent Creation. Of all these the Law is either the transcript, or the indispensable means. So far as sin has power to operate, it operates to their destruction; and its native tendency would prevent the glory of God, and the good of the universe.

The evil of sin does not lie in the power of the sinner to accomplish his evil designs; but in the nature of the designs themselves, and the disposition which gave them birth; and must ever bear some general proportion to the extent of the mischief, which it would accomplish, if it were permitted to operate without restraint. From what has been said it is plain, that this mischief transcends all finite comprehension. The evil, therefore, which is inherent in it, must be incalculably great.

We see this truth verified in the present world. All the misery, suffered here, is the effect of sin. Sin blotted out the bliss of Paradise; and established in its place private wretchedness and public suffering. The smile of complacency it changed into the gloomy frown of wrath and malice. For the embrace of friendship it substituted the attack of the assassin. The song of joy it converted into a groan of anguish: the ascription of praise it commuted for the blasphemies of impiety. What then must be the evils, which it would accomplish, were it let loose upon the universe; were it to invade the kingdom of glory, as it once intruded into Eden; and ravage eternity, as it has ravaged the little periods

of time.

3dly. We learn from this subject the absurdity of Antinomianism. Two of the prominent Antinomian doctrines are, that the Law of God is not a Rule of duty to Christians: and that the Transgressions of it by Christians are not sins.

Sin, saith St. John, is the transgression of the law. It is a bold assertion, then; an assertion, demanding a warrant, which can be

« AnteriorContinua »