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THE JOY OF LOVE,
"Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."
KEEPING up the personification of love as presented by the Apostle, we may observe that it has its joys and its sorrows; and its smiles and its tears are the expressions of good will-the tokens of benevolence. We are first told in what it does not take complacency-" It rejoiceth not in iniquity."
Sin is, in itself, an evil of enormous magnitude. As committed against a Being whom we are under infinite obligation to love, and serve, and glorify, it must partake of infinite degrees of demerit. It is a violation of that law which, as an emanation from the perfection of the Deity, is itself perfect, and well deserves the eulogium pronounced upon it by the Apostle, when he declares it to be "holy, and just, and good." As this is the rule of government to the moral universe, and intended to preserve its order, dependence, and harmony; sin, by opposing its authority, disturbs this order, breaks this dependence, and seeks to introduce the reign of confusion and misery. None, but the infinite mind, is competent to calculate the mischief which is likely to be
produced by a single act of sin, if left to itself without a remedy, or without a punishment. We have only to see what sin has done, to judge of its most evil and hateful nature. All the misery which either is or ever will be on earth, or in hell, is the result of sin. It is the greatest evil-the only evil in the universe. It is the opposite, and the enemy to God; the contrast to all that is pure and glorious in his divine attributes, and ineffably beautiful perfections; and, as such, it is that which he cannot but hate with a perfect hatred. It is not merely the opposite of his nature, but the opponent of his government-the rebel principle that disputes with him for his seat of majesty and the dominion of the universe, saying to him, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther;" seeking to cast him down from the throne which he hath prepared in the heavens, and to rise, with impious usurpation, into the holy place of the high and lofty One. Sin would thus stop the fountain of life and blessedness, by ending the reign of infinite beneficence; and is, therefore, the enemy of everything that constitutes the felicity of the various orders of rational existence. The happiness of angels and archangels, of cherubim and seraphim, and of the spirits made perfect above, as well as of those who are renewed by the grace of God on earth, arises from holiness; separate and apart from holiness, there can be no happiness for an intellectual being. Now sin is the contrary of holiness, and thus the enemy of happiness. How, then, can love delight in iniquity? If it wills the felicity of rational beings, it must hate that which directly resists and extinguishes it.
And as it cannot delight in sin in the abstract, so neither can it take pleasure in committing it: for whoever commits it, in so far approves of it, upholds its dominion, extends its reign, diffuses its mischief, and does all he can to recommend it. If his transgression be a common one, he gives the patronage of his example to all of the same kind; and if it be a new one, he becomes an inventor and propagator upon earth of a fresh curse and tormentor. That many do delight in committing iniquity cannot be doubted; they follow it with greediness, and drink it in as the thirsty ox drinketh in water. The Scripture speaks of the joys of fools, and of the pleasures of sin. Horrid as is the association between sin and gratification, it certainly exists. Some men have gone so far as to be self-murderers, but who ever took pleasure in the act of destroying themselves? Whoever drank the poison, as he would wine, with a merry heart? Whoever dallied in sportive pleasure with the pistol or the dagger, or wound the cord in jocularity round his throat before he strangled himself with it? Whoever went skipping with a light fantastic step to the edge of the precipice, or the brink of the river, from which he was about to plunge into eternity? And yet sinners do all this, in reference to their souls. They commit self-murder, the murder of their immortal spirits, to the song of the drunkard, the noise of music, the smile of a harlot, and the laugh of the fool. They sin, and not only so, but delight in iniquity. So does not charity.
Nor can it delight in the sins of others. It cannot do as fools do, "make a mock of sin." It is most
horrid to find pastime and sport in those acts of transgression by which men ruin their souls. Some laugh at the reeling gait, and idiot looks, and maniac gestures, of the drunkard, whom, perhaps, they have first led on to intoxication, to afford them merriment; or they are diverted by the oaths of the swearer, whose malice and revenge are at work to invent new forms of profanity; or they are made merry by the mischief with which the persecutors of the righteous often oppose and interrupt the solemnity of worship; or they attack, with raillery and scorn, the tender consciences of the saints, and loudly applaud the wit which aims its sharpened arrows against religion. But love weeps over sin, as that which brings the greatest misery. "For sin is the greatest and highest infelicity of the creature, depraves the soul within itself, vitiates its powers, deforms its beauty, extinguishes its light, corrupts its purity, darkens its glory, disturbs its tranquillity and peace, violates its harmonious joyful state and order, and destroys its very life. It disaffects it to God, severs it from him, engages his justice and influences his wrath against it. What! to rejoice in sin, that despites the Creator, and hath wrought such tragedies in the creation!-that turned angels out of heaven, man out of paradise !—that hath made the blessed God so much a stranger to our world; broken off the intercourse in so great a part, between heaven and earth; obstructed the pleasant commerce which had otherwise probably been between angels and men; so vilely debased the nature of man, and provoked the displeasure of his Maker towards him! —that once overwhelmed the world with a deluge of
water, and will again ruin it by a destructive fire! To rejoice in so hateful a thing as sin, is to do that mad part, to cast about firebrands, arrows and death, and say, "Am I not in sport?"-it is to be glad that such an one is turning a man into a devil! a reasonable, immortal soul, capable of heaven, into a fiend of hell!-to be glad that such a soul is tearing itself off from God, is blasting its own eternal hopes, and destroying all its possibilities of a future well being. Blessed God! how opposite a thing is this to charity-the offspring of God! The birth of heaven, as it is here below, among mortals s; the beauty and glory of it, as it is there above, in its natural seal. The eternal bond of living union among the blessed spirits that inhabit there, and which would make our world, did it universally obtain here, another heaven." *
No it is the sport of devils, not of men who feel the influence of love, to delight in sin. We justly condemn the cruelty of the Romans, in glutting their eyes with the scenes of the amphitheatre, where the gladiators were torn in pieces by the fangs of lions and tigers; but theirs was innocent recreation, compared with that of the perverted and wicked mind, which can be gratified by seeing an immortal creature ruining and damning his most precious soul. Go, laugh at the agonies of the wretched man tortured upon the rack, and make merry with his distorted features, and strange and hideous. cries;-go, laugh at the convulsive throes of the epileptic ;-go to the field of battle, and mock the
Howe on "Charity in Reference to other Men's Sins."