Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

BUT THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE.

GALATIANS V. 22.

HAVING considered in preceding Discourses, faith in Christ and repentance unto life, the two first of those moral attributes which I called the Attendants of Regeneration ; I shall now go on to examine the nature of the third and fourth of these attributes, viz. love to God, and love to mankind. As both these are only exercises of the same disposition directed towards different objects, I shall here consider them together; reserving a separate discussion of them to a future occasion. St. Paul informs us, that · Love,' viz. the disposition mentioned in the text, • is the fulfilling of the law;' that is, of the two great commands, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.' These commands constitute a primary part of a theological system, and will necessarily become a subject of particular investigation in

progress of these Discourses. They will therefore furnish an ample opportunity for the separate consideration of these two great exercises of love.

In examining this subject at the present time, it is my design,
I. To exhibit the nature of this love ;
II. To prove its existence.

the

I. I shall endeavour to exhibit the nature of evangelicul love.

1. The love of the Gospel is a delight in happiness : or, in other words, Good-will towards percipient beings, as capable of happiness.

Happiness is the object ultimately and always aimed at by the mind under the influence of this affection. As percipient beings are the only beings capable of happiness, the love of happiness is, of course, the love of percipient beings. or these, intelligent beings are capable of so much greater and more important happiness than mere animals, as scarcely to allow of any comparison between them. The love of happiness therefore is supremely the love of intelligent beings. This accordingly has been assumed as a definition of love. It is not however metaphysically correct. “A righteous' or virtuous man will,' as such, regard the life, and of course the happiness universally, ' of his beast;' and this, though a small, cannot fail to be a real object of his regard.

A delight in happiness, metaphysically considered, supposes it enjoyed, or already in possession. When it is not enjoyed, and yet is supposed to be possible, the same affection becomes and is styled, the desire of happiness. Whatever we delight in when present and possessed, we desire when absent, or unpossessed. The mind under the influence of this affection therefore, while it rejoices in happiness actually enjoyed, necessarily wishes its existence wherever it is capable of being enjoyed.

2. This love of happiness is universal.

This proposition follows unavoidably from the former. If the mind delights in happiness as such, it is plain that this delight will exist wherever the happiness is found. If it desire happiness as such, this desire will be extended to every case in which it perceives that happiness may be enjoyed. The delight, therefore, will be co-extended with the knowledge which the mind at any given time possesses of actual enjoyment; and the desire with its knowledge of possible enjoyinent. So far then as the views of any mind in which this disposition exists extend, its love of happiness will be universal.

3. This love of happiness is just. By this I intend, that the greater happiness, whether actual

For ex

or possible, will be loved more, and the smaller happiness less. i'nis also is inherent in the very nature of the affection. If the mind delight in happiness, it follows necessarily that this delight must increase as the object of it increases. ample; if it delight in the happiness of one being, it will equally delight in the same happiness of a second ; in the same manner in that of a third ; of a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and so on, in that of any given or supposable number. Or, should we suppose one of these beings to be happy in any given degree, and that happiness doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or increased in any other degree, the delight of such a mind in this object would be increased in the same proportion. I do not here intend that this affection will operate with the mathematical exactness here stated. I am well aware that such minds as ours are utterly incapable of operating with their affections in this perfect manner. This mode of illustration has been here used for the sake of exhibiting the general proposition in a manner clear and decisive, and, if I mistake not, it unanswerably evinces the truth of the proposition.

In entire accordance with this doctrine we are commanded to love God with all the heart,' not only as an object of our complacency, but of our benevolence also. We are not only required to approve of his perfect character, but also to delight in his perfect happiness, or, as we more usually term it, blessedness. His perfect character is the cause of which his perfect happiness is the effect. The former it is our duty to regard with supreme complacency, the latter it is equally our duty to regard with supreme benevolence.

No less accordant with this disposition, also, is the second command of the same law. Our neighbour,' that is, any and every individual of the human race is the subject of the same happiness as ourselves. We are therefore required to love our neighbour as ourselves :' viz. because his happiness is of the same importance as our own; not indeed mathematically, but generally and indefinitely, as the words of the command import.

It is to be observed here, that benevolence is the only object of this command. The greater part of those who are included here, under the word neighbour,' are wholly destitute of virtue in the evangelical sense. But towards any and all

VOL. III.

I

112

[ocr errors]

1

I. Ishi

spussible to exercise complacercy : love.

sler than the love of such virtue.

.nterested. in otica

malous be allowed, this follows of course. pali

chi than that the mind which loves bar

si in proportion to the degree in which ti

purse be disinterested. In other words, it vzdy partiality for its own enjoyment, or any weat of others. Its delight in the happiness

will be the same with that which it finds in out; so far as it is able to understand and rea

me manner. We cannot, I acknowledge, eiskutk or feel the concerns of others in the same vel vwn; and from this imperfection would arise,

kiss Jellevolence were perfect, a difference in our estina 'dese objects, which so far as I see could not be

But in cases not affected by this imperfect state sauds, cases which even in this world are numerous, wwww can in my view be alleged why the estimation was based me be the same.

In a more perfect state of being xvbable the number of such cases may be so enlarged. W cumprehend almost all the interests of intelligent crea

This love is an active principle. by this I intend, that in its nature it controls all the faculLea in such a manner as to engage them supremely in the motion of the great object in which it delights. Of this suth we have the most abundant proof in the scriptural exhibitious of the character of God, of the Redeemer, and of those saints whose history they record. God,' saith St Jobn, in love. Every good gift,' saith St. James, and every perfoot gift, is from above; and cometh down from the Father of lights.' • Nevertheless,' saith St. Paul, he left himNoll uot without witness ; in that he did good, giving us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food aud gladness. Thou art good,' says David, ' and dost good; and thy tender mercies are over all thy works.? • Jesus Christ,' says St. Peter, a man who went about doing good.' It is hardly necessary to observe, that the whole body of worthies presented to us in the Scriptures were in this respectfol.ow

s of God, as dear children ;' or that the same mind' was

ܪ

$

in them, which was also in Christ.' The Epistle of St. Paul particularly, and his whole history after his conversion, as given to us by St. Luke, are one continued proof that this was his ruling character. The love which exists in word, and in tongue,' the Scriptures reprobate, and approve and enjoy that only which, in their emphatical language, exists in deed and truth. We hardly need, however, look to this or any source for evidence concerning this subject. Love in all cases, so far as our experience extends, prompts him in whom it exists to promote the happiness of the object beloved. So plain is this to the eye of common sense, that no person believes love to exist in any mind, which does not labour to accomplish happiness for the object which it professes to love. Thus a parent who neglects the happiness of his children is universally pronounced not to love them; and thus persons professing friendship for others, and inattentive at the same time to their welfare, are with a single voice declared to be friends in pretence merely. What is true in this respect of these natural affections, 'is altogether true of evangelical love. Its proper character is to 'do good as it has opportunity.

6. This principle is the only voluntary cause of happiness.

The benevolence of intelligent creatures is the same in 'kind with the benevolence of God; and for this reason is styled the image of God.' But the benevolence of God is the single original cause, the sole as well as boundless source of all the happiness found in the creation. In the great design of producing this happiness he has required intelligent creatures to co-operate with himself. Of their labours to this end their own benevolence is the only immediate cause. Benevolence therefore, in God and his intelligent creatures, considered as one united principle of action, is the only voluntary source of happiness in the universe. As therefore none but voluntary beings can produce nor even contrive happiness, and as no voluntary beings except benevolent ones are active to this end, it is plain that happiness is ultimately derived from benevolence alone, and but for its exertions would never have existed.

7. This principle is one.

By this I intend that the same love is exercised by a virtuous mind towards God, towards its fellow creatures, and towards itself. The affection is one. The difference in its ex

« PreviousContinue »