PART I. ON THE INWARD LIFE IN ITS CONNECTION WITH FAITH AND LOVE.
On the distinction between Love and Joy.
IT would seem from the views, which have been taken, that PERFECT LOVE is to be regarded, on the principles of the Gospel, as essentially the same thing, or rather as precisely the. same thing with SANCTIFICATION OR HOLINESS. Certain it is that those, who are perfected in love, whatever may be their infirmities and errors, and however important and proper it may be for them to make constant application to the blood of the atonement both for the forgiveness of the infirmities of the present and of the infirmities and transgressions of the past, are spoken of and are treated in the New Testament, as accepted, sanctified, or holy persons. Those, therefore, who are truly and without any self interested reflections seeking perfection of love, may very properly be considered as seeking holiness. But it is proper to say here, that some degree of observation and inquiry has given occasion to the remark, that some persons, who are truly seeking the sanctifying power of assured faith and perfected love, and who suppose that they are seeking it in the right way, have nevertheless committed the dangerous error of confounding joy with love; and are in fact, without being fully aware of it, seeking after a state of highly joyful and rapturous excitement, instead of true love. It is to some mistake of this kind that the pious Lady Maxwell probably has reference, when she says, "The Lord has taught me, that it is by faith, and not JOY I must live." It seems to me, therefore, important, in order to understand the true foundation of the christian life, to draw the distinction between joy and love. This is the object of the present chapter.
(1.) — In endeavoring to point out the distinction between joy and love, which, it must be admitted, cannot be satisfactorily done without careful consideration, we proceed to remark in the first place, that the distinction is very properly made in philosophical writers between Emotions and Desires; and that joy is to be regarded as an emotion, rather than a desire. Regarded as an emotive state of the mind, joy, like the emotions generally, naturally terminates in itself. That is to say, a person may be the subject of highly raised joyful emotions, and at the same time may remain inactive. He may be wholly occupied with the ecstatic movement of his own feelings, and be destitute of thought, feeling, and action for others.— But the leading characteristic of love, that in particular which distinguishes it from mere joy, is the element of desire. It is the nature of love, as it is the nature of every thing else of which desire is the prominent element, not to stop or terminate in itself: but to lead to something else. And, furthermore, love, like other benevolent affections, is not only active in relation to others; but is active for the good of others. We have here, therefore, an important ground of distinction. If Christians were filled with joyful feelings merely, they might, being destitute of other principles of action, remain slothful at their own firesides, and see the world perish in their sins. But love, on the contrary, is sweetly and powerfully impulsive; and constrains us, especially if it be strong, to do good in every possible way to our fellow men. And hence the expression of the Apostle, "the love of Christ CONSTRAINETH us."
(2.) — In the second place, joy may be founded on selfish considerations. But love, certainly that which God recognizes and requires, that disinterested or pure love of which we have already given some account, is always benevolent. It is sometimes the case, in consequence of a wrong position of our minds, that we may even rejoice in the evil or suffering of others. We may be very well pleased, very happy, when we see them perplexed, misrepresented, and injured. But it does not appear, how we can at such times be said to love them. Joy, therefore, may go where love will not follow. Joy may have a field of action which love has not. Accordingly we can conceive of the devils rejoicing. They may rejoice, and undoubtedly do rejoice in the misery of each other. It is their nature. Evil is their good. But we cannot conceive how they can love.
(3.) — We may remark, in the third place, that in love there is always something elevating, ennobling, and purifying to the soul. It is the great source and fountain of generous and exalted actions. It is the secret and powerful spring of religious magnanimity, of holy heroism. But the tendency of joy is, in itself considered and independently of other principles, to create in the mind a species of spiritual sensuality. It leads the soul, (at least such is its tendency, unless accompanied by other principles,) to sit quietly and inactively in the easy chair of its own gratification. It thinks too much of itself, to have the power of thinking much of others. Its tendency, therefore, in itself considered and independently of other principles of action, is to turn the mind off from the highest good. It may even have the effect, (and it is believed that the experience of some Christians on this point will confirm the statement,) to remove the mind, in some degree, from God himself, and from Christ, and from the Holy Ghost, upon whom it aught always to rest. And this, certainly, is a result which is greatly to be deplored.
(4.) — It will be recollected, in the fourth place, that a leading characteristic of love, as already has been remarked, is DESIRE; a state of mind, which may very properly be distinguished from an emotion. Accordingly we can never love an object, without desiring the good of that object. In the exercise of love we carefully notice those occasions, on which we may have it in our power to promote the good or happiness of the beloved object; and are faithful to improve them. When our love is decided and strong, we are oftentimes much more solicitous to secure the welfare and happiness of the beloved person than our own. The state of mind, as already intimated, is not quiescent, but impulsive; it impels to action; and not to selfish, but benevolent action. Observe the love of a parent to a child. Perhaps the child may be deformed in body or mind, or both. There may be nothing especially attractive either in its person, conduct, or prospects. And yet the heart of the parent constantly goes out towards the child in acts of kindness. And the same may be observed, in a multitude of cases, on the part of the child towards the parent. Some parents are brutish and cruel in their conduct; their hearts are hardened, perhaps by intemperance; their natural affections are thus blunted; but their children, notwithstanding this, love them, watch over them, and do a multitude of acts, which could result only from love. It is in accordance with these views, that we find mention in Scripture of those who received the word of God with joy; and yet soon withered away. And why? Because, with all their joy, they had not the abiding root of LOVE. They were the subjects of a temporary pleasurable excitement; but had never experienced a new direction and bent of the heart. True love, clinging to the object of the affections, is permanent; joy is often evanescent.
(5.) — We remark further, as a natural consequence of what has been said, that the love of God, as it exists in the minds of those who are his devoted followers, always inquires after his will. It does not ask after ease, pleasure, reward; nor, on the other hand, does it ask after trial, suffering, and contempt; it merely asks after the Father's will. Its language is that of the Savior, when he says, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." And as in common life we think much of a person that is beloved, and desire his favor and approbation; so in regard to God, if we truly love him, he will be very much in our thoughts, and his approbation and favor will be to us of great price. If he is the highest object of our love, we shall desire no higher happiness than that of constant communion with him, and of being always united to him by oneness of will. Thus we may be said to be in him, and he in us; and that eternal rest of the soul, which constitutes the true heaven, will be commenced here. Then we shall have the true joy, calm, deep, unchangeable. Love goes before; joy comes after. Love is the principle of action; joy is the reward. In the spiritual tree of life, love is the nutritive sap, the permeating and invigorating power, that flows through the body and the soul of man; joy is one of its beautiful fruits and flowers. If, therefore, love is strong, joy will never fail us. But, on the other hand, if love is wanting, there can be no joy, except that joy of the world, which worketh death.
In view of what has been said, one or two remarks may be made. And the first is, if we are truly sanctified to the Lord, in other words, if we love God with all our hearts, our course as Christians will be a consistent and stable one. Our rule of action will be the will of God; our principle of action will be the love of God. And as the will of God is fixed, and is made known to us in various ways, especially in his holy Word, we shall endeavor to fulfill it at all times humbly and faithfully, without regard to those temporary and changing feelings which too often perplex the religious life.
It may be remarked further, in conclusion, that in the state of mind which has been spoken of, we shall not fail of any consolation which is needful for us. It belongs to the very nature of desire, that, when the desire is gratified, we are more or less happy. Accordingly in exercising love to God, the leading element of which is desire, and in doing and suffering his holy will, in accordance with such desire, we cannot be otherwise than happy in a considerable degree. If we seek joy or happiness as an ultimate object, we cannot fail, on religious principles, to miss of it. If, under the promptings of love, we seek merely to do and suffer the will of God, we shall certainly, except in those cases, where God, by a special act of sovereignty, withdraws consolation in order to try our faith, possess all that consolation, which will be needful. And in the case which has just been mentioned, if our faith, still trusting in the beloved object, sustains the terrible shock of apparent desertion, (as when our Savior exclaimed, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?") we shall soon find abundant consolation returning.