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the believing Christian a confirmation of his faith, and a subject of contemplation most striking and most wonderful.
But a material part of the law, given by Moses, had a more individual object : an object in which we, as men and as Christians, have all the deepest interest. The very same moral commandments, which the Lord spake unto the Israelites of old, out of the midst of the fire, Christ embodied in the precepts which he commanded his followers to obey. It is true, that no man may hope to be saved by his obedience to these precepts; “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” la But it is also true, that no man may hope to be saved without obedience: obedience, after all, interrupted and imperfect, but still constituting the only external evidence which we can give, that we are under the influence of a rational, lively, saving faith.
The exposition, then, of the moral law of Moses, given by Christ himself, will furnish us with two brief, but comprehensive heads of serious self-examination.
1. “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. This is the first and great commandment.”i
h Rom. iii. 23.
i Matt. xxii. 37, 38. Mark xii. 30.
Now when we retire to the secret chambers of our own hearts, and there examine the hidden springs of action, what answer can we sincerely return respecting the great leading principle of duty, love to God? If this love existed in proportion to its importance, it might be expected to absorb all other feelings: to engross all the affections which are implanted in our hearts. As often as we reflect upon the favours which we have received from God, we allow them to transcend all others. Our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, above all, our redemption through Christ Jesus, the means of grace and the hopes of glory, are advantages which no human benefactor can bestow, and excite expectations which no earthly objects can raise. But it is a most humiliating proof of the imperfection of our nature, ' that these things, inconceivably great and important as we confess them to be, do not, in fact, ever affect us in a degree adequate to their magnitude: and often not at all. There are many, who were never once influenced simply by the love of God, and the desire to please Him, in any transaction of their lives. There are many more, who profess to love God, and yet, whenever the love of God and the desire of pleasing man are opposed, choose to obey man
rather than God. Many feel a distaste for everything which tends to set God before their thoughts: avail themselves of every plea to excuse their neglect of his service, his word, his ordinances; avoid his house, refuse his sacraments : pray not to Him for assistance; praise Him not for benefits received. They think of all other things; of their favourite studies, their business, their amusement, their advancement in the world: but in all their thoughts God is not.* There cannot be a stronger proof of the absence of the love of God than this fact. What we love we think of often. It frequently recurs to our minds, whether we wish to reflect upon it or not. It gradually gains possession of us; influences the whole train of our ideas; régulates insensibly the whole course of our actions. Those who forget, and those who neglect God, as well as those who deny Him, certainly cánnot be said to “love God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and with all their strength”—cannot be said to love Him, in reality, at all.
In estimating, however, the degree of internal love which different men may entertain towards God, there is room for much uncertainty, and, what is worse, for much self
* Psalm x. 4.
deceit. But Christ himself has laid down a certain rule, by which our love to him, and therefore to the Father, may be known: “if ye love me, keep my commandments.” m
If we recognize within ourselves an habitual respect to the commandments of God, an earnest desire to obey his will, a reverent fear of offending him, a hearty repentance and deep remorse for our past sins, and a firm resolution, by his grace, to walk henceforth in newness of life; we have good reason to hope that the love of God actuates our hearts, and to pray that it may be increased.
If we perceive none of these signs, if we are living in the commission of known sin, deferring the day of repentance, encouraging ourselves with the example of others, we are still far from the love of God; and therefore still wanting in a duty essential to our final salvation.
2. Such is the first and great commandment of the law. “ And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
This is like it in importance; and in the close analogy which it bears to it in practice. Without the love of man the love of God
m John xiv. 15.
1 John xiv. 7.
cannot exist. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar," saith St. John: and for an obvious reason; “he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen ?”
A rule thus extending to all the friendly offices and kindly charities of life, pervading all our intercourse with our families and the world, intended to regulate the very desires which give birth to evil passions and unholy practices, is plain to be discerned and applied, but difficult, indeed, to be satisfied. A minute enquiry into our own hearts will hardly fail to discover numerous instances, in which we have failed to comply with this standard. It will discover much self-love: much love of worldly honours and vain distinctions; and often but little of that disinterested love of others, which the law of Moses P and the more perfect law of Christ, expressly command.
To a rule thus perfect, obedience is enjoined: and to those who strive with all diligence to comply with these conditions, is promised the grace of God to assist - their weakness, and to supply their imperfection. Between the severity of God's justice, and the sins of man, there stands an intercessor, the Mediator of
p Lev. xix. 18.
0 1 John iv. 20. 9 Matt. xix. 19.