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



CHAPTER SEVENTH.


RELATION OF FAITH TO THE REGULATION OF THE AFFECTIONS.


Our attention chiefly directed to the sanctifying influences of faith. Faith necessary in the regulation of the affections, as well as of the appetites and propensities. Reference to Francis de Sales. Of affections which are inordinate in degree. Such wrong affections may be regulated by faith. Rule which will aid us in determining, whether our affections are inordinate or not. Of partialities or partial friendships. Of liberty of spirit.

THE outline of the scriptural doctrine on the subject of faith seems to be; FIRST, that men are justified by faith, and second, that, being justified, they live by faith. And accordingly it is said in one place, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;” and in another, “the just shall live by faith.” So much has been said on the subject of justification by faith, it having been almost from the commencement of the christian era, a leading subject of discussion, that it has not seemed to us necessary to occupy much time with it. And accordingly it will be noticed, that in this Treatise, and especially in this second Part of it, the attention of the reader is designed to be directed, not so much to the justifying, as to the sanctifying influences of faith.

2.—A man may make the most decided efforts and may resort to all methods, to subdue and to bring back his fallen nature within the limits of God’s appointment and law; but it will avail nothing without faith. Without faith, (not merely that faith which justifies but that which sanctifies,) the Appetites, which are not too low and degraded to become purified and holy, always exhibit an action, which is disorderly, uncontrolled, and evil. Without faith, the Propensive principles, which may be regarded higher in their position and influence than the Appetites, although lower than the affections, run into various forms and degrees of unauthorized irregularity and excess. And we may add, without going into particulars, that without faith in God, and without faith in Christ as the mediator between God and man, man’s whole moral nature will inevitably show itself, as it always has shown itself, rebellious, perverse, and evil.

3.—We proceed now to apply these views to the Affections. Those natural Affections, which God has implanted within us, discover the divine wisdom and goodness. The perversion, which they often exhibit, does not destroy the evidence of their original beauty. Human nature would be far less lovely than it is, far less happy than it is, if the parent did not love the child, and the child the parent; and if there were not other domestic and benevolent ties, which bind together members of the same family, and those who are otherwise closely related.

4.—The Affections, (we speak now of the Benevolent Affections,) beautiful as they are in the place they occupy in the mental structure, and important and interesting as they are in their outward office, have felt, like every other part of our mental being, the effects of our depraved and fallen condition. They sometimes fall below their appropriate strength; but more frequently err, either in being wrongly directed, or in being inordinately strong. It is evident, from a slight inspection of what human nature every where presents to our notice, that they require a constant regulation; in other words, they need to be sanctified.

5.—I recollect to have noticed a remark, made in connection with the religious experience of Francis de Sales, which is worthy of serious consideration. It is found in one of the religious works of Liguori, entitled the Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, as follows. “He was obliged to struggle hard to overcome his two predominant passions, anger and love. To overcome the former, he labored for twelve successive years, and to check the consequences of the latter, he changed the object of his affections, by transferring them from creatures to God.” In order to possess a mind continually and entirely right with God, which seems to have been the great object of his efforts, we are informed, that he was obliged to struggle hard, not merely to regulate and overcome his anger, but to
overcome his love; a statement, which implies, and as it seems to us very correctly implies, that there is no small degree of danger in the exercise even of this benevolent and ennobling affection. We all know, that there is danger of being inordinately angry; but it does not so often occur to us, (which nevertheless is the fact,) that there is danger, if not equally great yet equally real, of being inordinately and wrongly affectionate. Against this danger, therefore, supposing it to exist, as it undoubtedly does exist, we are to guard with the same care, with which we guard against others.

6.—The subject may be considered under two points of view. In the exercise of those benevolent affections, which our heavenly Father has implanted within us, we love wrongly, when we place our love on wrong objects. We love wrongly also, when we love in an inordinate degree. The love, which is inordinate in degree, arises chiefly from the fact of our regarding the objects of it, such as parents, children, and other near relatives and friends, out of their due relation to God. Faith in God, especially assured or perfect faith, reestablishes the relation; and requires us to love them in God’s will, and according to God’s law; with an affection, which is neither wrong by its weakness nor wrong by its inordinate strength. As God, in the perceptions and estimate of an assured faith, is the sum of all beings, inasmuch as all are from him and in him; so we are naturally and rightly required to love him with the sum, the wholeness or entireness, if we may so speak, of all our powers. And so long as we love God in this manner, God will help us to love all beings subordinate to him, at the right time and in the right degree. But we ought not to forget, that it is faith, which places God in the right relative position; and it is faith, which opens the strong fountain of love such as his infinite nature claims; and it is faith, therefore, indirectly at least, which distributes this fountain to all subordinate beings from God downward to the lowest insect.

7.—We think it of some consequence to mention here one rule, which may aid us in determining, whether our affections, those of the most benevolent kind as well as others, are properly regulated or not. When our affections to any persons, however near and dear they may be to us, are found to be so strong at any given time or on any occasion as to disturb the clearness and precision of the intellectual action, we may be assured, that such love has become inordinate, and has some vicious element in it. A number of considerations go to show this.

8.—We may argue, in confirmation of what has been said, from the nature and operations of that love, which we are required to exercise towards God. It is the tendency of the true love of God, which is the same as the pure love of God, always to accommodate itself to what is right. Rectitude is the ultimate and unchangeable law of its operation. At this, by a tendency inherent in its own nature, it always aims, viz., to love rightly, to love just as it
ought to love, not only the right object, but in the right degree. The right and wrong of things, the ought and the ought not, is made known to us, in connection with, and by means of the action of an enlightened moral sense. The moral sense, by a well known law of our mental constitution, demands, as the condition of its own correct action, a clear intellectual perception. The action of the intellect must be undisturbed. The pure love of God, that is to say, the love which we exercise towards God, when it is unmixed with any merely human or selfish element, never causes disturbance in the intellectual action; but, on the contrary, is highly favorable to the opposite state. Where such pure affection exists, therefore, the right or rectitude of things may be expected to be clearly perceived, as well as strongly loved. But if the love of God, (that unmixed and pure love which alone can be acceptable to him,) does not disturb the perceptive or intellectual action, but on the contrary if its very nature requires a clear and calm perception of things, then it is very obvious, that the love of our earthly friends, the love of our neighbor, cannot safely be exercised on other principles, and cannot require less.

9.—Again, looking at the matter in reference to God himself, considered as exercising love towards his creatures, we may argue how man should love from the manner in which God loves. It is obvious, that love can never exist in any higher degree than in the Divine Mind; but it is certain that it never exists there in such a degree as to perplex, even to the smallest extent, the action of God’s percipient or intellectual nature. God loves deeply and perfectly, for the very reason that he perceives clearly and perfectly. To love an object, without a clear perception of the nature of the object and of its claims to love, would involve the hazard of loving imperfectly or wrongly; a risk which can never, by any possibility, exist on the part of a perfect and holy being. Now it must be obvious, that love, in those who bear the divine image, will sustain the same relation to other acts and affections of the mind, as it does in God. To be born in the divine image always implies this, and implies it in the real and strict sense. If we love like God, our love will operate by the same law, which regulates God’s love; that is to say, we shall love both in such a manner and such degree as to leave the intellect unembarrassed and clear in the perception and estimate of the character of the object and of its claims to our love. When, therefore, in the exercise of our benevolent affections, the actual affection exists in such a degree as to perplex the perceptive and intellectual action, and to render our appreciation of the merits or demerits of the object confused and doubtful, we may be certain that we are wrong, that we are jostled out of the true centre, and that we have not God with us.

10.—The remarks, which have hitherto been made in respect to the exercise of the affections, have had a special reference to a wrong or inordinate
degree of love. We may love wrongly also, when we knowingly place our love upon wrong objects; or perhaps we should rather say in this case, upon wrong persons. And accordingly it is a part of Christian duty to avoid wrongly placed and inordinate partialities; those particular attachments to certain persons, which generally exist without adequate reason, and which are apt to be attended with corresponding dislikes to other persons. We do not mean to say, that we are bound to bestow an equal confidence and an equal affection upon all persons alike; but true Christianity requires, that, where we make a difference, we should do it for reasons and on grounds, which God can approve. It ought to be more generally remembered than it is, that we have no more right to place our affections on objects or persons, irrespective of God’s will, than we have to regulate and control our outward actions in disregard of his will. And it is implied in regarding his will in this case as well as in others, that we must have a heart humbly acquiescent in his providences, and must look to him in the exercise of faith, in order that we may be guided right. It is proper, therefore, to say to all, who desire to do what God would have them do, choose your friends in the Lord. Or rather look to the Lord, to choose them for you. And then you will be likely, not only to choose them right, but to keep them long. And what otherwise would fail to be the case, it will be a friendship hallowed by the divine blessing.

11.—And we may add this further remark. That devout condition of mind, which is expressed by the term holiness, requires, that we should do the will of God in all things; or what amounts to the same thing, that we should do right in all things. But it is obvious, that partialities, inordinate attachments, loving one more than another without any reasonable grounds for making a distinction, perplex both our perceptions of right and our ability to do what is right. It is important, therefore, to keep our minds in that desirable state, so often mentioned by spiritual writers, which is denominated
liberty of spirit; a state of mind, in which there are no disturbing influences, originating either from inordinate hatred or inordinate love, and in which the soul, acting under a divine guidance, may be moved with the greatest possible ease in any direction.

12.—We conclude what we have to say on this subject by a suggestion of a practical nature. When, in the exercise of our naturally kind feelings, we strive to do good to our fellow-men, by soothing their sorrows, by healing their dissentions, or in any other way, if we do it without a humble and serious eye to God’s providences, we shall always find on a careful examination, that we do it in a considerable degree, if not entirely, without a believing regard to God himself. And accordingly, in attempting to do good in this way, viz., from the mere impulse of nature, without a regard to God and his providences, it will not be surprising, if, in many cases, we fail of our object, and do evil rather than good. God is present in
time, as well as in events. There is always the right time, as well as the right thing; the right time, as well as the right action. The man of true faith feels it to be necessary to act at the right time, to act in God’s time, even in doing those things, which are clearly of a benevolent nature. God holds the remedy of the evils, which exist in the world, in his own hands. His people are the instruments, which he employs, in applying this remedy. But the application is never made beneficially either to the subject or the agent, except when it is made under his own superintendence, in his own time and manner.