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The first objective ground of gracious affections, is the transcend
ently excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in themselves, and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest.
I say, that the supremely excellent nature of divine things is the first, or primary and original objective foundation of the spiritual affections of true saints; for I do not suppose that all relation which divine things bear to themselves, and their own particular interest, are wholly excluded from all influence in their gracious affections. For this may have, and indeed, has, a secondary and consequential influence in those affections that are truly holy and spiritual; as I shall shew by and by.
It was before observed, that the affection of love is as it were the fountain of all affection; and particularly, that Christian love is the fountain of all gracious affections. Now the divine eccellency of God, and of Jesus Christ, the word of God, his works, ways, &c. is the primary reason, why a true saint loves these things; and not any supposed interest that he has in them, or any conceived benefit that he has received, or shall receive from them.
Some say that divine love arises from self-love ; and that it is impossible in the natare of things, for any man to love God, or any
other being, but that love to himself must be the foundation of it. But I humbly suppose, it is for want of consideration they say so. They argue, that whoever loves God, and so desires his glory, or the enjoyment of him, desires these things as his own happiness; the glory of God, and the beholding and the enjoying of his perfections, are considered as things agreeable to him, tending to make him happy; he places his happiness in 'them, and desires them as objects which, if obtained, would fill him with delight and joy, and so make him happy. And so, they say, it is from self-love, or a desire of his own happiness, that he desires God should be glorified, and desires to behold and enjoy his glorious perfections. But then they ought to consider a little further, and inquire how the man came to place his happiness in God's being glorified, and in contemplating and enjoying God's perfections. There is no doubt, but that after God's glory, and beholding his perfections, are become agreeable to him, he will desire them, as he desires his own happiness. But how came these things to be so agreeable to him, that he esteems it his highest happiness to glorify God, &c. ? is not this the fruit of love ? Must not a map first love God, or have his heart united to him, VOL. V.
before he will esteem God's good his own, and before he will desire the glorifying and enjoying of God, as his happiness? It is not strong arguing, because after a man has his heart united to God in love, and, as a fruit of this, he desires his glory and enjoyment as his own happiness, that therefore a desire of this happiness must needs be the cause and foundation of his love, unless it be strong arguing, that because a father begat a son, therefore his son certainly begat him. If after a man loves God, it will be a consequence and fruit of this, that even love to his own happiness will cause him to desire the glorifying and enjoying of God; it will not thence follow, that this very exercise of self-love, went before his love to God, and that his love to God was a consequence and fruit of that. Something else, entirely distinct from selflove, might be the cause of this, viz. a change made in the views of his mind, and relish of his heart; whereby he apprehends a beauty, glory, and supreme good, in God's nature, as it is in itself. This may be the thing that first draws his heart to him, and causes his heart to be united to him, prior to all considerations of his own interest or happiness, although after this, and as a fruit of it, he necessarily seeks his interest and bappiness in God.
There is a kind of love or affection towards persons or things, which does properly arise from self-love. A preconceived relation to himself, or some respect already manifested by another to him, or some benefit already received or depended on, is truly the first foundation of his love; what precedes any relish of, or delight in, the nature and qualities inherent in the being beloved, as beautiful and amiable. When the first thing that draws a man's benevolence to another, is the beholding of those qualifications and properties in him, which appear to bim lovely in themselves, love arises in a very different manner, than when it first arises from some gift bestowed by another, as a judge loves and favours a man that has bribed him; or from the relation he supposes
another has to him, as a man who loves his child. When love to another arises thus, it arises truly and properly from self-love.
That kind of affection to God or Jesus Christ, which thus properly arises from self-love, cannot be a truly gracious and spiritual love; as appears from what has been said already. For selflove is a principle entirely natural, and as much in the hearts of devils as angels; and therefore surely nothing that is the mere result of it, can be supernatural and divine, in the manner before described*. Christ plainly speaks of this kind of love, as what is nothing beyond the love of wicked men, Luke vi. 32. If
." There is a natural love to Christ, as to one that doth thee good, and for thine own ends ; and spiritual, for himself, whereby the Lord only is exalted." SHEPARD's Par. of the Ten Virgins, P. I. p, 25.
ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And the devil himself knew that a mercenary respect to God, only for benefits received or depended on, (which is all one) is worthless in the sight of God; Jubi. 9, 10. Doth Job serve God for nought? hast thou made an heilge about him, and about his house, &c. ? God would never have implicitly allowed the objection to have been good, in case the accusation had been true, by allowing that matter to be tried, and Job to be so dealt with, that it might appear in the event, whether Job's respect to God was thus mercenary or no. Whereas the proof of the goodness of his respect was put upon that issue.
It is unreasonable to think otherwise, than that the first foundation of a true love to God, is that whereby he is in himself lovely, or worthy to be loved, or the supreme loveliness of his nature. This is certainly what makes him chiefly amiable. What chiefly makes a man, or any creature lovely, is his excellency; and so what chiefly renders God lovely, and must undoubtedly be the chief ground of true love, is his excellency. God's nature, or the divinity, is infinitely excellent; yea it is infinite beauty, brightness, and glory itself. But how can that be true love of this excellent and lovely nature, which is not built on the foundation of its true loveliness ? how can that be true love of beauty and brightness, which is not for beauty and brightness' sake? how can that be a true prizing of that which is in itself infinitely worthy and precious, which is not for the sake of its worthiness and preciousness? This infinite excellency of the divine nature, as it is in itself, is the true ground of all that is good in God in any respect; but how can a man truly love God, without loving him for that excellency, which is the foundation of all that is good or desirable in him? They whose affection to God is founded first on his profitableness to them, begin at the wrong end; they regard God only for the utmost limit of the stream of divine good, where it touches them, and reaches their interest. They have no respect to that infinite glory of God's nature, which is the original good, and the true fountain of all good, and of loveliness of
A natural principle of self-love may be the foundation of great affections towards God and Christ, without seeing any thing of the beauty and glory of the divine nature. There is a certain gratitude that is a mere natural thing. Gratitude is one of the natural affections, as well as anger; and there is a gratitude that arises from self-love, very much in the same manner that anger does. Anger in men is an affection excited against, or in oppo
. sition to another, for something in him that crosses self-love : gratitude is an affection one has towards another, for loving or gratifying bim, or for something in him that suits self-love. And there
may be a kind of gratitude, without any true or proper love; as there may be anger without hatred; as in parents towards their children, with whom they may be angry, and yet at the same time have a strong habitual love to them. Of this gratitude Christ declares, (Luke vi.) Sinners love those that love them; even the publicans, who were some of the most carnal and profligate sort of men, (Matth. v. 46.) This is the principle wrought upon by bribery, in unjust judges; and which even the brute beasts exercise ; a dog will love his master that is kind to bim. And we see in innumerable instances, that mere nature is sufficient to excite gratitude in men, or to affect their hearts with thankfulness to others for kindnesses received; and sometimes towards them against whom at the same time they have an habitual enmity. Thus Saul was once and again greatly affected, and even dissolved with gratitude towards David, for sparing his life; and yet remained an habitual enemy to him. And as men, from mere nature, may be thus affected towards men, so they may towards God. Nothing binders, but that the same self-love may work after the same manner towards God, as towards men. And we have manifest instances of it in scripture; as indeed the children of Israel, who sang God's praises at the Red sea, but soon forgat his works. Naaman the Syrian was greatly affected with the miraculous cure of his leprosy. His heart was engaged thenceforward to worship the God who had healed him, excepting when it would expose him to be ruined in his temporal interest. So was Nebuchadnezzar greatly affected with God's goodness to him, in restoring him to his reason and kingdom, after his dwelling with the beasts.
Gratitude being thus a natural principle, ingratitude is so much the more vile and heinous; because it shews a dreadful prevalence of wickedness, when it even overbears, and suppresses the better principles of human nature. It is mentioned as an evidence of the high degree of wickedness in many of the heathen, that they were without natural affection, Rom. ij. 31. But that the want of gratitude, or natural affection, are evidences of a high degree of vice, is no argument that all gratitude and natural affection, has the nature of virtue, or saving grace.
Self-love, through the exercise of a mere natural gratitude, may be the foundation of a sort of love to God many ways. A kind of love may arise from a false notion of God, that men have
a some way imbibed; as though he were only goodness and mercy, and no revenging justice ; or as though the exercises of his goodness were necessary, and not free and sovereign; or as though his goodness were dependent on what is in them, and as it were constrained by them. Men on such grounds as these, may love a God of their own forming in their imaginations, when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.
Again, self-love may be the foundation of an affection in men towards God, through a great insensibility of their state with regard to God, and for want of conviction of conscience to make them sensible how dreadfully they have provoked him to anger. They have no sense of the heinousness of sin, as against God, and of the infinite and terrible opposition of the holy nature of God against it. Having formed in their minds such a God as suits them, and thinking him to be such an one as themselves, who favours and agrees with them, they may like him very well, and feel a sort of love to bim, when they are far from loving the true God. And men's affections may be much moved towards God from self-love, by some remarkable outward benefits received from him; as it was with Naaman, Nebuchadnezzar, and the children of Israel at the Red sea.
Again, a very high affection towards God, may, and often does arise in men, from an opinion of the favour and love of God to them, as the first foundation of their love to him. After awakenings and distress, through fears of hell, they may suddenly get a notion, through some impression on their imagination, or immediate suggestion with or without texts of scripture, or by some other means, that God loves them, has forgiven their sins, and made them bis children ; and this is the first thing that causes their affections to flow towards God and Jesus Christ; and then, upon this foundation, many things in God may appear lovely to them, and Christ may seem excellent. And if such persons are asked, whether God appears lovely and amiable in himself? they would perhaps readily answer, Yes; when indeed, if the matter be strictly examined, this good opinion of God was purchased, and paid for, in the distinguishing and infinite benefits they imagined they received from God. They allow God to be lovely in himself no otherwise, than that he has forgiven and accepted them, loves them above most in the world, and has engaged to improve all bis infinite power and wisdom in preferring, dignifying, and exaluing them, and will do for them just as they would have him. When once they are firm in this apprehension, it is easy to own God and Christ to be lovely and glorious, and to admire and extol them. It is easy for them to own Christ to be a lovely person, and the best in the world, when they are first firm in the notion, that he, though Lord of the universe, is captivated with love to them, has his heart swallowed up in them, prizes them far beyond most of their neighbours, has loved them from eternity, and died for them, and will make them reign in eternal glory with him in heaven. When this is the case with carnal men, their very lusts will make him seem lovely; pride itself will prejudice them in favour of that which they call Christ. Selfish, proud man, natu