« السابقةمتابعة »
will best conduce to the good of all. To seek the good of "being in general," he adds, I must have a knowledge of being in general."-But to such knowledge I cannot hope to attain; and therefore I must be totally discouraged from ever acting from an acceptable motive." p. 273. To this it may be replied; that it is far from being necessary, for the exercise of disinterested and universal good-will, that we should be able to know the exact number of individual beings which compose the universe. Adam and Eve might be said to be possessed of this enlarged affection of heart, while they did not know that any rational beings, but themselves and their Creator, were in existence, to draw forth this affection. But in the possession of this holy affection, they would be prepared to love angels, as soon as they knew that such beings existed. The same kind of affection would prepare them to embrace new objects of love, as fast as they should be presented to their knowledge. It is not improper to say, that they possessed universal benevolence, when but few of the objects, which the Creator designed should receive this benevolence, were known; or when but few of them had as yet come into existence. A child may be possessed of good-will to mankind in general, when he has not been out of sight of his father's house, and when he has not the least idea about the extent, and population of the globe. If he possesses disinterested love to those whom he does know, he has a heart to love those whom he does not know, and will love them as fast as he becomes acquainted with them. But if his heart be under the dominion of selfishness, even a liberal education, followed by travels through the world, will not enkindle in his breast the least spark of universal benevolence. The child Jesus had this enlarged love when he was in childhood, tho' as to his human nature, his knowledge was much more circumscribed than when he had grown to the stature of a man. He uniformly had a disinterested, and not a selfish object in view, tho' he was continually acquiring more enlarged views of that disinterested object.
All holy beings in the universe possess one character. They all seek one and the same object. This is true of God, holy angels, and holy men; whether in heaven
or on the earth. But this does not suppose, that they all have an equally comprehensive view of this great object which they seek. They all unite in loving the same great and holy God. But "who by searching can find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection?" According to the argument of my antagonist, it will follow, that we cannot love God, because our finite minds are inadequate to' take a comprehensive survey of his unlimited existence. It is rue, there is none but the Infinite Mind which can comprehend itself, and know how great an object here is, towards which love is to be exercised; but the least babe in Christ loves the same great and glorious God, who is loved by the most exalted spirit in glory; and the same, who is loved by the Infinite Mind itSelf.
The objection which we are considering supposes; that in order to be governed by that disinterested love, which seeks the general and univerzal good, we must be able to know in every case what is best for the universe. It is very true, that no being is fit to preside over the universe, and be its God, unless he can know in every case what is best for the general and universal good : But surely a creature may love the universe, without surping the throne of the Almighty, or attempting to Decome his counsellor. A subject may love and seek the good of the kingdom, as well as his prince; and yet never attempt to make any laws, or recommend any political arrangements for its benefit. And the meanest subject of the kingdom of Christ may, and does, prefer Jerusalem above his chief joy. He seeks the peace and prosperity of this extensive and everlasting kingdom, without thinking himself, in any measure, adequate to take the place of the King. He desires and seeks the good of this great kingdom; but he does it upon a small scale; he does not pretend to have the whole kingdom pass under his eye. Does not the christian in private life, who is not known out of the pale of his own church, seek the general good of the kingdom of Christ, as really as the missionary who crosses half the globe, to make known the great salvation ? The latter moves in a larger sphere than the former, and probably takes in a more enlarged view of
that kingdom which he is seeking to build up; but they both have the same noble and glorious object in view.
That we are required to seek the general good of the universe. is manifest from the two comprehensive commands given us by the Saviour. In these we are required to love God and our neighbor. And by the explanation which he himself gave us of the word neighbor, in the 10th chapter of Luke, it is natural to understand by it any fellow creature, whether of our own, or of a foreign nation; whether belonging to our own, or to another world. We know that angels love men, for they rejoice when we repent; and why should not men love angels? And if we should love angels, why not other rational creatures, if such creatures exist? We are commanded not only to love God, but to glorify him, and to make the glorifying of him our constant object, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do. We are also required to manifest our universal love to mankind, by doing good to all men as we have opportunity. Now if it be asked, what methods we shall take to promote the glory of God, and the good of mankind? the answer is; We must be directed by the written word. We must worship God, and in every respect treat him according as he has required us.-We must perform all those duties to ourselves, and to our families, which are enjoined. We must treat all, with whom we have any thing to do, as we would have them treat us. We must let our light shine, that men may thereby be led to glorify our Father who is in heaven. We must seek to benefit those by our prayers, whom we cannot reach, or cannot allure by our example.— And if it be not our province to visit the remote corners of the earth, to be the instruments of enlightening them with the knowledge of the gospel, our silver and gold may enable others to do this benevolent and necessary work.
If it should now be asked, whether all who do these things are possessed of universal benevolence; it may be answered,This will be determined by the motive which excites them to do these things. If their own honor and happiness, either temporal or eternal, be their ultimate end, they are not benevolent but selfish;
for thus it is written: "And tho' I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and tho' I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." But it will be asked, whether christians are not happy, in seeking the glory of God and the good of mankind. Yes, they delight in doing it, else they would not be christians but they delight in this great object, for what it is in itself, and not because they view it as being now accommodated to their own interest. Therefore, if they were to lose their hope of being personally interested in the good of the universe, and yet retain their disinterested love, they would still seek and desire this great good, and would rejoice in the certainty, that it was secured by the perfect government of Jelnovah.*
IV. It is brought in as another objection to disieterested benevolence; that God himself is not, in this sense, benevolent. "Where," says the author of the Letters, "is disinterested benevolence to be found? Not in God, surely.. He seeks the manifestation of his own glory, in all his works and ways.” p. 274. If this argument has truth in it, the argument must be forcible indeed, for God is most assuredly the great
This is by no means the supposition of an impossible ease. The christian's hope of his own safe state, undergoes many changes. Cases are not very uncommon, where the christian, for a season, gives up the hope of his personal interest in the covenants of promise. He views himself as being, not with Christ, but against him. But still he does not act against him, but for him. He has a tender concern for his precious cause ; and it is the fixed purpose of his heart, while he lives, to do what he can to promote it, tho' it is his present expectation, when he dies, to be separated from all good forever. If any one should say, that such a case is impossible, seeing the christian must know, that such feelings of attachment to Christ and his cause, are a clear indication of the sanctification of his heart; --we reply; The christian does by no means always judge correctly of his own feelings, and of his own state. Zion may say, My God hath forgotten me," when it is not so. possessing of right feelings, and the believing that we possess such feelings, are two different things. That man, who has seen the deceitfulness of his own heart, is more afraid of being deceived by it, than he who has not been convinced by the Spirit, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
standard of moral perfection. His command to us is, "Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." If that love which we call disinterested, be not the same kind of affection, which the scriptures ascribe, in an infinite degree, to the Supreme Being; if it be not the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, then it cannot be the love which he requires of us.
But does my antagonist design to intimate, that God is a selfish Being? I am sure he cannot but sce, that God has forbidden us to be selfish beings, and yet has required us to be conformed to himself. Is not selfishness in men, most pointedly condemned in such passages as these ?—And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not cat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves ?" Zech. vii. 6. "For all seek their
own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Phil. ii. 21: "For men shall be lovers of their ownselves." 2 Tim. iii. 2: "Let no man seek his own; but every man another's wealth." 1 Cor. x. 24. Now, if God be a selfish Being, the character which is so pointedly condemned in these passages of scripture, must nevertheless be in conformity to his own. Selfishness is the
same thing, let it exist where it will; whether in a being of great or small capacity. If the Divine Being were selfish at all, he must be infinitely selfish; and according to this, the greater degree of selfishness any Creature should possess, the more would he resemble his Creator. But how evident it is, that the Creator claims such a character, and proposes himself to us as the great pattern of a love which is not selfish. It is written in his holy word; "Look not every man on his ow things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation," &c. Phil. ii. 4-8. Here Christ Jesus, as existing in the form of God, that is, in his divine nature, is proposed to us as a pattern of disinterested affection. In this portion of scripture he is held up to our view as one who did not look on his own things, but also on the things of others. John in his first epis