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mon feeling accordant to what the scripture says—The spirit, which dwelleth in us, lusteth to envy'-? These questions may help us to a decision of the point at issue, whether the conduct of mankind at present be or be not conformable to the law of our maker. But in fact the existence of wars, the prevalence of crimes, the size of prisons, the number of executions, have already determined it, and left us no other conclusion than that of scripture, that the world at large have not the love of God, abiding in them.
But, to come a little closer, judge yourselves, brethren, by this test! Do you love God as well as you ought to do? that is, as you can do? Do you love your neighbour, as yourselves ?
I will put a few cases for your consideration, that they may serve, as touchstones, to determine the truth in this inquiry. You will of course understand, that the object of these questions is not to find fault, but to ascertain facts, and particularly to ascertain the fact, whether you are at the present time keeping the law of God, or not. It is a most important question, and deserves a proportionately serious attention.
Now, if you love God with all your power, you will of course count the permission to hold communion with him a privilege. You will approach him with delight. Your thoughts will naturally look back to the hours you have hitherto spent in that hallowed exercise, as your happiest hours, and forward to the appointed moments of devotion with delight. You find your thoughts naturally occupy themselves without constraint on those scenes, which are most interesting to you, and often incapable of being fixed on other subjects through the strength of their bias towards a more attractive object. Here then is a criterion, which nature itself presents to you. Do your thoughts more naturally revert, when you are engaged in other pursuits, to the subject of your devotions, or, when you are engaged in devotional exercises, to the amusements and occupations of the world? Alas ! I fear, if you will examine yourselves honestly on this point, that you will find few attempts more difficult than that of confining your
thoughts for any continued period of time to a direct act of supplication or thanksgiving to God. It is easy enough to reflect on religious questions, to engage in controversy, to pursue a speculation, or to study a doctrine. But these are not acts, which bring us into direct intercourse with God; and this is what the love of God would naturally prompt. Try yourselves with this one experiment! Endeavor to fix your minds steadily upon God and eternity, and to occupy yourselves fervently in supplication and thanksgiving without a wandering thought for one hour! Try it for half an hour, for a quarter of an hour, for ten minutes! and according to the success of the experiment think, how you could bear the rebuke of that searching question of our lord to his slumbering disciples—What! Could ye not watch ' with me one hour?'-! You may say, that it is weakness, not want of will, which hinders you from being thus devout, that it is difficult to fix the thoughts steadily for any continued period upon any other object, and especially upon one, that is removed from the observation of the senses, as well as upon the concerns of religion. But if the mathematician has no such difficulty in pursuing a train of reasoning, if the real difficulty with respect to absent friends or absent pleasures be not to direct the thoughts into that channel, but to divert them from it, the inference is not overstrained, that our difficulty in sustaining the attention, when God is the object of our thoughts, proves, that he is not, as he ought to be, the first object of our love, that, if we loved him better, we should think of him with less difficulty, and should find the act of
prayer and praise an ever welcome exercise, a never failing refreshment amidst other less delightful employments.
This is a consideration, which applies to men, who are really seeking to love God, who desire to fulfil his law, who know, how worthy he is of all their affection, and are solicitous to bestow it upon him. But, alas ! few of us can profess so much as this of ourselves, at least in reference to the whole course of our lives. Are you not conscious, brethren, of many sins, by which you have violated some known command of
maker? But no sin can be
committed against him, while the heart really loves him, as it ought. The two things are incompatible. As well might you love your neighbour sincerely, and yet murder him, as love God sincerely, and yet disobey him. Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Every transgression of known duty, all indisposition towards it, any omission of it is a proof, that you do not love God with all your strength, because, if you did, you would not be able to bear the thought of displeasing him, but would rather be anxious by every sacrifice in your power to manifest your gratitude to so great and holy and gracious a benefactor.
Then again the law of God requires you to love your neighbour, as yourselves. Do you do so? Can any one of you pretend to say, that he rejoices as much at a neighbour's, a stranger's prosperity, as at his own, and feels an equal disappointment at his reverses ? This indeed is so far from being the case with any of us, it is so opposite to the tenour and current of natural appetite and feeling, that men are inclined to think it cannot be the meaning