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A Discourse concerning the Measurë
of Divine Love, with the Natural
MÅ T. 22. 39.
would think, a very needless Injun&ion.
der any other Law, than that of its own Nature, to delight in its proper Object? Does the Sense want a Precept to be pleased with sensible Good? Need we address our selves to the Eye to persuade it to love Light, or take pains to exhort the Ear to delight in harmonious Sounds ? No, the Order of Nature does here supersede all other Methods of Engagement;, and why then should there be need of any Command to a Rational Soul to love God? Does not an intelligible Good bear the same proportion to a reafonable Nature, as a sensible Good does to Sense ; and is not God the fame to the Soul, as Musick is to the Ear, or as
Light to the Eye? Yes certainly, and infinitely more : For these things, tho' they are the proper Goods of their respective Powers, yet they are not wholly commensurate, and fully adjusted to their Capacities; whence it is that the Ege is not satisfied with seeing, nor the Ear with hearing. But now God is not only the proper Good of the Soul (as Light is of the Eye) but is withal a Good so transcendently excellent as to be able to fill the whole Capacity of its intellectual Powers. The Good of bis fublime Nature is more than commensurate to the most stretch't Appetite of ours; nay, were our Capacity infinite, he would be sufficient to fill it; for he fills his own, and is infinitely happy ein himself. And what need then of a Command to a rational Creature to love irs proper Good, and a Good so infinitely lovely?
But for satisfaction to this, 'tis to be consider'd, first, that as in Geometry some plain and obvious Propositions are laid down, not so much for the fake of their own Discovery, as in order to further Theory, which, as a Superftru&ure is to be rais'd upon those Foundations; fo in Morality and Divinity some practical Propositions or Précepts, tho’in themselves never so clear and evident, muft yet be set down, if 'twere only for the fake of Method and Order, and to lay a Bottom for what is to be further built upon those Principles. And accordingly the Love of God being the fundamental Principle of all natural Religion and Virtue, or (as our Lord here terms it) the first and great Commandment, upon which all the
Duties of the first Table do immediately, and ? those of the second remotely depend: it was very requisite that there should be an express Precept concerning it; tho’ it be never so evident that we ought to love God, and withal never fo neceffary and unavoidable that we saould. :: ?
Besides, 'tis also secondly to be conlider'd, that what does here more principally and more direaly fall under the Precept, is not the A& of loving God in general, but the special degree and : manner of that Act; that it be with the whole Power and full Capacity of the Man. Now tho* it be of it self fo plain and evident that God is ) to be loved, and withal so natural and necessary that we should love him in some degree or other yet neither is it so plain, nor so necessary, that we should love him up to the degree here fpecifi’d, with the whole Weight and Stress of our Love. This is not a Proposition of so bright an evidence as to fine forth by its own Light, but requires a Train of Argument and Consequence to make it appear reasonable, and must be proved in a way of Science and Demonstration. It was indeed below the Dignity and Majesty of the Supreme Law-giver to do that; but therefore it was the more necessary for him to use his Authority, to make it matter of express Precept, and to lay it as an eternal Law upon every rational Spirit that ) comes into being, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
The great Difficulty of this great Commandment, next to the Practising of it, is how to Un. derstand it ; and therefore I shall first of all inquire into the true Sense and Import of it, and then into the Reason and Bottom upon which it stands. ;;
As to the Sense, I think the highest that is generally put upon these Words, amounts to no more than this, That God is to be the prime and principal objet of our Love and Delight ; That we are to love him in a Superlative way, above all other things whatsoever, so as to lose any Good, or suffer any Evil, rather than commit the Jeast Sin ágainst him ; That we are always to prefer him in our Love; chusing to obey him rather than Man, and to please him rather than satisfie our own Will, and to enjoy him rather than any worldly or carnal Pleasure; saying with the Psalmist, Thy Loving-kindness is better than Life, and with the Church in the Canticles, Thy Love is better than Wine. . .;.. . And if our Love be thus order'd, if we stand thus affected towards God, we are then allowed, according to the common (Opinion, to love Creae tures, to delight and solace our selves in them, to unité our Souls in some measure to them, and to reckon them among the props and stays of our life, and as the ingredients of its present Happiness. Nor is there any harm presumed in all this, still provided that God be uppermost in our Hearts, have the largest share in our Affections, and be feated upon the Throne of the Soul; who though
permitted to love other things, is yet to look upon God as her greatest Good, and accordingly to reserve her brightest and purest flame for his Altar; to love him with the choice, with the flower, of her Affe&tion; and be ready to part with any other Good when it once comes in competition with the Love of God. ; : ::: :. s. In this I think I speak the sense of the common Interpreters; who for want of a suitable Foundation could not well carry the Building higher, but were forced to take up with an Explication far below the express Letter of the Text; and to make this to be all that was signified by loving God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind, that we love him chiefly and principally, best and most. Sure they could not but be sensible, that herein they did not rise upto , the Letter of the Text, which manifestly requires a more .elevated sense : But they could not advance higher without Building in the Air ;. and were therefore forced to cramp the sense of this great Commandment, and to put such a ConstruČtion upon it, not as the express Words of it require, but as their Hypothesis would bear.
I say, as their Hypothesis would bear : for the Hypothesis these Men go upon; seems to be this; I They suppose, that other things besides God are
truly and properly the Goods of the Soul, and & contribute, as efficient Causes, to its happiness : )
That sensible Objects contain in themselves some-1 what answerable to what we feel by their Oecafion, and are withal the proper Causes of such