Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

things forementioned, they would exceed our regard to other things as the heavens are high above the earth, and would swallow up all other affections like a deluge. But how far, how exceeding far, are the generality of the world from any appearance of being influenced and governed by such a degree of divine love as this !

If we consider the love of God, with respect to that one kind of exercise of it, namely, gratitude, how far indeed do the generality of mankind come short of the rule of right and reason in this! If we consider how various, innumerable, and vast the benefits are we receive from God, and how infinitely great and wonderful that grace of his is, which is revealed and offered to them that live under the gospel, in that eternal salvation which is procured by God's giving his only begotten Son to die for sinners; and also how unworthy we are all, deserving (as Dr. Taylor confesses) eternal perdition under God's wrath and curse ; how great is the gratitude that would become us, who are the subjects of so many and great benefits, and bave such grace towards poor, sinful, lost mankind set before us in so affecting a manner, as in the ex. treme sufferings of the Son of God, being carried through those pains by a love stronger than death, a love that conquered those mighty agonies, a love whose length, and breadth, and depth, and height, passes knowledge ? But oh! What poor returns! How little the gratitude ! How low, how bold and inconstant the affection in the best, compared with the obligation! And what then shall be said of the gratitude of the generality ? Or rather, who can express the ingratitude ?

If it were so, that the greater part of them that are called Christians, were no enemies to Christ in heart and practice, were not governed by principles opposite to him and his gos. pel, but had some real love and gratitude ; yet if their love falls vastly short of the obligation or occasion given, they are guilty of shameful and odious ingratitude. As when a man has been the subject of some instance of transcendent generosity, whereby he has been relieved from the most extretne calamity, and brought into very opulent, honorable, and hap

VOL. VI.

py circumstances, by a benefactor of excellent characters and yet expresses no more gratitude on such an occasion than would be requisite for some kindness comparatively infinitely small, he may justly fall under the imputation of vile unthankfulness, and of much more ingratitude than gratitude ; though he may bave no ill will to his benefactor, or no posi. tive affection of mind contrary to thankfulness and benevolence. What is odious in him is his defect, whereby he falls so vastly below his duty.

Dr. Turnbull abundantly insists, that the forces of the af. fections naturally in man are well proportioned ; and often puts a question to this purpose :.... How man's nature could have been better constituted in this respect? How the affections of his heart could have been better proportioned ? I will now mention one instance, out of many that might be mentioned :

Man, if his heart were not depraved, might have had a dise position to gratitude to God for his goodness, in proportion to his disposition to anger towards men for their injuries. When I say in proportion, I mean considering the greatness and number of favors and injuries, and the degree in which the one and the other are unmerited, and the benefit received by the former, and the damage sustained by the latter. Is there not an apparent and vast difference and inequality in the dispositions to these two kinds of affection, in the generality of both old and young, adult persons and little children? How ready is resentment for injuries received from men ? And how easily is it raised in most, at least to an equality with the desert? And is it so with respect to gratitude for benefite received from God, in any degree of comparison ? Dr. Turnbull pleads for the natural disposition to anger for injuries, as being good and useful; but surely gratitude to God, if we were inclined to it, would be at least as good and useful as the other.

How far the generality of mankind are from their duty with respect to love to God, will further appear, if we consider that we are obliged not only to love him with a love of gratitude for benefits received ; but true love to God primari. by consists in a supreme regard to him for what he is in himself. The tendency of true virtue is to treat every thing as it is, and according to its nature. And if we regard the Most High according to the infinite dignity and glory of his nature, we shall esteem and love him with all our heart and soul, and to the utmost of the capacity of our nature, on this account ; and not primarily because he has promoted our interest. If God be infinitely excellent in himself, then he is infinitely lovely on that account, or in other words, infinitely worthy to be loved. And doubtless, if he be worthy to be loved for this, then he ought to be loved for this. And it is manifest there can be no true love to him, if he be not loved for what he is in himself. For if we love him not for his own sake, but for something else, then our love is not termiDated on him, but on something else, as its ultimate object. That is no true value for infinite worth, which implies no value for that worthiness in itself considered, but only on the account of something foreign. Our esteem of God is fundamentally defective, if it be not primarily for the excellency of his nature, which is the foundation of all that is valuable in him in any respect. If we love nat God because he is what he is, but only because he is profitable to us, in truth we love him not at all; if we seem to love him, our love is not to him, but to something else.

And now I must leave it to every one to judge for himself, from his own opportunities of observation and information concerning mankind, how little there is of this disinterested love to God, this pure divine affection, in the world. How very little indeed in comparison of other affections alio. get her diverse, which perpetually urge, actuate and govern mankind, and keep the world, through all nations and ages, in a continual agitation and commotion! This is an evidence of an horrid contempt of God, reigning in the world of mankind. It would justly be esteemed a great instance of disres. pect and contempt of a prince, if one of his subjects, when hc came into his house, should set him below his meanest slave. But in setting the Infinite JEHOVAH below earthly objects and enjoyments, men degrade him below those things,

between which and him there is an infinitely greater distance, than between the highest earthly potentate, and the most abject of mortals. Such a conduct as the generality of men are guilty of towards God, continually and through all ages, in innumerable respects, would be accounted the most vile, contemptuous treatment of a fellow creature of distinguished dignity. Particularly men's treatment of the offers God makes of himself to them as their Friend, their Father, their God, and everlasting portion ; their treatment of the exhibi. tions he has made of his unmeasurable love, and the boundless riches of his grace in Christ, attended with earnest repealed calls, counsels, expostulations and intreaties, as also of the most dreadful threatenings of his eternal displeasure and vengeance.

Before I finish this Section, it may be proper to say something in reply to an objection, some may be ready to make against the force of that argument, which has been used to prove that men in general have more sin than righteousness, namely, that they do not come half way to that degree of love to God, which becomes them, and is their duty.

The objection is this : That the argument seems to prove too much, in that it will prove, that even good men themselves have more sin than holiness, which also has been supposed. But if this were true, it would follow that sin is the prevalent principle even in good men, and that it is the principle which has the predominancy in the heart and practice of the truly pious, which is plainly contrary to the word of God.

I answer, if it be indeed so, that there is more sin, consist. ing in deiect of required holiness, than there is of holiness in good men in this world; yet it will not follow that sin has the chief government of their heart and practice, for two reasons.

1. They may love God more than other things, and yet there may not be so much love, as there is want of due love; or in other words, they may love God more than the world, and therefore the love of God may be predominant, and yet may not love God near half so much as they ought to do. This need not be esteemed a paradox : A person may lorea

father, or some great friend and benefactor, of a very excellent character, more than some other object, a thousand times less worthy of bis esteem and affection, and yet love him ten times less than he ought; and so be chargeable, all things 5" considered, with a deficiency in respect and gratitude, that is very unbecoming and hateful. If love to God prevails above the love of other things, then virtue will prevail above evil affections, or positive principles of sin ; by which principles it is, that sin has a positive power and influence. For evil affections radically consist in inordinate love to other things besides God; and therefore, virtue prevailing beyond these, will have the governing influence. The predominance of the love of God in the hearts of good men, is more from the nature of the object loved, and the nature of the principle of true love, than the degree of the principle. The object is one of supreme loveliness ; immensely above all other objects in : worthiness of regard ; and it is by such a transcendent excellency, that he is God, and worthy to be regarded and adored as God; and he that truly loves God, loves him as God : True love acknowledges him to be God, or to be divinely and supremely excellent; and must arise from some knowledge, sense, and conviction of his worthiness of supreme respect; and though the sense and view of it may be very imperfect, and the love that arises from it in like manner imperfect; yet if there be any realising view of such divine excellency, it must cause the heart to respect God above all.

2. Another reason, why a principle of holiness maintains the dominion in the hearts of good men, is the nature of the covenant of grace, and the promises of that covenant, on which true Christian virtue relies, and which engage God's strength and assistance to be on its side, and to help it against enemy, that it may not be overcome. The just live by faith. Holiness in the Christian, or his spiritual life, is maintained, as it has respect by faith to its author and finisher; and derives strength and efficacy from the divine fountain, and by this means overcomes. For, as the apostle says, This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. It is our faith in him who has promised, never to leave nor forsake his

« AnteriorContinuar »