And therefore it must needs be, that a sight of God’s loveliness must begin here. A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving of God) it derives its loveliness from this; and therefore it is impossible that other attributes should appear lovely, in their true loveliness, till this is seen; and it is impossible that any perfection of the divine nature should be loved with true love, till this is loved. If the true loveliness of all God’s perfections, arises from the loveliness of his holiness; then the true love of all his perfections, arises from the love of his holiness. They that don’t see the glory of God’s holiness, can’t see anything of the true glory of his mercy and grace: they see nothing of the glory of those attributes, as any excellency of God’s nature, as it is in itself; though they may be affected with them, and love them, as they concern their interest: for these attributes are no part of the excellency of God’s nature, as that is excellent in itself, any otherwise than as they are included in his holiness, more largely taken; or as they are a part of his moral perfection.

   And therefore it is primarily an account of this kind of excellency, that the saints do love all these things. Thus they love the Word of God, because it is very pure. ‘Tis on this account they love the saints; and on this account chiefly it is, that heaven is lovely to them, and those holy tabernacles of God amiable in their eyes: ’tis on this account that they love God; and on this account primarily it is, that they love Christ, and that their hearts delight in the doctrines of the gospel, and sweetly acquiesce in the way of salvation therein revealed.
   Under the head of the first distinguishing characteristic of gracious affection, I observed that there is given to those that are regenerated, a new supernatural sense, that is as it were a certain divine spiritual taste, which is in its whole nature diverse from any former kinds of sensation of the mind, as tasting is diverse from any of the other five senses, and that something is perceived by a true saint in the exercise of this new sense of mind, in spiritual and divine things, as entirely different from anything that is perceived in them by natural men, as the sweet taste of honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by looking on it or feeling of it; now this that I have been speaking, viz. the beauty of holiness is that thing in spiritual and divine things, which is perceived by this spiritual sense, that is so diverse from all that natural men perceive in them: this kind of beauty is the quality that is the immediate object of this spiritual sense: this is the sweetness that is the proper object of this spiritual taste. The Scripture often represents the beauty and sweetness of holiness as the grand object of a spiritual taste, and spiritual appetite. This was the sweet food of the holy soul of Jesus Christ, “I have meat to eat, that ye know not of…. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:32, John 4:34). I know of no part of the Holy Scriptures, where the nature and evidences of true and sincere godliness, are so much of set purpose, and so fully and largely insisted on and delineated, as the 119th Psalm; the Psalmist declares his design in the first verses of the psalm, and he keeps his eye on this design all along, and pursues it to the end: but in this psalm the excellency of holiness is represented as the immediate object of a spiritual taste, relish, appetite and delight, God’s law, that grand expression and emanation of the holiness of God’s nature, and prescription of holiness to the creature, is all along represented as the food and entertainment, and as the great object of the love, the appetite, the complacence and rejoicing of the gracious nature, which prizes God’s commandments above gold, yea, the finest gold, and to which they are sweeter than the honey, and honeycomb; and that upon account of their holiness, as I observed before. The same Psalmist declares, that this is the sweetness that a spiritual taste relishes in God’s law, “The law of the Lord is perfect…. The commandment of the Lord is pure…. The fear of the Lord is clean…. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart…. The judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether: more to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalms 19:7–10).
   A holy love has a holy object: the holiness of love consists especially in this that it is the love of that which is holy, as holy, or for its holiness; so that ’tis the holiness of the object, which is the quality whereon it fixes and terminates. An holy nature must needs love that in holy things chiefly, which is most agreeable to itself; but surely that in divine things, which above all others is agreeable to holy nature, is holiness; because holiness must be above all other things agreeable to holiness; for nothing can be more agreeable to any nature than itself; holy nature must be above all things agreeable to holy nature; and so the holy nature of God and Christ, and the Word of God, and other divine things, must be above all other things, agreeable to the holy nature that is in the saints.
   And again, an holy nature doubtless loves holy things, especially on the account of that, for which sinful nature has enmity against them: but that for which chiefly sinful nature is at enmity against holy things, is their holiness; it is for this, that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and against the law of God, and the people of God. Now ’tis just arguing from contraries; from contrary causes, to contrary effects; from opposite natures, to opposite tendencies. We know that holiness is of a directly contrary nature to wickedness: as therefore ’tis the nature of wickedness chiefly to oppose and hate holiness; so it must be the nature of holiness chiefly to tend to, and delight in holiness.
   The holy nature in the saints and angels in heaven (where the true tendency of it best appears) is principally engaged by the holiness of divine things. This is the divine beauty which chiefly engages the attention, admiration and praise of the bright and burning seraphim; “One cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). And: “They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). So the glorified saints, “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy.” (ch. Revelation 15:4).
   And the Scriptures represent the saints on earth as adoring God primarily on this account, and admiring and extolling all God’s attributes, either as deriving loveliness from his holiness, or as being a part of it. Thus when they praise God for his power, his holiness is the beauty that engages them: “O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he hath done marvellous things; his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory” (Psalms 98:1). So when they praise him for his justice and terrible majesty; “The Lord is great in Zion, and he is high above all people: let them praise thy great and terrible name, for it is holy” (Psalms 99:2–3). “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool, for he is holy” (ver. Psalms 99:5). “Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy” (verses Psalms 99:8–9). So when they praise God for his mercy and faithfulness; “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalms 97:11–12). “There is none holy as the Lord; for there is none beside thee; neither is there any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).
   By this therefore all may try their affections, and particularly their love and joy. Various kinds of creatures show the difference of their natures, very much, in the different things they relish as their proper good, one delighting in that which another abhors. Such a difference is there between true saints, and natural men: natural men have no sense of the goodness and excellency of holy things; at least for their holiness; they have no taste of that kind of good; and so may be said not to know that divine good, or not to see it; it is wholly hid from them: but the saints, by the mighty power of God, have it discovered to them: they have that supernatural, most noble and divine sense given them, by which they perceive it: and it is this that captivates their hearts, and delights them above all things; ’tis the most amiable and sweet thing to the heart of a true saint, that is to be found in heaven or earth; that which above all others attracts and engages his soul; and that wherein, above all things, he places his happiness, and which he lots upon for solace and entertainment to his mind, in this world, and full satisfaction and blessedness in another. By this you may examine your love to God, and to Jesus Christ, and to the Word of God, and your joy in them, and also your love to the people of God, and your desires after heaven; whether they be from a supreme delight in this sort of beauty, without being primarily moved from your imagined interest in them, or expectations from ’em. There are many high affections, great seeming love and rapturous joys, which have nothing of this holy relish belonging to ’em.
   Particularly, by what has been said you may try your discoveries of the glory of God’s grace and love, and your affections arising from them. The grace of God may appear lovely two ways; either as bonum utile, a profitable good to me, that which greatly serves my interest, and so suits my self-love; or as bonum formosum, a beautiful good in itself, and part of the moral and spiritual excellency of the divine nature. In this latter respect it is that the true saints have their hearts affected, and love captivated by the free grace of God in the first place.
   From the things that have been said, it appears, that if persons have a great sense of the natural perfections of God, and are greatly affected with them, or have any other sight or sense of God, than that which consists in, or implies a sense of the beauty of his moral perfections, it is no certain sign of grace: as particularly, men’s having a great sense of the awful greatness, and terrible majesty of God; for this is only God’s natural perfection, and what men may see, and yet be entirely blind to the beauty of his moral perfection, and have nothing of that spiritual taste which relishes this divine sweetness.
(Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, Part III, Section III)

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