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Concerning Divine Illumination.
THE divine oracles represent all the wicked, by which are meant all men who are not righteous, to be in a state of darkness; from which they only are recovered, who are born of God, and become real christians. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: They know not at what they stumble.”524524 Prov. iv. 19. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”525525 1 Cor. ii. 14. “Ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”526526 Eph. v. 8. All unbelievers, ungodly and disobedient, are said in scripture to be blind, and not to know God, in places too many to mention here. St. Paul says, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”527527 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, in flaming lire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.”528528 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. Agreeable to this, men are said by conversion, by which they become true christians, to have their eyes opened, and to be turned from darkness to light. To be called out of darkness into marvellous light. To be delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.529529 Acts xxvi. 18. Col. i. 13. 1 Peter ii. 9 And conversion from sin to God is described by being enlightened.530530 Heb. x. 32.
This ignorance and darkness, and the contrary light or knowledge, are, according to scripture, of a moral nature, and consequently consist not in intellectual ignorance, and knowledge, as distinct from any thing which belongs to the heart, and not implying any sensations and exercises of the latter: For that darkness or light which belongs to the intellect, or speculative understanding, as distinct from the heart, and in which the heart has no influence or concern, has nothing moral in it, and is neither virtuous nor vicious, sin or holiness. Therefore the scripture constantly speaks of this darkness and light, this ignorance or want of understanding, and the contrary understanding and knowledge, as having their seat in the heart, and belonging to that, and predicated of it, and as being, as that is, whether right or wrong, wholly corrupt or renewed. The following passages are sufficient to prove this. “Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear unto this day.”531531 Deut. xxix. 4. When the great ignorance and delusion, and stupidity of idolators, in worshipping an image, which they have formed out of a tree, is described, it is, in the conclusion, all ascribed to their hearts. “They have not known, nor understood; for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding, to say, I have burnt part of it in the fire, &:c. He feedeth on ashes. A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a He in my right hand?”532532 Isai. xliv. 9-18, 19, 20.
St. Paul asserts the same of the Gentiles in general. They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”533533 Rom. i 21. Eph. iv. 18. And he asserts the same of the Jews. That their blindness, respecting Christ and the gospel, was wholly in their hearts, or owing to the vail drawn over them by their opposition to God, and turning away from him: And that this blindness could not be removed, unless their hearts were renewed, and turned to the Lord. “Their minds were blinded.—Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”534534 2 Cor. iii. l4, 15, 16. The evangelist John says the same of the Jews, which Isaiah had long before said of them. “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”535535 John xii. 40. So all their ignorance and errors are ascribed to their evil hearts in the following words, taken from the 95th Psalm. “Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said. They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.”536536 Heb iii. 10. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness, even until now. He that hateth his brother, is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”537537 1 John ii. 9, 11. This darkness is here said to consist in the heart, in the evil disposition of that, in not loving but hating his brother, which is an exercise of the heart, and belongs to that only.
It hence appears why this darkness is always spoken of in divine revelation as criminal. It is sinful in every degree of it, as it consists in the moral depravity of the heart. This blindness of mind is not only connected with sinful depravity, but consists in the sinful exercises and lusts of the mind, and cannot be distinguished from sin in the heart. Sin is in every degree and in every exercise of it, delusion and blindness itself: And when the heart is totally corrupt or sinful, which is true of every unrenewed heart, as has been proved, this blindness, this moral darkness, is total, and wholly excludes every degree of the opposite, which is called light, understanding, knowledge and wisdom, in the scriptures. It is, according to scripture, a wilful blindness, being wholly owing to the opposition of the heart to the light of moral truth, or rather, consisting altogether in this. It is represented by closing the eyes to keep light out, however clearly it may shine, and can be kept out by nothing but by not making a right use of the eyes, by refusing to open them. Men are naturally totally blind to the things of the moral world, except it be only in mere speculation, because they are totally corrupt, and wholly abuse and pervert the natural powers and faculties of their mind, and their capacity of moral exercises and true discernment, by loving darkness and hating the light. Consequently, this blindness is nothing but sin, and consists wholly in the criminal, inexcusable exercise of the will or heart. Hence this darkness is condemned and forbidden by God in his word; and they who are in this sense blind, are commanded to open their mental eye, to renounce the darkness and delusions in which they are, and receive the knowledge of the truth, in the love of it. “Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see.”538538 Isaiah xlii. 18. “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”539539 Eph. v. 14. And hence Christ, when he was on earth, and since his ascension to heaven, did so often say, “He that hath cars to hear, let him hear. He that hath an ear, let him hear.”
And that the above representation of this matter is agreeable to truth and to scripture, is confirmed beyond all dispute, by the most plain and express statement of it, by our Saviour himself. His words are, “He that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light.”540540 John iii. 18, 19, 20. Believing on Christ implies a discerning the truth respecting the character of the Redeemer, and redemption by him, and approving and loving it: and in this does faith consist. Unbelief is directly the opposite; it is blindness and darkness itself. St. Paul says, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” It consists in opposition to the most desirable, charming, glorious light and truth, and in hating it, and loving the opposite darkness. Therefore this is a voluntary, chosen darkness. It is altogether criminal, and is that for which they are justly condemned.
It hence follows, that the light and understanding which is opposed to this moral darkness does also belong to the heart, and implies a virtuous character, and does consist in true holiness, or moral excellence. And in this light it is represented in the sacred writings. What Solomon asks, and God promises to give him, is called wisdom and knowledge, in one place,541541 2 Chron. i. 10, 11. and in another place, is called a wise and understanding heart.542542 1 Kings iii. 9, 12. Indeed, true wisdom has its seat in the heart or will, and consists essentially in the right moral disposition of the mind, as has been shewn: And it is abundantly evident, that the word is generally used in this sense in the scripture. And this in scripture is the same with true light, or discerning, understanding and knowledge. The virtuous, holy heart, is an enlightened, wise and understanding heart. And the totally depraved, vicious heart, is darkness itself, blind, foolish, and without understanding. That true light and knowledge, the knowledge of God, does not consist in mere speculation, but depends upon the heart, and consists in the moral disposition and exercises of that, is evident from the following words of God by Jeremiah: “I will give them an heart to know me.”543543 Jer. xxiv. 7. Therefore our Saviour placed all holiness of heart, and all true happiness, in the knowledge of the only true God, and the Redeemer, as the whole is comprehended in this. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.”544544 John xvii. 3. Agreeable to this the Psalmist says, “Give me understanding and I shall keep thy law: Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Give me understanding, and I shall live.”545545 Psalm cxix. 34, 144. That the illumination which takes place in the mind, in regeneration and conversion, respects the heart, and has its seat in that, is asserted by St. Paul in the following words: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”546546 2 Cor. iv. 6. And that true light and knowledge implies renovation of heart, or true holiness, and is really the same thing, is evident from St. Paul’s mentioning these as synonymous. In his epistle to the Colossians, he describes the new man, or renewed hearty in the following words: “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him.”547547 Col. iii. 10. And in his epistle to the Ephesians, in describing the same new man, he uses these words; “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. ”548548 Eph. iv. 23, 24. From these two passages, compared together, it may be inferred with certainty, that knowledge comprehends righteousness and true holiness, and is the same thing.
That true light and knowledge, the knowledge of God, which is peculiar to them who are renewed and born of the Spirit of God, is seated in the heart, and implies voluntary exercise, even that love, in which all holiness consists, according to scripture, may be proved from the following passage: “Beloved, let us love one another: For love is of God: and every one that loveth is horn of God, and knoweth God, He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.”549549 1 John iv. 7, 8. In these words, love and knowing God, are asserted to be so connected, that where love is, there is the knowledge of God; and they who have no love, do not know God. Hence it may be inferred, that the knowledge of God is dependent on love; for he who does not love, does not know him: There must therefore be this love, in order to know God, as the latter cannot exist without the former; and does exist wherever the former exists. And it is farther inferred, that love, and the knowledge of God, cannot be distinguished, as the one implies the other, and are the same exercise of the heart. Loving God is knowing him, and knowing God is loving him. Love is the eye of the mind, by which the objects in the moral world are seen in a true light; and where this eye, this discerning, is not, the mind is in total darkness with respect to moral objects. The reason of this is here given, “For God is love.” As love comprehends all moral excellence, and in this the moral character of God consists; therefore he who loveth not, cannot have any true idea or conception of love; he cannot know the divine moral character, which is love. Love is here to be understood in its general nature, “Every one that loveth. He that loveth not.” That is, he whose heart is not formed to the exercise of universal, disinterested benevolence. This, as has been shown, comprehends all virtuous, holy love; and is the same affection, whether it be exercised towards God or our neighbour. All the difference is owing to the difference of the objects of this same love.
In this view it appears that the same thing is asserted by this apostle in the preceding part of this epistle. He says, “he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, even until now. But lie that loveth his brother, abideth in the light.”550550 1 John ii. 9, 10, 11. He that loveth is born of God, and is divinely illuminated, and knoweth God, and the objects of the moral world, and walketh in the light. He that loveth not is in total darkness with respect to these objects: he hath not seen God, nor known him; for the pure in heart only, that is, they who love, see God.551551 Matt. v. 8. Love is the only light of the moral world. Could this be extinguished, all would be total darkness. And they who are fallen into the darkness of sin, or self love, in which all sin radically consists, as has been shown, can be recovered to light, by that renovation only, that purity of heart which consists in love, or disinterested affection. Hence it appears that when this apostle says, “God is light, ”552552 1 John i. 5. and “God is love,”553553 Chap. iv. 8. he does not mean any thing really different by light and love; for they cannot be distinguished; but are the same thing. Light is love, and love is light.
This same sentiment, which is inculcated by the apostle John in the passages just considered, is also asserted by St. Paul, in the following words. “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” That is, if any man who does not love, think he has true knowledge by mere speculation, and that all light and knowledge consists in this, and desires and seeks no other, he does yet know nothing respecting moral, spiritual objects, as he ought to know, and must know, in order to have the true knowledge of God. “But if any man love God, he (that is, God) is known by him.”554554 1 Cor. viii. 1, 2, 3. That is, if any man have love, he is illuminated, and has true light and knowledge, which does not consist in mere speculation, but in the sensations and taste of the heart, by which he discerns the divine character with approbation, and knows the only true God; which is the knowledge that all men ought to have, as they are commanded to love, and all their duty lies in this. All mere speculative knowledge that is possible to be attained without love, leaves men in total moral darkness, in the exercise of selfishness and pride, in opposition to every part and degree of their duty.
Agreeable to this, the same apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.”555555 Rom. x. 10. That light and discerning respecting the truths of the gospel, and the character of Christ, which is implied in true faith, is not mere speculation, but depends on the disposition and exercises of the heart. Therefore Christ says to the Jews, “how can ye believe, which receive honour one of another; and seek not the honour which cometh from God only?”556556 John v. 44. In these words it is declared that selfishness and pride, which are directly opposed to that love which consists in disinterested affection, do blind the mind to spiritual objects, and effectually shut out that light and discerning which is essential to faith in Christ; and that they only whose hearts are benevolent and humble, have the true light, and see spiritual objects as faith beholds them.
We are taught the same thing by Christ, when speaking expressly and particularly of illumination. His words are, “The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee, be darkness, how great is that darkness.”557557 Matt. vi. 22, 23. Our divine teacher is here speaking of moral or spiritual light and darkness, and says, that these are as the eye of the mind is, and depend on the single or evil eye. If we attend to the scripture, we may learn what is meant by the single and evil eye. Jesus Christ says, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”558558 Mark vii. 21, 22, 23. From these words we learn, that an evil eye belongs to the heart, and is an exercise of the heart, as it cometh out of the heart. Therefore it is of a moral nature, and is itself criminal, as it is called an evil thing, and is ranked among other things, which are moral evils or sins, and defile men. We may infer from this with great certainty, that moral darkness belongs to the heart, and not the intellect, as distinguished from that.—That it consists in the exercise of the heart, and is in itself criminal, in every degree of it.
And it may with equal certainty be determined, from other passages of scripture, what is the particular nature of that disposition and exercise which is called an evil eye, and in what this evil eye consists. Our Lord represents the householder, who hired men to work in his vineyard, at different times in the day, and ordered his steward to give as much wages to those who had laboured but one hour, as to those who had laboured the whole day; as saying to one of the latter who complained of this, “Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”559559 Matt. xx. 15. Here a contracted, selfish, envious spirit, is called an evil eye; and is opposed to goodness of heart, of benevolence, which is here called a good eye; and must be the same with a single eye. An evil eye always means selfishness, and that affection of heart which is included in it, whenever it is mentioned in the scripture. There are the following instances of this. When God commands the Israelites to open their hand wide, and give liberally to their poor brethren, he adds the following words; “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, the seventh year, the year of release is at hand: And thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.”560560 Deut. xv. 9. Here again, an evil eye is a selfish disposition of heart, in opposition to goodness or benevolence of heart. The same thing is denoted by an evil eye in the following passages: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye; neither desire thou his dainty meat. For as be thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”561561 Prov. xxiii. 6, 7. Here his evil eye consists in the thoughts and disposition of his heart, which are opposed to his generous benevolent expressions, and really against his guest, which can be nothing but a selfish, covetous disposition, “He that hasteth to be rich, hath an evil eye.”562562 Prov. xxviii. 22. Nothing but a selfish, inordinate craving, and a covetous spirit, will prompt men to make haste to be rich.
Having found what an evil eye is, that it consists in that disposition and those exercises of heart which are evil and criminal, in that self love which is contrary to benevolence and true goodness of heart, and fills the mind with moral darkness; it is easy to determine what is meant by a single eye, viz. that disposition of heart, which is opposed to selfishness. It is an upright, good, benevolent heart, or true, disinterested, benevolent love. This is evident from the passages of scripture already mentioned. A liberal, benevolent disposition, and a good eye, which is the same, is set in opposition to an evil eye. The single eye is the same with a bountiful eye. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed: For he giveth of his bread to the poor.”563563 Prov. xxii. 9.
That the single eye consists in benevolence and goodness of heart, is evident, (if any farther evidence be needed) in that the word in the original απλους, translated single, when a substantive, απλοτης, is used for liberality, bountifulness, or benevolence. It is so used in the following passages of scripture. “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” [απλοτηστι] That is, with a liberal, bountiful heart.564564 Rom. xii. 8.
“How that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”565565 2 Cor. viii. 2. [απλοτητος] “Being enriched in every thing, to all bountifulness”566566 Chap. ix. 11. [εἰς πασαν απλοτητα] “While, by the experiment of this ministration, they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution [απλοτητ της κοινωνίας unto them, and unto all men.”567567 Verse 13. “Who giveth to all men liberally, [απλως] and upbraideth not.”568568 James i. 5.
It is easy to see that this representation of a single and an evil eye agrees exactly with those passages of scripture which have been mentioned above, in which disinterested love, as opposed to selfishness, is spoken of as essential to true light and discerning, with respect to things of a moral nature; so that he who loveth, knoweth God, and he who loveth not, knoweth not God; and consequently has no true knowledge of the things of the moral world; but is in total darkness. And that self love, by which a man hateth his brother, is moral darkness itself, and causeth him to walk in darkness. Herein the apostles perfectly agree with Jesus Christ, when he says that a single eye, that is, love, or a benevolent disposition of heart, is that which illuminates the mind, and is moral light and discerning: And that the evil eye, that is, selfishness, is moral darkness, and holds die mind in this darkness, where it reigns. Love or universal, disinterested benevolence, which implies all moral goodness, or righteousness and holiness, is the single eye which illuminates the mind, and fills the heart with moral divine light. This single eye fixes on one grand object, the glory of God, which implies the greatest good of his eternal kingdom, and the best good of every individual creature, so far as it tends to promote the general good, or is consistent with it. The evil eye is selfishness, and all that is implied in this, in which all moral evil or sin consists. This is moral blindness, or spiritual darkness; and while the heart is under the dominion of this, all the light which is set before the man, and all his speculations, will not in the least remove this darkness, but all the light that is in him is darkness. And “how great is that darkness!”
The same thing is asserted by Jesus Christ in the following passages. “Every one that doeth evil,” that is, is wholly selfish in all he does, “hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doth truth,” he that loveth, “cometh to the light.”569569 John iii. 20, 21. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”570570 John vii. 17. He only doth the will of God who loveth: He shall know God and Christ; he and he only has light and discerning to see and know the truth, and distinguish it from error.
St. Paul sets this point in the same light, when he says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge, and in all judgment.”571571 Philip. i. 9. The word here translated judgment, signifies taste and sensibility of heart, which is true moral light and discerning. This knowledge and judgment is here represented as consisting in love, or the concomitant or fruit of it.
The above scriptural account of the moral darkness of the minds of depraved men, and of divine illumination or spiritual light and discerning, is agreeable to reason, and supported by it; and is implied in what has been generally granted by those who have attended to the subject. It has been generally, if not universally conceded, and seems to be a plain dictate of reason and common sense, that the inordinate lusts of men, when they prevail and govern, do blind their minds with respect to moral objects: so that those lusts and evil inclinations of men must be suppressed, and mortified, in some degree, at least, in order to their discerning these objects, and seeing them in a true and proper light. The man who gives himself up to covetousness and worldly pursuits, to unrighteousness or sensuality, must, by the reigning of any or all of these lusts, be blind to the beauty and excellence of spiritual, moral objects, and truths, and those exercises of mind in which true virtue and holiness consists. And there is no other way to recover such an one to a true and proper discerning of the reality, importance, the beauty and excellence of the truths and objects of the moral world, including God, his law, Jesus Christ, the gospel, the nature and excellence of true religion, but by an alteration in the taste, disposition and desires of his heart, and recovering him to a contrary taste and disposition of mind.
And it is equally reasonable and certain that the more inward lusts of the heart, selfishness and pride, which are the essence, root, strength and support of these lusts which have been mentioned, and of all others, should be attended with moral blindness, where they reign, and are blindness, and moral darkness itself: And that true illumination and moral light consist in an opposite disposition and taste of mind. Things of a moral nature have relation to the exercises of the heart; and sin and holiness consist in self love and benevolence, as has been shown. He whose heart is destitute of benevolent affection can have no true idea of it, because ideas of exercises of heart are obtained by having exercises of that kind, and no other way. Therefore he who exercises no true love, knows not the true moral character of God; for this consists in love. And when this affection takes place in his heart, he has spiritual discerning, moral light breaks in upon his mind, he is turned from darkness to light, and sees and knows God, in his true moral character, and has some right view of things of the moral world. Agreeable to this, Solomon says, “Evil men understand not judgment: But they that seek the Lord, understand all things.”572572 Prov. xxviii. 5.
This light and discerning, by which the true beauty and excellence
of moral objects is seen, is not attainable by any kind or degree of mere intellectual
speculation, as distinguished from relish and exercise of the heart. Moral beauty,
amiableness and excellence is not the object of mere intellect or understanding,
as distinguished from the will or heart; it is the object of taste, which belongs
to the heart, and implies inclination and exercise of heart, and consists in it.
Beauty and amiableness is discerned by taste; and seeing beauty implies inclination
to it, or love of it. Benevolent, disinterested affection, which, as has been observed,
is the single eye, is that in which true moral taste consists. This belongs to the
heart, and where this exists, things of the moral world appear in their true beauty
and amiableness, and are relished and loved. On the contrary, self love, which implies
every sinful affection and lust, is that in which a wrong bias and taste of heart
consists. It is blind to moral beauty; and those moral objects and affections, in
which all the true beauty, amiableness and excellence in the universe consist, appear
disagreeable and odious, so far as they are seen, which is real aversion, and hatred
of them. This is blindness indeed! The only moral blindness, and the greatest darkness
and delusion that can be in nature. It calls evil good, and good evil; it puts darkness
for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.573573 Isa. v. 20.—All this is implied in what Hierocles, a heathen,
has observed and asserted, viz. “The mind, destitute of virtue, cannot see the beauty
“Spiritual understanding consists primarily In a sense of heart of spiritual beauty; I say, a sense of heart; for it is not speculation merely that is concerned in this kind of understanding: Nor can there be a clear distinction made between the two faculties of understanding and will, as: acting distinctly and separately, in this matter. When the mind is sensible of the sweet beauty and amiableness of a thing, that implies a sensibleness of sweetness and delight in the presence of the idea of it. And this sensibleness of the amiableness or delightfulness of beauty, carries in the very nature of it the sense of the heart; or an effect and impression the soul is the subject of, as a subject possessed of taste, inclination and will.” Edwards on Gracious Affections. Page 163, 164. First edition.
This will appear more evident and clear, perhaps, by considering the nature and tendency of self love, which comprehends every vice and lust of the mind, and is exercised in all sin; and the opposite nature of universal disinterested benevolence, in which all true virtue is implied.
Self love is an evil eye, which will not admit the light that
discovers and brings into clear view, all the grand, beautiful and glorious objects
in the moral world. It is fast shut against all those, and excludes them wholly
from sight. It sees and regards but one infinitely little, diminutive object,
self; it sinks the mind down and contracts it to this, and will not look at
any other object, or interest, but this contracted selfish one. It feels as if this
was the great and only interest, and subordinates every other being and interest,
and every possible public good, to a private personal interest, seeing no other
good but that which is suited to promote a personal, selfish good. This self love
is therefore, in the nature of it, total blindness to the infinite importance of
the being of God, and the amiableness and excellence of his character; and to the
worth and glory of his kingdom, and desirableness of the greatest public good. And
consequently, does not see the amiableness and worth of that disinterested, universal
benevolence, which seeks the greatest good of the whole, and fixes on this, as the
grand and most desirable object, and subordinates the interest of individuals to
the common interest, and greatest good of the whole; and cannot have any relish
or taste for this; but must be displeased with it and hate it, and all the beings
who are of this character, as they are disposed to sacrifice and give up all his
personal interest, which he holds as the only good, when necessary to promote the
general good. This self love therefore is enmity against God, and the general good;
and that affection must be hateful to the selfish person, which seeks the glory
of God, and the greatest good of his kingdom, and does not regard, but gives up
the interest of individuals, so far as the latter is inconsistent with the former.
Thus self love is totally blind to the only great and real good in the universe,
and to all the true beauty and excellence in it: This is the blindness, the darkness
and deception of every one who loves his own self only. This darkness, as it has
its foundation in
the heart, and consists in the reigning affection of it, cannot be
removed by any merely intellectual light, knowledge and reasoning, but remains in
its greatness and full strength, whatever the understanding, considered as distinct
from the will, may dictate, as there is no connection between mere intellectual
knowledge, and the taste and inclination of the heart, and the former cannot alter
the latter. This is verified by experience, in the innumerable instances of the
taste and inclination of the heart contradicting and counteracting the conviction
and dictates of the understanding, the former choosing that as good and best, and
pursuing it, while the latter pronounces it to be wrong and evil.574574 This was perceived by a heathen poet, and expressed in the following
Sed trahit invitam nova vis, aliudque cupido;
Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora proboque:
Translated thus. “My reason this, my passion that, persuades; “I see the right, and I approve it too, “Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue.”
Disinterested, universal benevolence, or that disposition of heart which implies this, which is “an honest and good, or benevolent heart,” is the single eye. This gives that light to the mind, in which it discerns the grand objects comprised in universal being; and sees what is the true, the greatest and only good of the universe; and fixes on this as the first object of choice and pursuit. This brings into view the first cause of all, the infinite source, and the sum of all being, as really existing, and sees him to be the first and great object of regard and benevolence. This discerns, tastes and relishes the true moral beauty and excellence of universal benevolence; approves of it and delights in it as the supreme moral good, and as comprehending the whole of it. It sees God as infinitely great, and infinitely benevolent or good, rejoices in his felicity and glory, and says, “Let him reign supreme, and be glorified to the highest degree forever,” as involving the greatest good, the highest happiness and glory of his kingdom: It is pleased with the divine moral character, comprehended in his infinite benevolence or goodness, and delights in it above all things else. Thus he who loveth, knoweth God, for God is love.
And he who has this honest and good heart, this dis. interested, benevolent affection, sees the beauty, importance, righteousness and goodness of the law of God, which requires perfect love, universal benevolence, with all that affection which is involved in it, of every moral agent, on pain of his highest displeasure. He consequently sees all opposition to this law to be infinitely odious and detestable; and therefore views his own character, as a sinner, as unspeakably hateful, and, abhors himself, and sees the reason why God does hate all sin, and the propriety and desirableness that he should express and manifest his high displeasure at it, and infinite opposition to it, in threatening it with a just, deserved, endless punishment. And by all this, he is prepared to behold and understand the gospel, and see the truth, wisdom and glory of it, which exhibits infinite benevolence in the most advantageous and striking light, and is suited in the best manner to promote the honour of God, and the greatest happiness of his kingdom. And the character of Christ will come into view as infinitely amiable, worthy and important; and the benevolent heart will approve, love and rejoice. This is that knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, which is eternal life: It is the light of life, which is the attainment of all the followers of Christ. He who hath this love, “abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.”575575 John viii. 12. xvii. 3. 1 John ii. 10.
From all that has been now observed on this subject, it is easy to see, that divine illumination is effected by the renovation of the heart of man, by the Spirit of God, by which it is no longer wholly selfish, and under the dominion of pride and lust; but is formed to universal, disinterested benevolence, or true love. Nothing is wanting but such a change of heart, in order to the true light of the moral world shining into it. By this renovation the single eye is formed, and the mind is full of light. This is that change, and illumination which is ascribed in scripture to the Spirit of God. This is that change of heart which Jesus calls a being born again of the Spirit, without which men cannot see the kingdom of God.576576 John iii. 3, 5. And by which their eyes are opened, and they are turned from darkness to marvellous light, and know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. By this renovation a wise and understanding heart is given, and God gives a heart to know him. And he shines in the heart, by giving this single eye, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.577577 Jer. xxiv. 7. 2 Cor. iv. 6. This is the same with giving a new heart, and a new spirit.578578 Ezek. xxxvi. 26. And is expressed in the following words: “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts. And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”579579 Heb. viii. 10, 11. Jesus Christ speaks of this illumination when he says, “It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God. Every one therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”580580 John vi. 45. And when he says to Peter, upon his professing his faith in him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”581581 Matt. xvi. 17. St. Paul speaks of this renovation of heart as necessary in order to true light and knowledge, and that the latter is implied in the former. “Be not conformed to this world: But be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”582582 Rom. xii. 2.
This illumination, therefore, does not consist in discovering, or revealing to men any new truth not already made known and contained in divine revelation; but in forming the heart to true discerning, and hereby opening the eye of the mind, to see the truths revealed in the scriptures; or in forming the single eye, which will receive the light, which before shined; but was not admitted, and could not shine in the heart, because the eye was evil, and shut against the truth. This is expressed by the Psalmist in the following words: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”583583 Psalm cxix. 18. The scriptures contain a fulness of moral light and instruction; they will make him wise unto salvation, who understands and believes; who discerns the truths there revealed. There is therefore no need that any new truth should be immediately suggested to the mind which is not contained in the Bible. All that is wanting, is to have the mind disposed and prepared to receive the light which is extant, and shines in the word of God: This is to have a single eye, a new, benevolent heart. He who has such an heart, is hereby brought into a new moral world; sees the things revealed in the scriptures in a new light; they now appear in their reality and divinity, beautiful, consistent, harmonious, important, and affecting, as they never did before, infinitely above any thing else that can be imagined. Thus the light shines in the heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.584584 2 Cor. iv. 6. This establishes the heart in a belief and assurance of the truth of the gospel and of divine revelation, as no degree of mere speculation can do. This is expressed by St. John in the following words: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true. This is the true God, and eternal life.”585585 1 John v. 20.
As the renovation of the heart is but in a small degree at first, and the eye of the mind is not fully opened at once; but this work is begun in an imperfect degree, and carried on to perfection: So this light is comparatively small and imperfect in the beginning, and gradually increases, and the christian grows in grace, in holiness, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which implies the knowledge of all divine things. “The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more to the perfect day.” And as the enlightened mind sees but in part, in this world, and is never omniscient, some truths and objects are more particularly and clearly in view at one time, and others at another: which may be owing to particular divine internal influence, or the agency of other invisible beings, or to external circumstances, and occurrences; all which are under the immediate influence and guidance of the omnipotent, omnipresent, all-wise Being, who worketh all in all.586586 1 Cor. xii. 6.
It is proper to observe here, that though the heart or will be the seat of this illumination, and moral light and darkness are as the disposition of the heart is, yet the whole mind, in all the faculties of it, is concerned, and some way included and affected in this affair. Intellectual light and conviction, considered as distinct from the heart, is included in this illumination. Ideas are conveyed to the heart by this medium. Where there are no speculative ideas, which are in some measure agreeable to the truth, and no right judgment and conviction respecting intellectual objects; the benevolent heart will not be properly illuminated, or be under advantage to exercise itself properly towards external objects. When the single eye is formed, it will receive light and view the objects of moral sight, by the medium of the intellect. Therefore there appears to be a propriety, that there should be some degree of speculative light and conviction in the minds of the adult, before a new heart or single eye is given, in order to prepare them to discern the truth properly, and to have exercises agreeable to it.
And when a new heart, a single eye is given, it will help to rectify the mistakes which may have been made by the intellectual judgment, as the latter is influenced and biassed in judging of things by the taste and inclination of the heart. So far as the heart is honest and good, the prejudices which bias the speculative judgment will be removed, and the mind will speculate more clearly, and a conviction of the truth will be more clear, strong and steady; and the attention of the mind to moral divine subjects will be more fixed and engaged, and a foundation is laid for die enlargement of the mind in intellectual knowledge of these things, and the rational powers of the soul; for the taste and benevolent exercises of the new heart, are perfectly rational, and will be approved by right reason, and a rectified judgment. Thus, by the renovation of the heart, forming it to a right taste, a disposition to disinterested benevolence, all the powers of the soul are sanctified; the ignorance and mistakes of reason and judgment, which originated from an evil eye, or self love, are removed; the whole mind is enlightened, and all the faculties of the soul harmonize, and do their office well. When the heart is perfectly right, in the exercise of benevolent, disinterested affection, the soul is full of light, and the man is perfectly holy, in all his faculties and powers.
The sum of what has been said above on the subject of divine illumination is this. As all mankind are, while in their natural state, totally depraved and sinful, and this depravity is in the nature of it moral darkness, they are wholly blind to the things of the Spirit of God. This blindness has its foundation in the heart, and consists in the wrong taste and sinful inclination of that, and not in any natural defect in the intellectual and reasoning faculties of the soul, as distinguished from the inclination of the heart. This blindness is therefore a wilful blindness, as it consists in the disposition, and exercise of the heart or will. They have eyes, they have all the natural mental faculties, which are necessary to discern spiritual things, as well as any other objects: But they see them not, because they voluntarily shut their eyes, and refuse to open them, and admit the light which shines around them, as this light of divine truth is above all things disagreeable to them; they hate it, and will not come unto it, lest their deeds should be reproved. This blindness is therefore wholly the fault of man, and criminal in every degree of it, being moral depravity itself. It consists in self love, which implies the whole of moral depravity, of every thing in the heart that is or can be contrary to the law of God. This is the evil eye, which fills the whole mind with moral darkness. This is blindness to invisible spiritual things; does not see the beauty, consistence and harmony of moral truth; and therefore has no sense and cordial belief of their reality, or that they do indeed exist, whatever reason and speculative judgment may dictate. Therefore, “The fool,” every man in his natural state, who is in this moral darkness, “saith in his heart, there is no God.”587587 Psalm xiv. 1. This is the feeling and language of a heart wholly depraved and under the power of self love: Which cannot be removed by any mere speculations and reasoning on the subject, so long as the heart is thus wholly corrupt. And this selfishness and pride, with all the lusts implied in this, tend to weaken and pervert the reasoning powers of the mind, and bribe and bias the reason and speculative judgment, so as to reject the truth, and embrace error in speculation, respecting things of a moral nature. And this is the ground and source of all the false, unreasonable reasoning, and errors in judgment upon subjects of a moral nature, which do take place among mankind. And therefore all false reasoning, and every error and delusion in speculation and judgment, is blameable and sinful, as all these have their foundation in the corrupt biasses of the heart, and are altogether governed and produced by them.
The real christian is, in becoming such, turned from this darkness to marvellous light, which is effected by the omnipotent influences of the Spirit of God, in the renovation of the heart, which was before totally corrupt, forming it to disinterested, universal benevolence, and so making it an honest and good heart; and forming the single eye, by which the truths revealed in the scriptures, relating to the being and perfections of God, his law and moral government; the state and character of man; the character and works of the Mediator; the way of salvation by him; the nature of duty and true holiness, &c. are seen in their true light, as realities, beautiful, divine, important, excellent, harmonious, glorious, and above all things else interesting and affecting; and the mind is filled with this spiritual, marvellous, glorious light. By this all the powers of the mind are enlarged and strengthened. Reason and judgment, being no longer biassed by an evil heart, are rectified,, and the reasoning, speculative faculty, is exerted in an honest, attentive pursuit, in the investigation of truth.
Though the blindness of man in his natural, totally depraved state, be of a moral nature, and voluntary, and therefore wholly criminal; yet it is as great, and is as much beyond the power of means to remove it; and the man is as far from recovering himself to light, as if the blindness was owing to an essential defect in the natural powers of the soul: And the immediate, almighty energy of the divine Spirit is as necessary to remove this darkness, and illuminate the mind, as if natural faculties were wanting. Therefore this illumination is constantly ascribed in the scripture to God, as the agent and cause in producing this effect. It is a common observation, in which all agree, that none are blinder than they who will not see. They have eyes, but see not. He who has eyes, and shuts them fast, and will not open them to admit the light, from an obstinate aversion from the light, is as much in the dark, as he who has no eyes; and the former can be no more made to see, than the latter, so long as his will is obstinately set against opening his eyes. And it may require the same power and agent to alter his disposition, and give him a contrary one, that is necessary to give eyes to him who has none. Yea, in the case before us, a greater exertion of power is necessary to form the single eye, than to create the natural faculties of the soul; for the former is effected in opposition to the whole strength of the will, and of Satan, who possesses the corrupt heart, and blinds the mind of them who do not believe; whereas there can be no opposition to the latter. Therefore this illumination is said in the scripture to be the effect of the exceeding great and mighty power of God.588588 Eph. ii. 19. 2 Thess. i. 11.
I. From the view we have now had of divine illumination, we are led particularly to reflect on the mistake many have made, in supposing that this saving light is communicated to the understanding, independent of the will or heart, and considered as a power distinct from it; that this light has its seat in the understanding, and belongs to that, and not to the will, the former, and not the latter, being the leading, governing power of the mind. This is not agreeable to the representation of the matter in the scripture, as has been shown. And this is not only unscriptural, but leads to dangerous and hurtful consequences.
It has not been uncommon to represent the moral depravity of man, to consist in the understanding being darkened, as a distinct thing from the moral disorders and corruption of the heart; and to speak of enlightening the understanding, and subduing the will, or renewing the heart, as two distinct and different operations. This tends to darken and confuse the subject of divine illumination, and places it in that, in which it does not consist, according to the scriptures. And it represents the blindness of men to things of the Spirit of God, as a natural defect, and not in the least criminal, since the understanding, as distinguished from the will or heart, is not capable of virtue or vice, or of any thing that is criminal. For whatever darkness there be in the understanding, which is independent of the will, and does not originate from that, it is not a moral disorder, but purely natural; and therefore cannot be blameable. This way of representing this matter has therefore, doubtless, led many to consider the darkness in which all unrenewed men are, with respect to the things of the Spirit of God, as being in no degree criminal: And many, if not most, who have considered themselves in this state of darkness, have viewed it only as an unhappiness, and not as their sin.
Others have supposed that nothing is necessary in order to enlighten men, and their becoming virtuous and holy, but to have light take place in the understanding, that the proper illumination of this, will influence and gain the will to a compliance with that which reason dictates to be truth, to be right and best. Of these, some suppose that nothing is done, in order to enlighten the understanding, and lead men to reason and judge right, but to set light before them by external application, in a way suited to excite the attention, &c. Others suppose a powerful divine operation is necessary to let that light and conviction into the understanding, which will effectually move the will to choose that which is right, and persuade the heart to love God, and embrace the gospel, &c. Both these really deny the moral depravity of man, either expressly or implicitly; at least, that the heart is totally corrupt. For if the will be always disposed and ready to comply with the truth whenever the understanding is convinced of it, and sees it; then the will is not depraved, there is no obstinacy and rebellion in the heart. All the defect is in the understanding, in not dictating the truth to the heart. But this defect in the understanding, however great it may be, is not a moral, but a natural defect: For, as has been shown, the understanding, considered as not including the will or heart, or the mere speculative faculty of the soul, is not a moral faculty, and is not capable of virtue or vice. According to this, the heart cannot be faulty, while it acts according to the dictates of the understanding, whatever they may be, which it is supposed always to do, and therefore never can be guilty of any moral evil: And the understanding, as such, and as distinguished from the will, is incapable of fault. Therefore there can be no such thing as moral evil, or sin; to be sure, man is not capable of any such thing.
It appears from what has been said on this subject, that all these suppositions are contrary to the representation which the scripture gives of this matter, and not agreeable to reason, or to fact and experience. They who thus set the understanding or intellect, considered as a faculty distinct from the will, first, as the leading faculty of the soul, by which the will is in all cases directed and governed, do certainly make a great mistake, and turn things upside down. The will is the only active faculty of the soul. The understanding, so far as it can be considered as a distinct faculty, and not implying any degree of will, is wholly passive, and not capable of action. Every motion and action of the mind of man is voluntary; and therefore is the motion or action of the will. All mental exercise originates in the will, which is the seat of all moral action.
Besides, they suppose what is in the nature of things absolutely impossible, and build their whole theory upon it, viz. That the understanding, independent of the heart, is capable of receiving or having a true idea of moral exercise, or of the real beauty and excellence of the things of the Spirit of God. Such ideas suppose taste and affection of heart, without which they cannot be perceived, or take place in the mind. This is as impossible, as that a blind man should have a true idea of the beauty of light and colours; or that a man may perceive the sweetness of honey, and be pleased with it, by mere reasoning upon it, or touching it with his finger, while he has not the least degree of taste or relish for it, as has been before observed.
II. From what has been said on this subject, other mistakes which have been made about divine illumination, are detected, and appear to be delusive and dangerous. Some have thought they were savingly enlightened, by their being led to see, in an unaccountable manner to them, an extraordinary external light and brightness; either by their bodily eyes, or in their imagination, which has affected them much. Or they have had their eyes opened, as they suppose, clearly to see Christ on the cross, or seated in heaven; and heaven, and the inhabitants of it, have been seen by them, &c. All things of this kind, are as far from spiritual discoveries, as darkness is from light, and are mere imaginary conceptions, of which he who has the most depraved heart is as capable as any other person. And as they do not suppose a renewed heart, so they have no tendency to make it better.
Others have thought themselves divinely taught and illuminated, by having some new thing, which they call truth, suggested to their minds, by a voice from heaven, or some immediate impulse, which is not contained in the Bible. And not a few, instead of learning their duty from the Bible, have expected, and thought they have had light, and direction given to them immediately from heaven, to make known what they were to say and do: and have thought themselves directed, in all their actions, by some invisible, divine impulse. All these are not only entirely different from divine illumination; but are dangerous delusions; and have proved fatal to many who have depended upon them.
Imaginary ideas may attend divine illumination, and often do, in this very imperfect state: That is, a person may have a discerning heart given to him, by which he sees the saving truth; yet by the influence of his imagination, he may have many ideas imposed on his mind, which accompany the true light which shines in his heart But these mere imaginary ideas, are no part of the truth, which the enlightened mind sees; and therefore ought not to be regarded as such.
III. We are led by this subject, more particularly to reflect upon the total and very great criminality of moral blindness, which is opposed to divine illumination. This has been brought into view, in considering this subject; and it is of importance that it should be always remembered, believed and realized by every person. Since this darkness consists wholly in the sinful inclinations of the heart, it must be wholly sinful. And the greater, the more strong and fixed it is, the more criminal it must be. The necessity of divine influence and power, in order to remove this darkness, is so far from proving it no crime, that it is a demonstrative evidence that it is a very great crime; as it is so strongly fixed in the heart. We are, and must be, under obligation to understand and approve all that moral truth, of which our natural capacities are capable, and which we have opportunity and are under advantage to see. All that blindness and error which is contrary to this, and prevents our seeing it, is contrary to our obligation, a violation of it; and therefore altogether criminal. There is a great difference between a person who has no eyes, and therefore cannot see the light, it being naturally impossible; and another who has good eyes, but from an aversion from seeing, shuts them fast, and will not open them to admit the light. The former cannot be under obligation to see, or blamed for not seeing; the latter may, and it is wholly his own fault, that he does not see. The scripture represents moral blindness by this, and says, men have eyes, and see not, because they hate the light, and shut their eyes.
We are wholly blameable, and have no excuse for all our blindness respecting the things of the Spirit of God, and for every error and mistake into which we fall, concerning things of a moral nature; and the greater our blindness is, and the more gross and numerous are our errors and mistakes in these things, and the more clear the light is, which is set before us, the more inexcusable and guilty we are. Our Saviour says, “If the light which is in thee, be darkness, how great is that darkness!” And we are prepared now to say, if all this great darkness be wholly criminal, and that in proportion to the greatness of it, how great is our guilt!
IV. How reasonable is it that men should be called upon and commanded to open their eyes, and see, in a moral sense! It has been observed, that God does so, in the scripture. He says, “O ye simple, understand wisdom, and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.”589589 Prov. viii. 5. If men be wholly blameable for not seeing when God has given them capacity to see, and sets light before them, and their blindness be wholly wilful; no reason can be given why they should not be exhorted and commanded to do what they ought to do, and can have no excuse for not doing it, however fixed and obstinate they are in their blindness, and however far they are from a disposition, or moral power or possibility to come to the light, from their fixed and strong hatred of it; so that they never will obey, if left to themselves. It is of great importance that this should be well understood and believed, as it is necessary in order to our understanding the scripture, and our own character and blameableness.
END OF VOL. I.
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