« PreviousContinue »
selves were taken away, if they thought they were some of the lower form of saints (though they should yet suppose themselves to be real saints) their high affections would fall to the ground. If they only saw a little of the sinfulness and vileness of their own hearts, and their deformity, in the midst of their best duties and their best affections, it would knock their affections on the head ; because their affections are built upon self, therefore self knowledge would destroy them. But as to truly gracious affections, they are built elsewhere ; they have their foundation out of self in God and Jesus Christ; and therefore a discovery of themselves, of their own deformity, and the meanness of their experiences, though it will purify their affections, yet it will not destroy them, but in some respects sweeten and heighten them.
III. Those affections that are truly holy, are primarily founded on the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things. Or (to express it otherwise) a love to divine thing for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency, is the first beginning and spring of all holy affections.
Here, for the sake of the more illiterate reader, I will explain what I mean by the moral excellency of divine things.
And it may be observed, that the word moral is not to be understood here, according to the common and vulgar acceptation of the word, whèn men speak of morality, and a moral behavior; meaning an outward conformity to the duties of the moral law, and especially the duties of the second table ; or intending no more at farthest, than such seeming virtues, as proceed from natural principles, in opposition to those virtues that are more inward, spiritual, and divine ; as the honesty, justice, generosity, good nature, and public spirit of many of the heathen are called moral virtues, in distinction from the holy faith, love, humility and heavenly mindedness of true Christians : I say, the word moral is not to be understood thus in this place.
But in order to a right understanding what is meant, it must be observed, that divines commonly make a distinction between moral good and evil, and natural good and evil. moral evil, they mean the evil of sin, or that evil which is
against duty, and contrary to what is right and ought to be. By natural evil, they do not mean that evil which is properly opposed to duty ; but that which is contrary to mere nature, without any respect to a rule of duty. So the evil of suffer ing is called natural evil, such as pain and torment, disgrace, and the like : These things are contrary to mere nature, contrary to the nature of both bad and good, hateful to wicked men and devils, as well as good men and angels. So likewise natural defects are called natural evils, as if a child be monstrous, or a natural fool ; these are natural evils, but are not moral evils, because they have not properly the nature of the evil of sin. On the other hand, as by moral evil, di, vines mean the evil of sin, or that which is contrary to what is right ; so by moral good, they mean that which is contrary to sin, or that good in beings who have will and choice, whereby, as voluntary agents, they are, and act, as it becomes them to be and to act, or so as is most fit, and suitable, and lovely. By natural good, they mean that good that is entirely of a different kind from holiness or virtue, viz. that which perfects or suits nature, considering nature abstractly from any holy or unholy qualifications, and without any relation to any rule or measure of right and wrong.
Thus pleasure is a natural good; so is honor, so is strength; so is speculative knowledge, human learning, and policy.... Thus there is a distinction to be made between the natural good that men are possessed of, and their moral good ; and also between the natural and moral good of the angels in heaven: The great capacity of their understandings, and their great strength, and the honorable circumstances they are in as the great minjars of God's kingdom, whence they are called thro-5, dominions, principalities, and powers, is the natural good which they are possessed of ; but their perfect and glorious holiness and goodness, their pure and flaming love to God, and to the saints and to one another, is their moral good. So divines maka a distinction between the natural and moral perfections of God : By the moral perfections of God, they mean those attributes which God exercises as a moral agents or whereby the heart and will of God are good, right and in
finitely becoming, and lovely; such as his righteousness, truth, faithfulness, and goodness; or, in one word, his holiness. By God's natural attributes or perfections, they mean those attributes, wherein, according to our way of conceiving of God, consists, not the holiness or moral goodness of God, but his greatness ; such as his power, his knowledge, whereby he knows all things, and his being eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, his omnipresence, and his awful and terrible majesty.
The moral excellency of an intelligent voluntary being is more immediately seated in the heart or will of moral agents. That intelligent being, whose will is truly right and lovely, is morally good or excellent.
This moral excellency of an intelligent being, when it is true and real, and not only external, or merely seeming and counterfeit, is holiness. Therefore holiness comprehends all the true moral excellency of intelligent beings : There is no other true virtue, but real holiness. Holiness comprehends all the true virtue of a good man, his love to God, his gracious love to men, his justice, his charity, and bowels of mercies, his gracious meekness and gentleness, and all other true Christian virtues that he has, belong to his holiness. So the holiness of God in the more extensive sense of the word, and the sense in which the word is commonly, if not universally used concerning God in scripture, is the same with the moral excellency of the divine nature, or his purity and beauty as a moral agent, comprehending all his moral perfections, his righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness. As in holy men, their charity, Christian kindness and mercy, belong to their holiness ; so the kindness and mercy of God belong to his holiness. Holiness in man is but the image of God's holiness : There are not more virtues belonging to the image than are in the original : Derived holiness has not more in it than is in that underived holiness which is its fountain : There is no more than
for grace, or grace in the image, answerable to grace in the original.
As there are two kinds of attributes in God, according to our way of conceiving of him, his moral attributes, which
are summed up in his holiness, and his natural attributes of strength, knowledge, &c. that constitute the greatness of God; 80 there is a twofold image of God in man, his moral or spir. itual image, which is his holiness, that is the image of God's moral excellency (which image was lost by the fall) and God's natural image, consisting in man's reason and understanding, his natural ability, and dominion over the creatures, which is the image of God's natural attribute.
From what has been said, it may easily be understood what I intend, when I say that a love to divine things for the beauty of their moral excellency, is the beginning and spring of all holy affections. It has been already shewn, under the former head, that the first objective ground of all holy affections is the supreme excellency of divine things as they are in them. selves, or in their own nature : I now proceed further, and say more particularly, that that kind of excellency of the nature of divine things, which is the first objective ground of all holy affections, is their moral excellency, or their holiness. Holy persons, in the exercise of holy affections, do love divine things primarily for their holiness : They love God, in the first place, for the beauty of his holiness or moral perfec. tion, as being supremely amiable in itself. Not that the saints, in the exercise of gracious affections, do love God only for his holiness; all his attributes are amiable and glorious in their eyes; they delight in every divine perfection; the contemplation of the infinite greatness, power, and knowledge, and terrible majesty of God, is pleasant to them. But their love to God for his holiness is what is most fundamental and essential in their love. Here it is that true love to God begins; all other holy love to divine things flows from hence : This is the most essential and distinguishing thing that be: longs to a holy love to God, with regard to the foundation of it. A love to God for the beauty of his moral attributes, leads to, and necessarily causes a delight in God for all his attrie butes; for his moral attributes cannot be without his natural attributes : For infinite holiness supposes infinite wisdom, and an infinite capacity and greatness; and all the attributes of God do as it were imply one another.
The true beauty and loveliness of all intelligent beings does primarily and most essentially consist in their moral excellency or holiness. Herein consists the loveliness of the angels, without which, with all their natural perfections, their strength, and their knowledge, they would have no more loveFiness than devils. It is a moral excellency alone, that is in itself, and on its own account, the excellency of intelligent Beings : It is this that gives beauty to, or rather is the beauty of their natural perfections and qualifications. Moral excelTency is the excellency of natural excellencies. Natural qualifications are either excellent or otherwise, according as they are joined with moral excellency or not. Strength and knowledge do not render any being lovely, without holiness, but more hateful; though they render them more lovely, when joined with holiness. Thus the elecť angels are the more glorious for their strength and knowledge, because these natural perfections of theirs are sanctified by their moral perfection. But though the devils are very strong, and of great natdral understanding, they be not the more lovely : They are more terrible indeed, but not the more amiable ; but on the contrary, the more hateful. The holiness of an intelligent creature, is the beauty of all his natural perfections. And so it is in God, according to our way of conceiving of the divine Being : Holiness is in a peculiar manner the beauty of the divine nature. Hence we often read of the beauty of holiness, Psal. xxix. 2, Psal. xcvi. 9, and cx. 3. This renders alk his other attributes glorious and lovely. It is the glory of God's wisdom, that it is a holy wisdom, and not a wicked subtilty and craftiness. This makes his majesty lovely ; and not merely dreadful and horrible, that it is a holy majesty. It is the glory of God's immutability, that it is a holy immutability, and not an inflexible obstinacy in wickedness.
And therefore it must needs be, that a sight of God's loveliness must begin here. A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute ; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving of God) it derives its loveliness from this; and therefore it is