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possible moral excellence; moral excellence, therefore, must be the object of his love; and the law which he gives to his intelligent creatures, is the expression of it. It is the image of his wisdom and truth, rectitude and goodness, perfect in itself, as it is the representation of that God, who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. In this way we are to understand the language of inspiration which describes, “ The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward."
II. The perfection of the divine law, as the measure and the rule of virtue, appears from its simplicity and comprehensiveness ;-characters by which it is ad. mirably adapted to the capacity of mankind in all their diversified circumstances. It is so simple that the two precepts which embody it must be universally understood; and it is so comprehensive that the sum of all its precepts is expressed by one word-Love. The affection of mind, which this word denotes, includes in it the whole duty of man--that which he owes to God, to his neighbour, and himself;—and the varied duties, which the members of the family of God in the several worlds they inhabit are bound to perform. That law is indeed perfect, and is the emanation of boundless perfection, which expresses in few words,
universally understood, easily remembered, the whole duty of man in time and in eternity,ếof man in affluence or in poverty, in rude or in civilized life, in every condition, and under all variety of dispensations; and which thus briefly and comprehensively expresses, not the duty of man only, but of all created intelligences. It is the rule by which they guide their affections and actions, in the varied spheres in which they move, and in the observance of which peace and joy are secured throughout the dominions of God.
Contrast this divine directory of moral conduct with the intricate, voluminous, and very imperfect laws of man; and we cannot fail to have the most lively conviction of the perfection of that law, which points out so clearly, so fully, and so minutely, the whole duty of man.
III. This perfection farther appears from a consideration of the ends which it is designed to attain. These are the best that can be attained, and such as God proposes to himself in the government of the universe. These ends are, his own glory, the improvement of his creatures in every moral excellency, and the happiness of the whole family of intelligent beings.
That the law of God is calculated, as it is designed, to attain those ends, is clear from the nature of what it requires. It commands us to give to God the first place in the affections of the heart ;-to let his love fill the whole mind and soul, and regulate every thought, and desire, and faculty. If the nature an perfections of God be an object of supreme delight and complacency to God himself, and if the manifestation and the communication of his fulness be the end for which all things are made, ought not the same end, that is, the glory of God, to be the voluntary aim of all created beings? But voluntarily to aim at this, is to love the Lord our God with all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength ;-it is to make the doing of what the law requires the business of every day, and the ultimate end of our life.
In proportion as we keep this end in view, and are animated with that love which is the fulfilling of the law, do we possess moral excellency, or, in other words, are we virtuous beings. When we love what God loves, and hate what he hates, we bear his image; we resemble him in the moral excellences of his nature. It is thus only that we advance in the attainments and in the dignity of true virtue, and possess that character which God will regard with approbation. Nor is it necessary to add, that it is in this way only we are instrumental in promoting our own real and lasting happiness, and in contributing to the peace, joy, and harmony of the universe. Such is the divine perfection of this rule of moral conduct, that it directs, to the attainment of all these objects, all the glorious ends for which our being has any value, and for which that vast empire over which God presides has been called into existence.
IV. But the perfection of the divine law will still farther appear from a view of its unalterable authority and obligation. An important part of human legislation is to amend, and often to abrogate laws, previously enacted, but which experience has proved to be faulty, either from defect or excess, and even to be
subversive of the designs of legislation, the virtue and happiness of mankind. Even the positive institutions, appointed by infinite wisdom and goodness for important, though temporary ends, are annulled and set aside when these ends are accomplished. But the moral law, as it is the expression of those obligations which co-exist with the existence of moral beings, is unalterable and eternal. It is the enactment of Him who sees the end from the beginning, by whose wisdom and goodness it has been framed, and who through this medium reflects the image of his intelligence, and purity, and beneficence, to the understandings and hearts of his creatures and subjects. If, therefore, the moral excellences of his nature are unchangeable, the law which is founded on them, and which is the reflection of them, must also be unchangeable.
It cannot be altered for the better, because it is the image of Him who is perfection, that which his wisdom and goodness affirm to be due from man to God, from man to his neighbour, from man to himself, as a moral agent and an immortal being. If any change were to be effected in it, it must be a change for the worse; and then, it would of course cease to be what it is, the law of the Lord which is perfect, the very expression of those moral excellences which he loves, of those obligations which necessarily exist. Unless it be a true expression of these moral excellences, of these obligations, it is a false and imperfect representation of what God is, of what God is entitled to receive, of what God requires : such a representation cannot proceed from the God of truth, whose wisdom,
holiness, and goodness, are infinite. May we not, therefore, affirm in the words of our Lord, that heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot, or one tittle of the law shall fail?
ON THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW OF
Having pointed out the measure and rule of man's obedience as a moral agent and accountable being, let us inquire into the nature of that obedience which he is bound to render. This obedience has a reference to the commands which God enjoins, to the truths which he reveals, and to the dispensations which he appoints. In the first case he is to obey, in the second to believe, in the third to submit. In all the moving principle is, that love, which is the essence of virtue, and the fulfilling of the law. In every case it is obedience to God proceeding from love to him, differing only as the objects in reference to which it is exercised are different.
Section I.--Obedience to the Commands of God.
I shall not repeat the grounds of this obediencegrounds which are fixed and unchangeable as the moral excellences of God, and as are the obligations which necessarily arise from the relations subsisting