« PreviousContinue »
love will perform. Hence, if they have no excuse for the want of that love, which the law requires, they can have no excuse for not yielding universal obedience to the divine commands.
6. If the law requires nothing but love; then it al. ways approves itself to avery awakened and enlightened conscience. While sinners indulge themselves in carnal ease and security, they are ready to think and say, that God is a hard master, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he had not strawed.
But when their conscience is awakened to see, that God requires no heart, no inward exercise, no external action, but what consists in or flows from love, they feel the propriety and justice of every divine precept. Paul never felt the force of the divine law, until it was set home upon his conscience. Then he found it required nothing but benevolence, and condemned nothing but selfishness. This took away every excuse, and filled his conscience with guilt and
He freely confesses, “I had not known Just, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet-but when this commandment came, sin revived and I died.” He felt himself justly condemned, for having always lived in the exercise of a selfish, instead of a benevolent spirit. And all awakened and convinced sinners have the same view of themselves. Their consciences compel them, in spite of their hearts, to ac. knowledge, that the law, which condemns them for all their past selfishness, and which requires them immediately to love God supremely, upon pain of eternal destruction, is perfectly holy, just and good.
7. If love is the fulfilling of the law, then nothing without love can fulfil it. This multitudes deny both in theory and in practice. The Scribes and Pharisees totally excluded love from the essence of obedience.
The Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray, placed all his obedience and hopes of divine acceptance in the mere externals of religion. The young man, who came to our Savior to know the way to eternal life, verily thought, that he had perfectly obeyed the law from his youth up, merely because he had never been guilty of any overt act of transgression. And Paul also while in a state of nature, and a perfect enemy to God, viewed himself, “as touching the law blameless.” The same sentiment respecting the nature of true obedience still continues and prevails. Many imagine, that though they have not the love of God in them; yet by reading and praying; by attending public worship and divine ordinances; and by outward acts of justice, kindness and compassion, they can acceptably perform some part, if not the whole of their duty. But if love be the fulfilling of the law, then nothing done without love is the least obedience to the divine commands. This doctrine Christ abundantly taught in his sermon on the mount, and in the whole course of his preaching. Hear his severe and pointed reproofs to the Jewish Teachers, who separated obedience from love. “Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, bypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup, and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres,
which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” The law of love requires nothing separate from love; and, therefore, no religious professions, no religious desires, no religious performances, which are separate from love, do in the least degree fulfil the law. Hence it is the first and immediate duty of sinners to exercise that love, which the law requires. They cannot perform a single duty without the exercise of love. They can neither repent nor believe, nor do any thing acceptable to God, until they renounce their enmity to him, and love him supremely. They must be reconciled to the law, before they can be reconciled to the gospel. They must love the law, before they can love the gospel, and embrace the offers of life; for saving faith worketh by love. Let every sinner, therefore, immediately obey the first and great commandment, andexercise that love, which alone will secure the favor and enjoyment of God. “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
THE PRIMITIVE RECTITUDE OF ADAM.
ECCLESIASTES vii, 29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man
IT is one mark of our universal depravity, that we have been so prone to reproach our common Progenitor. No parent, perhaps, has ever been treated with so little propriety and respect, as Adam. Some of his undutiful children have virtually charged him with all the sin and guilt in the world; while others have even ventured to call in question his moral purity and perfection, before his fall. But Solomon speaks of our first Parent with peculiar veneration; and represents him, in his primitive state, as far superior to any of his degenerate offspring. "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." These words naturally lead us to ascertain and support the primitive character of Adam.
Here let us first consider what we are to understand by his being made upright.
The true import of this term appears from the connexion in which it is used. Solomon is not speaking of that noble aspect and erect posture of Adam, by which he excelled the lower species; but of that moral pectitude, or integrity of heart, by which he excelled all his own posterity. For he tells us in the text and context, that after taking a seriousa nd extensive view of mankind in their various situations and pursuits, he
drew up this general conclusion in his own mind, that the human race had greatly degenerated from the moral purity and integrity of their first Parent, and employed all their noble powers to find out new and different ways of gratifying their extremely depraved hearts. The inspired Writers commonly use the term upright, to signify that quality of the heart, which forms the
highest beauty and perfection of human nature. We : read, “The Levites were more upright in heart than
the Priests." Solomon, speaking of the integrity of his father David, says, "he walked before God in uprightness of heart.” And David commonly makes use of this phrase, when he would express his own integrity, or the integrity of others. “I will praise thee with uprightness of heart. My defence is of God, who saveth the upright in heart. The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrows upon the string; that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. O continue thy loving kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart. The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory. Judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it. Light is sown for the righteous; and gladness for the upright in heart. Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in heart.” It appears from these passages of Seripture, that uprightness belongs to the heart, and gives a man his moral character. And this leads us to understand the term upright in the text, as denoting moral rectitude, or perfect holiness.
The way is now prepared to show, in the second place, that God did make the first man upright in thiş