« PreviousContinue »
take place in society. All instances of unrighteousness, oppression and cruelty, of contention and war, and of every injury done by one to another, or to the public ; and all deceit, falsehood and hypocrisy, incontinency, and every unruly lust; and every thing which worketh evil to others, and to society, are the fruit of self love. Take this away, and all these will cease. And this is removed as far as the spirit of true christianity is imbibed.
But universal benevolence, christian love, spreads happiness, wherever it flourishes. It enlarges and ennobles the mind, and puts the benevolent person session of the good and happiness of others, so that he enjoys it all in a great degree, and rejoices with those who rejoice. By this he becomes a cordial and judicious friend to every one, and more especially to those with whom he has the most connection; and is disposed to do good to all, as he has ability and opportunity : And is devoted to the good of the public, and of the society to which he belongs, being ready to give up his private, personal interest, in any part or the whole of it, when the public interest demands it, and this is necessary for the good of the whole. This disinterested benevolence will lead every one to take his proper place, and to be industrious, active, prudent and faithful in his own business, and honest, upright, sincere and true in all his concerns and dealings with his fellow men. This love is kind, it is mercy, humility, condescension, meekness, peaceableness, temperance, long suffering, and brotherly kindness. This will form rules by which they may fill their station with honour and usefulness; to use their influence for the public good, and the happiness of every individual, so far as is consistent with the greatest public happiness. And this will induce those in more private stations, to acquiesce in, and support good government ; to live in peace with all men, if possible. And this will unite all the particular members of the society to each other, and form them into a band of brothers, all engaged to promote the general good, and the best interest of each other, so far as it may be copsistent with, and subserve the greatest good of the whole.
Whenever christianity shall spread over the whole world, and the distinguishing spirit and power of it take
place universally, forming men to a high degree of universal benevolence, and disinterested affection, it will unite mankind into one happy society, teaching them to love each other as brethren, each one seeking and rejoicing in the public good, and in the happiness of individuals : This will form the most happy state of public society that can be enjoyed on earth. And when we take into view their love to the Redeemer, their devotedness to his honour and service, and obedience to his laws, in the practice of piety, devotion and mercy; their joy in his character, exaltation and honour ; their gratitude to him for their redemption from infinite evil, and making them heirs of unspeakable felicity; their unshaken trust in him for the fulfilment of all his promises ; and their clear and sure prospects of their eternal happiness, and the endless and increasing glory of his kingdom :This will be the greatest likeness of heaven of any thing that has taken place on earth, or ever will. And they will hereby be made meet for the eternal inheritance of the saints in light.
This leads to a view of the most perfect, happy, and glorious society in heaven, in the eternal kingdom of God. All the beauty, happiness, and glory of it, will consist in this disinterested love, made perfect, reigning, and having its proper and full effect, without impediment, both in God, and in every member of this kingdom.
Concerning Divine Illumination. THE divine oracles represent all the wicked, by which are meant all men who are not righteous, to be in a state of darkness ; from which they only are recovered, who are born of God, and become real chris. tians. “ The way of the wicked is as darkness : They know not at what they stumble."* " The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”+ once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”| All unbelievers, ungodly and disobedient, are said in scripture to be blind, and not to know God, in places too many to mention here.
" Ye were
* Prov. iv. 19. 1 Cor.ü. 14. Eph. v. 8,
St. Paul says,
" If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."* “ The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, in faming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.”+ Agreeable to this, men are said by conversion, by which they become true christians, to have their eyes opened, and to be turned from darkness to light. To be called out of darkness into marvellous light. To be delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. And conversion from sin to God is described by being enlightened.
This ignorance and darkness, and the contrary light or knowledge, are, according to scripture, of a moral nature, and consequently consist not in intellectual ig. norance, and knowledge, as distinct from any thing which belongs to the heart, and not implying any sensations and exercises of the latter : For that darkness or light which belongs to the intellect, or speculative understanding, as distinct from the heart, and in which the heart has no influence or concern, has nothing moral in it, and is neither virtuous nor vicious, sin or holiness,
Therefore the scripture constantly speaks of this darkness and light, this ignorance or want of understanding, and the contrary understanding and knowledge, as hav. ing their seat in the heart, and belonging to that, and predicated of it, and as being, as that is, whether right or wrong, wholly corrupt or renewed. The following passages are sufficient to prove this. " Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear unto this day."T When the great ignorance and delusion, and stupidity of idolators, in worshipping an image, which they have formed out of a tree, is described, it is, in the conclusion, all ascribed to their hearts. “ They have not known, nor understood ; for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see ; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
1 Peter ii. 9.
+ 2 Thess. i. 7, 8.
# Acts xxvi. 18. Col. i. 13.
Deut. xxix. 4.
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding, to say, I have burnt part of it in the fire, &c. He feedeth on ashes, . A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say,
Is there not a lie in my right hand ?"* St. Paul asserts the same of the Gentiles in general. They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”+ And he asserts the same of the Jews. That their blindness, respecting Christ and the gospel, was wholly in their hearts, or owing to the vail drawn over them by their opposition to God, and turning away from him : And that this blindness could not be removed, unless their hearts were renewed, and turned to the Lord. “Their minds were blinded.--Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”The evangelist John says the same of the Jews, which Isaiah had long before said of them. “ He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”] So all their ignorance and errors are ascribed to their evil hearts in the following words, taken from the 95th Psalm. " Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.”l! “ He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness, even until now. He that hateth his brother, is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” This darkness is here said to consist in the heart, in the evil disposition of that, in not loving but hating his brother, which is an exercise of the heart, and belongs to that only.
It hence appears why this darkness is always spoken of in divine revelation as criminal. It is sinful in ev
* Isai. xliv. 9-18, 19, 20. + Rom. i 21. Eph. iv. 18. 2 Cor. ii. 14, 15, 16, S John xii. 40. || Heb iü. 10. 1 1 John ii. 9, 11, His words are,
ery degree of it, as it consists in the moral depravity of the heart. This blindness of mind is not only connected with sinful depravity, but consists in the sinful exercises and lusts of the mind, and cannot be distinguished from sia in the heart. Sin is in every degree and in every exercise of it, delusion and blindness itself: And when the heart is totally corrupt or sinful, which is true of every unrenewed heart, as has been proved, this blindness, this moral darkness, is total, and wholly excludes every degree of the opposite, which is called light, understanding, knowledge and wisdom, in the scriptures. It is, according to scripture, a wilful blindness, being wholly owing to the opposition of the heart to the light of moral truth, or rather, consisting altogether in this. It is represented by closing the eyes to keep light out, however clearly it may shine, and can be kept out by nothing but by not making a right use of the eyes, by refusing to open them. Men are naturally totally blind to the things of the moral world, except it be only in mere speculation, because they are totally corrupt, and wholly abuse and pervert the natural powers and facul. ties of their mind, and their capacity of moral exercises and true discernment, by loving darkness and hating the light. Consequently, this blindness is nothing but sin, and consists wholly in the criminal, inexcusable exercise of the will or heart. Hence this darkness is condemned and forbidden by God in his word ; and they who are in this sense blind, are commanded to open their mental eye, to renounce the darkness and delusions in which they are, and receive the knowledge of the truth, in the love of it. “ Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see."* “ Awake, thou that
' epest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”+ And hence Christ, when he was on earth, and since his ascension to heaven, did so often say, “He that hath cars to hear, let him hear. He that hath an ear, let him hear."
And that the above representation of this matter is agreeable to truth and to scripture, is confirmed beyond all dispute, by the most plain and express statement of it, by our Saviour himself.
“ He that
* Isaiah xlii. 18.
Eph. v. 14.