Stacks Image 905


PART II. THE POWER OR EFFECTS OF FAITH IN THE REGULATION OF MAN’S INWARD NATURE.



CHAPTER FOURTH.


SELFISHNESS INCONSISTENT WITH THE STATE OF PURE LOVE.


The affection of love has its laws of origin. Love, originating in faith tends to restrain and regulate the other passions. The soul can love only one object supremely. Man is selfish when his love centres in himself as its supreme object. Selfish also when his love centres in other beings inferior to God. God alone the proper centre of love. Where supreme love exists, all other principles will be properly regulated. Assured or perfect faith the true source of purity or perfection of love.

LOVE is not a passion, which can properly be called accidental. In any and every being, that has the capacity of loving, this benevolent affection will arise, and increase, and decline according to its own laws of origin and progress. And if we have a right view of the subject, it is one of the laws of its origin, that love always rests upon faith as its basis. If we have faith in the creature, exclusive of faith in God, then our affections will centre in the creature. If we have faith in God, then our affections, either in whole or in part, will take a different direction; attaching themselves to God as their object, and being more or less strong, according to the degree of our faith.

2.—In the last chapter the position was taken, that faith subdues that selfishness, which is the great evil of man’s nature, in part at least, by an indirect action; viz.,
by giving origin to love. We had occasion to make the general remark, to this effect, that the natural tendency of love to God is to regulate and restrain all unregulated and unrestrained love of that, which is not God. This view is so important, that we think it necessary to delay upon it in the present chapter.

3.—Additional to the general law, that love rests upon faith, there are other permanent principles or laws, which it may be proper to refer to here. And one is this. Of the various objects, to which love is directed, it will always be found, that those objects will not all be loved alike; but some will be loved more, and some less. Of two objects or of many objects which essentially differ in their attractions, in other words, in their power of exciting love, it can never be said that the soul loves them both, or that it loves them all in an equal degree. The love of the object will be in proportion to the attracting power of the object, considered in relation to the soul.

4.—And in accordance with these views, it may be said further, that, among these various objects there will be some one, on which the love of the soul will rest and satisfy itself in the highest degree; in a degree which may be expressed by the term
supremely. The soul, in the exercise of its affections, must necessarily have a centre of love somewhere: viz., in the object which is most beloved. And that object will be the most beloved, and will constitute the centre of love, which possesses for the soul the highest attractions. The love of other things, which have less attractions for the soul, cannot fail to be subordinate. It is true, that the soul may take a degree of satisfaction in those objects, which are inferior or subordinate in its love. But it is in the supreme object of its affections, and in that central and supreme object alone, that it will rest and delight itself with supreme satisfaction. It is there, emphatically, that the heart is. There is the centre, and it is infinitely important that every man should know what that centre is in his own case.

5.—The centre of man’s love, (we do not say his love, but the
centre of his love,) must be either in himself, or in other creatures, or in God. He may love all in different degrees; and he may love all in that manner at the same time; but he cannot have a centre or supremacy of love in all at the same time. He either loves God supremely, or he loves other beings, which are inferior to God, supremely; or he loves himself supremely. There does not seem to be any other supposition to be made in the case.

6.—Our first remark, in connection with what has been said, is this. If a man’s love centres in himself as the highest or supreme object of his affections, which it must do, if it do not centre in some other being, he is of course a selfish being; and as such he cannot be regarded as a truly holy being. If he thinks for himself, acts for himself, lives for himself, as he must do if he himself be the highest object of love, it must be sufficiently obvious without any comment upon it, that he cannot be otherwise than selfish, and cannot be otherwise than unholy. All such love, which thus centres in ourselves, is wrong, and is not acceptable in the sight of God;
because it is not proportioned to its object, and is inordinate.

It may be proper to add this remark here, that pure love or holy love is that
love which is precisely appropriate to the object; being such, neither more nor less, as the object is precisely entitled to, so far as we are capable of understanding what the object is.

7.—A second remark is this. If our love centres in creatures inferior to God, and becomes supreme in them, it is necessarily selfish; as really so, though not so obviously so at first sight, as if it centered in ourselves. It is entirely obvious, that the motive for loving inferior beings in the highest degree, for loving them supremely, cannot be founded in their own characters. It is not a love, to which they are justly entitled. It is not right to love them in this manner. And if the motive of this love is not founded in their characters, and is, therefore, not based upon moral rectitude, it is founded, and must necessarily be so, in some selfish modification of our own feelings. The only active principle in man, which is antagonistical to rectitude, is selfishness in some of its modifications. Whenever a moral being deviates from the right, in any and all cases where he has a perception of what the right is, it will be found to be through the influence of self. In all such cases, if a being is loved otherwise than it ought to be, and is therefore loved wrongly, selfishness will always be found at the bottom. It will sometimes be very secret and almost hidden; but it will always be there.

8.—A third remark is this. God alone is the proper centre of love. God alone, in consequence of the exalted nature of his perfections, is the object, to which our highest affections can properly attach themselves. If God is not loved supremely, something else is, because the nature of love is such as to require some highest object. And if God is the
centre, (an expression, which implies, that our love is essentially, if not absolutely proportioned to its object,) then he is so in such a degree and manner, that all other beings are regarded and loved in their relation to him. Being not only the highest or supreme object, but being so beyond any and all comparison with other objects, he is properly the centre of centres. Consequently, receiving all our springs of action from him, as the great object of our affections, we shall regard objects, so far as we are capable of understanding their nature, just as he regards them; we shall love what he loves; hate what he hates; rejoice in what he rejoices in.

9.—The moment we get into this great and true Centre, every thing else falls into the right position. “We love ourselves, and we love other beings just as God would have us; for we can neither approve nor disapprove, neither love nor hate, except as we receive the spring of movement from the great source. In any other position of mind, the influence of self will be felt. But in this, as the mind operates in perfect coincidence with the will of God, a will which never deviates from perfect rectitude, it can give no countenance to selfishness, which is always at variance with rectitude. The life of God in the soul and the life of self in the soul are entirely inconsistent with each other. Where God exists, as the supreme object, self is, and must be cast out. Sensuality ceases. All our appetites, and all our propensities and affections of whatever degree will, in that case, be properly regulated. And the grace of sanctification or holiness will pervade the whole inner man.

10.—It is proper to add here, in accordance with what was intimated at the commencement of the chapter, that the love, which in being supreme makes God its centre, never exists, and it is not possible that it should ever exist except in connection with and as the consequent of a faith, which has the same centre, and exists in the same degree. Faith is the foundation. Faith is the deeper principle; although it must be admitted, that love is a state of mind, which, generally speaking, is more distinct in our consciousness, and is more obvious to common apprehension and remark. When, therefore, we have faith, we have all that is necessary for us, provided we have all the faith, which God requires us to have.