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of this error; yet, in a more refined form, they embrace it, and shape their idea of God from their own wishes, rather than from the truth. Loving sin themselves, they do not appreciate the holiness of God, which abhors and opposes every sin with an infinite intensity. Partial always to themselves, they do not appreciate the impartiality of God, who condemns them according to their deserts. Regarding God's love as a fondness, blind and partial as their own, they fail to recognize, in their harmony, "the goodness and the severity of God." Changeful themselves, they do not appreciate God's unchangeableness, alike in his requirements, his threatenings, and his promises. Short-sighted and impatient, they do not appreciate the eternal plans of Him with whom one day is as a thousand years, and who, through the changes of many generations, pursues his purpose to its accomplishment. Accustomed to act with prime reference to their own interests, they sometimes even settle it as a first principle of their creed, that God must always act, as they do, for their personal good, and that, whatever their character, he will eternally busy himself to make them blessed; so that God is nothing but the man's own selfish wishes, embodied and clothed with almightiness. Selfishness itself can never be conscious of opposition to such a God. Sin itself will love God, if he is pictured as what the sinner wishes him to be, rather than what he is. So Paul, in his impenitence, thought that he loved Godnay, that he had an extraordinary zeal for him; but he says, "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." When the law of God, applied to his conscience, showed him God's true character, he found himself an enemy of God. Such a discovery is essential to the beginning of true love to God in every unrenewed heart. True love to God fastens, not on a god of the human imagination, but on the God of the Bible--the holy, the just, the good.
II. Love to God implies complacency in his character. Mere knowledge does not insure love. If the heart delights not in a character, the knowledge of that character will awaken hatred; and in this case, the clearer and more accurate the knowledge, the greater the dislike. The more closely opposite natures are made to know each other, and are brought into contact, the more powerfully they are repelled. Hence a clear knowledge of God in those whose hearts do not delight in him, only arouses the hidden enmity of the heart. Satan, of all creatures, knows God the best, and hates him the most. Hence, while those who love God, when they go into his presence in eternity, and there discover his character as they had never discovered it before, break out uncontrollably into praise,-those of a contrary character, when they, in eternity, behold God in all his holiness and glory-when they behold him as he actually is-begin at once, and continue for ever, to curse and to blaspheme him.
You sometimes say of a man, "The more I know him, the more I dislike him." This may be owing to his wickedness, which you more and more discover. But his must be a fearful depravity, if, the more clearly and correctly he knows the actual character of God's spotless holiness, the more he dislikes it. Yet such must be the fact. unless there be in the heart a complacency in God's character. On this point, therefore, I insist, that love to God implies complacency or delight in his character.
This complacency implies delight in God. You see a company of men before a fine painting; some will be enraptured with its beauty; others will express no delight in it. The reason is, that the former have, the latter have not, a taste for such beauties. There is a beauty in holiness as really as in a painting; the highest of all beauty is the beauty of holiness; and the highest form of that highest beauty is the beauty of holiness as it appears in God. They who love God appreciate that beauty; they delight in it; they love to contemplate it as it appears in God's attributes, as it is revealed in his Word, as it is exhibited in his acts of providence and grace, and especially as it shines in Jesus Christ. So it is with the angels and the glorified spirits: they are enraptured with the loveliness of God's character, so that they never tire of praising it; "they rest not day and night, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.'" So it is, in their measure, with all who love God on earth: they are delighted with the holiness of his character; the more they see of him, as he has revealed himself in his word and his works, the more they delight in him; and they say, "Who is a God like unto thee? Thy name alone is excellent, and thy glory is exalted above the heavens."
It is because those who love God feel this complacency in his character that praise is the natural language of love.
But complacency in God implies more than that delight in him which expends itself in contemplating and praising him; it implies, also, oneness of feeling with God; oneness of desires and aims, and similarity of disposition. It implies loving what God loves, and abhorring what he abhors.
Entire contrariety of disposition makes complete, full-orbed love impossible. A virtuous person cannot render perfect love to a vicious one; nor a vicious person to the virtuous. I know that a poet has ascribed to woman such words as these:
"I know not, I ask not, if there's guilt in thy heart;
And these words are continually quoted as the strongest expression, the very highest triumph of woman's love. But, my hear ers, the love that is not impaired, that does not lose something in discovering the criminality of its object, must be a love that sympathizes with that criminality. It is possible, indeed, for virtuous love to survive even that deadliest blow-the discovery
of criminality in the person loved. The parent may love his child, the wife her husband, the sister her brother, the son his parent, after the loved one has lost in drunkenness all that dignifies humanity. That love may follow its cherished object in infamy, yearn over him in prison and on the scaffold, and garner up his memory, when his name, by all the world beside, is consigned to loathing. But if the heart which thus loves is itself virtuous, that love, strong as it is, yet wants a most important element: it is love without esteem; it is love without complacency; it is the conflict in which nature and good-will draw you toward one who is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, and yet every exhibition of his character repels you with shuddering abhorrence. It is love, indeed-love living and activebut love that is maimed, and bleeds and groans as it goes forth to yearn over the cherished one. If your own heart is virtuous, criminality in one you love opens an impassible chasm between your soul and his. You two can never be one again, unless you sink to sympathy with his pollution, or he rises to delight in your virtue.
Precisely this deficiency exists in God's love to impenitent sinners. It is love throbbing with the pulsations of God's infinite heart, strong even unto the cross for their rescue; outlasting in the pleadings of a divine compassion years of crime and rebellion, yet destitute of the most essential element of love-destitute of complacency-abhorring the character of the sinner with an intensity of which only God is capable.
But if this contrariety of character impairs and cripples even the love of the virtuous for the vicious, how much more the love of the vicious heart. If the father's love for the prodigal son is impaired by the son's criminality, how much more the son, while in the midst of his riot and his harlots, was void of true love to his father. If even the love of God to sinners is robbed of its most precious element by this contrariety of character, how destitute of true love to God is the sinner in his worldliness and disobedience. Complacency in God, sweet accord with his character, he has none. He is opposed to God, and God is opposed to him.
Sin, then, is a fearful chasm between the sinner and God, which can in no way be crossed, unless God lay aside his holiness, sink to delight in sin, and fold the foulest to his bosom; or unless the sinner turn from his sins, and, washed and made clean, be folded to the bosom of infinite purity and love. This is the great gulf fixed. In the world to come, impassible from either side; in this life, the same yawning gulf, separating the sinner from God, until, by repentance, he returns and bows, in faith and submission, before the holy throne.
Here you may see the application to yourselves, it may be, of those fearful words: "The carnal mind is enmity against God." It is difficult for the most of those whom we usually see in this
house of God-for you who, if you think of God at all, think of him respectfully-for you who honor and support the institutions of religion-for you whose every thought of religion is kind and respectful-it is difficult for you to persuade yourselves that this fearful character belongs to you. You are ready to say: "It must be applicable only to those blasphemers who oppose religion in all its institutions, and hurl defiance at the throne of God." My hearers, I do not charge you with blasphemy or disrespect for religion; I do not charge you, that, in your inmost thoughts, you are conscious of thinking of God with hatred. But the charge is, that you have not complacency in God's character; that there is a contrariety between your disposition, your aims, your cherished plans, and God's. The energies of God's moral nature are concentrated in abhorrence of sin: you are careless about the fact that you are a sinner; you sometimes even acknowledge, "I know that I am a sinner, but cannot feel it." God has shown his earnestness to deliver men from sin in all the wondrous history of the incarnation and the cross: he speaks it in all the earnest warnings and entreaties of the Gospel. But you are a sinner, and are careless; you are the person described in those astonishing words-a CARELESS SINNER. The Son of God shed his blood for sin; you shed not a tear. God is intent on establishing Christ's kingdom in the world; you make not this the great end of your endeavors; it is not the object on which your heart is set: your object is self and the world. God lives to do good ; you live to please self. God is love; you are selfishness. Can there be a greater contrariety of aims, of interests, of feelings, of character, than between yourself and God? And does not this make applicable, as a description of your character, the emphatic words, "Enmity against God?" Be assured, there is no true love to God without complacency in him-complacency which implies both delight in the beauty of his holiness and a heart to praise it, and an agreement of disposition, aims, and character, with his. And he who has been separated from God by sin can begin to love him only by returning in penitence and trust, and submitting cordially to all his will.
It must be added, that this complacency in God, when it really exists, will continually be producing assimilation to him. This is a necessary effect of such love.
"Whate'er thou lovest, man, that, too, become thou must:
Because love causes delight in contemplating the beloved cha racter, and produces sympathy and accord of tastes, aims, and desires, there must result a growing assimilation of character. A virtuous woman, however she may love a vicious son or husband, withholds this highest element of love-esteem and complacency; and this withholding is essential to save her from becoming like him. When she begins to lose her abhorrence
for his character, the last stay of her virtue is broken, and she sinks into the likeness of him she loves. And once implant in the heart of that wanderer a love for some virtuous one-once awaken him to feel a kindling delight in this character beaming on him from the object of his love, and his reform is already begun, and will continue, if that love continues, till he attains the likeness of that virtue, the love of which has already begun to refresh his soul.
So it is in the affairs of religion--and a fearful thought it is to the worldling-to those whose hearts delight in the low and debasing. If you are saying to gold, "Thou art my hope," and to the most fine gold, "Thou art my confidence ;” if your heart is fastened on sensual joys, or idolizes the objects of ambition"Whate'er thou lovest, man, that, too, become thou must"-slowly but inevitably, by the silent influences of that very love, must your own heart be changed into the likeness of the earthly, the sensual, the devilish. But when once you begin to delight in the beauty of God's holiness-when your heart begins to beat in unison with his, going out in the same pure desires toward the same holy end, it is the beginning, however faint, of that assimilation to God which shall issue in the fulfilment of the sublimest promise ever made to man: "Ye shall see him as he is, and shall be like him :" ye shall see him in all the glories which awaken the enraptured praises of angels, and even thus ye shall be like him.
III. Love to God implies desire for him. racter awakens desire for his person.
Delight in his cha
We find our happiness in those whom we love. If we love God, we find our happiness in him. This was expressed by the saints of old in language such as this: "Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come near even unto his seat." "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee. As the heart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee. My soul followeth hard after God. There be many that say, 'Who will show us any good?' Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me."
We desire a better acquaintance with those whom we love. If we love God, we study with interest his character as revealed in his word and in his works, for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with him. So Moses prayed, "O Lord, I beseech thee, show me thy glory."
We are pained to be separated from those whom we love, and we think of them much in absence; so if we love God, we shall think of him; we shall be able to say with the Psalmist, "I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night-watches. When I awake, I am still with thee."
We seek the society of those whom we love; so if we love