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that it keeps a lingering hold of our nature, even in the last and lowest degree of human wickedness; and that when abandoned by every other principle, this may still be detected,—that even among the most hackneyed and most hardened of malefactors there is still about them a softer part which will give way to the demonstrations of tenderness: that this one ingredient of a better character is still found to survive the dissipation of all the others, that, fallen as a brother may be, from the moralities which at one time adorned him, the manifested good-will of his fellow-man still carries a charm and an influence along with it; and that, therefore, there lies in this, an operation which, as no poverty can vitiate, so no depr vity can extinguish.* Now, this is the very principle which is brought into action, in the dealings of God with a whole world of malefactors. It looks as if he confided the whole cause of our recovery to the influence of a demonstration of good will. It is truly interesting to mark, what, in the devisings of his unsearchable wisdom, is the character which he has made to stand most visibly out, in the great scheme and history of our redemption: and surely if there be one seature of prominency more visible than another, it is the love of kindness. There appears to be no other possible way, by which a responding alfection can be deposited in the heart of man. Certain it is, that the law of love cannot be carried to its ascendency over us by storm. Authority cannot command it. Strength cannot implant it. Terror cannot charm it into existence. The threatenings of vengeance may stifle, or they may repel, but they never can woo this delicate principle of our nature, into a warm and confiding attachment. The human heart remains shut, in all its receptacles, against the force of these various applications; and God, who knew what was in man, seems to have known, that in his dark and guilty bosom, there was but one solitary hold that he had over him; and that to reach it, he must just put on a look of graciousness, and tell us that he has no pleasure in our death, and manifest towards us the longings of a bereaved parent, and even humble himself to a suppliant in the cause of our return, and send a Gospel of peace into the world, and bid his messengers to bear throughout all its habitations, the tidings of his good-will to the children of men. This is the topic of his most anxious and repeated demonstration. This manifested good will of God to his creatures, is the band of love, and the cord of a man, by which he draws them. It is
*The operation of the same principle has, of late, been strikingly exemplified by Mrs. Fry, and her coadjutors, in the prison at Newgate.
true, that from the inaccessible throne of his glory, we see no direct emanation of his tenderness upon us, from this face of the King who is invisible. But, as if to make up for this, he sent his Son into the world, and declared him to be God manifest in the flesh, and let us see, in his tears, and in his sympathies, and in all the recorded traits of his kindness, and gentleness, and love, what a God we have to deal with. It is true, that even in love to us, he did not let down one attribute of truth or of majesty which belonged to him. But, in love to us, he hath laid upon his own Son the burden of their vindication;–and now, that every obstacle is done away; now, that the barrier which lay across the path of acceptance, is levelled by the power of him who travailed in the greatness of his strength for us; now, that the blood of atonement has been shed, and that the justice of God has been magnified, and that our iniquities have been placed on the great Sacrifice, and So borne away that there is no more mention of them: now, that with his dignity entire, and his holiness untainted, the door of heaven may be opened, and sinners be called upon to enter in, is the voice of a friendly and beseeching God, lifted up without reserve, in the hearing of us all;-his love of kindness is published abroad o; men;—and this one mighty principle o attraction is brought to bear upon a nature, that might have remained sullen and unmoved under every other application. And, as God, in the measure of restoring a degenerate world unto himself, hath set in operation the very same principle as that which we have attempted to illustrate, so the operation hath produced the very same result that we have ascribed to it. As soon as his love of kindness is believed, so soon does the love of gratitude spring up in the heart of the believer. As soon as man gives up his fear and his suspicion of God, and discerns him to be his friend, so soon does he render him the homage of a willing and affectionate loyalty. There is not a man who can say, I have known and believed the love which God hath to us, who cannot say also, I have loved God because he first loved me. There has not, we will venture to affirm, been a single example in the whole history of the church, of a man who had a real faith in the overtures of peace and of tenderness which are proposed by the Gospel, and who did not, at the same time, exemplify thisattribute of the Christian faith, that it worketh by love. It is thus that the faith, which recognizes God, as God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, lies at the turning point of conversion. In this way, and in this way alone, is there an inlet of communication open to the heart of man, for that principle of love to God, which gives all its power and all its character to the new obedience of the gospel. So soon as a man really knows the truth, and no man can be said to know what he does not believe, will this truth enthrone a new affection in his bosom, which will set him free from the dominion of all such affections as are earthly and rebellious. The whole style and spirit of his obedience are transformed. The man now walks with the vigour, and the confidence, and the enlargement, of one who is set at liberty. It looks a mysterious revolution in the general eye of the world. But the fact is, that from the moment a sinner closes with the overtures of the gospel, from that moment a new era is established in the history of his mind altogether. As soon as he sees what he never saw before, so soon does he feel what he never felt before. Without the faith of the gospel he may serve God in the spirit of bondage: he may be driven, by the terrors of his law, into many outward and reluctant conformities; he may even, without the influence of these terrors, maintain a thousand decencies of tastes, and custom, and established observation. But he is still an utter stranger to the first and the greatest commandment. There may be the homage of many a visible movement with the body, while, in the whole bent and disposition of the soul there is nothing but aversion, and distance, and enmity. Even the word of the gospel may be addressed, Sabbath after Sabbath, and that too, to hearers who offer no positive resistance to it.-but coming to them only in word, they remain as motionless and unimpressed as ever, and with an utter dormancy in their hearts as to any responding movement of gratitude. The heart, in fact, remains unapproachable in every other way, but by the gospel coming to it, not in word ...} but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. Then is it, that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts; and that the gospel approves itself to be his power, and his wisdom, to the sanctification of all who believe in it. Now, the theologians to whom we allude, have set up obstacles in the way of such a process. They hold a language about the disinterested love of God, and demand this at the very outset of a man's conversion, in such a way, as may retard his entrance upon a life of faith, as may have prolonged the darkness of many an inquirer, and have kept him in a state of despair, whom a right understanding of the gospel would have relieved of all his doubts, and all his perplexities. . They seem to look on the iove of gratitude, as having in it a taint of selfishness. They say that to love a being, because he is my benefactor, is little better than to love the benefit which he has conferred upon me; and that this, instead of any evidence of a state of grace, is the
mere effect of an appetite which belongs essentially and universally to the animal state of nature. They appear to have missed the distinction, between the love that is felt towards the benefit itself, and the love of gratitude that is felt towards the author of it; though certainly there are here two objects of affection altogether distinct from each other. My liking for the gift is a different phase of mind from my liking for the giver. In the one exercise, I am looking to a different object, and my thoughts have a different employment, from what they have in the other. Had I am affection for the gift, without an affection for the giver, then might I evince an unmixed selfishness of character. But I may have both ; and my affection for the giver may be purely in obedience to that law of reciprocity, whereby if another likes me, I am disposed by that circumstance, and by that alone, to like him back again. The gift may serve merely the purpose of an indication. It is the medium through which I perceive the love that another bears me. But it is possible for me to perceive this through another medium, and, in this case, the rising gratitude of my bosom might look a purer and more disinterested emotion. But the truth is, that it retains the very same character, though a gift has been the occasion of its excitement, and, therefore, it ought not to have been so assimilated to the principle of selfishness. It ought not to have been so discouraged, and made the object of suspicion, at that moment of its evolution, when the returning sinner looks by faith to the truths and the promises of the gospel, and sees in them the tenderness of an inviting God. It ought not to have been so stigmatized, as a mere portion of his unrenewed nature; for, in truth, it will heighten and grow upon him, with every step in the advancement of his moral renovation. It will be one of the gracefullest of his accomplishments in this world; and so far from being extinguished in the next, along with the baser and more selfish affections of our constitution, it will pour an animating spirit into many a song of ecstacy, to him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. The law of love begetting love, will obtain in eternity. Like the law of reciprocal attraction in the material world, it will cement the immutable and everlasting order of that moral system, which is to emerge with the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. The love which emanates from the throne of God, upon his surrounding family, will call back, a voice of blessing, and thanksgiving, and glory, from all the members of it. "And the sove which his children bear to each other, will, in like manner, be reflected and multiplied. All that is wrong in selfishness will be there
unknown. But gratitude, so far from being counted an unseemly, companion for paradise, will be one chief ingredient in the fulness of its joy; one of the purest and most exquisite of those pleasures which are for evermore. The first consideration, then, upon which we would elevate gratitude to the rank of a virtue, is, that in its object, it is altogether distinct from selfishness. It is enough, indeed, to dissolve the imagination of any kindred character between selfishness and gratitude, that the man without selfishness, seems to the eye of a beholder, as standing on a lofty eminence of virtue. The man without gratitude, is held, by all, to be a monster of deformity. Give me a man who seizes with ravenous appropriation all that I have to bestow, and who hoards it, or feeds upon it, or, in any way rejoices over it, without one grateful movement of his heart towards me, and you lay before me a character, not merely unlike, but diametrically opposite, to the character of him who obtains the very same gift, and, perhaps, derives from the use of it, an equal, or a greater degree of enjoyment, to the sensitive part of his nature, but who, in addition to all this, has thought, and affection, and the higher principles of his nature, excited by the consideration of the giver; and looks to the manifested love that appears in this act of generosity; and is touched with love back again; and, under the influence of this responding affection, conceives the kindest wishes, and pours out the warmest prayers, for the interest of his benefactor, and shows him all the symptoms of friendship, and surrounds him with all its services. The second consideration upon which we would elevate gratitude to the rank of a W. virtue, has already been glanced at. ere it not a virtue, it would have no place in heaven. Did it only appertain to the unrenewed part of our nature, it would find no admittance among the saints in paradise. But one of the songs of the redeemed, is a song of gratitude. And, thirdly, by looking more closely to this affection, both in its origin and in its exercises, we shall perceive in it, more clearly, all the characteristics of virtue. Let it be remarked, then, that an affection may simply exist, and yet be no evidence of any virtue, or of any moral worth in the holder of it. I may look on a beautiful F." and be drawn out to an invountary sentiment of admiration. Or, I may look on my infant child, and without one effort of volition, feel a parental tenderness towards it. Or, I may be present at a scene of distress, and without choosing or willing to be so, I may be moved to the softest compassion. And, in this way, I may have a character made up of many affections, some of which are tasteful, some of which are
most amiable in themselves, and some of which are most useful to society and yet none of which may possess the smallest portion of the essential character of virtue. They may be brought into exercise without any working of a sense of duty whatever. One of those we have specified—the instinctive affection of parents for their young, is exemplified in all its strength, and in all its tenderness, by the inferior animals. And, therefore, if we want to know what that is which constitutes the character of virtue, or moral worth, in a human being, we must look to something else, than to the mere existence of certain affections, however valuable they may prove to others, or whatever gracefulness they may shed over the complexion of him who possesses them. Now, it would be raising a collateral into a main topic, were we to enter upon a full explanation of the matter that has now been suggested. And we shall, therefore, briefly remark, that to give the character of virtue to any grace of the inner man, the will, acting under a sense of duty, must, in some way or other, have been concerned in the establishment, or in the continuance of it; and that to give the same character of virtueto a deed of the outer man, the will must also be concerned. A deed is only virtuous in as far as it is voluntary; and it is only in proportion to the share which the will has in the performance of it, and the will impelling us to do, what we are persuaded ought to be done, that there can be awarded, to the deed in question, any character of moral estimation. This will explain what the circumstances are, under which the gratitude of a human being may at one time be an instinct, and at another time a virtue. I may enter the house of an individual who is an utter stranger to the habit of acting under a sense of duty; who is just as much the creature of mere impulse, as the animals beneath him; and who, therefore, though some of these impulses are more characteristic of his condition as a man, and most subservient to the good of his fellows, may be considered as possessing no virtue whatever, in the strict and proper sense of the term.
But he has the property of being affected
by external causes. And I, by some ministration of friendship, may flash upon his mind such an overpowering conviction of the good will that I bear him, as to affect him with a sense of gratitude even unto tears. The moral obligation of gratitude may not be present to his mind at all. But the emotion of gratitude comes into his heart unbidden, and finds its vent in acknowledgments, and blessings, on the person of his benefactor. We would say, of such a person, that he possesses a happier original constitution than another, who, in the same circumstances, would not be so powerfully or so tenderly affected. And yet he may have hitherto evinced nothing more than the workings of a mere instinct, which springs spontaneously within him, and gives its own impulse to his words and his performances, without a sense of duty having any share in the matter, or without the will prompting the individual by any such consideration, as, let me do this thing because I ought to do it. Let us now conceive the moral sense to be admitted to its share of influence over this proceeding. Let it be consulted on the question of what ought to be felt, and what ought to be done, by one being, when another evinces the love of kindness towards him. A mere instinct may, in point of fact, draw out a return of love and of service back again. But it is the province of the moral sense to pronounce on the point of obligation, and we speak its universal suggestion, when we say, that the love of gratitude ought to be felt, and the services of gratitude ought to be rendered. Now, to make this decision of the moral sense practically effectual, and, indeed, to make the moral sense have any thing to do with this question at all, the feeling of gratitude must, in some way or other, be dependent either for its existence, or its growth, or its continuance, upon the will; and the same will must also have a command over the services of gratitude. The moral sense, in fact, never interposes with any dictate, or with any declaration about the feelings, or the conduct of man, unless in so far as the will of man has an influence, and a power of regulation over them. It never makes the rate of the circulation of the blood a question of duty, because this is altogether an involuntary movement. And it never would have offered any authoritative intimation, about the way in which gratitude ought to be felt, or ought to be expressed, unless the will had had some kind of presiding sovereignty over both the degree and the workings of this affection. * The first way, then, in which the will may have to do with the love of gratitude, is by the putting forth of a desire for the possession of it. It may long to realize this moral accomplishment. It may hunger and thirst aster this branch of righteousness. Even though it has not any such power under its command as would enable it to fulfil such a volition, the volition itself has, upon it, the stamp and the character of virtue. The man who habitually wills to have in his heart a love of gratitude towards God, is a man at least of holy desires, if not of holy attainments. And, when we consider that a way has actually been established, in which the desire may be followed up by the attainment, when we read of the promise given to those who seek after God,
when we learn the assurance that he will grant the heart's desire of those who will stir themselves up to lay hold of him, when we think that prayer is the natural expression of desire for an object which man cannot reach, but which God is both able and willing to confer upon him, then do we see how the very existence of the love of gratitude may have had its pure and holy commencement, in such a habitude of the will as has the essential character of virtue engraven upon it. “Keep yourselves,” says the Apostle, “in the love of God, by praying in the Holy Ghost.” But, again, there are certain doings of the mind, over which the will has a control, and by which the affection of gratitude may either be brought into being, or be sustained in lively and persevering exercise. At the bidding of the will, I can think of one topic, rather than of another. I can transfer my mind to any given object of contemplation. I can keep that object steadily in view, and make an effort to do so, when placed in such circumstances as might lead me to distraction or forgetfulness. And it is in this way that moral praise or moral responsibility, may be attached to the love of gratitude. Ere the heart can be moved by this affection to another, there must be in the mind a certain appropriate object, that is fitted to call it, and to keep it in existence,—and that object is the love of kindness which the other bears me. I may endeavour, and I may succeed in the endeavour, to hold this love of kindness in dail and perpetual remembrance. Hs the wi have to do with the exercises of thought and memory, then the will may be responsible for the gratitude that would spring in my bosom, did I only think of the love of God, and that would continue with me in the shape of an habitual affection, did I onl keep that love in habitual remembrance. }. is thus that the forgetsulness of God is chargeable with criminality-and it will appear a righteous thing in the day of judgment, when they, who are thus forgetful of him, shall be turned into hell. It is this which arms, with such a moral and condemnatory force, the expostulation he holds with Israel, “that Israel doth not know, that my people do not consider.” It is because we like not to retain God in our knowledge, that our minds become reprobate;—and, on the other hand, it is by a continuous effort of my will, towards the thought of him, that I forget not his benefits. It is by the strenuousness of a voluntary act, that I connect the idea of an unseen benefactor, with all the blessings of my present lot, and all the anticipations of my futurity. It is by a combat with the most urgent propensities of nature, that I am ever looking beyond this surrounding materialism, and setting God and his love before me all the day long.
There is no virtue, it is allowed, without voluntary exertion; but this is the very character which runs throughout the whole work and exercise of faith. To keep himself in the love of God is a habit, with the maintenance of which the will of man has most essentially to do, because it is at his will that he keeps himself in the thought of God's love towards him. To bid away from me such intrusions of sense, and of time, as would shut God out of my recollections; to keep alive the impression of him in the midst of bustle, and company, and worldly avocations; to recall the thought of him and of his kindness, under crosses, and vexations, and annoyances; to be still, and know that he is God, even when beset with tempttations to impatience and discontent; never to loose sight of him as merciful and gracious; and above all, never to let go my hold of that great Propitiation, by which in every time of trouble, I have the privilege of access with confidence to my reconciled Father; these are all so many acts of faith, but they are just such acts as the will bears a share, and a sovereignity, in the performance of And, as they are the very acts which go to aliment and to sustain the love of gratitude within me, it may be seen, how an affection which, in the first instance, may spring involuntarily, and be therefore regarded as a mere instinct of nature, or as bearing upon it a complexion of selfishness, may, in another view, have upon it a complexion of deepest sacredness, and be rendered unto God in the shape of a duteous and devoted offering from a voluntary agent, and be, in fact, the laborious result of a most difficult, and persevering, and pains-taking habit of obedience.
And if this be true of the mere sense of gratitude, it is still more obviously true of the services of gratitude. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits o' is the genuine language of this affection. It seeks to make a gratifying return of service, and that, under the feeling that it ought to do so. Or, in other words, do we behold that it is the will of man, prompted by a sense of duty, which leads him on to the obedience of gratitude, and that the whole of this obedience is pervaded by the essential character of virtue. This is the love of God, that ye keep his commandments. This is the most gratifying return unto him, that ye do those things which are pleasing in his sight. And thus it is, that the love of gratitude may be vindicated in its character of moral worth, from its first commencement in the heart to its ultimate effect on the walk and conversation. It is originally distinct from selfishness in its object; and it derives a virtuousness at its very outset, from the aspirations of a soul bent on the acquirement of it, because bent on being what it ought to be; and it is sustained, both
in life and in exercise, by such habits of thought as are of voluntary cultivation; and it nobly sustains an aspect of moral righteousness onwards to the final result of its operation on the character, by setting him who is under its power, on a career of obedience to God, and introducing him to an arduous contest of principle, with all the influences of sense and of the world. Is, to render an affection virtuous, the will acting under a sense of duty, should be concerned either in producing or in perpetuating it; then the love of moral esteem coming into the heart, as an involutary sensation, may, in certain circumstances, have as little of the character of virtue as the love of gratitude. In this respect, both these affections are upon a footing with each other; and the first ought not to have been exalted at the expense of the second. That either be upheld within us in our present state, there must, in fact, be the putting forth of the same voluntary control over the thoughts and contemplations of the understanding; the same active exercise of faith; the same laborious resistance to all those urgencies of sense which would expel from the mind the idea of an unseen and spiritual object; the same remembrance of God sustained by effort, and prayer, and meditation. II. We now feel ourselves in a condition to speak of the Gospel, in its free and gratuitous character; to propose its blessings as a gift; to hold out the pardon, and the strength, and all the other privileges which it proclaims to believers, as so many articles for their immediate acceptance; to make it known to men that they are not to delay their compliance with the overtures of mercy, till the disinterested love of God arises in their hearts; but that they have a warrant for entering even now, into instant reconciliation with God. Nor are we to dread the approach of any moral contamination, though when, after their eyes are opened to the marvellous spectacle of a pleading, and offering, and beseeching God, holding out eternal life unto the guilty, through the propitiation which his own Son hath made for them, they should, from that mo– ment, open their whole soul, to the influences of gratitude, and love the God who thus hath first loved them. We conclude then with remarking, that the whole of this argument gives us and ther view of the importance of faith. We do not say all for it that we ought, when we say that by faith we are justified in the sight of God. By faith also our hearts are purified. It is in fact the primary and the presiding principle of regeneration. It brings the heart into contact with that influence by which the love of gratitude is awakened. The love of God to us, if it is not believed, will exert no more power over our affections