« AnteriorContinuar »
cannot find these things in his heart and conduct, may safely conelude, that his repentance is not that of the Gospel.
2dly. The same observations prove, that Repentance is a spirit, justly according with the real state of things.
The penitent is really, as he pronounces himself to be, a sinner; guilty in the sight of God, and deserving of his wrath. Sin is really the great evil, which he feels, and acknowledges, it to be; and is therefore to be hated, lamented, confessed, and forsaken, in the very manner, determined on by himself. His situation is in all respects as bad, and his character as unworthy, as he supposes them. The views which he entertains of himself, therefore, are exactly agreeable to truth; and such as he is plainly bound to entertain. All views of himself
, and of his condition, which are discordant with these, would be contrary to truth, and a mere mass of falsehood. Of the same nature are the affections, involved in Evangelical Repentance. They are the very affections, which necessarily arise out of these views; and the only affections, which, in the penitent's case, correspond with truth. Of course, they are plain and indispensable parts of his duty.
3dly. These observations teach us, that Repentance is absolutely necessary to salvation.
Without Repentance, the sinner would still continue to be a sinner ; an enemy to holiness and to God, to happiness and to heaven. If he did not hate sin; it would be physically impossible, that he should forsake it; that he should love or practise holiness; that he should be cordially reconciled to God; that he should relish the happiness of heaven; or that he should desire, or enjoy, the friendship of virtuous beings. It would be impossible, that he should receive Christ as his Saviour; trust in his righteousness for acceptance; love his character; or welcome his mediation. At the same time, it would be morally impossible, that God should receive, or justify, the sinner; unite him to his family; or restore him to his favour. To all these things Repentance is plainly, and absolutely indispensable.
The views, which the penitent entertains of moral subjects, and the affections, with which he regards them, prepare him, and are indispensably necessary to prepare him, to partake of the favour of God, the employments of holiness, and the blessings of Redemption. Evangelical Repentance is the beginning of moral health in the soul. At the commencement of its existence, the former evil, morbid principles, begin to lose their hold, and to have their power diminished. The divine Physician then first achieves his victory over the moral diseases, which were before incurable ; and the balm of Gilead begins to restore its decayed and ruined faculties. From this moment, immortal health, the life of Heaven, returns to the languishing mind; health that cannot decay, life that cannot terminate : the youth of angels, which cannot grow old, but is formed to increase, and bloom, and flourish
HAVING considered, in preceding discourses, Faith in Christ, and Repentance unto life, the two first of those moral attributes, which I called the Attendants of Regeneration; I shall now go on to examine the nature of the third, and fourth, of these attributes : Lode to God, and Love to mankind. As both these are only exercises of the same disposition, directed towards different objects, I shall here consider them together; reserving a separate discussion of them to a future occasion. St. Paul informs us, that Love, viz. the disposition mentioned in the text, is the fulfilling of the Law; that is, of the two great commands, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself. These commands constitute a primary part of a Theological system; and will necessarily become a subject of particular investigation in the progress of these discourses. They will, therefore, furnish an ample opportunity for the separate consideration of these two great exercises of Love.
In examining this subject, at the present time, it is my design, 1. To exhibit the Nature of this Love; and, II. To prove its Existence. 1. I shall endeavour to exhibit the Nature of Evangelical Love.
1st. The Love of the Gospel, is a Delight in happiness : or, in other words, Good-will towards percipient beings, as capable of happiness.
Happiness is the object, ultimately, and alway, aimed at by the mind, under the influence of this affection. As percipient beings are the only beings capable of happiness, the love of happiness is, of course, he love of percipient beings. Of these, Intelligent beings are capable of so much greater and more important happiness, than mere animals, as scarcely to allow of any comparison between them. The love of happiness, therefore, is supremely the love of Intelligent beings. This, accordingly, has been assumed as a definition of Love. It is not however metaphysically correct.
A righteous, or virtuous, man will, as such, regard the life, and of course the happiness universally, of his beast; and this, though a small, cannot fail to be a real, object of his regard.
A delight in happiness, metaphysically considered, supposes it enjoyed, or already in possession. When it is not enjoyed, and yet is supposed to be possible, the same affection becomes, and is Vol. II.
styled, the Desire of happiness. Whatever we delight in, when present and possessed, we desire, when absent, or unpossessed. The mind under the influence of this affection, therefore, while it rejoices in happiness actually enjoyed, necessarily wishes its existence, wherever it is capable of being enjoyed.
2dly. This love of happiness is Universal.
This proposition follows, unavoidably, from the former. If the mind delights in happiness, as such; it is plain, that this delight will exist, wherever the happiness is found. If it desire happiness, as such, this desire will be extended to every case, in which it perceives that happiness may be enjoyed. The delight, therefore, will be co-extended with the knowledge, which the mind at any given time possesses, of actual enjoyment; and the desire, with its knowledge of possible enjoyment. So far, then, as the views of any mind, in which this disposition exists, extend, its love of happiness will be universal.
3dly. This love of happiness is Just.
By this I intend, that the greater happiness, whether actual, or possible, will be loved more, and the smaller happiness less. This, also, is inherent in the very nature of the affection. If the mind delight in happiness; it follows, necessarily, that this delight must increase, as the object of it increases. For example: if it delight in the happiness of one being, it will equally delight in the same happiness of a second; in the same manner in that of a third; of a fourth ; a fifth ; a sixth ; and so on, in that of any given, or supposable, number. Or, should we suppose one of these beings to be happy in any given degree ; and that happiness doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or increased in any other degree; the delight of such a mind in this object would be increased in the same proportion. I do not here intend, that this affection will operate with the mathematical exactness, here stated. I am well aware, that such minds as ours, are utterly incapable of operating with their affections in this perfect manner. This mode of illustration has been here used, for the sake of exhibiting the general proposition in a manner clear and decisive ; and, if I mistake not, it unanswerably evinces the truth of the proposition.
In entire accordance with this doctrine we are commanded to love God wilh all the heart, not only as an object of our Complacency, but of our Benevolence also. We are not only required to approve of his perfect character, but also to delight in his perfect happiness, or, as we more usually tern it, blessedness. His perfect character is the cause, of which his perfect happiness is the effect. The former, it is our duty to regard with supreme complacency; the latter, it is equally our duty to regard with supreme benevolence.
No less accordant with this disposition, also, is the second command of the same law. Our neighbour, that is, any, and every individual of the human race, is the subject of the same happiness,
as ourselves. We are therefore required to love our neighbour, as ourselves : viz. because his happiness is of the same importance, as our own : not indeed mathematically, but generally, and indefinitely; as the words of the command import.
It is to be observed, here, that Benevolence is the only object of this command. The greater part of those, who are included, here, under the word neighbour, are wholly destitute of virtue, in the Evangelical sense. But towards any, and all of these, it is physically impossible to excercise Complacency: this affection being no other than the love of such virtue.
4thly. This affection is Disinterested.
If the preceding positions be allowed, this follows, of course. Nothing is more evident, than that the mind, which loves happiness wherever it is, and in proportion to the degree in which it exists, must of course be disinterested. In other words, it must be without any partiality for its own enjoyment, or any preference of it to that of others. Its delight in the happiness, enjoyed by others, will be the same with that, which it finds in its own enjoyment; so far as it is able to understand, and realize, it in the same manner. We cannot, I acknowledge, either understand, or feel, the concerns of others in the same degree, as our own; and from this imperfection would arise, even if our benevolence were perfect, a difference in our estimation of these objects, which so far as I see, could not be avoided. But in cases, not affected by this imperfect state of our minds, cases, which even in this world are numerous, no reason can, in my view, be alleged, why the estimation should not be the same. In a more perfect state of being, it is probable, the number of such cases may be so enlarged, as to comprehend almost all the interests of Intelligent creatures. Sthly. This love is an Active
principle. By this I intend, that, in its nature, it controls all the faculties in such a manner, as to engage them supremely in the promotion of the great object, in which it delights. Of this truth we have the most abundant proof in the Scriptural exhibitions of the character of God; of the Redeemer; and of those saints, whose history they record. God, saith St. John, is lode. Every good gift, saith St. James, and every perfect gift, is from above; and cometh down from the Father of lights. Nevertheless, saith St. Paul, he left himself not without witness ; in that he did good, giving us rain from headen, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with
food and gladThou art good, says David, and dost good;
and thy tender mercies are over all thy works. Jesus Christ, says St. Peter, a man who went about doing good. It is hardly necessary to observe, that the whole body of worthies, presented to us in the Scriptures, were in this respect followers of God, as dear children ; or that the same mind was in them, which was also in Christ. The Epistles of St. Paul, particularly, and his whole history, after his conversion, as given to us by St. Luke, are one continued proof, that this was
his ruling character. The love, which exists in word, and in tongue, the Scriptures reprobate ; and approve, and enjoin, that only, which, in their emphatical language, exists in deed and truth. We hardly need, however, look to this or any source, for evidence concerning this subject. Love, in all cases, so far as our experience extends, prompts him, in whom it exists, to promote the happiness of the object beloved. So plain is this to the eye of common sense, that no person believes love to exist in any mind, which does not labour to accomplish happiness for the object, which it professes to love. Thus a parent, who neglects the happiness of his children, is universally pronounced not to love ihem; and thus persons, professing friendship for others, and inattentive at the same time to their welfare, are with a single voice declared to be friends in pretence merely. What is true, in this respect, of these natural affections, is altogether true of Evangelical love. Its proper character is to do good, as it has opportunity.
6thly. This principle is the only Voluntary Cause of happiness. The benevolence of Intelligent creatures is the same, in kind, with the benevolence of God; and for this reason is styled the image of God. But the Benevolence of God is the single original cause, the sole, as well as boundless, source, of all the happiness found in the creation. In the great design of producing this bappiness he has required Intelligent creatures to co-operate with himself. Of their labours to this end their own benevolence is the only immediate cause. Benevolence, therefore, in God and his Intelligent creatures, considered as one united principle of action, is the only voluntary source of happiness in the universe. As, therefore, none but voluntary beings can produce, nor even contrive, happiness; and as no voluntary beings, except benevolent ones, are active to this end; it is plain, that happiness is ultimately derived from benevolence alone; and but for its exertions would never have existed.
7thly. This principle is One.
By this I intend, that the same love is exercised by a virtuous mind towards God, towards its fellow-creatures, and towards itself. The affection is one. The difference in its exercises springs only from the difference of its objects. Love is the fulfilling of the law : that is, one affection exercised towards God, and towards man, is alternately the fulfilling both of the first and second commands. He who is the subject of one of these exercises is of course a subject of the other also. He, who loves God, loves mankind : hë, who loves mankind, loves God. There are not two affections of the mind, in the strict and metaphysical sense; one of which is called love to God, or Piety; and the other love to mankind, or Benevolence : but there is one love, now exercised toward God, and now toward mankind. YI. I shall now proceed to prove the Existence of this principle.