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to him. That place which God holds in the great system of being, he ought to hold in our affections; for we are not required to love him in a greater proportion than the place which he occupies requires. If it were otherwise, our affections must move in a preposterous direction. We ought, therefore, on this supposition, to love ourselves, our own happiness, and the happiness of our fellow-creatures, more than God; for God himself is supposed to do the same. But, if so, the great rule of human actions should have been different. Instead of requiring love to God in the first place, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and then, love to ourselves and our neighbours; it should have been reversed. The song of the angels, too, instead of beginning with Glory to God in the highest, and ending with peace on earth, and good will to men; should have placed the last first, and the first last. How such a view of things can tend to promote the love of God, unless a subordinate place in our affections be higher than the supreme, it is difficult to conceive.
The great God, who fills heaven and earth, must be allowed to form the far greatest proportion, if I may so speak, of the whole system of being; for, compared with him, all nations, yea, all worlds, are but as a drop of a bucket, or as a small dust of the balance. He is the source, and continual support of existence in all its varied forms. As the great guardian of being in general, therefore, it is fit and right, that he should, in the first place, guard the glory of his own character and government. Nor can this be to the disadvantage of the universe, but the contrary; as will appear, if it be considered, that it is the glory of God to do that which shall be best upon the whole. The glory of God, therefore, connects with it the general good of the created system, and of all its parts, except those whose welfare clashes with the welfare of the whole.
If it were otherwise, if the happiness of all creatures where the great end that God from the beginning had in view, then, doubtless. in order that this end might be accomplished, every thing else must, as occasion required, give way to it. The glory of his own character, occupying only a subordinate place in the system, if ever it should stand in the way of that which is supreme, must
give place, among other things. And if God have consented to all this, it must be because the happiness, not only of creation in general, but of every individual, is an object of the greatest magnitude, and most fit to be chosen : that is, it is better, and more worthy of God, as the governor of the universe, to give up his character for purity, equity, wisdom, and veracity, and to become vile and contemptible in the eyes of his creatures: It is better that the bands which bind all holy intelligences to him should be broken, and the cords which hold together the whole moral system be cast away, than that the happiness of a creature should, in any instance, be given up! Judge, ye friends of God, does this consist with "the most perfect veneration for the divine character ?"
Once more: it seems to be generally supposed by our opponents, that the worship we pay to Christ tends to divide our hearts; and that in proportion as we adore him, we detract from the essential glory of the Father. In this view, therefore, they reckon themselves to exercise a greater veneration for God, than we, But it is worthy of notice, and particularly the serious notice of our opponents, that it is no new thing for an opposition to Christ to be carried on under the plea of love to God. This was the very plea of the Jews, when they took up stones to stone him. For a good work, said they, we stone thee not, but for that thou, being a man, makest tkyself GOD. They very much prided themselves in their God; and, under the influence of that spirit, constantly rejected the Lord Jesus. Thou art called a Jew, and makest thy boast of God.-We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even GOD.-Give GOD the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. It was under the pretext of zeal and friendship for God, that they at last put him to death, as a blasphemer. But what kind of zeal was this; and in what manner did Jesus treat it? If GOD were your Father, said he, ye would love me. He that is of God heareth God's words.-It is my father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, that he is GOD your ; yet ye have not known him.-I know that you have not the love of God in you.*
Rom. ii. 17. John x. 33. viii. 41. ix. 24. viii 42, 47, 54, 55. v, 42.
Again the primitive Christians will be allowed to have loved God aright; yet they worshipped Jesus Christ. Not only did the martyr Stephen close his life by committing his departed spirit into the hands of Jesus, but it was the common practice, in primitive times, to invoke his name. He hath authority, said Ananias concerning Saul, to bind all that call on thy name. One part of the Christian mission was to declare, that whoever should call on the name of the Lord should be saved; even of that Lord of whom the Gentiles bad not heard. Paul addressed himself to all that in every place called upon the name of Jesus Christ. These modes of expression (which, if I be not greatly mistaken, always signify divine worship) plainly inform us, that it was not merely the practice of a few individuals, but of the great body of the primitive Christians, to invoke the name of Christ; nay, and that this was a mark by which they were distinguished as Christians.*
Farther: It ought to be considered, that, in worshipping the Son of God, we worship him not on account of that wherein he differs from the Father, but on account of those perfections which we believe him to possess in common with him. This, with the consideration that we worship him not to the exclusion of the Father, any more than the Father to the exclusion of him, but as one with him, removes all apprehensions from our minds, that in ascribing glory to the one, we detract from that of the other. Nor can we think, but that these ideas are confirmed, and the weight of the objection removed, by those declarations of Scripture where the Father and the Son are represented as being in such union, that he who hath seen the one, hath seen the other; and he who honoureth the one, honoureth the other; yea, that he who honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who sent him.†
*Acts ix. 14. compared with ver. 17. Rom. x. 11-14. 1 Cor. i. 2.
+ John xiv. 7-9. v. 23. The reader may see this subject ably urged by Mr. Scott, in his Essays on the most important Subjects of Religion, First Edition, No. VII. pp. 96, 97. These Essays are of a piece with the other productions of that judicious writer; and, though small, and, for the convenience of the poor, sold for one penny each, contain a fund of solid, rational, and scriptural divinity.
It might fairly be argued, in favour of the tendency of Calvinistic doctrines to promote the love of God, that upon those principles, we have more to love him for, than upon the other. On this system, we have much to be forgiven; and, therefore, love much. The expense at which our salvation has been obtained, as we be lieve, furnishes us with a motive of love to which nothing can be compared. But this I shall refer to another place ;* and conclude with reminding you, that, notwithstanding Dr. Priestley loads Calvinistic principles with such heavy charges as those mentioned at the beginning of this Letter, yet he, elsewhere, acknowledges them to be "generally favourable to that leading virtue, devotion ;" which, in effect, is acknowledging them to be favourable to the love of God.