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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 1.-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 between the creature and the Creator, the moral subject, and the Supreme Moral Governor.
The language in which he, as the Sovereign Ruler, addresses his creatures, is that of authority; while it points out the principle that makes obedience to that authority to be itself happiness. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. Ye shall observe to do, therefore, as the Lord your God commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left : Ye shall walk in all the ways that the Lord your God commanded you, that
ye may live.”
It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the obedience which the law of God demands, and which the Supreme Legislator will accept, is that which comes up to its requirements. Its two great commands are,
“ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” To these commandments, and the precepts which arise out of them, we are bound to give obedience without intermission, and during the continuance of our existence. Should we fail but for a single moment, or in the slightest degree, we, of course, are chargeable with disobedience, and, consequently, become liable to the penalty of transgressors. The penalty is incurred in the case of a single failure or violation, and as often as the failure or violation is repeated. “The soul that sinneth shall
die.” That our obedience to the commandments of God be acceptable, it is necessary,
I. That it should proceed from love to him. This, as revelation teaches us, is the fulfilling of the law. We cannot conceive that law to be honoured and duly obeyed, where there is not an intentional subjection to the great Lord and Ruler of all, arising from a conviction of his infinite moral excellences, complacency in the perfection of his character, zeal for his glory, and gratitude for his unnumbered benefits. If the heart be properly affected towards God, as possessing in himself all worth, and beauty, and blessedness, as the only all-sufficient and everlasting portion of the soul, how easy and delightful will it be to give him the love and the obedience which are his due.
II. It is further necessary that this obedience should proceed from a deep and practical sense of God's authority over us. Without this, the service which we render will not be a reasonable, and, consequently, not an acceptable, service. It is under the influence of this abiding conviction, that our subjection to the will of God, in place of being a transient act of the mind, will be a fixed and practical habit, a consecration of heart and soul to his glory; a principle operating not at distant intervals, but like the affection of a dutiful child to its parent, or the constant obedience of a faithful servant to his master.
III. We must have respect in our obedience to all God's commandments. The perfect obedience which one of these commandments claims, is claimed by them all; and the wilful violation of one of them is a virtual violation of the principle upon which they are
all founded, and a dishonour to the authority by which they are all enacted. This is what is meant by the Apostle, when he says, “ He that is guilty in one point is guilty of all.” Along with the desire to know all the will of God, there must be the desire to practise his will as far as it is known. This is an unambiguous mark, by which sincere and universal obedience may be distinguished from that which is stinted and partial. “I am thy servant,” says the faithful servant of God; “give me understanding that I may know thy testimonies. I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way." There is in his mind a deep conviction that all the will of God is good, and holy, and wise,—that his authority is right, and ought to be obeyed,-and that all the commandments which this divine authority may enjoin, ought, because it enjoins them, to be cordially fulfilled.
These are some of the characters of that obedience which we are bound to render to the law of God. To deepen our convictions of God's unquestionable right to receive and to demand it, and of our unalterable obligations to render it, we should reflect on such questions and statements as the following:
Has not the God, whose moral excellences are boundless, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, a title to rule the creatures which he has formed capable of knowing, loving, and serving him? What are the attributes requisite to give a supreme right to our unreserved obedience, which are not found in the God that made us, and who claims us as his? Is
he not possessed of infinite knowledge and wisdom, to discern and to arrange the plans that may best subserve the good of the universe? Is he not the fountain of goodness, and in the exercise of his bounty diffusing his tender mercies over all his works? Is he not holy and righteous, and therefore incapable of doing wrong, or of acting partially towards his creatures ? Is he not the God of all power, and, therefore, able to deliver and to defend those that trust in him! Is he not most perfect, and all-sufficient; and, therefore, removed beyond the possibility of governing his subjects by deceit or injustice? Is he not our compassionate Father, who has nourished us and brought us up as children, and who rules us for our profit, that we may be the partakers of his holiness? Do we not feel that in voluntarily acting in obedience to him, we are acting in conformity to the noblest, the only valuable purposes for which we have been made, while we are improving in the endowments of persons virtuous and happy? Does not our experience, as well as our conscience, proclaim, that to disobey the least of God's commandments, is to rebel against his authority, to displease Him, whose displeasure cannot be counterbalanced by the whole world, to lose our peace, and fill the mind with painful apprehensions !
These, we are assured, are the deserts and the consequences of a single act of disobedience. When committed by our first parents, this act entailed suffering and misery on their posterity; and sin in them and in their offspring has spread desolation and death over the world. But the God of truth has solemnly