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it, is perfect, endless, and for ever progressive. Must not candour, must not prejudice itself, confess, with the Magicians of Egypt, that here is the finger of God?
But if this is from God, the Scriptures must be acknowledged to have the same origin. In the Scriptures alone is this Law contained. Nay, the Scriptures themselves are, chiefly, this Law, expanded into more minute precepts, and more multiplied applications; enforced by happy comments, and illustrated by useful examples; especially the Example presented to us in the perfect and glorious life of the Son of God.
THE LAW OF GOD.-THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT.
MARK xii. 28-30-And one of the Scribes came, and, having heard them reasoning together, and perceived that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the First Commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, the First of all the Commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: This is the First Commandment.
IN the last discourse, I made a number of general observations on the Perfection of the divine law. I shall now proceed to consider, somewhat more particularly, the Nature and Import of the First and Greatest Commandment of that Law; the Command, which regulates our Piety to God.
In the text we are informed, that a Scribe, a Man learned in the Scriptures, and accustomed to expound them to others, pleased with Christ's refutation of the Sadducees, and the proofs which he had unanswerably given of a future existence, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? that is, the first in rank, obligation, and importance. Christ, quoting Deut. vi. 4, informs him, that the first command, in this sense, is, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
In this command, it is to be observed, there is one thing only required; and that is Love. It is, however, Love in a comprehensive sense; including several exercises of the mind, easily, and customarily, distinguished from each other; as might, indeed, be naturally expected from the phraseology of the Command.
is further to be observed, that the Love, here enjoined, is required to exist in such a degree, as to occupy the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole mind, and the whole strength. The word, here rendered soul, seems originally to have been used to denote the principle of animal life, and to have been commonly used in this sense by the Greeks; as the two corresponding words of their respective languages were by the Jews and Romans. The word, translated mind, is commonly used to denote the understanding; and seems plainly to have been used in this manner here; since the Scribe expresses this as the meaning of it in his answer. The import of this command may, then, be stated thus. Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thine understanding, and with all thy strength, throughout all thy life. In other words, we are required, under the influence of this dis
position, to devote, throughout our lives, all our faculties, and services, to the glory of Jehovah. Our hearts and voices, our understanding and our hands, are to be entirely, and voluntarily, dedicated to his service.
have already observed, that Love, in this comprehensive sense, includes several exercises of the mind, easily and customarily distinguished. It will be one object of this discourse to exhibit them with this distinction.
1st. Love to God, as required by this command, is Good-will to him, his designs, and interests.
By Good-will, in this case, I intend the very same Benevolence, formerly described as one of the Attendants of Regeneration, and then mentioned as extending to the Creator and his intelligent creatures. Not a small number of divines have supposed, that Love, in this sense, is neither required, nor exerted, towards the Creator. "God," say they, "being supremely and eternally blessed; and the success of his designs, and the prosperity of his interests, being perfectly secured by his power, knowledge, and presence; there can be no necessity, nor room, for any exercise of our good-will towards him, or them. Benevolence is with propriety exercised towards Man, because he needs it; but cannot with any such propriety be exercised towards God, who is so far from needing any thing, that he gives unto all life, and breath, and all things."
These observations are undoubtedly specious. Yet the reasoning, contained in them, is totally concous; and the conclusion, intended to be derived from them, false and mistaken. To admit it, is to give up the first duty of man.
Benevolence depends not, either for its obligation or exercise, on the supposition, that the person, towards whom it may be directed, needs either our benevolence, or its effects. Happiness. its immediate object, is always, and every where, supremely delightful and desirable in itself; delightful, whenever it exists; desirable, whenever it may exist hereafter. The greater the degree in which it exists, or may exist hereafter, the more delightful, the more desirable, must it be, of course. It is desirable, that two persons should be happy, other things being equal, rather than one; twenty than two; an hundred than twenty. It is in a continually increasing proportion desirable, that a person should be twice as happy, as he is at present; ten times; an hundred times. On the same grounds it is delightful to find happiness existing in one degree; more delightful in two; and still more in twenty, or an hundred. To delight in happiness, in this manner, is, in the same manner, to exercise good-will towards the being who is thus happy.
The happiness, or blessedness, of God, as it is more commonly termed, is no other, than his Enjoyment of his own perfect Ittributes, and of the effects, produced by them in that glorious system of
good, which is begun in the work of Creation, and will be completed in the work of Providence: or, in other words, his Sufficiency for accomplishing, the Certainty that he will accomplish, and the Actual accomplishment of, a perfect system of good. This is an object, infinitely desirable to the Divine Mind. Were it to fail; this desire would be ungratified; and the Divine Mind would be proportionally unhappy.
To this it will be objected, as it often has been, that "this doctrine makes God dependent for his happiness on his creatures."
This objection is a mistake. The doctrine involves no such dependence. The independence of God consists not at all in the fact, that he will be happy, whether his designs will be accomplished or not; but in his Sufficiency for the absolute accomplishment of them all; and in the absolute certainty, that they will be thus accomplished. His Power, Wisdom, and Godness are this sufficiency; and yield him intuitive certainty of this accomplishment. These things constitute the most perfect possible Independence.
Were God without desires; had he no choice, no pleasure; he could enjoy no happiness. Were he unable to fulfil his pleasure, or uncertain whether it would be fulfilled; he would be dependent. But, according to this statement, his happiness and his independence are both absolute.
The designs of God are infinitely desirable, because they involve the display of his infinite perfections, in their perfect exercise, and in the accomplishment of a perfect system of Good. In this manner they present to us the most glorious of all objects, operating in the most glorious manner to the production of the most glorious purpose. This object is, with the highest evidence, infinitely desirable and delightful. At the same time, the happiness, which God enjoys in the exercise of his perfections, and in the accomplishment of this divine End, is a happiness not only infinitely desirable and delightful to himself, but desirable in the same manner to all Intelligent creatures. All Intelligent creatures, possessed of real benevolence, cannot fail to rejoice, that God is, and ever will be, thus infinitely happy; that these glorious designs will certainly be accomplished; that he will ever thus act; and that he will ever find infinite enjoyment in thus acting. It is as truly desirable, that God should be thus happy, as it is that any of his In telligent creatures should be happy; and as much more desirable, as he is happier than they.
But to delight in this happiness is to exercise towards God the benevolence of the Gospel. I flatter myself, that to exercise this benevolence has been amply proved to be an unquestionable and supreme duty of man.
2dly. Love to God is Complacency in his Character.
It has been shown in several former discourses, that God is infinitely benevolent; in other words, he is infinitely disposed to
desire, and perform, that which is good in the highest degree. In other words, he is infinitely just, faithful, true, kind, bountiful, and merciful. Such a character is infinitely excellent in self; and demands in the highest possible degree, the supreme Approbation, and the supreme Complacency, of every Intelligent
LOVE TO GOD.
Benevolence, as here required, is a delight in the Happines of God: Complacency is a delight in his Excellence. The Excellence of God contains in itself all that Wisdom can approve; all that Virtue can love; all that is meant by the excellence and amiableness, by the beauty and glory of Mind; by Moral dignity and greatness. This is what God himself esteems his own supreme perfection, and the transcendent glory of his character. Acordingly, when he proclaimed his Name to Moses, on Mount Sinai, he proclaimed this part of his character only; and styled it the Name, or Glory, of Jehovah.
I know not, that to love God, in this sense, has ever been denied, or doubted to be a Christian duty, by such as have believed in the Scriptures. On the contrary, it has been commonly supposed, that Complacency and Gratitude were the only love to God requir ed in his Law. The happiness of God has usually been considered as so secure, so independent, and so perfect, as that, while he needs nothing from the hands of his creatures to increase or insure it, he also may be justly regarded as claiming nothing from them, with respect to this subject. His perfections, at the same time, are so manifest, and so absolute, as to fill the mind with reverence and amazement, and engross all its attention and thoughts. In this manner, probably, the regard of mankind, and even of wise and good men, has been so effectually drawn away from the consideration of the happiness of God to the consideration of his excellence, that they seem chiefly to have forgotten the former of these objects, and have been almost wholly occupied by the latter. At the same time, it cannot be denied, that to delight in the excellence of God is a duty more obvious to the mind, than to delight in his happiness. A little reflection will, however, convince us, and I hope it has already been clearly shown, that it is not a more indispensable duty. It is plainly not our original duty. It is plainly not Virtue, or Moral Excellence, in the original sense. This is, unquestionably, the love of happiness. Complacency is the love of this Virtue, or moral excellence. But that excellence must exist, before it can be loved. The contrary supposition is a palpable absurdity; to which all those reduce themselves, who insist that Complacency is original virtue.
3dly. The Love of God is Gratitude.
Gratitude is love to God for the particular manifestations of his glorious character in his various kindness to us, and to ours. We, and perhaps all other Intelligent beings, are so formed, as to be able more clearly to see, and more strongly to feel, blessings, im