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traced back from their respective objects to the principle from which they take their rise. Eyangelical obedience flows from this general principle, which inclines every person actuated by it, to do the will of God, and accommodates itself to every circumstance that attends the performance of duty. The love of our neighbour, though made the subject of a particular command, is a modification of true love to God, or naturally proceeds from it; and whatever may be its genuine effect, or fruit, is implied in giv. .. ing the heart to him.
The extent, therefore, of the requisition may be perceived, if we attend to what we are assured will be both the effect and evidence of love to God, and to Jesus Christ. “ If ye love me,” said Christ, “ye will keep my word.”
The apostle John adopts similar language. “ Hereby we do know that we love him, if we keep his commandments. Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. But whoso hath this world's goods and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?»
Thus the observance of the divine law, not only in respect to the Deity, but also to our
fellow creatures, is represented to be the effect and evidence of true love to God. For the very reason that love inclines men to serve and place their happiness in the object of it, this precept is given, “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” The heart must not be divided between God and the world. Supreme love to both cannot dwell together. “ Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
In challenging the heart as his right, God claims our first, strongest, and best affections, and all those acts of piety and obedience, to which they incline the will. In giving him their hearts, or supreme love, persons devote all their powers and faculties to his service, resolving that, though other lords have had dominion over them, they will henceforth be the servants of the Most High, and direct all their views and desires to him, and to his honour and glory. All this comes within the nature and design of the requisition in the texta
Such affections, and such surrender of ourselves to God are required, that we may be like him, that his moral image may be reinstamped on the human soul. Pure and supreme love to
him naturally draws the heart into a conformity to the moral perfections of the Deity. We must exercise it, that we may be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. “ Be ye holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.” Giving him the heart, or loving him with all the heart, constitutes an inward resemblance of him ; for "God is love;" his nature, his essence is love; all his ways and works are ways and works of love.
This attribute is the perfection of God's moral character ; it is this that renders him infinitely glorious ; and in this he calls us to be like him, that he may have complacency in us.
This principle, so far as it operates, brings men back to the image of their creator. “ A conformity of heart to God in love is the highest perfection of human nature, and therefore must be the sum of all religion.” Actuated by such a principle, the soul will deny itself, and live to God. Mean, selfish, and unworthy views and desires find no lasting place in it; all tend to their proper centre, and are sanctified by the holy object, to which they are directed.
This giving of the heart to God is something more than those transient affections, which are sometimes drawn forth by particular acts of his goodness. It is widely different from merely drawing nigh to God with your mouth, and honouring him with your lips ! Can you, my young friends, suppose any thing less than an entire surrender of yourselves, any thing short of your purest and strongest affection, is intended, when God commands you to give him your heart ? Will any thing, short of what we have insisted on, bring your souls into his likeness, and be acceptable to him ?. Will any. thing, besides this supreme love, be a steady principle of holy obedience to the law of God ? If not, as you must all confess, then the claim made to the heart includes every degree of love and holy affection, of which hunian beings are capable. This is the first part of the requisition in our text. The other is no more than the natural result of a sincere compliance with this ; but it is made the subject of particular notice and command ; and is,
Secondly, “ Let thine eyes observe my
As the former constitutes the whole sum of religion, in its internal principle, so this may in. tend the whole of it so far as it consists in external obedience to the laws and institutions of heaven. This part of the text is a figurative,
but pertinent and forcible mode of expression. It intends a careful application of the mind to the practical duties of religion, and such a wise observance of the ways of God, as shall teach and impress a sense of duty to him, and regulate the outward behaviour.
By 'observing the ways of God, as they are opened to view in the scheme of providence and grace, persons will be inclined more unreserv. edly to give the heart to him, and more attentively to apply themselves to the several branches of practical godliness. His ways are full of instruction, and may be contemplated with ad. vantage, whether we understand by them the dispensations of his providence and grace, or the laws and statutés he hath ordained for the regulation of human affections and actions.
It is no’uncommon thing for some people to imagine that religion consists wholly in the exercises of the mind, and for others to think it principally relates to external behaviour, to modes and forms of worship, and to regular and moral conduct. But both are essential to true religion. They cannot be separated without destroying its existence. He, who is destitute of love to God, has no truly religious principle; and he, who is not virtuous and holy in life and