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ATTRIBUTES OF LOVE - 2 - A, PREVIOUS LECTURE - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FACEBOOK
8. Efficiency is another attribute or characteristic of benevolence. Benevolence consists in choice, intention. Now we know from consciousness that choice or intention constitutes the mind's deepest source or power of action. If I honestly intend a thing, I cannot but make efforts to accomplish that which I intend, provided that I believe the thing possible. If I choose an end, this choice must and will energize to secure its end. When benevolence is the supreme choice, preference, or intention of the soul, it is plainly impossible that it should not produce efforts to secure its end. It must cease to exist, or manifest itself in exertions to secure its end, as soon as, and whenever the intelligence deems it wise to do so. If the will has yielded to the intelligence in the choice of an end, it will certainly obey the intelligence in pursuit of that end. Choice, intention, is the cause of all the outward activity of moral agents. They have all chosen some end, either their own gratification, or the highest good of being; and all the busy bustle of this world's teeming population, is nothing else than choice or intention seeking to compass its end.
Efficiency, therefore, is an attribute of benevolent intention. It must, it will, it does energize in God, in angels, in saints on earth and in heaven. It was this attribute of benevolence, that led God to give His only begotten Son, and that led the Son to give Himself, "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
If love is efficient in producing outward action, and efficient in producing inward feelings; it is efficient to wake up the intellect, and set the world of thought in action to devise ways and means for realizing its end. It wields all the infinite natural attributes of God. It is the mainspring that moves all heaven. It is the mighty power that is heaving the mass of mind, and rocking the world like a smothered volcano. Look to the heavens above. It was benevolence that hung them out. It is benevolence that sustains those mighty rolling orbs in their courses. It was good will endeavoring to realize its end that at first put forth creative power. The same power, for the same reason, still energizes, and will continue to energize for the realization of its end, so long as God is benevolent. And O! What a glorious thought, that infinite benevolence is wielding, and will forever wield, infinite natural attributes for the promotion of good! No mind but an infinite one can begin to conceive of the amount of good that Jehovah will secure. O blessed, glorious thought! But it is, it must be a reality, as surely as God and the universe exist. It is no vain imagination; it is one of the most certain, as well as the most glorious, truths in the universe. Mountains of granite are but vapor in comparison with it. But the truly benevolent on earth and in heaven will sympathize with God. The power that energizes in Him, energizes in them. One principle animates and moves them all, and that principle is love, good will to universal being. Well may our souls cry out, Amen, go on, God-speed the work; let this mighty power heave and wield universal mind, until all the ills of earth shall be put away, and until all that can be made holy are clothed in the garments of everlasting gladness.
Since benevolence is necessarily, from its very nature, active and efficient in putting forth efforts to secure its end, and since its end is the highest good of being, it follows that all who are truly religious will, and must, from the very nature of true religion, be active in endeavoring to promote the good of being. While effort is possible to a Christian, it is as natural to him as his breath. He has within him the very mainspring of activity, a heart set on the promotion of the highest good of universal being. While he has life and activity at all, it will, and it must, be directed to this end. Let this never be forgotten. An idle, an inactive, inefficient Christian is a misnomer. Religion is an essentially active principle, and when and while it exists, it must exercise and manifest itself. It is not merely good desire, but it is good willing. Men may have desires, and hope and live on them, without making efforts to realize their desires. They may desire without action. If their will is active, their life must be. If they really choose an ultimate end, this choice must manifest itself. The sinner does and must manifest his selfish choice, and so likewise must the saint manifest his benevolence.
9. Complacency in holiness or moral excellence, is another attribute of benevolence. This consists in benevolence contemplated in its relations to holy beings. This term also expresses both a state of the intelligence and of the sensibility. Moral agents are so constituted, that they necessarily approve of moral worth or excellence; and when even sinners behold right character, or moral goodness, they are compelled to respect and approve it, by a law of their intelligence. This they not infrequently regard as evidence of goodness in themselves. But this is doubtless just as common in hell as it is on earth. The vilest sinners on earth or in hell, have, by the unalterable constitution of their nature, the necessity imposed upon them, of paying intellectual homage to moral excellence. When a moral agent is intensely contemplating moral excellence, and his intellectual approval is emphatically pronounced, the natural, and often the necessary result, is a corresponding feeling of complacency or delight in the sensibility. But this being altogether an involuntary state of mind, has no moral character. Complacency, as a phenomenon of will, consists in willing the highest actual blessedness of the holy being in particular, as a good in itself, and upon condition of his moral excellence.
This attribute of benevolence is the cause of a complacent state of the sensibility. It is true, that feelings of complacency may exist, when complacency of will does not exist. But complacency of feeling surely will exist, when complacency of will exists. Complacency of will implies complacency of conscience, or the approval of the intelligence. When there is a complacency of intelligence and of will, there must follow, of course, complacency of the sensibility.
It is highly worthy of observation here, that this complacency of feeling is that which is generally termed love to God and to the saints, in the common language of Christians, and often in the popular language of the Bible. It is a vivid and pleasant state of the sensibility, and very noticeable by consciousness, of course. Indeed, it is perhaps the general usage now to call this phenomenon of the sensibility, love; and, for want of just discrimination, to speak of it as constituting religion. Many seem to suppose that this feeling of delight in, and fondness for, God, is the love required by the moral law. They are conscious of not being voluntary in it, as well they may be. They judge of their religious state, not by the end for which they live, that is, by their choice or intention, but by their emotions. If they find themselves strongly exercised with emotions of love to God, they look upon themselves as in a state well-pleasing to God. But if their feelings or emotions of love are not active; they of course judge themselves to have little or no religion. It is remarkable to what extent religion is regarded as a phenomenon of the sensibility, and as consisting in mere feelings. So common is it, indeed, that almost uniformly, when professed Christians speak of their religion, they speak of their feelings, or the state of their sensibility, instead of speaking of their conscious consecration to God, and the good of being.