Attributes of Love – Obedience
As we have seen, the total spirit of the whole law is expressed in the word LOVE. The love about which we speak is benevolence or good willing. This is known as choosing the highest good of God and the universe for its own intrinsic value through a spirit of entire consecration. This consecration to the good of God is viewed as the ultimate end of existence. True the whole law is fulfilled in that word, love, and yet there are many things implied in the state of mind that this term expresses. For that reason we will examine the characteristics or attributes that form this love. We will keep a certain mental philosophy in mind as follows: 1) Call attention to certain facts in mental philosophy that are revealed to our spirit and mind, and 2) Point out the actual attributes of a love that is consistent with obedience to the Law of God. We will see that these states of mind and spirit also imply a course of outward conduct that is implied in the state of mind or results from it. We will see a clear cause and effect coming from a mind that has love to others as its ultimate philosophy.
There are certain facts of mental philosophy revealed in the spirit and mind.
- Moral beings possess soul (which includes intellect) and spirit. There is rational logic in intellect and there is spiritual knowledge known through the spirit.
- Moral beings also possess the ability to feel through emotions which may also be influenced by the mind of the spirit or by physical things around them but controlled by the will.
- They also possess a will to choose or refuse in every case of moral obligation.
Man is composed of body, soul and spirit. The Soul has intellect, emotions and will while the spirit has conscience, intuition, and communion as we have said earlier. When the will is subject to the spirit, the mind and emotions will also be subject as well, making the soul subject to the spirit in all things. It is possible for either the emotions or the intellect to control the will. Some false religions like Scientology major on the intellect while other false religions rely on the emotions to control the will. Both or these are wrong. The will must be controlled with the quiet still voice of the spirit as it is influenced by the Holy Spirit and then the rational mind makes its decisions based upon the moving of the spirit. It is not always necessary to always understand intellectually what the spirit says, but having a rest in the spirit is certainly the greatest essential. A person can be emotional and think that they are showing love. On the other hand, they can make the right choices and thus feel that they are showing love by choice or intention. When the intention or choice is made in cooperation with the knowing of the spirit, then the intention is a true moral decision.
Benevolence is obedience to the law of reason and of God. Self gratification is not really God’s love. It is a show-off type of compassion that intends only to glorify self rather than seek the true best ends of all. As we look at the attributes of moral law we will see that God has these attributes and that there are many references to these attributes in the scriptures that throw light upon this subject for us. The Bible states that love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” We will find that every attribute of virtue is really only another attribute of benevolence. It is various views of the same thing. God’s moral attributes, likewise, are really only different attributes of benevolence. True love comprehends all the attributes of God in the spirit even though the mind may not be able to logically explain it. Every aspect of virtue on both man and God is nothing more than another way of saying benevolence.
The attributes of love that show a person is walking in the spirit, loving God, and their neighbor, obeying the law of God.
- Voluntariness. A voluntary state of the mind. We are not speaking of fondness, attachment or of any other emotion. We are speaking of voluntary love, choice or intention. Anyone that loves will volunteer their love to God and others. It controls the thoughts and intentions. It is loving, consecration to God and wanting the best for the universe. It means not only willing but having deep emotions of love to God and man. It is shown in the outward life. If you don’t voluntarily will the best for God and others, you don’t have true love. No one needs to prod someone who has voluntariness, they just have it as part of their benevolence.
- Liberty. The mind is free and spontaneous in loving God and others. When a person could choose self-gratification, they would rather make the moral choice of God and others and they do it without bondage but freely and with anxious anticipation.
- Intelligence. The mind not only knows the choice through the spirit but it makes that choice with good intelligence as well. Mind, emotion, and will follow the spirit. Because of the above three we find other attributes of Love below:
- Virtue. This is the moral character of benevolence, or agape love. This is moral uprightness, a right relation to moral law and conformity to it. The mind is conscious of the uprightness of its choices, that they are virtuous and holy being like God. One is conscious of loving the right end and loving God and others. The conscience and intellect are in perfect harmony when one has virtue because the conscience affirms that God’s holiness is part of this love, choice, or intention. When the conscience approves, the soul (mind, emotions, and will) are at full rest in Christ. There is a feeling of happiness and joy.
- Disinterestedness. Not that we take no interest, but that we take a great deal of interest in the object of affection. The thing that is distinctive about this disinterestedness is that there is nothing in it for self. This type of love cares not what self benefit there is but only what the good to God and the universe will be. This is the greatest attribute of true agape love since selfish love always has an ulterior motive and this love does not, ever! The end of this type of love is never self but good to God and to others. As the Bible says, “Charity seeketh not her own….” Body, soul, and spirit will work together for the good of God and others. We will “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep…” We don’t envy the prosperity of others but rather enjoy the good that happens to all men and women alike. We rejoice in doing good to others and also in seeing them enjoy good things. We say, “I’m so happy for them.” We enjoy the joy of God, angels and saints. We share their woes as well as God would. This type of love is expansive and embraces a universal group of others with outpourings of floods in sympathetic feeling of both joys and sorrows as they come before us on a daily basis.
- Impartiality. This does not mean that we are indifferent to others or that we would be pleased to see the wicked blessed like the righteous. What this means is that the intrinsic value of a soul is all that is seen by the mind. It wants the best no matter who the person is. This is not partial like selfish love would be. Selfish love would have favorites and prejudices. Selfish love acts unreasonable and ridiculous. Selfish love can be changed by the color of one’s skin, one’s family, nation or many other things. Benevolent love is not partial to black, Barbarian, Scythian, European, Asiatic, African, or American. They are all the same in the mind of benevolence. Every man is a brother and we seek the best interest of all. We are truly impartial. We have no prejudice. There are no privileged classes. We care only that men are men, not that they are of our own class, town, state, or nation. We only care that he is a creature made by God. We care only for his interests and not that they are in any way connected with self. This does not say that you overlook family or companions because the immediate nature of them would logically be where you could have the most influence. In fact the Bible says that “If any man provide not for his own, especially for those of his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” So we say that benevolence looks at good according to its relative and intrinsic value and in that venue it obtains the highest amount of good. We may do more in our family or in that of our neighbors because we know them and not because it is partiality but that we can do more good with those that we know. We should always promote the good of those closes to us but we still do all we can to promote the good of all that we come into contact with. This is the most common telling characteristic of Jesus, apostles and of martyrs. They cared not for their own life in order to minister to others. It is also extremely important that benevolence lays stress on God’s interests because of His infinite value which is greater than those of all other interests in the universe. We also love our neighbor as ourselves. Thus love is supreme to God and equal to man.
- Universality. No one is excluded from true benevolent love. This does not mean that we can practically love every living being equally but that we love them according to their intrinsic value and love with the highest practicable amount of good. There are some that it would serve a better purpose for us to seek God’s judgment on them in order to secure a higher good because of their intrinsic evil and destructive ways. Still, enemies and friends, strangers and foreigners, relatives and neighbors will all be included in benevolent love. The Bible says, “I say unto you, Love your enemies, pray for them that hate you, and do good unto them that despitefully use and persecute you.” God is like that! He shows mercy to sinners and gives them chanced after chance to escape the fires of hell. True Agape love not only loves those who are holy but also it loves the unlovely. It is alive and sensitive to all happiness and to all pain. If a person does not have sympathy with the joys and sorrows of all men without partiality, they have no Godly love, or benevolence. They are lost. A true Christian is gratified when good comes to anyone and equally feels pain when evil comes to anyone. That is true universality.
- Efficiency. Benevolence involves choice, intention. That means that when a person truly intends something then they cannot help but make an effort to accomplish what they intend. When the ultimate goal is benevolence, it would cease to exist or it will produce efforts to secure the end. Efficiency as an attribute of benevolent intention is energized in God, in angels, and in saints on earth and in heaven. This is what led God to give his Son, Jesus, to die for us. The same love that produces outward action also produces inward feelings, wakes up the intellect through the spirit and will devise whatever means is necessary in order to realize the end. This is what wields all the attributes of God and what moves heaven to find ways of reaching every possible sinner for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Love will always find a way to secure the end in sight. This is what controls all the attributes of God. It is a mighty power that moves all the moral world like a powerful volcano. When you look at the heavens, you cannot but realize that the love of God hung them in space and keeps them in their orbits. God’s power is continually, from eternity past, endeavoring to realize the end of His creative power. God, what a glorious thought, is continuously using all the efficiency of his infinite mind to work good in the lives of all in his universe. The question is this, will all moral creatures sympathize with the great love of God? Our heart cry should be “Let all the power that energizes Him, energize all of us to animate us and move us through a principle of love, good-will to all. My soul cries out, ‘Amen,’ go on and God-speed the work. Let this mighty power completely captivate the universal mind until all the ills of earth are destroyed and until all that can be are made holy and are clothed in the everlasting garments of gladness.” Since benevolence is by its very nature part of what makes up true Christianity, then any effort of a Christian to promote the good of being is as natural to him as breath. He makes every effort to secure the goal of holiness in the universe and every picture of an inactive and inefficient Christian is only a misnomer. Being a true believer is an active principle, never just passive. No one has desires that are the foundation of their very life without making conscious actions to fulfill those desires. If the will has action, then the life must be. This is what efficiency is all about.
- Penitence. This must always be a characteristic of love for one who was a sinner. This has nothing to do with emotion but with the choice of the will under the influence of the spirit. It is commonly understood as sorrow for sin. It means an attitude toward past sins of rejection, opposition, and aversion toward them. This change in the will of the sinner permanently affects them so that their intelligence is thoroughly awakened to the nature, character, and tendencies of sin, its unspeakable guilt and all the evils associated with that sin. It breaks up the fountains of the deep of emotional feeling so that many times a torrent of sorrow will pour forth when one views their past sins. One will look back with utter loathing and indignation at the sins of the past so much so that confession and restitution will be the ultimate result. This is genuine repentance. When a soul forsakes sin it will necessarily make all the required reparations where injury has been done. Since benevolence is seeking the ultimate good of all, a penitent person cannot help but want to make a repair on the one inflicted for their ultimate good. This means that repentance secures a God-justifying and self-condemning spirit. The shame and blame comes to self and the acquittal goes fully to God. If there is no self-abasement then there is no genuine repentance. Since the degree of self abasement depends upon the view of sin, such a view will always exist if there is genuine repentance. Repentance is something that grows in strength throughout life and even in Heaven we will be stirred both with sorrow for past sins and with love for Him who loved and forgave us so that Godly sorrow is truly not unhappiness but the ultimate joy of the believer. There may be outward morality without benevolence but there can never be benevolence without an outward change in the life.
- Faith. This is one of the most important attributes of agape love, or benevolence. It is not really exercised by intellect. Most of the time we understand faith as a conviction, a strong perception of truth without any reference to the state of the will and whether it embraces or resists the truth that it has perceived. How could this be evangelical faith? There is no virtue in a belief that only perceives something to be true. If that were the case then devils are virtuous since they believe and tremble. Some people speak of faith as a way of expressing assurance or confidence, “I have faith that things will turn out all right.” The true definition of faith must make it a part of benevolence or love. This kind of faith trusts in veracity and truth as the necessary condition of obtaining the good of being. One cannot possess real faith without truth and obedience to that truth as a condition which secures the good of being. When one is benevolent, they embrace and commit themselves to truth. As we have said, benevolence is an intelligent choice in obedience to the law of God, the law of love. The nature of faith is confidence in God. When this is the case, the one who has faith is influenced by the will of God which is received as law in all efforts to secure the best end. It is because we love Him and are so confident that his will is be best for the good of being that we unhesitatingly submit, knowing that there is no other way to attain that end. It is a confidence that results in action. This is not forced action either, or it would be works and not a resting in Him. It is the type of action that is gladly entered into because the nature of benevolence dictates that it will result in the very best end. One can see the action of faith as a Christian embraces and commits to the testimony of the will of God and rests in the promises and declarations of God. This faith trusts God, knows that He wants the best and wants what God wants which is the good of being, as an ultimate end. Every time a new truth is discovered, faith puts forth actions that show the confidence that it has in the truth newly perceived. The mind perceives truth through the spirit, the soul feels it deeply, and then the will acts upon the truth perceived. If the person perceives and feels emotion but does not act on it and, in fact, opposes the truth perceived (as Satan does) then we cannot say that there is a trust in God or true faith. People who are now in hell see the truth clearly, they even have feelings about how true it is and yet they really had no faith because they never acted upon the truth perceived. Faith, then, is certainly the will acting upon truth which makes it an attribute of benevolence. True faith has confidence in God to the extent that it is unhesitant in acting upon the truth perceived.
- Complacency. We are talking here about benevolence in its relations to holy beings. Every moral being approves of moral excellence whether or not they are Christians or sinners. Many of the unsaved even see moral goodness as evidence in themselves that they are in some way acceptable to God. They have an unspoken reverence for moral excellence even when it is not forced upon them to the point that they feel what we call complacency or even delight at the demonstration of moral excellence in others or even what they perceive to be in themselves. In this way the word complacency means that they are willing the highest blessedness of holy beings as good and as a condition of their moral excellence. This complacency is a term that means love to God and to the saints. It means a vivid and pleasant state in which there is a delight in and fondness for God. Many times there is a tendency to have emotions of love toward God that have nothing to do with actual actions of the will but, as we have previously said, true benevolence consists in moral choices and not just in emotions. So when we say complacency, we mean that with or without emotions, benevolence is willing the best end for God and all creation because of its intrinsic value and not because of an emotional feeling that we had to make such a decision. We may have such emotions, but we can will the good without this emotion. That is another way to define the term, disinterested benevolence. It is complacent love, love that is based upon the will choosing and not necessarily upon the emotion, while emotion may still be involved. Yes we love God because he is good, but that is a condition of the love, the basic foundation is still the intrinsic value of the good that will come when we love God and not His goodness alone.
- Opposition to sin. Another thing that shows true love to God is opposition to sin. This gets to the vary root of the nature of benevolence or agape love. Benevolence is good willing or desiring the highest good of being as the ultimate end. The one thing that will destroy this more than anything is sin. In other words, sin is a direct enemy of benevolence or agape love. True love or benevolence will always eternally be opposed to that which is bent on destroying love. One could never make the argument that a loving God is not opposed to sin. In order for God to be a loving God, he would be required to be opposed to sin, since sin will never seek the best ends for either God or the Universe. You can make statements that you are opposed to sin and even intellectually agree with the premise. You can get all emotional about your hatred for sin but if there is no decision of the will that shows the ultimate choice is in opposition to sin, all the intellect and emotion in the world are nothing more than an act and play acting is not a virtue but rather a lie which is sin. Sometimes even the worst of sinners express their opposition to the very things that they do and yet they still choose sin with their will which shows where their heart really is. When we talk about the heart it has nothing to do with what a person expresses with the mind or emotions, though those can come into view, it is really more about the choice of the will. When the Bible says that we believe with our heart, it means that the will makes a choice to love God with all the heart and soul and mind because of the intrinsic value of the existence of God in our life and the glory that He will get for our choice of Him. Also, when we say to call upon the name of the Lord, we are really saying that we are telling God that we are making Him the Lord of our will and that from now on; we choose the direction that leads us “into” fellowship and communion with the Lord of Lords and the supreme lover of our soul. This direction of the life in moving away from self and toward communion and fellowship with God is what we call repentance. Remember, if there is no action of the will in opposition to sin, then there is no heart opposition to sin. Also, a virtuous opposition to sin from the heart is one of the traits of love to God and man or benevolence. We can see from this that a heart that is in opposition to sin cannot co-exist with a heart that is full of sinful choices. It is impossible to be opposed to sin and to still commit sin. Hell is full of people that will be wailing in opposition to sin but their existence in hell is proof that they made the wrong choices in their life time. No wonder the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Far too many people live under the fatal delusion that they are opposed to sin because they make verbal statements against it in certain forms, but in their heart of hearts they know deep down inside that they are consciously continuing to commit sin as their prevailing choice. Paul the Apostle describes this phenomenon in Romans Chapter 7 when he says that it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me. He then asks who can deliver us from the body of this death and exclaims that it is through Jesus Christ the Lord. One may ask why the mind and emotions seem to be opposed to sin while the will consistently chooses sin. This is why a person needs to be born again. It is when the Holy Spirit enters the life that self which is the root of every sin, is crucified with Christ. He took us with Him to the cross. It is only after a person is Saved that the ultimate choice of the life changes because there is now a Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. The day a person gets saved they have come to the point that they see that self-gratification has doomed their soul and they are on the road to hell. We have to understand why it is that people make the wrong choices. They don’t necessarily make the choice because it is sinful and they are delighting in doing that which they know will condemn them. They are making the choice because they seek the gratification that they will receive from the thing chosen. Eve took the fruit because it was pleasant to the eyes and would make her wise not because it was sin. In simple terms, Eve was hungry and the fruit filled the appetite. The drunk, the drug addict, the sex addict, and all other forms of sin are the same way. Each one is filling appetites that are many times opposed to their statements and emotional outcries against their very practices. People don’t consider themselves to be morally depraved because they express opposition to sin and may even be emotional in opposition to it. However, this is not the will and as long as they still choose that which their mind and emotion claim they are against, they prove that they have no heart hatred of sin. This is why I John says that whoever is born of God does not commit sin. When a person is born again, the will makes choices that favor God in such a way that the desire to bring glory to God is far stronger than the appetite to do certain sinful things. This is why one can not be opposed to sin while they are making the choice to commit the sin. The choice is the true barometer of the state of the heart. This is why when a person gets saved, it is all or nothing. You cannot trifle with God. The Bible says one cannot love God and Mammon, he will either love the one and hate the other or he will hold to the one and despise the other. So, the truest sign that a person has benevolent love, is that they choose a direction that is opposite of choosing sin.
- Compassion for the miserable. This is another attribute of benevolence, or love to God and man. We are not speaking of compassion as a mere emotion, but of something that is a true virtue, a choice of duty to help those less fortunate than ourselves. It is willing their ultimate happiness for its own sake along with the wellbeing of God and the universe. This type of compassion is for us to will that those who are miserable may be happy. We are not talking only of pity which is not a virtue. James 2: 15-16 says, “if a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?” True compassion toward the miserable is to deny self in order to promote their highest general good. There may be some obstacle, namely, a lack of finances, but we are speaking of the condition of the heart and the choice of the will. In that case, if there were no obstacle, the action would take place. This would also be true of loving those who are in hell but obviously there is no way to get them out, even for God. A good example of someone that has no benevolent compassion is one that says, “We’ll pray for you,” but they won’t do what they could to relieve the misery. In the case of a struggling church, a large church will say, “We’ll pray for you,” but won’t help them out financially when they have the ability to do so. On the other hand there are those who have money to contribute to the misery of people all over the world as a philanthropist, but they would do nothing for the spiritual needs of those in need. In the case of the wealthy philanthropist, they get a certain self gratification in the fact that their money helps those in misery, but the ultimate end is not really that those in misery reach their greatest end, which would necessarily be the salvation of their souls, but that the philanthropist can pat himself on the back over all the poor and misfortunate that he or she has been able to help. If you want to know about what I am speaking, try to get one of the hundreds or thousands of foundations donate money to the efforts of a soul-winning church and you will find a surprising deaf ear to needs that include the spiritual along with the physical. Organizations like People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union pride themselves in helping the unfortunate but they are only doing so to foster some ultimate selfish political agenda and don’t truly care for the needs of the individual. If they did, they would also care for the individuals that they hurt in the process. True benevolence seeks the best ends for the entire universe, and not just for a chosen few. These who parade their benevolence are really only practicing a form of selfishness that creates more misery than the few that they claim to support and relieve.
- Mercy is also another attribute of benevolence. Some think of mercy as compassion but this is not a precise understanding of the term. When one thinks of mercy as it relates to the will of a moral being, they are thinking of a will or disposition to pardon crime. True benevolence will seek the good even of those who deserve evil as long as it can wisely be done. A moral agent is truly “ready to forgive” even to the evil and unthankful and to offer this when there is repentance. Mercy is, therefore, good will in relation to one that deserves punishment; it is a desire for pardon or good to one who deserves nothing but punishment. If mercy is no more than an emotion, it has no moral value. It only becomes moral when it manifests itself in actions in an effort to pardon except where wisdom prevents such to be the case. What we are saying here is that wisdom and justice must also have a part. Mercy can never manifest itself without a thought of justice and wisdom in securing the end of mercy. One does not cancel out one attribute of benevolence in order to activate another one. All attributes of benevolence must be working simultaneously in order for true mercy to be manifest. In the case of God and the moral law, God cannot extend mercy unless there is a corresponding demonstration of justice which shows that mercy and justice are both present at the same time. The best illustration of this truth is that God showed His justice when he allowed Jesus to be sacrificed as a substitute for the human race. It showed that mercy cannot eliminate justice in order to offer pardon to sinners. When God allowed Jesus to take the punishment of public justice for all mankind, he then could offer mercy to any who would repent and come to God since justice had been satisfied, thus making a way for mercy to now come forward. What all false religions, even Islam, fail to show is that God could never just pardon sin without showing that justice had been satisfied. It would completely destroy the whole structure of moral law. Universalists make the same mistake in saying that God will send no one to hell. Were God to allow unrepentant sinners into heaven, he would have to eliminate moral law from the universe because without justice there can be no sanctions and without sanctions, there can be no moral law. That is what makes Islam a false religion. They have no atonement and so they can show no true mercy. It is the wisdom of God in offering a substitute for sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ that makes it possible for God to offer mercy to even the chiefest of sinners. No atonement means no justice. No justice means no moral law. No moral law means any offer of mercy is a sham. The greatest picture of mercy is that God the Father, who has concluded all the world in unbelief, has offered his only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. His justice is satisfied and in that effort of the wisdom of God, the offer of mercy is made to all who deserve no mercy but it is now possible since their sins are paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Who would object to repenting of their sins when such a loving and tender offer is made by such a loving God through his sinless Son, Jesus Christ?
- Justice is another attribute of benevolence. As we have stated in the last point, justice is just the opposite of mercy. Justice is viewed in its relations to crime and consists in a disposition to treat every moral agent according to his true moral desert or merit. When it comes to crime, the criminal and the public interest, justice is to punish according to the law. Where mercy would pardon, justice would punish for the public good. Every moral agent has this involuntary feeling regarding the punishment of crime which is the feeling that the guilty deserves punishment. This feeling is not a moral choice but a feeling that is an integral part of society. Sometimes it even takes control of a mob and leads to a lynching or riot because there is such strong feeling that crime must be punished. When the will of a person or mob yields to this extreme form of emotion it is rooted deeply in selfishness, not benevolence. Sometimes God allows riots, wars, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters to purify society and purge away moral nuisances which corrupt and infest our communities at large. Justice, as an attribute of benevolence, however, is shown in the execution of the penalties of law. A society would not be moral if the criminals were not punished or removed from society so that all others in that society would realize the best end because crime had been dealt with. Now in the discussion of the subject of justice there are several types of justice under consideration.
- The first type of justice is public justice. This type of justice views the public interest and secures the administration of law for the public good. Public justice will not allow the execution of a penalty to be set aside unless something is done to support the law and the law giver. This is precisely why Islam is not a moral religion. Their belief system allows their “god,” Allah, to set aside the penalty only because he “wills” it to be set aside. It does not allow the administration of the penalty required under the law and thus becomes a mock of the very laws that it is supposed to uphold. Public justice also allows for rewards and looks after the public interest so that the greater interest always prevails over lesser private interests. Again, this is why catering to special interest groups in politics is not moral. It is a complete avoidance of justice. It is changing the rules in order to support a lesser interest at the expense of the greater public good. This is also why removing the word “God” from the pledge of allegiance or changing the definition of marriage to appease a private interest from an atheist or a group of gays also becomes immoral since it sets aside the public good, which has greater value, for the lesser private good of a few. Public justice is modified by mercy and mercy modifies public justice. Mercy requires the conditions of repentance so that justice cannot take vengeance when the highest good does not require it and when punishment can be rendered without public loss. When Jesus died for the sins of the world, public justice was satisfied because the law was not set aside and the punishment was made by a substitute, Jesus. This puts a balance between mercy and justice so that the whole character of both is perfect, symmetrical, and heavenly. Mercy has far more meaning when it is viewed in the light of justice having been fulfilled with the punishment paid so that mercy may be given to the offender. Without justice, mercy could never be perfect benevolence but we can see the attitude of benevolence appearing in the character of God as revealed in His law, His gospel, and also as indicated impressively by His providence. We see examples of the balance between justice and mercy in the Psalms where David prays for the punishment of the wicked so that we can see the idea of Public Justice firmly developed in the mind of the Psalmist. We should not stumble at these expressions as if they show a lack of love or an un-Christlike attitude. The truth is that the sinners mentioned by David in Psalms deserved to die as do all sinners. When God allowed some to die, it was for the greater public good to make them an example. We have similar problems today when we see some pleading for the “rights” of those condemned and on death row. By setting aside the good of the general public for the right of the condemned criminal, public justice is not satisfied because it is set aside for the smaller good of the personal interest of a criminal and the justice that would surely be a deterrent to evil of others in society is now severely lacking due to this misunderstanding of justice and mercy. This is contrasted with others who would, as fanatics, burn cities, destroy World Trade Centers, execute the innocent in the interest of the rights or goals of a few at the expense of public good. No one can make the argument that because God destroyed the world by flood or the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins that such manipulative hate crimes are in some way justified.
- The second type of Justice is retributive justice which is a modification of the attribute of justice. This type of justice consists of the visitation of the offender with that punishment which he deserves because it is only fitting and proper that a moral agent be dealt with according to his deeds. We will deal with this more in detail at a later time.
- The third type of justice is called commercial justice. This consists in willing exact equivalents and uprightness in business and all secular transactions. This is an attribute without which governments cannot function, human or divine. No one can rightly throw aside one attribute of benevolence without making the others weaker and thus adding confusion to the whole system of government. Without the proper balance between justice and mercy, the administration of government is confused the public good weakened. When you destroy justice, you destroy benevolence into a sickly, limping sentimentalism. This is a justice that has no God, no virtue, no beauty, no form, no comeliness and we should not desire it for the entire world. Justice stands by, yes, executes law. It secures commercial honesty. It secures public and private integrity and tranquility. It makes violence, disorder and injustice into a great calm of peace. We see what the results of justice were in the Bible in the thundering of Mount Sinai and the agony of the cross of Calvary. We see it when the world wailed as God destroyed it by flood as He opened the fountains of the deep and the whole world population was swallowed up and drowned in the flood. We see this justice when God destroyed the cities of the plain and rescued Abraham and Lot. We will see it in the end of time when God finally throws the sinner into the lake of fire as the plumes of smoke bellow out of that great burning fire before God and the holy angels for ever and ever. Without justice, the mercy of God has far less meaning but it is when in view of the greater good and the administration of punishment that God’s mercy shines forth as a beacon of light in the darkest night. We should not recoil from justice in religion, family or state because when the policy of government excludes this attribute, the whole system of government ends in failure, defeat, and ruin. This is why, when God punishes those who will not repent, it does not diminish the love of God but rather makes it all the more glorious. It shows that God will never delight in misery for its own sake but that He does delight in the administration of justice. No wonder those in heaven will see the smoke of the torment of the impenitent ascending up before the throne of God and they will shout, “Alleluia! The Lord Omnipotent reigned: just and righteous are thy ways, thou King of saints!” It is because all repentant sinners, standing in the very sight of the administration of justice, can now rightly and joyfully see just how great the mercy of God was to forgive their sins and allow them to dwell in perfect bliss in heaven for eternity. Before we conclude this point we will say that there must be precise commercial justice, business honesty and integrity for benevolence to exist. Impulsive benevolence may exist but without business honesty and integrity the show of benevolence is only selfishness manifesting itself. A person can be a crook in business and then contribute to some charity, but that does not really show benevolence, only a selfish desire to look good in the act of being immoral in business integrity. When the Bible says, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” a true benevolent justice would not fail to comply since if the heart is just, the life will be as well. If a person has the benevolence of moral law he will be against every form of injustice; he cannot be unjust to his neighbor’s reputation, his person, his property, his soul, his body, or in any way to man or God Himself. When a person truly repents of his sins, it is only right when we consider justice, to secure confession and restitution in every case of wrong that they can remember so far is it is practicable. We must remember that a born again man or woman can never really be unjust; one can’t be benevolent and unjust at the same time. Someone may appear to be so, but the heart tells the tale. When a person has the attributes of selfishness as we will discuss at t future time, there is no place for benevolence since the two cannot co-exist. We are talking about the overall will of the heart here. Even if a Christian appears to be selfish or unjust in any way, they are still benevolent since the two cannot co-exist at the same time. A Christian may do something that appears to us to be unjust while his intention is right but we are not speaking of actions, we are speaking about the will of the heart. I John says that whatsoever is born of God doeth not commit sin, or someone that has the Holy Spirit has changed his ultimate intention from selfishness to benevolence, no matter what certain mistaken actions appear in the process. We are talking of the heart of a person. When a person is born again, he can never again go back to the state of a sinner in heart, living solely for self and selfish interests. The indwelling Holy Spirit would never allow it. It is a complete contradiction of fact and of scripture.
- Veracity is also an attribute of benevolence. This means that the benevolent one adheres to truth. The very thing that grips the heart and makes the change in a man is what brings him to love the truth. It is truth that sets one free. Veracity is truthfulness. It is the process of conforming the will to reality. When a person makes a statement that is true, they are conforming the will to the reality of things. When a person refuses to believe reality, they are conforming themselves to selfishness. They are actually building a fantasy about what is true and living in that fantasy. When a person lives in reality and conforms the will to this reality, they are willing the intrinsically valuable as the end and what is relatively valuable as the means to this end. This only means that this person is willing things according to the reality of facts in the case. This is why Christians are contrasted to other forms of religion. Islam has a fantasy of paradise with men waking up to a world with many virgins to give them pleasure. Other religions have fantasies from going to flying saucers, to coming back as other forms of life. All religions besides Christianity, even the so-called science of evolution, find themselves believing in a fantasy of some sort while the Christian believes in reality. Many of the greatest scientists in the world were Christians expressing facts while the whole world was accepting fantasies like the one that taught that the world was flat. Christians had a Bible that said the earth was round, a circle. Veracity seeks good in the end and truth as the means of arriving at this end. When a person has truth in their heart, they will also have a love of the truth. When a person has truth in their heart, they have an emotion of joy every time they discover some other truth because their heart is born of truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Having Jesus is virtue and having truth in the heart is virtue. One makes the right choice to have Jesus in their heart which is a virtue of choice. This means that a true believer could never promote the ultimate good by falsehood. A Christian could, for instance, never accept the theory of Evolution since it is a false premise and not based upon truth. This is because every kind of falsehood, every pious fraud presents only a true instance of selfishness. A Christian could never lie for God and he cannot tell a sinful falsehood thinking that he would please God with such a statement. He knows in his spirit that God is not pleased with lying. This is why the world system does not understand the scripture and they think that scripture is a series of fables passed down and essentially lied about from generation to generation. They don’t understand that the law of benevolence would never allow a Christian to make up a false story and then try to live by it as if it were true amidst falsehood. The conscience would be far too strong and would never allow the truly benevolent so to live with such a lie. This does not say that one cannot withhold truth from a person who would destroy another if such a truth were known. If a man is pursued by a murderer and comes into the home of a protector, that protector is under no obligation to tell the criminal of the existence of the innocent in his house. This is merely withholding truth for the greater good. The pursuer has no right to know if the man is there. The highest good of the general public demands that the protector say nothing. This does not allow us to state falsehoods, merely to refuse to make statements that would harm another being. Universal veracity will always be the quality of a truly benevolent man. This man is faithful, truthful, and benevolent; what he says can be depended upon as much as if those same statements were issued by an Angel. No liar has, nor can he have, true virtue or benevolence.
- Patience is another attribute of benevolence or agape love. When we speak of patience we are not talking about relaxed emotions, though this may be pleasing. Emotions are really involuntary states of the mind which could not be virtue since they do not involve the will. A calmness may be the result of virtue because of a constitutional temperament or from circumstances that have created this calmness. When we talk of patience as a moral virtue we must be speaking of a voluntary state of the mind. This must be an attribute of love or benevolence. The Greek we find this definition of patience: Thayer Definition: 1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance a) in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings b) patiently, and steadfastly 2) a patient, steadfast waiting for 3) a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance In the truest sense of the word, patience means perseverance under trials, continuance, bearing up under afflictions or privations, steadfastness in purpose regardless of obstacles. In a bad sense the selfish person may be patient in pursuing his evil end and endure opposition in the process. However, the patience about which we are speaking is a quality of benevolence which is opposed to selfishness. It has constancy, it is fixed, it endures trials, afflictions, crosses, persecutions, and discouragements. When this form of patience ceases or when discouragement prevails, the will ceases on its course of benevolence. This good form of patience will develop emotions which match so that the temper is under control of the will and the impatient and irritable feelings do not manifest themselves. Circumstances may come into the life of the believer which will ruffle the emotions but the overall purpose remains unchanged. The best way to avoid this attack on the emotions is to occupy the mind with that which will divert attention from the thing causing the attack. There are times when one’s emotions or sensibilities will manifest themselves in a completely opposite form from the direction that the will is going. This is where temptations come from. Sin comes when we will to gratify the sensibilities in opposition to our law of reason. This state of the will cannot, however, co-exist with a state of the will where disinterested benevolence is the choice. There are some states of life like illness, irritable nerves and other things over which the will has no control which may affect the sensibilities. These may cause a temporary feeling or attitude which is inconsistent with the general choice of the will but if they don’t completely take over and change the will completely, they are not really sin. It is sin only when the will is altered from benevolence to selfishness as a general motive and direction of life. Why? Because the will did not consent to them! Thus, they are only temptations. If they change the will so that they break forth in words and actions, then the sin is that the will has consented to follow the feelings and gratify them instead of saying no. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” If anger arises, don’t let it control your will. Don’t cherish the anger for cherishing it is sin. When the will broods over the cause, it is sin; if not, there is no sin. Our actions correspond to states of the will, but feelings and desires can be in direct opposition to our will. Patience comes in when the feelings and desires are opposite to the will and the person lets the will control these feelings and desires without changing the course of action of the will. As a person may be tempted and not sin, just so a person may have opposing emotions and sensibilities and not sin. It matters not what is in the sensibility, the will is just the exact opposite. Thus, we can’t say that virtue is strong when there is no temptation, but that virtue is strongest under extreme sensibility and temptation where the will remains focused on the good of being, the best end of the universe with no change to selfish willing. Look at Jesus! In the garden of temptation and on the cross, Jesus showed his greatest strength of will amid the awful temptations of his trials. The Bible says he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. He learned patience. He had strong emotions! He asked the Father to let the cup pass. He said that he thirsted. He cried to God as forsaken, but His will never changed from the purpose for which he came, to die for our sins. Jesus loved them while they were mocking Him and nailing Him to the cross. He asked his father to not hold this sin to their account. He had the patience of the saints.
- Another attribute of benevolence is Meekness. Meekness is the opposite of resistance to injury or of retaliation. It is forbearance under injurious treatment, an attribute of God. Isaiah 53 is a prophesy about this trait. There is scarcely any feature of the Character of God and of Jesus Christ that is more strikingly exhibited than is this trait of meekness. As has been said, benevolence is good-will to all beings. It is one thing to exhibit forbearance toward someone that we consider worth seeking. When we are set upon them to do them good, we exercise great forbearance toward them. But God, when we were yet enemies of His, forebear punishing us and instead, gave His Son to die for our sins. This sweet and amiable attribute was affectionately displayed in the hall of Pilate and on the Cross when Jesus was “…led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb. So he opened not his mouth.” This is one attribute that saints can develop and display in daily exercise as we can with all attributes through self discipline. We need to be daily developing and strengthening every modification of benevolence or holiness. Wherever benevolence exists, meekness or forbearance must appear in the life of a Christian. When one views the various attributes of perfection and glory of the love shown in a life as one lives in obedience to the law of God, there is a thrill to the soul. We can see various attributes of benevolence being developed in the lives of believers as circumstances call them forth in the every day affairs of life. So many of these attributes, pre-existing in heaven, are now made even more glorious in the presence of sin in this world. God has a wonderful way of getting glory in the midst of an evil and sinful world. He brings, through benevolence, good out of great evil. When one is hasty and un-forbearing, the lack of benevolence is quite evident. One of the greatest ways for a Christian to have a testimony in this world is to show meekness like Jesus did in the midst of great provocation. (Matthew 5:39-41) “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (40) And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. (41) And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Oh, how we need Christians who manifest meekness in our generation.
- Longsuffering is also another attribute of benevolence. This is very similar to meekness or forbearance. It is an intense form of the same. It is forbearance that is exercised long and under great suffering from persecution and most unreasonable opposition. God has had this form of forbearance as manifested in the life of Christ where it was put to the severest trial. All who have had severe trials, Christ, apostles, martyrs, and primitive saints throughout all ages of the church have shown wonderful specimens to illustrate this sweet attribute of love. Were it not for the evils of this present world, no being in the universe besides God would know of the existence of this sweet form of love. It is when in the presence of great evil that the attributes of love have developed in ways that they could never have with out the existence of sin in the world. As the bible says, “….where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” The world knows nothing of this trait. It has its own code of “honor” that resists injury and insult and even retaliates fully against any such injury. Islam is the extreme example of the opposite of this trait. Islam seeks to have Jihad against all of its enemies. The spirit of Christ, however is the direct opposite of Jihad, it is the spirit of longsuffering. (Romans 12:20-21) “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Nothing manifests benevolence more than this.
- Humility is still another modification of agape love. While this trait is often used to express a sense of unworthiness, guilt, ignorance, or of nothingness and even a feeling of ill-desert as it shows forth our perception of our guilt before a holy God, as an attribute of the will and of love, it is more accurately defined as the willingness to be known and appreciated according to our real character. This attribute cannot co-exist with pride. Pride would exalt self, hide defects, and try to pass on ones self as more than they really are. Just because someone is convicted deeply of their sins and have feelings of shame, of ignorance and of the fact that they deserve hell, they may still be totally unwilling to confess and be known just as they are. They may be hesitant to be appreciated just according to what the real character of a person has been and is. This is not really humility, it has no virtue. The humility of love consists in the consent of the will to be known, to confess, and to take the proper place in life as one is in the scale of life. This type of love does not wish to pass on for something that it is not. This attribute would cause one to confess sin to God and to man and even make confession of sin a luxury. No one that refuses to accept this attribute would be happy in heaven where we are known even as also we are known. God promises to bring into judgment every work and secret thing whether it is good or evil. Where there is pride, one does not want his true character to be known. Without humility, heaven itself would be hell to a proud person. As a song puts it so well, “…nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” This is why the Bible says to confess our faults one to another and pray for one another that we may be healed. This, more than any other, is an attribute that causes revival to break out. When the hardness of a proud heart breaks and then it spreads to a community of proud persons, revival cannot but be close behind. This is a most modest and unassuming state of mind.
- Self-denial is another attribute of love. This is a principle that says to love another being better than one’s self would mean that when our own interests come into competition with those of the other person we will deny our own interests for those of him. Love is good-will or willing the best for all. When we will good to others more than ourselves, we could never say that we will not deny ourselves when their interests conflict with ours. Jesus is the best example of this. He denied even his own life in order that our interests might be assured. A soldier on the battle field for his country will often deny his own life in the act of defending his country or rescuing a comrade from danger. As we have previously seen, the love required by the law of God is willing the highest good of being for its own sake, or as an end. Since self is not regarded at all because it is of self then it follows that self-denial for the purpose of promoting the interests of God and of the universe is a very clear attribute of love. This very concept, the concept of true disinterested benevolence (there is no other kind), implies abandoning all self-seeking, that is to say, all selfishness. To say it another way, perfect self-denial is what is implied in being benevolent. One cannot be benevolent without ceasing to be selfish. Self-indulgence ceases where benevolence begins. When one concentrates all their powers to the highest good of being in general as an end, they find self-interest or self-gratification to be inconsistent with their ultimate choice. When a person chooses self interest, they are making sure that benevolence is not a part of their life. Benevolence is self-denial. This means that nothing is chosen because of its value to self but because of its relative value and in proportion to that relative value. Though love or benevolence is disinterested in one who has true moral purpose, some love and have benevolence for selfish reasons. They have an ulterior motive. This means that when a selfish person wills the good of others and even God, they do it only for the net results that will come to self from this good willing. This would be defined as “interested benevolence” as opposed to disinterested benevolence. This means that a person can will the good of his neighborhood, his country, his family, anything or anybody, and anything that will promote self interest as long as there is an element of benefit to self in the end. A sinner may do good toward God, toward the church, or to Christianity in general and yet it is all with an interest toward some good to himself. This is “interested benevolence.” It means that all his good only has self interests at heart. It is selfishness with a face of being a Christian when all the while he is a child of hell. Philanthropists do this all the time. They give large sums, not as much for the good it does as for the gratification that their feelings receive. This attribute, perhaps, tells the tale of the difference between false religion and true Christianity more than any other. Islamic extremists practice self-denial when they commit suicide. The question is this, are they doing it as disinterested benevolence? Are they doing it so that their enemies will see the love of God and of them? No! They are doing it to kill and maim the enemy. Buddhists practice self denial! Is their motive to spread the love of God to the whole world and to achieve the best end for the universe? Largely, they are doing what they do for a more self-serving purpose, elevating themselves to higher states of consciousness in order to find their true self or some such nonsense. The same holds true of Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and any other false religion. You can always find an element of self-denial in them but the underlying reason for this self-denial is the ultimate selfish goal of either attaining paradise or some other such goal such as being one of the 144,000 of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even Christians who have as their goal the salvation of their soul and as such pray, go to church, give, and otherwise promote the kingdom of God in hopes that they can have a place in heaven are doing precisely the same thing as other false religions. They get “saved” for selfish reasons and have never really denied themselves for the greater good. Even missionaries, who on the face of it, are sacrificing much to go to another culture for the good of mankind and the glory of God, are often doing their mission work for selfish reasons, the pride of being world travelers and writing books about their travels. One of the sad things about missions is the absolute twisting of the scripture regarding the subject. Paul the Apostle worked with his hands and would not take money because he did not want to make the impression that the salvation of the soul had a monetary price. He took up an offering for the poor church at Jerusalem. Missionaries today take up offerings for themselves so they won’t have to work. To many of them, there is a selfish monetary reason for their concern and “call” to the foreign field. Just look at the results of missions over the last 100 years. Is revival breaking out in every country where missionaries are “sacrificing” their lives? Or, as is usually the case, are they finding that their slides and presentations to churches back home provides a generous income that they could never get otherwise. There are pastors in the homeland that don’t get one penny of support and need to work a job because churches generally are not willing to support a work that does not have the exotic appeal of a foreign field. If missions today were as in the days of Paul, those traveling missionaries would be working to raise money for these poor ministers on the home front rather than padding their own pockets to travel to a foreign land. When we think of self-denial we think of two things: (a) That the interest under consideration is either intrinsically or relatively more valuable than my own interests. (b) That, regardless of if I benefit or not in any way, I can promote or secure a greater good to all because of the infinite value that they will obtain. In my mind the value to others is so great that I don’t even consider what consequences will occur to myself and I gladly make any sacrifice for the joy of what it will do for others. The truly benevolent man will see only the good that he is doing for God and others and will always weigh that of God and others far more highly than any self interest. This attribute can be plainly seen in the love the God had to send Jesus Christ as a gift for the world to die for the sins of mankind. Hebrews 12:2-3 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” The Bible says that Jesus gave his life for “sinners” who are basically enemies of God, not for friends. He did not want to make slaves of his enemies or kill them. He wanted to save them from their sins and offer them a home in heaven. He was only looking at their best end so strongly that his own interests were not even considered. God would not have allowed Jesus to do this unless His suffering were the less of the two evils. God considered the suffering of Jesus to be a lesser evil than the suffering of all mankind in hell so he sent him to suffer that mankind could escape the punishment of eternal fire. We must realize that where self-indulgence exists, benevolence cannot. Self-denial is always where benevolence resides in the lives of all mankind. In fact, self-denial is one of the conditions of discipleship, an essential attribute of holiness or love. There can be no true virtue without this element of self-denial in the life of the individual. Without it, the evidence is clear, the person is lost and bound for hell. Don’t let the penances and self-mortifications of Catholics and others fool you. They are no more than a self-indulgent form of superstition. Popes abstain from marriage, nuns take a veil, monks live in a monastery, hermits forsake society, Moslems take a pilgrimage to Mecca. So many times these are done with a reference to their own glory and happiness or holiness with no real thought of others and the glory of God. There are mistakes in self-denial. Some will deny themselves in one area but gratify self in another. A man will deny himself of sleep and many things in life, why? To make money for self gratification! Some will deny themselves certain foods, to have a reputation of sorts in society. Some go to the mission field to have the applause of men while they have children that never hear from them and live lives of ruin because the “career minded” parents are traveling around the world to do a work for “God.” It may not come all at one time in the life of a Christian, but eventually all areas of life will be submitted to God in this area of self-denial.
- Condescension is another attribute of love. This means that one has no problem descending to the poor, ignorant, or vile for the purpose of winning them to the love of God and thus providing the best end for their lives. God places us in a position to see and feel the heart beat of those in need. He causes us to see that no matter how low they are in society, God’s love can give them the best end and greatly magnify their happiness in this life and give them a home in heaven. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit manifest this infinite condescension in their effort to secure the well-being of sinners, including the vilest and most degraded ones. This attribute pictures Jesus Christ as being lowly of heart. God is said even to humble himself so that what he does in regards to lowly creatures is far below him in every respect, just in heaven, much less when he comes to earth and then takes on himself the very form of those who are so lowly and defiled as we. Infidels may think of condescension as a weakness. False cults and skeptics alike create a “god” in their mind that is the exact opposite of true virtue. Their “imaginary god” is too high and lofty to come down, notice, and even interact with such lowly creatures as we. The concerns of men are beneath them. Yet our God says, (Isaiah 57:15) “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Also, (Isaiah 66:1-2} “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? (2) For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Our God is clothed with condescension as with a cloak. It is what makes his benevolence even more precious. Other false “wanabee gods” are severely lacking in benevolence unless it is “interested benevolence.” When one considers the ultimate power and control that God can wield as he controls the total universe, the “tender mercies over all his works” are even more precious by contrast. Not even a sparrow can fall without God knowing; he even counts the very hairs of our heads. Such tender loving care, for one so full of power and majesty. Think of it! God is so wonderful that he can know, contemplate, and control both the highest forms of life and also the lowest of all creatures, even one celled animals and plants. That means when the Bible says that His, “tender mercies are over all his works,” we know that no creature is too low, too filthy, or too degraded for him to condescend to that level. Now, what does that do to his overall character? It places that character in a blazing light for all to see. God’s benevolence is good will to all beings, even those who are below us. Though God is infinitely above all his creatures, yet He infinitely condescends to the lowest of his creation. He doesn’t have to prove how high He is to anyone. He made them all. As the creator, He rather desires to show mercy because of the intrinsic value of the best end of every creature in the universe. None are too low for him to care that they attain the best end according to their relative value. True benevolence cannot exist if it were degrading to stoop though condescension to where the lowest of creatures exists, the fox of the desert and the fowls of heaven do not escape his benevolence; even the fish that swim in the lowest oceans where scarcely a human eye can see, and yet God has condescended to even that lowly creature to make them full of life and even bright colors and unusually creative characteristics. Only a real God could condescend to each and every creature in the universe. Any false “wanabee god” that refuses this great attribute of condescension or disdains the lowest forms of life, only proves to be a false “god.” Only pride, an attribute of selfishness, would refuse this type of condescension. Jesus Christ was a perfect example of what we are saying. He was born in a manger, brought up a humble life (though he was really of the royal kingly blood), poorer than a fox in the desert or the fowls of heaven, associated with fishermen, mingled with all classes especially the lowest in society, was despised in life, died between two thieves, and was lowly in heart. The Bible says concerning his great love, he “endured the cross, despising the shame.” He was “meek and lowly in heart.” Here we have the Creator, the Lord from Heaven, and yet this Lord is lowlier than any of his creatures. Does that not make him shine forth as a bright as the light of the sun by contrast to any other being? He can stoop to the lowest of the low but he can never commit sin. What a wonderful God we have. How can we have pride when our God is lowlier than we? This is true benevolence.
- Candor is another attribute of benevolence. Candor is a disposition to treat every subject with fairness and honesty; to examine and weigh all the evidence in the case, and then decide according to the testimony. This is opposite of prejudice or pre-judgment. Prejudice is a decision made up with only partial information. It is not an opinion but a committal of the will to a position without hearing all the facts. Candor cannot take this position and be an attribute of benevolence. Candor wants to hold the question open so that the all the light is sought on all questions that can possibly be obtained in any matter. This is a state of the will that is impartial; it is a disinterested choice of the highest good of being. It does not leave some facts out or desire the highest good of some beings while leaving others out. It is not partial, not of self, but looks at the good of all beings in general. It does not care who will benefit, but does care about the intrinsic and relative value of all as well as the best means of promoting this value. While selfishness cannot be candid, benevolence cannot help but be so. It seeks to know all truth for the sake of doing truth. It does not consult with self-interest, self-ends, or self will. It seeks not to please or profit self or play some favorite. Please be put on notice that where prejudice exists, there cannot be any existence of benevolence. An honest mistake from lack of knowledge is not prejudice. However, if there is an unwillingness to correct the mistake once light has shown, then it develops into prejudice. Few forms of sin are more revolting. Candor is amiable and lovely; it is captivating just to behold. It is especially wonderful to see a man who has his own interests deeply involved and yet he treats a situation with complete candor. What a spirit of love! What a contrast to prejudice exhibited against and by professedly good men. How evil to be unwilling to believe a good thing, but on the other hand be fully willing to believe the evil. This sometimes even creeps into orthodoxy and shows itself as nothing more than complete prejudice against another Christian. One can see why a religion such as Islam that seeks to kill all who believe in a different way is actually a religion of prejudice. The zeal of such a false religion is not one of benevolence but of sinful prejudice.
- Stability, another attribute of benevolence. True benevolent love is not just an emotion that rises up like foam on a soda and then fizzes out and disappears. True benevolent love is a choice that does more than choose and then rest but, rather, it is a choice of an end, a supreme end. This type of choice is an intelligent choice, complete, deliberate, reasonable, and will commend to itself the highest perception and intuition of the spirit. This intelligent, impartial and universal choice is consecration to an end and is most captivating in its influence. That is where stability comes in. Stability means that the choice remains stable and not a mere whim of emotion and a choice that is afterward changed to the opposite. Rather it is a choice that stays rooted in the spirit and soul of the individual, the type of choice that is for life. But, you say, can there be a choice that is made where that choice is eventually changed for some reason? Yes, it can! The difference is that when the new change is made the attribute of stability also affects this choice as well. This is why the new birth, new heart, new nature, new creature, and new life are so stable. They are represented in Scripture as a new direction in life. These are not representations of the tides at sea, but of a completely new direction, which is stability. Romans 6 talks much about the fact that the old man is crucified, he is buried, planted, he is raised as a new creature “in Christ Jesus.” We have a complete Bible study about what the significance of “believing into Jesus” means. It is a moving permanently from a life of the world to a life of being “in Christ” and living with a new mind set. The Holy Spirit comes in and adds a dimension never before known. He approves the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He convicts the Christian of sin and tells us to confess and be forgiven. He prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. This is why, when we hear of a person who was “saved” and their life changed for awhile and then reverted back to the life that they had before salvation that we have a problem. They had no stability. Their choice did not stick. It was a choice of emotion and not of will. As the Bible so adequately states, (2 Corinthians 5:17) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” That shows a choice of stability, this is the one that was not on the stony ground. This is the seed that fell on the good ground and brought forth fruit, some 30 fold, some 60, and some 100 fold. I submit that where there is a profession of faith in Jesus Christ that lacks stability, the evidence is obvious, there is no true disinterested benevolence, there is no true faith, no commitment, no salvation. I also believe that rather than saying that a person lost their salvation, one could say that they never had it, though the results are the same either way. Someone who seemed to be a Christian is going to burn in hell without God. They had no stability in their decision. They were as the young virgins with no oil. They made a profession but had not the Holy Spirit. They never got saved. Think about it! A person chose the best end, the salvation of their soul, the glory of God, all that is good and right, could they ever then reverse that decision if it were truly made? Did they say, I would rather burn in hell? No! They who apostatize were never saved to begin with. The dog returns to his vomit because he never stopped being a dog. Stability is one of the greatest attributes of love. Does a person stop loving God for some trivial personal matter? That is not stability.
- Kindness is an attribute of love. We could also say that the word here is gentleness. In all it means a kindness that shows itself in gentleness to all those around us. It is good-will. Love makes others happy. There is no other way but for one that has love in their heart, the Love of God, to treat others kindly and gently unless there is some vital reason that demands another type of treatment. When a person keeps a certain attitude that is lacking in sensitivity toward others, it shows a selfish state of mind. Love always has a tender regard for the feelings and well-being of it’s object. Benevolence is universal love, unless the good of the individual and the public justice demand another type of treatment, such as punishment for sin. Even in this, however, it is love that leads to a different type of treatment, one that benefits all to the best end of all. True love punishes for the same reason that it forgives, for the best end of all. It gives life, and takes it away, it gives health, and sickness, poverty, and riches, it smiles and it frowns; it blesses and it curses, and does, says, omits, gives and withholds every thing for the one same reason, the promotion of the highest good of being. It can be gentle or severe with kindness as the rule and severity as the exception. Both are equally attributes of benevolence. The gentleness of God and of Christ are shown in the manifestation of the Lamb, Christ, as a picture of His character. He is also called the good shepherd that gives his life for the sheep, leading the flock, carrying lambs in his bosom. The Bible is full of references to how God treats his servants and also his enemies. History is full of both sides of God’s character. We see the loving-kindness, tender mercy, and exceeding greatness of God. We see the eagle stirring up her nest, fluttering over her young, spreading abroad her wings, taking them, bearing them on her wings and then we are told that this is a picture of God in his kindness toward those that love him. The attribute of kindness will always appear where benevolence is present in the life. I Corinthians 13 says, “…charity is kind…” When kindness is lacking in a situation that is most appropriate for such kindness, it is sad evidence that benevolence is lacking in the life.
- Severity is also another attribute of benevolence. (Romans 11:22) “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Notice the warning that stability is important or one would be cut off? As one can see, benevolence is not all softness and roses. Severity is not cruelty, but rather it is love showing strictness, rigor, and purity when occasion demands. Since love is good-will, willing the highest good of being in general, it only stands to reason that when any one person or number of persons conduct themselves so as to interfere with and endanger the public good that severity is just as natural and necessary is benevolence, kindness, or forbearance at other times or circumstances. The Bible shows Jesus not only as a lamb but also as a lion. Jesus has both gentleness as in mercy and severity as in justice. At one time Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At other times He says, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” He prays through the psalmist for vengeance on his enemies. (Psalms 69:20-25) “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. (21) They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (22) Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. (23) Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. (24) Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. (25) Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.” We can find many other passages like this breathed by the Holy Spirit from our God of love. Any person from any culture in the world will agree that when a person or group tries to prevent the highest good, true benevolence would be lacking unless there were severe consequences toward the incorrigible sinners who wished to prevent the highest good. Severity can mean opposition to benevolence on the part of the selfish. However, when used in the good sense as applied to Jesus and God the Father, it means sternness, firmness, purity, justice, and acting for the public good where sin exists and where public interests are at stake. If severity were missing in the protection of the public good, the whole society would wonder at the sincerity of the governor of the moral government that was severely lacking in using severity for the protection of the public good. Without severity, there can be no emergency measures. This is why those that demonstrate against war don’t get it. They fail to see that severity, fighting the enemy, is the best way to promote the public good and thus the foundation of benevolence toward all of humanity. It is a mistake to take one attribute of God and leave out others that make him a complete benevolent being. God is shown as being slow to anger; tender in mercy; pitiful; long-suffering; abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands; forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; but also visiting iniquity on fathers of children and will by no means clear the guilty; as being angry with the wicked every day. These statements do not contradict themselves! They are only showing different attributes of benevolence. They show what ought to be and must be when occasion demands. Good will to the universe is severe where the public good demands it and not all soft and weak as some would like to think. Sin kindles the fire of Divine anger that will burn to the lowest hell. That is precisely why hell is an evidence of the love of God. It shows that God will not allow his enemies to be freed and to ruin his holy heaven. Moral beings should also manifest this trait if they are truly benevolent. A benevolent creature should rebel against that which does not promote the best end, the good of being, for the whole universe. We should seek the good of all as long as there is hope. However, where there is incorrigible wickedness, the lamb is set aside for the lion. As God’s wrathful anger is poured out against his enemies, so a benevolent creature cannot allow wickedness to destroy the public good. Both sides are expressed in the word love. These attributes of love always show themselves in the character of holy men and severity shows when occasion demands it. Peter had it toward Ananias and Sapphira. Paul rebuked Peter when Peter endangered the purity of the church. Elymas, the sorcerer was disciplined for his desire to have God’s power for selfish reasons. Though, in a sinful world, these attributes can be abused or used selfishly, the true benevolent use of them will be that which leaves no other attribute out so that the true good of being is promoted in such a way that all will agree to it being the best end for both God and his creatures.
- Holiness is another attribute of benevolence. No other word describes moral purity better than the word holiness. When we say make holy, we also mean to sanctify. To sanctify is to set apart to a sacred use. This is to be holy. Jewish economy had many things that were sanctified or made holy. In a general sense anything can be made holy if it is set aside for sacred use. This also applies to persons, moral agents, who are set apart for the service of God. When we speak of the holiness as an attribute of benevolence we are pointing out a quality of the attribute which leads it to seek to promote the happiness of all moral agents which happens as they are conformed to moral law, the law of love. Thus, we find in God a quality of His own benevolence which secures the happiness of the universe of moral agents by means of moral law and moral government; this is conformity to God’s subjective idea of what is right. This word describes the moral quality of God’s benevolence and also the moral character of the Godhead. One can scarcely speak of any attribute of God without at the same time speaking of His holiness because each attribute conforms to the law of moral purity. The Bible is full of statements regarding the holiness of God, which is synonymous with love because God is love. Isaiah saw the Seraphim standing around the throne and crying, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” John the apostle had a vision of worship in heaven where “…they rest not day nor night, saying Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God almighty.” Isaiah cried, “Woe is me, Lord God almighty,” and then when he saw the holiness of Jehovah he cried out, (Isaiah 6:5) “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” God’s holiness is infinite and it affects all as it did the prophet here in this passage. Our finite holiness must feel itself awed in the presence of infinite holiness. Job said, (Job 42:5-6) “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. (6) Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Then, how can we compare finite with infinite? In heaven we will be forced to break out with unending songs of praise from the rapture of such holiness. Both Job and Isaiah saw themselves as totally sinful when compared to His matchless holiness. There is a sense, however, that we are holy as He is. The Bible proclaims, (Matthew 5:48) “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This can only mean that both should live to the same end and that we should be as consecrated to that end as God is. It is when we live to the same end, that we view the holiness of God which confounds and overwhelms us. There is no being in the universe that can view the divine benevolence without being overwhelmed at a clear vision of it. No matter how holy God’s creatures are, a glimpse of His holiness or of any of his other attributes will swallow up the very thoughts and the imagination to the point of being totally overwhelmed. Is this not why the Bible says, “No man can see my face and live,” and why Moses would pray, “Show me thy glory,” and then God would hide him in the cleft of the rock while he passed by and let Moses only see the back side of God? Holiness, as in the character of God, is moral harmony of character, an essential attribute of disinterested benevolence in us. It is the very nature of benevolence. It shows itself in man with purity of conversation and deportment with a great loathing of all impurities of the flesh and spirit. No one can profess to be holy that does not possess this in a real and living way. The love God requires is pure love, the kind of love that makes one happy only by making them holy. It is totally abhorrent of all sin and uncleanness. A holy heart pants and struggles toward infinite purity and holiness. It can never rest in the desire to ascend higher as it perceives the fullness and infinity of God’s own holiness by comparison. The heart that is filled with holiness and the desire for more holiness will be wonderfully alive to the true beauty of holiness and the hatefulness and deformity of spiritual and physical impurity. This is called the love of holiness. As a Christian grows in the Lord, he seeks more and more to be conformed to the image of Christ and as such wishes to have less and less of the impurities of the world system and the unholy life style. A desire for more holiness is, therefore, an indispensable attribute in all who manifest disinterested love or benevolence.
- Modesty is still another attribute of love. Modesty is the shrinking from anything that is impure, unchaste, or boastful. It is opposed to boasting, vanity, egotism and retires from public observation and public applause. It is self-diffidence, the opposite of self-esteem or self-complacency. This virtue is opposed to open display, choosing a directly opposite course. It is not egotistical and allied with humility. It wants no applause or distinction. As I Corinthians 13 says, “… charity seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly…” Benevolence, likewise, seeks not its own profit or honor. With a single eye it does not set off self to any advantage. Modesty is a lovely characteristic of benevolence, not just a peculiarity of constitution, since it controls the will. A true Christian is always modest, unassuming, unostentatious, anti-egotistical and seeks with single resolve to attain the highest good of being. Forget the applause or public notice, modesty would prefer to do good while not being observed by anyone. The greatest desire of modesty is that the deeds done are wrought in God and it would wish that others would be influenced to good works as well. Modesty shrinks from self-display or trumpeting its own virtues. Modesty will “esteem others better than self.” Modesty gives preference to others while holding self in moderate to low estimation. Modesty wishes only to exhibit God and Christ, not self. Persons who have this virtue and find that God has placed them in the public eye do not aim to exalt self nor are they flattered by applause or disappointed by censure or abuse. As Paul said, “With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment.” Modesty commends itself to only God and the consciences of men.
- Sobriety is another attribute of benevolence. This would be the exact opposite of levity. While sobriety to an excessive degree is connected with a disturbed life or some other peculiarity, the most common indication of sobriety in the sensibility shows itself in conviction of sin and fear of punishment, from worldly troubles or dozens of other causes. When we discuss sobriety as a virtue, an attribute of benevolence, we are speaking of that solemn earnestness which shows the honest intention to pursue the highest good of being. Sobriety is not moroseness. It is not sour, fault-finding, censorious in spirit. Sobriety is not inconsistent with cheerfulness. It is rather a contrast to levity and not to cheerfulness. It has no use for the spirit of gossip or giggling. It is manifest in the love of God and souls because it supremely values its object. Sobriety, like God and Christ, is always serious and in earnest. Sobriety considers trifling to be an abomination to God, to virtue and enlightened benevolence. Sobriety is not melancholy, peevish, sorrowful, or despondent. It is sober, honest, earnest, and intense as a state of choice or good will. It is a perfectly natural and serious earnestness. A trifling Christian is a contradiction. There is no such thing as light and foolish benevolence. Sobriety has too great a business to accomplish to be distracted by trifling or folly.
- Sincerity is another attribute of benevolence. This is the exact opposite of hypocrisy. As defined in the Bible, sincerity is almost synonymous with perfection. The word means wholehearted honesty, singleness of aim, and uprightness of purpose. No one can have this attribute without being conscious of its presence and that it is really and truly wholehearted in honesty of intention and purpose. It is Honest. It is earnest. It is deeply sincere. It could never be suspected of insincerity. There is a quality about this trait that exudes a truly benevolent man. It cannot be counterfeited because the deception would be seen by all. When a person is not sincere there is a put-on, hollow and shallow long-facedness that reveals ones true colors to a discerning mind. Don’t try to cover up insincerity or it will be exposed even more. True sincerity has simplicity, transparency, frankness, and open-heartedness that the counterfeit cannot display. This is what gives true sincerity its power. A person with true sincerity is as if they possessed a passport or letter of commendation. This sincerity is transparent as light, honest as justice, kind as mercy, and faithful as truth. It needs not hoods, gowns, cannons, ceremonies, because it stands firmly on its own ground. It does not expect nor do others suspect it of hypocrisy. Love is its eternal dwelling place and where benevolence is there is rest.
- Zeal is still another attribute of benevolence. This is not always an attribute of the will as it could be a show of emotion. Some see it as enthusiasm which could be due to a selfish motive. Whether it is will or emotion, however, it expresses intensity in pursuit of an object. This pursuit could be from a characteristic of selfishness or benevolence. In the case of benevolence it is an intense action of the will, an intense state of right choice. The degree of action is in direct proportion to the revelations of the Holy Spirit shining in the spirit of a man. Since benevolence means the highest good of being, Zeal will lay no more degree of stress on that good of being as seems to be demanded at the time. There are no selfish by-products to true benevolent zeal. It is always for the goal of the good of being with no ulterior motive. Thus, the degree of the zeal is in direct proportion to the Light of God from the Word of God in the spirit of a man and the zeal matches that light in degree of intensity. This would be why the scripture says, “…the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up…;” The very lowest state of benevolence is zealous because benevolence cannot ever be true as a stagnant pool. It must be a fountain bubbling forth into everlasting life. Thus, it is aggressive by nature. It is choice with action. It is best ends in view with a course of action to attain the best ends. It is active, not passive. There is no such thing as a lazy benevolence. Benevolence without zeal is not benevolence. Benevolence without a zealous choice to make a difference is not benevolence. Benevolence cannot stand by and idly be a spectator in a situation. Zeal must get involved or it could not be benevolence. Benevolence could never achieve the best end without the proportionate amount of zeal to accomplish that end. Anyone that would be in a position to resist reform toward the right purposes could never be accused of having zeal. They are not benevolent if they have no zeal to make changes in the status quo. Anyone that calls anti-reform or anti-action a Christian position is no different that someone who steals the light from the protection of the back of a friend. True zeal cannot rest while sin is in the world. It cannot rest while sin is in a country; it cannot rest while sin is in a county; it cannot rest while sin is in a city; and it cannot rest while sin is in a persons daily associations. Zeal will always rise up and speak for the right and attempt to make things change toward the right. It will never stand idly by while evil prevails without putting up a fight to the death. God Himself is known in the Bible as clothed in a cloak of zeal so that after making some of the most precious promises in the whole Bible, he says, “…the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.” So we can truly say that where there is no zeal, there is no benevolence and possibly no true faith in God.
- Unity is another attribute of benevolence. Benevolence and love have none but one and the same end for all. The choice, the ultimate intention is always one and it is not divisible. Unity means that there may be many attributes or characteristics, but they all are only so many phases of the same goal, the same end. Thus, all variations of love are still only modifications of the attributes of benevolence. Thus, no matter what form virtue appears in, it will always result in the highest good of being as an end and as such it cannot function while divided and involving different goals. Unity is a must for true benevolence to truly exist. The love of God is a unit. He has only one end. All that God does is for one, and only one, purpose. Consequently, all moral beings must have a unity of purpose for their love to be true benevolence as God has. The reason that God’s conduct is equally good and praiseworthy is for two reasons: (a) Because he always has but one intention. (b) Because God always has the same degree of light. With moral beings, the light will vary and as a result they may be benevolent but are not always praiseworthy. As their light increases, their virtue increases. If it does not increase, then they cannot be benevolent, but as long as it is constantly increasing in direct proportion to the light given, then their benevolence continues and they have the same end with God. There is no such thing as a moral being that does not, as light increases, become focused upon the same ends as God himself. So, the more light one has, the closer to God they will become. A lack of closeness to God amid an obvious display of light shows that there is no unity of purpose and faith is severely lacking. A Moslem may believe in Allah as long as he has no other light besides conscience and the Qur’an, but when he is exposed to the light of the scripture, he no longer has an excuse to be following a false, “wanabee god” with satanic goals in mind. The light of the Word of God would make the sincere heart opt for forsaking Allah and following Jesus Christ instead. That is also why there is no such thing as many roads to heaven. Benevolence is not divided, it has no provision for selfish choices synonymous with benevolent choices and thus it cannot follow false “gods” and the true God at the same time. All false “gods” ultimately have roots in selfishness of one form or another. When we go into the attributes of selfishness, many of those traits can also be found in false “gods” as well. For that reason, unity is one attribute that exposes true and false benevolence, true and false faith, true and false repentance, and true and false “gods” to be what they are. As an example, no true God would deny that Jesus Christ is only a mere man. All will have the unity of belief that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Why is that important? Because only God coming in the form of man could provide the atonement for all of the sins of the world! No mere man could or would have the authority or holiness to perform such a task. For that reason, unity must prevail. There can only be one God and one mediator between God and man, the man (God) Christ Jesus. It is the same with virtue, faith, and many other attributes of benevolence, they cannot exist with different ends in view. Since God cannot change his nature or ends, neither can benevolence change its ends in view. This is a unity that must exist to all worlds and to all eternity. For that reason, movies like star-wars and other such fantasy portrayals of the universe are totally false since true benevolence can only mean a unity of purpose throughout the universe and that extends to all planets and solar systems in the universe. Any life existing anywhere in space would have the same goals and same God as we possess here on earth, Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God, the Creator of the universe. It must be terribly depressing for the selfish soul of man that would live without God to find that with all their searching, they can find no life in any form outside of this world. God is a God of unity. His purposes with man are only on this planet and no other. Moral law cannot be changed by anyone, even God and the moral law, if there were other worlds, would be the same to all worlds, to all moral agents, and to all eternity. God, the unchangeable one, could not alter his nature by will or choice, even in another world. The question to all must be, therefore, to what end do we live? To what goal am I consecrated? It is no good to ask how I feel or what is my outward deportment? One must consider the grand aim in his mind, does he really live for God and for the good of the universe, or does he live for self and selfish goals and desires. If God is truly love, then God could never have a divided virtue or project us into divided goals in this or in other parts of the universe. The question of the ages is what does a person has as the grand aim of his mind? If the law is fulfilled in one word, if love is the fulfilling of the law, then unity must be a part of that law and as such there cannot be divided goals, only one. It is truly been said, “The definition of sin is to miss the mark of the end and scope of life, which is God.” Without this unity of best ends of God and the universe, there is no true virtue, faith, or love.
- Simplicity is also an attribute of benevolence. It is singleness without mixture. It has and can have only one simple end as stated above. It is simple, or single in its aim and in its efforts to secure the end in view. True simplicity which is love cannot serve God and “mammon.” Again, God is not divided nor does he change. The truth is simple and easily defined, love.
- Gratitude another characteristic of love. This attribute shows that one is obliged to another and benefited by him. It can show itself in an emotion of love and attachment to one who has shown us a favor. This extends itself to a feeling of obligation to return the favor to the one that was able to show us such kindness. The truth is, however, that gratitude as a mere feeling has no moral character or virtue. A selfish person can feel this emotion because selfish persons love to be obliged and they also love those who love to oblige them. Selfish persons can feel grateful for favors shown to them and they can desire to wish to return the favor. However, when one speaks of gratitude as a virtue it must be of a gratitude that is part of benevolence or good-will to the point that the one who has received a favor seeks the intrinsic value of good to the benefactor. The seeking the best end of the benefactor is the primary end sought with reference to the fact that they are a benefactor as a secondary reason to return the favor. In other words, one should want the best end for the benefactor; whether or not he was a benefactor otherwise benevolence would not be disinterested. The moral agent should will the same good end to someone persecuting them as to the one that has benefited them. Yet, one who has benefited them would have a particular reference to them as benefactor and thus would be easily moved to return the favor because of the relationship of them as a benefactor. Though God can’t technically have gratitude for any favors that we have shown Him where we have been His benefactor, he can have gratitude toward us for the good-will that is shown to others and have gratitude toward us as if the good-will were done to Himself. He even says, (Matthew 25:40) “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” God will have gratitude for the good will that we have done to others as if it were done to Him. He can have gratitude by proxy since our relations to others are so closely related to our relationship to God. For God to identify with those to which we do good for His glory raises benevolence to the highest point of dignity and honor. Our gratitude toward God can be developed in wonderful ways, especially in the minds of sinners of this world. Because our sin is so evil and God’s goodness, mercy and long-suffering toward us are so wonderfully infinite as they are manifested to us, we have the ability to develop the attribute of gratitude more than any other attribute. Gratitude causes us to have thanksgiving toward God and all his mercies so that His feelings, wishes and commandments will receive tender attention from His servants. One who is grateful will always have a question in his or her mind asking whether what they are about to do will please God. Gratitude is good-will, modified by the relation of the benefactor. It is more than a mere feeling but as such it will awaken a feeling since it is a living and energizing attribute of benevolence. It will manifest itself in corresponding feelings and action. We should not mistake true gratitude for a selfish form which is more an emotion than a choice of the will. One may weep with gratitude to God years before they actually repent of their sins and become converted according to the Bible. These feelings are often mistaken for gratitude and often sinners with such feelings are mistaken for Christians when they are not. Benevolence is an all-comprehending, impartial principle. One who has a benevolent form of gratitude regards all interests as his own, and all beings as parts of himself. In that sense he feels gratitude for favors bestowed on others as well as those bestowed on him. True gratitude, an attribute of benevolence, recognizes God as a benefactor that has bestowed favors on others. Gratitude, therefore, does not only see benefits bestowed on self, which would be selfishness, but also favors bestowed upon any and all, even beasts of the field and fowls of the air. Gratitude thanks God, “…for opening his hand and supplying the wants of every living thing.” (Finney)
- Wisdom is still another attribute of benevolence. Wisdom is benevolence directed by knowledge. It is love directed by discretion so that it is more efficient for good. Wisdom chooses the best and most valuable end along with the most appropriate means of obtaining it. Wisdom expresses more than a blind and unintelligent choice, but one that is perfectly intelligent. God has perfect wisdom, higher than that in any other creature. We are not perfect in wisdom, but God has so much wisdom that unlike us, he cannot increase in wisdom since his wisdom is already infinite. What God has already shown us of wisdom in such things as creation, providence, grace, and mercy is enough to overwhelm the finite mind. (Romans 11:33) “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” The wisdom of saints is known in their choice of an end. They choose the same end that God does, though they may need to learn the best means to this end as finite beings. They can only operate in the best light that they have. Wisdom divides between true and false religion, it shows who is led by the Spirit of God and who is not. It has a mind like God because the end chosen is that which God would choose as well.
- Grace is also an attribute of benevolence. Grace is favor shown where it is not deserving, gratuitous favor. It is not synonymous with mercy but has a broader meaning. Mercy is the disposition to forgive the guilty. Grace, on the other hand, expresses the willingness to exempt one from the penalty that he or she deserves while also bestowing other favors that are of a positive character. Mercy can pardon but without grace the pardon would not result in our salvation. Grace does not bestow favor only on those with merit. It also shines its sun on the evil and the good; it sends rain on the just and the unjust. When saints have grace, it is known by acts of beneficence to the most unworthy along with those who are more deserving. It wishes good for all and seeks to find opportunities to bestow gratuities on any and all classes that have need of them. Grace has necessity or want as the great consideration so that when we come to God, his grace delights to supply our wants and needs. God’s grace is like a vast ocean with no shores or bottom. It is infinite as an overflowing stream of beneficence. God’s grace, like streams, goes forth to make glad the universe putting all creatures as objects of his grace to a greater or lesser extent. Though all are not recipients of God’s saving grace, they have, none the less, been recipients of his bounty. A sinner that is still kept from the fires of hell is being sustained every moment by God’s grace. Better still, everything that anyone receives that is even one step better than hell is received by the grace of God. While repentance exercises the attribute of mercy, grace is exercised in thousands of ways without the need of good character. The term means good will to all, even those who are undeserving or ill-deserving. One can scarcely imagine the deep and infinite grace that devised the wonderful plan of salvation for sinners of our race. A gracious heart will declare God’s infinite grace in all its riches to a dying world. If Christ lived and died to provide redemption to fallen man, then how can we help but live for Him who has granted us such unmerited favor. One who has the Spirit of Christ will not only live but die for the sake of those who need a like grace. That is true benevolence.
- Economy is the last attribute of benevolence that we will deal with. There are many more attributes that could be discussed but we feel that those covered do great good in further defining the attributes of benevolence as has been stated here in these chapters. Economy expresses a particularity of benevolence that causes it to make the best use of everything, of every living being, and of every situation to promote the public good. This attribute is notably apparent in the government of God where everything that is made or that exists in the universe is made for the purpose of some good, to one ultimate good end. The Bible says, (Psalms 76:10) “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” There is a wonderful divine economy displayed in the works and ways of God. If, as the Bible says, God is love, then we not only expect that this is the case, but we also realize that it is impossible for it to be any other way. God lives for only one end, namely that all things that were created by and for Him will work either directly or indirectly together for good. So then answer this question. Why are there so many that wish to legislate God out of their lives? Why do atheists exist except that they have never sought to find the God we speak about here? Why do some create a god of hate like Allah who only wills that heretics be killed by Jihad? How can that ever work for the good of all and even for the good of the whole universe? God never created anything in vain. He never suffered anything to occur in vain. Even sin, left to work out its natural results, has a use in the economy of God. God will get glory through the lives of sinners whether they consent to allow it or not. (Proverbs 16:4) “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” This is not saying that God made evil men but that he created a race out of which some will become evil. He did not plan to punish them but in the foreknowledge of God, knowing that they would be evil, made a plan to punish them so that by making them a public example they would be useful to the moral government of the universe. Even his punishment of evil doers as an example to cause others to turn from their wicked ways works to the good of all. That being said, one can easily see the point that is being made in the scripture. God, in foreseeing that some would ultimately turn out evil, designed at creation to make them a public example. Sinners that refuse to repent and turn to God for the best end and for the good of the universe will find that even in hell they will be giving glory to God as eternal public examples of God’s justice and holiness. Since God will get glory either by life or by death, he will make the best use of moral beings either when they accept His love or when they reject it. God gets glory for either case. To those who are willing and obedient and sympathize with God in promoting good for the whole universe, well. If they don’t wish to be willing and obedient he can still use their punishment to be just as useful to His kingdom. Nothing will be lost, God will make all situations useful in some way. No deformity, guilt, blasphemy, or evil will hinder God from getting glory. The sinner thinks no such thing. He is thinking only about his own gratification regardless of the consequences. He has no intention of doing good and glorifying God. But our God has his eye on all, both the evil and the good, and has plans for which ever path they choose. God sees the wickedness in his foreknowledge and as sure as God is God and the sinner is wicked, God will get glory to the highest good of being. This is the best way to describe God’s economy as part of benevolence and clearly establish it in our minds. The very nature of benevolence demands that it could not be any other way. It is consecrated to the highest good of being and every volition, every act will be put forth to secure this good end. Every benevolent being must have this same economy in the promotion of the one great end of benevolence. Extravagance, self-indulgence, and waste are foreign to love. Everything is wisely directed with scrupulous design to secure the highest good of God and of the universe. Every moral being must have the same purpose and undeviating aim to be truly benevolent. “He that hath ear, let him hear…” There are other attributes but each one is merely another attribute of virtue, benevolence. These will be developed in the life of a moral being as the occasion arises for their use.