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speaks of his sins going over his head as a heavy burden, that was too heavy for him; of his roaring all the day, his moisture being turned into the drought of summer, and his bones being as it were broken with sorrow. So he often expresses great degrees of spiritual desires, in a multitude of the strongest expressions which can be conceived of; such as his longing, his soul thirsting as a dry and thirsty land where no water is, his panting, his flesh and heart crying out, his soul breaking for the longing it hath, &c. He expresses the exercises of great and extreme grief for the sins of others, Psal. cxix. 136. Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law. And ver. 53. And ver. 53. Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law. He expresses high exercises of joy, Psal. xxi. 1. The king shall joy in thy strength, and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Psal. lxxi. 23. My lips shall greatly rejoice, when I sing unto thee. Psal. Ixiii. 3-7. Because thy loving kindness is better than life: my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee, while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night-watches. Because thou hast been my help; therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. The apostle Paul expresses high exercises of affection. Thus he expresses the exercises of pity and concern for other's good, even to anguish of heart; a great, fervent and abundant love, earnest and longing desires, and exceeding joy. He speaks of the exultation and triumphs of his soul, his earnest expectation and hope, his abundant tears, and the travails of his soul, in pity, grief, earnest desires, godly jealousy, and fervent zeal, in many places that have been cited already, and which therefore I need not repeat. John the Baptist expressed great joy, John iii. 39. Those blessed women who anointed the body of Jesus, are represented as in a very high exercise of religious affection, at the resurrection of Christ. Matth. xxviii. 8. And they departed from the sepulchre, with fear and great joy.
It is often foretold of the church of God, in her future happy seasons on earth, that they shall exceedingly rejoice; Psal. lxxxix. 15, 16. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. Zech. ix. 9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh, &c. The same is represented in other places innumerable. And because high degrees of joy are the proper and and genuine fruits of the gospel of Christ, therefore the angel calls this gospel, good tidings of great joy, that should be to all people,
The saints and angels in heaven, who have religion in its highest perfection, are exceedingly affected with what they behold and contemplate of God's perfections and works. They are all as a pure heavenly flame of fire, in their love, and in the greatness and strength of their joy and gratitude. Their praises are represented, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. Now the only reason why their affections are so much higher than the holy affections of saints on earth, is, they see things more according to their truth, and have their affectious more conformed to the nature of things. And therefore if religious affections in men here below, are but of the same nature and kind with theirs, the higher they are, and the nearer they are to theirs in degree, the better; because therein they will be so much the more conformed to truth, as theirs are.
From these things it certainly appears, that the existence of religious affections, in a very high degree, is no evidence, that they are not such as have the nature of true religion. Therefore they greatly err, who condemn persons as enthusiasts, merely because their affections are very high.
On the other hand, it is no evidence that religious affections are of a spiritual and gracious nature, because they are great. It is very manifest by the holy scripture, our sure and infallible rule in things of this nature, that there are very high religious affections which are not spiritual and saving. The apostle Paul speaks of affections in the Galatians which had been exceedingly elevated, but yet he feared that they were vain, and had come to nothing, Gal. iv. 15. Where is the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. And in the 11th verse he tells them, he was afraid of them, lest he had bestowed upon them labour in vain. So the children of Israel were greatly affected with God's mercy to them, when they had seen how wonderfully he wrought for them at the red sea, where they sang God's praise; though they soon forgat his works.— They were greatly affected again, at mount Sinai, when they saw the marvellous manifestations God made of himself there; and seemed mightily engaged in their minds, and with great forwardness made answer, when God proposed his holy covenant to them, saying, All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient. But how soon was there an end to all this mighty forwardness and engagedness of affection? How quickly were they turned aside after other gods, rejoicing and shouting around their golden calf? Great multitudes who were affected with the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, were elevated to a high degree, and made a mighty stir when Jesus very soon after entered into Jerusalem, exceedingly magnifying Christ, as though
the ground were not good enough for the ass he rode to tread upon; and therefore cut down branches of palm trees, and strewed them in the way; yea, they pulled off their garments, and spread them; and cried with loud voices, Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest; so as to make the whole city ring again, and put all into an uproar. We learn by the evangelist John, that the reason why the people made this ado, was because they were affected with the miracle of raising Lazarus, John xii. 18. This vast multitude crying Hosanna, gave occasion to the Pharisees to say, Behold, the world is gone after him, John xii. 19,—but Christ had at that time but few true disciples. And how quickly was this fervour at an end? All is extinct when this Jesus stands bound, with a mock robe and a crown of thorns, to be derided, spit upon, scourged, condemned, and executed. Indeed there was a great and loud outery concerning him, among the multitude then, as well as before, but of a very different kind: it is not then Hosanna, hosanna, but Crucify, crucify:-In a word, it is the concurring voice of all orthodox divines, that there may be religious affections raised to a very high degree, and yet nothing of true religion.*
It is no sign that affections have the nature of true religion, or that they have not, that they have great effects on the body.
All affections whatsoever have, in some respect or degree, an effect on the body. As was observed before, such is our nature, and such are the laws of union of soul and body, that the mind can have no lively or vigorous exercise, without some effect upon the body. So subject is the body to the mind, and so much do its fluids, especially the animal spirits, attend the motions and exercises of the mind, that there cannot be so much as an intense thought, without an effect upon them. Yea, it is questionable, whether an embodied soul ever so much as thinks one thought, or has any exercise at all, but that there is some corresponding motion or alteration of the fluids, in some part of the body. But universal experience shews, that the exercise of the affections have, in a special manner, a tendency to some sensible effect upon the body. And if all affections have some effect on the body, we may then well suppose, the greater those affections, and the
*Mr. STODDARD observes, "That common affections are sometimes stronger than saving." Guide to Christ, p. 21.
more vigorous their exercises are, (other circumstances being equal) the greater will be the effect on the body. Hence it is not to be wondered at, that very great and strong exercises of the affections should have great effects on the body. And therefore, seeing there are very great affections, both common and spiritual, hence it is not to be wondered at, that great effects on the body should arise from both these kinds of affections. And consequently these effects are no signs, that the affections they arise from, are of one kind or the other.
Great effects on the body certainly are no sure evidences that affections are spiritual; for we see them oftentimes arise from great affections about temporal things, and when religion is no way concerned in them. And if great affections about things purely natural may have these effects, I know not by what rule we should determine, that high affections about religious things, which arise in like manner from nature, cannot have the like effect.
Nor, on the other hand, do I know of any rule to determine, that gracious affections, when raised as high as any natural affections, with equally strong and vigorous exercises, cannot have a great effect on the body. No such rule can be drawn from reason; I know of no reason, why a being affected with a view of God's glory should not cause the body to faint, as well as being affected with a view of Solomon's glory. And no such rule has as yet been produced from the scripture: none has ever been found in all the late controversies about ings of this nature. There is a great power in spiritual affections; we read of the power which worketh in christians*, and of the spirit of God being in them as the Spirit of powert, and of the effectual working of his power in them, yea, of the working of God's mighty power in them. But man's nature is weak: flesh and blood are represented in scripture as exceeding weak; and particularly with respect to its unfitness for great, spiritual, and heavenly operations and exercises. (Matth. xxvi. 41. 1 Cor. xv. 43. and 50.) The text prefixed to this discourse speaks of joy unspeakable, and full of glory. And who that considers what man's nature is, and what the nature of the affections are, can reasonably doubt but that such unutterable and glorious joys, may be too great and mighty for weak dust and ashes, so as to be considerably overbearing to it? It is evident by the scripture, that discoveries of God's glory, when given in a great degree, have a tendency, by affecting the mind, to overbear the body. The scripture teaches us, that if these views should be given to such a degree, as they are given in heaven, the weak frame of the body could not subsist under it, and that no man can, in that manner, see God and live.
* Eph. ii. 7. + 2 Tim. i. 7.
Eph. iii. 7. 20.
|| Eph. i. 19.
The knowledge which the saints have of God's beauty and glory in this world, and those holy affections that arise from it, are of the same nature and kind with what the saints are the subjects of in heaven, differing only in degree and circumstances. What God gives them here, is a foretaste of heavenly happiness, and an earnest of their future inheritance. And who shall limit God in his giving this earnest, or say he shall give so much of the inheritance, such a part of the future reward, as an earnest of the whole, and no more? And seeing God has taught us in his word, that the whole reward is such, that it would at once destroy the body, is it not too bold a thing for us to set bounds to the sovereign God; or to say, that in giving the earnest of this reward, he shall never give so much of it, as in the least to diminish the strength of the body, when God has no where thus limited himself?
The psalmist, speaking of his vehement religious affections, and of an effect in his flesh or body, besides what was in his soul, expressly distinguishes one from the other, Psal. lxxxiv. 2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my HEART and my FLESH crieth out for the living God. Here is a plain distinction between the heart and the flesh, as being each affected. So Psal. Ixiii. 1. My SOUL thirsteth for thee, my FLESH longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Here also is an evident, designed distinction, between the soul and the flesh.
The prophet Habakkuk speaks of his body being overborn by a sense of the majesty of God, Hab. iii. 16. When I heard my belly trembled: my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself. So the psalmist, Psal. cxix. 120. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee.
That such ideas of God's glory as are given sometimes even in this world, have a tendency to overbear the body, is evident, because the scripture gives us an account, that this has actually been the effect of those external manifestations which God made of himself to some of the saints, in order to give them an idea of his majesty and glory. Daniel, giving an account of an external representation of the glory of Christ, says, Dan. x. 8. And there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength. And the apostle John, giving an account of a similar manifestation made to him, says, Rev. i. 17. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. It is in vain to say here, that these were only external manifestations of the glory of Christ; for though this be true, yet the use of these representations, was to give an idea of the thing represented, the true divine glory and majesty of Christ. They were made use of only as significations of this spiritual glory, and