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position, to devote, throughout our lives, all our faculties, and services, to the glory of Jehovah. Our hearts and voices, our understanding and our hands, are to be entirely, and voluntarily, dedicated to his service.
I have already observed, that Love, in this comprehensive sense, includes several exercises of the mind, easily and customarily distinguished. It will be one object of this discourse to exhibit them with this distinction.
1st. Love to God, as required by this command, is Good-will to him, his designs, and interests.
By Good-will, in this case, I intend the very same Benevolence, formerly described as one of the Attendants of Regeneration, and then mentioned as extending to the Creator and his intelligent creatures. Not a small number of divines have supposed, that Love, in this sense, is neither required, nor exerted, towards the Creator. “God,” say they, “ being supremely and eternally blessed; and the success of his designs, and the prosperity of his interests, being perfectly secured by his power, knowledge, and presence; there can be no necessity, nor room, for any exercise of our good-will towards him, or them. Benevolence is with propriety exercised towards Man, because he needs it; but cannot with any such propriety be exercised towards God, who is so far from needing any thing, that he gives unto all life, and breath, and all things."
These observations are undoubtedly specious. Yet the reasoning, contained in them, is totally erroneous; and the conclusion, intended to be derived from them, false and mistaken. To admit it, is to give up the first duty of man.
Benevolence depends not, either for its obligation or exercise, on the supposition, that the person, towards whom it may be directed, needs either our benevolence, or its effects. Happiness, its immediate object, is always, and every where, supremely delightful and desirable in itself; delightful, whenever it exists; desirable, whenever it may exist hereafter. The greater the degree in which it exists, or may exist hereafter, the more delightful, the more desirable, must it be, of course. It is desirable, that two persons should be happy, other things being equal, rather than one ; twenty than two; an hundred than twenty. It is in a continually increasing proportion desirable, that a person should be twice as happy, as he is at present; ten times; an hundred times. On the same grounds it is delightful to find happiness existing in one degree ; more delightful in two; and still more in twenty, or an hundred. To delight in happiness, in this manner, is, in the same manner, to exercise good-will towards the being who is thus happy.
The happiness, or blessedness, of God, as it is more commonly termed, is no other, than his Enjoyment of his own perfect Attributes, and of the effects, produced by them in that glorious system of
good, which is begun in the work of Creation, and will be completed in the work of Providence : or, in other words, his Sufficiency for accomplishing, the Certainty that he will accomplish, and the Actual accomplishment of, a perfect system of good. This is an object, infinitely desirable to the Divine Mind. Were it to fail; this desire would be ungratified; and the Divine Mind would be proportionally unhappy.
To this it will be objected, as it often has been, that “this doctrine makes God dependent for his happiness on his creatures.”
This objection is a mistake. The doctrine involves no such dependence. The independence of God consists not at all in the fact, that he will be happy, whether his designs will be accomplished or not; but in his Sufficiency for the absolute accomplishment of them all; and in the absolute certainty, that they will be thus accomplished. His Power, Wisdom, and Godness are this sufficiency; and yield him intuitive certainty of this accomplishment. These things constitute the most perfect possible Independence.
Were God without desires; had he no choice, no pleasure; he could enjoy no happiness. Were he unable to fulfil his pleasure, or uncertain whether it would be fulfilled; he would be dependent. But, according to this statement, his happiness and his indepen. dence are both absolute.
The designs of God are infinitely desirable, because they involve the display of his infinite perfections, in their perfect exercise, and in the accomplishment of a perfect system of Good. In this manner they present to us the most glorious of all objects, operating in the most glorious manner to the production of the most glorious purpose. This object is, with the highest evidence, infinitely desirable and delightful. At the same time, the happiness, which God enjoys in the exercise of his perfections, and in the accomplishment of this divine End, is a happiness not only infinitely desirable and delightful to himself, but desirable in the same manner to all Intelligent creatures. All Intelligent creatures, possessed of real benevolence, cannot fail to rejoice, that God is, and ever will be, thus infinitely happy; that these glorious designs will certainly be accomplished; that he will ever thus act; and that he will ever find infinite enjoyment in thus acting. It is as
It is as truly desirable, that God should be thus happy, as it is that any of his Intelligent creatures should be happy; and as much more desirable, as he is happier than they.
But to delight in this happiness is to exercise towards God the benevolence of the Gospel. I fatter myself, that to exercise this benevolence has been amply proved to be an unquestionable and supreme duty of man.
2dly. Love to God is Complacency in his Character.
It has been shown in several former discourses, that God is infinitely benevolent; in other words, he is infinitely disposed to
desire, and perform, that which is good in the highest degree. In other words, he is infinitely just, faithful, true, kind, bountiful, and merciful. Such a character is infinitely excellent in itself; and demands in the highest possible degree, the supreme Approbation, and the supreme Complacency, of every Intelligent creature.
Benevolence, as here required, is a delight in the Happiness of God: Complacency is a delight in his Excellence. The Excellence of God contains in itself all that Wisdom can approve; all that Virtue can love; all that is meant by the excellence and amiableness, by the beauty and glory of Mind; by Moral dignity and greatness. This is what God himself esteems his own supreme perfection, and the transcendent glory of his character. Accordingly, when he proclaimed his Name to Moses, on Mount Sinai, he proclaimed this part of his character only; and styled it the Name, or Glory, of Jehovah.
I know not, that to love God, in this sense, has ever been denied, or doubted to be a Christian duty, by such as have believed in the Scriptures. On the contrary, it has been commonly supposed, that Complacency and Gratitude were the only love to God required in his Law. The happiness of God has usually been considered as so secure, so independent, and so perfect, as that, while he needs nothing from the hands of his creatures to increase or insure it, he also may be justly regarded as claiming nothing from them, with respect to this subject. His perfections, at the same time, are so manifest, and so absolute, as to fill the mind with reverence and amazement, and engross all its attention and thoughts. In this manner, probably, the regard of mankind, and even of wise and good men, has been so effectually drawn away from the consideration of the happiness of God to the consideration of his excellence, that they seem chiefly to have forgotten the former of these objects, and have been almost wholly occupied by the latter. At the same time, it cannot be denied, that to delight in the excellence of God is a duty more obvious to the mind, than to delight 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 indispensable duty. It is plainly not our original duty. It is plainly not Virtue, or Moral Excellence, in the original sense. unquestionably, the love of happiness. Complacency is the love of this Virtue, or moral excellence. 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
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 towards 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 superior 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
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 songs. Every where he rejoices in the designs, and actions, of Jehovah; in the certain accomplishment of his designs; in the infinite glory, 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 works and word, in his law and Gospel.
Nor 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 ar
, dent, 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 perfection; 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, glory, and excellence; whatever can be desired, esteemed, or loved.
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