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Gai. It will; nor is there any thing more surprising in it than that a mercenary character should be a stranger to the joys of benevolence, or a dishonest man to the pleasures of a good conscience; they never experienced them, and therefore are utterly in the dark concerning them.
Crisp. Will you give me your thoughts of the inAuence of truth on holy practice?
Gai. Perhaps, there is no proposition but what has some consequence hanging upon it; and such consequence must be expected to correspond with the nature of the proposition. A truth in natural philosophy will be productive of a natural effect. Divine truth, when cordially imbibed, proves the seed of a godly life. For example, If there be a God that judgeth in the earth, he is to be loved, feared, and adored. be a sinner before God, it becomes him to lie low in self-abasement. If salvation be of grace, boasting is excluded. If we are bought with a price, we are not our own, and must not live unto ourselves, but to Him who died for us, and rose again. Religious sentiments are called principles, because, when received in the love of them, they become the springs of holy action.
Crisp. Do the Scriptures confirm this view of things?
Gai. You must have read such passages as the following: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Grace and peace be multiplied, through the knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ our Lord. Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine." I suppose our Lord meant something like
this when he told the woman of Samaria, “The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up to everlasting life.” That is, the gospel or doctrine that I preach, when cordially imbibed, shall become a well-spring of heavenly joy and holy activity, rising higher and higher, till it terminates in everlasting blessedness.
Crisp. What inference may be drawn from all this?
Gai. If God has joined these things together, let no man, whether preacher or hearer, attempt to put them asunder.
DIALOGUE FOURTH, BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
ON THE MORAL CHARACTER OF GOD.
Crispus. Good morning, my dear friend: your late observations on the importance of truth, and the connexion betwixt doctrinal, experimental, and practical religion, have excited in my mind an increasing desire after a more particular knowledge of the great doctrines of Christianity.
Gaius. I am glad to hear it; and if it be in my power to afford you any additional light on those interesting subjects, it will afford me great pleasure.
Crisp. What do you consider as the first and most fundamental principle of true religion?
Gai. Unless I except the existence of God, perhaps none is more deserving of those epithets than his moral character.
Crisp. What do you mean by the moral character of God?
Gai. The Divine perfections have been distinguished into natural and moral; by the former we understand those perfections which express his greatness—such are his wisdom, power, majesty, omniscience, omnipotence, immutability, eternity, immensity, &c.; by the latter, those which express his essential goodnesssuch are his justice, his mercy, his veracity; or, in one word, his holiness. These last are the peculiar glory of the Divine nature, and constitute what is meant by his moral character.
Crisp. Are not all the attributes of Deity essential to the character of an all-perfect Being?
Gai. They are; but yet the glory of his natural perfections depends upon their being united with those which are moral. The ideas of wisdom, power, or immutability, convey nothing lovely to the mind, but the reverse, unless they be connected with righteousness, goodness, and veracity. Wisdom without holiness would be serpentine subtilty, power would be tyranny, and immutability annexed to a character of such qualities, would be the curse and terror of the universe.
Crisp. But as God is possessed of the one as well as the other, they all contribute to his glory.
Gai. True; and it affords matter of inexpressible joy to all holy intelligences, that a Being of such rectitude and goodness is possessed of power equal to the desire of his heart, of wisdom equal to his power; and that he remains through eternal ages immutably the same. Power and wisdom in such hands are the blessing of the universe.
Crisp. Is the above distinction of the Divine perfections into natural and moral, applicable to any useful purposes?
Gai. It will assist us in determining the nature of that most fundamental of all moral principles, the love of God. If holiness constitutes the loveliness of the Divine nature, this must be the most direct and immediate object of holy affection. True love to God will always bear a primary regard to that which, above all other things, renders him a lovely Being.
Crisp. I knew a lecturer on philosophy, who, by discoursing on the wisdom and power of God as displayed in the immensity of creation, was wrought up into a rapture of apparent devotion, and his audience with him; and yet in less than an hour's time, after leaving the room, he was heard to curse and swear, as was his usual manner of conversation.
Gai. You might find great numbers of this description. They consider the Divine Being as a great genius, as a fine architect, and survey his works with admiration; but his moral excellence, which constitutes the chief glory of his nature, has no charms in their eyes. But if that which constitutes the chief glory of his nature have no charms in their eyes, all the admiration which they may bestow upon the productions of his wisdom and power will amount to nothing; “the love of God is not in them."
Crisp. You consider the moral character of God as a fundamental principle in religion; what then are those principles which are founded upon it?
Gai. The equity of the Divine laws, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the ruined state of man as a sinner:
with the necessity of an Almighty Savior, and a free salvation.
Crisp. Will you oblige me by pointing out the connexion of these principles?
Gai. If there be infinite loveliness in the moral character of God, then it is right and equitable that we should love him with all our hearts, which, with a subordinate love to our neighbor as ourselves, is the sum of what the Divine law requires. And in proportion to the loveliness of the Divine character must be the hatefulness of aversion to him, and rebellion against him; hence follows the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And if sin be odious in its nature, it must be dangerous in its consequences, exposing us to the curse of the Divine law, the just and everlasting displeasure of a holy God. Finally, If, as rebels against the moral government of God; we be all in a ruined and perishing condition, we need a Deliverer who shall be able to save to the uttermost, whose name shall be called the Mighty God; and a salvation, without money and without price, that shall be suited to our indigent condition.
Crisp. Is not the moral excellence of the Divine character admitted by great numbers who reject these principles which you say arise from it?
Gai. I suppose no person who admits the being of God, would expressly deny the excellence of his moral character; but it is easy to observe that those who deny the foregoing principles, either discover no manner of delight in it, but are taken up, like your philosophical lecturer, in admiring the productions of God's natural perfections, or else are employed in modelling his moral character according to their own depraved ideas