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LOVE TO GOD.
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. 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 All Intelligent creatures, posmanner to all Intelligent creatures. sessed 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 VOL. III.
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 Happiness 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. Accord ingly, 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 required in his Law. The happiness of God has usually been consid ered 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. and perhaps all other Intelligent beings, are so formed, as to be able more clearly to see, and more strongly to feel, blessings, im
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ately bestowed on ourselves, and on those intimately connectth us, whose characters and wants, whose sorrows and joys, culiarly understand, and feel, than those bestowed on others. feel, universally, what is ours, and what pertains to our conns, more, other things being equal, than what pertains to whose interests we less understand, and in whose concerns Fe less in the habit of mingling; so we feel, of course, more y the blessings, which we and they receive; the deliverances, Lopes, comforts, joys; than we do, or can, those of others. Our near connexions are our second selves; and there is sometimes as little difference, and sometimes even less, between us and them in our views and feelings, than between them and others. Nay, there are cases, in which we feel the interests of our connexions no less than our own. A parent would often willingly suffer the distresses of a child, in order to accomplish relief for him; and often rejoices more in his prosperity, than if it were his own.
There is, perhaps, no solid reason in the nature of things, why God should be loved more for the manifestation of goodness towards one being, than for the same manifestation towards another. Still, with our present dispositions, those acts of his benevolence. which respect ourselves, will always, perhaps, appear more amiable than those which respect others.
Gratitude, therefore, or Love to God for the communications of blessings to ourselves, and to those in whose well-being we find a direct and peculiar interest, is an affection of the mind, in some respects distinct from Complacency; an affection, which must, and ought to exist in this world. As we can love God more for blessings thus bestowed, than for those bestowed on others; so we ought to seize every occasion' to exercise this love, to the utmost of our power: and such occasions enable us to exercise it in a superior degree.
LOVE TO GOD.
Possibly, in a future world, and a higher state of existence, all the blessings of God, communicated to rational beings, may affect us, as if communicated to ourselves; and our Complacency in his character may universally become possessed of the whole intenseness and ardour of Gratitude.
Gratitude, considered as a virtue, it is always to be remembered, is Love, excited by kindness communicated, or believed to be communicated, with virtuous and good designs, and from good motives; not for kindness, bestowed for base and selfish ends. In every case of this nature, the kindness, professed, is merely pretended, and hypocritical. The bestower terminates all his views in his own advantage; and has no ultimate regard to the benefit of the re
The kindness of God is invariably communicated with the best. of all designs, and motives; designs and motives infinitely good; and is, therefore, a display of a character infinitely excellent. Hence it is always to be regarded with Gratitude. The good be
pleaded by no man; that there is such a thing, or that there can be such a thing, as a transgression of the law, which is not sinful. Why are not the transgressions of Christians sinful? Is it because they are holy beings? Adam was perfectly holy yet one transgression of his ruined the world. Angels were perfectly holy, in a state, far superior to that of Adam: yet one transgression of theirs turned them out of heaven! Is it because Christians are redeemed? The mercy of God, displayed in their redemption, only increases their obligation to obey, and therefore enhances every transgression. Is it because God has promised, that they shall persevere, and that they shall be saved? This promise is an exercise of divine Mercy; has exactly the same influence; and, in the case supposed, can produce no other effect. Why then, are the transgressions of Christians not sinful? To this question they will in vain search for an answer.
Why is the law no longer a rule of righteousness to Christians? Is it because they are no longer under its condemning sentence? For this very reason they are under increased obligations to obey its precepts. Is it because they are placed under a better rule, or a worse one? A better rule cannot exist: a worse, God would not prescribe. Are not Christians required to glorify God? Are they not bound to promote the happiness of each other, and their fellow-men? Are they not required to conform to the dictates of infinite Wisdom and Goodness; to sustain the best Moral Character; and to fulfil the true End of their being? To love God with all the heart, and their neighbour as themselves, is to do all these things, in the manner most pleasing, and in the only manner which is pleasing, to God.
To remove a Christian from the obligation, which he is under to obey the law of God, is to remove him from all obligation to perform any part of his duty, as a rational being to God, or to his fellow-creatures for every part of this duty is required by the divine law. In other words, it is to discharge him from all obligation to be virtuous. What end must we then suppose Christians are intended to answer, while they continue in the world? Certainly, none worthy of God; none worthy of the mediation of Christ; none worthy of the Christian character.
Antinomians forget, that he who is born of God, loveth God, and knoweth God; that he, who loveth not, knoweth not God; and that this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. They forget, that Christ died to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
4thly. We are here furnished with one interesting proof of the Divine Revelation of the Scriptures.
It is perfectly obvious to all who hear me, that a book, professing to be a Revelation, must, whether false or true, depend in a great measure on its own internal character for evidence of its divine origin. The things, which it contains, must be such, as be
come the character of God. Many of them may be mysterious, and inexplicable; because the nature of the subjects may be such, as to transcend the human comprehension, or lie beyond the reach of human investigation. There are subjects, also, of which it may be necessary to know a part; and that part, though sufficiently disclosed, if considered by itself only, may yet be connected with others, whose existence it will indicate, but whose nature it will not at all disclose. When subjects of this kind are presented to us, we may, if we are disposed to inquire into them extensively, be easily perplexed, and easily lost.
But whatever is revealed must consist with the character of God; or it cannot be admitted as a Revelation. Some things also, contained in a real Revelation, must be plainly worthy of their Author, and not, merely, not unworthy; must be honourable to his character; superior to the discoveries of the human mind; and such, as cannot be reasonably believed to have been the inventions of
Perfectly correspondent with all these remarks is the Law, under contemplation. This truth will advantageously appear by a comparison of it with the most perfect human laws. I shall select for this purpose those of Great Britain.
The statute laws of that kingdom are contained, if I mistake not, in about eighteen or twenty folio, or about fifty octavo, volumes. The common, or as it is sometimes styled the unwritten law, occupies a number of volumes far greater. To understand them is a work of deep science; the employment of the first human talents; and the labour of a life. The great.body of them can never be known by the generality of men; and must, therefore, be very imperfect rules of their conduct.
In the mean time, multitudes of cases are continually occurring, which they do not reach at all. Those, which they actually reach, they affect in many instances injuriously; and in many more, imperfectly. The system of happiness, which they propose, is extremely defective; a bare state of tolerable convenience; and even that, attended with many abatements. They also extend their influence only to a speck of earth, and a moment of time. Yet these laws were devised, reviewed, and amended, by persons of the first human consideration for learning and wisdom.
The Law, which we have been examining, is comprised in two commands only: is so short; so intelligible; so capable of being remembered, and applied, as to be perfectly fitted to the understanding, and use, of every Moral being. At the same time, it is so comprehensive, as to reach, perfectly, every possible moral action; to preclude every wrong, and to secure every right. It is equally fitted to men and angels, to earth and heaven. Its control extends with the same efficacy, and felicity, to all worlds, and to all periods. It governs the Universe; it reaches through Eternity. The system of happiness, proposed, and accomplished, by