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NOTHING SHORT OF SUPREME LOVE TO GOD DESERVES THE NAME OF RELIGION. Such, dear hearers, is the truth on which we would now expatiate a little.
Nothing short of supreme love to God, we have said, deserves the name of religion. His requisition to every being formed by his power, and sustained by his bounty, is, “My son, give me thy heart.” Such is the language
' of our Maker, and it is language which sufficiently evinces, that without the cordial devotion of our whole selves to his service, we cannot become the objects of his paternal regards. Let it ever be distinctly understood, that all acceptable obedience to the divine law must emanate from a principle of sincere attachment to the honour and glory of Him by whom it has been enacted. Hence we find the several precepts of this law comprehended in that one grand injunction, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And hence, too, we find it broadly asserted, that even if an individual were to keep the whole law, with the exception of only a single point, he must still be viewed and dealt with as a violator of it in every particular: and for an obvious reason.His neglect of one commandment proves, that his observance of the rest is radically defective. He keeps the nine from some motives which have no connexion with love to the great Lawgiver, and if he were as strongly tempted to violate them, as he is to violate the.one precept with regard to which he is delinquent, he would not be tardy in becoming a transgressor of the entire decalogue. Did he really love God, he would avoid the infraction of onecommandmentquite as scrupulously and as pertinaciously as he would the iufraction of all. “ Love,” brethren, 6 love is the fulfilling of the law." Jehovah is not a tyradnical potentate satisfied with the slavish obedience of his intelligent creatures. He is a parental Governor who looks for filial submission in his subjects, and will accept no other homage than that of the heart.
The general principle which we have now laid down, will assist us in detecting what there was hollow in the moral conduct and feelings of a young man, wbose deportment and character were, in many respects, so correct and amiable as to recommend him to the peculiar regard and sympathy of Christ. He had obeyed the whole law, so far as he understood the purport, and felt the force of its injunctions, and was even desirous of learning what more it was necessary for him to do, in order to fulfil his duty, and provide for his well-being in eternity. So far as human judgment was competent to decide, his condition was safe, and his prospects were flattering. But the Saviour, whose eye was upon his heart, and who knew what was in him, perceived that he still " lacked one thing;" and that, alas! the all-important thing. His obedience, weighed in the balances of heaven, was found wanting. It was devoid of that vital principle of love which was essential to its acceptableness in the view of Jehovah. Here was the inquirer's capital deficiency; and to make this manifest, nothing more was necessary than to lay upon him some injunction, to comply with which there could be no other motive than a real regard for the authority-an unpretended desire to do the will of the Most High. He could not transgress the moral law-he could not commit adultery, murder, theft or fraud, nor could he bear false witness, or treat his parents in an undutiful manner-without forfeiting the good opinion of society, and thus subjecting himself to temporal disadvantages. But no bad consequences of this description would be likely to result from the refusal to sell all that he had, and give to the poor. The world, instead of setting a black mark upon him for such refusal, would be loud in sounding his praise. He would be commended as a man of prudence, who knew how to take care of his own interests—a species of knowledge, by the way, in the highest repute among men, and which not a few fathers would rather confer upon their sons, than see them capable of outstripping every competitor in the loftiest fields of science. It is clear, therefore, that the command of the Saviour, “Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor," was precisely and admirably fitted to expose the self-delusion under which this inquirer was unhappily labouring. It brought him directly to the point. It shut him up to the faith of the gospel. It fixed the eye of his conscience upon the one thing which he lacked. It shed the light of day into his mind, and removed his ignorance with regard to what he should do to inherit eternal life. In a word, it taught him that he did not yet love God supremely, and that this was the very pivot on which his unalterable destiny must turn.
And here, brethren, let us request you just to imagine, for a moment, that some requisition similar to that in our text, was made of you. It is not your duty, man of wealth, to sell all you have, and give to the poor. But suppose the contrary. Admit that this sacrifice was demanded by your Saviour, in such a way that you could not possibly doubt respecting his will. What, in these circumstances, would you do? Part with your possessions? or become sad, and go away grieved? And how would you act, man of ambition, if you were directed to relinquish all the honour and influence which you have acquired, and to forego the splendid prospects which have been so long dazzling with their brilliancy your mental eye? We would also ask, with what sensations would you, fond parent, hear the injunction from
the lips of your divine Lord, to surrender the son or the daughter, whose life and happiness are far dearer to you than your own ?-But we leave you to pursue this train of reflection for yourselves. Try the sincerity of your religion by the criterion which our present text exhibits. Make an effort to discover whether God has the first place in your hearts. O! remember, that he will bear no rival near his throne. Whatever he requires for the promotion of his glory-whether it be your property, your standing and influence in society, or your children—a right hand, a right eye, or even life itself—must be promptly relinquished. Behold the venerable father of the faithful” preparing, in obedience to the mysterious mandate of Heaven, to immolate, on the heights of Moriab, his only son Isaac, the child of peculiar promise, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. Learn from his example, the nature and extent of your duty, in relation to the clearly-ascertained requirements of your Maker.
We see, then, that the passage under consideration, affords an admirable test for enabling us to distinguish the various appearances of religion from religion itself. It teaches us, in a manner the plainest and most impressive, that without supreme love to God, nothing that we may do will effect our salvation. This must be the governing principle of our conduct. Mere morality will not procure for us eternal life, since we may observe the decalogue with a view to those temporal advantages which experience has shown us are annexed, in the ordinary course of Providence, to a virtuous career. Similar motives may lead us to assume what the Scriptures call the “form of godliness"—to make a profession of religion—to go through, with promptitude and assiduity, the
— whole routine of religious observances. There must,
therefore, be something more than moral deportment, and something more than a profession of religion, in the individual who looks to heaven as his everlasting home. He must obey and serve his Maker, simply because he loves him. Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatsoever he does, must be done to the glory of God. Thus speaks the New Testament, and the minister of the gospel, who would nothing extenuate,” is bound explicitly to say the same.
Brethren, the point to which we have now directed (or, at least, endeavoured to direct) your attention, is particularly important for those among you, who have made a formal profession of religion. In thus acting, you have performed a clear and a decided duty. But O! remember, that the profession alone will not avail for the salvation of your souls. A form of godliness, without the power thereof, is good for nothing. It is compared by the Saviour to sepulchres, which, though fair, and white, and promising on the exterior, contain only bones and putrid flesh. Piety—real, acceptable, and profitable pietydoes not consist in the mere physical or outward observance of any of the means of grace. We have not done enough, when we have become regular attendants of Jehovah's sanctuary-when we have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost-when we have partaken of bread and wine at the sacramental board_and when we have embarked in the zealous support of every plan devised for the temporal and spiritual improvement of mankind. Genuine Christianity consists not in any one, nor even in all of these things. Its essence lies in doing the will of God, from a sincere regard for the divine authority, and desire to promote the divine glory. Believe us, brethren, nothing short of this will take you to heaven. 66 Not every one