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diligently to God's dealings with us, and acquire a very lively sensibility to every instance of his goodness; it is, at the same time, important, that this personal wakefulness he accompanied with an habitual regard to the general character of his providence: otherwise it may happen that the pressure of temporary affliction may shake the very foundations of our faith. A settled conviction, founded upon rational evidence, of the beneficence of our Creator, is the key-stone of all religion. This blessed persuasion, increasing with an increasing knowledge of the nature of his government, is the first source of Divine love. More strictly rational than the second, yet abounding less in ardour and animation, it gives in stability what it borrows in feeling A love of God founded only on the perception of his excellence, would move our hearts but faintly; flowing only from a grateful sense of his goodness to ourselves, it might be fluctuating and fitful. Both therefore must be united; and a more beautiful instance can hardly be imagined of the harmony with which the different principles of our nature concur in the service of our Maker. It affords an example, too, which is highly characteristic, of the way in which God has ordained that our faculties and feelings shall act together to build up the perfect Christian.
The seeds of holiness are sown in this life, but they grow up and flourish for eternity. It is impossible to contemplate the two great sources of our love to God, without perceiving that, as each is in its nature capable of increasing without limits, the sentiment to which they give birth must be, in like manner, infinite. God is unchangeable; but our idea of his perfections is capable of perpetual enlargement, and his promises assure us of an unceasing accumulation of benefits. Here, indeed, our views are fait and our affections languid; yet even in this life we are gradually maturing for heaven, and travelling towards that kingdom where the tabernacle of God is planted. In proportion as our natures are renewed and sanctified, we feel a growing complacency in contemplating the adorable image of our Maker, and receive his increasing mercies with still increasing sensibility. And when this " earthly house of our tabernacle shall be dissolved,” and we shall rise in the likeness of our Redeemer, holy and incorruptible, will the love that cheered our pilgrimage below fail us in those celestial regions ? When we stand before the throne of God and of the Lamb, every faculty vigorous, and every feeling awake to rapture; when the mysterious volume of Providence shall be unrolled, and the wisdom and goodness of the great Father of all things fully vindicated; when the recollection of the past, the perception of the present, and the anticipation of the future, shall unite to overwhelm us with joy and wonder; when we shall behold our Saviour “face to face,” and “know even as we are known;" then will love be indeed triumphant, immeasurable as the perfections of our Maker, and inexhaustible as his bounties.
Love is the great principle of the Gospel; but it has been the first commandment under both dispensations. The Law was published, indeed, in thunders from Mount Sinai, and the punishments it denounced were the sanctions which enforced its precepts. Yet even then “God left not himself without witness;" the love of him was enjoined with the most affecting solemnity; and when our Redeemer republished that Divine precept, He borrowed it from the Pentateuch. This concurs with every
indication to shew that whatever other principles of action may be useful to a being so ignorant and infirm as man, love is the true end of all religion. Our advancement in holiness may be safely measured by the growing influence of this affection; and it is the peculiar glory of Christianity, that, by opening to us the great doctrine of reconciliation through a Saviour, and introducing with that doctrine a service more rational and more spiritual than belonged to the former covenant, it has given to this heavenly principle a practical authority and predominance, which it could not generally obtain under a darker economy.
Love is, even in this world, an unfailing source of happiness. It is so in the natural constitution of things; just as fear is a source of pain, and confidence of courage. Whoever truly loves God, has a secret fountain of joy within his bosom, which the distresses of this life can never quench, though they may sometimes a little disturb it. It is this inward peace, this heart-felt satisfaction, which alone truly deserves the name of happiness. It was this which sustained the apostles and martyrs of the first ages, and made them, in the midst of suffering, more than conquerors. It is this which still pours its sacred influence around us, and sheds a mild, a holy light upon the path of our pilgrimage.
“ Perfect love casteth out fear.” How full of encouragement and peace is this blessed declaration! And it is the language of nature in our hearts, as well as of the word of God. Let us love God above all things. This surely is no hard precept, no heavy service. What is it that Christianity enjoins us?---to contemplate that which is most perfect; to admire that which is most lovely; to imitate that which is most excellent; to cultivate feelings
and affections which are essentially amiable, suited to our nature, and the sources, even in this world, of almost all the happiness we can enjoy or bestow; to be matured for everlasting bliss; and, by the perfect sanctification of our souls, become meet for that kingdom, where faith shall be lost in knowledge, and hope in possession, but where charity, unextinguished and unextinguishable, shall reign and triumph for ever.
I conclude with a passage which should be graven upon every heart:-“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
MAN was created pure, and placed in a world which the bounty of his Maker had stored with every thing that could supply the materials of knowledge to his mind, and minister delight to his senses. But man rebelled against his Creator; his appetites were corrupted, and his reason depraved. The same world which was intended to be the scene of his happiness and improvement, became the theatre of his guilt and misery. The faculties with which he had been endowed, that he might contemplate the nature and imitate the perfections of his heavenly Father, were perverted to supply the means of selfish gratification; and all that rich store of blessings, which the bounty of Heaven had showered around him, furnished only multiplied incentives to his cupidity. Sin had poisoned the very fountains of happiness, as the bee extracts the venom which arms her sting from her own honey. Yet God remained unaltered and unalterable. His law had assigned, by an everlasting sanction, to holiness, glory and immortality; to guilt, confusion and misery. Amidst the gloom of that fearful night which had enveloped the earth, some gleams of a heavenly light were still visible. Amidst all the perplexity and contradictions, the strange appearances and inextricable mystery, which seemed to have taken possession of the world, which confounded the most wise and