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BOOK IV.

ON THE DUTIES WE OWE TO GOD.

CHAPTER I.

ON THE DUTY-OF USING MEANS TO KNOW GOD-OF LOVING

HIM,-OF WORSHIPING HIM, OF OBEYING HIS WILL.

The being, perfections, moral government of God, and immortal destination of man, being clearly seen from the things that are made, and from the order of providence, we shall now inquire into the nature and extent of those duties which appear to be binding on man.

What are the grounds on which an intelligent and accountable being is bound to ove, reverence, and obey God? It is nearly a self-evident proposition, that a being of infinite perfection, who comprehends in him. self all possible excellency and goodness, is entitled to esteem, veneration, worship and obedience. These are rights which it is as impossible for him to alienate, or for us with impunity and blamelessly to violate, as it is for him to cease to be self-existent and infinite, or, for us to be dependent creatures.

I. On account of the excellencies and attributes of his nature. Necessarily existing from everlasting to everlasting, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, he is omnipotent, intelligent, holy and good, and is the only

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fountain of all loveliness and happiness. Comprehending in himself, and to a boundless extent, all that is great and pure and excellent,—the beauty diffused over the creation, is but the reflection of the beams of his ineffable brightness and glory. He is the foundation and the source of all being and blessedness; from whom all is derived, and on whom all is most entirely depending; of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things. On this ground the warm devotion of the heart is his right; and to withhold from him its affections of love, gratitude, and adoration, shews a depraved insensibility to moral loveliness, and the formed principle of rebellion against the Lord and Ruler of all.

II. He is entitled to our love and obedience, not only on account of what he is, but because of the way

in which he exercises his perfections and government toward us. He has given us being, and conferred on us all the rich and varied endowments of our nature; and it requires no other law than that which arises from the relation we bear to him as creatures to their Creator, to bind us, formed as we are with powers of reason and of understanding, to love the Lord our God with all our heart. As the sole Author of the gift of being, he has an unquestionable right to gratitude in return; a right to command that the capacities bestowed should be employed in obedience to himself; and that in the exercise of our faculties, and in conducting our pursuits, we should consult his will as our only rule, and as our chief end. We cannot but feel it to be the highest privilege and glory of our nature humbly to adore him, and that to be

allowed to aim at honouring him, is indeed the security of our own everlasting good. In a mind capable of knowing him, and consequently of loving him, and of feeling supreme delight in whatever relates to him, there must be something fearfully wrong, if the love of this great and holy Lord God is absent from it; so far removed from it, that it will think of any other object in preference, and will strive and struggle against his will, in the pursuit and in the accomplishment of its

own.

But the obligation which our creation has laid upon us to give our hearts to God, and to be the willing instruments in furthering his glory, is continually increasing by the prolongation of life, and by the successive supply of mercies necessary to its enjoyment. Can we live on the bounty of God, and deny him our grateful affection? What is the end for which His goodness anticipates our wants, and surrounds us with its unnumbered blessings? Is it not that our hearts may turn in love to the God who condescends to claim them, and who nourishes and brings us up as chil. dren? Is it not that we may feel that He whose goodness gives us all that we enjoy is himself the supreme and everlasting good, and that we are deeply criminal in not designedly and constantly living to his praise? In neglecting to glorify God, we are living in the daily violation, not only of the obligations which arise from the perfections of the divine nature, and from the laws of our being, but are resisting claims to our love, and gratitude, and obedience, numerous as the moments of our existence. Thus, we are exhibiting the fearful spectacle of moral and accountable creatures, supported in being by the God whom they practically disown, and carried on by his power and beneficence into eternity, while they are in the meantime changing his truth into a lie, and are worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator.

The duties which we owe to God may be comprehended under the following heads. First, an humble attempt, in the use of suitable means, to form just notions of his nature and attributes: Secondly, the cherishing of pious affections towards him: Thirdly, acts of public and private worship: Fourthly, obedience to his will.

I. It is a duty which we owe to God, humbly to attempt in the use of suitable means, to form just conceptions of his nature and attributes. A Being of infinite excellency, and who has given us all that we either enjoy or hope for, is surely entitled to this homage. We cannot adore his perfections with understanding, unless we take some pains in ascertaining what they are; and he who is a Spirit, and whose infinitude cannot by searching be found out, requires us to contemplate him in whatever way he condescends to make himself known. The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious; and his righteousness endureth for ever. The admission of his being and perfections, and of his moral government and authority, implies that we are bound to acquaint ourselves with God; and that the noblest end of our faculties and pursuits is to know something of his perfections and counsels. This is necessary to

our having suitable views and impressions of our duty and final destiny, and to our living under the influence of the most persuasive motives to the practice of virtue; as it is only when we have just notions of his nature and attributes, that we can have the full conviction of his unalienable right to the first and the best affections of our hearts; and that we shall calmly resign ourselves to his disposal, confident that under the guidance of his power, and wisdom, and goodness, all things shall be made to work together for our good.

II. It is clearly, from the light of nature, our duty to cherish pious affections towards God. Independently of his claims to such affections, it becomes us to cherish them on account of the peace, and purity, and consolation, which their exercise yields to ourselves. The contemplation of the attributes of God should awaken corresponding emotions in our hearts,-emotions in some degree suited to his greatness and adorable perfections. These affections consist in veneration of his infinite and incomprehensible greatness; adoration of his wisdom and power; love of his goodness and mercy; gratitude for his innumerable and inestimable benefits; a disposition cheerfully to obey all his laws; fear in the apprehension of his displeasure; joy in the hope of his approbation; and a desire to imitate him in doing good to others. These are the affections which it is not only the duty, but the honour of man to cherish ;-because they lead his thoughts towards an object of incomparable sublimity and loveliness ;-and because, in proportion as they are cherished is his happiness increased, and he himself advanced in the scale of moral excellence.

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