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in one harmonious system. It connects the earth and the planetary globes with other sys
tems in the distant regions of space; and carries
the sun, with all his attendant orbs, around the centre of that nebula to which it belongs, and all the systems and nebulae of the universe around the throne of God. In like manner, love unites all holy intelligences, wherever dispersed through the amplitudes of creation, in one amiable and harmonious systein. It unites man to God, and God to man. It unites the renovated inhabitants of our globe to anges and archangels, and qualifies them for entering into the closest bonds of friendship and affection with superior intelligences that people the regions of distant worlds. It produces an expansive and harmonious spirit, and an ardent desire to diffuse happiness among all surrounding beings. It gives birth to those sublime emotions which flow out towards the Creator in the various sorins of adoration, complacency, hope, confidence, humility, joy, submission, and reverence ; and it is the spring of all those virtuous dispositions which flow out towards our fellow-creatures in the form of mercy, compassion, sincerity, candour, sympathy, kindness, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, charity, generosity, justice, and active beneficence. It impels its possessor to run to the assistance of the distressed, to support the weak, to console the desponding, to comfort the dying, to diffuse the rays of heavenly light over the benighted mind, and to rejoice in the prosperity of ail around. It is “ the bond of perfection” which unites the members of an affectionate family, and preserves the union of the faithful in all the churches of the saints. It unies man to man by the closest ties, however different in language, customs, colour, and complexion, and however for removed from each other in point of place. It enables the Greenlander, the Icelander, the African, the inhabitant of Hindostan, and the inhabitant of the British Isles, in whose hearts it resides, to recognize each other as “the sons of God,” and as “brethren in Christ Jesus.” It sends forth the imagination over every quarter of the globe, carrying benevolent wishes, servent prayers, and intercessions for men of all kindreds and ranks; and employs every active endeavour to promote the present enjoyment an the eternal felicity of the family of mankind. It inspires the soul with emotions of delight, when it becomes the instrument of communicating happiness to all within the sphere of its influence. It unites the host of seraphim and cherubim in one vast and harmonious association; so that no jarring affection is ever felt, and no discordant voice is ever heard, among the thousands and ten thousands of these exalted intelligences. It preserves every member of the holy and intelligent system in the rank and orbit prescribed by Infinite Wisdom, and leads them all to
rejoice in accomplishing the plans of their benevolent Creator. Around him, as the sun of the moral system—the centre of light, and ove, and joy—they all revolve in their appointed order cheered by the emanation of his love, enlightened by his beams, and reflecting a radiance upon all the beings with which they are surrounded. Though one orb differs from another in motion, in magnitude, and in glory, yet no one interferes with another to impede its progress, or to intercept the emanations of light and joy from the Uncreated Source and Centre of all enjoyment. Were the principle of attraction which binds together the atoms of our globe, and connects the planetary orbs with the sun, to be completely dissolved, the earth would be shattered to its centre; the waters of the ocean would fly upwards, and be dispersed through the highest regions of the atmosphere; rocks and mountains would be detached from their bases, and raised aloft above the clouds; forests would be torn up from their roots, and tossed about in confusion through the sky; the moon would forsake her ancient course; the planets would run lawlessly through the immensity of space, and mighty worlds would be seen dashing against each other, till they were shattered to pieces, and their fragments tossed about in disorder throughout surrounding systems. Effects equally disastrous to the intelligent system would be produced, were the influence of love, in all its varied emanations, to be completely suspended or annihilated. War would be proclaimed in heaven, and myriads of angels hurled from their seats of bliss. The rapturous songs and adorations of seraphs would be changed into the howlings and execrations of demons. The population of the universe would be transformed into one vast assemblage of fiends; its regions of beauty and fertility would become one wide scene of desolation and horror, and the voice of lamentation and misery would be heard resounding throughout all worlds. On earth kingdoms would be shaken and convulsed; governments overturned ; societies dissolved; families dispersed ; the bonds of friendship burst asunder; husbands torn from their wives, and parents from their children; the intercourse of nations suspended; the pursuits of science and religion abandoned; every rank and relation overturned, end virtue banished from the abodes of men. Deserting all social beings, and forsaken by all, man would become a solitary monster, wandering without plan or object, an enemy to himself and to his species. Anarchy and disorder would reign triumphant over the whole race of human beings, and the howlings of wretchedness and despair would re-echo from every land. Such a scene of moral desolation selfishness and malignity have a natural tendency to create ; and such a scene they have actually created in our world, in so far as their influence has ertended. The power of attraction has never been com pletely suspended in relation to our globe, nor has the moral Governor of the universe suffered the principle of love to be entirely eradicated from the minds of its inhabitants. But, as when the law of gravitation is counteracted in case of earthquakes and volcanoes, the most destructive and desolating convulsions ensue, so it happens in the moral world, when the law of benevolence is trampled under foot. “Nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom " hostile armies encounter like tigers rushing on their prey; “firebrands, arrows, and death” are scattered in every direction; a confused noise of chariots, and horsemen, and of engines of destruction, is wasted on every breeze; garments are rolled in blood, and whole plains drenched with human gore, and covered with the carcasses of the slain. But wherever love diffuses its powerful and benign influence, there harmony, happiness, and peace are enjoyed by every rank of sensitive and intellectual existence. In every world where it reigns supreme, the intellectual faculty is irradiated, the affections are purified and expanded, transporting joys are felt, and, like the planetary orbs and their train of satellites, all shine with a steady lustre, and move onward in harmonious order, around the Supreme Source of intelligence, and the Eternal Centre of all felicity.
THE PRECEDING WIEWS CORRob ORATED BY DIW in E REWELATION.
In the preceding sections I have endeavoured to illustrate the two grand principles of the Moral Law, and to demonstrate their reasonableness, and the necessity of their universal operation, in order to the promotion of the happiness of the Intelligent system. I have proceeded all along on the ground of revelation, as well as of reason, and the nature of things. But since these important principles form the basis of the system of religion, and of all the practical conclusions I may afterwards deduce in the remaining part of this work, it may be expedient to advert a little more explicitly to the declarations of Scripture on this subject. And here I propose very
briefly to show, that it is the great end of Divine .
Revelation to illustrate these principles in all their various bearings, and to bring them into practical operation. This position is expressly stated by our Saviour himself, in his reply to the scribe, who proposed the question, “Which is the great commandment in the law 7” “Thou shalt love the Lord thv God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is
like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ON These two commandMENTs hang ALL THE LAw AND THE PRopii Ets.” This declaration evidently implies, that it is the design of the whole of the Old Testament Revelation, to illustrate and enforce these laws, and to produce all those holy tempers which are comprised in the love of God, and of our neighbour. This appears to be the grand object of all the historica facts, religious institutions, devotional exercises, moral maxims, prophecies, exhortations, promises, and threatenings, which it records. The history of the formation of the universe, and of the beautiful arrangement of our globe, as detailed in the Book of Genesis, is calculated to display the wisdom and goodness of the Creator, and to draw forth our affections towards Him who is the Author of our enjoyments, and who pronounced every thing he had made to be “very good.” The history of the wickedness of the antediluvian world, of the dreadful effects it produced in the state of society, and of the awful catastrophe by which its inhabitants were swept from existence, and buried in the waters of the deluge, is calculated to illustrate, in the most striking manner, the guilt and the danger of withdrawing the affections from God, and of indulging a principle of malevolence towards man. The history of the crimes of Sodom, and of the fate of its wretched inhabitants; the destruction of Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea; the history of the idolatrous practices of the Israelites, of their murmurings in the wilderness, and of the punishments inflicted for their rebellion; the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and of the worshippers of Baal: The destruction of the nations of Canaan; the judgments which pursued the Jewish nation, during the whole period of their history, on account of their desection from God, and the calamities which befell them at the period of the Babylonish captivity—together with all the other facts connected with the history of that people and of the surrounding nations, are intended to exhibit the dismal consequences, and the moral wretchedness which inevitably follow, when the affections of mankind are withdrawn from the God of Heaven, and left to grovel in the mire of depravity and vice. The institutions of the Jewish Church were appointed for promoting the knowledge and the love of God, and for exciting an abhorrence of every thing which is contrary to the rectitude and purity of his nature. Among the tribes that inhabited the land of Canaan, prior to the entrance of the Israelites, and among all the surrounding natioes, the worship of false gods, the grossest superstitions, and the most abominable vices universally prevailed. It was one great end of the laws and ceremonies enjoined upon Israel, to excite the highest degree of abhorrence at every thing which was connected with idolatry, to portray its wickedness and folly, to rivet the affections of the people to the worship of the true God, to preserve them uncontaminated from the malignant disposition, and the vile practices of the neighbouring nations, and to instruct them in the nature and attributes of the Deity; that they might be “a peculiar people to Jehovah, separated from all the people that were on the face of the earth.” Hence, the following intimation and injunction are placed on the front of the moral code of laws delivered to that nation, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” To promote harmony and affection between man and man; to enforce the exercise of justice and equity in all their dealings; to inculcate chastity and purity of affection, kindness to strangers, conpassion, tenderness, and sympathy; obedience to parents, charitable dispositions towards the poor and needy, and tenderness and mercy towards the inferior animals, were the great objects of the various laws and regulations comprised in their moral and political code. The devotional portions of the Old Testament, particularly those contained in the book of Psalms, have the same general tendency. The descriptions of the work of creation and providence, the adorations of the majesty of the God of Israel, the celebration of the divine character and excellences, and the ascriptions of thanksgiving and praise for the mercy, long-suffering, and goodness of God, with which these divine compositions abound, are calculated to raise the affections to Jehovah as the source of every blessing, and to inspire the soul with love, admiration, and reverence. In many of these sublime odes, particularly in the 119th Psalm, the mind of the Psalinist is absorbed in meditation on the excellency of the divine precepts, and the happiness which the observance of them is calculated to convey to the soul. “O how I love thy law s” says David; “it is my meditation all the day. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of of gold and silver. I have rejoiced in thy testimonies as much as in all riches.” The moral maxims contained in the writings of Solomon are likewise intended to draw forth the desires after God, to counteract the influence of the depraved passions of the human heart, and to promote the exercise of candour, sincerity, justice, and benevolence among mankind. The exhortations, remonstrances, and denunciations of the prophets, were also intended to recall the assections of the people of Israel to the God from whom they nad revolted, to show the unreasonableness of their conduct in “forsaking the sountain” of their happiness; to display the purity, the excellence, and the eternal obligation of the divine precepts, and to warn them of the inevitable risery and ruin which will overtake the workers of iniquity. In short, all the promises and threatenings of the word of God, all the considerations addressed to the hopes and the fears of
men, all the providential dispensations of God, all the manifestations of the divine character and perfections, and all the descriptions of the glories of heaven, and of the terrors of hell, have a tendency to illustrate the indispensable obligation of love to God, and love to all mankind, in order to secure our present comfort and eternal felicity.
And, as it was the main design of the Old Testament economy to illustrate and enforce the principle of love to God and to man, so it is, in a particular manner, the great object of the Christian Revelation, to exhibit the law of love in all its bearings and practical applications. In one of the first sermons delivered by our Saviour, and the longest one recorded in the Evangelical History, the Sermon on the Mount, the main design is to explain and enforce these principles, in relation both to God and to man, and to sweep away all the false glosses which Ignorance and Prejudice had mingled with their interpretations of the Divine Law. In one part of this discourse, our Lord declares, that we may as soon expect to see “heaven and earth pass away,” or the whole frame of the universe dissolved, as that “one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law.” For, as it is a law founded on the nature of God, it must be of eternal obligation, and can never be abrogated with regard to any class of rational beings, in consistency with the perfections of the divine nature. As it is a law absolutely persect, comprehending within its range every disposition and affection, and every duty which is requisite for promoting the order and happiness of intelligent agents, nothing can be taken from it without destroying its perfection; and nothing can be added to it without supposing that it was originally impersect. And as it was intended to preserve the harmony and to secure the felicity of the intellectual beings that people the earth and the heavens, the fabric of universal nature must be destroyed, before this law can be set aside or cancelled. For we have already seen, (Sect. IV.) that, were it reversed, the whole intelligent system would be transformed into a scene of confusion, misery, and horror. For the purpose of affolding an immense theatre, on which the operations of this law might be displayed, the earth with all its furniture and decorations, and the heavens, with all their hosts, were called into existence; and, therefore, were it either cancelled or reversed, neither the glory of the Creator would be displayed, nor the happiness of his intelligent creation secured. The mighty expanse of the universe, enclosing so many spacious worlds, would become one boundless moral desert, in which no “fruits of righteousness” would appear, nor any trace of the beauty and benevolence of the Eternal Mind. —In the same discourse, our Saviour enforces the duty of love towards even our most bitter enemies and most furious persecutors. “Ye
have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you ; that you inay be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to arise on the evil and on the good, and senden rain on the just and on the unjust.” This is one of the most sublime exercises of the principle of love, in reference to our fellow-men ; and it is enforced from the most sublime motive and consideration—the conduct of Benevolence itself towards a race of rebellious and ungrateful creatures. All the other instructions of this Divine Teacher—his parables, exhortations, admonitions, warnings, Lnd consolatory addresses, though referring to particular cases and circumstances— had the same general object in view. When his disciples would have called for fire from heaven, to consume the Samaritans, he kindly, but with energy and decision, reminded them, that a principle of malignity was imbodied in their unhallowed desires, which is directly opposed to the law of love. “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” Among his last instructions to his followers, when he was about to depart from the scene of his earthly pilgrimage, love was the grand theme on which he repeatedly expatiated. “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another ; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that we are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” And, as the promotion of the spirit of love was the great object of his instructions, so his whole life was an uninterrupted exemplification of the purest benevolence, both towards friends and towards enemies. Never did that holy affection which unites the angelic tribes, and diffuses joy among the poor inhabitants of all worlds, appear within the confines of our world, so amiable, so disinterested, and so ardent, as during the period of the public ministry of Jesus, and particularly towards the close of his earthly career. In the immediate prospect of sufferings, dreadful beyond our conceptions, his love to mankind was “strong as death,” which the many waters of af. fliction which surrounded him were unable to quench. His whole soul seemed to be absorbed in affection towards his disconsolate disciples, and in a desire to cheer and animate their drooping spirits. His last addresses, as recorded by the Evangelist John, breathe a spirit of tenderness and compassion, and of Divine benignity, of which we have no parallel in the annals of our race.” To display his kindness and condescension, and to teach his disciples to peform with cheer‘ulness the humblest offices of friendship, he rose
from supper; he laid aside his garments; he
took a towel; he girded himself; he poured wa
fer into a bason; he began to wash the disciples' feet; and he wiped them with the towel wherewith he was girded. He then addressed them in such language as this:—“Let not your
heart be troubled ; in my Father's house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you.
And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am there ye may be also. I will not
leave you comfortless; I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter, even
the Spirit of truth, which shall abide with you for ever. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nei
ther let it be afraid.” In his last prayer, which accompanied these benedictions, the same ardent flow of affection burst from his benevolent heart— “Holy Father! keep, through thine own name,
those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are.” But his love was not confined to the select few with whom he was surrounded at this interesting hour. His mental eye surveyed the various tribes which people this department of creation—it pierced through all the succeding generations of mankind—and he embraced in his expansive affections the whole race of the faithful till the close of time. “Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also who shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us.” Even towards his bitterest enemies his benevolent emotions flowed out, in earnest supplications for their forgiveness. Neither “ the floods of ungodly men,” which compassed him,
nor the torrents of abuse which were poured upon him while he was nailing to the cross, could overpower that heavenly flame which burned in his holy breast. In the midst of all the mockeries, insults, and indignities which he endured, when he was made “a spectacle to angels and to men,” his affectionate desires ascended, with the smoke of the evening sacrifice, to the throne of God, in behalf of his murderers—“Father, forgive them : for they know not what they do.” O, what a striking contrast is here presented, to those scenes of pride, malignity, and revenge, which have so long disgraced the race of Adam, and spread lamentation, and mourning, and terror, among families, societies, and nations ! What a happy world would this become, were it peopled with such amiable characters, and were all who profess to be followers of Jesus, instead of contending about “questions which gender strife,” to vie with each other in imitating his mild and benevolent spirit! Then Christianity would appear in its native lustre, and receive the homage due to its divine character: and the name of Je. novah would soon be proclaimed throughout all the earth, and the joys of his salvation felt in every clime. Again, it is one great end of the death of Christ to destroy the principle of malignity in the human heart, and to promote the operation of the law of love. “While we were enemies, (says the Apostle Paul.) we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” “ He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” “They who were enemies in their mind, and by wicked works, he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present then holy and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight.” Love to his heavenly Father, and love to mankind, impelled him to “humble himself, and to become obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” And, in order that this divine principle might be kept alive, and form a bond of union among all his sollowers, he appointed an ordinance, consisting of sensible signs, in commemoration of his death, to be observed in all ages as a memorial of his love, and to remind his friends of the indispensible obligation under which they are laid to love one another. To promote the same benevolent design, he arose from the dead, ascended to heaven, sent down the Spirit of Holiness to abide in the Church, and now presides in the celestial world as “a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and the remission of sins.” And, as the instructions and the example of Jesus Christ were calculated to exhibit the principle of love in all its interesting aspects, and to promote its practical influence, so the preaching and the writings of his Apostles had the same important object in view, as the ultimate scope of a their ministrations. The one half of every epistle to the Christian churches is occupied in delineating the practical bearings of this holy affection. Like the lines which proceed from the centre to the circumference of a circle, the vaious radiations of Christian affection are traced from love, as the grand central point, and exhibited in all their benign influence on individuals, families, churches, and the diversified relations which subsist in civil and Christian society. “Above all things,” says the Apostle, “put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Though we speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, we are become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though we understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and beslow all our goods to feed the poor, and have not love. it profiteth nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not, vaunteh not itself, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. Prophecies shall fall, languages shall cease, earthly knowledge shall vanish away, but love sever faileth.” “Love worketh no ill to his
neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. All the law is comprehended in this say ing, mainely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The works of the flesh,” or those which flow from a principle of malignity, “are these : fornication, uncleanness, idolatry, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, envyings, murders, revellings, and such like. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-susfering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, and temperance.” “Let love be without dissimulation, and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us. Be kindly affectioned one toward another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another. Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them that persecute you? bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church; children, obey your parents in the Lord; fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Le d. Servants, be obedient to your masters, with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not unto men; and ye masters, do the same thing unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your master also is in heaven.” “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering ; forbearing one another in love, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Such is the general scope of the instructions which the apostles delivered, in all their communications to the Christian churches, whether composed of Jews or Gentiles. And, had it not been for the strong prejudices of the Jews, and the erroneous conceptions of the Gentiles, which the apostles had to combat, it is probable, hat the whole of their epistles would have been solely occupied in delineating the practical effects of love to God, and to our brethren of rankind, and its glorious consequences in the future world. And, as it was the great aim of the apostles themselves, in their writings and personal administrations, to illustrate the numerous bearings of Christian love, so they gave solemn charges to their successors in the work of the ministry, to make all their instructions subservient to the promotion of the same important object. Almost the whole of the epistles addressed to Timothy and Titus, which relate to the duties and the objects of the Christian ministry, has a reference, not to the discussion of metaphysical questions in theology, which “are unprofitable and vain,” but to the illustration and the inculcating of those practical duties which flow from the spirit of love, and to the counteracting of those proud, malignant, and speculative dispositions which are opposed to the nicekness and benignity of the gospel of peace.