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If so, then surely it was a sin not to love God; and the want of love to God would have been a sin, though Christ had never come into the world.
It is most cheerfully allowed, that the gift of Christ most abundantly increases our obligations to love God.
It not only lays the saved under infinite obligations to a love of gratitude, which is freely acknowledged to be justly due; but, it is the brightest of all the displays of the divine loveliness and excellence; and is so considered by holy beings, who did not stand in need of salvation for themselves.
Nevertheless, must it not be allowed, that the obedience and death of Christ confirm our antecedent obligations to love God supremely?
If Christ loved the divine character, as it was displayed in the law, surely he accounted that character lovely.
And was not his judgment according to truth ? and should not our judgment coincide with his?
Must it not do so, if we cordially receive him?
If it would have been a shocking thing, for God to have dealt with sinners according to the rigor of the law; must it not have been a more shocking thing, for him to arouse the sword of justice against his beloved Son?
When it is said, “ That a sinner cannot love God, till he receives the atonement,"
What is meant by this?
Does it mean, that no sinner can love God, till he knows God loves him; or till he knows his personal interest in Christ.
Or, in other words, he cannot forgive God for threatening to punish sin so severely, till he knows the threatening shall not be executed on himself?
Or, does it mean, that a sinner must have some knowledge of the way of salvation by Christ, before he can love God?
If no more than the latter is intended, still I should wish to guard against the idea, that a man, without the knowledge of the gospel, would not be bound to love God.
I would carefully guard against the idea, that the law represents God in an odious character, and the gospel in a lovely one.
As for myself, I verily believe, that neither the exhibition of the divine character made on Mount Sinai and Mount Ebal; nor yet the exhibition made of it in Gethsemane and on Calvary, will induce a sinner to love God, without the special influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart.
But I dare not, for one moment, admit the following position :
That it would have been an unreasonable thing, for God to require sinners to love him if he had not made provision for their recovery.
Nor dare I presume to affirm this :
That no divine influence can bring a sinner to love God, till he is assured that God loves him; or, at least, till he is freed from all powerful apprehension that God will inflict the punishment on him which is justly due to his sins.
If any one will venture to affirm either of these things, let him try if he can establish them by scripture or reason.
I think the subject may be settled, by trying to answer one question :
If the first sin exposes to condemnation, can a sinner sin twice? or is he released from all obligation to love and serve God, as soon as he knows that God is displeased with him ?
SOME REMARKS ON DR. CHALMERS'S SERMONS.
I must confess, that I should be averse to express myself in the manner in which Dr. Chalmers has done, in his Sermons in the Tron Church: Serm. XI. p. 329. Vol. I. 1819.
“ He CANNOT love the Being, with the very idea of whom is mixed up a sense of danger, and a dread of condemnation, and all the images of a dreadful eternity. We cannot love God, so long as we look upon him as an enemy, armed to destroy us. Ere we love him, we must be made to feel the security and enlargement of one who knows himself to be safe.” In the same sermon, p. 331. he
“ Thus then it would appear, that the love of moral esteem is in every way as much posterior and subordinate to faith, as is the love of gratitud
That we may be able to love God, either according to the one or the other of its modifications, we must first know that God loved us.
We cannot harbor this affection, in any one shape whatever, so long as there is the suspicion and dread of an unsettled controversy between God and us."
I certainly should fear, lest such a mode of insisting on the inability of the sinner to love God, should be understood as implying, that no one is bound to love God, till he knows that God is his friend; and lest I should appear to justify the enmity of the carnal mind against God.
As to sinners in general, I apprehend, that but few of them strongly realize the thought, that God is much displeased with them; and that fewer still are fully convinced that God has sufficient reason for such displeasure.
Nor do I suppose, that either Dr. Chalmers or myself were ever called to address a sinner who had room to be assured that God will finally condemn him.
Almost all to whom we have access, have already heard both the law and the gospel; and most of them have heard both stated and explained many times over: they cannot, therefore, be sure what will be their future destiny.
In the close of the second quotation, Dr. Chalmers seems to imply, that before a sinner can have any affectionate regard for God, he must not only have the assurance of faith, but the assurance of hope also.
Would not this preclude even love in the form of desire ; or that longing to partake of the benefits of Christ's mediation, which many a one has professed to feel, who has not yet been “freed from all suspicion and dread of an unsettled controversy between him and God.” ?
It seems to me, that this method tends to restrain a minister from the exhibition of much scriptural truth ;* and to make him almost afraid of seeing the mind of a sinner affected with any antecedent considerations; and thus I fear would tend to cut short our work in unrighteousness.
Certainly, I consider the atonement of Christ as of infinite
* Yet I suppose that Dr. Chalmers went at least as far as I should wish to go, in addressing the unconverted, at Kilmany.
importance. All my hope is founded on his obedience unto death. Nevertheless, it seems plain that the religion of the Apostles did not originate in a clear idea of this subject.
Though they were undoubtedly renewed in the spirit of their minds, and believed Jesus to be the true Messiah,* yet they did not clearly understand the design of our Lord's death, till after he was risen from the dead.t
Probably some of their predecessors among the ancient Jews, had clearer views of the sacrifice of Christ, than they had while their Lord was with them.
And though Dr. C. evidently alludes to the case of Job, in the words which follow the first quotation, “ Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear ferrify me,-and then may I love him, and not fear him ; but it is not so with me:" yet it is most clearly evident, from the sacred history of that ancient saint, that Job was rather awed than soothed into submission, before the Lord turned again his captivity.
I dare, therefore, by no means assert, that God himself cannot, by any display of his glory, attended by the influence of his Holy Spirit, produce any holy exercise of mind, except by the medium of lively evangelical hope.
See the Rev. Mr. Van Lier's Letters to Mr. Newton.
p. 93, &c.
Having been engaged in reading the meditations of a sceptical Socinianizing writer on the truths of natural religion, he says, “I read him with close attention, and was absorbed in the meditations that he suggested. Suddenly awakened, as I may say, out of those musings, I thought on God and his works. An idea, altogether extraordinary, of the glory and majesty of God struck me. I had never in such a manner represented God to myself as now. I observed (the eyes of my understanding being enlightened) and admired, in all his works to which I adverted, his stupendous power, wisdom, and goodness. I had in my mind an apprehension of the splendor of his glory and presence, perfectly new to me. It was not so much a notion that my illuminated intellect entertained, as it was a sense of them; they were so present
* Matt. xvi. 17. John vi. 68, 69.
† Matt. xvi. 22. Mark ix. 32.
that I felt them. The glory of his infinite godhead and presence filled me with delight; and I saw so clearly his supreme worthiness of all my love and obedience, that my mind was carried by a sweet and irresistible force, to love him with sincerity; and my heart, broken at the sight, abhorred its former ingratitude. I instantly conceived the purpose of a total reformation in my conduct, of a universal attention to all his commandments, and to take them for my rule of life thenceforth, without any exception. This appeared to me, not only perfectly just and right, but easy and pleasant. I seemed to myself to have been hitherto the blindest and most ignorant of creatures, who had never formed to myself such views of God before, who had neither loved nor obeyed him."
The sequel is very interesting and extraordinary. No human testimony can more strongly prove that he experienced an essential change previous to his embracing the evangelical sentiments; into which he entered, after some time, with his whole soul.
Cowper, the poet, is an instance of a man who loved God, though far from being assured that there was not an unsettled controversy between him and his Maker.