PART I. ON THE INWARD LIFE IN ITS CONNECTION WITH FAITH AND LOVE.
Of disinterested or pure Love in distinction from interested Love.
IT will be recollected, that it was attempted to be shown in one of the preceding chapters, that evangelical holiness is to be regarded as the same thing with perfect love. The great commandment is: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." He who begins to love may be said to begin to be holy; but it is he, and he only, in whom the principle of love has subdued that of selfishness, and who loves with his whole heart, in whom holiness can be said to be complete or entire. Faith undoubtedly, whether we consider the subject scripturally or psychologically, is the foundation of love. The views, which have been presented in the preceding chapters, abundantly show, that faith is a principle antecedent to love in time, and absolutely indispensable. But it is love, nevertheless, to which God has assigned the high honor of declaring it to be "the fulfilling of the law." So that the great question, that in comparison with which every other is of small importance, whether we are wholly the Lord's, and are truly holy, may be resolved into another, viz. whether we are perfected in love?
But we proceed to remark here, in this position of our inquiries, that there are various kinds of love. There are not only differences in degree, which separate perfect love from all the weaker or inferior gradations; but, what is of vital importance, it is generally understood that there are differences also in nature. For instance, we may love another merely for the benefits which he has conferred upon us; or we may love him for what he IS IN AND OF HIMSELF. It is the latter only, which is to be regarded as pure love, disinterested love. It is our object to show in this chapter, that we must not only love God in the highest degree, but with that sort of love, which is in its nature pure or disinterested.
(1.) — In the first place, we are required to do this on natural principles. Nature herself,— in other words, the common feeling and common sense of mankind,— teaches us what true love is, in distinction from interested or merely selfish love. If we profess to love a person, it is the common and natural understanding in the case, that we profess to love him as he is; in other words, we love him for what he is in and of himself; and not merely or chiefly for the benefits which he may have conferred upon us. The principles of the philosophy of the mind, which are drawn chiefly from an observation of the feelings and conduct of men, do not appear to recognize any other true love than this. If my neighbor, for instance, declares that he loves me, I accept his declaration, and rejoice in it; but if I afterwards learn, that he loves me merely in consequence of some benefits I have conferred upon him, I can truly say to him, he is mistaken in the whole matter; and that he loves himself, and not me. It seems to be self-evident, that all true love must terminate in the object that is beloved; and not in the person that exercises love. And accordingly true love is never egotistical. In other words, it shows no disposition to revert continually to itself; and to revolve around its own centre of origin. On the contrary, true or pure love, in distinction from that which is self-interested, is diffusive, generous, and self-forgetting. It expatriates itself, as it were; flying on its beautiful wings from its own heart to find a home in the heart of another. And it is accordingly with such love, a love which lives for another and not for itself, a love devoid of any debasing and inferior mixture, that we ought to love God.
(2.) — In the second place, while men are evidently able to make the distinction between these different kinds or forms of love, it is apparent also, that they respect and honor disinterested love; while they have neither admiration nor esteem, for that form of love which is based upon personal interest merely. Some ancient heathen writers, Cicero in his treatise De Amicitia, and Plato in particular, in various places of his writings, speak in the highest terms of that friendship or affection which is disinterested. Plato advances the sentiment, that the most divine trait in man's nature, and that, without which he cannot be happy, is, "to deny and go out of himself for love." Hence it is, that ancient writers bestow such high commendation upon the friendship of Pythias and Damon, who lived under the tyrant Dionysius, and were willing to die for each other. Each of them seemed willing to forget, and, as it were, to extinguish himself, in order that the other might live and be happy. This was true love. And men are so constituted, that such love always commands their regard and honor. They instinctively perceive, that it has in itself a divine element, which necessarily allies it to the highest and purest form of existence, whatever it may be; and that it is morally beautiful and ever must be so, in its own underived lustre. And accordingly they speak of it at their firesides; they crown it with historic encomiums; they sing its praises in poetry; while all other love, as existing between man and man, they despise and trample under their feet. And is it reasonable to suppose, that a love, which men themselves, darkened as they are in their natural perceptions, instinctively condemn and reject, will be acceptable to God?
(3.) — In the third place, the character of God is so pure, so exalted, that the claims of right and justice cannot be satisfied with any homage which it may receive, short of pure, disinterested love. God contains in himself the sum of all conceivable excellence. If there is any being who is to be loved for himself, because he contains in himself every thing that is lovely, it is God. If human beings reject with an instinctive contempt, any love which is found to be based upon selfish considerations, how can God, who has so much higher claims, receive it? Upon this point all language fails. The tongues of angels cannot describe the divine excellence. It is because God is what He is, and will continue to be what he has been, that He is the true and only proper object of the heart' s highest homage. The divine character stands forth, in the view of the universe, as the natural, the appropriate, and ever sufficient object of pure love.
But the question may be asked here with some degree of force, Is not God's benevolence towards ourselves to be taken into view, and to have some effect upon our feelings? Undoubtedly it is. We shall love God, if we fulfill the divine requisition in its entire extent, as he is, and not otherwise than he is. And this implies, that we are to take into view every part of his character and of his acts. It is true, it is impossible to love him with that kind of love which is called pure love, for the simple and exclusive reason, that he has been good to us. Pure love, which does not confine itself to any personal or interested view of things, necessarily requires a wider basis of movement than this. But we love him with entire purity of love, because, while He has been good to us, He has sustained, in every other respect, the perfection of his character and acts. In other words, there has been a diffusion of truth, purity, and righteousness over his whole character and administration; including what he has done for ourselves as well as his acts in other respects. And it is his character and acts, as thus presented in their entireness, and not in partial glimpses, which command the homage of pure love.
(4.) — In the fourth place, the Scriptures require us to love God with disinterested or pure love. We say nothing here of the great command, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart; which evidently implies the dethronement and exclusion of selfishness. There are various other passages of Scripture, which, if we rightly understand them, evidently look to this result, viz. that we should love Him for what he is in and of himself, independently of our own private interests. Accordingly it is said in Luke, chap. 14: 26: " If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." And again in the same chapter, " So likewise, whosoever he be of you, that FORSAKETH NOT ALL HE HATH, he cannot be my disciple." And again it is said in another place, " Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you." And perhaps still more directly and appositely to the subject under consideration, the inquiry is made in another passage, " If ye love them, which love you, what thanks have ye? for sinners also love those, that love them. And if ye do good to them, who do good to you, what thanks have ye? for sinners also do even the same." These are the declarations and precepts of the Savior himself. There are many others very similar, to be found in different parts of the Word of God. As when, for instance, the Apostle John says, " Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." How true it is, then, that charity, or the genuine love of God and our nelghbor SEEKETH NOT HER OWN. And how appropriate the direction, "Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others." — We have only to add, that passages, such as have now been referred to, evidently strike at the existence of that form of love, if such it can be called, which proposes to build itself on personal or selfish considerations.
But what shall be done, it will perhaps be said here, with that passage of Scripture, 2d John 4:19 [sic], which asserts, "We love God, because He first loved us." The difficulty here, as it seems to us, is easily explicable. We admit, that, in our present condition, we never should have loved God, if his love to us had not been antecedent. He formed the plan of salvation; He sent his beloved Son to make an atonement for our sins; He commissioned the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our understandings, and to enable us to contemplate his glory. In a word, he has put us into a situation, utterly unattainable by our own unaided efforts, in which we can truly estimate his character in its whole extent of glory, not only as possessed of infinite mercy, but of infinite justice. It is in view of such procedures of the divine administration, that we can truly say, " we love God, because He first loved us." And at the same time can say with equal truth, and in a still more important and essential sense, we love Him for what He is in and of himself. His previous love to us, without which we never should have exercised any love towards Him of any kind whatever, has opened the way for the exercise on our part of that pure and holy love, which alone can be truly acceptable.
(5.) — We remark further, that the nature of the human mind is such, being limited and dependent, that it evidently requires an adequate centre of love, on which it can rest. No being, that is weak and dependent, and is conscious, as man is, of this weakness and dependence, can find a safe and satisfactory centre in itself. Accordingly the man, whose love reverts wholly or chiefly to himself, is always found to be more or less anxious and unhappy. And if our love fixes upon any being out of ourselves, but short of God and to the exclusion of God, it soon finds a weakness there, and becomes uneasy, and has a sort of instinctive consciousness, that the true centre is not yet found. Hence if our souls would find rest, they can find it only by an alienation of self and of all subordinate creatures, and by union with God. And what has now been said is not only obvious in itself, but it is believed, it will be found to be confirmed by the testimony of those, who have made the greatest advancement in holiness. In the transition they have passed through from the natural life to the true life of God in the soul, they have attached themselves, as it was perhaps natural they should do, to various inferior objects, to outward forms, to ministers, to church organization and ceremonies, to christian friends; and have endeavored for a time to find a rest of soul in these inferior things. But it has always eluded them. They have felt the foundation shake. They have realized an inward disquietude and weakness, till, leaving every thing else, however desirable in many respects and for many purposes it might be, they have reached the strong rock of salvation in God alone.
FINALLY, it is the nature of true love to react upon and to expand itself. It is satisfied with nothing but constant increase. It ever desires to love more; and is ever enlarging its own capability of loving. It can, therefore, rest firmly and quietly, and with entire satisfaction, only in an object. which has capacity and fulness enough to meet this tendency. As in God there is not only infinity of being but infinite loveliness, so the principle of love in men, though it should expand and increase itself through all eternity, will find in Him all its wants supplied. No other object can supply them; and it seeks no other. But in God it finds all that it needs. It has a home there, like no other home. It has no fear of failure in the beloved object; it has no desire of change. It exults triumphantly, and with ever increasing exultation, in the midst of the glories of the Infinite Mind. This is the true point of rest; the soul's eternal rock; the everlasting centre; and it can be no where else.
In connection with what has been said, we make a few remarks further, naturally flowing out of the subject. And, in the first place, we observe, it is a bad sign when Christians are thinking more of themselves than of God; in other words, when they are more taken up with their own joys and sorrows, than they are with God's will. When this is the case, they have not as yet learnt the great lesson of self-crucifixion; of doing and suffering the will of another. "The cup, which my Father giveth me, shall I not drink it?" These are the words of the Savior; and they convey deep and precious meaning. When we are fully delivered from the influence of selfish considerations, and have become conformed to the desires and purposes of the Infinite Mind, we shall drink the cup, and drink it cheerfully, whatever it may be. In a word, we shall necessarily be submissive and happy in all trials, and in every change and diversity of situation. Not because we are seeking happiness as a distinct object, or thinking of happiness as a distinct object, but because the glorious will of Him whom our soul loves supremely, is accomplished in us. To the purified mind, the sorrows and joys of this life, when contemplated in the light of God's providences, are alike. Whatever God sends is welcome to it. Hence we say, it shows a state of mind short of sanctification, or what is the same thing, short of evangelical perfection, when we think more of ourselves than we do of God, and more of our own happiness than we do of the divine glory.
We remark, in the second place, that in the doctrine of pure love, existing in the highest degree, we find the true basis of Christian harmony. There never can be harmony among Christians without some common centre of attraction. Without such a centre their principles of movement will vary, and they will be exposed to perpetual conflicts. What a delightful prospect would be presented, if all Christians could meet in this great centre! What unity of purpose! What mingling of affection! It is party and selfish interests which divide. A common interest unites. God, being loved with perfect love, and for his own sake, makes all hearts one. It is then, that we all drink, and are all nourished, st the same fountain. We unite in him and rejoice in him, as a principle of life-giving inspiration, having a common and universal efficacy, operating as the soul of each separate soul and the life of each separate life, and thus making what was before separate and self-interested but one life and one soul in himself.
We observe again, that we find in this doctrine the true principle, not only of union among Christians in this life, but of the permanent moral harmony of the universe. The universe must have a centre. And it has. And that centre is God. But there cannot be universal harmony, notwithstanding, unless all hearts are drawn to that centre, as the supreme object of attraction and delight. This simple principle of pure love, always terminating in God as its centre, and as its supreme object, excludes every jarring sound, and establishes universal concord. And as it is exercised without distrust and without fear, attaching itself to an object whose perfections never change, it naturally brings substantial joy; joy full as its fountain, which is God, and lasting as his existence, which is eternity.
FINALLY, in the opposite of pure love, that is to say, in selfishness, as it develops itself in a future life, we find the great principle of moral discord, and also that, which constitutes the essential basis of the misery of hell. The miscery of hell is not an accident; but just to the extent it is experienced at all, it is a permanent and necessary truth. Like every thing else it has its philosophy. Its leading element is love, terminating in self as the supreme object; in other words, it is supreme selfishness. This principle, wherever it exists and wherever it is transferred, necessarily carries with it the grand element of the world of woe. A being, who is supremely selfish, is necessarily miserable. The result does not depend upon choice or volition, but upon the nature of things. Instead of the principle of unity, which tends to oneness of purpose with other beings, and naturally leads to happiness, he has within him the principle of exclusion and of eternal separation. In its ultimate operation, if it is permitted permanently to exist, it necessarily drives him from every thing else, and wedges him closer and closer in the compressed circumference of his own personality. So that he is not only at variance with God and with all holy beings; but he is not at unity even with the devils themselves. The principle of love, terminating in self as the supreme object and exclusive of other objects, in other words, supreme selfishness makes him at war with all other beings; and it is impossible for him to be happy but in their destruction, which is also an impossibility. This is the true hell and everlasting fire.
"OH LOVE! I languish at thy stay!
I pine for thee with lingering smart!
Weary and faint through long delay;
When wilt thou come into my heart!
From sin and sorrow set me free,
And swallow up my soul in thee!
"Come, Oh my comfort and delight!
My strength and health, my shield and sun,
My boast, and confidence, and might,
My joy, my glory, and my crown;
My Gospel hope, my calling's prize;
My tree of life, my paradise."