Immagini della pagina
[ocr errors]

" how dwelleth the love of God in him?" To which he subjoins the following exhortation, whereunto we do well that we take heed: “ My little children, let us not love « in word, neither in tongue, but in deed " and in truth ; and hereby we know that

we are of the truth, and shall assure our « hearts before him.”_-Thus far is the law of righteousness extended by the gospel of Chrift.

3dly, With regard to godliness, none who are acquainted with the New-Testament writings can be at a loss to discover, either wherein it consists, or how it ought to be expressed. Love to God in the renewed soul, fpringing from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is the root, or vital principle, of godliness: not a common fubdued love, but a fervent, fupreme, and ruling love, that exalts God to the throne in the heart, and desireth nothing so much, as that he should keep it in full and everlasting pofseffion. As creatures, we are bound to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and foul, and strength : And we are further obliged, as guilty creatures, humbly to ac


knowledge the forfeitute we have incurred, to justify the law by which we are condern; ed, thankfully to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Mediator between God and man, and carefully to observe and improve all those ordinances which God hath appointed, as the' methods of testifying our fubjection and gratitude, or as means of receiving the communications of his grace, for healing our diseased natures, and rendering us meet for the enjoyment of himfelf in heaven. These are essential

parts the religion of a finner ; and mult therefore be considered as the genuine--and necessary expreflions of godliness, or of a right temper of heart towards the Father of our fpirits, the God in whom we live, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All the duties we owe to our fellow-creatures lean upon this as their proper foundation; and are fo dependent upon it, that neither our righteousness, nor beneficence, can avail us any thing, unless they flow from a living principle of devotion in the heart. They may profit others, and render ourselves amiable in the eyes of men ; but


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

if they be not animated with love to God, and accompanied with suitable expressions of regard to him, it is impossible they can meet with the divine acceptance. For let it be observed, that the practice of these duties became necessary only through man's apostafý. " Had we kept our first estate, there would have been no room for the exercise of either justice or mercy in any of those instances which our present distempered condition requires. Men would have lived' together as one great family, without strife or emulation, each rejoicing in the happiness of his brother. There would have been no temptation to fraud and injustice ; every inhabitant of the earth poffefsing all that his heart could wish: There would have been no occasion for redressing wrongs ; for

punishing the injurious, or protecting the injured; for relieving the poor, or sympathising with the afflicted: love would have had no other employment, but complacency and delight in feeing each one blessed to the full extent of his capacity: and therefore it can never be supposed, that the practice of those duties, which the bitter consequences


of our guilt alone have rendered necessary, should be the whole, or even the most essential part, of that obedience which is pleafing to God.

Indeed, were we to look upon the present state of the world as the original constitution, we might be apt to conclude, that our chief business upon earth consisted in the exercise of thofe focial virtues which knit men together, and enable them to provide most effectually for their common defence against those nyinberless evils to which they are continually exposed. But if we view the present state as the ruins of one far more perfect and excellent, which we forfeited by our unprovoked and criminal revolt from the great Author of our existence, we must be sensible, that the bare performance of those focial duties we owe to one another, can be of little account in the sight of God, fo long as we persist in our rebellion against himself, and neglect those higher duties which arise from our first and most lasțing relation.

Godliness, my brethren, is the one thing needful: did that prevail in its power, .fo.

briety and righteousnefs would follow of course, and maintain their ground against every assault, having fo firm and permanent a basis to lean upon: but till godliness be laid as the foundation, any attempt to introduce or establish either of the other two, must be vain and fruitless. Loud and general hath been the


for foine time past, after public fpirit, disinterested patriotism, and integrity, which can neither be bribed nor overawed, among those who move in the upper ranks of life. These qualities, it must be confessed, accompanied with a large proportion of wisdom, are truly desirable, and might be eminently useful; and when it shall please God to bestow them, they will no doubt appear very beautiful in their feason: but if all who join in the cry, would endeavour in the first place, to get their own hearts possessed with real godliness, and then pray for the same blessing to others, with as much fervency as they utter their complaints, I can assure them they would be taking by far the nearest road to success. “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of


« IndietroContinua »