Sidor som bilder

S. That to love God with all the heart, soul and mind, is to love Him to the full extent of our natural capacity. Whatever may be the distinction, which our Lord designed to make, between the heart, the soul, and the mind, we may justly conclude, that, by these terms, He meant to comprehend no less than all the natural powers and faculties of the human spirit. This conclusion is confirmed by the parallel passage, in Mark and Luke, where our Lord adds the word strength: "Thou thalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." To love God, as required in the first and great commandment, is to love Him as much as we can as much as we have natural power or capacity to love Him. This is to love God in proportion to what we are capable of knowing of his Divine perfections and amiable qualities. Knowledge is the proper capacity of love. He, who loves God as much as he is able to see of his excellency and perfection, loves him with all the heart, soul, mind and strength. It is but a small part of the greatness and moral excellence of the incomprehensible Jehovah, that the most intelligent of men are able to perceive. Some may know much more of God, than others: and hence there may be various degrees of love, among those, who keep the first commandment. But, all who love God, as He requires, love Him as much as they are able. The next enquiry is,

II. Why men ought to love God in the manner described: Or, in other words, what is the ground and reason of the duty required in the first commandment of the Law? 1. God is, in himself, supremely great and glorious. His greatness is unsearchable. All created beings, in comparison with Him, are


as a drop of the bucket, or the small dust of the balance.' Hence, if He is worthy of any love, He is worthy of supreme love. But, God is as good, as He is great. In Him, is light, and no darkness at all: He is good, and doeth good." He is perfectly and ineffably holy and good, and lovely, in all his works, ways and designs. Thus God is worthy, in himself, to be loved with all the heart, soul and mind.

2. Mankind are made capable of seeing the superlative beauty and loveliness of their Creator. They are intelligent creatures, able to perceive the evidence of the Divine being, perfection and character, exhibited in his works, and in his word.

Mankind are, also, moral agents, endued with a faculty, which enables them to distinguish between right and wrong, and to discern what is good and excellent in moral character. If men, therefore, do not know God, it must be, because they do not like to retain Him in their knowledge.'


Since God is infinitely great and amiable, and men are capable of seeing Him to be so; it follows,

3. That they are under moral obligation to love Him with all the heart, soul and mind. Knowledge, as has been observed, is the capacity of love. Men are able to love any object, whose qualities they are capable of perceiving. And, as soon as they do perceive the properties of any amiable moral object, their moral discernment lays them under immediate obligation to love it. As men, therefore, are capable of knowing what a great and amiable being God is; so they are bound to love Him, with all the heart, soul and mind. They are just as well able to love the Divine character, as to hate it: they are just as well able to love God supremely, as to love themselves so. Accordingly, the apos

tle represents the very Heathen, I require more of men, than their

as inexcusable, because, that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God." Hence,

4. It is reasonable and right, that God should require mankind to love Him with all the heart, soul, and mind. As He is the Creator and Preserver of men; so He is their rightful Moral Governour. It is fit and proper, that all mankind, as well as all other rational creatures, should be under law to God.' It is right for him to require men to do, whatever is fit and good in itself, and He has made them capable of doing.Hence it is right for God to require men to love Himself with a disinterested and supreme affection. If He required less, He would wrong Himself, and excuse them from their most reasonable service. The first and great commandment in the Divine law, is founded in the reason, fitness and relation of things, and, like all the rest, is holy, and just, and good." It remains to enquire,

III. How such love, as is required of men in the first commandment, comprehends their whole duty to their Maker.

That it does so, is implied in the words of Christ, in the text: how it does so, may be easily shown. For,

1. Such love to God, as has been described, fulfills the Law, so far as respects their duty to Him. The apostle says, that "love is the fulfilling of the law." All, that the Law requires of men towards God, is comprehended in the first commandment. Those, therefore, who love God with all the heart, soul and mind, fulfill the Law, so far as respects their duty to their Maker. But the Divine law requires of men their whole duty; otherwise it would be imperfect. It would be as real an imperfection in the Law, to require less, as to

duty. As, therefore, the love described, fulfills the demand of the Divine law, it, of course, comprehends the whole duty, which men owe to God.

2. All the obedience, which men can render to any of the positive precepts and prohibitions of the scriptures, respecting God, is comprehended in disinterested, supreme love. As true love to God ever disposes men to do all He has commanded, and refrain from whatever He has forbidden; so, when they do the one, or refrain from the other, their obedience essentially consists in their love. Love comprehends all the voluntary, holy exercises of men. In these, and these only, are they active in the performance of duty. The external action, as it is sometimes called, is mere motion, the effect of that love, which is free and voluntary, and in which all holy action consists. When men obey the positive precepts or prohibitions of the word of God, all that is of a moral nature, all that is praiseworthy, in their obedience, is comprehended in that love, which is required by the first and great commandment in the Law, viz. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.


1. No one can love God with less than all the heart. Those, who have any love to God, love Him for what He is in himself: and those, who thus love him disinterestedly, always love Him in proportion to what they know of his greatness and goodness. Their love is supreme. They are willing, that the interest of any creature, or of any number of creatures, should be given up, when necessary to the glory and blessedness of God. Those, who do not thus love God, love the creature, more

than the Creator; which is idolatry, and real enmity against God. There can be no true, real love to God, but perfect love.

[ocr errors]

ulties to his service: • Whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, they will do all to the glory of God.' Mankind are under the same obligation to serve God with all their strength, as to love Him with all the heart.

5. No one can obey the Gospel, without fulfilling the Law. True, disinterested, supreme love to God, for the time being, fulfills the first commandment in the Law. But such love is ever implied in obe

2. Neither saints, nor sinners, have ever any good excuse, for not loving God as He requires, in the first commandment. It is a reasonable command, corresponding with the character of God, and the capacity of men. No one may ever plead inability for not obeying this command; for it requires no more than all the heart, soul,dience to the Gospel. So long as and mind. Disobedience to a command so reasonable, can arise only from sinful, selfish feelings; or, more properly, consists in these; for 66 sin is the transgression of the law." But, there can be no good excuse for sin; otherwise, sin is not sin. Whenever men fail of perfect obedience to the first and great commandment, God views them as guilty of idolatry, and deserving of his wrath.

men are selfish in their affections, and prefer their own interest to the Divine glory, they neither repent of sin, nor believe in Christ, nor become reconciled to God, nor do any thing which the Gospel requires, or to which it annexes a promise of salvation. The Gospel does not make void, but establishes the Law. The Gospel offers pardon to transgressors, through the atonement of the Lord Jesus 3. No one can, by present obe- Christ; but it is only on condition, dience to the first commandment, that they turn from their transmake any satisfaction for past dis-gressions, and give God the suobedience. As no one can, at any preme affection of their hearts, as time, love God with more than all his holy Law requires. It was the heart, soul and mind; so this morally impossible, that God should is the constant duty and reasona- offer salvation to men, upon lower ble service of all mankind. But, terms. how can men ever make satisfaction for past offences, by doing what is, at present, simply their duty, and for the neglect of which, they would deserve punishment?

4. Mankind ought constantly to serve God with all their might. This is no more than the natural fruit and effect of loving Him with all the heart, soul and mind.Those, who love God thus, cannot but desire to devote all their time, all their powers, and all their fac


[ocr errors]


Should He receive persevering transgressors to his favour, He would dishonour his Law, sully his own Character, and make his Son the minister of sin. It is a truth, never to be forgotten, that 'without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.' Wherefore, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Amen.

a prominent question in theological enquiry, both among Christian and heathen nations. This question has employed the pens of some of "Whence cometh evil?" has been the most distinguished polemical


writers, ever since the sixteenth century; and is still far from being settled in the opinions of philosophers and divines A variety of opinions have prevailed, at different periods of the world, on the subject; most of which have been attended with difficulty, if not with absurdity. The ancient Persians, who had made this a subject of enquiry, supposed there were two Gods, equal in power, one of whom was a good being, and the cause of all the good in the universe; and the other a malevolent being, and the cause of all the evil. Even among Christian nations, where but one God is professed to be worshipped, there is a diversity of opinions on this subject. Some profess to believe, that Satan and the other fallen spirits are the cause of moral evil; and others have asserted that it is caused by the power of motives. Another class believe, that it has no cause out of the mind. But all these theories are attended with difficulty, and have led those, who have attempted to defend them, into manifest absurdity. But, by Isaiah, we are informed, that the church in his day were of a different opinion. The following is recorded by the pen of inspiration, as the prayer of the church in a time of declension and backsliding: O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?" It is evident from these words, and from other passages of scripture, that it was a common sentiment of the church of God, when under the immediate eye and preaching of the inspired prophets, that It is God who makes mankind to err from his ways. In pursuing this subject, it is proposed to explain this proposition, and prove that the church were not in a mistake in believing it, and also show some of the reasons, why God makes any to err from his ways. By way

of explanation, it is important to observe, that there is no necessity for supposing, nor is there any reason to believe, that God is the actor of wickedness. Many suppose, that if God should make any person to err from the right way, He must necessarily be wicked himself. This false reasoning probably led the Persians to the conclusion, that there were two Gods; and has led others into errours, equally absurd. Since this false conclusion has blinded the minds of so many on this subject, it is important to point out its fallacy, which lies, either in supposing that God always takes delight in every thing he causes to exist, simply considered; or that a cause must necessarily be of the same nature with the effect. But both of these suppositions are contrary to acknowledged fact; and so the argument falls to the ground.That God is the cause of natural evil, and takes no delight in the infliction of it, will be acknowledged by all Christian nations; nor is it supposed by any, that God has any of the properties of natural evil within himself. This establishes a principle, from which it is evident, that God may also cause moral evil, without being a sinner himself, or without taking delight in it, simply considered. It is true, there is a natural possibility of God's being a sinner, but there is no moral possibility of it. It is unscriptural to suppose, that God sins himself, in making others to err from his ways. It is said in scripture, "He is the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." Nor have we any reason to believe, that in making his creatures to err from his ways, God ever tempts any to sin. A tempter is one, who takes sides with the sinner, and uses improper motives to excite him to do wickedly. But

this would be derogatory to the who made them to err from his Divine character. God cannot ways. This will appear evident, be tempted with evil, neither if we only consider, that creatures tempteth He any man." Neither is are necessarily dependant on God it reasonable to believe, that God for all they do. Not that we makes any to err from his ways are sufficient of ourselves," says against their will. This supposi- the apostle," to think any thing tion is absurd; and carries its own as of ourselves, but our sufficiency refutation with it. All sin is vol- is of God." If we are not suffiuntary. It is impossible for any cient to think any thing of ourperson to sin against his will. A selves, then we are insufficient to person might indeed be compelled exercise a sinful volition without to do an overt act against his will, God. Many admit, that we are that would be injurious; but it dependant on God for breath and would be no more sinful, than the health and subsistence, but deny blowing of destructive winds. No that we are dependant on God for person blames another for being our actions. But, if we are not compelled to perform actions a- dependant on God for our actions, gainst his will. It is just as impos- it would be impossible for God to sible for God, as it is for man, to controul us, or to foreknow how make any creature sin involuntari- we shall act in future. But God ly. But, by God's making men to not only foreknows how we shall err from his ways, we are to under- act in future, but it is also true, stand, that He turns their heart to that in Him we live and move, and do wickedly; or, to vary the ex- have our being. That the ancient pression, that he moves the will to church were correct in believing choose that which is sinful. This, that it is God who makes us to err indeed, is beyond the power of from his ways, is farther evident man. No creature can turn the from the fact, that every action in heart of another to good or evil. a creature is an effect, and must But it does not follow from this, have an independent cause. Α that God cannot. The same Al- cause is something which operates mighty Being, that formed the in order to produce an effect. It will, has power to move it at his is impossible for the mind to cause pleasure. God has power to cause its own actions; for a cause is necone to walk in the road to life and essarily active, and every action in another to choose to walk in the a creature is an effect. There road to death. He has power to must, therefore, be a cause withcause some to "walk in his stat- out the mind. Indeed, we are conutes," and others" to err from scious, that we do not put forth a his ways." It is strange, that any, causing act, while we are acting, who have read the scriptures and which is the cause of our acts of acknowledge their Divine inspira- will. But if we did, it would not tion, should ever have been led remove the difficulty; for the causeither to deny the existence of this ing act would also be an effect, power, or that it is exercised in which must have a cause too; causing both moral good and moral which, on that supposition, would evil. But, since it is so frequent-run it back into absurdity. ly denied, especially in the production of moral evil, it is necessary to proceed to prove, that the ancient church were not in a mistake in believing that it was God

If we

suppose that Satan or some other being is the cause of sinful volitions, it will be attended with the same difficulty; for he also is a dependent being. There must,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »