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ness being exercised upon me, I should offer to it the homage of my moral approbation. But, should I be the special and the signalized object of his kindness, there is another sentiment toward God, beside the love of moral esteem, that ought to be formed within me by that circumstance, and which, in the business of reasoning, should be kept apart from it. There is the love of gratitude. These often go together, and may be felt simultaneously, towards the one being we are employed in contemplating. But they are just as distinct, each from the other, as is the love of moral esteem from the love of kindness. We trust that we have already convinced you, that God feels towards us, his inferiors, the love of kindness, when he cannot, from the the nature of the object, feel for us the slightest degree of the love of moral esteem. In the same manner, may we feel, we are not saying towards God, but towards an earthly benefactor, the love of gratitude, when, from the nature of the object we are employed in contemplating, there is much to impair within us the love of moral esteem, or to extinguish it altogether. Is it not most natural to say of the man, who has been personally benevolent to myself, and who has, at the same time, disgraced himself, by his vices, that, bad as he is, he has been at all times remarkably kind to me, and felt many a movement of friendship towards my person, and done many a deed of important service to my family, and that I, at least, owe him a gratitude for all this, that I, at least, should be longer than others, of dismiss. ing from my bosom the last remainder of cordiality towards him, --that if, infamy and poverty have followed, in the career of his wickedness, and he have become an outcast from the attentions of other men, it is not for me to spurn him instantly from my door, or, in the face of my particular recollections, to look unpitying and unmoved, at the wretchedness into which he has fallen.
It is the more necessary, to distinguish the love of gratitude from the love of moral esteem, that each of these affections may be excited simultaneously within me, by one act or by one exhibition of himself, on the part of the Deity. Let me be made to understand, that God has passed by my transgression, and generously admitted me into the privileges and the rewards of
obedience,-I see in this, a tenderness, and a mercy, and a love, for his creatures, which, if blended at the same time with all that is high and honourable in the more august attributes of his nature, have the effect of presenting him to my mind, and of drawing out my heart in moral regard to him, as a most amiable and estimable object of contemplation. But besides this, there is a peculiar love of gratitude, excited by the consideration that I am the object of this benignity,—that I am one of the creatures to whom he has directed this peculiar regard,—that he has singled out me, and conceived a gracious purpose towards me, and in the execution of this purpose is lavishing upon my person, the blessings of a father's care, and a father's tenderness. Both the love of moral esteem, and the love of gratitude, may thus be in contemporaneous operation within me; and it will be seen to accomplish a practical, as well as a metaphysical purpose, to keep the one apart from the other, in the view of the mind, when love towards God is the topic of speculation, which engages it.
But, farther, let it be understood, that the love of gratitude differs from the love of moral esteem, not merely in the cause which immediately originates it, but also in the object, in which it finds its rest and its gratification. It is the kindness of another being to myself, which originates within me the love of gratitude towards him; and it is the view of what is morally estimable in this being, that originates within me all the love of moral esteem, that I entertain for him. There is a real distinction of cause between these two affections, and there is also between them a real distinction of object. The love of moral esteem finds its complacent gratification, in the act of dwelling contemplatively on that Being, by whom it is excited; just as a tasteful enthusiast inhales delight from the act of gazing, on the charms of some external scenery. The pleasure he receives, emanates directly upon his mind, from the forms of beauty and of loveliness, which are around him. And if, instead of a taste for the beauties of nature, there exists within him, a taste for the beauties of holiness, then will he love the Being, who presents to the eye of his contemplation the fullest assemblage of them, and his taste will find its complacent gratification in dwell
ing upon him, whether as an object of thought, or as an object of perception. "One thing have I desired," says the Psalmist, "that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Now, the love of gratitude is distinct from this in its object. It is excited by the love of kindness; and the feeling which is thus excited, is just a feeling of kindness back again. It is kindness begetting kindness. The language of this affection is, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?" He has done what is pleasing and gratifying to me. What shall I do to please, and to gratify him? The love of gratitude seeks for answers to this question, and finds its delight in acting upon them, and whether the answer be,—this is the will of God even your sanctification,-or, with the sacrifices of liberality God is well pleased,-or, obedience to parents is well pleasing in his sight,-these all point out so many lines of conduct, to which the impulse of the love of gratitude would carry us, and attest this to be the love of God,—that ye keep his commandments.
And, indeed, when the same Being combines, in his own person, that which ought to excite the love of moral esteem, with that which ought to excite the love of gratitude,—the two ingredients, enter with a mingled but harmonious concurrence, into the exercise of one compound affection. It is true, that the more appropriate offering of the former is the offering of praise, just as when one looks to the beauties of nature, he breaks out into a rapturous acknowledgment of them; and so it may be, when one looks to the venerable, and the lovely in the character of God. The more appropriate offering of the latter, is the offering of thanksgiving, or of such services as are fitted to please, and to gratify a benefactor. But still it may be observed, how each of these simple affections tends to express itself, by the very act which more characteristically marks the workings of the other; or, how the more appropriate offering of the first of them, may be prompted under the impulse, and movement of the second of them, and conversely. For, if I love God because of his perfections, what principle can more powerfully or more directly lead to the imitation of them ?
which is the very service that he requires, and the very offering that he is most pleased with. And, if I love God because of his goodness to me, what is more fitted to prompt my every exertion, in the way of spreading the honours of his character and of his name among my fellows, and, for this purpose, to magnify in their hearing the glories and the attributes of his nature? It is thus that the voice of praise and the voice of gratitude may enter into one song of adoration; and that whilst the Psalmist, at one time, gives thanks to God at the remembrance of his holiness, he, at another, pours forth praise at the remembrance of his mercies.
To have the love of gratitude towards God, it is essential that we know and believe his love of kindness towards us. To have the love of moral esteem towards him, it is essential that the loveliness of his character be in the eye of the mind: or, in other words, that the mind keep itself in steady and believing contemplation of the excellencies which belong to him. The view that we have of God, is just as much in the order of precedency to the affection that we entertain for him, as any two successive steps can be, in any of the processes of our mental constitution. To obtain the introduction of love into the heart, there must, as a preparatory circumstance, be the introduction of knowledge into the understanding; or, as we can never be said to know what we do not believe-ere we have love, we must have faith; and, accordingly, in the passage from which our text is extracted, do we perceive the one pointed to, as the instrument for the production of the other. "Keep yourselves in the love of God, building yourselves up on your most holy faith."
And here, it ought to be remarked, that a man may experience a mental process, and yet have no taste or no understanding for the explanation of it. The simple truths of the Gospel, may enter with acceptance into the mind of a peasant, and there work all the proper influences on his heart and character, which the Bible ascribes to them: and yet he may be utterly incapable of tracing that series of inward movements, by which he is carried onwards from a belief in the truth, to all those moral and affectionate regards, which mark a genuine disciple of the
truth. He may be the actual subject of these movements, though altogether unable to follow or to analyze them. This is not peculiar to the judgments, or the feelings of Christianity. In the matters of ordinary life, a man may judge sagaciously, and feel correctly while ardently;-and experience, in right and natural order, the play of his various faculties, without having it at all in his power, either to frame or to follow a true theory of his faculties. It is well, that the simple preaching of the Gospel has its right practical operation on men, who make no attempt whatever, to comprehend the metaphysics of the operation. But, if ever metaphysics be employed to darken the freeness of the Gospel offer, or to dethrone faith from the supremacy which belongs to it, or to forbid the approaches of those whom God has not forbidden; then must it be met upon its own ground, and the real character of our beneficent religion be asserted, amid the attempts of those who have in any way obscured or injured it by their illustrations.