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love which that perfection and goodness awaken seens, in like manner, scarcely capable of division. So that we seem to be justified in saying, that we must love God with all our hearts, and Christ with all our hearts; that we must love God above all things, and Christ above all things. The metaphysical embarrassment, indeed, is great, but there is no practical difficulty. However, though it seemed needful to touch upon this point, it becomes us all to think and speak upon it with a modesty suitable to the dignity of the subject and our exceeding weakness.
Love is one of the simple affections of our nature; and, as such, necessarily incapable of definition. But God, who knows our blindness, and how ready we are to deceive ourselves, even where the deception leads directly to our ruin, has most wisely provided that the truth of those feelings, which we profess to cherish towards him, shall be realised by the evidence of our actions.
“ He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." "If a man love me, he will keep my words.” “He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings.” These, and similar declarations, are nothing more than authoritative assertions of a fact in itself most incontestible, and constantly assumed in our intercourse with each other. Who does not smile at professions of friendship which evaporate in empty words? Who does not know instinctively, that it is in the nature of a strong affection to take possession of the man, and be visible in the general tenor of his actions? Would any one think it necessary to believe the most solemn asseverations of attachment which should lead to no practical consequences ? God has established exactly the same test of our devotion to him, which we all habitually apply towards each other. And most wisely and graciously is it established; for if the love of him be necessary to our happiness, have we not great reason to be thankful, that the criteria of its reality which He has chosen are such, that even the blindness and carelessness of man can scarcely mistake them? But though the love of God, wherever it exists, will unquestionably be visible in the fruits of holiness, these fruits, it must be remembered, are only its attendants. Thoughts and ac, tions are proofs of our existence, but they are not existence. And this distinction, though it may seem abstract, is of great practical importance; for man is so little disposed to love a being of perfect purity, that there is a strong disposition in our nature, to evade the first and great commandment, under the notion of complying with it by general obedience. It is not necessary to investigate this error.
God has called upon us to love him. He demands our hearts, without reserve, without equivocation. It is at our peril if we refuse. And oh! what insanity is it to endeavour to escape, by the subtleties of a false casuistry, from that blessed precept which bears with it our highest glory and happiness !
The evidence of love is in all the fruits of holiness. Yet there seems to be one quality or temper of mind, which is pointed out, both by the language of the Scriptures, and by the constitution of things, as more peculiarly and inseparably attached to it,--spiritual-mindedness; a sister grace of the same blessed family, and hastening to her everlasting home. Set
affection on things above;"_" for where your treasure is,” said our heavenly Master, “there will your heart be also.” “Our conversation is in heaven," said the Apostle, “from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus.” The same truth is plainly and awfully implied in the following passages: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “No man can serve two masters; ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” The love of God, where it is sincere, carries the mind above the little vanities of this world. It familiarises the soul with objects so noble, it infuses into it desires so elevated, it fills it with pleasures so pure and heavenly, that it is impossible to be detained any longer with the poor importunate cares and wishes that occasion so continual a bustle among mankind; or to regard, without a sort of contempt mingled with compassion, that childish eagerness with which wealth and honours, and all the gilded baubles of this life are pursued by so many. Wherever these things, and such as these are in high estimation, we may be quite certain " the love of the Father” is not. The lamps which cheered our darkness fade at the approach of the rising sun.
The pursuits which delighted our ignorance, are understood and despised when we attain to “the knowledge of the glory of God in the faith of Jesus Christ.”
I cannot but observe here, and it can scarcely be considered as a digression from the subject, how wisely it has been ordained of God, that actions, rather than sentiments, shall be the proofs of our allegiance to him. Whoever is at all acquainted with the speculations of philosophical writers respecting the will, must be aware that no man can with propriety be said to desire or will any thing, which lies within the reach of his own powers, unless he so prefers that he really endeavours to obtain it. For the will is governed by motives; and if a man says, he de sires to do one thing, while he actually does another, it is plain that he speaks inaccurately: his preferring the second is a proof that he does not, in any strictness of expression, desire the first. If a man says, his earnest desire is to be virtuous, while he continues to live on in sin, it is plain he deceives himself; for (through God's assistance, freely offered to all), he might be virtuous if he would, that is, if he really desired so to be: and the truth is, he does not desire it; though, if he could be virtuous, and still continue to enjoy the pleasures of sin, he probably would desire it. Yet we hear men talk of a thousand wishes, which they think real, though, in truth, they exist only in their imaginations; and there can be no doubt that many bad men take great comfort to themselves from their supposed desires to be good. Now God, who knows what is in man, could not but know (I speak with reverence), that if the sentiments and dispositions of the heart were made the test of holiness, men would deceive themselves respecting these, just as we find they do respecting their wishes; that they would fancy they loved God, while they really loved the world; and imagine they loved their fellow-creatures, while they really loved themselves. For contrary affections are just as incompatible, and, in strictness of language, as absurd, as contrary desires. God, therefore, has declared, that actions shall be the test of our sentiments, exactly as they are of our wishes. And this is the more observable, because the dispositions of the heart, and not external actions, evidently furnish the qualifications for heaven and happiness; so that it might have been supposed, (with apparent reason), that a revelation from God would enjoin only the attainment of certain tempers of mind, as the proper conditions of our acceptance. We see, however, that a different test-has been
established; and surely it is no mean proof of the truth of Christianity, that the most accurate researches into the constitution of man enable us to verify its wisdom.
The commands of God will always be found to be perfective of the nature which He has given us, not contradictory to it. Having enjoined us to love him, we may be well persuaded that he has revealed himself to us in a manner fitted to awaken that affection. The sources, indeed, from which it flows, are of the same kind when directed towards God, as we feel them to be when exercised towards any of our fellow-creatures ;-the knowledge of his goodness, and our own personal experience of it.
That moral excellence is the proper object of love has not been denied, I believe, by any writer; and I suppose it is not necessary to establish, by argument, a fact which never has been disputed.
But there have not been wanting writers, justly celebrated for wisdom and piety, who insist that the only proper and worthy source of love to our Maker, is to be found in a knowledge of his perfections. This opinion, when accurately examined, is not so entirely indefensible as at first it appears to be; for the sense which we have of the goodness of God towards us nay, perhaps, without any great impropriety, be said to awaken our love to him chiefly by giving us a more near and lively view of his perfections. I confess, however, that the distinction has always seemed to me far too refined to be of any practical value; and even, unless very cautiously received, to be opposed to the general language of Scripture. When St. John says, “We love him because He first loved us," can the sense of the Apostle be reasonably doubted? Surely in this place the most obvious meaning is the right one.