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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.
2. The law of God is perfectly fitted to the state and capacity of intelligent creatures.
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.
3. The law of God requires the best possible moral cha
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 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 St. John, is love.'
4. 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
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, and 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
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 di
vision 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 neither produce or enjoy happiness in any great degree.
But there is no other disposition in such beings beside 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 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 ob
vious 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
From these observations it appears,
1. 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 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