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distinction from the holy faith, love, humility, and heavenly mindedness of true Christians; but the word moral is to be understood so in this place.
In order to a right understanding of what is meant, it must be observed, that divines generally make a distinction between moral good and evil, and natural good and evil. By moral evil, they mean the evil of sin, or that evil which is against duty, and contrary to what is right and ought to be. By natural evil, they do not mean that evil which is properly opposed to duty, but that which is contrary to mere nature, without any respect to a rule of duty. So the evil of suffering is called natural evil, such as pain and torment, disgrace, and the like: these things are contrary to mere nature, hateful to wicked men and devils, as well as good men and angels. If a child be monstrous, or a natural fool, these are natural, but not moral evils, because they have not properly the nature of the evil of sin. On the other hand, as by moral evil divines mean sin, or that which is contrary to what is right; so by moral good, they mean that which is contrary to sin; or, in other words, that good in beings who have will and choice, whereby, as voluntary agents, they are, and act, as it becomes them to be and to act. And, it is obvious, that is becoming, which is most fit, suitable, and lovely. By natural good, they mean that good which is entirely of a different kind from holiness or virtue, viz. that which perfects or suits nature, considering nature abstractly from any holy or unholy qualifications, and without any relation to any rule or measure of right and wrong.
Thus pleasure is a natural good; so is honour; so is strength; and so is speculative kņowledge, human learning, and policy. Thus there is a distinction to be made between men's natural and their moral good; and also between the natural and moral good of the angels in heaven. The great capacity of angelic understandings, their great strength, and the honourable circumstances they are in as the great ministers of God's kingdom, whence they are called thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, is their natural good. But their perfect holiness and glorious goodness, their pure and flaming love to God, to the saints and one another, is their moral good. So divines make a distinction between the natural and moral perfections of God: by the moral perfections of God, they mean those attributes which God exercises as a moral agent, or whereby the heart and will of God are good, right, infinitely becoming, and lovely; such as his righteousness, truth, faithfulness, and goodness; or, in one word, his holiness. By God's natural perfections, they mean those attributes wherein his greatness consists; such as his power, his knowledge, his being from everlasting to everlasting, his omni-presence, his awful and terrible majesty
The moral excellency of an intelligent voluntary being, is more immediately seated in the heart or will.
That intelligent being whose will is truly right and lovely, he is morally good or excellent.--This moral excellency, when it is true and real, is holiness. Therefore holiness comprehends all the true moral excellency of intelligent beings: there is no other true virtue, but real holiness. Holiness comprehends all the true virtue of a good man; his love to God, his gracious love to men, his justice, his charity, his bowels of mercies, his gracious meekness and gentleness, and all other Christian virtues, belong to his holiness. So the holiness of God, in the more extensive sense of the word the sense in which the word is commonly, if not universally used concerning God in scripture—is the same with the moral excellency of the divine nature ; comprehending all his moral perfections, his righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness. As in holy men, their Christian kindness and mercy belong to their holiness; so the kindness and mercy of God, belong to his holiness. Holiness in man, is but the image of God's holiness; and surely there are not more virtues belonging to the image, than are in the original. Has derived holiness more in it, than is in that underived holiness, which is its fountain ?
As there are two kinds of attributes in God, occording to our way of conceiving of him, his moral attributes, which are summed up in his holiness, and his natural attributes—strength, knowledge, &c.—that constitute his greatness ; so there is a two-fold image of God in man, his moral or spiritual image, which is his holiness, that is the image of God's moral excellency; (which image was lost by the fall ;) and God's natural image, consisting in man's reason and understanding, his natural ability, and dominion over the creatures, which is the image of God's natural attributes. From what has been said, it may easily be understood what I intend, when I say that love to divine things for the beauty of their moral excellency, is the spring of all holy affections.
It has been already shown, under the former head, that the first objective ground of all holy affections is the supreme excellency of divine things as they are in their own nature ; I now proceed further, and say more particularly, that the kind of excellency which is the first objective ground of all holy affections, is their holiness. Holy persons, in the exercise of holy affections, love divine things primarily for their holiness; they love God, in the first place, for the beauty of his holiness, or moral perfection, as being supremely amiable in itself. Not that the saints, in the exercise of gracious affections, love God only for his holiness; all his attributes are amiable and glorious in their eyes; they delight in every divine perfection; the contemplation of the infinite greatness, power, knowl-dge, and terrible majesty of God, is pleasant to them. But their love to God for his holiness is what is most fundamental and essential in their love. Here it is that true love to God begins; all other holy love to divine things flows from hence. Love to God for the beauty of his moral attributes, necessarily causes a delight in God for all his attributes; for his moral attributes cannot be without his natural attributes. Infinite holiness supposes infinite wisdom, and infinite greatness; and all the attributes of God as it were imply one another.
The true beauty and loveliness of all intelligent beings primarily and most essentially consist in their moral excellency or holiness. Herein consists the loveliness of angels, without which, notwithstanding all their natural perfections, they would have no more loveliness than devils. It is moral excellency alone, that is in itself, and on its own account, the excellency of intelligent beings: it is this that gives beauty to, or rather is the beauty of their natural perfections and qualifications. Moral excellency, it I may so speak, is the excellency of natural excellencies. Natural qualifications are either excellent or otherwise, according as they are joined with moral excellency or not. Strength and knowledge do not render any being lovely without holiness, but more hateful; though they render them more lovely, when joined with holiness. Thus the elect angels are the more glorious for their strength and knowledge, because these natural perfections of theirs are sanctified by their moral perfection. But though the devils are very strong, and of great natural understanding, yet they are not the more lovely. They are more terrible, indeed, not more amiable: but on the contrary, the more hatesul. The holiness of an intelligent creature, is the beauty of all his natural perfections. And so it is in God, according to our way of conceiving of the divine Being; holiness is in a peculiar manner the beauty of the divine nature. Hence we often read of the beauty of holiness, (Psal. xxix. 2. Psal. xcvi. 9. and cx. 3.) This renders all his other attributes glorious and lovely. It is the glory of God's wisdom, that it is a holy wisdom, and not a wicked subtilty. This makes his majesty lovely, and not merely dreadful and horrible, that it is a holy majesty. It is the glory of God's immutability, that it is a holy immutability, and not an inflexible obstinacy in wickedness.
And therefore it must needs be, that a sight of God's loveliness must begin here. A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving God) it derives its loveliness from this. Therefore, it is impossible that other attributes should appear lovely, in their true loveliness, until this is seen : and it is impossible that any perfection of the divine nature should be loved with true love until this is loved. If the true loveliness of all God's perfections, arises from the loveliness of his holiness, then the true love of all his perfections arises from the love of his holiness. They that do not see the glory of God's holiness, cannot see any thing of the true glory of his mercy and grace. They see nothing of the glory of those attributes, as any excellency of God's nature, as it is in itself; though they may be affected with them, and love them, as they concern their interest. For these attributes are no part of the excellency of God's nature, as that is excellent in itsell, any otherwise than as they are included in his holiness, more largely taken ; or as they are a part of his moral perfection.
As the beauty of the divine nature primarily consists in God's holiness, so does the beauty of all divine things. Herein consists the beauty of the saints, that they are saints, or holy ones: it is the moral image of God in them, which is their beauty; and that is their holiness, Herein consists the beauty and brightness of the angels of heaven, that they are holy angels, and so not devils; (Dan. iv. 13, 17, 23. Math. xxv. 31. Mark viii. 39. Acts x. 22.
Rev. xiv. 10.) Herein consists the beauty of the Christian religion, above all other religions, that it is so holy a religion. Herein consists the excellency of the word of God, that it is so holy; Psal. cxix. 140. Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it, ver. 128. I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way, verse 138. Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded, are righteous, and very faithful. And 172. My tongue shall speak of thy word; for all thy commandments are righteousness. And Psal. xix. 7-10. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever : the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether : more to be desired are they than gold, yea, thun much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb. Herein primarily consists the amiableness and beauty of the Lord Jesus, whereby he is the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely; even in that he is the holy One of God, Acts iii. 14. and God's holy child, Acts iv. 27. and he that is holy, he that is true, Rev. iii. 7. All the spiritual beauty of his human nature, his meekness, lowliness, patience, heavenliness, love to God, love to men, condescension to the mean and vile, compassion to the miserable, &c. all is summed up in his holiness. And the beauty of bis divine nature, of which the beauty of his human nature is the image and reflection, also primarily consists in his holiness. Herein primarily consists the glory of the gospel, that it is a holy gospel, and so bright an
emanation of the holy beauty of God and Jesus Christ. Herein consists the spiritual beauty of its doctrines, that they are holy doctrines, or doctrines according to godliness. Herein consists the spiritual beauty of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, that it is so holy a way.
And herein chiefly consists the glory of heaven, that it is the holy city, the holy Jerusalem, the habitation of God's holiness, and so of his glory, Is. Ixiii. 15. All the beauties of the new Jerusalem, as it is described in the two last chapters of Revelation, are but various representations of this. (See chap. xxi. 2, 10, 11, 18, 21, 27. chap. xxii. 1. 3.)
And therefore it is primarily on account of this kind of excellency, that the saints love all these things. Thus they love the word of God, because it is very pure. It is on this account they love the saints; and on this account chiefly it is, that heaven is lovely to them, and those holy tabernacles of God amiable in
It is on this account that they love God; and on this account primarily it is, that they love Christ, and that their hearts delight in the doctrines of the gospel, and sweetly acquiesce in the way of salvation therein revealed*.
Under the head of the first distinguishing characteristic of gracious affection, I observed, that there is given to the regenerated a new supernatural sense, a certain divine spiritual taste. This is in its whole nature diverse from any former kinds of sensation of the mind, as tasting is diverse from any of the other five senses, and something is perceived by a true saint in the exercise of this new sense of mind, in spiritual and divine things, as entirely different from any thing that is perceived in them by natural men, as the sweet taste of honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by looking on it or feeling of it. Now the beauty of holiness,' is that which is perceived by this spiritual sense, so diverse from all that natural men perceive in them: or this kind of beauty is the quality that is the immediate object of this spiritual sense ; this is the sweetness that is the proper object of this spiritual taste. The scripture often represents the beauty and sweetness of holiness as the grand object of a spiritual taste and spiritual appetite. This was the sweet food of the holy seal of Jesus Christ, John iv. 32, 34. I have meat to eat, that ye know not of.
** To the right closing with Christ's person, this is also required, to taste the bitterness of sin, as the greatest evil: else a nau will never close with Christ, for his holiness in him, and from him, as the greatest good. For we told you, that taat is the right closing with Christ for himself, when it is for his holiness. For ask a whorish heart, what beauty he sees in the person of Christ: he will after he has looked over his kingdom, his righteousness, all his works, see a beauty in them, because they do serve his turn, to comfort him only. Ask a virgin, he will see his happiness is all; but that which makes the Lord amiable in his holiness, which is in him to make him holy too. As in marriage, it is the personal beauty draws the heart. And hence I have thought it reason, that he that loves the brethren for a little grace, will love Christ much more." SHEPARD's Parable, Part I. p. 84. VOL. V.