Mark 12:30. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart The summary of piety contained in these words, (see notes on Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37,) is introduced by the preceding emphatical and strong assertion of the unity of God; because, “it is necessary that men should be deeply impressed with just notions of the object of their worship, particularly that he is the only true God, the maker of all things, and the possessor of all perfection, to whom there is not any being equal, or like, or second: in order that they may apply themselves, with the utmost diligence, to obey his precepts, the first and chief of which is, that they give him their hearts. God is so transcendently amiable in himself, and, by the benefits he hath conferred on us, hath such a title to our utmost affection, that there is no obligation that bears any proportion to that of loving him. The honour assigned to this precept proves, that piety is the noblest act of the human mind, and that the chief ingredient in piety is love, founded on a clear, extensive view of the divine perfections, a permanent sense of his benefits, and a deep conviction of his being the sovereign good, our portion, our happiness. But it is essential to love, that there be a delight in contemplating the beauty of the object beloved; that we frequently, and with pleasure, reflect on the benefits which the object of our affection has conferred on us; that we have a strong desire of pleasing him, great fear of doing any thing to offend him, and a sensible joy in the thought of being beloved in return. Hence the duties of devotion, prayer, and praise, are the most natural and genuine exercises of the love of God. Moreover, this virtue is not so much any single affection, as the continual bent of all the affections and powers of the soul. In which light, to love God is, as much as possible, to direct the whole soul toward God, and to exercise all its faculties on him as its chief object. But the beauty and excellence of this state of the mind is best seen in its effects; for the worship and obedience flowing from such a universal bent of the soul toward God, is as much superior to the worship and obedience arising from partial considerations, as the light of the sun is to any picture of it that can be drawn. For example, if we look on God only as a stern lawgiver, who can and will punish our rebellion, it may indeed force an awe and dread of him, and as much obedience to his laws as we think will satisfy him, but can never produce that constancy in our duty, that delight in it, and that earnestness to do it in its utmost extent, which are produced and maintained in the mind by the sacred fire of divine love, or by the bent of the whole soul, turned toward God; a frame the most excellent that can be conceived, and the most to be desired, because it constitutes the highest perfection and happiness of the creature.” This is the first (Matthew, and great) commandment As this is the first in order, so it is the greatest commandment in the law.
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