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PART FOUTH.
ON THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN LOVE.



CHAPTER VIII.


ON THE RELIGION OF LOVE AS COMPARED WITH THE RELIGION OF OBLIGATION.


Two principles of action.— Illustrations of these principles.— Relations of love and obligation. — The holy man acts from the principle of love. — He is approved by conscience without feeling the compulsions of conscience.

THE view which has been given of love, as the great central element in religious experience, would be imperfect without presenting the matter in one other aspect, namely, the religion of love as compared with the religion of
obligation.

There are two important principles in the human constitution, which are very different from each other in their nature; but which, operating in different ways, often harmonize in the production of the same results. The one is the great principle of love, which we have been endeavoring to illustrate; the other is the feeling of moral obligation. Cases of human conduct, illustrative of the operation of these two principles, are very frequent.

A man, for instance, visits and relieves one who is sick. The action, which is so interesting and important, may be ascribed either to the principle of love, or the sentiment of duty. The father of a family restrains those under his care from outward labors on the Sabbath day, and visits the house of God with them; and, in doing so, he may be moved by love to God, or merely by the constraint of mental conviction and obligation. A child may render obedience to his parents from either of these motives; either because he loves to obey, — it being a pleasure, a delight to him to obey,— or because, without love, and sometimes against love, he feels it to be his duty to obey. And thus of many other instances.

2. It is important to ascertain the true position and the comparative relations of these principles. In the order of nature, love is the first in time. The heart naturally operates before the conscience. One evidence of this is, that it is the office of the conscience to intimate the proper regulations, and to establish the law of the heart. It is obvious, however, that there can be no regulation without something which is regulated; and conscience, whose business it is to regulate and direct, would obviously be a faculty without application and without use, if there were not propensities and affections which in the order of nature operated antecedently. Love is the true impulsive principle, the central movement or life of man, as it is of God and of all holy beings. Of conscience, it can only be said that it is its guard, the flaming sword which waves and flashes round it to protect its purity. And he who does not act in the right way naturally, and by the power of his own loving life, must be wounded and goaded into the right by the authority and the penalties of the moral sense.

3. Does the truly holy man, the man who has his life in God, act from love or from conscience? The statements which have already been made, indicate the answer. The holy man acts from holy love, — that is to say, from such love as conscience approves. The holy man does not act from mere will, against the desires of his sensitive or affectional nature, on the ground, and for the reason, that his conscience requires him to do so; but, on the contrary, acts under the impulse of holy and loving affections — affections which are the regenerated gift of God, and which sweetly carry the will with it. He acts, not so much from conscience. as
from conscience. He acts from that, in himself, which makes him a partaker of the divine nature, namely, holy love, with conscience standing by, as it were, with its approbation and encouragement.

4. And this leads us to the explanation of one of the peculiarities of the higher states of religious experience. It is this.The more holy a man is, the less he feels of the compulsive power of conscience. When the heart, or rather the principle of love in the heart, (the
love-nature, if we may so express it,) is adequate to the object of effecting or carrying out good purposes, conscience is not known or felt in the matter, except in that sweet, approving calm of the spirit, which is the result of inward adjustment and harmony. This is so much the case, that sometimes persons, who have been fully re-endowed by the Holy Ghost with a new love-nature, have almost had a fear that they had lost their conscience. But it should be remembered that conscience has two forms or modes of action; that which constrains or compels to do right, and that which approves when right is done. And while it is true that holy persons are not constrained or compelled by conscience, acting as they obviously do, by the impulses of a holy life or nature, without compulsion, it is equally true that they are approved by conscience. The holy joy within them, the calm, triumphant peace which they experience, the peace of God, the peace of angels, are both the evidence and the result of this approval.

5. It is a saying of St. Augustine — "Love, and do what you please." In acting from the impulse of love, we are conscious of the highest freedom. But pure love, or right love, (that to which St. Augustine refers,) is, by the very terms used, a love which is conformed to law. It is a love which is pure from selfishness, a love which is
right; a love which does not, and cannot, while it remains pure, vary from the law of moral rectitude. He, who acts from such love, while he is conscious of the highest freedom, is safe in doing what he pleases, not only because his pleasure consists in benevolent feeling and action, but because his pleasure is always conformed to what is right. He is under law without feeling its pressure; because the pressure of law, or that which makes it felt as a compulsive and constraining power, never is and never can be felt, while the subject of it entirely harmonizes in feeling as well as in action with its requisitions. The man who, in perfect health, breathes the pure air of heaven, breathes freely; — but he does it in subjection to the laws of respiration, and yet without feeling any constraint, and perhaps without knowing that there are such laws. The man who walks the earth, in the perfect exercise of his muscles, is conscious of freedom, and of acting his own pleasure, while, at the same time, every movement is in subjection to the law of gravitation, and cannot be made without it. Indeed, it is the physical law in these cases, harmonizing with the purpose of the personal volition, which sustains both breathing and movement. And so it is the eternal law of right, indicating the channels in which it should flow, but without using compulsion, when compulsion is not needed, which sustains pure or holy love in a state of purity.

6. Angels have a conscience. They do always what is right, and never otherwise than what is right. But they do not do it under the compulsions of conscience, but from the excellent and just impulses of a purified and loving nature. Conscience is a law to them, as it is a law to all other holy beings. But law, we are told, "is made for the lawless." (1 Tim. 1: 9.) Those who are not lawless, but whose hearts and actions, of their own accord, harmonize with the law, are under the law without feeling the pressure of the law; rendering obedience to the law, almost without knowing what the law is. If they should attempt or desire to disobey, they would at once have knowledge as distinct as it would be painful. In other words, the operations of the conscience are anticipated and lost, as it were, in the antecedent operations of holy love. And these statements, which apply to angels and other unfallen beings, will apply essentially to men.