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after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”
It is clear, then, that man is holy and happy, only in proportion as he obeys this first and great commandment of the law, to love the Lord God with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind, and with all the strength. Nor is it any valid objection to this position, that he may, in the present state, have some gratification while his heart is alienated from God, and opposed to his authority ;and that while his mind is in this state of enmity against God, and not caring either about the knowledge or the doing of his will, he may be drawing a considerable share of enjoyment from those inferior springs which the goodness of the Creator has commanded to flow. For, these enjoyments are in their nature fleeting ; the capacity of deriving any share of happiness decays with the decay of life ; and even at the time when this capacity is unimpaired, and when those enjoyments do abound, one such view of the holiness and perfection of the eternal God, and of the obligation of giving him the love of the heart, as would allow the light of truth to strike upon the conscience, would in a moment dissolve the charm.
He cannot, without disregarding his duty and happiness, without becoming a rebel against God the sovereign ruler of the universe, without relinquishing a part in the employments of every virtuous being, and without frustrating, in so far as his individual efforts and example will avail to that end, the glorious
purposes of his being he cannot, without these effects, cease to love the Lord God to the extent and in the manner prescribed by his law. I shall not attempt to strengthen this position, by a representation of the consequences which must follow the absence of love to God and to one another in the myriads of intelligent beings who inhabit the dominions of the only living and true God,-nor of the lamentation, and misery, and woe, that would overspread the creation, the wretched abode of beings living in malice and in envy, hateful and hating one another.
ON OBEDIENCE TO THE WILL OF GOD :-THE LAW OF GOD
THE RULE OF THIS OBEDIENCE.
The first and the natural expression of love to God is, obedience to his will. It is of the nature of love to prompt to a compliance with the will of the beloved object. What pleasure does an affectionate child feel in fulfilling, I shall not say the commands, merely, of a parent, but his wishes; and how eagerly does he watch for opportunities to shew his gratitude and veneration. · In like manner, love to God will lead to a voluntary and cheerful obedience to his will. If the heart be filled and occupied with this affection, what pure enjoyment is felt in complying cordially with all God's commandments ! Its language will be, “ O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day, My soul
breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.”
Let us inquire, in the first place, concerning the rule of that obedience which we owe to God, and, secondly, into the different forms of which this obedience consists.
By obedience to the will of God we mean the whole of our duty as accountable creatures. Every duty, whether its direct object be God, our fellowcreatures, or ourselves, is a duty which we owe to God, whose right is announced by every man’s conscience. His will is the rule and the standard of right and wrong, and of moral action, and on this ground alone we are entitled to pronounce that morality extremely defective which does not emanate from the principle of love to God. Virtue is pure and elevated in porportion as it springs from this life-giving source. No sacrifice is acceptable, which is not kindled by this heavenly fire; no offering sweet, which is not seasoned by this holy salt.
I allow, indeed, that by the operation of inferior motives some exterior virtues may be cherished that are highly useful to society ;-that a sense of honour, by its restraints and stimulants, may do much ;-that a regard to social order may lead to the cultivation of certain habits which are of great value to the community ;-that the refinement of a cultivated understanding may give to the manners the polish and correctness of good breeding ;-and that à mere regard to reputation will have its weight in inducing some to observe the decencies of human life. The operation of these principles, singly or combined,
may, in the entire absence of religious motives, produce much that is conducive to the order and happiness of society ; but as it all proceeds from principles whose origin is earthly, and which have no immediate relation to the will or law of God, it possesses nothing of the nature and sanctity of true virtue, and is compatible with a state of heart alienated from God, and with a life which makes no practical acknowledgment of him in the world. If love be the fulfilling of the law, its absence leaves the action void of intrinsic moral value. Nor can the partial and imperfect discharge of one duty compensate for the neglect of another, which is enjoined with equal clearness, and by the same authority.
So closely and essentially is morality connected with the principles of religion, that the former is necessarily defective where the latter is deficient or erroneous. Every doctrine of religion, if it does not give rise to corresponding duties, suggests, at least, its own peculiar motives. From the admission of the being and attributes of one only living and true God, we deduce numerous and important obligations. From this great and fundamental truth we justly infer, that we are all the children of one Almighty Parent, and that the relations which in consequence we bear to him and to one another, devolve on us many duties of justice and benevolence; which, if we neglect or violate, we offend against God as well as against our fellow-creatures.
There is no greater mistake than to imagine that we can be truly virtuous in the discharge of one class of duties, while we neglect another; that we can
love God, and at the same time disobey his commandments; or, love our fellow-creatures, and live without God. If, as I maintain, the love which is the fulfilling of the law is in every case the same affection of mind—the same in relation to God, and in relation to man, and different in no other way than that the objects in regard to which it is exercised are different, it follows as a necessary consequence, that there can be no true virtue where there is not an aiming at universal obedience. If the bias of the heart be in any measure opposed to this single affection or state of mind, to this principle which is inclusive of all law, and from which all true obedience proceeds, the whole man is wanting in the same proportion in holiness or real virtue. This universal obedience has its foundation in religion, is directed by the will of God, and animated by the hope of his favour ; while that which proceeds from other principles, is only the semblance of virtue,-it is vanity, or pride, or interest, or a generosity of disposition. The pleasures of true virtue are, like itself, divine, both in their original, and in their issue; they begin and end in God. They are derivative and dependent, and like the light which loses its lustre, and its very being, when separated from the glorious fountain that feeds it, they decline and die when it is attempted to enjoy them without God.
In affirming that the will or law of God is the measure and rule of virtue, I am not to be understood as maintaining that the distinctions between right and wrong, between virtue and vice, are created by mere will or law, or enactment *. These distinctions are
• See the Chapter on this subject in the preceding Book.