« AnteriorContinuar »
for the conduct of his moral creatures, must require something, which is wrong, or fail to require something, which is right. Neither of these could be just, or wise, or good. Nor could his Wisdom, Justice, or Goodness, be manifested, or even preserved, in the establishment of such a law; much less in annulling a perfect law, and substituting an imperfect one in its place. To give up this law would be to sacrifice his own glory, and the happiness of his Intelligent creation. These, united, constitute the very End, for which the heavens and the earth were made. In the case supposed, therefore, the heavens and the earth would exist to no purpose; that is, to no purpose worthy of Jehovah.
2dly. This subject furnishes us with one affecting view of the Evil of Sin.
Sin is a transgression of the Law: that is, Sin is the disposition of the heart, and the conduct of the life, directly opposed to what the Law requires. It is directly opposed to the decisions of infinite wisdom and goodness; to the best possible character; and to the best possible end: the glory of God, and the supreme good of the Intelligent Creation. Of all these the Law is either the transcript, or the indispensable means. So far as sin has power to operate, it operates to their destruction; and its native tendency would prevent the glory of God, and the good of the universe.
The evil of sin does not lie in the power of the sinner to accomplish his evil designs; but in the nature of the designs themselves, and the disposition which gave them birth; and must ever bear some general proportion to the extent of the mischief, which it would accomplish, if it were permitted to operate without restraint. From what has been said it is plain, that this mischief transcends all finite comprehension. The evil, therefore, which is inherent in it, must be incalculably great.
We see this truth verified in the present world. All the misery, suffered here, is the effect of sin. Sin blotted out the bliss of Paradise; and established in its place private wretchedness and public suffering. The smile of complacency it changed into the gloomy frown of wrath and malice.' For the embrace of friendship it substituted the attack of the assassin. The song of joy it converted into a groan of anguish: the ascription of praise it commuted for the blasphemies of impiety. What then must be the evils, which it would accomplish, were it let loose upon the universe; were it to invade the kingdom of glory, as it once intruded into Eden; and ravage eternity, as it has ravaged the little periods. of time.
3dly. We learn from this subject the absurdity of Antinomianism. Two of the prominent Antinomian doctrines are, that the Law of God is not a Rule of duty to Christians : and that the Transgres. sions of it by Christians are not sins.
Sin, saith St. John, is the transgression of the law. It is a bold assertion, then; an assertion, demanding a warrant, which can be
pleaded by no man; that there is such a thing, or that there can be such a thing, as a transgression of the law, which is not sinful. Why are not the transgressions of Christians sinful? Is it because they are holy beings ? Adam was perfectly holy: yet one transgression of his ruined the world. Angels were perfectly holy, in a state, far superior to that of Adam: yet one transgression of theirs turned them out of heaven! Is it because Christians are redeemed? The mercy of God, displayed in their redemption, only increases their obligation to obey, and therefore enhances every transgression. Is it because God has promised, that they shall persevere, and that they shall be saved ? This promise is an exercise of divine Mercy; has exactly the same influence; and, in the case supposed, can produce no other effect. Why then, are the transgressions of Christians not sinful ? To this question they will in vain search for an answer.
Why is the law no longer a rule of righteousness to Christians ? Is it because they are no longer under its condemning sentence ? For this very reason they are under increased obligations to obey its precepts. Is it because they are placed under a better rule, or a worse one? A better rule cannot exist : a worse, God would not prescribe. Are not Christians required to glorify God? Are they not bound to promote the happiness of each other, and their fellow-men? Are they not required to conform to the dictates of infinite Wisdom and Goodness; to sustain the best Moral Character; and to fulfil the true End of their being ? To love God with all the heart, and their neighbour as themselves, is to do all these things, in the manner most pleasing, and in the only manner which is pleasing, to God.
To remove a Christian from the obligation, which he is under to obey the law of God, is to remove him from all obligation to perform any part of his duty, as a rational being to God, or to his fellow-creatures : for every part of this duty is required by the divine law. In other words, it is to discharge him from all obligation to be virtuous. What end must we then suppose Christians are intended to answer, while they continue in the world? Certainly, none worthy of God; none worthy of the mediation of Christ; none worthy of the Christian character.
Antinomians forget, that he who is born of God, loveth God, and knoweth God; that he, who loveth not, knoweth not God; and that this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. They forget, that Christ died to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Athly. We are here furnished with one interesting proof of the Divine Revelation of the Scriptures.
It is perfectly obvious to all who hear me, that a book, professing to be a Revelation, must, whether false or true, depend in a great measure on its own internal character for evidence of its divine origin. The things, which it contains, must be such, as be
come the character of God. Many of them may be mysterious, and inexplicable; because the nature of the subjects may be such, as to transcend the human comprehension, or lie beyond the reach of human investigation. There are subjects, also, of which it may be necessary to know a part ; and that part, though sufficiently disclosed, if considered by itself only, may yet be connected with others, whose existence it will indicate, but whose nature it will not at all disclose. When subjects of this kind are presented to us, we may, if we are disposed to inquire into them extensively, be easily perplexed, and easily lost.
But whatever is revealed must consist with the character of God; or it cannot be admitted as a Revelation. Some things also, contained in a real Revelation, must be plainly worthy of their Author, and not, merely, not unworthy ; must be honourable to his character; superior to the discoveries of the human mind; and such, as cannot be reasonably believed to have been the inventions of men.
Perfectly correspondent with all these remarks is the Law, under contemplation. This truth will advantageously appear by a comparison of it with the most perfect human laws. I'shall select for this purpose those of Great Britain.
The statute laws of that kingdom are contained, if I mistake not, in about eighteen or twenty folio, or about fifty octavo, volumes. The common, or as it is sometimes styled the unwritten law, occupies a number of volumes far greater. To understand them is a work of deep science; the employment of the first human talents; and the labour of a life. The great body of them can never be known by the generality of men ; and must, therefore, be very imperfect rules of their conduct.
In the mean time, multitudes of cases are continually occurring, which they do not reach at all. Those, which they actually reach, they affect in many instances injuriously; and in many more, imperfectly. The system of happiness, which they propose, is extremely defective; a bare state of tolerable convenience; and even that, attended with many abatements. They also extend their influence only to a speck of earth, and a moment of time. Yet these laws were devised, reviewed, and amended, by persons of the first human consideration for learning and wisdom.
The Law, which we have been examining, is comprised in two commands only: is so short; so intelligible; so capable of being remembered, and applied, as to be perfectly fitted to the understanding, and use, of every Moral being. At the same time, it is so comprehensive, as to reach, perfectly, every possible moral action; to preclude every wrong, and to secure every right. It is equally fitted to men and angels, to earth and heaven. Its control extends with the same efficacy, and felicity, to all worlds, and to all periods. It governs the Universe; it reaches through Éternity. The system of happiness, proposed, and accomplished, by
it, is perfect, endless, and for ever progressive. Must not candour, must not prejudice itself, confess, with the Magicians of Egypt, that here is the finger of God?
But if this is from God, the Scriptures must be acknowledged to have the same origin. In the Scriptures alone is this Law contained. Nay, the Scriptures themselves are, chiefly, this Law, expanded into more minute precepts, and more multiplied applications ; enforced by happy comments, and illustrated by useful examples; especially the Example presented to us in the perfect and glorious life of the Son of God.
THE LAW OF GOD.—THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT.
LOVE TO GOD.
MARK xii. 28–30.-And one of the Scribes came, and, having heard them reasoning together, and perceived that he had answered them well, asked
him, which is the First Commandment of all And Jesus answered him, the First of all the Commandments is, Hear, O Israel ; The Lord our God is one Lord; and ihou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and wilh all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: This is the First Commandment.
In the last discourse, I made a number of general observations on the Perfection of the divine law. I shall now proceed to consider, somewhat more particularly, the Nature and Import of the First and Greatest Commandment of that Law; the Command, which regulates our Piety to God.
In the text we are informed, that a Scribe, a Man learned in the Scriptures, and accustomed to expound them to others, pleased with Christ's refutation of the Sadducees, and the proofs which he had unanswerably given of a future existence, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? that is, the first in rank, obligation, and importance. Christ, quoting Deut. vi. 4, informs him, that the first command, in this sense, is, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
In this command, it is to be observed, there is one thing only required; and that is Love. It is, however, Love in a comprehensive sense ; including several exercises of the mind, easily, and customarily, distinguished from each other; as might, indeed, be naturally expected from the phraseology of the Command.
It is further to be observed, that the Love, here enjoined, is required to exist in such a degree, as to occupy the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole mind, and the whole strength. The word, here rendered soul, seems originally to have been used to denote the principle of animal life, and to have been commonly used in this sense by the Greeks ; as the two corresponding words of their respective languages were by the Jews and Romans. The word, translated mind, is commonly used to denote the under. standing ; and seems plainly to have been used in this manner here ; since the Scribe expresses this as the meaning of it in his
The import of this command may, then, be stated thus. Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thine understanding, and with all thy strength, throughout all thy life. In other words, we are required, under the influence of this dis