Page images
PDF
EPUB

us to love God supremely, and to love our neighbor as ourselves? And is not this the same as to say, it aims to control the affections ? or, in other words, the same as to say, it aims to control us in regard to our affections ?

Inquirer asks : “ In what respects does the law undertake to control the affections and desires ?I answer, in all respects. It asserts its dominion over the whole field of our moral affections and desires. It reaches them at all times, and in all their exercises. I should be alarmed if any one should attempt to make the law less extensive than this. And what reasonable man would wish, in respect to any of his affections, to be exempt from the authoritative direction of the divine commands? Who, that is a friend of God, would wish for the liberty of loving or desiring, except in accordance with his perfect law ?

Inquirer quotes my remark, that “ holy and sinful affections, in the saint and in the sinner, arise spontaneously from the presence or contemplation of moral objects.” And is it not so ? When the saint contemplates the divine law, does he not love the holiness which it requires ? Does he not love it instantly, as soon as he looks at it ? When he thinks of God, if he is in a right state of mind, he has no occasion to reason with himself, and, by motives drawn from other sources, to persuade himself to love God. As soon as he has a just conception of God, he loves him. To a man of an upright mind, God's own excellence is the highest motive to love; and it is motive enough. And under the influence of this supreme motive, he will love instantly and spontaneously, in proportion as his heart is in a holy frame. Edwards says, that at a particular period of his life, merely seeing the name of God or Christ in a book instantly filled his heart with love and joy. It evinced a purified and spiritual mind.

Why should Inquirer demur at the word spontaneous in this case ? For a man to love an object spontaneously, is to love it of his own accord, or, as we may say, of his own free will, from the impulse of his own heart, without being urged by any foreign cause; it is to love from one's own disposition, unconstrained by any influence from without. (See Johnson and Webster on the words, spontaneous, spontaneously, spontaneousness. It is an obvious truth, that affections which arise spontaneously, show the real character of the man. If any one loves you, not sua sponte, not freely, not from his own heart, but by constraint, or under some foreign influence, what value

is roused feling of love ? Does he go about ton to

do you set upon such affection ? On this whole subject my appeal is to experience and consciousness. When divine things, in their moral excellence, are presented to the view of a holy being, does he wait for some other consideration to come in and help to excite his love ? Does he go about to reason himself into the feeling of love ? Or does his heart lie dormant till it is roused to put forth the affection by a command of the will ? We shall find, on careful inquiry, that we always judge favorably of ourselves in proportion as our affections towards divine objects rise spontaneously and freely in our minds; and that we cannot but look upon men as sinful, in proportion as their hearts rise spontaneously against God and holiness.

What shall we think of the opinion, not unfrequently advanced at the present day, that our affections and desires in view of moral objects are neither good nor bad in themselves, but only in consequence of our voluntarily cherishing and indulging them ? The opinion is, in my view, far from correct. If the affections or feelings which a holy being spontaneously exercises towards moral objects are not right affections, how can he be praiseworthy for cherishing them ? And if the spontaneous affections of the sinner towards moral objects are not in their own nature wrong, how can he be culpable for cherishing or indulging them ? Can we be culpable for indulging feelings which are in themselves innocent ? If we may have affections in our hearts for a short time without fault, why not for a longer time? If we may innocently begin to exercise them, why may we not innocently continue to exercise them ? When a good man cherishes any affections or desires towards moral objects, does he not do it with the idea that they are right-right in themselves ? And when he endeavors to suppress or eradicate any affections towards moral objects, does he not do it from the conviction that they are in their own nature wrong? It is evident from our Saviour's teaching that a man is criminal for having a desire after forbidden objects; not only for indulging it and complying with its cravings, but for having it in his heart. And is not every one, who has an awakened conscience, fully persuaded that it is so ? And as there is such a thing as sinful or corrupt desire-desire which is sinful in itself—the first rising of it in the heart must be sinful. It seems to me an exceedingly strange and unfounded opinion, that the divine law justifies a man for the first exercise of malice, envy, revenge or impurity, and condemns him only for

Who can suppo, either at the time,

cises as to exercise than is culpable phistical. laid

trary to affection. But whaffections, gratifyings indeed

continuing the exercise! Who can suppose such a thing as that the divine law permits a moral agent, either at the commencement of his being, or afterwards, to put forth, for a time, such affections and desires towards moral objects, as his unsanctified heart may prompt, only requiring him not to repeat them ? Surely that law which is a perfect,” and “ exceedingly broad,” must bind a man through the whole of his existence, as an intelligent, moral being, at one time as well as another. I am sure that any position contrary to this is false, and that the arguments urged in its support are sophistical. It is indeed true, that an unrenewed man is culpable for gratifying, and for continuing to exercise the moral affections, which he at first exercises spontaneously. But why is he culpable ? Because they are wrong affections. Were not the affections themselves contrary to the law of God, how could he be a transgressor for having them in his heart, or for continuing to have them ?

On this subject I appeal to the devout and watchful Christian, who faithfully searches his own heart, and strives to be holy. His testimony is better than speculative arguments. Let him speak. Does not his experience exactly correspond with that of the apostle? In direct opposition to his settled purpose, or the determination of his will, does not pride or selfesteem, or covetousness, or envy, or ill-will, or impure desire rise in his heart? He needs not to be told that every such affection is sinful. He knows it to be so. He confesses it, and prays to be delivered from it, and abhors himself on account of it; and from time to time he is more or less successful in subduing it. But before he is aware, and without waiting for the previous consent of his will, it comes up again and again. It is what our Saviour says “ proceeds out of the heart.” Thus he finds the words of the apostle, Gal. 5: 17, verified in his own experience. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that he cannot do the things that he would. It is all a matter of experience, not of abstract reasoning. So it was with St. Paul. He found a law in his members, (doubtless meaning his affections,) warring against the law of his mind. He tells us, that the good which he would, he did not, and the evil which he would not, that he did. No wonder he was distressed with this law in his members, this body of death, and cried out, “O wretched man that I am !" I say, it is all a matter of experience. And I appeal to the most faithful and spiritual

Christians, whether their exercises do not correspond with those of the apostle. I'will only add, that any mode of philosophizing which overlooks these facts of experience must be regarded as defective.

Inquirer asks (p. 461): “To what is the law addressed ??? And he suggests the difficulties which arise in his mind from supposing that it is addressed to the understanding, or to conscience, or to the will, or to the affections and desires. I think, as he does, that such a supposition involves the subject in difficulties. The law, strictly and literally speaking, is not addressed to the understanding, to the conscience, to the will, or to the affections of man, but to man himself ; not to any faculty ór susceptibility of the moral agent, but to the moral agent himself. What is the language of the law ? It speaks to man, to the intelligent personal being, man. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” Thou,man,“ shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” “ Thou shalt not steal;" and so of the rest. Where the personal pronoun is not expressed, it is implied. “Remember the Sabbath day,” i.e., remember thou. God addresses his law to this personthis whole person, me. He commands me to love him. He does not command my understanding to love; for my understanding is not a person. He does not command my conscience, or will, or affection to love; for neither my conscience, nor my will, nor my affection is a person. But he commands me to love. His law is addressed to me as an intelligent, accountable being, possessed of all the powers and faculties necessary to complete moral agency; and it aims to direct and govern me in respect to all my moral exercises ; primarily in respect to my affections, and then in respect to other acts of the mind, and to external conduct. Thus every man understands the subject, although, for convenience sake, he may often speak of the law as addressed to this or that faculty of the mind. It is the same in respect to other laws. The command of the father is to the child; of the civil ruler, to the citizen. And as the command is given to the person, so the obligation to obey rests upon the person; and it is the person that obeys. A disregard of this simple and obvious principle originates many needless ditficulties and perplexities.

Inquirer refers to my remark, that the will has no direct power, and frequently no power at all over the affections ; and that a man cannot, by the power of his will, call forth the affection of love to God. And does not Inquirer know this to be the

case? Is he not aware that man, while unregenerate, cannot subdue the enmity of his heart, and excite holy love in its place, by an act of his will ? Does he not recognize it as a solemn truth, confirmed by Scripture and experience, that a carnal mind cannot sanctify its affections by the force of its own unsanctified volitions? And how is it with the believer? Can he, at any time, by an act of his will, banish his corrupt affections, and kindle the flame of sacred love in his heart? How is it with Inquirer, or with any other intelligent Christian ? Is this the way in which the unholy feelings and desires of his heart were first expelled ? Is this the way in which his love to God and divine things is now called forth? Has any thing ever occurred in his own experience, which evinces that he possesses a power to control his own affections by a volition? And does a Payson, an Edwards, or a Paul, or any one who discerns spiritual things in a spiritual manner, ever entertain the thought, that the want of such a power takes away his obligation or his accountability as a moral agent? I ask not how the want of such a power can be reconciled with perfect moral obligation. But I ask whether the enlightened Christian is not conscious of these two facts; first, that he has no direct power, and frequently no power at all, to govern his affections by a volition ; and secondly, that he is under perfect obligation to love and obey God, and will be inexcusably guilty if he fails to do this. If Inquirer can explain how these two things may be reconciled, and solve all the hard questions which come forth from a speculative mind, then he is the man to undertake the work.

But if it is so that we cannot control our affections by an act of the will, many will be inclined to ask: What then shall we do? I am glad to have an opportunity to answer this question. For I think here is the place where we are specially taught to feel, and must feel, our entire dependence on the divine Spirit,—the very place where prayer to God is to come in for our relief. We are urged to prayer by all the principles of our rational nature. But by a just conviction of our sinfulness, our ruin and our helplessness, we are shut up to it. It is our only resort. So the Scriptures represent it. We must have help from God, or perish in our pollution. Holy affections are the fruits of the Spirit, not the product of our own will. This view of the subject is, you perceive, directly favorable to devotion. It begets a deep sense of dependence on the grace of God, and leads to constant prayer. And whatever a man's SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. II.

11

« PreviousContinue »