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TO THE FIRST EDITION.

OF the following Sermons, the second, eighth, eleventh, a part of the thirteenth, and the whole of the fourteenth, have been published before, and are here reprinted, with considerable alterations and corrections. The rest are now for the first time offered to the Public.

SERMON I.

MARK Xii. 30.

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: THIS IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT.

THE HE LOVE OF GOD, so forcibly inculcated in this and other passages of Scripture, is a sentiment purely evangelical; and is one of those many peculiar circumstances which so eminently distinguish the doctrines of the Gospel from the dry unanimated precepts of the ancient heathen moralists. We never hear them urging the love of God, as a necessary part of human duty, or as a proper ground of moral obligation. Their religion being merely ceremonial and political, never pretended to reach the heart,

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onto inspire it with any sincerity or warmth of affection towards the Deity. Indeed how was it possible to have any love for such gods as they worshiped: for gods debased with every human weakness, and polluted with every human vice? It was enough, surely, to make the people worship such a crew. To have insisted upon their loving them too, would have exceeded all bounds of modesty and common sense. But christianity having given us an infinitely great and good and holy God to worship, very naturally requires from us the purest and devoutest sentiments of affection towards him; and with great justice makes the love of our Maker an indispensable requisite in religion, and the grand fundamental duty of a Christian. Surely then it concerns us to enquire carefully into the true nature of it. And it concerns us the more, because it has been unhappily brought into disrepute by the extravagant conceits of a few devout enthusiasts concerning it. Of these, some have treated the love of God in so mystical and refined away, and carried it to such heights of seraphic ecstacy and rapture, that common minds

must

must for ever despair either of following or understanding them; whilst others have described it in such warm and indelicate terms, as are much better suited to the grossness of earthly passion, than the purity of spiritual affection. And what is still more deplorable, the love of God has been sometimes made the scourge of man; and it has been thought that the most effectual way to please the Creator, was to persecute and torment and destroy his creatures. Hence the irreligious and profane have taken occasion to treat all pretence to piety as fanatical or insincere; and even many of the worthier part of mankind have been afraid of giving way to the least warmth of devout affection towards the great Author of their being. But let not the sincere Christian be scared out of his duty by such vain terrors as these. The accidental excesses of this holy sentiment can be no just argument against its general excellence and utility. As the finest intellects are most easily disordered and overset; so the more generous and exalted our affections are, the more liable are they to be perverted and depraved. We know that even friendship

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itself has sometimes been abused to the most unworthy purposes, and led men to the commission of the most atrocious crimes. Shall we therefore utterly discard that generous passion, and consider it as nothing more than the unnatural fervour of a romantic imagination! Every heart revolts against so wild a thought. And why then must we suffer the love of God to be banished out of the world, because it has been sometimes improperly represented, or indiscreetly exercised? It is not either from the visionary mystic, the sensual fanatic, or the frantic zealot, but from the plain word of God, that we are to take our ideas of this divine sentiment. There we find it described in all its native purity and simplicity. The marks by which it is there distinguished, contain nothing enthusiastic or extravagant. The chief test by which the Gospel orders us to try and measure our love to God is, the regard we pay to his commands. "He that hath my commandments, "and keepeth them," says our Lord, “he it "is that loveth me*." "This is the love of God," says St. John," that we keep his 66 com

* John xiv. 21.

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