« السابقةمتابعة »
but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We love him because he first loved us." Further on it is said, "There is a necessity of knowing his love, who first loved us, without which we cannot love him again." We are not here told how we can know that we are justified, previous to our exercising love to Christ. I know it is said, that we are before this justified by faith: but I cannot see how this faith can be any evidence of a justified state, so long as there is no love to Christ included in it. A faith which has no love in it, may be possessed by graceless men, and even by devils. Therefore we conclude, that this knowledge of our justified state, which precedes our love to God and Christ, must be derived from what they call the direct witness of the Spirit. And this direct witness of the Spirit, if we understand them, is, as it were, an immediate message from heaven, revealing to a certain man, or woman, his or her acceptance with God, while as yet there is no love in the heart; but that upon this revelation being made, love immediately flows forth in return for the favor received.
And now, my dear reader, is this the truth of God? is this the experimental religion which makes us new creatures, and which fits us for the kingdom of heaven? If this be truth, God forbid that I should oppose it; but if it is an error, ruinous to souls, would to God that I might be enabled effectually to expose and destroy it ! The idea, That we cannot love Christ until we know ourselves to be in a justified state, and that this knowledge is the very cause of our love to him, to me appears one of the most false and dangerous sentiments which can be advanced. It seems to be wholly founded on the principle, That it is right for every man to make himself the ultimate end of all his affections and pursuits;that it is right for him to love himself more than God. The idea supposes; that there is nothing in Christ to draw forth our love until we know that we are justified and pardoned. Now, if the sinner can be pardoned and justified, and have the witness of the Spirit, before he has any love to Christ, what will hinder his loving Christ, even with his sinful, selfish heart? for Christ himself has said, Sinners also love those that
love them. It is an inspired proverb, A gift in secret pacifieth anger; and a reward in the bosom, strong wrath. According to the scripture testimony, sinners hate God. Awakened and convinced sinners see, and know that they hate God. But if, according to the scheme of our opponents, God can send them first the direct witness of the Spirit, to assure them of their justified state, will not this, like a gift in secret, pacify their anger, and like a reward in their bosom, will it not allay their strong wrath and soften down their bitter enmity? Saul, with all his rooted enmity against David, felt emotions of love towards him, once and again, while he saw that David had spared his life, when he could easily have taken it away. Now such a love as this can be exercised towards God, as well as towards our fellow men. The whole congregation of the children of Israel were much affected with the goodness of the Lord, in delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh They sang his praise, but they soon forgat his works. When Christ fed the five thousand with five loaves, they appeared to have a great love to him, and were about to take him by force and make him a king; but he told them, that they sought him because they did eat of the loaves and were filled. This was as much as to tell them, that their love to him originated wholly from the favors which they had received, and which they expected to receive from him.
But it will be said, Does not the apostle John represent God's love towards us, as being before our love to him; and does he not say, "We love him because he first loved us?" The apostle John, and all the other apostles and inspired writers teach us, that our salva tion, from first to last, is the fruit of the most gracious and unbounded love of God. As Christ designed to keep down the pride of his disciples, when he said; "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you :" so the beloved disciple designed to teach, that we should never have loved God, if he had not first loved us, not with the love of delight, but with a benevolent pity; and had he not sent his son to die for us, and his Spirit to renew our hearts to the exercise of holy love to him
self. Holy love in us is caused by his power, and is wholly the fruit of his grace.
It is also true, that the objective ground, or cause of our love to God, is the excellence of his character; which excellence is most clearly manifested in the gift of his Son to die for our apostate world. It is also true, that I may exercise a holy gratitude to God, for a favor bestowed on me in particular; but to lay the foundation for such gratitude, I must love God independently of this favor bestowed. If this favor bestowed on me, and because it is bestowed on me in distinction from another, be the first exciting cause, and if it lie at the foundation of my love to God, it is not the excellence of his character which I love: indeed it is not God which I love, but myself. Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.
The reason why we are required to exercise the love of complacence towards the God of Israel, is, that he is the true God; the great Lord of heaven and earth, whose understanding is infinite, and whose heart is perfectly benevolent. He has manifested his character to us, that we may love, trust in, and obey him. He tells us what he has made, and what he has done, as a display of his greatness and goodness. He reveals his law, and he reveals the gospel of his grace. The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes, and by the rich displays of his mercy. When he would draw forth the approbation, and complacence of his creatures, he pourtrays before them all these varied manifestations of his power and holiness. In view of the whole character which he has displayed, in all his works, and in all his word, he requires their love. And tho' the carnal heart is enmity against God, yet when it is renewed after the divine image, it goes forth in love to this great and fearful name, "THE LORD OUR GOD." The same character, which had always been displayed before the mind, and hated, is now lov. ed, and that for its own divine excellence. The thing, which makes the Divine Being appear excellent and altogether desirable to the new born soul, is not a be lief, that he is now a reconciled God to him; but that he Is a great and a holy God. His own safe state has not
been thought of; nor indeed can he know that his state is safe, until he first has evidence, that he is reconciled to God, and that he loves him for his glorious holiness, and all his moral perfection.
The reader will see our views of this matter, illustrated in the following paragraph in the Life of President Edwards, when he speaks of his first religious comforts: "The first that I remember that I ever found any thing of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading these words, 1 Tim. i. 17. Now unto the King eternal, immòrtal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever, and ever, Amen. As I read these words there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapt up to God in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him. I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself; and went to prayer, to pray to God that I might enjoy him; and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do, with a new sort of affection. But it never came into my thought, that there was any thing spiritual, or of a saying nature in this." In this experience, it is worthy of notice, that the glory which was discovered in the Divine Being, was the thing which drew forth love to this Being. It is also worthy of notice, that this love was exercised towards God, while it was not known, nor thought of, that he had become a reconciled God to him, who exercised the love.
Does not the above experience accord with the account, which the apostle gives of a saving work of the Spirit, 2 Cor. iv. 6.? For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to givė the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. The immediate effect of a gracious renovation of heart, is, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God and as the glory of God is
more wonderfully displayed in the work of redemption, than in his other works, this glory is, in a pre-eminent sense, seen in the face of Jesus Christ. If the true God, in his true character, is seen to be glorious in being such a God as he is, and if he is delighted in, on account of his being such a God; it is certain, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of dark ness, hath shined into the heart, to give the knowledge of this glory; for the carnal mind is enmity against God, and never can delight in him on account of his being such a God as he is.
As I have endeavored to show how unfounded, and how dangerous the sentiment is, which is entertained by our antagonists, concerning the direct witness of the Spirit, it may now be proper to show what we under stand by the witness of the Spirit. Let it be clearly understood, that we believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the only standard of religi ous truth, and a sufficient guide for us, so long as we continue in this world. By this standard are to be tried all doctrines, all feelings, and whatever relates to prac tice. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psal. cxix. 105. The following text we consider as applicable to all who speak to us, whether by an audible voice to the ear, or by a secret whisper, or impression, to the mind: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isa. viii. 20. Therefore we make no dependence on any internal witness of the Spirit, which cannot be proved by the word to be a true witness. That which is contained in the Bible, is the written witness of the Spirit, since holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Here is the standing and unalterable testimony of the Spirit, with respect to the nature and effects of true religion, even that religion which God will approve. But my reading of this testimony of the Spirit, with an unrenewed heart, can give me no evidence that I am a child of God. On the contrary, it all stands against me, and testifies that I have no part nor lot in this matter. But when the Spirit condescends to write upon my heart the same religion, which he has reveal