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FOUR KINDS OF PIETY.
WISH we could find another word than "piety ”
to express our love to God, for this has fallen into some disrepute at the present time, and to many has not an attractive sound. To some it is associated with spiritual pride, hypocritical profession, religious talk which is not borne out by upright action. To others piety seems a good thing, but almost too good for this world, — good for exceptional persons, for born saints; proper enough for clergymen, but hardly to be demanded of men and women who have to work all day in the midst of worldly matters. What I wish to show, therefore, is, that true piety, or love to God, is the most simple, natural, and rational action of the human mind; that it is for every one everywhere; that it is necessary, not so much for future salvation as for present peace and for successful lives. In short, it is something which none of us can do without, and which we may all have.
But to show this I must distinguish between different kinds of piety, in order that we may perceive the difference between the substance and the accidental varying forms.
There is one important question, however, which comes first, which needs consideration. Piety is love to God. But how can love be a duty ? Can we ever love as a duty, or by an effort of the will ? Whatever we are commanded to do we ought to be able to do by our own efforts, for the limit of obligation is power. Anything which is an act of the will may be done in obedience to a command; but how can an affection be commanded ? The child does not love bis father, mother, brothers, and sisters because it is a duty, but because he is made happy by their intercourse.
How then can we love God in obedience to a command ? Especially when God is so far off, an invisible being, dwelling in light inaccessible, infinitely removed from all our experience ?
I answer, frankly, that it is impossible. No human effort can create love; and therefore when the New Testament makes love the fulfilment of all duty, and says that without love no duty can be done as it ought to be, it does not and cannot mean a duty which can be done by a mere effort of the will.
God, when he asks anything of us, gives us the power to do it.
When he asks the child to love its parents, he makes the duty easy by causing them first to love their child. Because the child sees love in its father's and mother's face from the beginning, it easily loves them in return. The mother's love for her infant creates, or at least develops and brings out, the answering affection of the infant. The mother's loving look is reflected from her infant's face as in a mirror. The children may say of their parents, "We love them because they first loved us.” And the apostle of love, John, tells us that piety is born in the same way, - We love Him because he first loved us.”
We can therefore only love God by seeing in some way that he loves us. In this matter we cannot take the initiative. We cannot love God in order to induce him to love us. As the infant looks up into its mother's face, and sees her tender, happy smile, so we must see God's smile descending into our hearts from his inaccessible throne. We cannot go up there to find him ; but be sure that, if he wishes for our love, he will come down to us and
What we have to do, and all that we can do, is to look up and see his goodness, open our hearts and receive his love. We can choose to receive it, or refuse. We can put ourselves in a receptive attitude, or not. When God commands us to love himi, it is as if he said, “Behold how I love you."
But there are four different ways by which we look, four different methods of seeing God's love; and these produce the four different forms of piety. There may be more, and doubtless are more than