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imagination of the thought of the heart is evil, only evil continually." We are assured that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." The errors of the understanding, are ascribed to the influence of the heart. "A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand." Another objection to this exposition is, that it exhibits a religion purely selfish. He who loves God merely because he conceives that God loves him, can be said only to love himself. But the religion of the Bible is spoken of as a charity that seeketh not her own. It discovers in holiness an intrinsic value, which renders it lovely for its own sake, independently of any relation which it may sustain to us.
This exposition is contrary to all the examples given us in Scripture of apostolic preaching. It was the aim of the apostles to make their hearers see their own vileness, and feel that the wrath of God hung over them. Says an apostle, "by the terrors of the Lord we persuade men." But what can this mean, if there is no other depravity than what consists in a mistake of the understanding? But no apostle preached a doctrine like this, and no man may thus preach without the danger of contradicting the records of eternal truth.
There is another exposition of this text which has a higher claim upon our faith. It is this. If God had not viewed us with a benevolent regard, even when we were dead in sins, we should have continued his enemies. Divine compassion originated the plan, and provided the means, of redemption. The same benevolence led him to awaken, convict, and renew us. We are Christians, because God viewed us with pity, and made us the willing and thankful recipients of his mercy. Thus we love him because he first loved us, because he was led by his good will to change our hearts, to give us holy affections.
The difference in the two expositions is this. The first, which I consider as altogether incorrect, represents the love of God to us as our only motive for loving him. The second, which although perhaps deficient, certainly approximates toward the truth, represents the benevolence of God as that which moved him to prepare the way for our redemption, and bring our hearts to love him.
This exposition accords with the main object of this epistle, which dwells much on the love of God, manifested in providing redemption for our miserable world. We read in the context, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live
through him. Herein was love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation of our sins." In the gospel written by this same apostle, we read, "God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
This exposition accords with other portions of Scripture. The Bible everywhere lays the foundation of the Christian Church in the everlasting love of God to our miserable world. In no case would a sinner ever love God, if God had not first loved him. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." And "we also enjoy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Thus the love of God is considered as laying the foundation of our salvation, and it must, of course, be the first cause of our love to him. But
It is thought there is a deficiency in this last exposition. Certainly none will deny but that the great scheme of redemption has its foundation in the eternal love of God; that his grace furnished the atonement, and that his Spirit carries our hearts to love, and finishes our sanctification; hence the love of God is the cause of love to him.
But, on the other hand, it is contended, that God's love to us is a proper motive for loving him; not the only motive, it is true; for if we love him only because we apprehend that he loves us, our affections are purely selfish. But why not love him for what he is, and yet our love increases on discovering that he loves us? If the question in controversy be simply this, may God's love to us become a proper motive of our love to him? the question, it would seem, must be answered in the affirmative. Compassion in the heart of God for miserable beings is a lovely trait in his character; and when discovered, is a reason why we should love him and if we may love him because he felt compassion for other miserable beings, why not because he had pity on us? Hence, when we discover that the God we have hated has always received us with compassion, this discovery should awaken our love.
That God can exercise no other love to impenitent sinners but that of good will, there scarcely needs an argument to prove. No unregenerate man, whose heart is at enmity against God, can possibly be to him an object of complacency. If then he wait till he discover that God is pleased with him before he can love his Ma54
ker, he must wait for ever. But the idea that God is a merciful being enters, or ought to enter, into every contemplation of the Divine character. We are no more required to love a God all justice, holiness, and truth, than a God of all mercy. Why may it not happen, then, that a sinner, when he first contemplates the God of heaven with seriousness, may think of his good will to our miserable world, and to himself, with others? And while he looks at God, and his heart is changed into love, this very trait in the Divine character may be the first thing discovered, and may become a most powerful attractive to his affections. Thus he loves God, among other reasons, because God first loved him. The text has unquestionable reference to a kind of love felt by the Creator for his creatures while dead in sin; and this would be no other than mere good will. This trait in the Divine character, and there is no other more prominent, the sinner may discover as soon as any. Nor would it be surprising if this should be the first attribute of Jehovah that should attract his gaze. It would be mistaking the true character of God, if one should conceive of him as destitute of compassion for the wretched. Still the good man will love the whole of the Divine character. If his benevolence engrosses the whole of our affections, it needs no argument to prove, that our hearts are not yet right with God. This is the danger to be avoided. Many, all on a sudden, have seemed to be absorbed with a sense of the Divine goodness, who yet manifested an incurable enmity to every view of God as holy, sovereign, and unchangeable. One trait of the Divine character had caught their admiration, and for a time they were filled with love; but when, at length, they were constrained to view God in some other aspect, their love subsided. They could not contemplate, but with a frown, those doctrines which do honor to his severer attributes. We must love the Divine character as it is. The God we worship must be holy as well as merciful, else we do not worship the Jehovah of the Bible.
Probably with a view to guard men against a selfish religion, the character of God has been exhibited in false colors. It has been said, "God made man upright, and then exerted a positive agency in making him a rebel. He contrives a plan of redemption, but reprobates some in the outset, fits them for hell, places them in that world, makes the righteous rejoice while the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever,' and may do so because they are all his creatures." Now I very much question whether in this exhibition, we are presented with a correct view
of the Divine character. The Scriptures do not give us this view of God. While he is there exhibited as a sovereign, who does his pleasure in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants, of the earth, and worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, they also describe him as a God of mercy. He bears long with the being he hates, and pities the very wretch he destroys. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim"? Now why should the divine benevolence be undiscovered in those perfections which constitute the object of our worship?
But on the other hand, God has been exhibited as scarcely possessing any other attribute than mercy. This has been spoken of as his darling attribute, while his sovereignty, his purity, and his veracity have been obscured in the dazzling light of the favorite perfection. Perhaps such a view of God is still more dangerous than the other. Give him no desire to guide his operations, no sovereignty to render his throne august, no inflexibility of veracity to ensure the execution of his law, no holiness to render sin hateful, no omniscience to search out the culprit, and no power to make himself respected, and the veriest fiend of perdition will presume on his mercy. No man is too depraved to love a God like this. But no such God exists, and every such hope in his salva tion, is without foundation.
"A pardoning God is jealous still
God will own neither of these characters. We must leave him in possession of all his attributes, and still love him. Mercy and truth must meet together. We must adore him as possessed of every holy and gracious attribute, and whichsoever of these first attracts our gaze should melt us into love.
We see thus why religion in different persons wears a very different aspect. One has viewed too exclusively the mercy of God, and hence his religion, though full of praise, is deficient in solemnity and humility. There attends it a lightness which sometimes begets a doubt of its sincerity. Another has reflected too exclusively on the severer attributes of the Divine character, and has almost forgotten that compassion has any place in the heart of God; hence his religion will be likely to be gloomy. He will be prone to fear and adore his Maker, but will hardly dare to praise. The medium of these extremes is the religion that does honor to the whole of the Divine character. It is a religion, pleasant, cheerful and humble; a religion which will render the soul happy, and which God will approve and honor.
A PLEA FOR THE SCRIPTURES.
THE Bible professes to be the book of God, inspired by his Spirit, and sent to be the guide to life and salvation of this ruined world. It would seem that there could be but one opinion respecting this book; but there are two. While some have accepted, others have rejected it, as being a revelation from God. Two questions then arise: "Why do unbelievers reject it? and "Why do believers receive it?" These questions, permit me to
Why do unbelievers reject the Bible? I shall notice now merely the more common objections.
I would here mention-First, The exclusiveness of its religion. All other religions, unless the Mohammedan be excepted, are more catholic than the religion of the Bible. The worshipers of Thor and Jupiter and Moloch would have placed the image of Jesus Christ in their temples and worshiped him, if his disciples would have reciprocated this catholicism, and would have worshiped the images of their gods. If they would have only yielded the point that there is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved, there would have been no quarrel between, Christianity and heathenism.
And if this compromise could now be made, and Christianity did not require a belief of the whole Bible history, and all the Bible doctrines and predictions together, with the deity of Jesus Christ, and the practice of all the duties of the Bible, there would be no But all this goes to say that men would not quarrel with the Bible, if they might disbelieve it, and be saved without it, and pour their contempt upon it.
But is it not reasonable to believe that if God give a revelation to this world, he will give it to the whole world, and require all men to receive it all, and make it the only way to everlasting life? If not thus broad in its application and its claims, it becomes a partial salvation, and thus it must tell how many and who of the human family may feel themselves interested in its contents.
But the objector inquires, why has it not been given to the whole world? why has God published a system of salvation, and left three quarters, and in some ages almost the world's entire population, without a knowledge of his will? If this objection could not be satisfactorily answered, it would present no formidable barrier to our