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by a slight alteration in the phraseology, a Doctrine. For example, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, is easily altered into a mere Truth, only by changing the phraseology into " It is right, or it is thy duty, to love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart.” A cordial faith in this declaration is here, as with respect to every other precept, the spirit, whence is derived all genuine obedience.
Truth is commonly divided into that which is practical, and that which is speculative. But moral truth cannot, in the strict sense, be justly divided in this manner. Every moral truth is of a practical nature. Its influence, I acknowledge, is in some cases indirect; while in others it is direct. But it can never be truly denied, in any case, that its influence is really of this nature.
The observations, which I intend to make on the several subjects, included in the second great division of the system of theology, I propose to preface with a general account of the Divine Law. The doctrine, which I mean to discuss in this account, is that, which the text expresses in the very best terms, which can be chosen ; viz.
THE LAW OF JEHOVAH IS PERFECT.
1st. The Law of God is the result of his Infinite Wisdom and Goodness.
It cannot be supposed, that Infinite Wisdom and Goodness, would form a rule for the government of moral beings, which did not possess such attributes, as must render it a perfect directory of their moral conduct. It may easily be believed, that God may make moral beings, of many different classes : some of superior, and some of inferior, capacities: but it cannot be imagined, that he would not require of all such beings a character, and conduct, the best, of which they were naturally capable. Inferior wisdom and goodness might be unable to devise, or uninclined to require, the best conduct and character in moral creatures; or to point out the means, by which this character could be most easily and perfectly formed, or the conduct, in which it would most advantageously operate. But none of these things are attributable to infinite Wisdom and Goodness, thus employed. They, of course, must require the best character and conduct; must point out the best means of forming it, and the best modes in which it can operate. To suppose a law, which is the result of these attributes, not to be perfect, is to suppose, either that God did not know what would be the best character in his moral creatures, or did not choose to require it of them. Both parts of this alternative are too obviously absurd to need a refutation.
Further ; A law is always the expression of the will of the lawgiver ; and is, of course, an expression of his own character. This is pre-eminently applicable to the Law of God. In forming it, he was under no necessity, and could have no motive, beside
what is involved in his own pleasure, to induce him to form it in any given manner. The things, which it requires, are the things which he approves, and is seen to approve; the things, in which he delights, and is seen to delight; the things, therefore, which entirely show his real character. But the things, actually required, include all, which are due from his moral creatures to Him, to each other, and to themselves; or, in other words, all their internal and external moral conduct. But it cannot be supposed, that God would exhibit his own perfect character imperfectly, in a case of this magnitude. That, in a law, expressing thus his own character, and seen to express it; a law, from which they must of necessity learn his character more certainly, than from any thing else; a law, which regulated, and required, all the moral conduct ever required of them; he should not prescribe a perfect collection of rules ; a collection absolutely perfect; is a supposition, amounting to nothing less than this : that in exhibiting his character to the Intelligent Universe he would present it in a false light; and lead them by a solemn act of his own, necessarily, to consider him either as a weak, or as an immoral, being.
2dly. The Law of God is perfectly fitted to the State, and Capacity, of Intelligent Čreatures.
The divine Law is wholly included in two precepts: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and thy neighbour as thyself. These are so short, as to be necessarily included in a single
. very short sentence; so intelligible, as to be understood by every moral being, who is capable of comprehending the meaning of the words, God and Neighbour : so easily remembered, as to render it impossible for them to escape from our memory, unless by wanton, criminal negligence of ours: and so easily applicable to every case of moral action, as not to be mistaken, unless through indisposition to obey. At the same time, obedience to them is rendered perfectly obvious, and perfectly easy, to every mind, which is not indisposed to obey them. The very disposition itself, if sincere and entire, is either entire obedience, or the unfailing means of that external conduct, by which the obedience is, in some cases, completed. The disposition to obey, is also confined to a single affection of the heart, easily distinguishable from all other affections : viz. Love. Love, saith St. Paul, is the fulfilling of the Law. The humblest and most ignorant moral creatures, therefore, are in this manner efficaciously preserved from mistaking their duty.
In the mean time, these two precepts, notwithstanding their brevity, are so comprehensive, as to include every possible moral action. The Archangel is not raised above their control; nor can any action of his exceed that bound which they prescribe. The Child, who has passed the verge of moral agency, is not placed beneath their regulation; and whatever virtue he may exercise is no other than a fulfilment of their requisitions. All the duties, which we immediately owe to God, to our fellow-creatures, and to ourselves, are by these precepts alike comprehended, and required. In a word, endlessly various as moral action may be, it exists in no form, or instance, in which he who perfectly obeys these precepts, will not have done his duty, and will not find himself justified and accepted by God.
3dly. The Law of God requires the best possible Moral Character.
To require and accomplish this great object, an object in its importance literally immense, is supremely worthy of the wisdom and goodness of this glorious Being. To make his moral creatures virtuous is unquestionably the only method of rendering them really and extensively useful, and laying the only solid foundation for their enduring happiness. But all virtue is summed up in the fulfilment of these two Commands: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and thy neighbour as thyself. In doing this, every
individual becomes as amiable, excellent, dignified, and useful, as with his own capacity he can be. Should
Should he advance in his capacity through endless duration, all the good, which he will ever do; all the honour, which he will ever render to his Creator; all the excellence, amiableness, and dignity, which he will ever acquire;
will be nothing but obedience to these two commands. The beauty and glory of the Evangelical character; the rapturous flame which glows in the breast of a Seraph; the transcendent exaltation of an Archangel ; is completely included in loving God with all the heart, and his neighbour as himself. Nay, the infinite loveliness, the supreme glory, of the Godhead, is no other than this disposition, boundlessly exerted in the Uncreated Mind, and producing, in an unlimited extent, and an eternal succession, its proper and divine effects on the Intelligent Universe. God, saith Śt. John, is Love.
4thly. The Law of God proposes, and accomplishes, the best possible End.
The only ultimate good is Happiness : by which I intend Enjoyment; whether springing from the mind itself, or flowing into it from external sources. Perfect happiness is perfect good; or, in other words, includes whatever is desirable: and this is the good, which the divine law proposes, as its own proper and supreme End.
This end is with exact propriety divisible, and is customarily divided, into two great parts: the first usually termed the Glory of God: the second, the Happiness of the Intelligent Creation. The original, and essential, Glory of God
is his Ability, and Disposition, to accomplish perfect happiness. This is his inherent, unchangeable, and eternal perfection. But the glory of God, to which I refer, is what is often called his declarative glory; and is no other than this very perfection, manifested in his conduct, immediately by himself, and, mediately in their conduct, by the Intelligent Creation. In this sense, the glory of God is proposed, and accomplished, by his Law, when he prescribes to his Intelligent Creatures, and produces in them, a disposition to love Him with all the heart, und each other as themselves. This disposition is, beyond all estimation, the most lovely, the most excellent, the most glorious, work of the Creator's hands; incomparably the greatest proof of his sufficiency, and inclination, to effectuate perfect good; and, therefore, infinitely honourable to his character. In the exercise of this disposition, on their part, and in its genuine effects, they render to him also, voluntarily, and directly, all the honour, which can be rendered to the Infinite Mind by Intelligent Creatures.
At the same time, the divine Law is the source of perfect Happiness to them. Voluntary beings are the only original sources of happiness: and Virtue, which is nothing but this disposition, is, in them, the only productive cause of happiness. Under the influence of it, all beings, in whom it prevails, unite to do the utmost good in their power. The good, therefore, which is actually done by them, is the greatest good which can be derived from the efforts of Intelligent Creatures. As in this manner they become perfectly lovely, praiseworthy, and rewardable, in the sight of God; he can, with the utmost propriety, and therefore certainly will, reward
, them, by actually communicating to them the most exalted happiness, of which they are capable. The kingdom of glory in the heavens, with its endless and perfect Providential dispensations, will, to Saints and Angels, constitute this reward.
I have mentioned the Glory of God as the first great division of the perfect End, proposed by the divine law. The glory of God is that in which his happiness consists ; the object, infinitely enjoyed by the Infinite Mind; the Sufficiency for all good, not only existing, and enjoyed by contemplation, but operating, also, and enjoyed in its genuine and proper effects.
It ought to be observed, that there are no other possible means of accomplishing this illustrious end, beside this disposition. Intelligent beings are the only beings, by whom God can be thus glorified. They are the only beings who can understand, either his character or his works ; or perceive the glory, which he directly manifests in them. They are, also, the only beings who can render to him love, reverence, or obedience; and thus honour his character in such a manner, as this can be done by creatures. Without them the Universe, with all its furniture and splendour, would still be a solitude.
At the same time, Intelligent beings alone either produce, or enjoy, happiness in any great degree.
But there is no other disposition in such beings, besides this, which can voluntarily glorify God, or produce important and enduring happiness. It is hardly necessary for me to observe, that no obedience, and no regard whatever, rendered by rational creatures to God, can be of any value, or in any degree amiable, or VOL. III.
acceptable, except that which is voluntary; or that towards beings who did not love him, he could not exercise any Complacency. It is scarcely more necessary to observe, that beings, who did not voluntarily produce happiness, could neither enjoy it themselves, nor yield it to others. The seat of happiness is the mind; and the first, or original happiness, which it finds, is ever found in its own approbation of its conduct, and the delightful nature of its affections. But no mind can be self-approved, which does not first love God and its fellow-creatures; and no affections can be delightful, except those which spring from the same disposition. Its views of God, and its affections towards Him, its apprehensions of His complacency towards itself, and its enjoyment of his blessings ; constitute the second great division of its happiness. But no mind can have delightful views of God, or delightful affections towards him ; or be the object of his complacency; except that which loves him supremely. The third great division of this subject consists in the esteem, the love, and the kind offices, mutually interchanged by Rational beings. It is perfectly obvious, that these can never exist in any material degree, where the second command of this law is not cordially obeyed. But the mind, influenced by the love
which is the fulfilling of the law, is self-approved, approved by God, and approved by its fellow-creatures. All its affections, also, towards itself, its Creator, and the Intelligent Universe, are delightful. At the same time, all its actions are productive of glory to the Creator, and of good to his creation.
Thus the law of God, by laying hold on this single great principle, has directed the whole energy of the mind to the
production of the best of all ends, in the best possible manner.
REMARKS. From these observations it appears,
1st. That the Law of God is, and must of necessity be, Unchangeable and Eternal.
Our Saviour informs us, that heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot, or one tittle, of the Law shall fail. This declaration has, I presume, seemed extraordinary to every reader of the New Testament. To many it has, in all probability, appeared incredible. But, if I mistake not, these observations furnish us not only with ample evidence of its truth, but with ample reasons, why it should be true. A law, which is the result of infinite Wisdom and Goodness; which is perfectly fitted to the state, and capacity, of Intelligent Creatures; which requires the best possible Moral Character; which proposes and accomplishes the best possible End; and without which neither the Glory of God, nor the Happiness of the Intelligent Creation, could be established, or perpetuated; plainly cannot, and ought not to be changed. Were God to change it, he must change it for the worse ; from a perfect law to an imperfect one. Whatever rule he should prescribe, in its place,