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real nature of things, will be convinced that no external good can constitute the proper happiness of a being such as man. Born for immortality, and endowed with an intellectual and moral nature, his true felicity must certainly be sought in those things which are permanent as himself; in whatever may furnish a fit and noble employment for his faculties, or awaken his feelings to emotions of generosity and affection. Thanks be to God, this world, with all its imperfections, supplies abundantly occasions for both. But God is himself the highest object to which the soul in all its powers can be directed. None ever trusted in him, without increasing in spiritual strength. None ever trusted in him, without discovering more and more of the plans of his providence, and of the depth of his untsearchable wisdom.
None ever trusted in him, without tasting largely of his bounty: To trust in God, in its more advanced state, is to have the image of his perfections ever before us; to live in his continual presence, encircled, as it were, by the visible forms of his majesty and goodness. What words can adequately pourtray the dignity of such a condition; the tranquillity it communicates, the courage it inspires, the joy, and gratitude, and holy affections it breathes through the soul! “Oh! taste and see how gracious the Lord is; blessed is the man that trusteth in bim.”
ON THE LOVE OF GOD.
If the concurring experience of all ages has established any fact respecting our common nature more certainly than another, perhaps it is this, that when we desire to induce men to make considerable efforts for the attainment of an object, it is wise to engage their feelings as well as to convince their judgment. The principle is so familiar to us, that a writer would be thought to trifle with our understandings, who should employ any elaborate reasoning to establish or enforce it. Yet it is most certain that a truth, universally received and acted upon in all the common affairs of life, has been beheld with suspicion, and even absolutely rejected by many, when applied to our religious concerns; and the only object of pursuit which can worthily engross all the thoughts and desires and energies of an immortal being, it is imagined may be best secured by suspending the most active principle of his nature.
Indeed it is exceedingly remarkable how different is the wisdom of man and the wisdom of his Creator. God has told us that we are fallen, depraved, unworthy beings; and has made the knowledge and confession of this truth the very basis of true religion. But men say, To persuade people that they are wicked is the sure way to make them
become so: teach them first to respect themselves, and they will soon feel a pride in being truly respectable. Christ has said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength; this is the first and great commandment.” Men call the religious exercise of the affections enthusiasm and mysticism; and contend strenuously, that it becomes us to offer to our Maker a reasonable service.
Here, indeed, we are at last agreed. We, too, are desirous to offer to our Maker a reasonable service; a service such as his perfections call for, and the nature which he has given us may fitly render. Is it not, then, in the highest degree reasonable to admire and adore Him who is unspeakably excellent;-to overflow with gratitude to Him who has given us life and all its enjoyments; who has blessed us in prosperity, and comforts us in sorrow; who has abounded continually towards us in all long-suffering and goodness;--to love Him with our whole hearts, who loved us when we were enemies, and has redeemed us to himself, even by the blood of his dear Son? If it be reasonable to experience the most unmerited mercies without being affected by them; to receive blessings innumerable without a single emotion of thankfulness; and to contemplate perfect goodness with as much indifference as if it were an abstract theorem; then, indeed, the service of the affections is irrational. But if our very instincts tell us, that such a supposition is absurd and abominable; if the basest nature can scarcely endure, and the noblest abhors it; we have little reason to fear, that in yielding the whole heart to God we can be justly chargeable with weakness or folly: for how can He attract towards himself any of our affections, without commanding
them all; or with the least colour of equity possess the faintest influence upon our hearts, without reigning tria umphant in them?
It is a noble saying of Cicero, in the person of one of his philosophical disputants *; Pietas est justitia erga Deos; * Piety is justice towards God.” If our moral obligations grow out of the condition in which we are placed, surely it is abundantly manifest, that to the highest relation must belong the highest duties; that He who has given us every thing we possess, must be entitled to whatever return He will deem acceptable. Those then are greatly in error who think that usefulness and benevolence towards our fellow creatures form the sum of morality ; unless they can prové, what no man certainly is able to prove, that these constitute the only service which can worthily be rendered to our Creator; and I have always thought the modern theory of expediency chiefly objectionable, because it presents the system of social relations so continually, and (to every practical purpose) so exclusively, to our attention, that they occupy the whole sphere of vision. In the darkness of Paganism, indeed, it might be possible to doubt whether a being so sinful and unworthy as man, should presume to approach his Maker with the incense of gratitude and love. But God has himself dispersed that night of shame and bondage. He has called us of his free mercy to the adoption of children in Christ Jesus. What the wisest and best of the heathen world saw darkly and hoped faintly, He has fully revealed and distinctly commanded. He invites, He requires us to love him; and this blessed precept, though in the form of an injunction, is, in truth, at once the surest pledge of his reconciliation, the most powerful inducement to holiness, and the consummation of all felicity.
* De Naturâ Deorum.
The love of God, whatever difficulties may sometimes have been raised respecting it, is surely to an honest heart exceedingly easy of comprehension. It is a natural affection in its highest exercise, and directed towards its noblest object. The human soul is capable indeed of entertaining many sacred feelings. We reverence the majesty of God; we admire his perfections; we are grateful for his mercies; we have confidence in his goodness. These all are doubtless excellent, and highly acceptable to our Maker. But love is yet more elevated and more perfect. Every other religious sentiment seems but to prepare and lead us up to this. Every other religious sentiment is comprehended in it. It is, therefore, with great justness that the Apostle pronounces love to be “the fulfilling of the law.” In its exercise towards God, it embraces every devout affection; as, in exercise towards man, it fills the circle of the social duties.
The love which we owe to our Redeemer, seems (so far as it is possible for us to have accurate notions on such a subject), to be exactly the same with the love which we owe to God. It is difficult even to separate the idea, though the adorable Persons to whom it is directed are, for purposes the most wise and gracious, presented to us separately in Holy Writ. Whatever is true of either is true of both. The work of redemption was the work of God in Christ; and Christ is “over all, God blessed for ever." The identity which the Scriptures attribute to God and Christ, both in perfection of nature and the exercise of goodness towards us, is so complete, that the