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law, there is no transgression; where there is no duty required, there can be no sin committed: and so the vilest of mortals are the freest from sin, and the least to blame; which is the grossest absurdity. When, therefore, the law requires us to love God with all our hearts, it has no reference to our moral inclination, but only to our natural capacity. And indeed nothing can be more unreasonable, than to suppose that the law only requires us to love God so far as we have a heart and disposition to do so; for this would leave us entirely at liberty to do otherwise, if we were so inclined, and, in effect, it would make the law say, If you feel inclined to love God, more or less, so far it is your duty, but further you are not bound, but are at your liberty; i. e. the law is not binding, any further than you are inclined to obey it; i. e. in reality it is no law, but every man is left to do as he pleases. The whole heart, therefore, does the law mean to require, let our temper, inclination, or disposition, be what it will.
God, the great author of all things, has been pleased to create intelligent beings of different sizes, some of a higher rank, and some of a lower; some of greater capacities, and some of less; some are angels, and some are men; and among the angels, some are of larger natural powers, and some of smaller. So it is among the good angels, and so it is among the evil angels. There are angels and arch-angels, i. e. beings of various natural powers and capacities, among the good and bad. And so it is among men; among good and bad, there is a very great variety; some have larger souls than others.
Intelligent beings are capable of a degree of knowledge and love, exactly proportionable to their natural powers. Angels are capable of a degree of knowledge and love, greater than men, and one man of a greater degree than another. As they are of different sizes; of larger and smaller natural powers, so their capacities to know and love are some greater, and some less. So it is among good and bad.
All that perfection which God requires of any of his creatures, is a measure of knowledge and love bearing an exact proportion to their natural abilities. Since God has manifested what he is, in his works and ways, and since he is infinitely glorious in being what he is, and has an original and
entire right to his intelligent creatures; therefore he requires all angels and men to attend diligently to the discoveries which he has made of himself, and learn what he is, and behold his glory, and love him with all their hearts. This is the extent of what God requires of the highest angel in heaven, and this is exactly what he requires of all the children of men upon earth.
The law requires no more than this of mankind, under a notion that their natural powers are lessened by the fall. Whether we are beings of as large natural powers as we should have been, had we never apostatized from God, or no, yet this is plain, we are no where in scripture blamed for having no larger natural powers, nor is any more ever required than all the heart, and all the soul, and all the mind, and all the strength. This is evident through the whole Bible.
And the law requires no less of mankind, under a notion that they are turned enemies to God, and have no heart or inclination to love him. Be it so, that mankind are ever so averse to attend to those manifestations which God has made of himself, and ever so averse to take in right notions of God, and ever so far from a disposition to account him infinitely glorious in being what he is, and from an inclination to love him with all their hearts; yet the divine law makes no allowances; no abatements; but insists upon the same-the very same it ever did: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.
Indeed, some do dream that the law is very much abated. But what saith the scriptures as to this point? Does the word of God teach us that there is any abatement made? Where do we read it? Where is it plainly asserted, or in what texts is it implied? Truly, I know nothing like it in all the Bible, nor what texts of scripture this notion can be built upon : and besides, if the law is abated, when was it abated? Was it abated immediately upon Adam's fall? Surely no; for, above two thousand years after, from Mount Sinai, God declared that he required sinless perfection, and threatened a curse against the man that should fail in the least point. Exod. xx. Deut. xxvii. 26. Was it abated upon Christ's coming into the world? Surely no; for he, in the strongest terms, taught his
disciples that it was in full force, and that it was their duty to be perfectly holy, and that in designed opposition to the doctrine of the Pharisees, who, in effect, held that the law was abated. Mat. v. 17-48. Was it abated after Christ's death and resurrection? Surely no; for St. Paul always taught that the Christian scheme of religion which he preached, did not make void, but rather established the law. Rom. iii. 31. And St. James insisted upon it, that it must not be broken in any one point. James ii. 10. When was it abated, therefore? Why, says Christ, Till heaven and earth shall pass away, one jot or tittle of the law shall in no wise fail. Mat. v. 18.. And besides, if the law is abated, in what particular is it abated, and how great are the abatements? Are there any abatements made in our duty to God? Surely no; for we are still required to love him with all our hearts, and more than this never was demanded. Or are any abatements made in our duty to our fellow-men? Surely no; for we are still required to love our neighbour as ourselves, and more than this never was enjoined. Or is there any abatement made in the internal part of our duty? Surely no; for the whole heart is still required, and more than this never was insisted upon. Or, finally, is there any abatement made in the external part of our duty? Surely no; for we are still required to be holy in all manner of conversation, as he that has called us is holy, (1 Pet. i. 15.) and more than this was never required. So that, from the whole, we have as much reason to think that the law requires sinless perfection now, as that ever it did: yea, this point cannot be plainer than it is; for the law, in fact, is the very same it was from the beginning, word for word, without the least alteration: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. and thy neighbour as thyself; so that, if it ever did require sinless perfection, it does now.
The highest pitch of holiness the saints in heaven will ever arrive to, will only be to love God with all their hearts; and exactly the very same is required of every man upon earth. And it was because St. Paul understood the law in this sense, that he had always such a inean and low opinion of all his attainments; for while he compared what he was, with what he ought to be, he plainly saw how the case stood: and there
fore he says, The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. O wretched man that I am! Rom. vii. 14. 24.
So that, upon the whole, this seems to be the true state of the case as there are various capacities among all intelligent creatures in general, so there are among men in particular, souls of various sizes; some of larger natural capacities, and some of smaller; but souls of different capacities are capable of different degrees of love. A degree of love exactly equal to the natural capacity of the soul, is perfection; and this is what the law requires, nor more nor less; all the heart, all the soul, all the mind, all the strength. The saints and angels in heaven love God thus, and hence they are perfect in holiness; and, so far as we fall short of this, we are sinful.
This is the exact rule of duty. And now, this law is holy, just, and good. The thing required, is in its own nature, right, fit, and suitable. God is worthy to be loved with all our hearts, and this is just what is required. It is right we should have a degree of love to ourselves, and it is right we should love our neighbours as ourselves; but it is fit we should love God with all our hearts. Considering what he is, and what we are, it is in its own nature, infinitely fit and right; and not to do so, infinitely unfit and wrong. Indeed, God is worthy of an infinitely greater degree of love than we, or any of his creatures, are capable of. He only is capable of a complete view of his own infinite glory, and of a full sense of his own infinite beauty, and of a love perfectly adequate to his own loveliness: and he does not require or expect any of his creatures to love him to that degree he loves himself; only, as he loves himself with all his heart, so he requires and expects that they love him with all their hearts. And there being the same reason for one as for the other, the law is, therefore, in its own nature, perfectly right, and just, and equal. Indeed, had God required the most exalted of his intelligent creatures to have loved him in the same degree that he himself does, then the thing required would, in its own nature, have been absolutely impossible, and what he could have no reason to expect: Or, if he had required the meanest of his intelligent creatures to have loved him, in the same degree that Gabriel does, it would have been a thing naturally im
possible; but now he only requires every one to love him with all their hearts: this is right; perfectly right, just, and equal. Less than this could not in justice have been required of each one; in justice, I mean to the Deity, who ought to have his due from each one, and whose proper right the Governor of the world ought to assert and maintain.
Thus we see the law is exactly upon a level with our natural capacities; it only requires us to love God with all our hearts and thus we see that the law is therefore perfectly reasonable, just, and equal. Deut. x. 12. And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul?
Hence, as to a natural capacity, all mankind are capable of a perfect conformity to this law; for the law requires of no man any more than to love God with all his heart. The sinning angels have the same natural capacities now, as they had before they fell; they have the same faculties, called the understanding and will; they are still the same beings, as to their natural powers. Once they loved God with all their hearts; and now they hate him with all their hearts: Once they had a great degree of love; now they have as great a degree of hatred; so that they have the same natural capacities now as ever. Their temper, indeed, is different; but their capacity is the same; and, therefore, as to a natural capacity, they are as capable of a perfect conformity to the law of their Creator as ever they were. So, Adam, after his fall, had the same soul that he had before, as to its natural capacities, though of a very different temper; and, therefore, in that respect, was as capable of a perfect conformity to this law, as ever. And it is plainly the case, that all mankind, as to their natural capacities, are capable of a perfect conformity to the law, from this, that when sinners are converted they have no new natural faculties, though they have a new temper: and when they come to love God with all their hearts in heaven, still they will have the same hearts, as to their natural faculties, and may, in this respect, be justly looked upon as the very same beings. In this sense, Paul was the same man when he hated