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dear affections to some, and full of bitterness towards others. They are knit to their own party, those who approve, those who love, and admire them; but are fierce against those that oppose and dislike them. Matth. v. 45, 46. Be like your father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? Some show a great affection to their neighbours, and pretend to be ravished with the company of the children of God abroad: but at the same time are uncomfortable and churlish towards their near relations at home, and are very negligent of relative duties. And as to the great love to sinners and opposers of religion, and the great concern for their souls, that some express, even to extreme agony-singling out a particular person from among a multitude for its object-while at the same time there is no general compassion to sinners in equally miserable circumstances, but what is in a monstrous disproportion; this seems not to be of the nature of a gracious affection. Not that I suppose it to be at all strange, that pity to the perishing souls of sinners should be to a degree of agony, if other things are answerable; or that a truly gracious compassion to souls should be exercised much more to some persons than others who are equally miserable, especially on some particular occasions. Many things may happen to fix the mind, and affect the heart, with respect to a particular person, at such a juncture; and without doubt some saints have been in great distress for the souls of particular persons, so as to be, as it were, in travail for them. But when persons appear, at particular times, in agonies for the soul of some single person, far beyond what has been usual in eminent saints, but appear to be far inferior to them in a spirit of meek and fervent love, charity, and compassion to mankind in general; I say, such agonies are greatly to be suspected, because the Spirit of God is wont to give graces and gracious affections in a beautiful symmetry and proportion.
And as there is a monstrous disproportion in the love of some, in its exercises towards different persons, so there is in their seeming exercises of love towards the same persons. Some men show a love to others as to their outward man, they are liberal of their worldly substance, and often give to the poor; but have no love to, or concern for the souls of men. Others pretend a great love to men's souls, but are not compassionate and charitable towards their bodies. To make a great show of love, pity, and distress for souls, costs them nothing; but in order to show mercy to men's bodies, they must part with money. But a true Christian love to our brethren, extends both to their souls and bodies; and herein is like the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. He showed mercy to men's souls, by laboriously preaching the gospel to
them; and to their bodies, in going about doing good, healing all manner of sickness and diseases among the people. We have a remarkable instance of Christ's compassion at once both to men's souls and bodies, in Mark vi. 34, &c. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Here was his compassion to their souls. And in the sequel, we have an account of his compassion to their bodies; he fed five thousand of them with five loaves and two fishes, because they had been a long while having nothing to eat. And if the compassion of professing Christians towards others does not work in the same ways, it is a sign that it is no true Christian compassion.
And furthermore, it is a sign that affections are not of the right sort, if persons seem to be much affected with the bad qualities of their fellow-Christians, (as the coldness and lifelessness of other saints,) but are in no proportion affected with their own defects and corruptions. A true Christian may be affected with the coldness and unsavouriness of other saints, and may mourn much over it but at the same time, he is not so apt to be affected with the badness of any body's heart, as his own; this is most in his view; this he is most quick-sighted to discern, to see its aggravations, and to condemn. A lesser degree of virtue will bring him to pity himself, and be concerned at his own calamities, than is needful rightly to be affected with those of others; and if men have not attained to the less, we may determine they never attained to the greater.
And here by the way, I would observe, that it may be laid down as a general rule, That if persons pretend to high attainments in religion, who have never yet arrived to the lesser, it is a sign of a vain pretence. If persons pretend, that they have got beyond mere morality, to live a spiritual and divine life, but really have not come to be so much as moral persons: or pretend to be greatly affected with the wickedness of their hearts, and are not affected with the palpable violations of God's commands in their practice, which is a lesser attainment, their pretences are vain. If they pretend to be brought to be even willing to be damned for the glory of God, but have no forwardness to suffer a little in their estates and names, and worldly convenience, for the sake of their duty or finally pretend that they are not afraid to venture their souls upon Christ, and commit their all to God, trusting to his bare word, and the faithfulness of his promises, for their eternal welfare; but at the same time, have not confidence enough in God, to dare to trust him with a little of their estates, bestowed to pious and charitable uses: I say, when it is thus with persons, their pretences are manifestly vain. He that is on a journey, and
imagines he has got far beyond such a place in his road, and never yet came to it, must be mistaken. He has not yet arrived at the top of the hill, who never yet got half-way thither. But this by the way.
What has been observed of the affections of love, is applicable also to other religious affections. Those that are true, extend in some proportion to their due and proper objects: but the false, are commonly strangely disproportionate. So it is with religious desires and longings; these in the saints, are towards those things that are spiritual and excellent in general, and in some proportion to their excellency, importance, or necessity, or the near concern they have in them: but in false longings, it is often far otherwise. They will strangely run, with impatient vehemence, after something of less importance, when other things of greater importance are neglected. Thus for instance, some persons are attended with a vehement inclination, an accountably violent pressure, to declare to others what they experience, and to exhort them, when there is at the same time no inclination, in any proportionable measure, to other things, to which true Christianity has as great, yea, a greater tendency; as pouring out the soul before God in secret, earnest prayer and praise to him, more conformity to him, living more to his glory, &c. We read in scripture of groanings that cannot be uttered, and soul-breakings for the longing it hath; and longings, thirstings, and pantings, much more frequently to these latter things, than the former.
And so as to hatred and zeal, when these are from right principles, they are against sin in general, in some proportion to the degree of sinfulness; Psal. cxix. 104. I hate every false way. So ver. 128. But a false hatred and zeal against sin, is against some particular sin only. Thus some seem to be very zealous against profaneness, and pride in apparel, who themselves are notorious for covetousness, closeness, and it may be backbiting, envy towards superiors, turbulency of spirit towards rulers, and rooted ill-will to those who have injured them. False zeal is against the sins of others; while he that has true zeal, exercises it chiefly against his own sins; though he shews also a proper zeal against prevailing and dangerous iniquity in others. Some pretend to have a great abhorrence of their own inward corruption; and yet make light of sins in practice, and seem to commit them without much restraint or remorse; though these imply sin, both in heart and life.
As there is a much greater disproportion in the exercises of false affections, than of true, as to different objects; so there is also, as to different times. For although true Christians are not always alike-yea, there is very great difference, at different times, and the best have reason to be greatly ashamed of their unsteadi
ness yet there is in no wise the instability and inconstancy of the false-hearted, in those who are true virgins, that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. The righteous man is truly said to be one whose heart is fixed, trusting in God, (Psal. cxii. 7.) and whose heart is established with grace; (Heb. xiii. 9.) Job xvii. 9. The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger. It is spoken of as a note of the hypocrisy of the Jewish church, that they were as a swift dromedary, traversing her ways.
If therefore persons are religious only by fits and starts; if they now and then seem to be raised up to the clouds in their affections, and then suddenly fall down again, lose all, and become quite careless and carnal, and this is their manner of carrying on religion; if they appear greatly moved, and mightily engaged in religion, only in extraordinary seasons-as in the time of a remarkable out-pouring of the Spirit, or other uncommon dispensations of Providence, or upon the real or supposed receipt of some great mercy, &c.-but quickly return to such a frame, that their hearts are chiefly upon other things, and the prevailing stream of their affections is ordinarily towards the things of this world, they clearly evince their unsoundness. When they are like the children of Israel in the wilderness, who had their affections highly raised by what God had done for them at the Red sea, and sang his praise, and soon fell a lusting after the flesh-pots of Egypt; but then again when they came to Mount Sinai, and saw the great manifestations God made of himself there, seemed to be greatly engaged again, and mightily forward to enter into covenant with God, saying, All that the Lord hath spoken, will we do, and be obedient, but then quickly made them a golden calf; I say, when it is thus with persons, it is a sign of the unsoundness of affections. They are like the waters in the time of a shower
Dr. Owen (on the Spirit, Book III. Chap. ii. 18) speaking of a common work of the Spirit, says, "This work operates greatly on the affections; we have given instances, in fear, sorrow, joy, and delight, about spiritual things, that are stirred up and acted thereby; but yet it comes short in two things, of a thorough work upon the affections themselves. For, 1st, It doth not fix them. And 2dly, It doth not fill them. 1. It is required that our affections be fixed on heavenly and spiritual things: and true grace will effect it; Col. iii. 1, 2. If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ silleth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above. The joys, the fears, the hopes, the sorrows, with reference to spiritual and eternal things, which the work before mentioned doth produce, are evanid, uncertain, unstable, not only as to the degrees, but as to the very being of them. Sometimes they are as a river ready to overflow its banks, men cannot but be pouring them out on all occasions; and sometimes as waters that fail, no drop comes from them. Sometimes they are hot, and sometimes cold: sometimes up, and sometimes down; sometimes all heaven, and sometimes all world; without equality, without stability. But true grace fixeth the affections on spiritual things. As to the degrees of their exercise, there may be, and is in them, a great variety, according as they may be excited, aided, assisted by grace and the means of it; or obstructed and impeded, by the interpo
of rain, which, during the shower, and a little after, run like a brook, and flow abundantly, but are presently quite dry: and when another shower comes, they will flow again. Whereas a true saint is like a stream from a living spring; which though it may be greatly increased by a shower of rain, and diminished in time of drought, yet constantly runs: (John iv. 14. The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up, &c.) or like a tree planted by such a stream, that has a constant supply at the root, and is always green, even in time of the greatest drought; Jer. xvii. 7, S. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Many hypocrites are like comets, that appear for a while with a mighty blaze; but are very unsteady and irregular in their motion, (and are therefore called wandering stars, Jude 13;) their blaze soon disappears, and they appear but once in a great while. But true saints are like the fixed stars, which, though they rise and set, and are often clouded, yet are stedfast in their orb, and shine with a constant light. Hypocritical affections are like a violent motion; as that of the air moved with winds, (Jude 12.) But gracious affections are more a natural motion; like the stream of a river, which, though it has many turns, may meet with obstacles, and run more freely and swiftly in some places than others; yet in the general, with a steady and constant course, tends the same way, until it gets to the ocean.
And as there is a strange unevenness and disproportion in false affections, at different times; so there often is in different places. Some are greatly affected when in company; but have nothing that bears any manner of proportion to it in secret, in close meditation, prayer and conversing with God when alone, and separa
sition of temptations and diversions. But the constant bent and inclination of renewed affections, is unto spiritual things; as the scripture every where testificth, und as experience doth confirm."
"There is (says Dr. Preston) a certain love, by fits, which God accepts not; when men come and offer to God great promises, like the waves of the sea, as big as mountains: Oh, they think, they will do much for God! But their minds change; and they become as those high waves, which at last fall level with the other waters. If a man should proffer thee great kindnesses, and thou shouldst afterwards come to him to make use of him, and he should look strangely upon thee, as if he were never acquainted with thee, how wouldst thou esteem of such love? If we are now on, now off, in our love, God will not esteem of such love." Discourse on the divine love of Christ.
Mr. Flavel, speaking of these changeable professors, says, "These professors have more of the moon than of the sun; little light, less beat, and many changes. They deceive many, yea, they deceive themselves, but cannot deceive God. They want that ballast and establishment in themselves, that would have kept them tight and steady." Touchstone of Sincerity, chap. ii. § 2.