Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

desire, and perform. our which is so n = <shest degree. In other weris, he is minute: tiss- i.viii. Fre-kind, bountiful, and merciful. Such a churicers infinites: exoellent in itself; and demacis in the fishest sessie ---, -e supreme Approbation, and the sorrone Coincioeco- or every Intelligent CTC&Iliro. Boroence, as here required. 's is "sic -- og Hoppiness of God: Congoency is roos of a “s E------nos- T-e Excellence of God contains in itself i-1 out * socin sui is stove; all that Virtue can love ; all that is meant so the excellorce and amiableness, by the beaoy assi sory so \lois Sy Moral dismity and stestness. This is wear of himself esseems is own supreme perfection, and the transcetiest story of his churicter. Accordingly, when he proclaired cis-Vine o oses- en Mont Sinai, he proclaimed this port of his sourister sely - is: so so it the Name, or Giorv, of JehovahI know set, that to eve God so is sense, has ever been denied, or doubted to be a Cerissan cury, by such is have believed in the Scripteres. On the cert-ory, it has been commerly supposed, that Cocoacercy and Gritose were the cely eve to God required in his Law. The harpsess ct God has usually been considered as so sec=re. so troepercent and so perfect as that, while he needs nothics from the easis of ris creasures to screase or insure it. he also stay be jostly resorded is cosmins rotons from them, with respect to Eis sooct. His seriessees at the same time, are so mariest. and so associoe. is to ill the Gurd with reverence and amazement. and erstoss aii is afteroon and thoushes. In this marrier. Probably, the regard of marked, and even of wise and good men. has been so effectually drawn away from the considera‘ion of the happiness of God to the consideration of his excelfence, that they seem chiefy to have forset:en the former of these onjects, and have been almost wholly occupied by the latter. At tic same time, it cannot be denied. that to delish: in the excellence of God is a dity more corious to the mind, than to delisht in his happiness. A little reflection will, however, convince us, and I hope it has already been clearly shown, that it is not a more indisPenoble duty. It is plainly not our original duty. It is plainly not Virtue, or Moral Excellence, in the original sense. This is, unquestionably, the late of happiness. Complacency is the love of this Virtue, or moral ercellence. But that excellence must exist, before it can be loved. The contrary supposition is a palpable absurdity; to which all those reduce themselves, who insist that Complacency is original virtue. 3dly. The Love of God is Gratitude. Gratitude is love to God for the particular manifestations of his glorious character in his various kindness to us, and to ours. We, and perhaps all other Intelligent beings, are so formed, as to be able more clearly to see, and more strongly to feel, blessings, im

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

mediately bestowed on ourselves, and on those intimately connected with us, whose characters and wants, whose sorrows and joys, we peculiarly understand, and feel, than those bestowed on others. As we feel, universally, what is ours, and what pertains to our connexions, more, other things being equal, than what pertains to those, whose interests we less understand, and in whose concerns we are less in the habit of mingling; so we feel, of course, more deeply the blessings, which we and they receive; the deliverances, hopes, comforts, joys; than we do, or can, those of others. Our near connexions are our second selves; and there is sometimes as little difference, and sometimes even less, between us and them in our views and feelings, than between them and others. Nay, there are cases, in which we feel the interests of our connexions no less than our own. A parent would often willingly suffer the distresses of a child, in order to accomplish relief for him; and often rejoices more in his prosperity, than if it were his own. There is, perhaps, no solid reason in the nature of things, why God should be loved more for the manifestation of goodness to. wards one being, than for the same manifestation towards another. Still, with our present dispositions, those acts of his benevolence which respect ourselves, will always, perhaps, appear more amiable than those which respect others. Gratitude, therefore, or Love to God for the communications of blessings to ourselves, and to those in whose well-being we find a direct and peculiar interest, is an affection of the mind, in some respects distinct from Complacency; an affection, which must, and ought to exist in this world. As we can love God more for blessings thus bestowed, than for those bestowed on others; so we ought to seize every occasion to exercise this love, to the utmost of our power: and such occasions enable us to exercise it in a suerior degree. Possibly, in a future world, and a higher state of existence, all the blessings of God, communicated to rational beings, may affect us, as if communicated to ourselves; and our Complacency in his character may universally become possessed of the whole intenseness and ardour of Gratitude. Gratitude, considered as a virtue, it is always to be remembered, is Love, excited by kindness communicated, or believed to be communicated, with virtuous and good designs, and from good motives; not for kindness, bestowed for base and selfish ends. In every case of this nature, the kindness, professed, is merely pretended, and hypocritical. The bestower terminates all his views in his own advantage; and has no ultimate regard to the benefit of the receiver. The kindness of God is invariably communicated with the best of all designs, and motives; designs and motives infinitely good; and is, therefore, a display of a character infinitely excellent. Hence it is always to be regarded with Gratitude. The good be

[ocr errors]

stowed is also the highest good; and therefore the highest Gratitude is due to the bestower. Of precepts, requiring all these exercises of love, and prohibiting the want of them; of examples, by which they are gloriously illustrated; of motives, promises, and rewards, by which they are divinely encouraged; the Scriptures, are full. Particularly, the Good-will of the Psalmist to the infinitely great and glorious Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, of the Universe, is manifested, every where, throughout his sacred ". Every where he rejoices in the designs, and actions, of Jehovah; in the certain accomplishment of his designs; in the infinite ; which he will derive from them all; in the prosperity of his kingdom; and in the joy, which he experiences in all the works of his hands. Equally does he express his Complacency in the perfect character of God; his wisdom, power, goodness, truth, faithfulness, and mercy; as displayed in his wo and word, in his law and Gospel. R. is he less abundant in his effusions of Gratitude for all the divine goodness to himself and his family to the people of Israel and the Church of God. In expressing these emotions, he is ardent, intense, sublime, and rapturous: an illustrious example to all, who have come after him, of the manner, in which we should feel, and in which we should express, our love to God. Like him, the Prophet Isaiah, the Apostle Paul, and generally all the Scriptural writers, in works not directly devotional, but doctrinal and preceptive, exhibit, with corresponding ardour and sublimity, these most excellent dispositions. It is hardly necessary to add, that our own emotions, and expressions, ought to be of the same general nature. Having thus exhibited, summarily, the Nature of Love to God, in these three great exercises, I will now proceed to allege several reasons, which demand of us these exercises of piety. 1st. This service is highly reasonable, beautiful, and amiable, in Intelligent creatures. God, from the considerations mentioned in this discourse, presents to us in his blessedness, in his excellence, and in his communications of good, all possible reasons, in all possible degrees, why we should exercise towards him our supreme Benevolence, Complacency, and Gratitude. His enjoyment is the sum of all happiness; his character the sum of all persection; and his communications of good the amount of all the blessings, found in the universe. These, united, constitute an object, assembling in itself, comparatively speaking, all natural and moral beauty, £, > and excellence; whatever can be desired, esteemed, or ... 2dly. God infinitely loves himself. The conduct of God is, in every case, the result of views and dispositions, perfectly wise, and just, and good, and becomes, wherever they can imitate it, a perfect rule to direct the conduct

[ocr errors]

of his Intelligent creatures. In this case, the rule is as perfect, as in any other: and in this case, as well as every other, it is the highest honour, and the consummate rectitude, of all Intelligent creatures, to resemble their Creator. So far as we resemble him, we are secure of being right, excellent, and lovely. At the same time, so far as we are like him, we are assured of his approbation and love, and of receiving from his hands all the good, which our real interests require. As he loves himself; he cannot but love his resemblance, wherever it is found. 3dly. In this conduct we unite with all virtuous beings. This is the very conduct, which especially constitutes them virtuous, and without which their virtue, in every other sense, would cease to exist. For this they love and approve themselves: for this they will approve and love us. By these exercises of piety, then, we become, at once, entirely, and for ever, members of their glorious assembly; secure of their esteem, friendship, and kind offices; and entitled, of course, to a participation of their divine and immortal enjoyment. The best friends, the most delightful companions, the most honourable connexions, which the universe contains, or will ever contain, are in this manner made ours throughout the ages of our endless being. ... We unite with God, and the virtuous universe, in voluntarily promoting that supreme good, which by his own perfections, and their instrumentality, he has begun to accomplish. This work is literally divine: the supreme, the only, display of divine excellence, which ever has been, or ever will be, made: an immense and eternal kingdom of virtue and happiness: all that wisdom can approve, or virtue desire. To engage in it, is to engage in the best of all employments. To choose it, is to exhibit the best of all characters. It is to choose what God himself chooses; to pursue, what he pursues; to act, as he acts; and to be fellow-workers together with him in the glorious edifice of eternal good. The disposition required in this command, is the same, which in him, and in all his virtuous creatures, originated, advances, and will complete, this divine building in its ever-growing stability, beauty, and splendour. 5thly. We secure, and enjoy, the greatest happiness. Love to God is a disposition inestimably sweet and delightful: delightful in itself; delig- ful in its operations; delightful in its effects. All the exercises of it are in their own nature, and while they are passing, a series of exquisite enjoyments. . They o only to good; and are, therefore, highly pleasurable in all their various tendency. Their effects, both within and without the soul, are either pure, unmingled happiness, directly enjoyed by our: selves; or a similar happiness, first enjoyed by others, and then returning to ourselves with a doubly endeared and charming reversion.

This disposition leads us unceasingly to contemplate the most exalted, wonderful, and delightful objects; the things, which God has already done, is daily accomplishing, and has disclosed to us in his promises as hereafter to be accomplished. , Contemplation on the works of God, when they are regarded as being his works, is capable of furnishing us with dignified and intense enjoyment. To produce this effect, however, it is indispensable, that we should view them under the influence of this disposition. The mind can experience no pleasure in contemplating the actions of a being, whom it does not love. Love to God opens the gates of enjoyment; and of all enjoyment, furnished by the works of creation and providence, so far as it springs from the consideration, that they are his work. Through this enjoyment it conducts the mind to others; and to others still, in a train which knows no end. Wherever we are, or can be, delighted with displays of boundless wisdom and boundless goodness, with the perfect efforts of a perfect character, Love to God is the guide which conducts us to the divine possession. Beyond this, He, who created us for this glorious purpose, and who delights to see it accomplished, cannot fail to be pleased with us, while engaged in it; and, therefore, will not fail to reward us with his blessing. In this path, then, we ascend to the divine fa. vour; see the good of his chosen; enjoy the gladness of his nation; and share the glory of his inheritance. Eternal glory, then, is the natural, the necessary, result of Love to God. Indeed, eternal glory is o; but his eternal and unchangeable love to us, and our eternal and unchanging love to Him; united with the same love, extended, and reciprocated among all virtuous beings. In the world to come, this . disposition will become more and more sweet and delightful; and in every mind, be, in the beautiful language of our Saviour, a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life. #. Without love to God, there can be no Virtue, or Moral Excellence. Love is a single character; uniform in its nature, and in no way separable, even in contemplation, except, merely, as it is exercised towards different objects. These give it all those, which are considered as its different forms. In all these forms it is exercised by the same man, in exactly the same 'anner. If it be found in one of these forms, in any mind, it is, of course, found in the same mind, in every other form, whenever the object, which gives it that form, is presented to that mind. Thus he, who possesses Benevolence, when happiness is the object present to him, exercises Complacency whenever he contemplates JMoral Excellence ; and Gratitude, whenever he turns his thoughts towards a Benefactor. Thus also, he, who loves God, loves his fellow-creatures of course; and, of course, governs himself with evangelical moderation and self-denial. In all these exercises of mind, and all others of a vir

« AnteriorContinuar »