« PreviousContinue »
thou wast slaio, and hast redeemed the original motive has degeneus to God by thy blood, and hast rated. It is a common subject of made us uoto God kiugs and complaint with the most devoted priests." Upon earth, our love to Christians, that projects which God must still more decisively as they commenced in pure disinsume this shape of gratitude: - terestedness, have involved, in the “ we love Him because he first course of their progress, a degree lored us;"—and St. Paul, who so of pride, party.spirit, obstinacy, well knew by experience the mo- and love of applause, which, like tires that actuate the renewed the “ thorn in the flesh," inflicted heart, expressly asserts, that "the upon the Apostle, has served to love of Christ constraineth us, bem abase them in the sight of God, cause we thus judge, that if one when they have appeared to others died for all, then were all dead; far removed from any immediate and that he died for us, that we necessity for that humbling prowho live through him should not cess. live to ourselves, but unto him who The foregoing is but a very loved us, and gave himself for us." cursory specimen of the questions
It is clear then, that love to which may arise in the mind of the God, under the various names most intelligent Christian, in rewhich it may assume, according as ducing the doctrine of motives to conected with his glory or our practice for the purpose of selfowo interest, is the leading motive examination. Iu an uncultivated of a renovated mind. It is equally mind, especially wbere the judgcertain that no Christian, however ment is weak and the conscience exalted in divine attainments, cau scrupulous, the difficulties will be be said to do every thing imme- correspondingly numerous and fordiately and directly from this most midable. No person can converse elevated principle. His love to with the poor and ignorant on his neighbour, for example, will subjects of practical religion, withnot unfrequently be connected without perceiving that their want of minor motives. Pity, for instance, enlarged ideas reuders it difficult will often influence a good man to for them to view the doctrine of actions, which, by the theory, ought motives in a right aspect. In being to have sprung immediately from taught the duty of examining into love to God. Thus, with the the state of their affections and primary motive, may be mixed heart, they are sometimes apt to various others of a good though become remiss in attending to the bot of the highest tendency. De- qualities of actions. The direct sceuding lower, more doubtful contrary was the more natural promotives begin to come in play.- pensity; for the uninstructed conA large class of actions is in- science is usually quite content if fuenced by a sort of barmless the action be right, whatever might partialities, where, in strict speech, have been the source from which it no inferior motive to the one be- sprang. As it is only the conduct fore mentioned, ought to have been that immediately affects society, admitted. Again; a course of ac- men, in general, are attentive solely tion, good in itself, is begun from, to the external demeanour; and it perhaps, an inferior motive; but is not without some difficulty, that the motive improves by degrees, an uninstructed mind is led to feel and becomes sublimed from its the importance of rising higher, more impure elements. A con- from the stream to the fountain, trary case is equally observable: from the action to the principle, many a good scheme has been from the conduct to the heart. begun with a boly motive, but has But this point once gained, the continued to be pursued long after difficulty is often on the other side.
Once persuaded, by whatever pro- practice. Few persons, comparacess, and whether truly or falsely, tively, are sufficiently in the habit that his heart is “right with God," of analysing their affections, to be an ill-instructed person naturally able instantly to retrace the motives begins to attach less importance to of their conduct. When charged an examioation of his conduct than with incorrect or inadequate prinso nomentous an inquiry deserves. ciples of action-and it is certain Hence, perhaps, among other rea- that all principles not derived from sons, the too common inclination religion, when scripturally analysed, among some of the religious poor will be found such—persons in to semi-antinomian preaching.- general are unwilling to admit They cannot conceive of an ex- the accusation, for want of really amination into actions, without con- knowing what are the secret springs necting with it their former ideas of their conduct. Self-knowledge of the importance of actions inde- is an advantage as rare as it has pendently of motives ; and hence been considered valuable. practical preaching savours, in their A great point has been gained when iniņds, of "legality," and a want persons can be induced seriously to of acquaintance with the doctrines ask themselves what are their secret of grace. It is often as difficult to views and principles; and till the convince an illiterate and self con- importance of this question is duly ceited religionist, that though God felt, the most close and urgent aps regards the heart, he inspects the peal will be usually lost upon them. conduct also, as it is to convince The decorum of the senate does an illiterate and self conceited for not allow the imputation of momalist of the converse of the pro. tives ; and though the pulpit is not position. If any reader doubt the restricted in the same way, nor truth of this remark, let him select ought to be, as the analyzation of a fit subject for the experiment, the human heart is one of its most and try to touch his conscience important duties ; yet, care should with compunction for some of his be taken that there be no exaggerapractical sins; such as defects in tion, and that nothing be overtemper, or little subterfuges and stated, in order to make out a case evasions in trade, and it will be sufficienily strong for the severe well if he do not receive some such remarks ihat are intended to be answer as, “Oh! I see you are grounded upon it.
To the want for works,” &c. &c,
of this sobriety may, perhaps, be A difficulty of a quite opposite imputed a pari at least of what is nature, which the poor and ignorant frequently mentioned by certain tind in examining themselves on the preachers and writers, as the orquestion of motives, is by measuring dinary result of their exertions; their motives by their actions, even namely, that flagitious characters when those actions are of an in- are very generally arrested, while voluntary kind. "If my affectious the more moral and decorous conwereduly set upon heavenly things," tipue unmoved. The effect may, said a sickly labourer, fatigued indeed, be often accounted for on with the toils of harvest and the the principles so frequently menoppressive heat of a solstitial sun, tioned by our Lord in reference to “I should not bave slept yester- the scribes and pharisees, as conday afternoon during the sermon.” trasted with publicans and sinners. The intelligent reader will readily The frigid pride of forınalism, is multiply examples, and deduce doubtless sometimes a more impreg. from ihem the necessary solution. nable barrier to conviction tban care
A still more common difficully lessness, or even hardened impiety, in the examination of motives, because there is less to shock the arises from the infrequency of the natural conscience, and more to
foster unscriptural and fallacious The judge mentioned in the Gohopes. But, in the case of some spel would, perhaps, have sat easy wbo are most forward to apply what under a common-place philippic is said of our Lord and the phari- against injustice, because, though sees to their own preaching or injustice was the effect, indolence writing, a considerable sbare of the and the love of ease were the indeficiency is on their own side. citing causes. It was not a prediThey roundly charge upon their lection for injustice that made him auditors, or readers, motives which at first refuse the suit of the widow, apply, in their immediate and pri- any more than a predilection for mary sense, only to grossly vicious justice that made him at length characters. Upon such conscience grant it. A discourse, therefore, easily fixes the charge; while the That was intended to come home to moral and more respectable classes his case, must not have been a mere think themselves far beyond the dissertation on abstract injustice; reach of the animadversion. They but must have undertaken to prove are not enougb in the habit of tracing that indolence and the love of ease ibeir motives, and do not sufficiently had, in his case, all the effect and know their own hearts to perceive, all the guilt of this more startling ibat in a certain sense the charge crime, and that right principles and was well founded, though the in- true religion are as much levelled structor erred in his mode of at- against these apparently lesser sins tempting to produce conviction in as against others of more obnoxious those who were conscious that, in hue. Or, to take a case of more the plain and strict meaning of his likely occurrence; au instructor words, they were unassailable. Our wishes to guard his younger friends Lord's exposition of the Commaod- against certain questionable amusemenis, in his Sermon on the Mount, ments. He begins with exhorting is an inimitable specimen of the them to look into their motives, mode to be employed in teaching which, upon examination, they fiod such persons to trace theirprinciples to be scarcely ascertainable ; they and motives. And if, after such an are propelled, in fact, by a sort of example, I might appeal to any giddy impulse, without any fixed human composition, I should spe. principle whatever, and with as cify Mrs. H. More's dialogue on little intention of committing vice ihe same subject'. It is in this as of practising virtue by the perway that the average classes in formance. Not content with ilis, morals are best convinced. They and in order to make out a strong do not habitually study their own case, he charges motives which hearts, and therefore recoil, with they unequivocally disclaim, and an inpenetrable front, from the which, in their literal application, first unexplained allegation of evil belong only to the grossly vicious. motives. Some writers and preach- It is easy to see that, in such a case, ers resemble scene-painters, who not ovly does the weapon fall convey a striking impression of blunted to the ground, but new large and strongly marked objects, confidence is added to the accused but fail in those minuler differences from the failure of the accuser's which distinguish one hunsau coun- principal allegation. To this cause iesauce from another. The conse- we may, perhaps, sometimes altri. quence is, that characters less for- bute the inefficacy of some of the cibly marked escape in the croud. arguments employed against certain
• See her “Two Wealthy Farmers"_ worldly practices. The objector, a tract which the writer of these re.
educated in a stricter school, or Biarks would feel inclined to place nearly under the influence of better prinat the head of her excellent and varied ciples, feels that he himself could compositions.
not mis in them without an asso
ciation of ideas which frequently the instructions of childhood and may not arise in other minds to all the affairs of life shall be conwhich the practice is familiar. Mis. ducted on truly Christian prinsionaries among converted heathens ciples, the great majority of perfeel sensibly the truth of this re- sons will necessarily grow up with mark. Iu all such cases, as there is such incorrect ideas respecting the difficulty in analysing the exact quality of actions and motives motive, so there is danger in im- as are not easily effaced. A large puting a wrong one.
class even of books of professed in. From the preceding observations struction tends to foster these erit is evident, that a variety of roneous sentiments. Self-love, love questions may arise in attempting of the world, and an appetite for to reduce the analysis of motives to distipetion, are among the leading actual practice. Another difficulty incentives inculcated upon the often occurs in ascertaining what youthful inind; and it is not, gemotives are allowable, and what are nerally speaking, till practical reliotherwise. We have seen that the giou has taken extensive possession leading principle in the heart of the of the heart, that the sinfulness of Christian, is love to God, and zeal such principles of action is so much for his glory; but this evidently as suspected. does not exclude.many others of a But it is time to proceed to a few more or less excellent though sub. practical remarks relative to the ordinate nature. The Scriptures duty in question. And, in the first themselves frequently appeal to place, it may be right to repeat, that other motives, though to none it is a duty; a duty which, howwhich are not in some way con- ever far removed from the ordinary nected with that first and best of habits of the large body of nominal: incitements. But entrance Christians, is one which cannot be being once allowed, as of neces- omitted with safety or impunity. sity there must be, to secondary “ God searcheth the heart;" and he motives, the question is where to who would truly serve God must stop. The contrite and well-in- direct his first inquiries to the same formed Christian will perhaps rea- point. Our Lord constantly indily ascertain this in bis own case; sisted upon the importance of this but among the world at large, and duty, teaching that “a cup of cold even in books of moral and religious water given to a disciple, in the instruction, the standard is so often name of a disciple,” that is, from a false or defective, that a code of principle of Christian love, shall universal application could not not lose its reward; while, as his easily be contrived. So gross in Apostle teaches, the gift of all our many cases are the conceptions goods to the poor, or of our body respecting legitimacy of motive, to be burned, without this internal that much would have been done charity, would be of no avail. if the subjects of the experiment To examine into our motives is could only be taught to subtract also very important for our comfort froin under the head of innocent, as Christians. Beset with innusuch undeniably un-Christian ones merable snares and temptations, it as pride, covetousness, and a long is consolatory to find, upon calm class of equally common, but deliberation, accompanied with equally injurious, principles of earnest prayer to the Searcher of action. Greater difficulty, indeed, all hearts, that our affections are occurs in teaching men to exclude supremely, though, alas, how diothers which they had always been videdly! tixed upon heavenly obtaught to consider positive virtues; jects; and that, with all our manifold such, for example, as einulation and sins and imperfectious, we can the love of praise. Indeed, till all still say, with sincerity of beart,
“Lord, thou knowest all things; conduct was strongly tinged with the thou knowest that I love thee." sacred infusion. As the prevailing Without this frequent examioation, passions of the soul, by constantly we must necessarily live in a state affecting the muscles of the counof uncertaioty: we can have no tenance, stamp, at length, a welljust evidence of our services being marked index of the character, so accepted, or enjoy any legitimate an habitual course of holy, active, consolation, amidst the troubles of humble, and self-denying conduct life. We may be deceiving our indicates the permanent influence of selves ; for many persons, for want sacred motives, even when the moof inquiry, take for granted that tives themselves may not come imibeir motives are good, when, in mediately into prominent exercise. point of fact, they are quite un- The dejected Christian may often scriptural and corrupt. The pha- derive consolation from this reflecrisees, for example, conscious of tion. In giving the cup of cold the exterior propriety of their con- water, he might not, perhaps, at the duct, and flattered by the applause moment, particularly have called of mankind, seem never to have to his recollection the paramount suspected, till told so by our Lord, principle of love to God and faith that their hearts were full of un- in Christ; yet, if upon consciencleanness and iniquity. It is not, tious self-examination, he perceive till after deep self-examination and reason to conclude that that prinfervent prayer, that a person can ciple is deeply interwoven in his feel that solid satisfaction enjoyed heart, it is not to be doubted but by the Apostle, when he swid, “Our that the individual act was, sanctirejoicing is this, the testimony of fied by the prevailing habit. God our conscience, that in simplicity is not a hard master;" he knoweth and godly sincerity, not with fleshly whereof we are made;" he perceives wisdom, but by the grace of God, and pities our weakness; and where we have had our conversation in the predominant motive is righttbe world."
where the leading and constraining The importance of the duty once principles are faith and love, and fixed in the mind, and ihe practice a desire for the Divine glory-he of it matured into a habit, it is of condescends to regard the general great moment to our spiritual peace tenour of the character, and to forthat we endeavour to possess an give the innumerable sins and imenlightened as well as tender con- perfections which deface so many of science. This will prevent much its individual parts. of that morbid depression which It may also conduce to the comwe perceive in some sincere but ill- fort of a dejected Christian, in exainstructed Christians, who, by car- mining into his motives, to recur rying the practice to an extreme to the idea already mentioned, that which no human character can bear, secondary motives are admissible, deprive themselves of those com- where they are duly subordinated forts which their circumstances so to the supreme. Even self-love, imperatively require. A beneficial thus purified and counected with: rule, in such cases, is to look at the glory of God, is not an unhabitual rather than individual christian principle. Moses is exmotives. A variety of actions may pressly applauded for his conduct have been performed in the course in quitting the worldly splendours of the day, without any immediate of Egypt, though the motive asreference to the great master prin- signed for it is, that “ he had ciple; while yet, upon a conscien- respect to the recompence of the tious examination of the bent of the reward.'” Indeed, in a majority of mind, it will perhaps be seen ibat the cases, mixed and secondary motives whole current of ihe affectious and will be found to be those which