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It is also somewhat common for them to speak of their views of Christ, and of truth, in a manner that shows, that they regard the states of the intellect as constituting a part, at least, of their religion. It is of great importance that just views should prevail among Christians upon this momentous subject. Virtue, or religion, as has been repeatedly said, must be a phenomenon of the will. The attribute of benevolence which we are considering, that is, complacency of will in God, is the most common light in which the scriptures present it, and also the most common form in which it lies revealed on the field of consciousness. The scriptures often assign the goodness of God as a reason for loving Him, and Christians are conscious of having much regard to His goodness in their love to Him; I mean in their good will to Him. They will good to Him, and ascribe all praise and glory to Him, upon the condition that He deserves it. Of this they are conscious. Now, as was shown in a former lecture, in their love or good will to God, they do not regard His goodness as the fundamental reason for willing good to Him. Although His goodness is that, which, at the time, most strongly impresses their minds, yet it must be that the intrinsic value of His well-being is assumed, and had in view by them, or they would no sooner will good than evil to Him. In willing His good they must assume its intrinsic value to Him, as the fundamental reason for willing it; and His goodness as a secondary reason or condition; but they are conscious of being much influenced in willing His good in particular, by a regard to His goodness. Should you ask the Christian why he loved God, or why he exercised good will to Him, he would probably reply, it is because God is good. But, suppose he should be further asked, why he willed good rather than evil to God; he would say, because good is good or valuable to Him. Or, if he returned the same answer as before, to wit, because God is good, he would give this answer, only because he would think t impossible for any one not to assume and to know, that good is willed instead of evil, because of its intrinsic value. The fact is, the intrinsic value of well-being is necessarily taken along with the mind, and always assumed by it, as a first truth. When a virtuous being is perceived, this first truth being spontaneously and necessarily assumed, the mind thinks only of the secondary reason or condition, or the virtue of the being, in willing good to him.
Before I dismiss this subject, I must advert again to the subject of complacent love, as a phenomenon of the sensibility, and also as a phenomenon of the intellect. If I mistake not, there are sad mistakes, and gross and ruinous delusions, entertained by many upon this subject. The intellect, of necessity, perfectly approves of the character of God where it is apprehended. The intellect is so correlated to the sensibility, that, where it perceives in a strong light the divine excellence, or the excellence of the divine law, the sensibility is affected by the perception of the intellect, as a thing of course and of necessity; so that emotions of complacency and delight in the law, and in the divine character, may and often do glow and burn in the sensibility, while the will or heart is unaffected. The will remains in a selfish choice, while the intellect and the sensibility are strongly impressed with the perception of the Divine excellence. This state of the intellect and the sensibility is, no doubt, often mistaken for true religion. We have undoubted illustrations of this in the Bible, and similar cases of it in common life. "Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: "they ask of Me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God" (Isaiah 58:2). "And, Lo, Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear Thy words, but they do them not" (Ezek. 33:32).
Nothing is of greater importance, than forever to understand, that religion is always and necessarily a phenomenon of the will; that it always and necessarily produces outward action and inward feeling; that, on account of the correlation of the intellect and sensibility, almost any and every variety of feeling may exist in the mind, as produced by the perceptions of the intellect, whatever the state of the will may be; that unless we are conscious of goodwill, or of consecration to God and the good of being-unless we are conscious of living for this end, it avails us nothing, whatever our views and feelings may be.
And also it behooves us to consider that, although these views and feelings may exist while the heart is wrong, they will certainly exist when the heart is right; that there may be feeling, and deep feeling, when the heart is in a selfish attitude, yet, that there will and must be deep emotion and strenuous action, when the heart is right. Let it be remembered, that complacency, as a phenomenon of the will, is always a striking characteristic of true love to God; that the mind is affected and consciously influenced, in willing the actual and infinite blessedness of God, by a regard to His goodness. The goodness of God is not, as has been repeatedly shown, the fundamental reason for the goodwill, but it is one reason or a condition, both of the possibility of willing, and of the obligation to will His blessedness in particular. It assigns to itself, and to others, His goodness as the reason for willing His good, rather than the intrinsic value of good; because this last is so universally, and so necessarily assumed, that it thinks not of mentioning it, taking it always for granted, that this will and must be understood.
10. Opposition to sin is another attribute or characteristic of true love to God.
This attribute certainly is implied in the very essence and nature of benevolence. Benevolence is good willing, or willing the highest good of being as an end. Now there is nothing in the universe more destructive of this good than sin. Benevolence cannot do otherwise than be forever opposed to sin, as that abominable thing which it necessarily hates. It is absurd and a contradiction to affirm, that benevolence is not opposed to sin. God is love or benevolence. He must, therefore, be the unalterable opponent of sin of all sin, in every form and degree.
But there is a state, both of the intellect and of the sensibility, that is often mistaken for the opposition of the will to sin. Opposition to all sin is, and must be, a phenomenon of the will, and on that ground alone it becomes virtue. But it often exists also as a phenomenon of the intellect, and likewise of the sensibility. The intellect cannot contemplate sin without disapproval. This disapproval is often mistaken for opposition of heart, or of will. When the intellect strongly disapproves of, and denounces sin, there is naturally and necessarily a corresponding feeling of opposition to it in the sensibility, an emotion of loathing, of hatred, of abhorrence. This is often mistaken for opposition of the will, or heart. This is manifest from the fact, that often the most notorious sinners manifest strong indignation in view of oppression, injustice, falsehood, and many other forms of sin. This phenomenon of the sensibility and of the intellect, as I said, is often mistaken for a virtuous opposition to sin, which-it cannot be unless it involve an act of the will.