Imatges de pÓgina

quired to love them, in the same way in of kindness, when he cannot, from the nawhich God loves his enemies. A conscien- ture of the object, feel for us the slightest tious man will feel oppressed by the diffi- degree of the love of moral esteem. In the culty of such a precept, if he try to put it same manner may we feel, we are not sayinto obedience, by loving those who have of-ing 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 per

fended, with the same feeling of complacency with which he loves those who have befriended him. But the truth is, that the love of moral esteem often enters, as a principal ingredient, into the love of complacency; and we are not required, by our imitation of the Godhead, to entertain any such affec-sonally benevolent to myself, and who has, tion for the depraved and the worthless. It at the same time, disgraced himself, by his is enough, that we cherish towards them in vices, that, bad as he is, he has been at all our hearts the love of kindness; and this times remarkably kind to me, and felt many will be felt a far more practicable achieve- a movement of friendship towards my perment, than to force up the love of compla-son, and done many a deed of important cency into a bosom, revolted by the aspect service to my family, and that I, at least, of treachery, or dishonesty, or unprincipled owe him a gratitude for all this,-that I, at selfishness. There is no possible motive to least, should be longer than others, of disexcite the latter affection. There may be a missing from my bosom the last remainder thousand to excite the former: and we have of cordiality towards him,-that if, infamy only to look to the unhappy man in all his and poverty have followed, in the career of prospects, and in all his relations; we have his wickedness, and he have become an only to pity his delusions, and to view him outcast from the attentions of other men, it

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 ore 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 trans

as the hapless victim of a sad and ruin-is not for me to spurn him instantly from ous infatuation; we have only to carry our my door,-or, in the face of my particular eye onwards to the agonies of that death, recollections, to look unpitying and unwhich will shortly lay hold of him, and to moved, at the wretchedness into which he compute the horrors of that eternity, which, has fallen. if not recovered from the error of his way, he is about to enter; we have only, in a word, to put forth an exercise of faith in certain near and impending realities, the evidence of which is altogether resistless, in order to summon up such motives, and such considerations, as may cause the compassion of our nature to predominate over the re-gression, and generously admitted me into sentment of our nature: and as will assure the privileges and the rewards of obeto a believer the victory over such urgen-dience,-I see in this a tenderness, and a cies of his constitution as, to the unrenewed mercy, and a love, for his creatures, which, heart, are utterly unconquerable. if blended at the same time with all that is But to resume our argument, let it be ob-high and honourable in the more august served that the kindness of God is one of the attributes of his nature, have the effect of loveliest, and most estimable of the attri-presenting him to my mind, and of drawbutes which belong to him. It is a bright ing out my heart in moral regard to him, feature in that assemblage of excellencies, as a most amiable and estimable object of which enter into the character of the God- contemplation. But besides this, there is a head: and, as such, independently altogether peculiar love of gratitude, excited by the of this kindness being exercised upon me, I consideration that I am the object of this should offer to it the homage of my moral benignity,-that I am one of the creatures approbation. But, should I be the special to whom he has directed this peculiar reand the signalized object of his kindness, gard,-that he has singled out me, and conthere is another sentiment towards God, be-ceived a gracious purpose towards me, and side the love of moral esteem, that ought to in the execution of this purpose is lavishing be formed within me by that circumstance, upon my person, the blessings of a father's and which, in the business of reasoning, care, and a father's tenderness. Both the should be kept apart from it. There is the love of moral esteem, and the love of gratilove of gratitude. These often go together, tude, may thus be in contemporaneous opand may be felt simultaneously, towards eration within me; and it will be seen to the one being we are employed in contem-accomplish a practical, as well as a metaplating. But they are just as distinct, each physical purpose, to keep the one apart from the other, as is the love of moral es- from the other, in the view of the mind, teem from the love of kindness. We trust when love towards God is the topic of specthat we have already convinced you, that ulation which engages it. God feels towards us, his inferiors, the love

But, farther, let it be understood, that the

love of gratitude differs from the love of knowledgment of them; and so it may be, moral esteem, not merely in the cause which when one looks to the venerable, and the immediately originates it, but also in the lovely in the character of God. The more object, in which it finds its rest and its grati-appropriate offering of the latter, is the offerfication. It is the kindness of another being ing of thanksgiving, or of such services as to myself, which originates within me the are fitted to please, and to gratify a bene'ove of gratitude towards him; and it is the factor. But still it may be observed, how view of what is morally estimable in this each of these simple affections tends to exbeing, that originates within me all the love press itself, by the very act which more of moral esteem, that I entertain for him. characteristically marks the workings of There is a real distinction of cause between the other; or, how the more appropriate these two affections, and there is also between offering of the first of them, may be promptthem a real distinction of object. The love ed under the impulse, and movement of of moral esteem finds its complacent grati- the second of them, and conversely. For, fication, in the act of dwelling contempla- if I love God because of his perfections, tively on that Being, by whom it is excited; what principle can more powerfully or more just as a tasteful enthusiast inhales delight directly lead to the imitation of them?from the act of gazing on the charms of which is the very service that he requires, some external scenery. The pleasure he and the very offering that he is most receives, emanates directly upon his mind, pleased with. And, if I love God because from the forms of beauty and of loveliness, of his goodness to me, what is more fitted which are around him. And if, instead of to prompt my every exertion, in the way


a taste for the beauties of nature, there ex-of spreading the honours of his character

ists within him, a taste for the beauties of holiness, then will he love the Being, who presents to the eye of his contemplation the fallest assemblage of them, and his taste will find its complacent gratification in dwelling 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 beneits?" 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


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 And, indeed, when the same Being com-instrument for the production of the other. bines, in his own person, that which ought "Keep yourselves in the love of God, buildto excite the love of moral esteem, with ing yourselves up on your most holy faith." 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 true, that the more appropriate offering

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

of the former is the offering of praise,- the mind of a peasant, and there work all just as when one looks to the beauties of the proper influences on his heart and chaature, he breaks out into a rapturous ac-racter, 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 onward 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

[ocr errors]

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.


Gratitude, not a sordid Affection.

"We love him, because he first loved us."-1 John iv. 19.

SOME theologians have exacted from an inquirer, at the very outset of his conversion, that he should carry in his heart what they call the disinterested love of God. They have set him on the most painful efforts to acquire this affection,--and that too, before he was in circumstances in which it was at all possible to entertain it. They have led him to view with suspicion the love of gratitude, as having in it a taint of selfishness. They are for having him to love God, and that on the single ground that he is lovely, without any reference to his own comfort, or even to his own safety. Strange demand which they make on a sentient being, that even amidst the fears and the images of destruction, he should find room in his heart for the love of complacency! and equally strange demand to mak on a sinful being, that ere he admit such a sense of reconciliation into his bosom, as will instantly call forth a grateful regard to him who has conferred it, he must view God with a disinterested affection; that from the deep and helpless abyss of his depravity, he must find, unaided, his ascending way to the purest and the sublimest emotion of moral nature; that ere he is delivered from fear he must love, even though it be said of love, that it casteth out fear; and that ere he is placed on the vantage ground of the peace of the Gospel, he must realize on his character, one of the most exalted of its perfections.

The effect of all this on many an anxious seeker after rest, has been most discouraging. With the stigma that has been affixed to the love of gratitude, they have been positively apprehensive of the inroads of this affection, and have studiously averted the eye of

their contemplation from the objects which are fitted to inspire it. In other words, they have hesitated to entertain the free of fers of salvation, and misinterpreted all the tokens of an embassy, which has proclaimed peace on earth and good will to men. They think that all which they can possibly gather, in the way of affection, from such a contemplation, is the love of gratitude; and that gratitude is selfishness; and that selfishness is not a gracious affection; and that ere they be surely and soundly converted, the love they bear to God must be of a totally disinterested character; and thus through another medium than that of a free and gratuitous dispensation of kindness, do they strive, by a misunderstood gospel, or without the gospel altogether, to reach a peace and a preparation which we fear, in their way of it, is to sinners utterly unattainable.

In the progress of this discourse let us endeavour, in the first place, to rescue the love of gratitude from the imputations which have been preferred against it,—and secondly, to assign to the love of kindness manifested to the world in the gospel, and to the faith by which that love is made to arise in the heart, the place and the preeminence which belong to them.

I. The proper object of the love of gratitude, is the being who has exercised towards me the love of kindness; and this is more correct than to say, that the proper object of this affection is the being who has conferred benefits upon me. I can conceive another to load me with benefactions, and at the same time, to evince that kindness towards me was not the principle which impelled him. It may be done reluctantly

The distinction which we are now ad-
verting to, is something more, than a mere
shadowy refinement of speculation. It may
be realized on the most trodden and ordi-

at the bidding of another, or it may be done | secret charm which so heightens and so mul-
to serve some interested purpose, or it may tiplies the pleasure of all the members of it;
be done to parade his generosity before the and, when transported from earth to heaven,
eye of the public. If it be not done from they will still feel, that while it is to the
a real principle of kindness to myself, I may benefits which God hath conferred that they
take his gifts, and I may find enjoyment in owe the possession and all the privileges of
the use of them; but I feel no gratitude to-existence; it is to a sense of the love which
wards the dispenser of them. Unless I see prompted these benefits, that they will owe
his kindness in them, I will not be grateful. the ecstatic charm of their immortality. It
It is true, that, in point of fact, gratitude is the beaming kindness of God upon them,
often springs from the rendering of a bene- that will put their souls into the liveliest
fit; but, lest we should confound things transports of gratitude and joy; and it is the
which are different, let it be well observed, reciprocation of this kindness on the part of
that this is only when the benefit serves as those, who, while they have fellowship with
the indication of a kind purpose, or of a the Father, and with the Son, have fellow-
kind affection, on the part of him who hath ship also with one another, that will cause the
granted it. And this may be proved, not joy of heaven to be full.
merely by showing, that there may be no
gratitude where there is a benefit, but also
by showing, that there may be gratitude
where there is no material benefit what-
ever. Just let the naked principle of kind-nary path of human experience, and is, in
ness discover itself, and though it have nei- fact, one of the most familiar exhibitions of
ther the power, nor the opportunity of genuine and unsophisticated nature in those
coming forth with the dispensation of any ranks of society where refinement is un-
service, it is striking to observe, how, upon known. Let one man go over any given
the bare existence of this affection being district of the city fully fraught with the
known, it is met by a grateful feeling, on materiel of benevolence; let him be the
the part of him to whom it is directed; and agent of some munificent subscription, and
what mighty augmentations may be given with nothing in his heart but just such
in this way, to the stock of enjoyment, and affections, and such jealousies, and such
that, by the mere reciprocation of kindness thoughtful anxieties, about a right and equi-
begetting kindness. For, to send the expres- table division, as belong to the general spirit
sion of this kindness into another's bosom, of his office; let him leave some substantial
it is not always necessary to do it on the deposit with each of the families; and then
vehicle of positive donation. It may be compute, if he can, the quantity of gratitude
conveyed by a look of benevolence; and which he carries away with him. It were
thus it is, that by the mere feeling of cor- a most unkind reflection on the lower orders,
diality, a tide of happiness may be made to and not more unkind than untrue, to deny
circulate throughout all the individuals of that there will be the mingling of some
an assembled company. Or it may be done gratitude, along with the clamour, and the
by a very slight and passing attention, and envy, and the discontent, which are ever sure
thus it is, that the cheap services of courte- to follow in the train of such a ministration.
ousness, may spread such a charm over the It is not to discredit the poor, that we intro-
face of a neighbourhood. Or it may be done duce our present observation; but to bring
by the very poorest member of human so- out, if possible, into broad and luminous ex-
ciety; and thus it is, that the ready and sin- hibition, one of the finest sensibilities which
cere homage of attachment from such a man, adorns them. It is to let you know the
may beam a truer felicity upon me, and high cast of character of which they are
call forth a livelier gratitude to him who capable; and how the glow of pleasure
has conferred it, than some splendid act of which arises in their bosoms, when the eye
patronage on the part of a superior. Or it of simple affection beams upon their per-
may be done by a Christian visiter in some sons, or upon their habitations, may not have
of the humblest of our city lanes, who, without one single taint of sordidness to debase it.
one penny to bestow on the children of want, And to prove this, just let another man go
may spread among them the simple con- over the same district, and in the train of
viction of her good will, and call down upon the former visitation; conceive him unbacked
her person the voice of thankfulness and of by any publie institution, to have nothing in
blessing from all their habitations. And his hand that might not be absorbed by the
thus it is, that by good will creating good needs of a single family, but that, utterly
will, a pure and gladdening influence will destitute as he is of the materiel, he has a
at length go abroad over the face of our heart charged and overflowing with the
world, and mankind will be made to know whole morale of benevolence. Just let him
the might and the mystery of that tie which go forth among the people, without one
is to bind them together into one family, other recommendation than an honest and
and they will rejoice in the power of that undissembled good will to them; and let


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

this good will manifest its existence, in any ing gratitude, may be made to circulate one of the thousand ways, by which it may throughout all our dwelling-places; if, in a be authenticated; and whether it be by the word, while they profess to serve the poor, cordiality of his manners, or by his sympa- they could be led to respect the poor, to do thy with their griefs, or by the nameless at- homage to that fineness of moral temperatentions and offices of civility, or by the ment which belongs to them, and which higher aim of that kindness which points to hitherto seems to have escaped, altogether, the welfare of their immortality, and evinces the eye of civil or political superintendence; its reality by its ready and unwearied ser- and they may rest assured, that let them vices among the young, or the sick, or the give as much in the shape of munificence dying; just let them be satisfied of the one as they will, if they add not the love to the fact, that he is their friend, and that all their liberality of the Gospel, they will never joys and all their sorrows are his own; he soften one feature of unkindness, or chase may be struggling with hardships and ne-away one exasperated feeling, from the cessities as the poorest of them all; but poor hearts of a neglected population. as they are, they know what is in his heart, But, beside the degree of purity in which and well do they know how to value it; and this principle may exist among the most from the voice of welcome, which meets destitute of our species, it is also of importhim in the very humblest of their tenements; ance to mark the degree of strength, in and from the smile of that heartfelt enjoy- which it actually exists among the most dement, which his presence is ever sure to praved of our species. And, on this subject, awaken, and from the influence of gracious- do we think that the venerable HOWARD ness which he carries along with him into has bequeathed to us a most striking and every house, and by which he lights up an valuable observation. You know the hishonest emotion of thankfulness in the bosom tory of this man's enterprises; how his doof every family, may we gather the existings, and his observations, were among the ence of a power, which worth alone, and veriest outcasts of humanity,-how he dewithout the accompaniment of wealth, can scended into prison houses, and there made bestow; a power to sweeten and subdue, himself familiar with all that could most and tranquillize, which no money can pur-revolt or terrify, in the exhibition of our chase, which no patronage can create. fallen nature; how, for this purpose, he made the tour of Europe; but instead of walking in the footsteps of other travellers, he toiled his painful and persevering way through these receptacles of worthlessness;

It will be readily acknowledged by all, that the most precious object in the management of a town, is to establish the reign of happiness and contentment among those who live in it. And it is interesting to mark and, sound experimentalist as he was, did the operations of those, who, without advert- he treasure up the phenomena of our naing to the principle that I now insist upon, ture, throughout all the stages of misforthink that all is to be achieved by the beg-tune, or depravity. We may well conceive garly elements which enter into the arith- the scenes of moral desolation that would metic of ordinary business; who rear their often meet his eye; and that, as he looked goodly scheme upon the basis of sums and to the hard, and dauntless, and defying computations; and think that by an over- aspect of criminality before him, he would whelming discharge of the materiel of be- sicken in despair of ever finding one remnevolence, they will reach an accomplish- nant of a purer and better principle, by ment which the morale of benevolence which he might lay hold of these unhappy alone is equal to. We are sure that it is not men, and convert them into the willing and to mortify our men of grave, and official, the consenting agents of their own amelioand calculating experience, that we tell ration. And yet such a principle he found, them, how, with all their strength, and all and found it, as he tells us, after years of their sagacity, they have only given their intercourse, as the fruit of his greater exmoney for that which is not meat, and perience, and his longer observation; and their labour for that which satisfieth not. gives, as the result of it, that convicts, and It is to illustrate a principle of our common that among the most desperate of them all, nature, so obvious, that to be recognized, it are not ungovernable, and that there is a needs only to be spoken of. And it were way of managing even them, and that the well, if in so doing their thoughts could be way is, without relaxing, in one iota, from led to the instrumentality of this principle, the steadiness of a calm and resolute discias the only way, in which they can redeem pline, to treat them with tenderness, and to the failures of their by-gone experience; if show them that you have humanity; and they could be convinced, that the agents of thus a principle, of itself so beautiful, that a zealous and affectionate Christianity can to expatiate upon it, gives in the eyes of alone do what all the influence of municipal some, an air of fantastic declamation to our weight and municipal wisdom cannot do; argument, is actually deponed to, by an aged if they could be taught what the ministra- and most sagacious observer. It is the very tions are, by which a pure and a respond-principle of our text; and it would appear

« AnteriorContinua »