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It is by the exercise of these affections that the truly pious man shews that his delight is supremely in God. He is the object of his highest esteem and veneration; whom he regards with the love which a dutiful child feels to his parent, while he earnestly seeks his favour as constituting his happiness. It is this which forms his consolation and hope in adversity and in prosperity,—the possession of it gives him peace in necessities and distresses, and the want of it cannot be made up by earthly abundance. When we obtain what we chiefly love, we are satisfied even though other sources of comfort should be withdrawn : and when He who is all perfection, and who claims the heart as his abode, is enthroned in its desires and affections, the glowing language of revelation is not too strong to express all that we feel towards him. “ Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee?" We value whatever relates to him, or recalls him to our remembrance; and even the place where he condescends to be worshipped becomes sacred and endeared to us from its being associated with his presence.
In proportion as we esteem or love any one, will be the uneasiness felt by his displeasure, or even by the suspicion that we may have forfeited his regard. It is thus that the man of true piety feels in relation to God, whose favour is life, and whose loving-kindness is better than life. The apprehension of having done what has offended him, and what may have provoked
, him to withdraw the light of his countenance, gives him pain; and when he finds himself in darkness, deprived of his wonted firmness in adversity,cheerfulness
in obedience, and consolation in devotion, is it not natural for him to breathe his desires in the language in which holy men of old expressed similar emotions ? “How long, Lord, wilt thou hide thy face! Hide not thy face from thy servant, for I am in trouble ; turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.” Love, as has been remarked, will render such a condition very sad and uneasy to us, will make all other delights insipid and distasteful, all our life will become bitter and burdensome to us; neither, if this love abide in us, shall we regain our happiness of mind, till we obtain some glimpse of God's favour, some hope of being reinstated in our possession of him.
It is the peculiar characteristic of kindly affection, that it prompts us to seek the happiness of its object; and our desire to attain thiş end is in proportion to the strength of our affection, We cannot, it is true, add to the greatness, the honour, or the happiness of the mighty God, who gives us life and breath and all things. The essential glories and attributes of his nature cannot be affected by the virtues or vices of his creatures. Our goodness cannot extend to him, who is in himself perfect, and who is the fountain of all goodness. But there are interests in the world which he connects with himself, and which are peculiarly his own: he speaks concerning these as if he were delighted with their prosperity, and grieved by the conduct of those who oppose them. The virtue and happiness of his intelligent creatures are the object of his care; the dispensations of providence are ordered so as to advance them; and those who give to him the
supreme affection which he claims, set their hearts on the promotion of the same ends, and thus become workers together with God. All that bears the impress of his authority, they revere; all who are invested with his moral image they esteem and regard; and in doing good unto all men, as they have opportunity, they shew that they are the children of their Father, who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Thus do they shew their good will and gratitude towards God.
It is scarcely necessary to observe that we are bound, by the light of nature, to love God supremely. If it be our duty to love God, it is obviously our duty to love him above every other object; to love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. The same reasons which render it incumbent on us to cherish towards him the best and the purest affections of our nature, render it a duty to give him in every case the preference. If true morality requires that we should have some regard, some benevolent affection to our Creator, as well as to his creatures, then, it must require that the chief regard should be paid to him, that our veneration and esteem for the excellences of the creature should be inferior to our veneration and esteem for the perfections of the Creator ;—that we should pursue his favour with far greater earnestness and perseverance than the applause of men,--that the clear annunciations of his will should be obeyed, (whether they lead to self-denial or to suffering) before the most approved maxims of the world; and that when his authority comes in competition with any
other authority, we hesitate not to give to that of God our immediate and decided obedience. All this is as obvious from the light of reason as any principle of morality can be ;-for it is not more manifest that a being of infinite perfection and goodness is to be loved, than that he is to be loved with the whole heart, that every other being is to be loved and obeyed in subordination to him, -and that every interest and pursuit are to subserve his glory. The first of all the commandments, said the great Teacher from heaven, is, “ Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord : and 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.”
This is the standard of naťure and reason: and yet, how few, even in christian lands can bear to be tried by this rule? Their tastes are cultivated, and their opinions and habits are formed, and their schemes devised and pursued, as if there were no God, and no divine authority to consult. They live without any internal religion, and, if we except a few easy and customary forms, cannot say of themselves, that they have done one action which they would not have done, if there were no God; or, that they have ever sacrificed any passion, any present enjoyment, any inclination of their minds to the restraints and prohibitions of religion ; “ with whom indeed, religious motives have not weighed a feather in the scale against interest or pleasure.” What effort do they make to render their enjoyments and pursuits acceptable to the Holy and Mighty Being, from whose presence they cannot flee? Have they not lived and
acted as if there existed no obligation to conform themselves to the will of God; and as if the thought of consulting his will in their pleasures and employ. ments were obtrusive.
ON THE LOVE OF GOD,
Love to God, and to the creatures which he has formed in his image, is the fulfilling of the law, inasmuch as it is the principle on which all its enactments are founded, and is essential to the right discharge of every duty. Love to God is at the foundation of all vital religion, and of all true virtue and morality; and hence the reply of our Lord to the inquiry, Which is the first commandment of all! The first of all the commandments is, “ Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord; and 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:” this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself
. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets *.”
The love which we owe to God is the same in nature with that which we owe to all created intelligent beings. In the one case, the object is a Being of infinite perfection, and boundless in the moral ex. cellences of his nature; who is besides our Creator, preserver, and benefactor, from whom we receive life,
* Mark xii. 29-31. Math. xxii. 36-40.