Continuing our look at the signs of true grace as outlined by Jonathan Edwards in his book The Religious Affections.
The second sign of grace he says is this: that true affections will be in response to the excellency of divine things in themselves.
The affections of love and joy and gratitude we have toward God, if truly a work of grace within us, will be stimulated by the excellency of God himself, and not by what God does for us. That is, a natural man might hear that God has done beneficial things for him, and be moved to give thanks to God because of the love he has for himself. He loves himself and God has served the man’s foundational motive by loving the thing the man loves. But this is no grace.
Rather, our love for God is a fruit of what we see in God in himself. He is altogether lovely and beautiful in himself and in his displayed works. We love him, we thank him, we rejoice in him because of who he is and not just because of the benefit we receive from him.
It is true that what we see of him is seen in his disposition of love and favor toward us. But the spiritual person responds to the character and person of God revealed in that disposition, and not simply in the benefit received.
The beauty of God is worth our praise whether it benefits us or not. Of course, we will know no greater happiness other than beholding and enjoying the beauty we find in Him, so that the praise of God always benefits us. But the foundation of that praise must be the person and work of God, and not our self love.