Exalt you the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.
I. CERTAIN PRINCIPLES IN NATURAL MEN WHICH PREPARE THEM TO RELISH A FALSE OR DEFECTIVE IMAGE OF GOD UNDER THE NAME OF THE TRUE GOD. Here are five of these principles: selfishness, which delights in a benefactor and a friend; humanity, which, when self-interest does not too strongly oppose, is affected with kindness to men in general; conscience and the love of natural fitness, which, with the aid of self-love and humanity, are pleased with a good government and social order, when personal interest does not stand in the way; and sympathy, by which the soul, in view of moving grief or the tenderness of love, is melted into compassion or tenderness. All these are found to a high degree in many infidels.
II. THERE IS A FALSE OR DEFECTIVE IMAGE OF GOD WHICH NATURAL MEN OFTEN FORM, and which they love from no higher principles than those which have been stated. Among the great variety of natural men I will select two classes.
1. Those who think superficially, have little to do with the moral character of God as exhibited in a moral government. The order of their thoughts is somewhat as follows. First they contemplate Him as a benefactor to themselves; as the one who preserves their lives, who sends them rain and fruitful seasons, who sent His Son to save them, and has filled their lives with mercies. This is pleasing to their selfishness. They next consider His kindness to the world, and contemplate the generous being who pours His bounty upon all nations. This gratifies their humanity; and it does not disturb their selfishness, pride, or love of the creature. But His moral character, as manifested in a moral government, is still out of view.
2. But there is another class of natural men who think more deeply and systematically.
(1) The more ignorant suppose that the Divine law relates only to outward actions (like human laws), and requires nothing but that integrity, decency, and kindness in the different relations of life which all admit to be necessary to the order and happiness of society.
(2) The less ignorant class are aware that the Divine law extends to the heart, and requires them to love both God and man. Well, they do. Their natural humanity wishes well to their fellow-men. They love God as a benefactor and a friend, and admire His generous munificence to the world. But let the Holy Spirit suddenly open their eyes, and they will see that the feelings required by the Divine law, and the temper of the Lawgiver, are altogether different from anything they ever conceived. They have been contemplating a law and character which called forth only the selfish and humane affections, and the love of which (self-righteous as that love was) only inflamed instead of weakening pride, and had no tendency to wean them from the idolatrous love of the creature.
III. SOME WAYS BY WHICH WE MAY TEST THE GENUINENESS OF OUR LOVE.
1. Is the Divine love in view of which we are affected, the mere fondness of creature love, fitted only to melt the animal affections? Or is it that holy love which, under the guidance of infinite wisdom, hates and punishes sin, which maintains a vigorous moral government, requiring all to be holy under penalty of eternal death?
2. If it is the true God you love, you will love all the essential truths which relate to Him, as comprehended in the doctrines of the Gospel.
3. Does your love, as far as it goes, subdue your selfishness, pride, and love of the world? This is an infallible test.
4. If you have no genuine love to man, you have no sincere love to God. But all love to man is not genuine. To say nothing of the domestic affections, humanity wishes well to mankind where no self-interest is in the way, and therefore almost always is gratified with the prosperity of distant nations. But try your love to man by something nearer home, — something that comes most in competition with selfishness. Select your rival in business or honour; select your greatest enemy. Do you, in any sense or degree, love him as yourself?
5. Do you conscientiously and habitually obey God? I do not ask whether you are what the world calls moral. This you may be from the mere influence of natural principles. I ask whether you habitually act, from hour to hour, with a sensible reference to God's authority, — often asking yourselves, How would God have me do in this thing? Do you cheerfully perform the most self-denying duties from a sacred regard to His authority?
(E. D. Griffin, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.