« PreviousContinue »
eth the law. This however (it may be urged) was addressed to the people of one generation. It may even be referred in great measure to those parts of the divine law, which are now abrogated, the law of sacrifices and of ceremonial purifications. However this may be, it opens a field of inquiry, upon which it would argue great inattention to our best interests not to enter with seriousness and candour.
Let us therefore by the divine permission begin the inquiry, my brethren, this evening ! The way is prepared for it, since we have found reason to believe, that the law of God is fully revealed in the bible ; and since our divine instructor has extracted from that volume so short and clear an abstract of the law for our guidance. May he, who has given us a law, enable us to examine it with that carefulness, which he may justly demand, and to judge ourselves according to it with impartiality and truth!
John vii. 19.
Did not Moses give you the law ? and yet none of you
keepeth the law.
THE course of investigation, upon which we have entered, begins now, my brethren, to assume a fearful and serious aspect. So long as we were merely reasoning upon the speculations of philosophers, and endeavoring by means of them to determine, whether
other hypothesis than that of the eternal existence of one universal intelligent cause, endowed with infinite perfections, could solve the problem of nature, we might seem to be rather engaged in an investigation of abstract truth, than in settling a point of deep and vital moment to ourselves. Our interest in the
subject under discussion might thus in the commencement of our researches resemble that, which we should feel in the truth or falshood of some philosophical theory, or in the question, so long left undetermined, or determined amiss, whether the sun move round the earth, or the earth round the sun. But the reflections, by which we are now stimulated to a prosecution of our researches, are of a very different character. We have been led from considering the being of a God to look into the records of his law, to perceive, that he has actually written a law for our guidance, and consequently to feel, that we are most seriously concerned to know not only the nature and extent of that law, but how far we ourselves have kept it, or come short of it.
If any persons can enter upon the examination of a question, like this, without a feeling of reverential awe, without an apprehension of the discoveries, to which it may lead, or without a serious desire and determination, if possible, to know the whole truth upon a subject, in which their relation to the being, who made them, and consequently their hopes
and fears for eternity are involved, it is not possible to refer such indifference to any principle of reason, to any suggestion of wisdom, or any dictate of prudence. It resembles rather the apathy of giddy triflers, who in a trial, involving their character and fortunes, resolve to drown in forgetfulness the important question at issue. They are acting, as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not, that it is for his life. The subject of the law of God is the most solemn, that can occupy the attention of his creatures ; and I do trust, that you will all, young and old, be disposed to come to the consideration of it with a solemnity of mind and feeling, suited to its intrinsic importance, as well as to the magnitude of the consequences, which may flow from it.
The question at present before us, my brethren, resolves itself into two heads. First, what is the law of God ? Secondly, have we ourselves, or have we not kept it?
The first of these points was discussed in the morning. It was then reduced to a narrow compass : for in the course of our disquisitions we saw reason (I trust) to be satisfied, that the law of God, the whole law of God, so far as is necessary for the direction of human conduct, was given by Moses. We saw, that it comes to us there, so strongly authenticated by miracles and prophecies, that not only is it shewn thereby to be indeed the law of God, but that it carries with it also abundant proof, that God exacts obedience to it, and resents, and will punish its violation : and moreover we saw the substance of that law reduced by the lawgiver himself to a narrow point, and concentrated in these two propositions—“Thou shalt love the lord, thy God, with all thy might, and thy neighbour, as thyself.'
A command, like this, cannot but strike us, as abundantly reasonable. We have already traced something of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God, as impressed on the works of his hand, and upon the revelation of his will ; and we cannot but own, that such a being, from whom alone we derive all, that we have and are, has a claim upon all our love, and a right to our utmost obedience. Moreover in these two laws it