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LOVE THE CENTRE
OF ALL THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES
1 JOHN iv. 16.
God is love.
In the infinite variety of all important subjeets to which the rich treasures of divine revelation call our most serious and engaged attention, this, expressed in our text, is unquestionably entitled to the highest rank. However the thoughtless and profane may treat the Supreme disposer of all things, however trifling the name of the Most High may be handed round by polluted lips, one moment's serious attention to the impropriety of such communication is sufficient to convince the reasonable mind, that God is a subject infinitely too great to be introduced into trifling conversation, and infinitely too good to be mentioned by profane lips. But notwithstanding the impropriety and evil, of which mention has been made, are great and heineous, they bear but a scant comparison with the impropriety and evil of representing the great Father of our spirits as a character which would be dishonorable to man, who is but a worm of the dust.
If we lay aside the prejudices which the creeds of men have carefully treasured up in our deceitful hearts, we shall at once be struck with horror at the character which a false education has given to the best of all intelligent beings. The moral evil naturally growing from false notions of the divine character, has so established its empire in the hearts of men, and exercises such unresisted control over the temper and spirit of those who are deceived by such notions, that there appears but one remedy; and this one must be found in
the removing of those errors, by the clear shining of divine truth in the understanding. The particular and most special object of the present discourse is to contribute, at least, a humble attempt to remove wrong views of God from the mind, by showing that all the divine attributes harmonize in love; which view of the character of our heavenly Father, seems evidently comprehended in the text of which choice has been made.
There are but a few passages of scripture which speak in a direct manner of what God is. He is called a “fountain of living waters," by the Prophet Jeremiah. “My people have committed two evils ; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” This is a most striking representation of true and false religion. Love is a fountain of living waters. It is a living fountain, one that is never dry. This is true religion ; it has no hatred in it; it works no ill to its neighbor ; it measures to others what it is willing to receive.
But false religion is any thing and everything but love. It is something hewed out ; that is, it is the work of invention and art. The living water of divine love is not in it. It pretends to love, but hatred is its most essential ingredient. It is based on enmity. If we disallow enmity, false religion cries out, heresy, the foundation of religion is gone !-St. Paul says; “ Our God is a consuming fire.' Love is a consuming fire to all the hay, wood, and stubble which error has introduced into religion. Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest : for the day shall declare it, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive , a reward. If any man's work shall be burnt, he sha!l suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved : Yet so as by fire."
The fire of divine love seeks to consume nothing but that which is injurious to the sinner, who is the object of divine love.
The divine teacher said to the woman of Samaria ; “ God is a spirit, and seeketh such to worship him, who worship him in spirit and in truth.” Love is this spirit of God, and love is the spirit in which God is truly worshipped. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
It may tend to promote the object in view to mention a summary of moral attributes, and proceed to notice them both distinctly and conjunctively, by which their harmony in divine love may be made to appear. We read in Revelations, of the “ Seven spirits of God,” which we may suppose comprehend the perfection of the communicable attributes of the divine Being. Without any design to be arbitrary, we will name seven moral attributes; and though some may think a less number would comprehend the whole, and others, that a much greater number should be mentioned, it seems safe to calculate that the perfect number, seven, was designed to comprehend the whole and nothing more. And if we may be favored with a view of the harmony of the seven which we shall name, no doubt the candid mind will be satisfied, that if more moral attributes could be named, they would all be found to harmonize in love.
The seven we shall name are the following: Wisdom, Knowledge, Power, Justice, Truth, Mercy,—and Love in which they all harmonize.
Wisdom is that attribute of mind by which designs are drawn and plans are laid. It regards things, circumstances, causes and effects as they relate to each other. The wisdom of any plan is seen in the cooperation of its several parts tending efficiently to produce what the projector designs. Should any part of a plan fail of eventuating in the object designed, that failure, were it ever so small, would prove a lack of wisdom in drawing the plan.
When we view the visible objects of creation, their existence seems to fill the mind with admiration, and as soon as our thoughts advance to the consideration of the regular motions of the heavenly bodies, wisdom irresistibly attracts our notice, and seems to waken up a spark of devotion to the great Author of the universe. Continuing to meditate on the order, regularity, and harmony of the works of nature and providence; and to notice the concatenation of causes and effects which produce whatever is fit and good in the order and nature of things, no language seems more proper than that of the Psalmist; "O Lord, how manfold are thy works ! in wisdom hast thou made them all.”
Knowledge is a principle of intellectual nature by which the simple facts relating to things are comprehended or understood. This attribute in God is an all-seeing eye; from its pervading sight nothing can be hid. Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.
Power in the divine Being is that ability by which all the purposes of his vast and infinite scheme are carried into execution.' “ Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Justice is that attribute of God, by which a righteous and equitable admioistration is directed towards all moral accountable beings; and by which every such being receives a just recompence of reward accordingly as moral powers are exercised. Divine justice likewise requires that all moral beings should act in such a manner as to discharge every duty and obligation which the connexions and relations in which they are placed render necessary.
“ Justice and judgment are the habitations of his throne.”
Truth is whatever is opposed to falsehood, and is the reality of all things, circumstances and events, past, present and future. This is forever with him who varies not, for “ He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
Mercy is that divine perfection of God which pities and relieves from sin and wretchedness, those who stand in need of such compassion, “ For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
“ According to his mercy he saved us.
Love is a property which delights in an object, care
fully avoids doing it any harm, and uses all its means to administer good; “God is love."--Now, as it is the fixed, unalterable nature of love to do good to all the beings who are its objects, and to render them as blessed as possible with the use of all the means which love can command, it is seen at once, that whatever plans are laid so as to promote the best interest of those creatures who are the objects of the divine love, is in fact the wisdom of God; and as those plans perfectly harmonize with the benevolent purposes of love, it is . evident that the wisdom which contrived them is in perfect unison with love.
We here find a fair opportunity to look into the extent of the goodness of God, and that salvation which is brought to man by Jesus Christ, who is said to be “ The wisdom of God and the power of God.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world ; but that the world through him might be saved.” God so loved the world that he sent his own wisdom that the world might be saved by it. If the wisdom of God is not in perfect harmony with his love, he surely would not have sent his wisdom to carry into effect the purposes of love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Here both the object and the means are clearly set forth. God loved us while we did not love him. In consequence of this love he designed to do us a favor. The means which he used was to send his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. But if by becoming the propitiation for our sins, no benefit, but an injury should result to those whom God loved then the means would frustrate the object and prove the want of wisdom in the plan.
There is a doctrine in the christian church, that contends, that millions, yea far the greatest part of the human family will be infinitely more miserable in the
eternal world, than they would have been if Jesus had • never come into the world and died for their sins. If