And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 22:27-30
TRUE Religion consists in a conformity to the Law of God, and in a compliance with the Gospel of Christ.
The religion of innocent man consented only in a conformity to the Law of Nature, with the addition of one positive precept: he had no need of Gospel-Grace. But when man lost his innocence and became guilty and depraved, when he fell under the wrath of God and the power of sin; he needed a Redeemer and a Sanctifier: and in the Gospel a Redeemer and a Sanctifier are provided, and a way for our obtaining pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace is opened, a compliance, with which, does now therefore become part of the religion of a fallen creature.
Now if we can but rightly understand the Law, and rightly understand the Gospel, we may easily see wherein a conformity to the one, and a Compliance with the other, does consist: and so what true religion is. —For the present, let us take the Law under consideration. And it will be proper to inquire into these following particulars:
1 What duty does God require of us in his Law?
2 From what motives shall that Duty be done?
3 What is that precise measure of duty which God requires in his Law.”
And a short, but very clear and plain answer to all these questions we have before us in our text; which is the words of our blessed Savior, and in which he does upon design to declare what the sum and substance of the Law is. –He had a question put to him in these words, “Master, which is the great Commandment in the Law?” To which he answers, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart…,” this is the first, —the second is like unto it….” The Ten Commandments are summed up in these two, and every duty enjoined in the Law, and inculcated in the Prophets, are but so many deductions from these two, in which all are radically contained. A thorough understanding of these two will therefore give us an insight into all.
Showing what is implied in Love to GOD.
A true Knowledge of God is implied. For this lays the foundation for love. A spiritual sight of God, and a sense of his glory and beauty, begets love. When He that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines in our hearts, and gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God; and when we with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, then we are changed into the same image: The temper and frame of our hearts become like God’s: (To speak after the manner of men) we begin to feel towards God, in a measure as he does towards himself; i.e. to love him with all our hearts. 2 Cor. 3:18. and 4:6. For now we begin to perceive the grounds and reasons of that infinite esteem he has of himself, and infinite complacency in himself, and why he commands all the world to love and adore him. And the same grounds and reasons which move him thus to love himself, he commands all the world to do so too, so to enkindle the divine flame in our hearts. When we see God, in a measure, such as he sees himself to be, and have a sense of his glory and beauty in being what he is, in a measure, as he himself has, then we begin to love him with the same kind of love, and from the same motives, as he himself does: only in an infinitely inferior degree, this sight and sense of God, discovers the grounds of love to him: We see why he requires us to love him, and why we ought to love him, how right and fit it is; and so we cannot but love him.
This true Knowledge of God supposes, that in a measure, we see God to be just such a God as he is; and, in a measure, having a sense of his infinite glory and beauty in being such. For if our understanding of God is not right, then, it is not God that we love, but only a false image of him framed in our own fancy. And if we have not a sense of his glory and beauty of God being what he is, then it is impossible we should genuinely love and esteem him for being such. To love God for being what he is, and yet not to have any sense of his glory and beauty in Him being such, implies a contradiction.
For our carnal knowledge supposes, that we have a sense of his glory and beauty when we have not: a sense of the beauty and pleasantness of any object of a necessity, always implies a love in it. Where no beauty or pleasantness is seen, there can be no love. Love cannot be forced. Forced love is no love. If we are obliged to try to force ourselves to love anybody, it is a sign they are very odious in our eyes, or at least that we see no beauty nor pleasantness in them, no form or comeliness, wherefore we should desire or delight in them. (Song of Solomon 5:7) In all cases, so far as we see the beauty of God, so far we love, and no farther.
Most certainly, that knowledge of God which is necessary to lay a foundation of a genuine love to him, implies not only right understanding of what He is, but also a sense of his glory and beauty in being such.
For such a knowledge of God as it consists merely in speculation, let it rise ever so high, and be ever so clear, will never move us to love Him. Mere speculation, where there is no sense of beauty, will no sooner fill the heart with love, than a looking-glass will be filled with love by the image of a beautiful countenance, which looks into it. And a mere speculative knowledge of God, will not, cannot, beget a sense of his beauty in being what he is, when as there is naturally no disposition in our hearts to account him glorious in being such, but wholly to the contrary. Romans 8:7, the carnal mind is at enmity against God. When natures are in perfect contrariety, (the one sinful, and the other holy) the more they are known to each other, the more is a mutual hatred stirred up, and their entire aversion to each other becomes more sensible. The more they know of one another, the greater is their dislike, and the plainer do they feel it. Doubtless the fallen angels have a great degree of speculative knowledge, they have a very clear sight and great sense of what God is: but the more they know of God, the more they hate him, and their hatred and aversion is stirred up the more, and they feel it plainer. So awakened sinners, when under deep and thorough conviction, have comparatively a very clear sight and great sense of God; but it only makes them see and feel their native enmity, which before lay hid. A sight and sense of what God is, makes them fee and feel what his Law is, and so what their duty is, and so what their sinfulness is, and also what their danger is: It makes the commandment come, and so sin revives, and they die, Romans 7:7-9. The clearer sight and the greater sense they have of what God is, the more plainly do they perceive that perfect contrariety there is between his nature and theirs’. Their aversion to God becomes discernible. They begin to see what enemies they be to him: And so the secret hypocrisy there has been in all their pretenses of love, is discovered: And so their high conceit of their goodness, and all their hopes of finding favor in the sight of God upon the Account of it, cease, die away, and come to nothing.
Sin revived, and I died.
The greater sight and sense they have of what God is, the plainer do they feel that they have no Love to him; but the greatest aversion. For the more they know of God, the more their native enmity is stirred up. So again, as soon as ever an unregenerate sinner enters into the world of the spiritual, where he has a much clearer sight and greater sense of what God is; immediately his native enmity works to perfection, and he blasphemes like a very devil: And although perhaps he died full of seeming love and joy. As the Galatians who once loved Paul, so as that they could even have plucked out their eyes and given him, yet when afterwards they came to know more clearly what kind of a man he was, then they turned into his enemies. And so finally, all the wicked at the Day of Judgment, when they shall see very clearly the nature of God, will thereby only have all the enmity of their hearts stirred to perfection. From all which it is exceeding manifest that the cleared speculative knowledge of God, is so far from bringing an unholy heart to love God, that it will only stir up the more aversion. And therefore that knowledge of God which lays the foundation for love, must imply not only right understanding of what God is, but also a sense of his glory and beauty in being such.
Wicked men and devils may know who and what God is, but none but holy beings have any sense of God’s infinite glory and beauty in being such as he is.
This understanding in Bible language is called seeing and knowing, 1 John 3:6. “Whosoever sins has not seen him, neither known him.” 3 John ver. 11. “He that does evil has not seen God.” 1 John 2:4. “He that says, I know him, and keeps not his Commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Because wicked men have no sense of his glory and beauty, they are therefore said not to know God. And because all knowledge without this is vain, it is therefore only but the form of knowledge that wicked men have. Romans 2:20, and it will never kindle divine Love. In the scriptures sinners are said to be blind, because after all their light and knowledge, they have no sense of God’s glory in being what he is, and so have no heart to love him. And hence also they are said to be dead. They know nothing of the ineffable glory of the divine nature, and the love of God is not in them. John 5:42, and 8:19, 55.