« AnteriorContinuar »
earth, is the beginning and dawning of the light, life, and blessedness of heaven, and is like their love and joy there; or rather, the same in nature, though not the same in degree and circumstances. It is unreasonable therefore to suppose, that the love and joy of the saints in heaven differ not only in degree and circumstances, from the holy love and joy of the saints on earth, but also in nature, so that they are no affections; and merely because they have no blood and animal spirits to be set in motion by them. The motion of the blood and animal spirits is not of the essence of these affections, in men on earth, but the effect of them; although by their reaction they may make some circumstantial difference in the sensation of the mind. There is a sensation of the mind which loves and rejoices, antecedent to any effects on the fluids of the body; and therefore, does not depend on these motions in the body, and so may be in the soul without the body. And wherever there are the exercises of love and joy, there is that sensation of the mind, whether it be in the body or out; and that inward sensation, or kind of spiritual feeling, is what is called affection. The soul, when it is thus moved, is said to be affected, and especially when this inward sensation and motion are to a very high degree, as they are in the saints in heaven. If we can learn any thing of the state of heaven from the scripture, the love and joy that the saints have there, is exceeding great and vigorous; impressing the heart with the strongest and most lively sensation of inexpressible sweetness, mightily moving, animating, and engaging them, making them like to a flame of fire. And if such love and joy be not affections, then the word affection is of no use in language.-Will any say, that the saints in heaven, in beholding the face of their Father and the glory of their Redeemer, in contemplating his wonderful works, and particularly his laying down his life for them, have their hearts nothing moved and affected by all which they behold or
Hence, therefore, the religion of heaven, being full of holy love and joy, consists very much in affection: and therefore, undoubtedly, true religion consists very much in affection. The way to learn the true nature of any thing, is to go where that thing is to be found in its purity and perfection. If we would know the nature of true gold, we must view it, not in the ore, but when it is refined. If we would learn what true religion is, we must go where there is true religion, and nothing but true religion, and in its highest perfection, without any defect or mixture. All who are truly religious are not of this world, they are strangers
This is evident by many scriptures, as Prov. iv. 18. John iv. 14. and chap. vi. 40. 47. 50. 51. 54. 53. 1 John iii. 15. 1 Cor. xiit, 8-12.
here, and belong to heaven; they are born from above, heaven is their native country, and the nature which they receive by this heavenly birth, is an heavenly nature, they receive an anointing from above; that principle of true religion which is in them, is a communication of the religion of heaven; their' grace is the dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it.
9. This appears from the nature and design of the ordinances and duties, which God hath appointed, as means and expressions of true religion.
To instance in the duty of prayer: It is manifest, we are not appointed, in this duty, to declare God's perfections, his majesty, holiness, goodness, and all-sufficiency; our own meanness, emptiness, dependence, and unworthiness, our wants and desires, in order to inform God of these things, or to incline his heart, and prevail with him to be willing to shew us mercy; but rather suitably to affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask. And such gestures and manner of external behaviour in the worship of God, which custom has made to be significations of humility and reverence, can be of no further use, than as they have some tendency to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others.
And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame that these things have a tendency to move our affections.
The same thing appears in the nature and design of the sacraments, which God hath appointed. God, considering our frame, hath not only appointed that we should be told of the great things of the gospel and the redemption of Christ, and be instrucetd in them by his word, but also that they should be, as it were, exhibited to our view in sensible representations, the more to affect us with them.
And the impressing of divine things on the hearts and affections of men, is evidently one great end for which God has ordained, that his word delivered in the holy scriptures, should be opened, applied, and set home upon men, in preaching. And therefore it does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men's hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively applica
tion of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already, 2 Pet. i. 12, 13. And particularly, to promote those two affections in them, which are spoken of in the text, love and joy; Christ gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; that the body of Christ might be edified in love, Eph. iv. 11, 12, 16. The apostle, in instructing and counselling Timothy, concerning the work of the ministry, informs him, that the great end of that word which a minister is to preach, is love or charity, 1 Tim. i. 3-5. And God has appointed preaching as a means to promote in the saints joy: therefore ministers are called helpers of their joy, 2 Cor. i. 24.
10. It is an evidence that true religion lies very much in the affections, that the scriptures place the sin of the heart very much in hardness of heart. It was hardness of heart, which excited grief and displeasure in Christ towards the Jews, Mark iii. 5. He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. It is from men's having such a heart as this, that they treasure up wrath for themselves; Rom. ii. 5. After thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The reason given why the house of Israel would not obey God, was that they were hard-hearted. Ezek. iii. 7. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. The wickedness of that perverse rebellious generation in the wilderness, is ascribed to the hardness of their hearts; Psal. xcv. 7— 10. To-day if ye will hear my voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your farthers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work: forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, &c.—This is spoken of as what prevented Zedekiah's turning to the Lord, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 13. He stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning to the Lord God of Israel. This principle is that from whence men are without the fear of God, and depart from his ways: Is. lxiii. 17. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways? and hardened our heart from thy fear? And men rejecting Christ, and opposing Christianity, are charged with this principle; Acts xix. 7. But divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude.-God's leaving men to the pow
er of the sin and corruption of the heart, is often expressed by his hardening their hearts; Rom. ix. 18. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. John xii. 40. He hath blinded their minds, and hardened their hearts. And the apostle seems to speak of an evil heart, that departs from the living God, and a hard heart, as the same thing, Heb. iii. 8. Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, &c. ver. 12, 13. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God: but exhort one another daily while it is called, To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. And that great work of God in conversion, which consists in delivering a person from the power of sin, and mortifying corruption, is expressed, once and again, by God's taking away the heart of stone, and giving an heart of flesh, (Ezek. ix. 19. and chap. xxxvi. 26.)
Now, by a hard heart is plainly meant an unaffected heart, or a heart not easy to be moved with virtuous affections, like a stone, insensible, stupid, unmoved, and hard to be impressed. Hence the hard heart is called a stony heart, and is opposed to an heart of flesh, that has feeling, and is sensibly touched and moved. We read in scripture of a hard heart, and a tender heart: and doubtless we are to understand these, as contrary the one to the other. But what is a tender heart, but a heart which is easily impressed with what ought to affect it? God commends Josiah, because his heart was tender: and it is evident by those things which are mentioned as expressions and evidences of this tenderness of heart, that by it is meant, his heart being easily moved with religious and pious affections; 2 Kings xxii. 19. Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardst what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me, I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. And this is one thing, wherein it is necessary we should become as little children, in order to our entering into the kingdom of God, even that we should have our hearts tender, and easily affected and moved in spiritual and divine things, as little children have in other things.
It is very plain in some places, that by hardness of heart is meant a heart void of affection. So, to signify the ostrich's being without natural affection to her young, it is said, Job xxxix. 16. She hardeneth her heart against her young ones, as though they were not hers. So a person having a heart unaffected in time of danger, is expressed by his hardening his heart, Prov. xxviii. 14. Happy is the man that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart, shall fall into mischief.
Now, therefore, since it is so plain, that by a hard heart in scripture, is meant a heart destitute of pious affections; and since also the scriptures so frequently place the sin and corruption of the heart in its hardness; it is evident, that the grace and holiness of the heart, on the contrary, must in a great measure consist in its having pious affections, and being easily susceptive of such affections. Divines are generally agreed, that sin radically and fundamentally consists in what is negative, or privative, having its root and foundation in a privation or want of holiness. And therefore undoubtedly, if sin very much consist in hardness of heart, and so in the want of pious affections, holiness does consist very much in those pious affections.
I am far from supposing that all affections manifest a tender heart: hatred, anger, vain glory, and other selfish and self-exalting affections, may greatly prevail in the hardest heart. But yet it is evident, that hardness of heart, and tenderness of heart, are expressions that relate to the affections of the heart, and denote its being susceptible of, or shut up against, certain affections; of which I shall have occasion to speak more afterwards.
Upon the whole, I think it clearly and abundantly evident, that true religion lies very much in the affections. Not that I think these arguments prove, that religion in the hearts of the truly godly, is ever in exact proportion to the degree of affection and present emotion of the mind: for, undoubtedly, there is much affection in the true saints which is not spiritual; their religious affections are often mixed; all is not from grace, but much from nature. And though the affections have not their seat in the body, yet the constitution of the body may very much contribute to the present emotion of the mind. The degree of religion is to be estimated by the fixedness and strength of habit exercised in affection, whereby holy affection is habitual, rather than by the degree of the present exercise: and the strength of that habit is not always in proportion to outward effects and manifestations, or indeed inward ones, in the hurry, vehemence, and sudden changes of the course of the thoughts. But yet it is evident, that religion consists so much in the affections, as that without holy affection there is no true religion. No light in the understanding is good, which does not produce holy affection in the heart; no habit or principle in the heart is good, which has no such exercise; and no external fruit is good, which does not proceed from such exercises.