« AnteriorContinuar »
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose HOPE is in the Lord his God. Jer. xvii. 7. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose HOPE the Lord is. Psal. xxxi 24. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that Hope in the Lord. And the like in many other places. Religious fear and liupe are, once and again, joined together, as jointly constituting the character of the true saints; Psal. xxxiii. 18. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that FEAR him, upon them that hope in his mercy. Psal. cxlvii. 11. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that FEAR him, in those that HOPE in his mercy. Hope is so great a part of true religion, that the apostle says we are saved by hope, Rom. viii. 24. And this is spoken of as the helmet of the Christian soldier, 1 Thess. v. 8. And for an helmet, the HOPE of salvation; and the sure and stedfast anchor of the soul, which preserves it from being cast away by the storms of this evil world, Heb. vi. 19. Which HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail. It is spoken of as a great benefit which true saints receive by Christ's resurrection, 1 Pet. i. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively HOPE, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The scriptures place religion very much in the affection of love ; love to God, and the Lord Jesus Christ; love to the people of God, and to mankind. The texts in which this is manifest, both in the Old Testament and New, are innumerable. But of this more afterwards. The contrary affection of hatred also, as having sin for its object, is spoken of in scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion. It is spoken of as that by which true religion may be known and distinguished. Prov. viii. 13. The fear of the Lord is to HATE evil. Accordingly, the saints are called upon to give evidence of their sincerity by this, Psal. xcvii. 10. Ye that love the Lord, HATE evil. And the psalmist often mentions it as an evidence of his sincerity ; Psal. ci. 2, 3. I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes : I HATE the work of them that turn aside. Psal. cxix. 104. I HATE every false way. 128. Again Psal. cxxxix. 21. Do I not HATE them, O Lord, that hate thee?
So holy desire, exercised in longings, hungerings, and thirstings after God and holiness, is often mentioned in scripture as an important part of true religion ; Is. xxvi. 8. The DESIRE of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. Psal. xxvii. 4. One thing have I DESIRED of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the
days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. Psal. xlii, 1, 2. As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God, my soul THIRSTETH for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? Psal. lxii. 1, 2. My soul THIRSTETH for thee, my flesh LONGETH for thee, in a dry and thirsty land where no water is: to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Psal. Ixxxiv. 1, 2. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul LONGETH, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Psal. cxix. 20. My soul breaketh for the LONGING that it hath unto thy judgments at all times*. Such a holy desire, or thirst of soul, denotes a man truly blessed, Matth. v. 6. Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled. And this holy thirst is connected with the blessings of eternal life. Rev. xxi. 6. I will give unto him that is ATHIRST, of the fountain of the water of life freely.
The scriptures speak of holy joy, as a great part of true religion. So it is represented in the text. And as an important part of religion, it is often pressed with great earnestness; Psal. xxxvii. 4. Delight thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psal. xcvii. 12. REJOICE in the Lord, ye righteous. So Psal. xxxiii. 1. REJOICE in the Lord, O ye righteous, Matth. v. 12. REJOICE, and be exceeding glad. Phil. ü. 1. Finally, brethren, REJOICE in the Lord. And chap. iv. 4. REJOICE in the Lord alway: and again I say, REJOICE. 1 Thess. v. 16. REJOICE evermore. Psal. clix. 2. Let Israel REJOICE in him that made him: let the children of Zion be JoyFUL in their King. This is mentioned among the principal fruits of the Spirit of grace, Gal. v. 22. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, &c.— The psalmist mentions his holy joy, as an evidence of his sincerity, Psal. cxix. 14. I have REJOICED in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
Religious sorrow, mourning, and brokenness of beart, are also frequently spoken of as a great part of true religion. These things are often mentioned as distinguishing qualities of the true saints, and a great part of their character; Matth. v. 4. Blessed are they that MOURN: for they shall be comforted. Psal. xxxiv. 18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a BROKEN HEART; and saveth such as be of a coNTRITE spirit. Js. Ixi. 1, 2. The Lord hath anointed me to bind up
the BROKEN HEARTED,—to comfort all that MOURN. This godly sorrow and brokenness of heart is often spoken of, not only as a distinguishing
* So Psal. Ixxiii. 25. and cxliii. 6, 7, nod cxxx. 6. Cant. iii. 1, 2. and vi. 8. VOL. v.
character of the saints, but as that in them, which is peculiarly acceptable and pleasing to God; Psal. li 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, Ő God, thou wilt not despise. Is. lvii. 15. 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. Chap. Ixvi. 2. To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit.
Another affection ofien mentioned, as that in the exercise of which, much of true religion appears, is gratitude; especially as exercised in thankfulness and praise to God. This being so much spoken of in the book of Psalms, and other parts of the holy scriptures, I need not mention particular texts.
Again, the holy scriptures frequently speak of compassion or mercy, as a very great and essential thing in true religion; insomuch that a merciful man, and a good man, are equivalent terms in scripture; Is. Ivji. 1. The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart ; and MERCIFUL men are taken away. And the scripture chooses out this quality, as that by which, in a peculiar manner, a righteous man is decyphered ; Psal. xxxvii. 21. The RIGHTEOUS sheueth MERCY, and giveth; and ver. 26. He is ever MERCIFUL, and lendeth. And Prov. xiv. 31. He that honoureth the Lord, hath MERCY on the poor.
And Col. iii. 12. Put ye on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, BowELS OF MERCIES, &C. This is one of those great things by which the truly
c blessed are described by our Saviour, Matth. v. 7.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. And this Christ also speaks of, as one of the weightier matters of the law, Matth. xxiii. 23. Il’o unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye pay title of mint, anil anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier mallers of the law, judgment, MERCY, and faith. To the like purpose is Mic. vi. 8. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good : and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, and love MERCY, and walk humbly with thy God? And also Hos. vi. 6. For I desired MERCY, an:l not sacrifice; a text much delighted in by our Saviour, it seems, by his manner of citing it once and again. (Matth. ix. 13. and xii. 7.)
Zeal is also spoken of as a very essential part of the religion of true saints. This was a great thing which Christ had in view, in giving himself for our redemption, Tit. ii. 14. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, ZEALOUS of good works. And this was the great thing wanting in the luke-warm Laodiceans. (Rev. iii. 15, 16, 19.)
I have mentioned but a few texts out of an innumerable multitude, which place religion very much in the affections. But what has been observed may be sufficient to shew, that they who maintain the contrary, must throw away what we have been wont to own for our Bible, and get some other rule by which to judge of the nature of religion.
5. The scriptures represent true religion, as being summarily comprehended in love, the chief of the affections, and the fountain of all others. So our blessed Saviour represents the matter, in answer to the lawyer who asked him, which was the great commandment of the law ? (Matth. xxii. 37–40.) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. These two commandments comprehend all the duty prescribed in the law and the prophets. And the apostle Paul makes the same representation of the matter; as in Rom. xiii. 8. He that loveth another, hath fulfilled the law. And ver. 10. Love is the fulfilling of the lau. And Gal. v. 14. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. So likewise in 1 Tim. i. 5. Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, &c. The same apostle speaks of love, as the greatest thing in religion, as the essence and soul of it; without which the greatest knowledge and gifts, the most glaring profession, and every thing else which appertains to religion, are vain and worthless. He also represents it as the fountain from whence proceeds all that is good, in 1 Cor. xiii. throughout; for that which is there rendered charity, is in the original ayatin, the proper English of which is love.
Now, although it be true, that the love thus spoken of, includes the whole of a sincerely benevolent propensity of the soul towards God and man; yet, it is evident from what has been before observed, that this propensity or inclination of the soul, when in sensible and vigorous exercise, becomes affection, and is no other than affectionate love. And surely it is such vigorous and fervent love, which Christ represents as the sum of all religion, when he speaks of loving God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, and our neighbour as ourselves.
Indeed it cannot be supposed, when this affection of love is spoken of as the sum of all religion, that hereby is meant the act, exclusively of the habit, or that the exercise of the understanding is excluded, which is implied in all reasonable affection. But it is doubtless true, and evident from the scriptures, that the essence of all true religion lies in holy love ; and that in this divine affec
tion—and habitual disposition to it, that light which is the foundation of it, and those things which are its fruits-consists the whole of religion.
From hence it clearly and certainly appears, that great part of true religion consists in the affections. For love is not only one of the affections, but it is the first and chief of them, and the fountain of all the others. From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we love, or which oppose and thwart us in those things that we delight in ; and from the various exercises of love and hatred, according to the circumstances of the objects of these affections, as present or absent, certain or uncertain, probable or improbable, arise all those other affections of desire, hope, fear, joy, grief, gratitude, anger, &c. From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and a fear of sin; a dread of God's displeasure; gratitude to God for his goodness ; complacence and joy in God when he is graciously and sensibly present; grief when he is absent; a joyful hope when a future enjoyment of God is expected ; and fervent zeal for the divine glory. In like manner, from a fervent love to men, will arise all other virtuous affections towards them.
6. The religion of the most eminent saints of whom we have an account in the scripture, consisted much in holy affections.I shall take particular notice of three eminent saints, who have expressed the frame and sentiments of their own hearts, described their own religion, and the manner of their intercourse with God, in the writings which they have left us, and which are a part of the sacred canon.
The first instance is David, that man after God's own heart; who has given us a lively portraiture of his religion in the book of Psalms. Those holy songs are nothing else but the expressions and breathings of devout and holy affections ; such as an humble and fervent love to God, admiration of his glorious perfections and wonderful works, earnest desires, thirstings, and pantings of soul after him; delight and joy in God, a sweet and melting gratitude for his great goodness, an holy exultation and triumph of soul in his favour, sufficiency, and faithfulness; his love to, and delight in the saints, the excellent of the earth, his great delight in the word and ordinances of God, his grief for his own and others sins, and his fervent zeal for God, and against the enemies of God and his church. And these expressions of holy affection of which the Psalms of David are every where sull, are the more to our present purpose, because those psalms are not only the expressions of the religion of so eminent a saint, but were also, by the direction of the Holy Ghost, penned for the use of the church of God in its public worship, not only in that age, but in after ages; as being fit