« ElőzőTovább »
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 happiness 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 him 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; Job i. 9, 10. Doth Job serve God for nought? hast thou made an hedge 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 every kind.
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 opposition to another, for something in him that crosses self-love: gratitude is an affection one has towards another, for loving or gratifying him, or for something in him that suits seif-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 him. 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 hinders, 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. ii. 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 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 him, 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 his 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 his infinite power and wisdom in preferring, dignifying, and exalting 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
rally calls that lovely which greatly contributes to his interest, and gratifies his ambition.
And as this sort of persons begin, so they go on. Their affections are raised, from time to time, primarily on this foundation of self-love, and a conceit of God's love to them. Many have a false notion of communion with God, as though it were carried on by impulses, and whispers, and external representations, immediately made to their imagination. These things they take to be manifestations of God's great love to them, and evidences of their high exaltation above others; and so their affections are often renewedly set a-going.
Whereas the exercises of true and holy love in the saints arise in another way. They do not first see that God loves them, and then see that he is lovely; but they first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent and glorious; their hearts are first . captivated with this view, and the exercises of their love are wont, from time to time, to begin here, and to arise primarily from these views; and then, consequentially, they see God's love, and great favour to them*. The saints affections begin with God; and selflove has a hand in these affections consequentially, and secondarily only. On the contrary, false affections begin with self, and an acknowledgment of an excellency in God, and an affectedness with it, is only consequential and dependent. In the love of the true saint, God is the lowest foundation; the love of the excellency of his nature is the foundation of all the affections which come afterwards, wherein self-love is concerned as an handmaid. On the contrary, the hypocrite lays himself at the bottom of all, as the first foundation, and lays on God as the superstructure; and even his acknowledgment of God's glory itself, depends on his regard to his private interest.
Self-love may not only influence men, so as to cause them to be affected with God's kindness to them separately; but also with God's kindness to them, as parts of a community. A natural principle of self-love, without any other, may be sufficient to make a man concerned for the interest of the nation to which he belongs as for instance, in the present war, self-love may make natural men rejoice at the successes of our nation, and sorry for their disadvantages, they being concerned as members of the body. The same natural principles may extend even to the world of mankind, and might be affected with the benefits the inhabitants of the earth have, beyond those of the inhabitants of
* "There is a seeing of Christ after a man believes, which is Christ in his love, &c. But I speak of that first sight of him that precedes the second act of faith: and it is an intuitive, or real sight of him, as he is in his glory." SHEPARD's Par. of the Ten Virgins. Part I. p. 74.