TRUE AND FALSE CONVERSIONS.
Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves aboutwith sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparksthat ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand; ye shalllie down in sorrow, Isaiah 50:11.
It is evident, from the connection of these words in the chapter,that the prophet was addressing those who professed to be religious,and who flattered themselves that they were in a state of salvation,but in fact their hope was a fire of their own kindling, and sparkscreated by themselves. Before I proceed to discuss the subject,let me say that as I have given notice that it was my intentionto discuss the nature of true and false conversion, it will beof no use but to those who will be honest in applying it to themselves.If you mean to profit by the discourse, you must resolve to makea faithful application of it to yourselves just as honest as ifyou thought you were now going to the solemn judgment. If youwill do this, I may hope to be able to lead you to discover yourtrue state, and if you are now deceived, direct you in the truepath to salvation. If you will not do this, I shall preach invain, and you will hear in vain.
I design to show the difference between true and false conversion,and shall take up the subject in the following order:
I. Show that the natural state of man is a state of pure selfishness.II. Show that the character of the converted is that of benevolence.III. That the new birth consists in a change from selfishnessto benevolence. IV. Point out some things wherein saints and sinners,or true and spurious converts, may agree, and some things in whichthey differ. V. Answer some objections that may be offered againstthe view I have taken, and conclude with some remarks.
I. I am to show that the natural state of man, or that in whichall men are found before conversion, is pure, unmingled selfishness.
By which I mean, that they have no gospel benevolence. Selfishnessis regarding one's own happiness supremely, and seeking one'sown good because it is his own. He who is selfish places his ownhappiness above other interests of greater value; such as theglory of God and the good of the universe. That mankind, beforeconversion, are in this state, is evident from many considerations.
Every man knows that all other men are selfish. All the dealingsof mankind are conducted on this principle. If any man overlooksthis, and undertakes to deal with mankind as if they were notselfish, but were disinterested, he will be thought deranged.
II. In a converted state, the character is that of benevolence.
An individual who is converted is benevolent, and not supremelyselfish. Benevolence is loving the happiness of others, or ratherchoosing the happiness of others. Benevolence is a compound word,that properly signifies good willing, or choosing the happinessof others. This is God's state of mind. We are told that God islove; that is, he is benevolent. Benevolence comprises his wholecharacter. All his moral attributes are only so many modificationsof benevolence. An individual who is converted is in this respectlike God. I do not mean to be understood, that no one is converted,unless he is purely and perfectly benevolent, as God is; but thatthe balance of his mind, his prevailing choice is benevolent.He sincerely seeks the good of others, for its own sake.
And, by disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that a personwho is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit,but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, andnot for the sake of its reaction on himself, in promoting hisown happiness. He chooses to do good because he rejoices in thehappiness of others, and desires their happiness for its own sake.God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not makehis creatures happy for the sake of thereby promoting his ownhappiness, but because he loves their happiness and chooses itfor its own sake. Not that he does not feel happy in promotingthe happiness of his creatures, but that he does not do it forthe sake of his own gratification. The man who is disinterestedfeels happy in doing good. Otherwise doing good itself would notbe virtue in him. In other words, if he did not love to do good,and enjoy doing good, it would not be virtue in him.
Benevolence is holiness. It is what the law of God requires:"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart andsoul and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself." Just ascertainly as the converted man yields obedience to the law ofGod, and just as certainly as he is like God, he is benevolent.It is the leading feature of his character, that he is seekingthe happiness of others, and not his own happiness, as his supremeend.
III. That true conversion is a change from a state of supremeselfishness to benevolence.
It is a change in the end of pursuit, and not a mere changein the means of attaining the end. It is not true that the convertedand the unconverted differ only in the means they use, while bothare aiming at the same end. It is not true that Gabriel and Satanare pursuing the same end, and both alike aiming at their ownhappiness, only pursuing a different way. Gabriel does not obeyGod for the sake of promoting his own happiness. A man may changehis means, and yet have the same end, his own happiness. He maydo good for the sake of the temporal benefit. He may not believein religion, or in any eternity, and yet may see that doing goodwill be for his advantage in this world. Suppose, then, that hiseyes are opened, and he sees the reality of eternity; and thenhe may take up religion as a tears of happiness in eternity. Now,every one can see that there is no virtue in this. It is the designthat gives character to the act, not the means employed to effectthe design. The true and the false convert differ in this. Thetrue convert chooses, as the end of his pursuit, the glory ofGod and the good of his kingdom. This end he chooses for its ownsake, because he views this as the greatest good, as a greatergood than his own individual happiness. Not that he is indifferentto his own happiness, but he prefers God's glory, because it isa greater good. He looks on the happiness of every individualaccording to its real importance, as far as he is capable of valuingit, and he chooses the greatest good as his supreme object.
IV. Now I am to show some things in which true saints and deceivedpersons may agree, and some things in which they differ.
1. They may agree in leading a strictly moral life.
The difference is in their motives. The true saint leads amoral life from love to holiness; the deceived person from selfishconsiderations. He uses morality as a means to an end, to effecthis own happiness. The true saint loves it as an end.
2. They may be equally prayerful, so far as the form of prayingis concerned.
The difference is in their motives. The true saint loves topray; the other prays because he hopes to derive some benefitto himself from praying.
The true saint expects a benefit from praying, but that isnot his leading motive. The other prays from no other motive.
3. They may be equally zealous in religion.
One may have great zeal, because his zeal is according to knowledge,and he sincerely desires and loves to promote religion, for itsown sake. The other may show equal zeal, for the sake of havinghis own salvation more assured, and because he is afraid of goingto hell if he does not work for the Lord, or to quiet his conscience,and not because he loves religion for its own sake.
4. They may be equally conscientious in the discharge of duty;the true convert because he loves to do duty, and the other becausehe dare not neglect it.
5. Both may pay equal regard to what is right; the true convertbecause he loves what is right, and the other because he knowshe cannot be saved unless he does right. He is honest in his commonbusiness transactions, because it is the only way to secure hisown interest. Verily, they have their reward. They get the reputationof being honest among men, but if they have no higher motive,they will have no reward from God.
6. They may agree in their desires, in many respects. Theymay agree in their desires to serve God; the true convert becausehe loves the service of God, and the deceived person for the reward,as the hired servant serves his master.
They may agree in their desires to be useful; the true convertdesiring usefulness for its own sake, the deceived person becausehe knows that is the way to obtain the favor of God And then inproportion as he is awakened to the Importance of having God'sfavor, will be the intensity of his desires to be useful.
In desires for the conversion of souls; the true saint becauseit will glorify God; the deceived person to gain the favor ofGod. He will be actuated in this, just as he is in giving money.Who ever doubted that a person might give his money to the BibleSociety, or the Missionary Society, from selfish motives alone,to procure happiness, or applause, or obtain the favor of God?He may just as well desire the conversion of souls, and laborto promote it, from motives purely selfish.
To glorify God; the true saint because he loves to see Godglorified, and the deceived person because he know that is theway to be saved. The true convert has his heart set on the gloryof God, as his great end, and he desires to glorify God as anend, for its own sake. The other desires it as a means to hisgreat end, the benefit of himself.
To repent. The true convert abhors sin on account of its hatefulnature, because it dishonors God, and therefore he desires torepent of it. The other desires to repent, because he knows thatunless he does repent he will be damned.
To believe in Jesus Christ. The true saint desires it to glorifyGod, and because he loves the truth for its own sake. The otherdesires to believe, that he may have a stronger hope of goingto heaven.
To obey God. The true saint that he may increase in holiness;the false professor because he desires the rewards of obedience.
7. They may agree not only in their desires, but in their resolutions.They may both resolve to give up sin, and to obey God, and tolay themselves out in promoting religion, and building up thekingdom of Christ; and they may both resolve it with great strengthof purpose, but with different motives.
8. They may also agree in their designs. They may both reallydesign to glorify God, and to convert men, and to extend the kingdomof Christ, and to have the world converted; the true saint fromlove to God and holiness, and the other for the sake of securinghis own happiness.
One chooses it as an end, the other as a means to promote aselfish end.
They may both design to be truly holy; the true saint becausehe loves holiness, and the deceived person because he knows thathe can be happy in no other way.
9. They may agree not only in their desires, and resolutionsand designs, but also in their affection towards many objects.
They may both love the Bible; the true saint because it isGod's truth, and he delights in it, and feasts his soul on it;the other because he thinks it is in his own favor, and is thecharter of his own hopes.
They may both love God; the one because he sees God's characterto be supremely excellent and lovely in itself and he loves itforits own sake; the other because he thinks God is his particularfriend, that is going to make him happy for ever, and he connectsthe idea of God with his own interest.
They may both love Christ. The true convert loves his character;the deceived person thinks he will save him from hell, and givehimeternal life and why should he not love him?
They may both love Christians: the true convert because hesees in them the image of Christ, and the deceived person becausethey belong to his own denomination, or because they are on hisside, and he feels the same interest and hopes with them.
10. They may also agree in hating the same things. They mayboth hate infidelity, and oppose it strenuously the true saintbecause it is opposed to God and holiness, and the deceived personbecause it injures an interest in which he is deeply concerned,and if true, destroys all his own hopes for eternity. So theymay hate error; one because it is detestable in itself, and contraryto God and the other because it is contrary to his views and opinions.
I recollect seeing in writing, some time ago, an attack ona minister for publishing certain opinions, "because,"said the writer, these sentiments would destroy all my hopes foreternity." A very good reason indeed! as good as a selfishbeing needs for opposing an opinion.
They may both hate sin; the true convert because it is odiousto God, and the deceived person because it is injurious to himself.Caseshave occurred, where an individual has hated his own sins, andyet not forsaken them. How often the drunkard, as he looks backat what he once was, and contrasts his present degradation withwhat he might have been, abhors his drink; not for its own sake,but because it has ruined him. And he still loves his cups, andcontinues to drink, though, when he looks at their effects, hefeels indignation.
They may be both opposed to sinners. The opposition of truesaints is a benevolent opposition, viewing and abhorring theircharacter and conduct, as calculated to subvert the kingdom ofGod. The other is opposed to sinners because they are opposedto the religion he has espoused, and because they are not on hisside.
11. So they may both rejoice in the same things. Both may rejoicein the prosperity of Zion, and the conversion of souls; the trueconvert because he has his heart set on it, and loves it for itsown sake, as the greatest good, and the deceived person becausethat particular thing in which he thinks he has such a great interestis advancing.
12. Both may mourn and feel distressed at the low state ofreligion in the church: the true convert because God is dishonored,and the deceived person because his own soul is not happy, orbecause religion is not in favor.
Both may love the society of the saints; the true convert becausehis soul enjoys their spiritual conversation the other becausehe hopes to derive some advantage from their company. The firstenjoys it because out of the abundance of the heart the mouthspeaketh; the other because he loves to talk about the great interesthe feels in religion, and the hope he has of going to heaven.
13. Both may love to attend religious meetings; the true saintbecause his heart delights in acts of worship, in prayer and praise,in hearing the word of God and in communion with God and his saints,and the other because he thinks a religious meeting a good placeto prop up his hope. He may have a hundred reasons for lovingthem, and yet not at all for their own sake, or because he lovesin itself, the worship and the service of God.
14. Both may find pleasure in the duties of the closet. Thetrue saint loves his closet, because he draws near to God, andfinds delight in communion with God, where there are no embarrassmentsto keep him from going right to God and conversing. The deceivedperson finds a knife of satisfaction in it, because it is hisduty to pray in secret and he feels a self-righteous satisfactionin doing it. Nay, he may feel a certain pleasure in it, from akind of excitement of the mind which he mistakes for communionwith; God.
15. They may both love the doctrines of grace; the true saintbecause they are so glorious to God, the other because he thinksthem a guarantee of his own salvation.
16. They may both love the precept of God's law; the true saintbecause it is so excellent, so holy, and just, and good; the otherbecause he thinks it will make him happy if he loves it, and hedoes it as a means of happiness.
Both may consent to the penalty of the law. The true saintconsents to it in his own case, because he feels it to be justin itself for God to send him to hell. The deceived person becausehe thinks he is in no danger from it.
He feels a respect for it, because he knows that it is right,and his conscience approves it, but he has never consented toit in his own case.
17. They may be equally liberal in giving to benevolent societies.None of you doubt that two men may give equal sums to a benevolentobject, but from totally different motives. One gives to do good,and would be just as willing to give as not, if he knew that noother living person would give. The other gives for the creditof it, or to quiet his conscience, or because he hopes to purchasethe favor of God. 18. They may be equally self-denying in manythings. Self-denial is not confined to true saints. Look at thesacrifices and self-denials of the Mohammedans, going on theirpilgrimage to Mecca. Look at the heathen, throwing themselvesunder the car of Juggernaut. Look at the poor ignorant papists,going up and down over the sharp stones on their bare knees, tillthey stream with blood. A Protestant congregation will not contendthat there is any religion in that. But is there not self-denial?The true saint denies himself, for the sake of doing more goodto others. He is more set on this than on his own indulgence orhis own interest. The deceived person may go equal lengths, butfrom purely selfish motives.
19. They may both be willing to suffer martyrdom. Read thelives of the martyrs, and you will have no doubt that some werewilling to suffer, from a wrong idea of the rewards of martyrdom,and would rush upon their own destruction because they were persuadedit was the sure road to eternal life.
In all these cases, the motives of one class are directly overagainst the other. The difference lies in the choice of differentends. One chooses his own interest, the other chooses God's interest,as his chief end. For a person to pretend that both these classesare aiming at the same end, is to say that an impenitent sinneris just as benevolent as a real Christian; or that a Christianis not benevolent like God, but is only seeking his own happiness,and seeking it in religion rather than in the world.
And here is the proper place to answer an inquiry, which isoften made: "If these two classes of persons may be alikein so many particulars, how are we to know our own real character,or to tell to which class we belong? We know that the heart isdeceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and how arewe to know whether we love God and holiness for their own sake,or whether we are seeking the favor of God, and aiming at heavenfor our own benefit?" I answer,
1. If we are truly benevolent, it will appear in our dailytransactions. This character, if real, will show itself in ourbusiness, if anywhere. If selfishness rules our conduct there,as sure as God reigns we are truly selfish. If in our dealingswith men we are selfish, we are so in our dealings with God. "Forwhoso loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he loveGod, whom he hath not seen?" Religion is not merely loveto God, but love to man also. And if our daily transactions showus to be selfish, we are unconverted; or else benevolence is notessential to religion, and a man can be religious without lovinghis neighbor as himself.
2. If you are disinterested in religion, religious duties willnot be a task to you. You will not go about religion as the laboringman goes to his toil, for the sake of a living. The laboring mantakes pleasure in his labor, but it is not for its own sake. Hewould not do it if he could help it. In its own nature it is atask, and if he takes any pleasure in it, it is for its anticipatedresults, the support and comfort of his family, or the increaseof his property.
Precisely such is the state of some persons in regard to religion.They go to it as the sick man takes his medicine, is cause theydesire its effects, and they know they must have it or perish.It is a task that they never would do for its own sake. Supposemen love labor, as a child loves play. They would do it all daylong, and never be tired of doing it, without any other inducementthan the pleasure in doing it. So it is in religion, where itis loved for its own sake, there is no weariness in it.
3. If selfishness is the prevailing character of your religion,it will take sometimes one form and sometimes another.
For instance: If it is a time of general coldness in the church,real converts will still enjoy their own secret communion withGod, although there may not be so much doing to attract noticein public. But the deceived person will then invariably be founddriving after the world. Now, let the true saints rise up, andmake a noise, and speak their joys aloud, so that religion beginsto be talked of again; and perhaps the deceived professor willsoon begin to bustle about, and appear to be even more zealousthan the true saint. He is impelled by his convictions and notaffections. When there is no public interest, he feels no conviction;but when the church awakes, he is convicted, and compelled tostir about, to keep his conscience quiet. It is only selfishnessin another form.
4. If you are selfish, your enjoyment in religion will defendmainly on the strength of your hopes of heaven, and not on theexercise of your affections. Your enjoyments are not in the employmentsof religion themselves, but of a vastly different kind from thoseof the true saint. They are mostly from anticipating. When yourevidences are renewed, and you feel very certain of going to heaven,then you enjoy religion a good deal. It depends on your hope,and not on your love for the things for which you hope. You hearpersons tell of their having no enjoyment in religion when theylose their hopes. The reason is plain. If they loved religionfor its own sake, their enjoyment would not depend on their hope.A person who loves his employment is happy anywhere. And if youloved the employments of religion, you would be happy if God shouldput you in hell, provided he would only let you employ yourselfin religion. If you might pray and praise God, you would feelthat you could be happy anywhere in the universe; for you wouldstill be doing the things in which your happiness mainly consists.If the duties of religion are not the things in which you feelenjoyment, and if all your enjoyment depends on your hope, youhave no true religion; it is all selfishness.
I do not say that true saints do not enjoy their hope. Butthat is not the great thing with them. They think very littleabout their own hopes. Their thoughts are employed about somethingelse. The deceived person, on the contrary, is sensible that hedoes not enjoy the duties of religion; but only that the morehe does, the more confident he is of heaven. He takes only suchkind of enjoyment in it, as a man does who thinks that by greatlabor he shall have great wealth.
5. If you are selfish in religion, your enjoyments will bechiefly from anticipation. The true saint already enjoys the peaceof God, and has heaven begun in his soul. He has not merely theprospect of it, but eternal life actually begun in him. He hasthat faith which is the very substance of things hoped for. Nay,he has the very feelings of heaven in him. He anticipates joyshigher in degree, but the same in kind. He knows that he has heavenbegun in him, and is not obliged to wait till he dies to tastethe joys of eternal life. His enjoyment is in proportion to hisholiness, and not in proportion to his hope.
6. Another difference by which it may be known whether youare selfish in religion, is this that the deceived person hasonly a purpose of obedience, and the other has a preference ofobedience. This is an important distinction, and I fear few personsmake it. Multitudes have a purpose of obedience, who have no truepreference of obedience. Preference is actual choice, or obedienceof heart. You often hear individuals speak of their having hada purpose to do this or that act of obedience, but failed to doit. And they will tell you how difficult it is to execute theirpurpose. The true saint, on the other hand, really prefers, andin his heart chooses obedience, and therefore he finds it easyto obey. The one has a purpose to obey, like that which Paul hadbefore he was converted, as he tells us in the seventh chapterof Romans. He had a strong purpose of obedience, but did not obey,because his heart was not in it. The true convert prefers obediencefor its own sake; he actually chooses it, and does it.
The other purposes to be holy, because he knows that is theonly way to be happy. The true saint chooses holiness for itsown sake, and he is holy.
7. The true convert and the deceived person also differ intheir faith. The true saint has a confidence in the general characterof God, that leads him to unqualified submission to God. A greatdeal is said about the kinds of faith, but without much meaning.True confidence in the Lord's special promises, depends on confidencein God's general character. There are only two principles on whichany government, human or divine, is obeyed, fear and confidence.No matter whether it is the government of a family, or a ship,or a nation, or a universe. All obedience springs from one ofthese two principles. In the one case, individuals obey from hopeof reward and fear of the penalty. In the other, from that confidencein the character of the government, which works by love. One childobeys his parent from confidence in his parent. He has faith whichworks by love. The other yields an outward obedience from hopeand fear. The true convert has this faith, or confidence in God,that leads him to obey God because he loves God. This is the obedienceof faith he has that confidence in God, that he submits himselfwholly into the hands of God.
The other has only a partial faith, and only a partial submission.The devil has a partial faith. He believes and trembles. A personmay believe that Christ came to save sinners, and on that groundmay submit to him, to be saved; while he does not submit whollyto him, to be governed and disposed of. His submission is onlyon condition that he shall be saved. It is never with that unreservedconfidence in God's whole character, that leads him to say, "Thywill be done." He only submits to be saved. His religionis the religion of law. The other is gospel religion. One is selfish,the other benevolent. Here lies the true difference between thetwo classes. The religion of one is outward and hypocritical.The other is that of the heart holy, and acceptable to God.
8. I will only mention one difference more. If your religionis selfish, you will rejoice particularly in the conversion ofsinners, where your own agency is concerned in it, but will havevery little satisfaction in it, where it is through the agencyof others. The selfish person rejoices when he is active and successfulin converting sinners, because he thinks he shall have a greatreward. But instead of delighting in it when done by others, hewill be even envious. The true saint sincerely delights to haveother useful, and rejoices when sinners are converted by the instrumentalityof others as much as if it was his own. There are some who willtake interest in a revival, only so far as themselves are connectedwith it, while it would seem they had rather sinners should remainunconverted, that they should be saved by the instrumentalityof an evangelist, or a minister of another denomination. The truespirit of a child of God is to say, "Send, Lord, by whomthou wilt send only let souls be saved, and thy name glorified!"
V. I am to answer some objections which are made against thisview of the subject.
Objection 1. "Am I not to have any regard to my own happiness?"
Answer. It is right to regard your own happiness accordingto its relative value. Put it in this scale, by the side of theglory of God and the good of the universe, and then decide, andgive it the value which belongs to it. This is precisely whatGod does. And this is what he means, when he commands you to loveyour neighbor as yourself.
And again you will in fact promote your own happiness, preciselyin proportion as you leave it out of view Your happiness willbe in proportion to your disinterestedness. True happiness consistsmainly in the gratification of virtuous desires. There may bepleasure in gratifying desires that are selfish, but it is notreal happiness. But to be virtuous, your desires must be disinterested.Suppose a man sees a beggar in the street; there he sits on thecurbstone, cold and hungry, without friends, and ready to perish.The man's feelings are touched? and he steps into a grocery closeby, and buys him a loaf of bread. At once the countenance of thebeggar lights up, and he looks unutterable gratitude. Now it isplain to be seen that the gratification of the man in the actis precisely in proportion to the singleness of his motive. Ifhe did it purely and solely out of benevolence, his gratificationis complete in the act itself. But if he did it, partly to makeit known that he is a charitable and humane person, then his happinessis not complete until the deed is published to others. Supposethere is a sinner in his sins; he is truly wicked and truly wretched.Your compassion is excited, and you convert and save him. If yourmotives were to obtain honor among men, and to secure the favorof God, you are not completely happy until the deed is told, andperhaps put in the newspaper. But if you wished purely to savea soul from death, then as soon as you see that done, your gratificationis complete and your joy unmingled. So it is in all religiousduties; your happiness is precisely in proportion as you are disinterested.
If you aim at doing good for its own sake, then you will behappy in proportion as you do good. But if you aim directly atyour own happiness, and if you do good simply as a means of securingyour own happiness, you will fail. You will be like the childpursuing his own shadow; he can never overtake it, because italways keeps just so far before him. Suppose in the case I havementioned, you have no desire to relieve the beggar, but regardsimply the applause of a certain individual. Then you will feelno pleasure at all in the relief of the beggar; but when thatindividual hears of it and commends it, then you are gratified.But youare not gratified in the thing itself. Or suppose you aimat the conversion of sinners; but if it s not love to sinnersthat leads you to do it, how can the conversion of sinners makeyou happy? It has no tendency to gratify the desire that promptedthe effort. The truth is, God has so constituted the mind of man,that it must seek the happiness of others as its end or it cannotbe happy. Here is the true reason why all the world, seeking theirown happiness, and not the happiness of others, fail of theirend. It is always just so far before them. If they would leaveoff seeking their own happiness, and lay themselves out to dogood, they would be happy.
Objection 2. "Did not Christ regard the joy set beforehim? And did not Moses also have respect unto the recompense ofreward? And does not the Bible say we love God because he firstloved us."
Answer 1. It is true that Christ despised the shame and enduredthe cross, and had regard to the joy set before him. But whatwas the joy set before him? Not his own salvation, not his ownhappiness, but the great good he would do in the salvation ofthe world. He was perfectly happy in himself. But the happinessof others was what he aimed at. This was the joy set before him.And that he obtained.
Answer 2. So Moses had respect to the recompense of reward.But was that his own comfort? Far from it. The recompense of rewardwas the salvation of the people of Israel. What did he say? WhenGod proposed to destroy the nation, and make of him a great nation,had Moses been selfish he would have said, "That is right,Lord; be it unto thy servant according to thy word." Butwhat does he say? Why, his heart was so set on the salvation ofhis people, and the glory of God, that he would not think of itfor a moment, but said, "If thou wilt, forgive their sin;and if not, blot me I pray thee out of thy book, which thou hastwritten." And in another case, when God said he would destroythem, and make of Moses a greater and a mightier nation, Mosesthought of God's glory, and said, "Then the Egyptians shallhear of it, and all the nations will say, Because the Lord wasnot able to bring this people into the land."
He could not bear to think of having his own interest exaltedat the expense of God's glory. It was really a greater reward,to his benevolent mind, to have God glorified, and the childrenof Israel saved, than any personal advantage whatever to himselfcould be.
Answer 3. Where it is said, "We love him because he firstloved us" the language plainly bears two interpretations;either that his love to us has provided the way for our returnand the influence that brought us to love him, or that we lovehim for his favorshown to ourselves. That the latter is not themeaning is evident, because Jesus Christ has so expressly reprobatedthe principle, in his sermon on the mount: "If ye love themwhich love you, what thank have ye? Do not the publicans the same?"If we love God, not for his character but for his favors to us,Jesus Christ has written us reprobate.
Objection 3. "Does not the Bible offer happiness as thereward of virtue?"
Answer. The Bible speaks of happiness as the result of virtue,but no where declares virtue to consist in the pursuit of one'sown happiness. The Bible is every where inconsistent with this,and represents virtue to consist in doing good to others. We cansee by the philosophy of the mind, that it must be so. If a persondesires the good of others, he will be happy in proportion ashe gratifies that desire. Happiness is the result of virtue, butvirtue does not consist in the direct pursuit of one's own happiness,but is wholly inconsistent with it.
Objection 4. "God aims at our happiness, and shall webe more benevolent than God? Should we not be like God? May wenot aim at the same thing that God aims at? Should we not be seekingthe same end that God seeks?"
Answer. This objection is specious, but futile and rotten.God is benevolent to others. He aims at the happiness of others,and at our happiness. And to be like him, we must aim at, thatis, delight in his happiness and glory and the honor and gloryof the universe, according to their real value.
Objection 5. "Why does the Bible appeal continually tothe hopes and fears of men, if a regard to our own happiness isnot a proper motive to action?"
Answer l. The Bible appeals to the constitutional susceptibilitiesof men, not to their selfishness. Man dreads harm, and it is notwrong to avoid it. We may have a due regard to our own happiness,according to its value.
Answer 2. And again; mankind are so besotted with sin, thatGod cannot get their attention to consider his true character,and the reasons for loving him, unless he appeals to their hopesand fears. But when they are awakened, then he presents the gospelto them. When a minister has preached the terrors of the Lordtill he has got his hearers alarmed and aroused, so that theywill give attention, he has gone far enough in that line; andthen he ought to spread out all the character of God before them,to engage their hearts to love him for his own excellence.
Objection 6. "Do not the inspired writers say, Repent,and believe the gospel, and you shall be saved?"
Answer. Yes; but they require "true" repentance thatis, to forsake sin because it is hateful in itself. It is nottrue repentance, to forsake sin on condition of pardon, or tosay, "I will be sorry for my sins, if you will forgive me."So they require true faith, and true submission not conditionalfaith, or partial submission.
This is what the Bible insists on. It says he shall be saved,but it must be disinterested repentance, and disinterested submission.
Objection 7. "Does not the gospel hold out pardon as amotive to submission."
Answer. This depends on the sense in which you must the termmotive. If you mean that God spreads out before men his wholecharacter, and the whole truth of the case, as reasons to engagethe sinner's love and repentance, I say, Yes; his compassion,and willingness to pardon, are reasons for loving God, becausethey are a part of his glorious excellence, which we are boundto love. But if you mean by "motive" a condition, andthat the sinner is to repent on condition he shall be pardoned,then I say, that the Bible no where holds out any such view ofthe matter. It never authorizes a sinner to say, "I willrepent if you will forgive," and no where offers pardon asa motive to repentance, in such a sense as this.
With two short remarks I will close.
1. We see, from this subject, why it is that professors ofreligion have such different views of the nature of the gospel.
Some view it as a mere matter of accommodation to mankind,by which God is rendered less strict than he was under the law;so that they may be fashionable or worldly, and the gospel willcome in and make up the deficiencies and save them. The otherclass view the gospel as a provision of divine benevolence, havingfor its main design to destroy sin and promote holiness; and thattherefore so far from making it proper for them to be less holythan they ought to be under the law, its whole value consistsin its power to make them holy.
2. We see why some people are so much more anxious to convertsinners, than to see the church sanctified and God glorified bythe good works of his people.
Many feel a natural sympathy for sinners, and wish to havethem saved from hell; and if that is gained, they have no fartherconcern. But true saints are most affected by sin as dishonoringGod. And they are most distressed to see Christians sin, becauseit dishonors God more. Some people seem to care but little howthe church live, if they can only see the work of conversion goforward. They are not anxious to have God honored. It shows thatthey are not actuated by the love of holiness, but by a mere compassionfor sinners.
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