« PreviousContinue »
What doth the Lord require of thee ?–Micar vi. 8.
The subject brought to view in this interrogation deserves, if any subject does or ean deserve it, your serious, tixed, and deep attention, whoever may treat it, and however it may be treated. The claims of God on man, whether he have any; if any, whether he asserts them; and what they are, and what is the character of them; how they have been regarded by him on whom they are made, and how they ought to be treated by him, this is the subject.
1. Has God any claims upon you ? has he a right to require any thing of you, if it should seem good to him so to do? This is the first question to be settled ; and it may be done, without argument, by appeal. The question is, whether God has a right to dictate to you what shall be the state of your heart, and the character of your conduct, your feelings and your doings; a right to regulate, limit, and control you by rules and laws; to demand this homage and that service of you ; to speak to you in the imperative mood, saying, do this, and abstain from that. Has he this right, or would he usurp a prerogative that does not appertain to him, should he do as I have said ? I am not concerned about the answer
you will give to this question. I am confident that your unanimons response is, “He has this right.” Well then,
2. The next question is, does he exercise this right, does he assert any claims on man, or has he, as some would say, generously waived them all? Has he actually required any thing? He has a right to hold the reins in his hands; but does he hold them, or has he given them up to us? If you are a believer in revelation, and, in this Bible, as being the word of God, you have answered the question, for you can scarcely read a page in this book, without meeting with an instance of the exercise of this right. You find God every where speaking imperatively to his creatures; giving them not merely counsels, but authoritative commands. “ Thou shalt, and thou shalt not;" this is his language to us. You admit then that God has claims on man, and that he asserts them. If there is any one here who has doubts in regard to revealed religion, and who, therefore, while he admits God's right, questions whether he has exercised it, I would ask of him, whether, the existence of the right being admitted, the probabilities are not altogether in favor of its exercise; and whether the presumption is not irresistibly strong, when it is considered that our very happiness depends on the right direction of our affections, and on a due regulation of our conduct? Is it not to be presumed that God has thrown the weight of his authority into that scale, on the preponderance of which our well-being is suspended, and that he has made obligatory by his express command that
course, which the highest interests of the soul require to be pursued? In short, may it not be in ferred from the benevolence of God, that he does exercise his right of command and control over us? And that he has done this, have we not distinct intimations from within us, in the operations of conscience? If I interpret correctly the testimony of that faculty, its witness is not merely that a certain course is right, but that it is also pleasing to a superior being, and of the opposite conduct, not merely that it is wrong, but that it is at variance with the will of that Supreme Intelligence, which we call God.
3. We come now to the third inquiry in order. What are the claims which God asserts? In what manner does he exercise his right of government over us? What doth the Lord require of thee? I answer, what he says he does. It is a subject on which he has spoken. He has not left his creatures to the necessity of excogitating and inferring what his will concerning them is. He has explicitly declared it. Soon as there was a man upon earth to receive and obey his orders, they were proclaimed to him. And God has never left the world without a revelation. It is not his fault that a revelation is not universal now, but the fault of those who have it, who soon could make it universal if they pleased. The argument in favor of the necessity of a revelation, is to my mind irresistibly cogent; and from the necessity to the reality of a revelation we pass easily. And I find most abundant testimony, both external and internal, that the revealed will of God is expressed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
Read the Bible then. That answers our third question. It answers in long and particular detail of things to be done and to be avoided. It answers it by laying down general principles of conduct, which admit of an easy application to the several cases which occur in the progress of life. It answers it sometimes in one comprehensive command. 66 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.” This the Lord requires of thee; thy supreme love, thy choicest affections, thy whole heart, and whatever else such a love disposes to and draws after it. The law is spiritual; the commandment exceeding broad. We have to do with one, who not only weigheth the actions, but the spirits of men. He has given rules for the regulation not only of our external conduct, and all of it, but of our speech, of our thoughts, our motives, our principles of action, and of all the various modifications of feeling. We are under law to God, and, consequently, accountable to him, every moment, and in regard to every thing that is thought, felt, said, as well as done by
Now God requires obedience to the whole of this law at all times. He allows of no imperfection, or interruption in our obedience. These are his claims. In the exercise of his right, he makes this requisition. And now,
4. In regard to the character of these claims of God.
1. They are reasonable. Their reasonableness may be inferred froin their reality. God is incapable of making an unreasonable demand. Their rea
sonableness is asserted; "his commandments are not grievous ; my “yoke is easy. What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly ;" “I consent to the law that it is good, says one; and I delight in the law of God, after the inward man.” If any one say that God's claims are unreasonable, we throw on him the burden of the proof that they are. Let him point the particular claim that is unreasonable and show that it is so.
2. These claims are particular, they are expressed in the singular number, “thou shalt." They are made on you as an individual, and not in any social capacity. God does not collect all his sons together and then say to them, “go ye and work to-day in my vineyard ;" but he comes to the first and says, “go thou,” and then to the second and says likewise; he addresses his commands singly to each one.
3. His claims are paramount. In every comparison they deserve to have the pre-eminence; in every competition the preference. Here I may venture to appeal to you. Is not that your first duty, which you owe to God? Has any being a claim on your affections and services prior and superior to that of God? Whom should you love rather than him ? whom more than him ? Ought not his will to be done, rather than that of any other being, rather than your own, or your friend's or your parent's ? These questions can be answered in only one manner.
4. These claims are impartial God asserts them with respect to every intelligent being, and with respect to each the same. He excepts no one, overlooks no one, excuses no one, and of each, of all,