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THE PRINCIPLE OF LOVE TO GOD.
Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
It is not easy to give the definition of a term, which is currently and immediately understood without one. But, should not this ready understanding of the term supersede the defini. tion of it, what can we tell of love in the way of explanation, but by a substitution of terms, not more simple and more intelligible than itself? Can this affection of the soul be made clearer to you by words, than it is already clear to you by your own consciousness? Are we to attempt the elucidation of a term, which, without any feeling of darkness or of mystery, you make familiar use of every day? You say with the utmost promptitude, and you have just as ready an apprehension of the meaning of what you say, that I love this man, and bear a still higher regard to another, but have my chief and my best liking directed to a third.
We will not attempt to go in search of a more luminous or expressive term, for this simple affection, than the one that is commonly employed. But it is a different thing, to throw light upon the workings of this affection,--to point your attention to the objects on which it rests, and finds à complacent gratification,--and to assign the circumstances, which are ei. ther favourable or unfavourable to its excitement. All this call forth an exercise of discrimination. But instead of dwelling any more on the significancy of the term love, which is the term of my text, let us forthwith take it unto use, and be confident that, in itself, it carries no ambiguity along with it.
The term love, indeed, admits of a real and intelligible appli. cation to inanimate objects. There is a beauty in sights, and a beauty in sounds, and I may bear a positive love to the mute and unconscious individuals in which this beauty hath taken up its residence. I may love a flower, or a murmuring stream, or a sunny bank, or a humble cottage peeping forth from its concealment,ếor in fine, a whole landscape may teem with such varied graces, that I may say of it, this is the scene I most love to behold, this is the prospect over which my eye and my imagination most fondly expatiate.
The term love admits of an equally real, and equally intelli. gent application, to our fellow.men. They, too are the frequent and familiar objects of this affection, and they often are so, be. cause they possess certain accomplishments of person and of character, by which it is excited. I love the man whose every glance speaks an effusive cordiality towards those who are around him. I love the man whose heart and whose hand are ever open to the representations of distress. I love the man who possesses such a softness of nature, that the imploring look. of a brother in want, or of a brother in pain, dišarms him of all his selfishness, and draws him out to some large and willing surrender of generosity. I love the man who carries on his aspect, not merely the expression of worth, but of worth main. tained in the exercise of all its graces, under every variety of temptation and discouragement; who, in the midst of calumny, can act the warm and enlightened philanthropist; who, when beset with many provocations, can weather them all in calm and settled endurance; who can be kind even to the unthankful and the evil; and who, if he possess the awful virtues of truth and of justice, only heightens our attachment the more, that he possesses goodness, and tenderness, and benignity along with them.
Now, we would have you to advert to one capital distinction, between the former and the latter class of objects. The inani. mate reflect no love upon us back again. They do not single out any one of their admirers, and, by an act of preference, either minister to his selfish appetite for esteem, or minister to his selfish appetite for enjoyment, by affording to him a larger