« PreviousContinue »
Matt. XXII. 37, 38.. 37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt I love the Lord thy God with all thy
Heart, and with all thy Soul, and · with all thy Mind..
. 38. This is the first and great Como mandment.
Have, in two former Discourses,
love the Lord our God with
Mind; and, secondly, that this is indeed the first and greatest of all the Commandments.
The Business I am now upon is to make some Application, to draw fome Inferences from this point, and one of them I mentioned and insisted upon the last Lord's Day.
I proceed now to a second Inference from this Point, and it is this: Is it the firsi and principal Part of our Duty to love God, and afterwards to love our Neighbour? Then we may learn from hence, how preposterous those Mens Notions are, who place the Sum of Religion in the Performance of those Duties we owe to ourselves, but lay but very little or no Stress on those that properly and immediately concern God. There are some among us that pretend to own Religion, but place it in a great measure, if not altogether, in the Practice of that which they call Moral Honesty, without any Regard to the Love of God in their Mind, or expressing their Sense and Veneration of him in their Actions. It is enough, in their Opinions, to secure all the Interest of their Souls, that they are Men of Honour and Justice, that they are fair and gentle in their Dealings, or that they are true to their Words, civil to their Friends, kind to Relations; that they scorn to do any base or infamous Action; that they do to all Men as they desire to be done to themselves; and, lastly, that they are not scandalously lewd, or debauched, or profligate, in their Conversation ; but then, as for the Duties of Piety, properly so called, such as hearty Faith in Christ Jesus, Love, and Trust, and Dependence upon God, devoting themselves to the Service of him and Christ, and exp heir Sense
and Dependence on him by Prayers and Thanksgivings, and other Acts of Worship; all this they are perfect Strangers to. They maintain no Communion with God in their Closet, nor is there any Face of divine Worship appears in their Family: They do not much resort to the holy Assemblies at the accustomed Times, and when they do, it is rather to comply with the Custom, or to gratify some Piece of Curiosity, than for any Ends of Devotion; and as for the most folemn Part of the Christian Worship, that of commemorating the Death of our Lord in the holy Sacrament, they have never any thing to do with it; unless perhaps they have some secular Turn to be served by their coming thither.
But what shall I say of this sort of Men ? We dare not indeed call thein Atheists, because they pretend to believe a God, and they pretend likewise to live soberly and honestly, as being God's Command. ment ; but we can in no Senfe call them Christians : For, if it should prove, that . they believe in Jesus Christ (which whether they do or no we know not) yet they are far from living like his Disciples : Nay we may truly say, that, however they may own both God and Christ, in Notion and Opinion, yet really they deny both in their Actions and Conversation; and may be truly said to live without God in the World : So that in truth, it is but in a very impro
per Sense that they can be said to have any Religion at all. : .
The very Life, and Soul, and Spirit of all Religion, as I have often said, is to love God with all our Heart and Mind. This is the principal part of it; nay, this is the very Sum of it. But now these Men have a Reli. gion without the Love of God; that is to say, they are religious, without having that wherein Religion chiefly consists. But it will be said, Are not Honesty, and Justice, and Regularity of Life, are not these Instances and Expressions of Love to God? Right; they are fo, when they proceed from a good Principle; when they flow from such a lively Sense of God, and hearty Affection to him, and serious Desire of recommending our selves to his Favour, that we do fincerely endeavour to put in Practice every thing and all Things that we know he hath commanded; among the which we are deservedly to account Acts of Justice, and Mercy, and Sobriety, and Generolity; and the like; I say, when such Actions proceed from this Principle, they are really Instances and Expressions of our Love to God; but, without this Principle, they are not at all. Otherwise we muft say, that a perfect Atheist does express his Love to God, when he practises these Things (as certainly such a Man may live in the Practice of all these Things), when
yet he doth not believe that there is any God at all. '
But now if a Man has this Principle of the Love of God within him, if he do his Actions out of the Power and Influence of that, it is certain he cannot rest in such Performances as these : That Principle will carry him a great deal further, and will put him
upon doing a great many other Things besides e these: More especially it is impossible it · · should suffer him to live in a conitant Neg
lect of those Duties that do more immediate-