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XIV.

(Lecture IV. page 122.)

DR. J. MÜLLER ON LOVE TO GOD, AND SIN AS ITS OPPOSITE.

J. Müller, in his well-known elaborate treatise on ‘The Christian Doctrine of Sin,’ has worked out at length the idea of sin as selfishness, or the antithesis of love to God. I agree with those who think (Dr. Hodge, ’Syst. Theol.’ ii. 149, and others) that Müller has made too much of this idea, in trying to reduce all forms of sin to selfishness as their essence; but I cannot mention this earnest and rich-minded theologian without expressing the obligation which I owe to the study of his great work on the subject 232of my Lectures. I am sensible that trains of thought derived from it long ago (when I made it a special study, and introduced it to the knowledge of many English readers, probably for the first time, in the ‘British Quarterly Review,’ Nov. I851) still linger in my present exposition of the subject—different as my point of view now is. The reader may find some evidence of this in the following brief extracts:—

“Love is the inmost soul of all moral ordinances; and all deep reverence for law, all obedience to a higher will, all those sacred energies which hold human life together, and confine its activity within accurately-defined spheres, are only love in disguise; and, like the Old Testament law in the history of the human race, these when defined and embodied in the life of the individual are παιδαγωγοί (Gal. iii. 24) for the kingdom of love revealed. Love can take root only in the soil of earnest strictness; true liberty can germinate only beneath the closely-enveloping sheath of self-limitation and submission to law.

“But love can only become the generative principle of a higher life when it makes itself manifest in its.. true character. It does not show itself in its fulness until it becomes conscious of God as its absolute object, and of all its other objects in their true relation to Him. Thus is the heavenly magnet found which is able, not for the passing moment of enthusiastic excitement only, but continually, to guide and sustain the life, of man over the dark mysterious sea in which the powers of the deep and the burden of its own sins and sorrows ever tend to sink it. . . .

233

“But sin is not only the absence of love to God; for with the negation of our true relation to Him there is the affirmation of a false one. Unbelief in the true God and the revelation of His holiness always involves a contrary belief, if it be only in the sufficiency of one’s own critical and sceptical understanding. Upon the disappearance of the divine principle, there immediately ensues the entrance of a principle opposed to God, according to the saying of Christ, ‘He who is not with me is against me.’ Man cannot abandon his true relation to God without setting up an idol in God’s stead. . . .

“The idol which man in sin sets up in the place of God can be none other than himself. He makes self and self-satisfaction the highest aim of his life. To self his efforts ultimately tend, however the modes and directions of sin may vary. The innermost essence of sin, the ruling and penetrating principle in all its forms, is selfishness.

“Man must be a personal being—an ego—if he be capable of holy love; and if he excludes holy love from his inner life, his natural self-love degenerates into selfishness, the disease of self, the corruption of self-love.”—Müller’s ‘Christian Doctrine of Sin,’ i. 115, 131, 134.

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