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other planets; if we knew that such there were, and knew how it was with them. So this principle may cause men to be affected with the benefits mankind have received beyond the fallen angels; with the wonderful goodness of God in giving his Son to die for fallen man, with the marvellous love of Christ in suffering such great things for us, and with the great glory they hear God has provided in heaven for us. Looking on themselves as persons concerned, interested, and so highly favoured; the same principle of natural gratitude may influence men here, as in the case of personal benefits.
But these things by no means imply, that all gratitude to God is a mere natural thing, and that there is no such thing as a spiritual gratitude, which is a holy and divine affection. They imply no more, than that there is a gratitude which is merely natural, and that when persons have affections towards God only, or primarily, for benefits received, their affection is only the exercise of natural gratitude. There is doubtless such a thing as a gracious gratitude, which greatly differs from all that gratitude which natural men experience. It differs in the following respects.
1. True gratitude, or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation, laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God's own excellency; and hence the affections are disposed to flow out, on occasions of God's kindness. The saint having seen the glory of God, and his heart overcome by it, and captivated into a supreme love to him on that account, his heart hereby becomes tender, and easily affected with kindness received. If a man has no love to another, yet gratitude may be moved by some extraordinary kindness; as in Saul towards David: but this is not the same in kind, as a man's gratitude to a dear friend, for whom his heart had before a high esteem and love. Self-love is not excluded from a gracious gratitude; the saints love God for his kindness to them, Psal. cxvi. 1. I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication. But something else is included; another love prepares the way, and lays the foundation for these grateful affections.
2. In a gracious gratitude, men are affected with the attribute of God's goodness and free grace, not only as they are concerned in it, or as it affects their interest, but as a part of the glory and beauty of God's nature. That wonderful and unparalleled grace of God, which is manifested in the work of redemption, and shines forth in the face of Jesus Christ, is infinitely glorious in itself, and appears so to the angels: it is a great part of the moral
perfection and beauty of God's nature. This would be glorious, whether it were exercised towards us or no; and the saint who exercises a gracious thankfulness for it, sees it to be so, and delights in it as such. Yea his concern in it serves the more to engage his mind, and raise his attention and affection. Self-love here assists as an handmaid, being subservient to higher principles, to lead forth the mind to contemplation, and to heighten joy and love. God's kindness to them is a glass set before them, wherein to behold the beautiful attribute of God's goodness: the exercises and displays of this attribute, by this means, are brought near to them, and set right before them. So that in a holy thankfulness to God, the concern our interest has in God's goodness, is not the first foundation of our being affected with it; that was laid in the heart before, in love to God for his excellency in himself; that makes the heart tender, and susceptive of such impressions from his goodness to us. Nor is our own interest, or the benefits we have received, the only, or the chief objective ground of the present exercises of the affection, but rather God's goodness, as part of the beauty of his nature. The manifestations of that lovely attribute, however, set immediately before our eyes, in the exercises of it for us, are a special occasion of the mind's attention to that beauty, at that time; and this may serve to heighten the affection.
Some may perhaps be ready to object against the whole that has been said, that text, (1 John iv. 19.) We love him because he first loved us; as though this implied that God's love to the true saints were the first foundation of their love to him. In answer to this I would observe, that the apostle's drift in these words, is to magnify the love of God to us from hence, that he loved us, while we had no love to him; as will be manifest to any one who compares this verse and the two following, with the 9th, 10th, and 11th verses. And that God loved us, when we had no love to him, the apostle proves by this argument, that God's love to the elect, is the ground of their love to him. And it is so three ways: 1. The saints' love to God is the fruit of God's love to them, as it is the gift of that love. God gave them a spirit of love to him, because he loved them from eternity; his love to his elect is the foundation of their regeneration, and the whole of their redemption. 2. The exercises and discoveries God has made of his wonderful love to sinful men by Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, are among the chief manifestations of his glorious moral perfections to both angels and men; and so is one main objective ground of the love of both to God, in a good consistence with what was said before. 3. God's love to a particular elect person, discovered by his conversion, is a great manifestation of God's moral perfection and glory to him; and thus
is a proper occasion of exciting holy gratitude, agreeable to what was before said. And that the saints, in these respects, love God, because he first loved them, fully answers the design of the apostle's argument in that place. So that no good argument can be drawn from hence, against a spiritual and gracious love in the saints, arising primarily from the excellency of divine things as they are in themselves, and not from any conceived relation they bear to their interest.
And as it is with the love of the saints, so it is with their joy, and spiritual delight: the first foundation of it is not any consideration of their interest in divine things; but it primarily consists in the sweet entertainment their minds have in the contemplation of the divine and holy beauty of these things, as they are in themselves. And this is indeed the very main difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The former rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy the latter rejoices in God. The hypocrite has his mind pleased and delighted, in the first place, with his own privilege, and happiness to which he supposes he has attained, or shall attain. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. This is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures; it is the joy of their joy. This sweet and ravishing entertainment they have in viewing the beautiful and delightful nature of divine things, is the foundation of the joy they have afterward in the consideration of their being theirs. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice and are elevated, that they are the favourites of God; and then, on that ground, he seems in a sort lovely to them.
The first foundation of the delight a true saint has in God, is his own perfection; and the first foundation of the delight he has in Christ, is his own beauty; he appears in himself the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. The way of salvation by Christ is a delightful way to him, for the sweet and admirable manifestations of the divine perfections in it. The holy doctrines of the gospel, by which God is exalted and man abased, holiness honoured and promoted, sin greatly disgraced and discouraged, and free, sovereign love manifested, are glorious doctrines in his eyes, and sweet to his taste, prior to any conception of his interest in these things. Indeed the saints rejoice in their interest in God, and that Christ is theirs; and so they have great reason but this is not the first spring of their joy. They first rejoice in God as glorious and excellent in himself, and then secondarily rejoice in it, that so glorious a God is theirs. They first have their hearts filled with sweetness, from the view of
Christ's excellency, the excellency of his grace, and the beauty of salvation by him; and then, they have a secondary joy, in that so excellent a Saviour and such excellent grace is theirs. But that which is the true saint's superstructure is the hypocrite's foundation. When they hear of the wonderful things of the gospel, of God's great love in sending his Son, of Christ's dying love to sinners, the great things Christ has purchased and promised to the saints, and hear these things eloquently set forth; they may hear with a great deal of pleasure, and be lifted up with what they hear. But if their joy be examined, it will be found to have no other foundation than this, that they look upon these things as theirs, all this exalts them, they love to hear of the great love of Christ vastly distinguishing some from others; for self-love makes them affect great distinction from others. No wonder, in this confident opinion of their own good estate, that they feel well under such doctrine, and are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God and Christ makes of them. So that their joy is really a joy in themselves, and not in God.
And hence it comes to pass, that in their rejoicings and elevations, hypocrites are wont to keep their eye upon themselves; having received what they call spiritual discoveries, their minds are taken up about their own experiences; and not the glory of God, or the beauty of Christ. They keep thinking with themselves, what a good experience is this! what a great discovery is this! what wonderful things have I met with! and so they put their experiences in the place of Christ, his beauty and fulness. Instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus, they rejoice in their admirable experiences. Instead of feeding and feasting their souls in viewing the innate, sweet, refreshing amiableness of the things exhibited in the gospel, they view them only as it were, side-ways. The object that fixes their contemplation, is their experience; and they are ever feeding their souls, and feasting a selfish principle,
• Dr. Owen on the Sprit, p. 199, speaking of a common work of the Spirit, says, "The effects of this work on the mind, which is the first subject affected with it, proceeds not so far as to give it delight, complacency, and satisfaction, in the lovely spiritual nature and excellencies of the things revealed unto it. The true nature of saving illumination consists in this, that it gives the mind such a direct intuitive insight and prospect into spiritual things, as that in their own spiritual nature they suit, please, and satisfy it; so that it is transformed into them, cast into the mould of them, and rests in them; Rom. vi. 17. chap. xii. 2. 1 Cor. ii. 13, 14. 2 Cor. iii. 18. chap. iv. 6. This, the work we have insisted on, reacheth not unto. For notwithstanding any discovery that is made therein of spiritual things unto the mind, it finds not an immediate, direct, spiritual excellency in them; but only with respect unto some benefit or advantage, which is to be attained by means thereof. It will not give such a spiritual insight into the mystery of God's grace by Jesus Christ, called his glory shining in the face of Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 6. as that the soul, in its first direct view of it, should, for what it is in itself, admire it, delight in it, approve it, and find spiritual solace, with refreshment, in it. But such a light, such a knowledge, it communicates, as that a man may like it well in its effects, as a way of mercy and salvation,
with a view of their discoveries. They take more comfort in their discoveries than in Christ discovered. This is the true notion of living upon experiences and frames; and not our using them as an evidence of our good estate. It is very observable, that some who reject evidences are most notorious for living upon experience, according to the true notion of it.
The affections of hypocrites are very often after this manner; they are first much affected with some impression on their imagination, or some impulse, which they take to be an immediate suggestion, or testimony from God, of his love and their happiness. They fancy a high privilege in some respect, either with or without a text of scripture; they are mightily taken with this, as a great discovery: and hence arise high affections. When their affections are raised, they view those high affections, and call them great and wonderful experiences; and they have a notion that God is greatly pleased with those affections. This affects them still more; and so they are affected with their affections. Thus their affections rise higher and higher, until they sometimes are perfectly swallowed up; also self-conceit, and a fierce zeal rises; and all is built, like a castle in the air, on nothing but imagination, self-love and pride.
And as are the thoughts of such persons, so is their talk; for out of the abundance of their heart their mouth speaketh. As in their high affections they keep their eye upon the beauty of their experiences, and greatness of their attainments; so they are great talkers about themselves. The true saint, when under great spiritual affections, from the fulness of his heart is ready to speak much of God, his glorious perfections and works, the beauty and amiableness of Christ, and the glorious things of the gospel; but hypocrites, in their high affections, talk more of the discovery, than of the thing discovered. They are full of talk about the wonderful discoveries they have had, how sure they are of the love of God to them, how safe their condition is, how they know they shall go to heaven, &c.
A true saint, when in the enjoyment of true discoveries of the sweet glory of God and Christ, has his mind too much captivated and engaged by what he views without himself, to stand at that time to view himself, and his own attainments. It would be a loss which he could not bear, to have his eye taken off from the ravishing object of his contemplation, in order to survey his own experience, and to spend time in thinking with himself, what an high attainment this is, and what a good story I now have to tell others! Nor does the pleasure and sweetness of his mind at that time, chiefly arise from the consideration of the safety of his state, or any thing he has in view of his own qualifications, experiences, or circumstances; but from the divine and supreme beauty of