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CHAPTER 11. The seat of spiritual mindedness in the affections — The nature and use of them — The ways and means used by God himself to call the affections of men from the world. IN the account given at the entrance of this discourse of what it is to be spiritually minded, it was reduced under three heads: — The FIRST was, The habitual frame, disposition, and inclination of the mind in its affections.
The SECOND was, The usual exercise of the mind in its thoughts, meditations, and desires, about heavenly things.
Whereunto, THIRDLY, was added, The complacency of mind in that relish and savor which it finds in spiritual things so thought and meditated on.
The second of these hath hitherto alone been spoken unto, as that which leads the way unto the others, and gives the most sensible evidence of the state inquired after. Therein consists the stream, which, rising in the fountain of our affections, runs into a holy rest and complacency of mind.
The first and last I shall now handle together, and therein comprehend the account of what it is to be spiritually minded. Spiritual affections, whereby the soul adheres unto spiritual things, taking in such a savor and relish of them as wherein it finds rest and satisfaction, is the peculiar spring and substance of our being spiritually minded. This is that which I shall now farther explain and confirm.
The great contest of heaven and earth is about the affections of the poor worm which we call man. That the world should contend for them is no wonder; it is the best that it can pretend unto. All things here below are capable of no higher ambition than to be possessed of the affections of men; and, as they lie under the curse, it can do us no greater mischief than by prevailing in this design. But that the holy God should as it were engage in the contest and strive for the affections of man, is an effect of infinite condescension and grace. This he doth expressly: “My son,” saith he, “give me thine heart,” Proverbs 23:26. It is our affections he asketh for, and comparatively nothing else. To be sure, he will accept of nothing from us without them; the most fat and costly sacrifice will not be accepted if it be without a heart. All the ways and methods of the dispensation of his will by his word, all the designs of his effectual grace, are suited unto and prepared for this end, — namely, to recover the affections of man unto himself. So he expresseth himself concerning his word: Deuteronomy 10:12, “And now, Israel, what doth theLORD thy God require of thee, but to fear theLORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve theLORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul?”
And as unto the word of his grace, he declares it unto the same purpose: chap. 30:6, “And theLORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love theLORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.”
And, on the other side, all the artifices of the world, all the paint it puts on its face, all the great promises it makes, an the false appearances and attires it clothes itself withal by the help of Satan, have no other end but to draw and keep the affections of men unto itself. And if the world be preferred before God in this address which is made unto us for our affections, we shall justly perish with the world unto eternity, and be rejected by him whom we have rejected, Proverbs 1:24-31.
Our affections are upon the matter our all. They are all we have to give or bestow; the only power of our souls whereby we may give away ourselves from ourselves and become another’s. Other faculties of our souls, even the most noble of them, are suited to receive in unto our own advantage; by our affections we can give away what we are and have. Hereby we give our hearts unto God, as he requireth. Wherefore, unto him we give our affections unto whom we give our an, — ourselves and all that we have; and to whom we give them not, whatever we give, upon the matter we give nothing at all.
In what we do unto or for others, whatsoever is good, valuable, or praiseworthy in it, proceeds from the affection wherewith we do it. To do any thing for others without an animating affection, is but a contempt of them; for we judge them really unworthy that we should do any thing for them. To give to the poor upon their importunity without pity or compassion, to supply the wants of the saints without love or kindness, with other actings and duties of the like nature, are things of no value, things that recommend us neither unto God nor men. It is so in general with God and the world. Whatsoever we do in the service of God, whatever duty we perform on his command, whatever we undergo or suffer for his name’s sake, if it proceed not from the cleaving of our souls unto him by our affections, it is despised by him; he owns us not. As “if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned,” Song of Solomon 8:7, — it is not to be bought or purchased with riches; so if a man would give to God an the substance of his house without love, it would in like manner be despised. And however, on the other hand, we may be diligent, industrious, and sedulous, in and about the things of this world, yet if it have not our affections, we are not of the world, we belong not unto it.
They are the seat of all sincerity, which is the jewel of divine and human conversation, the life and soul of every thing that is good and praiseworthy. Whatever men pretend, as their affections are, so are they. Hypocrisy is a deceitful interposition of the mind, on various reasons and pretenses, between men’s affections and their profession, whereby a man appears to be what he is not. Sincerity is the open avowment of the reality of men’s affections; which renders them good and useful.
Affections are in the soul as the helm in the ship; if it be laid hold on by a skillful hand, he turneth the whole vessel which way he pleaseth. If God hath the powerful hand of his grace upon our affections, he turns our souls unto a compliance with his institutions, instructions, in mercy, afflictions, trials, all sorts of providences, and holds them firm against all winds and storms of temptation, that they shall not hurry them on pernicious dangers. Such a soul alone is tractable and pliable unto all intimations of God’s will.
All others are stubborn and obstinate, stout-hearted and far from righteousness. And when the world hath the hand on our affections, it turns the mind, with the whole industry of the soul, unto its interest and concerns. And it is in vain to contend with any thing that hath the power of our affections in its disposal; it will prevail at last.
On all these considerations it is of the highest importance to consider aright how things are stated in our affections, and what is the prevailing bent of them. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend,” saith the wise man, Proverbs 27:17. Every man hath his edge, which may be, sharpened by outward helps and advantages. The predominant inclination of a man’s affections is his edge. According as that is set, so he cutteth and works; that way he is sharp and keen, but blunt unto all other things.
Now, because it must be that our affections are either spiritual or earthly in a prevailing degree, that either God hath our hearts or the world, that our edge is towards heaven or towards things here below, before I come to give an account of the nature and operations of spiritual affections, I shall consider and propose some of those arguments and motives which God is pleased to make use of to call off our affections from the desirable things of this world; for as they are weighty and cogent, such as cannot be neglected without the greatest contempt of divine wisdom and goodness, so they serve to press and enforce those arguments and motives that are proposed unto us to set our affections on things that are above, which is to be spiritually minded.
First, He hath, in all manner of instances, poured contempt on the things of this world, in comparison of things spiritual and heavenly. All things here below were at first made beautiful and in order, and were declared by God himself to be exceeding good, and that not only in their being and nature, but in the use whereunto they were designed. They were then desirable unto men, and the enjoyment of them would have been a blessing, without danger or temptation; for they were the ordinance of God to lead us unto the knowledge of him and love unto him. But since the entrance of sin, whereby the world fell under the curse and into the power of Satan, the things of it, in his management, are become effectual means to draw off the heart and affections from God; for it is the world and the things of it, as summed up by the apostle,1 John 2:15,16, that strive alone for our affections, to be the objects of them. Sin and Satan do but woo for the world, to take them off from God. By them doth the god of this world blind the eyes of them that believe not; and the principal way whereby he worketh in them is by promises of satisfaction unto all the lusts of the minds of men, with a proposal of whatever is dreadful and terrible in the want of them. Being now in this state and condition, and used unto this end, through the craft of Satan and the folly of the minds of men, God hath showed, by various instances, that they are all vain, empty, unsatisfactory, and every way to be despised in comparison of things eternal: — 1. He did it most eminently and signally in the life, death, and cross of Christ. What can be seen or found in this world, after the Son of God hath spent his life in it, not having where to lay his head, and after he went out of it on the cross? Had there been aught of real worth in things here below, certainly he had enjoyed it; if not crowns and empires, which were all in his power, yet such goods and possessions as men of sober reasonings and moderate at: fections do esteem a competency. But things were quite otherwise disposed, to manifest that there is nothing of value or use in these things, but only to support nature unto the performance of service unto God; wherein they are serviceable unto eternity. He never attained, he never enjoyed, more than daily supplies of bread out of the stores of providence; and which alone he hath instructed us to pray for, Matthew 6:11. In his cross the world proclaimed all its good qualities and all its powers, and hath given unto them that believe its naked face to view and contemplate; nor is it now one jot more comely than it was when it had gotten Christ on the cross. Hence is that inference and conclusion of the apostle: Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world;” — “Since I have believed, since I have had a sense of the power and virtue of the cross of Christ, I have done with all things in this world; it is a dead thing unto me, nor have I any affection for it.” This is that which made the difference between the promises of the old covenant and the new: for they were many of them about temporal things, the good things of this world and this life; those of the new are mostly of things spiritual and eternal.
God would not call off the church wholly from a regard unto these things, until he had given a sufficient demonstration of their emptiness, vanity, and insufficiency, in the cross of Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Whither so fast, my friend? What meaneth this rising so early and going to bed late, eating the bread of carefulness? Why this diligence, why these contrivances, why these savings and hoardings of riches and wealth? To what end is all this care and counsel? “Alas!” saith one, “it is to get that which is enough in and of this world for me and my children, to prefer them, to raise an estate for them, which, if not so great as others, may yet be a competency; to give them some satisfaction in their lives and some reputation in the world.” Fair pretenses, neither shall I ever discourage any from the exercise of industry in their lawful callings; but yet I know that with many this is but a pretense and covering for a shameful engagement of their affections unto the world. Wherefore, in all these things, be persuaded sometimes to have an eye to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Behold how he is set before us in the gospel, poor, despised, reproached, persecuted, nailed to the cross, and all by this world. Whatever be your designs and aims, let his cross continually interpose between your affections and this world. If you are believers, your hopes are within a few days to be with him for evermore. Unto him you must give an account of yourselves, and what you have done in this world. Will it be acceptable with him to declare what you have saved of this world, what you have gained, what you have preserved and embraced yourselves in, and what you have left behind you? Was this any part of his employment and business in this world? hath he left us an example for any such course?
Wherefore, no man can set his affections on things here below who hath any regard unto the pattern of Christ, or is in any measure influenced with the power and efficacy of his cross. “My love is crucified,” said a holy martyr of old: he whom his soul loved was so, and in him his love unto all things here below. Do you, therefore, find your affections ready to be engaged unto, or too much entangled with, the things of this world? are your desires of increasing them, your hopes of keeping them, your fears of losing them, your love unto them and delight in them, operative in your minds, possessing your thoughts and influencing your conversations? — turn aside a little, and by faith contemplate the life and death of the Son of God; a blessed glass will it be, where you may see what contemptible things they are which you perplex yourselves about. Oh, that any of us should love or esteem the things of this world, the power, riches, goods, or reputation of it, who have had a spiritual view of them in the cross of Christ!
It may be it will be said that the circumstances mentioned were necessary unto the Lord Christ, with respect unto the especial work he had to do as the Savior and Redeemer of the church; and therefore it doth not hence follow that we ought to be poor and want all things, as he did. I confess it doth not, and therefore do all along make an allowance for honest industry in our callings. But this follows unavoidably hereon, that what he did forego and trample on for our sake, that ought not to be the object of our affections; nor can such affections prevail in us if he dwell in our hearts by faith. 2. He hath done the same in his dealings with the apostles, and generally with all that have been most dear unto him and instrumental unto the interest of his glory in the world, especially since life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel. He had great work to do by the apostles, and that of the greatest use unto his interest, and kingdom. The laying of the foundations of the glorious kingdom of Christ in the world was committed unto them. Who would not think that he should provide for them, if not principalities or popedoms, yet at least archbishoprics and bishoprics, with other good ecclesiastical dignities and preferments?
Hereby might they have been made meet to converse with princes, and been freed from the contempt of the vulgar. But Infinite Wisdom did otherwise dispose of them and their concerns in this world; for as God was pleased to exercise them with the common afflictions and calamities of this life, which he makes use of to take off the sweetness of present enjoyments, so they lived and died in a condition of poverty, distress, persecution, and reproach. God set them forth as examples unto other ends, — namely, of light, grace, zeal, and holiness in their lives, — so as to manifest of how little concernment unto our own blessedness or an interest in his love is the abundance of all things here below, as also that the want of them all may consist with the highest participation of his love and favor: 1 Corinthians 4:9, 11-13, “I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”
And if the consideration hereof be not of weight with others, undoubtedly it ought to be so with them who are called to preach the gospel, and are the successors to the apostles. There can be nothing more uncouth, absurd, and shameful, nothing more opposite unto the intimation of the wisdom and will of God in his dealings with those first and most honorable dispensers of it, than for such persons to seek and follow greedily after secular advantages, in worldly power, riches, wealth, and honor. Hence there hath been in former ages an endeavor to separate such persons as were by any means dedicated unto the ministry of the gospel from all secular dignities and revenues; yea, some maintained that they were to enjoy nothing of their own, but were to live on alms or the free contributions of the people. But this was quickly condemned as heresy in Wycliffe and others. Yet another sort set up that would pretend thereunto as unto themselves, though they would not oblige all others unto the same rule. This produced some swarms of begging friars, whom they of the church, who were in possession of wealth and power, thought meet to laugh at and let alone. Of late years this contest is at an end. The clergy have happily gotten the victory, and esteem all due unto them that they can by any ways obtain; nor is there any greater crime than for a man to be otherwise minded. But these things are not our present concernment. From the beginning it was not so; and it is well if, in such a way, men are able to maintain the frame of mind inquired after, which is life and peace. 3. God continues to cast contempt on these things, by giving always incomparably the greatest portion of them unto the vilest men and his own avowed enemies. This was a temptation under the old covenant, but is highly instructive under the new. None will judge those things to be of real value which a wise man casts out daily unto swine, making little or no use of them in his family. Those monsters of men, Nero and Heliogabalus, had more interest in, and more power over, the things of this world than ever had the best of men; — such villains in nature, so pernicious unto human society, that their not-being was the interest of mankind; but yet more of the world poured on them than they knew either how to enjoy, possess, use, or abuse. Look on all the principal treasures and powers of this world as in the hand of one of these monsters, and there disposed of by divine providence, and you may see at what rate God values them.
At this day, the greatest, most noble, wealthy, and fruitful parts of the earth are given unto the great Turk, with some other eastern potentates, either Mohammedans or Pagans, who are prepared for eternal destruction.
And if we look nearer home, we may see in whose hands is the power of the chiefest nations of Europe, and unto what end it is used. The utmost of what some Christian professors among ourselves are intent and designing upon, as that which would render them wondrous happy, in their own apprehensions, put hundreds of them together, and it would not answer the waste made by the forementioned beasts every day.
Doth not God proclaim herein that the things of this world are not to be valued or esteemed? If they were so, and had a real worth in themselves, would the holy and righteous God make such a distribution of them? The most of those whom he loves, who enjoy his favor, not only have comparatively the meanest share of them, but are exercised with all the evils that the destitution and want of them can be accompanied withal. His open and avowed enemies, in the meantime, have more than they know what to do withal Who would set his heart and affections on those things which God poureth into the bosoms of the vilest men, to be a snare unto them here and an aggravation of their condemnation forever? It seems you may go and take the world, and take the curse, death and hell, along with it, but “what will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” What can any man do on the consideration hereof, who will not forego all his hopes and expectations from God, but retreat unto the faith of things spiritual and eternal, as containing an excellency in them incomparably above all that he enjoyed here below? 4. He doth continue to give perpetual instances of their uncertainty and unsatisfactoriness, in the utter disappointment of men that have had expectations from them. The ways hereof are so various, and the instances so multiplied, as that most men in the world, — unless they are like the fool in the Gospel, who bade his soul take its ease for many years, because his barns were full, — live in perpetual fears and apprehensions that they shall speedily lose whatever they enjoy, or are under the power of stupid security. But as unto this consideration of them, there is such an account given by the wise man as unto which nothing can be added, or which no reason or experience is able to contradict, Ecclesiastes 2. By these and the like ways doth God cast contempt on all things here below, discovering the folly and falseness of the promises which the world makes use of to allure our affections unto itself. This, therefore, is to be laid as the foundation in all our considerations unto what or whom we shall cleave by our affections, that God hath not only declared the insufficiency of these things to give us that rest and happiness which we seek after, but also poured contempt upon them, in his holy, wise disposal of them in the world.
Secondly, God hath added unto their vanity by shortening the lives of men, reducing their continuance in this world unto so short and uncertain a season as it is impossible they should take any solid satisfaction in what they enjoy here below. So it is expressed by the psalmist, “Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee.” Hence he draws two conclusions: — 1. That “every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” 2. That “every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them,” Psalm 39:5,6.
The uncertainty and shortness of the lives of men render all their endeavors and contrivances about earthly things both vain and foolish.
When men lived eight or nine hundred years, they had opportunity to suck out all the sweetness that was in creature-comforts, to make large provisions of them, and to have long projections about them; but when they had so, they all issued in that violence, oppression, and wickedness, which brought the flood on the world of ungodly men. And it still so abides. The more of and the longer men enjoy these things, the more, without the sovereign preservative of grace, will they abound in sin and provocation of God. But God hath reduced the life of man unto the small pittance of seventy years, casting what may fall out of a longer continuance into travail and sorrow. Besides, that space is shortened with the most, by various and innumerable incidences and occasions. Wherefore, in these seventy years, consider how long it is before men begin to have a taste or gust of the things of this life; how many things fall in cross, to make us weary of them before the end of our days; how few among us (not one of a thousand) attain that age; what is the uncertainty of all men living as to the continuance of their lives unto the next day; and we shall see that the holy, wise God hath left no such season for their enjoyment as might put a value upon them. And when, on the other hand, it is remembered that this man, who is of such short continuance in this world, is yet made for eternity, eternal blessedness or misery, which state depends wholly on his interest on things above, and setting his affections on them, they must forfeit all their reason, as well as bid defiance unto the grace of God, who give them up unto things below.
Thirdly, God hath openly and fully declared the danger that is in these things, as unto their enjoyment and use. And what multitudes of souls miscarry by an inordinate adherence unto them! for they are the matter of those temptations whereby the souls of men are ruined forever; the fuel that supplies the fire of their lusts, until they are consumed by it.
Men under the power of spiritual convictions fall not into sin, fail not eternally, but by the means of temptation; that is the mire wherein this rush doth grow. [As] for others, who live and die in the madness and wildness of nature, without any restraint in their minds from the power of convictions, they need no external temptations, but only opportunities to exert their lusts. But [as] for those who, by any means, are convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment, so as to design the ordering of their lives with respect unto the sense they have of them, they fall not into actual sin but upon temptations. That, whatever it be, which causeth, occasioneth, and prevaileth on, a convinced person unto sin, that is temptation.
Wherefore, this is the great means of the ruin of the souls of men.
Now, though there are many principles of temptation, many causes that actually concur unto its efficacy, as sin, Satan, and other men, yet the matter of almost all ruinous temptations is taken out of this world and the things of it. Thence doth Satan take all his darts; thence do evil men derive all the ways and means whereby they corrupt others; and from thence is all the fuel of sin and lust taken. And, which adds unto this evil, all that is in the world contributes its utmost thereunto. “All that is in the world” is “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” 1 John 2:16.
It is not a direct, formal annumeration of the things that are in the world, nor a distribution of them under several heads, but it is so of the principal lusts of the minds of men, whereunto all things in the world are subservient. Wherefore, not only the matter of all temptations is taken out of the world, but every thing that is in the world is apt and fit to be abused unto that end; for it were easy to show that there is nothing desirable or valuable in this whole world, but it is reducible unto a subserviency unto one or other of these lusts, and is applicable unto the interest and service of temptations and sins.
When men hear of these things, they are apt to say, “Let the dream be unto them that are openly wicked, and the interpretation of it unto them that are profligate in sin.” Unto unclean persons, drunkards, oppressors, proud, ambitious persons, it may be it is so; but as unto them, they use the things of this world with a due moderation, so as they are no snare unto them! But to own they are used unto what end soever, if the affections of men are set upon them, one way or other, there is nothing in the world but is thus a snare and temptation. However, we should be very careful how we adhere unto or undervalue that which is the cause and means of the ruin of multitudes of souls. By the warnings given us hereof doth God design, as unto the use of means, to teach us the vanity and danger of fixing our affections on things below.
Fourthly, Things are so ordered in the holy, wise dispensation of God’s providence, that it requires much spiritual wisdom to distinguish between the use and the abuse of these things, between a lawful care about them and an inordinate cleaving unto them. Few distinguish aright here, and therefore in these things will many find their great mistake at the last day. [For] the disappointments that they will fall under, as to what concerns their earthly enjoyments, and the use of them wherewith they were intrusted, see Matthew 25:34, to the end of the chapter.
It is granted that there is a lawful use of these things, a lawful care and industry about them; so it is also acknowledged, it cannot be denied, that there is an abuse of them, springing from an inordinate love and cleaving unto them. But here men deceive themselves, taking their measures by the most crooked, uncertain rules. Some make their own inclinations the rule and measure of what is lawful and allowable; some, the example of others; some, the course of the world; some, their own real or pretended necessities. They confess that there is an inordinate love of those things, and an abuse of them, in excesses of various sorts, which the Scripture plainly affirms, and which experience gives open testimony unto; but as unto their state and circumstances, their care, love, and industry are all allowable. That which influenceth all these persons is self-love, which inveterate, corrupt affections and false reasonings do make an application of unto these occasions.
Hence we have men approving of themselves as just stewards of their enjoyments, whilst others judge them hard, covetous, earthly-minded, no way laying out what they are intrusted withal unto the glory of God in any due proportion. Others also think not amiss of themselves in this kind, who live in palpable excesses, either of pride of life, or sensual pleasures, vain apparel, or the like. So, in particular, most men in their feastings and entertainments walk in direct contempt of the rule which our Savior gives in that case, Luke 14:12-14, and yet approve themselves therein.
But what if any of us should be mistaken in our rule and the application of it unto our conditions? Men at sea may have a fair gale of wind, wherewith they may sail freely and smoothly for a season, and yet, instead of being brought into a port, be cast by it at last on destructive shelves or rocks.
And what if that which we esteem allowable love, care, and industry, should prove to be the fruit of earthly affections, inordinate and predominant in us? What if we miss in our measures, and that which we approve of in ourselves should be disapproved of God? We are cast forever; we belong unto the world; and with the world we shall perish.
It may be said, that “if it be so difficult to distinguish between these things, — namely, the lawful use of things here below and their abuse, the allowable industry about them and the inordinate love of them, — on the knowledge whereof our eternal condition depends, it is impossible but men must spend their time in solicitous anxiety of mind, as not knowing when they have aright discharged their duty.” Ans . 1. I press these things at present no farther but only to allow how dangerous a thing it is for any to incline in his affections unto the things of this world, wherein an excess is ruinous and hardly discoverable. Surely no wise man will venture freely and frequently unto the edge of such a precipice. He will be jealous of his measures, lest they will not hold by the rule of the word. And a due sense hereof is the best preservative of the soul from cleaving inordinately unto things below. And when God in any instance, by afflictions or otherwise, shows unto believers their transgression herein, and how they have exceeded, Job 36:8,9, it makes them careful for the future. They will now or never be diligent that they fall not under that peremptory rule, 1 John 2:15. 2. When the soul is upright and sincere, there is no need in this case of any more solicitousness or anxiety of mind than there is unto or about other duties; but when it is biassed and acted by self-love, and its more strong inclinations unto things present, it is impossible men should enjoy solid peace, or be free from severe reflections on them by their own consciences, in such seasons wherein they are awakened unto their duty and the consideration of their state, nor have I any thing to tender for their relief.
With others it is not so, and therefore I shall so far digress in this place as to give some directions unto those who, in sincerity, would be satisfied in this lawful use and enjoyment of earthly things, so as not to adhere unto them with inordinate affection: — 1. Remember always that you are not proprietors or absolute possessors of those things, but only stewards of them. With respect unto men, you are or may be just proprietors of what you enjoy; but with respect unto Him who is the great possessor of heaven and earth, you are but stewards. This stewardship we are to give an account of, as we are taught in the parable, Luke 16:1,2. This rule always attended unto will be a blessed guide in all instances and occasions of duty.
But if a man be left in trust with houses and large possessions, as a steward for the right lord, owner, and proprietor of them, if he fall into a pleasing dream that they are all his own, and use them accordingly, it will be a woful surprisal unto him when he shall be called to account for all that he hath received and laid out, whether he will or no, and when indeed he hath nothing to pay. It will scarce be otherwise with them at the great day who forget the trust which is committed to them, and suppose they may do what they will with what they call their own, 2. There is nothing, in the ways of getting, enjoying, or using of these things, but giveth its own evidence unto spiritual wisdom whether it be within the bounds of duty or no. Men are not lightly deceived herein, but when they are evidently under the power of corrupt affections, or will not at all attend unto themselves and the language of their own consciences. It is a man’s own fault alone if he know not wherein he doth exceed.
A due examination of ourselves in the sight of God with respect unto these things, the frame and actings of our minds in them, will greatly give check unto our corrupt inclinations and discover the folly of those reasonings whereby we deceive ourselves into the love of earthly things, or justify ourselves therein, and bring to light the secret principle of self-love, which is the root of all this evil. 3. If you would be able to make a right judgment in this case, be sure that you have another object for your affections, which hath a predominant interest in your minds, and which will evidence itself so to have on all occasions. Let a man be never so observant of himself as unto all outward duties required of him with respect unto these earthly things; let him be liberal in the disposal of them on all occasions; let him be watchful against all intemperance and excesses in the use of them, — yet if he hath not another object for his affections, which hath a prevailing influence upon them, if they are not set upon the things that are above, one way or other it is the world that hath the possession of his heart: for the affections of our minds will and must be placed in chief on things below or things above.
There will be a predominant love in us; and therefore, although all our actions should testify another frame, yet if God and the things of God be not the principal object of our affections, by one way or other unto the world we do belong. This is that which is taught us so expressly by our Savior, Luke 16:9-13, “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” 4. Labor continually for the mortification of your affections unto the things of this world. They are, in the state of corrupted nature, set and fixed on them, nor will any reasonings or considerations effectually divert them, or take them off in a due manner, unless they are mortified unto them by the cross of Christ. Whatever change be otherwise wrought in them, it will be of no advantage unto us. It is mortification alone that will take them off from earthly things unto the glory of God. Hence the apostle, having given us that charge, “Set your affection on things above, and not on things on the earth,” Colossians 3:2, adds this as the only way and means we may do so, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” verse 5. Let no man think that his affections will fall off from earthly things of their own accord. The keenness and sharpness of them in many things may be abated by the decay of their natural powers in age and the like; they may be mated by frequent disappointments, by sicknesses, pains, and afflictions, as we shall see immediately; they may be willing unto a distribution of earthly enjoyments, to have the reputation of it, wherein they still cleave unto the world, but under another shape and appearance; or they may be startled by convictions, so as to do many things gladly that belong to another frame: but, on one pretense or other, under one appearance or other, they will for ever adhere or cleave unto earthly things, unless they are mortified unto them through faith in the blood and cross of Christ, Galatians 6:14. Whatever thoughts you may have of yourselves in this matter, unless you have the experience of a work of mortification on your affections, you can have no refreshing ground of assurance that you are in any thing spiritually minded. 5. In all the instances of duty belonging unto your stewardship of earthly things, attend diligently unto the rule of the word. Without this the grace exhorted unto may be abused. So of old, under a pretense of a relinquishment of the things of this world, because of the danger in adhering unto them, their own superstition and the craft of other men prevailed with many to part with all they had unto the service of others, not better, it may be not so good as themselves. This evil wholly arose from want of attendance unto the rule of truth, which gives no such direction in ordinary cases. But there is not much seen in these days of an excess in this kind; but, on the other hand, in all instances of duties of this nature, most men’s minds are habitually influenced with pretenses, reasonings, and considerations, that turn the scales as unto what they ought to do, in proportion in this duty, on the side of the world. If you would be safe, you must, in all instances of duty, — as in works of charity, piety, and compassion, — give authority in and over your souls unto the rule of the word. Let neither self, nor unbelief, nor the custom and example of others, be heard to speak; but let the rule alone be attended unto, and to what that speaks yield obedience.
Unless these things are found in us, none of us, no man living, if it be not so with him, can have any refreshing evidence or assurance that he is not under the power of an inordinate, yea, and predominant love unto this world.
And, indeed, to add a little farther on the occasion of this digression, it is a sad thing to have this exception made against the state of any man on just grounds, “Yea, but he loves the world.” He is sober and industrious, he is constant in duties of religion; it may be, an earnest preacher of them; a man of sound principles, and blameless as unto the excesses of life; — “but he loves the world!” The question is, How doth this appear? it may be, what you say is but one of those evil surmises which all things are filled withal.
Wherefore, I speak it not at all to give countenance unto the rash judging of others, which none are more prone unto than those who, one way or other, are eminently guilty themselves; but I would have every man judge himself, that we be none of us condemned of the Lord. If, notwithstanding the things mentioned, any of us do center in self, which is supplied and filled with the world, — if we prefer self above all other things, do aim at the satisfaction of self in what we do well or ill, are useless unto the only good and blessed end of these earthly things, in supplying the wants of others according unto the proportions wherewith we are intrusted, — it is to be feared that the world and the things that are in it have the principal interest in our affections.
And the danger is yet greater with them who divert on the other extreme.
Such are they who, in the pride of life, vanity in apparel, excess in drinking, pampering the flesh every day, tread close on the heels of the world, if they do not also fully keep company with it. Altogether in vain is it for such persons to countenance themselves with an appearance of other graces in them, or the sedulous performance of other duties. This one rule will eternally prevail against them: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” And, by the way, let men take heed how they walk in any instance against the known judgment and practice of the wiser or more experienced sort of Christians, to their regret and sorrow, if not unto their offense and scandal, or in any way whereunto they win the consent of their own light and conscience by such reasonings and considerations as will not hold weight in the balance of the sanctuary. Yet thus and no otherwise is it with all them who, under a profession of religion, do indulge unto any excesses wherein they are conformed unto the world.
Fifthly, God makes a hedge against the excess of the affections of men rational and any way enlightened unto the things of this world, by suffering the generality of men to carry the use of them, and to be carried by the abuse of them, into actings so filthy, so abominable, so ridiculous, as reason itself cannot but abhor. Men by them transform themselves into beasts and monsters, as might be manifested by all sorts of instances.
Hence the wise man prayed against riches, lest he should not be able to manage the temptations wherewith they are accompanied, Proverbs 30:8,9.
Lastly, To close this matter, and to show us what we are to expect in case we set our affections on things here below, and they have thereby a predominant interest in our hearts, God hath positively determined and declared that if it be so, he will have nothing to do with us, nor will accept of those affections which we pretend we can and do spare for him and spiritual things. “If we abstain from open sins, if we abhor the lewdness and uncleanness of men in the world, if we are constant in religious duties, and give ourselves up to walk after the most strict sort in religion, like Paul in his Pharisaism, may we not,” will some say or think, “find acceptance with God, though our hearts cleave inordinately unto the things of this world?” I say, God hath peremptorily determined the contrary; and if other arguments will not prevail with us, he leaves us at last unto this, “Go, love the world and the things of it; but know assuredly you do it unto the eternal loss of your souls,” 1 John 2:15; James 4:4.
These few instances have I given of the arguments and motives whereby God is pleased to deter us from fixing our affections on things here below; and they are most of them such only as he maketh use of in the administration of his providence. There are two other heads of things that offer themselves unto our consideration: — 1. The ways, means, arguings, and enticements, which the world makes use of to draw, keep, and secure, the affections of men unto itself. 2. The secret, powerful efficacy of grace, in taking off the heart from these things, and turning and drawing it unto God, with the arguments and motives that the Holy Spirit maketh use of in and by the word unto this end; wherein we must show what is the act of conquering grace, whereby the heart is finally prevailed on to choose and adhere unto God in love immutable. But these things cannot be handled in any measure, according to their nature and importance, without such length of discourse as I cannot here divert unto. I shall therefore proceed unto that which is the proper and peculiar subject before us.
CHAPTER 12. What is required in and unto our affections that they may be spiritual — A three-fold work on the affections described. TO declare the interest of our affections in this frame of being spiritually minded, and what they contribute thereunto, I shall do these three things: — First, Declare what is required hereunto, that our affections may be spiritual, wherein lies the foundation of the whole duty; secondly, What are their actings when they are so spiritual; thirdly, What are the means whereby they may be kept and preserved in that frame; with sundry other things of the like nature.
How our affections are concerned in or do belong unto the frame of mind inquired after hath been before declared. Without spiritual affections we cannot be spiritually minded. And that they may be of this use, three things are required: — I. Their principle; II. Their object; III. The way and manner of their application unto their proper object by virtue of that principle.
I. As unto the principle acting in them, that our affections may be spiritual and the spring of our being spiritually minded, it is required that they be changed, renewed, and inlaid with grace, spiritual and supernatural. To clear the sense hereof, we must a little consider what is their state by nature, and then by what means they may be wrought upon as unto a change or a renovation; for they are like unto some things which in themselves and their own nature are poisonous, but being corrected, and receiving a due temperament from a mixture of other ingredients, become medicinal and of excellent use.
By nature our affections, all of them, are depraved and corrupted. Nothing in the whole nature of man, no power or faculty of the soul, is fallen under greater disorder and depravation by the entrance of sin than our affections are. In and by them is the heart wholly gone and turned off from God, Titus 3:3. It were a long work to set forth this depravation of our affections, nor doth it belong unto our present design. Some few things I shall briefly observe concerning it, to make way unto what is proposed concerning their change: — 1. This is the only corruption and depravation of our nature by the fall evident in and unto reason or the light of nature itself. Those who were wise among the heathen both saw it and complained of it. They found a weakness in the mind, but saw nothing of its darkness and depravation as unto things spiritual. But they were sensible enough of this disorder and tumult of the affections in things moral, which renders the minds of men “like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” This greatly aggravates the neglect of them who are not sensible of it in themselves, seeing it is discernible in the light of nature. 2. They are, as depraved, the seat and subject of all lusts, both of the flesh and of the spirit; yea, lust or evil concupiscence is nothing but the irregular motion and acting of our affections as depraved, defiled, corrupted, Romans 7:8. Hence no one sin can be mortified without a change wrought in the affections. 3. They are the spring, root, and cause of all actual sin in the world, Matthew 15:19. The “evil heart,” in the Scripture, is the corrupt affections of it, with the imaginations of the mind, whereby they are excited and acted, Genesis 6:5. These are they which at this time fill the whole world with wickedness, darkness, confusion, and terror; and we may learn what is their force and efficacy from these effects. So the nature of the plague is most evident when we see thousands dying of it every week. 4. They are the way and means whereby the soul applies itself unto all sinful objects and actings. Hence are they called our “members,’’ our “earthly members;” because as the body applies itself unto its operations by its members, so doth the soul apply itself unto what belongs unto it by its affections, Romans 6:13; Colossians 3:5. 5. They will not be under the conduct of the mind, its light or convictions.
Rebellion against the light of the mind is the very form whereby their corruption acts itself, Job 24:13. Let the apprehensions of the mind and its notions of good and evil be what they will, they reject them, and lead the soul in pursuit of their inclinations. Hence, no natural man whatsoever doth in any measure answer the light of his mind or the convictions of his understanding, but he sees and approves of better things, following those that are worse; and there is no greater spiritual judgment than for men to be given up unto themselves and their own evil affections, Romans 1:26.
Many other instances might be given of the greatness of that depravation which our affections are fallen under by sin; these may suffice as unto our present purpose.
In general, this depravation of our affections by nature may be reduced unto two heads: — 1. An utter aversation from God and all spiritual things. In this lies the spring of all that dislike of God and his ways that the hearts of men are filled withal; yea, they do not only produce an aversation from them and dislike of them, but they fill the mind with an enmity against them.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” Job 21:14,15. See Romans 1:28, 8:7. 2. An inordinate cleaving unto things vain, earthly, and sensual, causing the soul to engage into the pursuit of them as the horse rushes into the battle.
In this state they may be two ways wrought upon, and yet not so renewed as to be serviceable unto this end: — 1. There may be various temporary impressions made on them. Sometimes there is so by the preaching of the word. Hereon men may hear it with joy, and do many things gladly. Sometimes it is so by judgments, dangers, sicknesses, apprehensions of the approach of death, <19C803> Psalm 128:35-37.
These things take men off for a season from their greedy delight in earthly things, and the pursuit of the interest of lust in making provision for the flesh. On many other occasions, by great variety of causes, there may be temporary impressions made on the affections, that shall seem for a season to have turned the stream of them. And thereon we have many who any day will be wholly, as it were, for God, resolved to forsake sin and all the pleasures of it, but the next return unto all their former excesses; for this is the effect of those impressions, that whereas men ordinarily are predominantly acted by love, desire, and delight, which lead them to act according unto the true natural principles of the soul, now they are for a season acted by fear and dread, which put a kind of force on all their inclinations Hereon they have other thoughts of good and evil, of things eternal and temporal, of God and their own duty, for a season. And hereon some of them may and do persuade themselves that there is a change in their hearts and affections, which there is not; like a man who persuades himself that he hath lost his ague because his present fit is over. The next trial of temptation carries them away again unto the world and sin.
There are sometimes sudden impressions made on spiritual affections, which are always of great advantage to the soul, renewing its engagements unto God and duty. So was it with Jacob, Genesis 28:16-20; so is it often with believers in hearing the word, and on other occasions. On all of them they renew their clearings unto God with love and delight. But the effect of these impressions on unrenewed affections are neither spiritual nor durable; yea, for the most part, they are but checks given in the providence of God unto the raging of their lusts, Psalm 9:20. 2. They are liable unto an habitual change. This the experience of all ages gives testimony to. There may be an habitual change wrought in the passions and affections of the mind, as unto the inordinate and violent pursuit of their inclinations, without any gracious renovation of them.
Education, philosophy, or reason, long afflictions, spiritual light and gifts, have wrought this change. So Saul, upon his call to be king, became “another man.” Hereby persons naturally passionate and furious have been made sedate and moderate, and those who have been sensual have become temperate, yea, and haters of religion to be professors of it. All these things, and many more of the like nature, have proceeded from a change wrought upon the affections only, whilst the mind, will, and conscience, have been totally unsanctified.
By this change, when it is alone, no man ever became spiritually minded; for whereas there are two parts of the depravation of our affections, that whereby they are turned off from God, and that whereby they inordinately cleave unto other things, their change principally, if not only, respects the latter. They are brought into some order with respect unto present things. The mind is not continually tossed up and down by them as the waves of the sea, that are troubled, and east up mire and dirt. They do not carry those in whom they are into vicious, sensual actions, but they allow them to make virtue in moderation, sobriety, temperance, fidelity, and usefulness in several ways, to be their design; and it is admirable to think what degrees of eminency in all sorts of moral virtues, upon this one principle of moderating the affections, even many among the heathens attained unto. But as unto their aversation from God and spiritual things, in the true spiritual notion of them, they are not cured by this change; at least this change may be, and yet this latter not be wrought.
Again; this alteration doth but turn the course or stream of men’s affections, it doth not change the nature of them. They are the same in their spring and fountain as ever they were, only they are habituated unto another course than what of themselves they are inclined unto. You may take a young whelp of the most fierce and savage creature, as of a tiger or a wolf, and by custom or usage make it as tame and harmless as any domestic creature, — a dog, or the like: but although it may be turned into quite another way or course of acting than what it was of itself inclined unto, yet its nature is not changed; and therefore frequently, on occasion, opportunity, or provocation, it will fall into its own savage inclination, and having tasted of the blood of creatures, it will never be reclaimed. So is it with the depraved affections of men with respect unto their change: their streams are turned, they are habituated unto a new course; but their nature is not altered, at least not from rational unto spiritual, from earthly unto heavenly. Yet this is that which was most beautiful and desirable in nature, the glory of it, and the utmost of its attainments. He who has by any means proceeded unto such a moderation of his affections as to render him kind, benign, patient, useful, preferring public good before private, ordinate and temperate in all things, will rise up in judgment against those who, professing themselves to be under the conduct of the light of grace, do yet, by being morose, angry, selfish, worldly, manifest that their affections are not subdued by the power of that grace. Wherefore, that we may be spiritually minded, there is yet another work upon our affections required, which is their internal renovation, whereby not only the course of their actings is changed, but their nature is altered and spiritually renewed. I intend that which is expressed in that great evangelical promise, Isaiah 11:6-9, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”
This is that which is required of us in a way of duty, Ephesians 4:23, “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind.” There is a renovation of the mind itself, by the communication of spiritual, saving light and understanding thereunto, whereof I have treated elsewhere at large. See Romans 12:2; Ephesians 1:17,18. But “the spirit of the mind,” that whereby it is enlivened, led, and disposed unto its actings, that is to be renewed also. “The spirit of the mind” is in this place opposed unto “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” or depraved affections, Ephesians 4:22. These, therefore, are that “spirit of the mind,” which inclines, bends, and leads it to act suitably unto its inclinations, which is to be renewed. And when our affections are inclined by the saving grace of the Holy Spirit, then are they renewed, and not else.
No other change will give them a spiritual renovation. Hereby those things which are only natural affections in themselves, in them that believe become fruits of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22,23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” etc. They continue the same as they were in their essence, substance, and natural powers; but are changed in their properties, qualities, inclinations, whenever a new nature is given unto them. So the waters at Marah were the same waters still before and after their cure. But of themselves and in their own nature they were bitter, so as that the people could not drink them; on the casting of a tree into them, they were made sweet and useful, Exodus 15:25. So was it with the waters of Jericho, which were cured by casting salt into them, 2 Kings 2:19-22.
Our affections continue the same as they were in their nature and essence; but they are so cured by grace as that their properties, qualities, and inclinations, are all cleansed or renewed. The tree or salt that is cast into these waters, whereby the cure is wrought, is the love of God above all, proceeding from faith in him by Christ Jesus.
CHAPTER 13. The work of the renovation of our affections — How differenced from any other impression on or change wrought in them, and how it is evidenced so to be — The first instance, in the universality accompanying of affections spiritually renewed — The order of the exercise of our affections with respect unto their objects. THAT which is our concernment herein is, to inquire of what nature that work is which hath been on our own affections, or in them, and how it differs from those which, whatever they do or effect, yet will not render us nor themselves spiritual.
And we ought to use the best of our diligence herein, because the great means whereby multitudes delude and deceive their own souls, persuading themselves that there has been an effectual work of the grace of the gospel in them, is the change that they find in their affections; which may be on many occasions without any spiritual renovation: — 1. As unto the temporary and occasional impressions on the affections before mentioned, whether from the word or any other divine warning by afflictions or mercies, they are common unto all sorts of persons. Some there are whose “consciences are seared with a hot iron,” 1 Timothy 4:2, “who” thereon, “being past feeling” (senseless of all calls, warnings, and rebukes), “have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness,” Ephesians 4:19. Such persons, having hardened themselves in a long course of sin, and being given up unto a reprobate mind, or vile affections, in a way of judgment, have, it may be, no such impressions on their affections on any occasion as to move them with a sense of things spiritual and eternal. They may be terrified with danger, sudden judgments, and other revelations of the wrath of God from heaven against the ungodliness of men, but they are not drawn to take shelter in thoughts of spiritual things. Nothing but hell will awaken them unto a due consideration of themselves and things eternal.
It is otherwise with the generality of men who are not profligate and impudent in sinning; for although they are in a natural condition and a course of sin, in the neglect of known duties, yet, by one means or other, — most frequently by the preaching of the word, — their affections are stirred towards heavenly things.
Sometimes they are afraid, sometimes they have hopes and desires about them. These put them on resolutions, and some temporary endeavors to change their lives, to abstain from sin and to perform holy duties. But, as the prophet complains, “their goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it goeth away.” Yet by means hereof do many poor ignorant souls deceive themselves, and cry “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”
And they will sometimes so express how they are affected, with complaints of themselves as unto their long neglect of spiritual things, that others may entertain good hopes concerning them; but all comes to nothing in the trial.
There is no difficulty unto spiritual light to distinguish between these occasional impressions on the affections and that spiritual renovation of them which we inquire after. This alone is sufficient to do it, that they are all of them temporary and evanid. They abide “for a while” only, as our Savior speaks, and every occasion defeats all their efficacy. They may be frequently renewed, but they never abide. Some of them immediately pass away, and are utterly lost between the place where they hear the word and their own habitations; and in vain shall they inquire after them again, — they are gone forever. Some have a larger continuance, endure longer in the mind, and produce some outward effects. None of them will hold any trial or shock of temptation.
Yet I have somewhat to say unto those who have such impressions on their affections, and warnings by them: — (1.) Despise them not, for God is in them. Although he may not be in them in a way of saving grace, yet he is in them in that which may be preparatory thereto. They are not common human accidents, but especial divine warnings. (2.) Labor to retain them, or a sense of them, upon your hearts and consciences. You have got nothing by losing so many of them already; and if you proceed in their neglect, after a while you will hear of them no more. (3.) Put no more in them than belongs unto them. Do not presently conclude that your state is good, because you have been affected at the hearing of the word, or under a sickness, or in a danger. Hereon you may think that now all is well with them, wherewith they please themselves, until they are wholly immersed in their former security. 2. We may consider the difference that is between the habitual change of the affections before described, and that renovation by grace which renders them spiritual. And this is of great concernment unto us all, to inquire into it with diligence. Multitudes are herein deceived, and that unto their ruin; for they resolve their present peace into, and build their hopes of eternal life on, such a change in themselves as will not abide the trial. This difference, therefore, is to be examined by Scripture light and the experience of them that do believe. And, — (1.) There is a double universality with respect unto the spiritual renovation of our affections, — that which is subjective, with respect unto the affections themselves; and that which is objective, with respect unto spiritual things. [1.] Sanctification extends itself unto the “whole spirit, and soul, and body,” 1 Thessalonians 5:23. When we say that we are sanctified in part only, we do not say that any part, power, or faculty of the soul is unsanctified, but only that the work is not absolutely perfect in any of them. All sin may retain power in some one affection, as anger, fear, or love, as unto actual eruptions and effects, more than in all the rest, as one affection may be more eminently sanctified in some than in others; for it may have advantages unto this end from men’s natural tempers and various outward circumstances. Hence, some find little difficulty in the mortification of all other lusts or corruptions in comparison of what they meet withal in some one inordinate affection or corruption. This, it may be, David had regard unto, Psalm 18:23. I have known persons shining exemplarily in all other graces who have been scarce free from giving great scandal by the excess of their passions and easy provocation thereunto.
And yet they have known that the setting themselves unto the sincere, vigorous mortification of that disorder is the most eminent pledge of their sincerity in other things; for the trial of our self-denial lies in the things that our natural inclinations lie strongest toward. Howbeit, as was said, there is no affection where there is this work of renovation but it is sanctified and renewed; none of them is left absolutely unto the service of sin and Satan. And therefore, whereas, by reason of the advantages mentioned, sin doth greatly contend to use some of them unto its interest and service in a peculiar manner, yet are they enabled unto and made meet for gracious actings, and do in their proper seasons put forth themselves accordingly. There is no affection of the mind from whence the soul and conscience hath received the greatest damage, — that was, as it were, the field whereon the contest is managed between sin and grace, — but hath its spiritual use and exercise when the mind is renewed.
There are some so inordinately subject to anger, and passion therein, as if they were absolutely under the power and dominion of it; yet do they also know how to be “angry and sin not,” in being angry at sin in themselves and others: “Yea, what indignation; yea, what revenge!” etc., Corinthians 7:11. Yea, God is pleased sometimes to leave somewhat more than ordinary of the power of corruption in one affection, that it may be an occasion of the continual exercise of grace in the other affections. Yet are they all sanctified in their degree, that which is relieved as well as that which doth relieve. And therefore, as the remainder of sin in them that believe is called “the old man,” which is to be crucified in all the members of it, because of its adherence unto the whole person in all its powers and faculties; so the grace implanted in our natures is called “the new man,” there being nothing in us that is not seasoned and affected with it. As nothing in our natures escaped the taint of sin, so nothing in our natures is excepted from the renovation that is by grace. He in whom any one affection is utterly unrenewed hath no one graciously renewed in him. Let men take heed how they indulge to any depraved affection, for it will be an unavoidable impeachment of their sincerity. Think not to say, with Naaman, “God be merciful unto me in this thing; in all others I will be for him.”
He requires the whole heart, and will have it or none. The chief work of a Christian is to make all his affections, in all their operations, subservient unto the life of God, Romans 6:17,18; and he who is wise will keep a continual watch over those wherein he finds the greatest reluctancy thereunto. And every affection is originally sanctified according unto the use it is to be of in the life of holiness and obedience. To be entire for God, to “follow him fully,” to “cleave unto him with purpose of heart,” to have the “heart circumcised to love him,” is to have all our affections renewed and sanctified; without which we can do none of them. When it is otherwise, there is a “double heart,” “a heart and a heart,” which he abhors: “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty,” Hosea 10:2.
So it is in the other change mentioned. Whatever is or may be wrought upon our affections when they are not spiritually renewed, that very change, as unto the extent of it, is not universal. It doth not affect the whole mind, in all its powers and affections, until a vital, prevailing principle and habit of grace is implanted in the soul. Sin will not only radically adhere unto all the faculties, powers, and affections, but it will, under any change that may befall them, refer the rule and dominion in some of them unto itself. So was it with the young man that came unto our Lord Jesus Christ to know what he should do to obtain eternal life, Mark 10:17-22.
Thus there are many who in other things are reduced unto moderation, sobriety, and temperance, yet there remaineth in them “the love of money” in a predominant degree; which to them is “the root of all evil,” as the apostle speaks. Some “seem to be religious,” but they “bridle not their tongues;” through anger, envy, hatred, and the like, “their religion is vain.”
The most of men, in their several ways of profession, pretend not only unto religion, but unto zeal in it, yet set no bounds unto their affections unto earthly enjoyments. Some of old, who had most eminently in all other things subdued their passions and affections, were the greatest enemies unto and persecutors of the gospel.
Some who seem to have had a mighty change wrought in them by a superstitious devotion, do yet walk in the spirit of Cain towards all the disciples of Christ, — as it is with the principal devotionists of the church of Rome; and elsewhere we may see some go soberly about the persecution and destruction of other Christians. Some will cherish one secret lust or other, which they cannot but know to be pernicious unto their souls. Some love the praise of men, which will never permit them to be truly spiritually minded: so our Savior testifieth of some, that they “could not believe, because they loved the praise of men.” This was the known vice of all the ancient philosophers. They had, many of them, on the principles of reason and by severe exercise, subdued their affections unto great moderation about temporary things, but in the meantime were all of them slaves to vain-glory and the praise of men, until by the public observation of it, and some contradictions in their lives unto their pretenses unto virtue, they lost that also among wise and considerative men. And, generally, if men not spiritually renewed were able to search themselves, they would find that some of their affections are so far from having any change wrought in them, as that they are a quiet habitation for sin, where it exerciseth its rule and dominion. [2.] There is a universality that is objective in spiritual things, with respect unto the renovation of our affections; that is, affections spiritually renewed do fix themselves upon and cleave unto all spiritual things, in their proper places, and unto their proper ends: for the ground and reason of our adherence unto any one of them is the same with respect unto them all, — that is, their relation unto God in Christ. Wherefore, when our affections are renewed, we make no choice in spiritual things, cleaving unto some and refusing others, making use of Naaman’s restraint; but our adherence is the same unto them all in their proper places and degrees. And if, by reason of darkness and ignorance, we know not any of them to be from God, — as, for instance, the observation of the Lord’s day, — it is of unspeakable disadvantage unto ua An equal respect is required in us unto all God’s commands. Yet there are various distinctions in spiritual things, and thereon a man may and ought to value one above another as unto the degrees of his love and esteem, although he is to be sincere with respect unto them all: — 1st. God himself, — that is, as revealed in and by Christ, — is in the first and chiefest place the proper and adequate object of our affections as they are renewed, lie is so for himself, or his own sake alone. This is the spring, the center, and chief object of our love. He that loves not God for himself, — that is, for what he is in himself, and what from himself alone he is and will be unto us in Christ (which considerations are inseparable), — hath no true affection for any spiritual thing whatever. And not a few do here deceive themselves, or are deceived; which should make us the more diligent in the examination of ourselves They suppose that they love heaven and heavenly things, and the duties of divine worship, — which persuasion may befall them on many grounds and occasions which will not endure the trial, — but as unto God himself, they can give no evidence that they have any love to him, either on the account of the glorious excellencies of his nature, with their natural relation unto him and dependence on him, or on the account of the manifestation of himself in Christ, and the exercise of his grace therein. But whatever may be pretended, there is no love unto God whereof these things are not the formal reason, that proceeds not from these springs. And because all men pretend that they love God, and defy them that think them so vile as not to do so, though they live in open enmity against him and hatred of him, it becomes us strictly to examine ourselves on what grounds we pretend so to do. Is it because indeed we see an excellency, a beauty, a desirableness, in the glorious properties of his nature, such as our souls are refreshed and satisfied with the thoughts of, by faith, and in whose enjoyment our blessedness will consist, so that we always rejoice at the remembrance of his holiness? Is it our great joy and satisfaction that God is what he is? Is it from the glorious manifestation that he hath made of himself and all his holy excellencies in Christ, with the communication of himself unto us in and by him? If it be so indeed, then is our love generous and gracious, from the renovation of our affections But if we say we love God, yet truly know not why, or upon principles of education, and because it is esteemed the height of wickedness to do otherwise, we shall be at a loss when we are called unto our trial. This is the first object of our affections 2dly . In other spiritual things, renewed affections do cleave unto them according as God is in them. God alone is loved for himself; all other things for him, in the measure and degree of his presence in them. This alone gives them pre-eminence in renewed affections. For instance, God is in Christ, in the human nature of the man Christ Jesus, in a way and manner singular, in concern alike, incomprehensible, so as he is in the same kind in nothing else. Therefore is the Lord Christ, even as unto his human nature, the object of our affections in such a way and degree as no other thing, spiritual or eternal, but God himself, is or ought to be. All other spiritual things become so from the presence of God in them, and from the degree of that presence have they their nature and use. Accordingly are they, or ought to be, the object of our affections as unto the degree of their exercise. Evidences of the presence of God in things and persons are the only attractives of renewed affections. 3dly. In those things which seem to stand in an equality as unto what is of God in them, yet on some especial occasions and reasons our love may go forth eminently unto one more than another. Some particular truth, with the grace communicated by it, may have been the means of our conversion unto God, of our edification in an especial manner, of our consolation in distress; it cannot be but that the mind will have a peculiar respect unto and valuation of such truths and the grace administered by them. And so it is as unto duties. We may have found such a lively intercourse and communion with God in some of them as may give us a peculiar delight in them.
But, notwithstanding these differences, affections spiritually renewed do cleave unto all spiritual things as such; for the true formal reason of their so doing is the same in them all, — namely, God in them: only they have several ways of acting themselves towards them, whereof I shall give one instance.
Our Savior distributes spiritual things into those that are heavenly and those that are earthly, that is comparatively so: John 3:12, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”
The “heavenly things” are the deep and mysterious counsels of the will of God. These renewed affections cleave unto with holy admiration and satisfactory submission, captivating the understanding unto what it cannot comprehend. So the apostle declares it, Romans 11:33-36, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
Toward these the affections act themselves with delight and with great thanksgiving. The experience of the grace of God in and upon believers is sweet unto their souls. But one way or other they cleave unto them all; they have not a prevailing aversation unto any of them. They have a regard unto all God’s precepts, a delight in all his counsels, a love to himself and all his ways.
Whatever other change is wrought on the affections, if they be not spiritually renewed, it is not so with them; for as they do not cleave unto any spiritual things, in their own true proper nature, in a due manner, because of the evidences of the presence of God in them, so there are always some of them whereunto those whose affections are not renewed do maintain an aversation and an enmity. And although this frame doth not instantly discover itself, yet it will do so upon any especial trial. So was it with the hearers of our Savior, John 6. There was a great impression made on their affections by what he taught them concerning “the bread of God, which came down from heaven and gave life unto the world;” for they cried thereon, “Lord, evermore give us this bread,” verse 34: but when the mystery of it was farther explained unto them, they liked it not, but cried, “This is an hard saying, who can hear it?” verse 60; and thereon fell off both from him and his doctrine, although they had followed him so long as to be esteemed his disciples, verse 66. I say, therefore, whensoever men’s affections are not renewed, whatever other change may have been wrought upon them, as they have no true delight in any spiritual things or truths for themselves and in their own nature, so there are some instances wherein they will maintain their natural enmity and aversation unto them.
This is the first difference between affections spiritually renewed and those which, from any other causes, may have some kind of change wrought in them.
CHAPTER 14. The second difference between affections spiritually renewed and those which have been only changed by light and conviction — Grounds and reasons of men’s delight in duties of divine worship, and of their diligence in their performance, whose minds are not spiritually renewed. THE second difference lieth herein, that there may be a change in the affections, wherein men may have delight in the duties of religious worship and diligence in their observance; but it is the spiritual renovation of the affections that gives delight in God through Christ, in any duty of religious worship whatever.
Where the truth of the gospel is known and publicly professed, there is great variety in the minds, ways, and practices, of men about the duties of religious worship. Many are profane in their minds and lives, who, practically at least, despise or wholly neglect the observance of them.
These are stout-hearted and far from righteousness, Titus 1:16. Some attend unto them formally and cursorily, from the principles of their education, and, it may be, out of some convictions they have of their necessity. But many there are who, in the way they choose and are pleased withal, are diligent in their observance, and that with great delight, who yet give no evidence of the spiritual renovation of their minds; yea, the way whereby some express their devotion in them, being superstitious and idolatrous, is inconsistent with that or any other saving grace. This, therefore, we must diligently inquire into, or search into the grounds and reasons of men’s delight in divine worship, according unto their convictions of the way of it, [while they] yet continue in their minds altogether unrenewed. And, — 1. Men may be greatly affected with the outward part of divine worship, and the manner of the performance thereof, who have no delight in what is internal, real, and spiritual therein: John 5:35, “He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.”
So, many were delighted in the. preaching of Ezekiel, because of his eloquence and the elegancy of his parables, chapter 33:31,32. This gave them both delight and diligence in hearing, whereon they called themselves the people of God, though they continued to live in sin; their hearts went after covetousness. The same may befall many at present with reference unto the spiritual gifts of those by whom the word of God is dispensed. I deny not but that men may be more delighted, more satisfied, with the gifts, the preaching, of one than another, and yet be sincere in their delight in the dispensation of the word; for they may find more spiritual advantage thereby than in the gifts of others, and things so prepared as to be more suited unto their edification than elsewhere: but that which at present we insist on hath respect only unto some outward circumstances, pleasing the minds of men, 2 Timothy 3:5.
This was principally evident under the old testament, whilst they had carnal ordinances and a worldly sanctuary. Ofttimes under that dispensation the people were given up unto all sorts of idolatry and superstition; and when they were not so, yet were the body of them carnal and unholy, as is evident from the whole tract of God’s dealing with them, by his prophets and in his providences: yet had they great delight in the outward solemnities of their worship, placing all their trust of acceptance with God therein. They who did really and truly believe looked through them all unto Christ, whom they did foresignify, without which the things were a yoke unto them and a burden almost insupportable, Acts 15:10; but those who were carnal delighted in the things themselves, and for their sakes rejected Him who was the life and substance of them all. And this proved the great means of the apostasy of the Christian church also: for, to maintain some appearance of spiritual affections, men introduced carnal incitations of them into evangelical worship, such as singing, with music and pompous ceremonies; for they find such things needful to reconcile the worship of God unto their minds and affections, and through them they appear to have great delight therein. Could some men but in their thoughts separate divine service from that outward order, those methods of variety, show, and melody, wherewith they are affected, they would have no delight in it, but look upon it as a thing that must be endured. How can it be otherwise conceived of among the Papists? They will with much earnestness, many evidences of devotion, sometimes with difficulty and danger, repair unto their solemn worship, and when they are present understand not one word whereby their minds might be excited unto the real actings of faith, love, and delight in God! Only order, ceremony, music, and other incentives of carnal affections, make great impression on them. Affections spiritually renewed are not concerned in these things; yea, if those in whom they are should be engaged in the use of them, they would find them means of diverting their minds from the proper work of divine worship, rather than an advantage therein. It will also appear so unto themselves, unless they are content to lose their spiritual affections, acting themselves in faith and love, embracing in their stead a carnal, imaginary devotion. Hence, two persons may at the same time attend unto the same ordinances of divine worship, with equal delight, on very distinct principles: as if two men should come into the same garden, planted and adorned with a variety of herbs and flowers, one ignorant of the nature of them, the other a skillful herbalist; both may be equally delighted, the one with the colors and smell of the flowers, the other with the consideration of their various natures, their uses in physical remedies, or the like. So may it be in the hearing of the word. For instance, one may be delighted with the outward administration, another with its spiritual efficacy, at the same time. Hence Austin tells us that singing in the church was laid aside by Athanasius at Alexandria; not the people’s singing of psalms, but a kind of singing in the reading of the Scripture and some offices of worship, which began then to be introduced in the church. And the reason he gave why he did it was, that the modulation of the voice and musical tune might not divert the minds of men from that spiritual affection which is required of them in sacred duties. What there is of real order in the worship of God, was there is that order which is an effect of divine wisdom, — it is suited and useful unto spiritual affections, because proceeding from the same Spirit whereby they are internally renewed: “Beholding your order,” Colossians 2:5. Every thing of God’s appointment is both helpful and delightful unto them. None can say with higher raptures of admiration, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, OLORD of hosts!” Psalm 84:1,2, than they whose affections are renewed; yet is not their delight terminated on them, as we shall see immediately. 2. Men may be delighted in the performance of outward duties of divine worship, because in them they comply with and give some kind of satisfaction unto their convictions. When conscience is awakened unto a sense of the necessity of such duties, — namely, of those wherein divine worship doth consist, — it will give the mind no rest or peace in the neglect of them. Let them be attended unto in the seasons which light, conviction, and custom call for, it will be so far satisfied as that the mind shall find present ease and refreshment in it. And when the soul is wonted unto this relief, it will not only be diligent in the performance of such duties, it will not only not omit them, but it will delight in them as those which bring it in great advantage. Hence many will not omit the duty of prayer every morning, who upon the matter are resolved to live in sin all the day long. And there are but few who sedulously endeavor to live and walk in the frame of their hearts and ways answerable unto their own prayers; yet all that is in our prayers beyond our endeavors to answer it in a conformity of heart and life, is but the exercise of gifts in answer to convictions Others find an allay of troubles in them, like that which sick persons may find by drinking cold water in a fever, whose flames are assuaged for a season by it. They make them as an antidote against the poison and sting of sin, which allayeth its rage but cannot expel its venom.
Or these duties are unto them like the sacrifices for sin under the law.
They gave a guilty person present ease: but, as the apostle speaks, they made not men perfect; they took not away utterly a conscience condemning for sin. Presently, on the first omission of duty, a sense of sin again returned on them, and that not only as the fact, but as the person himself, was condemned by the law. Then were the sacrifices to be repeated, for a renewed propitiation. This gave that carnal people such delight and satisfaction in those sacrifices that they trusted unto them for righteousness, life, and salvation. So it is with persons who are constant in spiritual duties merely from conviction. The performance of those duties gives them a present relief and ease; though it heals not their wound, it assuageth their pain and dispelleth their present fears. Hence are they frequent in them, and that ofttimes not without delight, because they find ease thereby. And their condition is somewhat dangerous who, upon the sense of the guilt of any sin, do betake themselves for relief unto their prayers, which having discharged, they are much at ease in their minds and consciences, although they have obtained no real sense of the pardon of sin nor any strength against it.
It will be said, “Do not all men, the best of men, perform all spiritual duties out of a conviction of their necessity? do not they know it would be their sin to omit them, and so find satisfaction in their minds upon their performance?” I say, They do: but it is one thing to perform a duty out of conviction of a necessity as it is God’s ordinance, which conviction respects only the duty itself; another thing to perform it to give satisfaction unto convictions of other sins, or to quiet conscience under its trouble about them; which latter we speak unto. This begins and ends in self; self-satisfaction is the sole design of it. By it men aim at some rest and quietness in their own minds, which otherwise they cannot attain. But in the performance of duties in faith, from a conviction of their necessity as God’s ordinance, and their use in the way of his grace, the soul begins and ends in God. It seeks no satisfaction in them, nor finds it from them, but in and from God alone by them. 3. The principal reason why men whose affections are only changed, not spiritually renewed, do delight in holy duties of divine worship, is, because they place their righteousness before God in them, whereon they hope to be accepted with him. They know not, they seek not after, any other righteousness but what is of their own working out. Whatever notions they may have of the righteousness of faith, of the righteousness of Christ, that which they practically trust unto is their own: and it discovers itself so to be in their own consciences on every trial that befalls them; yea, when they cry unto the Lord, and pretend unto faith in Christ, they quickly make it evident that their principal trust is resolved into themselves. Now, in all that they can plead in a way of duties or obedience, nothing carrieth a fairer pretense unto a righteousness than what they do in the worship of God, and the exercise of the acts of religion towards him. This is that which he expects at their hands, what is due unto him in the light of their consciences, the best that they can do to please him; which therefore they must put their trust in, or nothing. They secretly suppose not only that there is a righteousness in these things which will answer for itself, but such also as will make compensation in some measure for their sins; and therefore, whereas they cannot but frequently fall into sin, they relieve themselves from the reflection of their consciences by a multiplication of duties, and renewed diligence in them.
It is inconceivable what delight and satisfaction men will take in any thing that seems to contribute so much unto a righteousness of their own; for it is suitable unto and pleaseth all the principles of nature as corrupt, after it is brought under the power of a conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
This made the Jews of old so pertinaciously adhere unto the ceremonies and sacrifices of the law, and to prefer them above the gospel “the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof,” Romans 10:3. They looked and sought for righteousness by them. Those who for many generations were kept up with great difficulty unto any tolerable observance of them, when they had learned to place all their hopes of a righteousness in them, would and did adhere unto them unto their temporal and eternal ruin, Romans 9:31-33. And when men were persuaded that righteousness was to be attained by works of munificence and supposed charity, in the dedication of their substance unto the use of the church, they who otherwise were covetous, and greedy and oppressing, would lavish gold out of the bag, and give up their whole patrimony, with all their ill-gotten goods, to attain it; so powerful an influence hath the desire of self-righteousness upon the minds of men. It is the best fortification of the soul against Christ and the gospel, — the last reserve whereby it maintains the interest of self against the grace of God.
Hence, I say, those that place their righteousness, or that which is the principal part of it, in the duties of religious worship, will not only be diligent in them, but ofttimes abound in a multiplication of them.
Especially will they do so if they may be performed in such a way and manner as pleaseth their affections with a show of humility and devotion, requiring nothing of the exercise of faith or sincere divine love therein. So is it with many in all kinds of religion, whether the way of their worship be true or false, whether it be appointed of God or rejected by him. And the declaration hereof is the subject of the discourse of the prophet, Isaiah 1:11-17; also, Micah 6:6-8. 4. The reputation of devotion in religious duties may insensibly affect the unrenewed minds of men with great diligence and delight in their performance. However men are divided in their apprehension and practice about religion, however different from and contrary unto each other their ways of divine worship are; yet it is amongst all sorts of men, yea, in the secret thoughts of them who outwardly contemn these things, a matter of reputation to be devout, to be diligent, to be strict, in and about those duties of religion which, according to their own light and persuasion, they judge incumbent on them. This greatly affects the minds of men whilst pride is secretly predominant in them, and they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Especially will this consideration prevail on them when they suppose that the credit and honor of the way which they profess, in competition with others, depend much on their reputation as to their strictness in duties of devotion; for then will they not only be diligent in themselves, but zealous in drawing others unto the same observances. These two principles, their own reputation and that of their sect, constituted the life and soul of Pharisaism of old. According as the minds of men are influenced with these apprehensions, so will a love unto and a delight in those duties whereby their reputation is attained thrive and grow in them.
I am far from apprehending that any men are (at least, I speak not of them who are) such vile hypocrites as to do all that they do in religion to be seen and praised of men, being influenced in all public duties thereby; which some among the Pharisees were given up unto. But I speak of them who, being under the convictions and motives before mentioned, do also yet give admittance unto this corrupt end of desire of reputation or the praise of men; for every such end, being admitted and prevalent in the mind, will universally influence the affections unto a delight in those duties whereby that end may be attained, until the person with whom it is so be habituated unto them with great satisfaction. 5. I should, in the last place, insist on superstition. As this is an undue fear of the divine nature, will, and operations, built on false notions and apprehensions of them, it may befall the minds of men in all religions, true and false. It is an internal vice of the mind. As it respects the outward way and means of religious service, and consists in the devout performance of such duties as God indeed accepts not, but forbids, so it belongs only to religion as it is false and corrupt. How in both respects it will engage the minds of men into the performance of religious duties, and for the most part with the most scrupulous diligence, and sometimes with prodigious attempts to exceed the measures of human nature in what they do design, is too long a work here to be declared. It may suffice to have mentioned it among the causes and reasons why men whose affections are not spiritually renewed may yet greatly delight in the diligent performance of the outward duties of religion. Our design in these things is, the discovery of the true nature of this grace and duty of being spiritually minded.
Hereunto we have declared that it is necessary that our affections be spiritually and supernaturally renewed; and because there may be a great change wrought on the affections of men with respect unto spiritual things where there is nothing of this supernatural renovation, our present inquiry is, What are the differences that are between the actings of the affections of the one sort and of the other, whether spiritually renewed or occasionally changed? And whereas the great exercise of them consists in the duties of religious worship, I have declared what are the grounds and reasons whence men of unrenewed minds do delight ofttimes in the duties of divine worship and are diligent in the performance of them.
From these and the like considerations, it may be made manifest that the greatest part of the devotion that is in the world doth not spring from the spiritual renovation of the minds of men; without which it is not accepted with God. That which remains to give in instance, farther evidence unto the discovery we are in the pursuit of, is, what are the grounds and reasons whereon those whose minds and affections are spiritually renewed do delight in the institutions of divine worship, and attend unto their observance with great heed and diligence. And because this is an inquiry of great importance, and is of great use to be stated in other cases as well as that before us, I shall treat of it by itself in the ensuing chapter, that the reader may the more distinctly comprehend it, both in the nature of the doctrine concerning it and in the place it holds in our present discourse.
CHAPTER 15. Delight of believers in the holy institutions of divine worship — The grounds and reasons thereof — The evidence of being spiritually minded thereby, etc. THAT all true believers, whose minds are spiritually renewed, have a singular delight in all the institutions and ordinances of divine worship is fully evident, both in the examples of the saints in the Scripture and their own experience, which they will never forego; for this hath been the greatest cause of their suffering persecution, and martyrdom itself, in all ages. If the primitive Christians under the power of the pagan emperors, or the witnesses for Christ under the antichristian apostasy, would or could have omitted the observance of them (according to the advice and practice of the Gnostics), they might have escaped the rage of their adversaries. But they loved not their lives in comparison unto that delight which they had in the observance of the commands of Christ as unto the duties of evangelical worship. David gives us frequently an instance hereof in himself: Psalm 42:1-4, “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? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.” Psalm 63:1-5, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: 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. 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.” Psalm 84:1-4, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, OLORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of theLORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, OLORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.”
But “a greater than David is here.” Our Lord Jesus Christ himself did, upon all occasions, declare his delight in and zeal for all the ordinances of divine worship which were then in force by virtue of divine institution and command; for although he severely reproved and rejected whatever men had added thereunto, under the pretense of a supererogating strictness of outward order, laying it all under that dreadful sentence, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up,” and so cast into the fire, yet as unto what was of divine appointment, his delight therein was singular, and exemplary unto all his disciples. With respect hereunto was it said of him, that “the zeal of God’s house had eaten him up,” by reason of the affliction which he had in his spirit to see the worship of it neglected, polluted, and despised. This caused him to cleanse the temple, the seat of divine worship, from the polluters and pollutions of it, not long before his sufferings, in the face and unto the high provocation of all his adversaries. So with earnest desire he longed for the celebration of his last passover: Luke 22:15, “With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” And it is a sufficient evidence of the frame of spirit and practice of his disciples afterward, in reference to the duties of evangelical worship by his appointment, that the apostle gives it as an assured token of an unsound condition, and that which tendeth to final, cursed apostasy, when any fall into a neglect of them, Hebrews 10:25-27.
These things are manifest and unquestionable. But our present inquiry is only, what it is which believers do so delight in in the ordinances and institutions of divine gospel worship, and what it is that engageth their hearts and minds into a diligent observance of them, as also how and wherein they do exercise their love and delight. And I say, in general, that their delight in all ordinances of divine worship, — as is evident in the testimonies before produced, — is in Christ himself, or God in Christ.
This alone is that which they seek after, cleave unto, and are satisfied withal. They make use of the streams, but only as means of communication with the spring. When men are really renewed in the spirit of their minds it is so. Their regard unto ordinances and duties of divine worship is, as they are appointed of God a blessed means of communion and intercourse between himself in Christ and their souls. By them doth Christ communicate of his love and grace unto us; in and by them do we act faith and love on him. It is the treasure hid in the field, which when a man bath found he purchaseth the whole field; but it is that he may enjoy the treasure which is bid therein, Matthew 13:44. This field is the gospel and all the ordinances of it. This men do purchase sometimes at a dear rate, even with the loss of all they enjoy; but yet if they obtain nothing but the field, they will have little cause to rejoice in their bargain. It is Christ the treasure alone, that pearl of great price, that will eternally enrich the soul. The field is to be used only [so] as to find and dig up the treasure that is in it. It is, I say, Christ alone that, in the preaching of the gospel, renewed affections do cleave unto as the treasure, and unto all other things according as their relation is unto him or as they have a participation of him. Wherefore, in all duties of religion, in all ordinances of worship, their inquiry is after him whom their souls do love, Song of Solomon 1:7.
But yet we must treat more particularly and distinctly of these things.
Those whose affections are spiritually renewed do love, adhere unto, and delight in, ordinances of divine service and duties of worship, on the grounds and reasons ensuing: — 1. In general they do so as they find faith, and love, and delight in God.through Christ, excited and acted in and by them. This is the first and immediate end in their institution. It is a pernicious mistake to suppose that any external duties of worship, as hearing the word, prayer, or the sacraments, are appointed for themselves or accepted for themselves.
Such thoughts the Jews of old had concerning their sacrifices, — namely, that they were appointed for their own sake, and were acceptable service unto God merely on their own account. Wherefore God, to deliver them from this pernicious mistake, affirms ofttimes that he never appointed them at all; that is, for any such end, Jeremiah 7:22,23, Isaiah 1:12-14, etc. And now, under the gospel, sundry things destructive to the souls of men have proceeded from such a supposition. Some hereon have always satisfied and contented themselves with the external observance of them, without desiring or endeavoring any holy communion with God in them or by them. This constitutes the state and condition mentioned, Revelation 3:1. And by following this track the generality of Christians do wander out of the way; they cannot leave them, nor do they know how to use them unto their advantage, until they come wholly unto that woful state, Isaiah 29:13. And some, to establish this deceit, have taught that there is much more in the outward work of these duties than ever God put into them, and that they are sanctified merely by virtue of the work wrought.
But all the duties of the second commandment, as are all instituted ordinances of worship, are but means to express and exercise those of the first, as faith, love, fear, trust, and delight in God. The end of them all is, that through them and by them we may act those graces on God in Christ.
Where this is not attended unto, when the souls of men do not apply themselves unto this exercise of grace in them, let them be never so solemn as to their outward performance, be attended unto with diligence, be performed with earnestness and delight, they are neither acceptable unto God nor beneficial unto themselves, Isaiah 1:11. This, therefore, is the first general spring of the love of believers, of them whose affections are spiritually renewed, unto the ordinances of divine worship, and their delight in them: They have experience that in and by them their faith and love are excited unto a gracious exercise of themselves on God in Christ; and when they find it otherwise with them, they can have no rest in their souls. For this end are they ordained, sanctified, and blessed of God; and therefore are effectual means of it, when their efficacy is not defeated by unbelief.
And those who have no experience hereof in their attendance unto them do, as hath been said, fall into pernicious extremes. Some continue their observance with little regard unto God, in cursed formality. So they make them a means of their ruin by countenancing of them in their security.
Others utterly reject them, at least the most solemn of them, — and therein both the wisdom, and grace, and authority of God, by whom they are appointed, — because, through the power of their own unbelief, they find nothing in them.
This being the immediate end of all divine institutions; this being the only way whereby we may give glory unto God in their observance, which is their ultimate end in this world; and this being the design in general of believers in that obedience they yield unto the Lord Christ in their diligent observation of them, — we may consider how, in what way, and by what means, those whose affections are spiritually renewed do and ought to apply their minds and souls unto their observance. And we may consider herein, first, what they do design,, and then what they endeavor to be found in the exercise and practice of in their use and enjoyment: — (1.) They come unto them with this desire, design, and expectation, — namely, to be enabled, directed, and excited by them unto the exercise of divine faith and love. When it is not so with any, where there is not this design, they do in various degrees take the name of God in vain in their observance. These are “approximationes Dei,” the “ways of drawing nigh unto God,” as they are everywhere called in Scripture. To suppose that a drawing nigh unto God may consist merely in the outward performance of duty, whatever be its solemnity, is to reject all due reverence of him. “Forasmuch,” saith the Lord, “as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, therefore, behold, I will proceed against them,” Isaiah 29:13,14.
The mouth and lips are put, by a synecdoche, for all the means of outward worship and honor. These men may use, diligently attend unto, whilst their hearts are far from God, — that is, when they do not draw nigh to him by faith and love; but all this worship is rejected of God with the highest tokens of his displeasure and indignation against it.
Our souls, then, have no way of approach unto God in duties of worship but by faith; no way of adherence or cleaving unto him but by love; no way of abiding in him but by fear, reverence, and delight. Whenever these are not in exercise, outward duties of worship are so far from being a means of such an approach unto him, as that they set us at a greater distance from him than we were before; at least they are utterly useless and fruitless unto us. So, indeed, they are unto the most who come unto them they know not why, and behave themselves under them they care not how; nor is there any evil in the hearts and ways of men whereof God complaineth more in his word, as that which is accompanied with the highest contempt of him.
And because these ordinances of divine worship are means which the wisdom and grace of God hath appointed unto this end, namely, the exercise and increase of divine faith and love, and therefore doth sanctify and bless them thereunto, I do not believe that they have any delight in the exercise of these graces, nor do design growth in them, by whom these great means of them are despised or neglected.
And although I have seen those valleys of public worship forsaken, either on pretenses of higher attainments in faith, light, and love, than to stand in need of them any more; or on a foolish opinion that they cease upon the dispensation of the Spirit, which is given unto us to make them useful and effectual; or on some provocations that have been given unto some men, or which they have taken unto themselves, which they have thought they could revenge by a neglect of public administrations; or through slavish peace and negligence in times of difficulty, as is the manner of some who forsake the assemblies of the saints, Hebrews 10:25; — yet I never saw but it issued in a great decay, if not in an utter loss, of all exercise of faith and love, and sometimes in open profaneness: for such persons contemn the way and means which God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, hath appointed for their exercise and increase, and this shall not prosper. We may therefore do well to consider that the principal way whereby we may sanctify the name of God in all duties of his worship, and obtain the benefit of them to our own souls, is by a conscientious approach unto them, with a holy desire and design to be found in the exercise of faith and love on God in Christ, and to be helped and guided therein by them.
To be under an efficacious influence from this design is the best preparation for any duty. So David expresseth his delight in the worship of God: “How amiable are thy tabernacles, OLORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of theLORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God,” Psalm 84:1,2.
He longed for the tabernacle and the courts of it; but it was the enjoyment of God himself, the living God, that he desired and sought after. This was that which made him so fervent in his desires after those ordinances of God. So he expresseth it, Psalm 63:2, “To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary,” David had had great communion with and delight in God, by faith and love, in the solemn duties of his worship; and this was that which inflamed him with desires after renewed opportunities unto the same end. (2.) This design is not general, inactive, useless, and slothful; but such persons diligently endeavor, in the use of these ordinances and attendance unto them, to be found in the exercise of these graces. They have not only an antecedent design to be so, but a diligent actual endeavor after it, not suffering their minds by any thing to be diverted from the pursuit of that design, Ecclesiastes 5:1. Whatever is not quickened and enlivened hereby they esteem utterly lost. Neither outward administrations nor order will give them satisfaction when these things are wanting in themselves.
Without the internal actings of the life of faith, external administrations of ordinances of worship are but dead things, nor can any believer obtain real satisfaction in them or refreshment by them without an inward experience of faith and love in them and by them; and it is that which, if we are wise, we shall continually attend unto the consideration of. A watchful Christian will be careful lest he lose any one duty by taking up with the carcass of it.
And the danger of so doing is not small. Our affections are renewed but in part; and as they are still liable to be diverted and seduced from spirituality in duty even by things earthly and carnal, through the corruption that remaineth in them, so there is a disposition abiding in them to be pleased with those external things and religious duties which others, as we have showed before, who are no way graciously renewed, do satisfy themselves withal. The grace and oratory of the speaker in preaching of the word, especially in these days wherein the foppery of fine language, even in sacred things, is so much extolled; the order and circumstances of other duties; with inclination and love unto a party, — are apt to insinuate themselves with great complacency into our affections so far as they are unrenewed.
And these things discover the true grounds whence it is that the ordinances of divine worship are so useless as they are to many who seem to attend unto them with diligence. They may be referred unto these three heads: — [1.] They do not come unto them as the means appointed of God for the exercise of faith and love unto Christ, so as to make it their design in their approaches to them; without which all that is spoken of advantage in and by other duties is utterly lost. [2.] They do not, in and under them, labor to stir up faith and love unto their due exercise. [3.] They suffer their minds to be diverted from the exercise of these graces, partly by occasional temptations, partly by attendance unto what is outward only in the ordinances themselves, Spiritual affections find no place of rest in any of these things, Such proposals of God in Christ, of his will and their own duty, as may draw out their faith, love, godly fear, and delight, into their due exercise, are that which they inquire after and acquiesce in.
Two things alone doth faith regard in all duties of worship, as unto the outward administration of it, — the one absolutely, the other comparatively, — both with respect unto the ends mentioned, or the exercise, growth, and increase of grace in us, The first is, that they may be of divine appointment. Where their original and observance are resolved into divine authority, there, and there alone, will they have a divine efficacy. In all these things faith hath regard to nothing but divine precepts and promises, Whatever hath regard to any thing else is not faith, but fancy; and therefore those un-commanded duties in religion, which so abound in the papal church as that if not the whole yet all the principal parts of their worship consist in them, are such as in whose discharge it is impossible faith should be in a due exercise. That which it hath comparative respect unto is, the spiritual gifts of them unto whom the administration of the ordinances of the gospel in the public worship of the church is committed. With respect unto them, believers may have more delight and satisfaction in the ministry of one than of another, as was touched before. But this is not because one is more learned than another or more elegant than another, hath more ability of speech than another or more fervency in utterance than another, is more fervent or earnest in his delivery; but because they find the gifts of one more suited and more effectual to stir up faith and love unto a holy exercise in their minds and hearts than what they find in some others. Hence they have a peculiar value for and delight in the ministry of such persons, especially when they can enjoy it in due order, and without the offense of others. And ministers that are wise will, in holy administrations, neglect all other things, and attend unto this alone, how they may be helpful unto the faith, and love, and joy of believers, so far as they are the object of their ministry.
This is the first reason and ground whereon affections spiritually renewed cleave unto ordinances of divine worship with delight and satisfaction, — namely, because they are the means appointed and blessed of God for the exercise and increase of faith and love, with an experience of their efficacy unto that end. 2. The second is, because they are the means of the communication of a sense of divine love and supplies of divine grace unto the souls of them that do believe. So far as our affections are renewed, this is the most principal attractive to cleave unto them with delight and complacency.
They are, as was observed before, the ways of our approaching unto God.
Now, we do not draw nigh to God, as himself speaks, as to a “dry heath or a barren wilderness,” where no refreshment is to be obtained. To make a pretense of coming unto God, and not with expectation of receiving good and great things from him, is to despise God himself, to overthrow the nature of the duty, and deprive our own souls of all benefit thereby. And want hereof is that which renders the worship of the most useless and fruitless unto themselves. We are always to come unto God as unto an eternal spring of goodness, grace, and mercy, of all that our souls do stand in need of, of all we can desire in order unto our everlasting blessedness.
Hence doth all our peace, consolation, and joy, all our encouragement to do and suffer according to the will of God, all our supportments under our sufferings, solely depend; in these things do our souls live; and without them we are of all men the most miserable.
It is the Holy Spirit who is the immediate efficient cause of all these things in us. He “sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts,” Romans 5:5; he witnesseth our adoption unto us, chapter 8:15,16; and thereby an interest in the love of the Father, in God as he is love. But the outward way and means whereby he ordinarily communicates these things unto us, and effects them in us, is by the dispensation of the gospel, or the preaching of it. He doth the same work also in prayer, and ofttimes in other holy administrations. For this end, for a participation of this grace, of these mercies, do believers come unto God by them. They use them as means to “draw water from the wells of salvation,” and to receive in that spiritual sense of divine love which God by them will communicate.
So Christ by his word knocks at the door of the heart. If it be opened by faith, he cometh in and suppeth with men, giving them a gracious refreshment, by the testimony of his own love and the love of the Father, Revelation 3:20; John 14:23. This believers look for in, and this they do in various measures receive by, the ordinances of divine worship. And although some, through their fears and temptations, are not sensible hereof, yet do they secretly receive those blessed, gracious supplies whereby their souls are held in life, without which they would pine away and perish. So he dealeth with them, Song of Solomon 4:5,6. These are the gardens and galleries of Christ, wherein he gives us of his love, Song of Solomon 7:12. Those who are humble and sincere know how often their souls have been refreshed in them, and how long sometimes the impressions they have received of divine grace and love have continued with them, unto their unspeakable consolation. They remember what they have received in the opening and application of the “exceeding great and precious promises” that are given unto them, whereby they are gradually more and more “made partakers of the divine nature,” — how many a time they have received light in darkness, refreshment under despondencies, relief in their conflicts with dangers and temptations, in and by them. For this cause do affections that are spiritually renewed cleave unto them. Who can but love and delight in that which he hath found by experience to be the way and means of communicating unto him the most invaluable mercy, the most inestimable benefit, whereof in this life he can be made partaker? He who hath found a hidden treasure, although he should at once take away the whole of it, will yet esteem the place where he found it; but if it be of that nature that no more can be found or taken of it at once but what is sufficient for the present occasion, yet is so full and boundless as that whenever he comes again to seek for it he shall be sure to obtain present supply, he will always value it, and constantly apply himself unto it. And such is the treasure of grace and divine love that is in the ordinances of divine worship.
If we are strangers unto these things, if we have never received efficacious intimations of divine love unto our souls in and by the duties of divine worship, we cannot love them and delight in them as we ought. What do men come to hear the word of God for? What do they pray for? What do they expect to receive from him? Do they come unto God as the eternal fountain of living waters, — as the God of all grace, peace, and conselation? or do they come unto his worship without any design, as unto a dry and empty show? Do they fight uncertainly with these things, as men beating the air? or do they think they bring something unto God, but receive nothing from him? that the best of their business is to please him in doing what he commands, but to receive any thing from him they expect not, nor do ever examine themselves whether they have done so or no? It is not for persons who walk in such ways ever to attain a due delight in the ordinances of divine worship.
Believers have other designs herein; and among the rest this in the first place, that they may be afresh made partakers of refreshing, comforting pledges of the love of God in Christ, and thereby of their adoption, of the pardon of their sins, and acceptance of their persons. According as they meet with these things in the duties of holy worship, public or private, so will they love, value, and adhere unto them. Some men are full of other thoughts and affections, so as that these things are not their principal design or desire, or are contented with that measure of them which they suppose themselves to have attained, or at least are not sensible of the need they stand in to have fresh communications of them made unto their souls, supposing that they can do well enough without a renewed sense of divine love every day. Some are so ignorant of what they ought to design, to look after, in the duties of gospel worship, as that it is impossible they should have any real design in them. Many of the better sort of professors are too negligent in this matter. They do not long and pant in the inward man after renewed pledges of the love of God; they do not consider how much need they have of them, that they may be encouraged and strengthened unto all other duties of obedience; they do not prepare their minds for the reception of them, nor come with expectation of their communication unto them; they do not rightly fix their faith on this truth, — namely, that these holy administrations and duties are appointed of God in the first place as the ways and means of conveying his love and a sense of it unto our souls. From hence spring all that lukewarmness, coldness, and indifferency in and unto the duties of holy worship, that are growing among us; for if men have lost the principal design of faith in them, and disesteem the chiefest benefit which is to be obtained by them, whence should zeal for them, delight in them, or diligence in attendance unto them, arise? Let not any please themselves under the power of such decays; they are indications of their inward frame, and those infallible!
Such persons will grow cold, careless, and negligent, as unto the duties of public worship; they will put themselves neither to charge nor trouble about them; every occasion of life diverts them, and finds ready entertainment in their minds; and when they do attend upon them, it is with great indifference and unconcernedness. Yet would they have it thought that all is still as well within as ever it was; they have as good a respect unto religion as any! But these things openly discover an ulcerous disease in the very souls of men, as evidently as if it were written on their foreheads. Whatever they pretend unto the contrary, they are under the power of woful decays from all due regard unto spiritual and eternal things. And I would avoid the society of such persons as those who carry an infectious disease about them, unless it were to help on their cure.
But herein it is that affections spiritually renewed do manifest themselves:
When we do delight in and value the duties of God’s worship, because we find by experience that they are and have been unto us means of communicating a sense and renewed pledges of the love of God in Christ, with all the benefits and privileges which depend thereon, then are our affections renewed in and by the Holy Ghost. (2.) They come for supplies of internal, sanctifying, strengthening grace.
This is the second great design of believers in their approaches unto God in his worship. The want hereof, as unto measures and degrees, they find in themselves, and are sensible of it; yea, herein lies the great burden of the souls of believers in this world. All that we do in the life of God may be referred unto two heads: — [1.] The observance of all duties of obedience; and, [2.] The conflict with and conquest over temptations.
About these things are we continually exercised. Hence the great thing which we desire, labor for, and pant after, is spiritual strength and ability for the discharge of ourselves in a due manner with respect unto these things. This is that which every true believer groaneth after in the inward man, and which he preferreth infinitely above all earthly things. So he may have grace sufficient in any competent measure for these ends, let what will befall him, he desireth no more in this world. God in Christ is the only fountain of all this grace; there is not one drachm of it to be obtained but from him alone. And as he doth communicate it unto us of his own sovereign goodness and pleasure, so the ordinary way and means whereby he will do it are the duties of his worship: Isaiah 40:28-31, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, theLORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon theLORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”
All grace and spiritual strength is originally seated in the nature of God, verse 28. But what relief can that afford unto us who are weak, feeble, fainting? He will act suitably unto his nature in the communication of this grace and power, verse 29. But how shall we have an interest in this grace, in these operations? Wait on him in the ordinances of his worship, verse 31. The word as preached is the food of our souls, whereby God administereth growth and strength unto them, John 17:17. “Desire,” says he, “the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” But what encouragement have we thereunto? “If so be,” saith he, “ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” 1 Peter 2:2,3. If, in and by the dispensation of this word, you have had experience of the grace, the goodness, the kindness of God unto your souls, you cannot but desire it and delight in it; and otherwise you will not do so. When men have sat some good while under the dispensation of the word and in the enjoyment of other ordinances, without tasting in them and by them that “the Lord is gracious,” they will grow weary of it and them. Wherefore, prayer is the way of his appointment for the application of our souls unto him to obtain a participation of all needful grace; which, therefore, he has proposed unto us in the promises of the covenant, that we may know what to ask, and how to plead for it. In the sacraments the same promises are sealed unto us, and the grace represented in them effectually exhibited. Meditation confirms our souls in the exercise of faith about it, and is the especial opening of the heart unto the reception of it. By these means, I say, doth God communicate all supplies of renewing, strengthening, and sanctifying grace unto us, that we may live unto him in all holy obedience, and be able to get the victory over our temptations. Under this apprehension do believers approach unto God in the ordinances of his worship. They come unto them as the means of God’s communication unto their souls. Hence they cleave unto them with delight, so far as their affections are renewed.
So the spouse testifieth of herself, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight,” Song of Solomon 2:3. In these ordinances is the protecting, refreshing presence of Christ. This she rested in with great delight. 3. As they come unto them with these designs and expectations, so they have experience of the spiritual benefits and advantages which they receive by them, which more and more engageth them unto them in their affections with delight. All these things, those who have a change wrought in their affections, but not a spiritual renovation, are strangers unto. They neither have the design before mentioned in coming to them, nor the experience of this efficacy now proposed in their attendance on them. But these benefits are great: as, for instance, when men find the worth and effect of the word preached on their souls, in its enlightening, refreshing, strengthening, transforming power; when they find their hearts warmed, their graces excited and strengthened, the love of God improved, their desponding spirits under trials and temptations relieved, their whole souls gradually more and more conformed unto Christ; when they find themselves by it extricated out of snares, doubts, fears, temptations, and brought unto sanctification and rest, — they cannot but delight in the dispensation of it, and rejoice in it as the food of their souls. And it is a great hinderance unto the increase of spiritual life, and obstruction unto fruitfulness, thankfulness, and consolation, when we are negligent in our meditation about the benefits that we receive by the word and the advantages which we have thereby; for whilst it is so with us, we can neither value the grace of God in granting this inestimable privilege nor perform any duty with respect unto it in a right manner. This renders it an especial object of our affections as spiritually renewed. That secret love unto, and heavenly delight in, the statutes and testimonies of God, which David expresseth Psalm 119, arose from the spiritual benefit and advantage which he received by them, as he constantly declares. And the sole reason, on the other hand, why men grow so careless, negligent, and cold, in their attendance unto the preaching of the word, is because they have no experience of any spiritual benefit or advantage by it. They have been brought unto it by one means or another, — mostly by conviction of their duty; their minds have been variously affected with it, unto a joy in the hearing of it and readiness unto sundry duties of obedience: but after a while, when a sense of those temporary impressions is worn off, finding no real spiritual benefit by it, they lose all delight in it, and become very indifferent as unto its enjoyment. The frame which such persons at length arrive unto is described, Malachi 1:13, and 3:14. None can give any greater evidence of the decay of all manner of grace in them, or of their being destitute of all saving grace, than when they apostatize from some degree of zeal for, and delight in, the dispensation of the word of God, into such a cursed indifferency as many are overtaken withal. It cannot be otherwise; for seeing this is a way and means of the exercise of all grace, it will not be neglected but where there is a decay of all grace, however men may please themselves with other pretenses. And when they are thus ensnared, every foolish preiudice’ every provocation, every wanton opinion and imagination, will confirm them in, and increase, their gradual backsliding.
And as it is with believers as unto the hearing of the word in general, so it is as unto the degrees of advantage which they find by it. When men have enjoyed the dispensation of the word in a peculiar manner, spiritual and effectual, if they can be content to forego it for that which is more cold and lifeless, provided it possesseth the same time and outward form with the other, it is no great evidence that their souls do prosper. It is therefore those alone who have a sense of the efficacy of the word on their souls and consciences unto all the holy ends of it, who cleave unto it with spiritual love and delight. They continually remember what holy impressions it hath made on them, what engagements it hath brought their souls into, what encouragements unto faith and obedience it hath furnished them withal, and [they] long after [the] renewed sense of its enjoyment. When we do not find in ourselves this foundation of spiritual delight in the dispensation of the gospel, we can have no great evidence that our affections are renewed.
So also it is in the duties of prayer and meditation. When the soul of a believer hath had experience of the communion which it hath had with God in them, or either of them; of the spiritual refreshment which it hath had from them; of the benefits and mercies which are obtained by them, in recovery from temptations, snares, despondencies, in victory over sin and Satan, in spiritual impressions, working it into a holy, watchful frame, which hath abode in it in other ways and occasions; with the like advantages wherewith fervent and effectual prayer and sincere heavenly meditation axe accompanied, — it cannot but have love unto them and delight in them. But if indeed we have no experience of these things, if we find not these advantages in and by these duties, they cannot but be a burden unto us, nor do serve unto any other end but to satisfy convictions.
He who had the benefit of a serene and wholesome air in a recovery from many diseases and distempers, with the preservation of his health so obtained, will love it and prize it; and so will he these duties who hath been partaker of any of those saving mercies and privileges wherewith they axe accompanied. Some have been delivered from the worst of temptations, and the nearest approach of their prevalency (as to destroy themselves), by a sudden remembrance of the frame of their souls and the intimations of God’s love in such or such a prayer, at such a time. Some have had the same deliverance from temptations unto sin; when they have been carried away under the power of their corruptions, and all circumstances have concurred under the apprehensions of it, a sudden thought of such a prayer or meditation, with engagement they made of themselves therein unto God, hath caused all the weapons of sin to fall out of its hands, and all the beauties of its allurements to disappear. When others have been under the power of such despondencies and disconsolations as that no present tenders of relief can approach unto them, they have been suddenly raised and refreshed by the remembrance of the intimate love and kindness between Christ and their souls that hath evidenced itself in former duties. Multitudes, in fears, distresses, and temptations, have found relief unto their spirits and encouragement unto their faith in the remembrance of the returns they have had unto former supplications in the like distresses. These are grounds of spiritual delight in these duties.
Heartless, lifeless, wordy prayers, the fruit of convictions and gifts, or of custom and outward occasions, however multiplied, and whatever devotion they seem to be accompanied withal, will never engage spiritual affections unto them. When these things are absent, when the soul hath not experience of them, prayer is but a lifeless form, a dead carcass, which it would be a torment unto a soul spiritually alive to be tied unto. There may be a season, indeed, when God will seem to hide himself from believers in their prayers, so as they shall neither find that life in themselves which they have done formerly, nor be sensible of any gracious communications from him; but this is done only for a time, and principally to stir them up unto that fervency and perseverance in prayer as may recover them into their former or a better estate than yet they have attained unto. The like may be said concerning all other duties of religion or ordinances of divine worship. 4. Believers, whose affections are spiritually renewed, do delight greatly in the duties of divine worship, because they are the great instituted way whereby they may give glory unto God. This is the first and principal end of all duties of religion as they respect divine appointment, — namely, to ascribe and give unto God the glory that is his due; for in them all acknowledgment is made of all the glorious excellencies of the divine nature, our dependence on him and relation unto him. And this is that which, in the first place, believers design in all the duties of divine worship. And the pattern set us by our blessed Savior, in the prayer he taught his disciples, directs us thereunto. All the first requests of it concern immediately the glory of God, and the advancement thereof; for therein also all the blessedness and safety of the church are included.
Those who fail in this design do err in all that they do; they never tend unto the mark proposed unto them. But this is that which principally animates the souls of them that believe, in all their duties; this their universal relation unto him, and love in that relation, makes necessary.
Wherefore, that way and means whereby they may directly and solemnly ascribe and give glory unto God is precious and delightful unto them; and such are all the duties of divine worship. These are some of the things wherein the respect of affections spiritually renewed unto ordinances and duties of divine worship doth differ from the actings of affections toward the same object which are not so sanctified and renewed.
There are yet other things, accompanied with the same evidence of the difference between affections spiritually renewed and those which have only a general change wrought in them by convictions and some outward occasions, which must in one or two instances more be insisted on, with the consideration of such cases as derive from them; for my design herein is not only to declare when our minds are spiritually renewed, but also what is the nature and operation of our affections whereby we are constituted and denominated “spiritually minded,” which is the subject of our whole inquiry. Herein, then, we shall proceed.
CHAPTER 16. Assimilation unto things heavenly and spiritual in affections spiritually renewed — This assimilation the work of faith; how, and whereby — Reasons of the want of growth in our spiritual affections as unto this assimilation. WHEN affections are spiritually renewed in their exercise, or fixing of themselves on spiritual things, there is an assimilation wrought in them, and in the whole soul, unto those spiritual and heavenly things, by faith.
But when there is a change in them only from other causes and occasions, and not from renewing grace, there is an assimilation effected of spiritual aad heavenly things themselves unto those affections, by imagination.
This must somewhat at large be spoken unto, as that which gives the most eminent distinction between the frames of mind whose difference we inquire into. And to that end we shall cast our consideration of it into the ensuing observations: — 1. Affections spiritually renewed are, in all their actings, in their whole exercise, under the guidance and conduct of faith. It is faith which, in its spiritual light, hath the leading of the soul in the whole life of God. We live here by faith, as we shall do hereafter by sight. If our affections deviate or decline in the least from the guidance of the faith, they degenerate from their spirituality, and give up themselves unto the service of superstition.
Next unto corrupt secular interest in the management of crafty, selfish seducers, this hath been the great inlet of all superstition and false worship into the world. Blind affections groping in the dark after spiritual things, having not the saving light of faith to conduct them, have seduced the minds of men into all manner of superstitious imaginations and practices, continuing to do so at this day. And wherever they will lead the way, when faith goeth not before them to discover both way and end, they that lead and the mind that is led must fall into one snare and pit or another.
Wherefore, affections that are spiritually renewed move not, act not, but as faith discovers their object and directs them unto it It is faith that works by love. We can love nothing sincerely with divine love but what we believe savingly with divine faith. Let our affections unto any spiritual thing be never so vehement, if they spring not from faith, if they are not guided by it, they are neither accepted with God nor will promote the interest of spirituality and holiness in our own souls, Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 6:22,23. And this is the reason whence we ofttimes see great and plausible appearances of spiritual affections, which yet endure only for a season: They have been awakened, excited, acted, by one means or another, outward or inward; but not having the light of faith to guide them unto their proper object, they either wither and die, as unto any appearing of spiritual motions, or else keep the mind tossed up and down in perpetual disquietment, without rest or peace. “The foolish man wearieth himself because he cannot find the way to the city.” So was it with them who, on the account of their attendance unto the doctrine of Christ, are called his disciples, John 6. Having preached unto them about the bread which came down from heaven and giveth life unto them that feed, they were greatly affected with it, and cried out, “Lord, evermore give us this bread,” verse 34; but when he proceeded to declare the mystery of it, they having not faith to discern and apprehend it, their affections immediately decayed, and they forsook both him and his doctrine, verse 66.
We may consider one especial instance of this nature. Persons every day fall under great and effectual convictions of sin , and of their danger or certain misery thereby. This stirs up and acts all their affections, especially their fears, hopes, desires, sorrow, self-revenge, according as their condition calls for them. Hence sometimes they grow restless in their complaints, and turn themselves every way for relief, like men that are out of the way and bewildered in the night. But in this state and condition, tell them of the only proper way and means of their relief, — which, let the world say what it will, is Christ and his righteousness alone, with the grace of God in him, — and they quickly discover that they are strange things unto them, such as they do not understand, nor indeed approve.
They cannot see them, they cannot discern them, nor any beauty in them for which they should be desired.
Wherefore, after their affections have been tossed up and down for a season under the power and torment of this conviction, they come unto one or other of these issues with them; for, either they utterly decay, and the mind loseth all sense of any impressions from them, so as that they wonder in themselves whence they were so foolish as to be tossed and troubled with such melancholy fancies, and so commonly prove as bad a sort of men as live upon the earth; or they take up in a formal, legal profession, whereto they never attain to be spiritually minded. This is the best end that our affections towards spiritual things, not guided by the light of faith, do come unto. 2. Faith hath a clear prospect into and apprehension of spiritual things, as they are in themselves and in their own nature. It is true, the light of it cannot fully comprehend the nature of all those things which are the objects of its affections: for they are infinite and incomprehensible, such as are the nature of God and the person of Christ; and some of them, as future glory, are not yet clearly revealed. But it discerns them all in a due manner, so as that they may in themselves, and not in any corrupt representation or imagination of them, be the objects of our affections.
They are, as the apostle speaks, “spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14; which is the reason why the natural man cannot receive them, — namely, because he hath not ability spiritually to discern them. And this is the principal end of the renovation of our minds, the principal work and effect of faith, — namely, the communication unto our minds and the acting in us of a spiritual, saving light, whereby we may see and discern spiritual things as they are in their own nature, kind, and proper use. See Ephesians 1:17-19, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and re-relation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” 2 Corinthians 4:6, “God shineth in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” The end God designs is, to draw our hearts and affections unto himself; and unto this end he gives unto us a glorious internal light, whereby we may be enabled to discern the true nature of the things that we are to cleave unto with love and delight. Without this we have nothing but false images of spiritual things in our minds; not always as unto the truth or doctrine concerning them, but as unto their reality, power, and efficacy.
This is one of the principal effects of faith, as it is the principal part of the renovation of our minds, — namely, to discover in the soul and represent unto the affections things spiritual and heavenly, in their nature, beauty, and genuine excellency. This attracts them if they be spiritually renewed, and causeth them to cleave with delight unto what is so proposed unto them. He that believes in Christ in a due manner, who thereon discovers the excellency of his person and the glory of his mediation, will beth love him, and, on his believing, “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
So is it in all other instances. The more steady is our view by faith of spiritual things, the more firm and constant will our affections be in cleaving unto them; and wherever the mind is darkened about them, by temptation or seduction from the truth, there the affections will be quickly weakened and impaired. Wherefore, — 3. Affections thus led unto and fixed on spiritual and heavenly things, under the light and conduct of faith, are more and more renewed, or made in themselves more spiritual and heavenly. They are, in their cleaving unto them and delight in them, continually changed and assimilated unto the things themselves, becoming more and more to be what they are, — namely, spiritual and heavenly.
This transformation is wrought by faith, and is one of its most excellent faculties and operations. See 2 Corinthians 3:18. And the means whereby it works herein are our affections. In them as we are carnal, we are conformed unto this world; and by them as we are sanctified are we “transformed by the renewing of our mind,” Romans 12:2. And this transformation is the introduction of a new form or nature into our souls, diverse from that wherewith we were before endued. So is it described, Isaiah 11:6-9. A spiritual nature they were changed into. And it is twofold: — First, Original and radical as to the substance or essence of it, which is the effect of the first act of divine grace upon our souls when we are made new creatures. Herein our affections are passive; they do not transform us, but are transformed. Secondly, Gradual as unto its increase; and therein faith works in and by the affections.
Whenever the affections do cleave intensely unto any object they receive an impression from it, — as the wax doth from the seal when applied unto it, — which changeth them into its own likeness. So the apostle affirms of sensual, unclean persons, they “have eyes full of adultery,” 2 Peter 2:14. Their affections are so wholly possessed and filled with their lustful objects as that they have brought forth their own likeness upon their imaginations. That blots out all others, and leaves them no inclinations but what they stir up in them. When men are filled with the “love of this world,” which carries along with it all their other affections, their hopes, fears, and desires, unto a constant exercise about the same object, they become earthly minded. Their minds are so changed into the image of the things themselves, by the effectual working of the corrupt principles of sin, self-love and lust, as if they were made up of the earth; and therefore have no savor of any thing else.
In like manner, when by faith men come to embrace heavenly things, through the effectual working of a principle of spiritual life and grace in them, they are every day made more and more heavenly: “The inward man is renewed day by day.” Love is more sincere and ardent, delight is more ravishing and sensible, desires are more enlarged and intense, and by all a taste and relish of heavenly things is heightened into refreshing experience.
See Romans 5:2-5.
This is the way whereby one grace is added unto another, 2 Peter 1:5-7, in degrees. Great is the assimilation between renewed affections and their spiritual objects that by this means may be attained.
The mind hereby becomes the temple of God, wherein he dwells by the Spirit; Christ also dwelleth in believers, and they in him: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him,” 1 John 4:16.
Love in its proper exercise gives a mutual inhabitation unto God and believers. In brief, he whose affections are set upon heavenly things in a due manner will be heavenly minded, and in the due exercise of them will that heavenly mindedness be increased. The transformation and assimilation that is wrought is not in the objects or spiritual things themselves; they are not changed, neither in themselves nor in the representation made of them unto our minds; but the change is in our affections, which are made like unto them.
Two cases deriving from this principle and consideration may be here spoken unto, and shall be so, — the first in this, and the other in the following chapter. The one is concerning the slowness and imperceptibility of the growth of our affections in their assimilation unto heavenly things, with the causes and reasons of it. The other is the decays that frequently befall men in their affections unto spiritual things, instead of growing and thriving in them, with the reasons and causes thereof. 1. The progress and growth of our affections into spirituality and heavenliness, into conformity unto the things they are set upon, is oftentimes very slow, and sometimes imperceptible; yea, for the most part, it is a hard thing to find it satisfactorily in ourselves or others. Our affections stand like shrubs in the wilderness, which see not when good cometh, and are not like plants in a garden enclosed, which is watered every day. But it is not so without our folly and our sin. (1.) The folly that keeps many in this condition consists herein: The generality of Christians are contented with their present measures, and design little more than not to lose the ground they have gained. And a pernicious folly it is, that both ruins the glory of religion and deprives the souls of men of peace and consolation. But so it is. Men have some grounds of persuasion, or at least they hope and suppose they have such grounds, that they are “passed from death unto life,” that they are in a state of grace and acceptance with God. This state they will endeavor to preserve by a diligent performance of the duties it requireth, and the avoidance of such sins as whereby they might make a forfeiture of it; but as for earnest, watchful endeavors and diligence to thrive in this state, to grow in grace, to be changed from glory to glory into the image of Christ, to press forward towards the mark of the high calling, and after perfection, to lay hold upon eternal life, to be more holy, more humble, more righteous, more spiritually minded, to have their affections more and more transformed into the likeness of things above, they am hut few that sincerely and diligently apply themselves unto it, or unto the means of these things. The measures which they have attained unto give satisfaction unto the church, and reputation in the world that they are professors; and some so speak peace unto their own souls. To be more holy and heavenly, to have their affections more taken up with the things above, they suppose somewhat inconsistent with their present occasions and affairs. By this means hath religion lost much of its glory, and the souls of men have been deprived of the principal advantages of it in this world.
Such persons are like unto men who live in a country wherein they are not only pressed with poverty and all sorts of misery, but are also obnoxious unto grievous punishments, and death itself, if they are taken in it. In this condition, they are told and assured of another country, wherein, so soon as they are arrived, they shall be freed from all fear of danger of punishment; and if they pass farther into it, they shall meet with riches, plenty, and a fair inheritance provided for them. Hereon they betake themselves unto their voyage to obtain an entrance into it and possession of it; but no sooner do they come within the borders, and so are free from danger, or fear of punishment and death, but they sit down, and will go no farther to enjoy the good things of the country whereinto they are come.
And it falls out with many of them, that, through their sloth, negligence, and ignorance, they take up short of the true bounds and limits of the country of liberty and peace which they aimed at, whereby danger and death surprise them unawares. This ruin could not have befallen them had they industriously endeavored to enter into the heart of the country, and have possessed the good things thereof. At best, being only on the borders, they lead a poor life all their days, exposed to wants and danger.
So it is in this ease. Men falling under the power of convictions, and those restless fears wherewith they are accompanied, will stir up themselves and inquire how they may “flee from the wrath to come,” how they may be delivered from the state of sin, and the eternal misery which will ensue thereon.
In the gospel, not only mercy and pardon are proposed unto them on their believing, which is the first entrance into the heavenly country; but peace, and joy, and spiritual strength, upon their admission into it, and a progress made in it by faith and obedience. But many, when they have attained so far as that they have some hopes of pardon and freedom from the curse, so as to deliver them from their tormenting fears, will endeavor to preserve those hopes and keep that state, but will not pass on to a full enjoyment of the precious things of the gospel, by growth in grace and spiritual affections. But how many of them fall under woful mistakes for supposing themselves to be in a gospel state, it proves in the issue that they never entered into it. They were not, it may be, far from the kingdom of heaven, in the same sense as it was spoken of him who never came thither. There is no way to secure an interest in the gospel, as to pardon and mercy, safety and deliverance, but by a growth in grace, holiness, and spirituality; which gives an entrance into the choicest mercies and privileges of it.
This folly of men in taking up with their measures, endeavoring only to maintain that state and condition which they hope they have attained, is the great reason why their affections do not daily grow up into spirituality, through an assimilation unto heavenly things. And a folly it is attended with innumerable aggravations; as, for instance, — [1.] It is contrary and destructive unto the genuine and principal property of gospel grace; for it is everywhere compared by our Savior unto things which, from small seeds and beginnings, do grow up by a continual increase unto large measures, — as to a grain of mustard seed, a little leaven, and the like.
That grace in whose nature it is not to thrive and grow may justly be suspected, and ought diligently to be examined by them who take care of their own souls, and would not be eternally deceived. [2.] It is contrary unto the most excellent or invaluable evangelical promises recorded in the Old Testament and the New, and which are amongst the principal supportments of the faith, hope, and comfort of believers. God hath given them unto us to encourage us unto an expectation of such supplies of grace as shall cause us to thrive and grow against all opposition, unto the utmost of our continuance in this world.
And they are so multiplied as that there is no need to mention any of them in particular; God evidencing thereby how great is the grace, and how precious, which he so often promiseth, and of what consideration it is unto ourselves. See Psalm 92:13-15; Isaiah 40:28-31. Wherefore, the folly of taking up with present measures of grace, holiness, and spirituality, is attended with two unspeakable evils: — 1st , A signal contempt of the love, grace, faithfulness, and wisdom of God, in giving of us such promises of grace, to make us to increase, thrive, and grow. How can it be done more effectually than by such a neglect of his promised grace? 2dly, An evidence that such persons love not, care not for, grace and holiness for their own sake, but merely to serve their turn at present, as they suppose; nor do desire the least of grace or privilege by Christ without which they can have any hopes to get to heaven. This sufficiently discovers men to be wholly under the power of self-love, and to center therein; for if they may have so much grace and mercy as may save them, they care for no more. [3.] It is repugnant unto the honor of gospel grace, as though it would carry us so far, and no farther, in the way to glory: for it must be known that this sort of persons, who sit down in their present measures and attainments, either really have no true grace at all, or that which is of the lowest, meanest, and most imperceptible size and degree; for if any one hath attained any considerable growth in faith and love, in the mortification of sin, in heavenly mindedness, it is utterly impossible but that ordinarily he will be pressing forward towards farther attainments and farther degrees of spiritual strength in the life of God. So the apostle declares it in his own example, Philippians 3:12-14. What thoughts can these persons have concerning the glory, power, and efficacy of gospel grace, which they suppose they have received? If they measure them by the effects which they find in themselves, either as unto the mortification of sin, or strength unto and delight in duties of holiness, or as unto spiritual consolation, they can see no excellency nor beauty in them; for they do not manifest themselves but in their success, as they transform the soul daily into the image of Christ. [4.] It is that which hath lost the reputation and glory of religion in the world, and therein the honor of the gospel itself: for the most of professors do take up with such measures as put no lustre upon it, as give no commendation unto the religion they profess; for their measures allow them such a conformity unto the world, in their ways, words, and actions, in their gestures, apparel, and attire, as that they are no way visibly to be distinguished from it; yea, the ground and reason why the most do rest in their present measures is, because they will not be farther differenced from the world. This hath greatly lost the glory, honor, and reputation of religion amongst us. And, on the other side, if all visible professors would endeavor continually to grow and thrive in spirituality of mind and heavenliness of affections, with fruits suited thereunto, it would bring a conviction on the world that there is a secret invisible power accompanying the religion they profess, transforming them daily into the image and likeness of God. [5.] Whatever is pretended unto the contrary, it is inconsistent with all solid peace of conscience; for no such thing is promised unto any who live in such a contempt of divine promises, nor is it attainable but by the diligent exercise of all those graces which lie neglected under this frame.
Few men are able to judge whether they have real, internal, abiding peace or no, unless it be in case of trials and temptations At other seasons, general hopes and confidences do or may supply the want of it in their minds; but when any fear, danger, trial, or word of conviction, befalls them, they cannot but inquire and examine how it is with them. And if they find their affections cold, dead, earthly, carnal, withering, not spiritual or heavenly, there will be an end of their supposed peace, and they will fall into woful disquietments; and they will then find that the root of all this evil lies in this frame and disposition: They have been so far satisfied with their present measures or attainments in religion, as that the utmost of their endeavors has been but to preserve their station, or not to forfeit it by open sins, — to keep their souls alive from the severe reflections of the word, and their reputation fair in the church of God; spiritually to thrive, to prosper in their souls, to wax fat and flourishing in the inward man, to bring forth more fruit as age increaseth, to press towards perfection, are things they have not designed nor pursued.
Hence it is that so many among us are visibly at an unthrifty stand in the world, — that where they were one year, there they are another, like shrubs in the wilderness; not like plants in the “garden of God,” not as vines planted in “a very fruitful hill.” Yea, though many are sensible themselves that they are cold, lifeless, and fruitless, yet will they not be convinced that there is a necessity of making a daily progress in spirituality and heavenly mindedness, whereby the inward man may be renewed day by day, and grace augmented with the increase of God. This is a work, as they suppose, for them who have nothing else to do; not consistent with their business, callings, and occasions; not necessary, as they hope, unto their salvation; nor, it may be, to be attained by them if they should set themselves about it. This apprehension or imagination, upon the beginning of the declension and decay of Christian religion in the many, cast off holiness and devotion unto a sort of men who undertook to retire themselves utterly out of the world; amongst whom also the substance of religion was quickly lost, and a cloud or meteor of superstition embraced in the room of it. But this folly is ominous unto the souls of men.
Those who have made the greatest progress in the conformity of their affections unto things spiritual and heavenly know most of its necessity, excellency, and desirableness; yea, without some progress in it, these things will not be known. Such will testify that the more they attain herein, the more they see there is yet to to be attained, and the more they do desire to attain what is before. Forgetting those things which are behind, they reach forth unto the things that are yet before them, like men running in a race, whose prize and reward is yet before them, Philippians 3:13,14. It is a comely thing to see a Christian weaned from the world, minding heavenly things, green and flourishing in spiritual affections; and it is the more lovely because it is so rare. The generality of them take up with those measures which neither glorify God nor bring in durable peace unto their own souls.
That which men pretend and complain of herein is, the difficulty of the work. They can, as they suppose, preserve their present station, but to press forward, to grow in grace, to thrive in their affections, this is too hard for them. But this complaint is unequal and unjust, and adds unto the guilt of their sloth. It reflects upon the words of our Savior, that “his yoke is easy and his burden light,” that “his commandments are not grievous.” It expresseth unbelief in the promises of God tendering such supplies of grace as to render all the ways of Wisdom easy, yea, mercy and peace. It is contrary unto the experience of all who have with any sincerity and diligence engaged in the ways of gospel obedience. And the whole cause of the pretended difficulty lies in themselves alone, which may be reduced unto these two heads: — 1st, A desire to retain some thing or things that is or are inconsistent with such a progress; for unless the heart be ready on all occasions to esteem every thing “as loss and dung, so as we may win Christ,” the work will be accompanied with insuperable difficulties. This is the first principle of religion, of gospel obedience, that all things are to be despised for Christ But this difficulty ariseth not from the thing itself, but from our indisposition unto it and unfitness for it. That which is an easy, pleasant walk unto a sound and healthy man is a toilsome journey to him that is diseased and infirm. In particular, whilst men will retain an inordinate respect unto the world, the vanities, the pleasures, the profits, the contentments of it; whilst self-love, putting an undue valuation on our persons, our relations, our enjoyments, our reputations, doth cleave unto us, — we shall labor in the fire when we engage in this duty, or rather, we shall not at all sincerely engage in it. Wherefore the apostle tells us that in this case we must cast off every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, if we intend to run with joy the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1. 2dly, It is because men dwell continually upon the entrances of religion, in the first and lowest exercise of grace. Some are always beginning at religion, and the beginning of things are always difficult. They design not to he complete in the whole will of God, nor to give all graces their perfect work.
They do not with use habituate grace unto a readiness in all the actings of it, which the apostle commends in them that are “perfect” or complete, Hebrews 5:14. Hence he calls such persons “babes and carnal,” comparatively unto them that are “strong men and spiritual.” Such persons do not oblige themselves unto the whole work and all the duties of religion, but only to what they judge necessary unto them in their present circumstances. In particular, they do not attempt a thorough work in the mortification of any sin, but are hewing and hacking at it, as their convictions are urgent or abate, the wounds whereof in the body of sin are quickly healed. They give not any grace its perfect work, but are always making essays, and so give over.
Whilst it is thus with any, they shall always be deluded with the apprehensions of insuperable difficulties as to the growth of their affections in spirituality and heavenliness. Remove these things out of the way, as they ought to be removed, and we shall find all the paths wherein we are to walk towards God to be pleasantness and peace.
This is the first cause whence it is that there may be affections truly spiritual and graciously renewed in some persons, who yet do not thrive in an assimilation and conformity unto heavenly things: Men take up with their present measures, and thereon pretend either necessary occasion or discouragements from difficulties in attempting spiritual growth in the inward man. But they may thank themselves if, as they bring no honor unto Christ, so they have no solid peace in their own souls. (2.) As the evil proceedeth from folly, so it is always the consequent of sin, of many sins, of various sorts. Let us not dwell on heartless complaints that we do not find our affections lively and heavenly, that we do not find the inward man to thrive or grow. Let us not hearken after this or that relief or comfort under this consideration, as many things are usually insisted on unto this purpose. They may be of use when persons are under temptations; and not able to make a right judgment of themselves; but in the course of our ordinary walking with God, they are not to be attended nor retired unto. The general reason of this evil state is our own sinful carelessness, negligence, and sloth, with perhaps an indulgence unto some known lust or corruption. And we do in vain seek after refreshing cordials, as though we were only spiritually faint, when we stand in need of lancings and burnings, as nigh unto a lethargy. It would be too long to give instances of those sins which fail not effectually to obstruct the thriving of spiritual affections: but, in general, when men are careless as unto that continual watch which they ought to keep over their hearts; whilst they are negligent in holy duties, either as unto the seasons of them or the manner of their performance; when they are strangers unto holy meditation and self-examination; whilst they inordinately pursue the things of the world, or are so tender and delicate as that they will not undergo the hardship of a heavenly life, either as unto the inward or outward man; much more when they are vain in their conversation, corrupt in their communication, especially if under the predominant influence of any particular lust, — it is vain to think of thriving in spiritual affections. And yet thus it is with all who ordinarily and in their constant course are thriftless herein.
CHAPTER 17. Decays in spiritual affections, with the causes and danger of them — Advice unto them who are sensible of the evil of spiritual decays. 2. IT must be acknowledged that there is yet that which is worse than what we have yet insisted on, and more opposite unto the growth of affections in conformity unto heavenly things, which is the proper character of those that are spiritually renewed; and this is their spiritual decay, manifesting itself in sensible and visible effects Some there are, yea many, who, upon the beginning of a profession of their conversion unto God, have made a great appearance of vigorous, active, spiritual affections; yea, it is so with most, it may be all, who are really so converted. God takes notice of the love of the youth in his people, of the love of their espousals.
In some, this vigor of spiritual affections is from the real power of grace, exerting its efficacy on their hearts and in their minds. In others, it is from other causes; as, for instance, relief from conviction, by spiritual illumination, will produce this effect. And this falls out unto the advantage of such persons, that generally a change is wrought in their younger days; for then their affections in their natural powers are active, and bear great sway in the whole soul. Wherefore, the change that is made is most eminent in them, be it what it will. But as men increase in age, and thereon grow up in carnal wisdom and a great valuation of earthly things, with their care about them and converse in them, they abate and decay in their spiritual affections every day; they will abide in their profession, but have lost their first love.
It is a shame and folly unutterable that it should be so with any who make profession of that religion, wherein there are so many incomparable excellencies to endear and engage them to it more and more. But why should we hide what experience makes manifest in the sight of the sun, and what multitudes proclaim concerning themselves? Wherefore, I look upon it as a great evidence, if not absolutely of the sincerity of grace, yet of the life and growth of it, when men as they grow up in age do grow in an undervaluation of present things, in contempt of the world, in duties of charity and bounty, and decay not in any of them. But I say it is usual that the entrances of men’s profession of religion and conversion unto God are attended with vigorous, active affections towards spiritual things. Of them who really and sincerely believed, it is said that on their believing “they rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” and of those who only had a work of conviction on them, improved by temporary faith, that “they received the word with joy, and did many things gladly.”
In this state do many abide and thrive, until their affections be wholly transformed into the image and likeness of things above. But with many of all sorts it is not so. They fall into woful decays as unto their affections about spiritual things, and consequently, in their whole profession and conversation, their moisture becomes as the drought in summer. They have no experience of the life and actings of them in themselves, nor any comfort or refreshment from them; they honor not the gospel with any fruits of love, zeal, or delight, nor are useful any way unto others by their example. Some of them have had seeming recoveries, and are yet again taken into a lifeless frame. Warnings, afflictions, sicknesses, the word, have awakened them, but they are fallen again into a dead sleep, so as that they seem to be “trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.”
Some things must be spoken unto this woful condition in general, as that which is directly opposite unto the grace and duty of being spiritually minded, and contrary unto and obstructive of the growth of spiritual affections in an assimilation unto heavenly things. And what shall be spoken may be applied unto all the degrees of these decays, though all of them are not alike dangerous or perilous. (1.) There may be a time of temptation, wherein a soul may apprehend in itself not only a decay in, but an utter loss of, all spiritual affections, when yet it is not so. As believers may apprehend and judge that the Lord hath forsaken and forgotten them when he hath not done so, Isaiah 49:14,15; so they may, under their temptations, apprehend that they have forsaken God, when they have not done so; as a man in the night may apprehend he hath lost his way, and be in great distress, when he is in his proper road: for temptation brings darkness and amazement, and leads into mistakes and a false judgment in all things. They find not, it may be, grace working in love, joy, and delight, as formerly, nor that activity of heart and mind in holy duties which spiritual affections gave unto them; but yet, it may be, the same grace works in godly sorrow, by mourning, humiliation, and selfabasement, no less effectually, nor less acceptably unto God. Such as these I separate from the present consideration. (2.) There may be a decay in affections themselves as unto their actings towards any objects whatever, at least as unto the outward symptoms and effects of them; and on this ground their operations toward spiritual things may be less sensible. So men in their younger days may be more ready to express their sorrow by tears, and their joy by sensible exultation and motion of their spirits, than in riper years. And this may be so when there is no decay of grace in the affections as renewed. But, — [1.] When it is so, it is a burden unto them in whom it is. They cannot but mourn and have a godly jealousy over themselves, lest the decays they find should not be in the outward but the inward, not in the natural but the spiritual man; and they will labor that in all duties, and at all times, it may be with them as in days of old, although they cannot attain that strength in them, that vigor of spirit, that life, joy, peace, and comfort, which many have had experience of. [2.] There will be in such persons no decays in holiness of life, or as unto diligence in all religious duties. If the decay be really of grace in the affections, it will be accompanied with a proportionable decay in all other things wherein the life of God is concerned; but if it be only as unto the sensible actings of natural affections, no such decay will ensue. [3.] Grace will in this case more vigorously act itself in the other faculties and powers of the soul, as the judgment and the will, in their approbation of and firm adherence unto spiritual things. But, — When men find, or may find, their affections yet quick, active, and intent on other things, as the lawful enjoyments and comforts of this life, it is in vain for them to relieve themselves that the decays they find are in their affections as natural, and not, as they ought to be, gracious. If we see a man in his old age grow more in love with the things of this world, and less in love with the things of God, it is not through the weakness of nature, but through the strength of sin.
On these, and, it may be, some other the like occasions, there may be an apprehension of a decay in spiritual affections when it may not be so, at least not unto the degree that is apprehended. But when it is so really, as it is evidently with many, I had almost said with the most in these days, it is a woful frame of heart, and never enough to be lamented. It is that which lies in direct contradiction unto that spiritual mindedness which is life and peace. It is a consumption of the soul, which threatens it with death every day.
It belongs not unto my design to treat of it in particular, yet I cannot let it pass without some remarks upon it, it being an evil almost epidemical among professors, and prevalent in some unto such a degree as that they seem to be utterly forsaken of all powers of spiritual life.
Now, besides all that folly and sin which we before discovered as the causes of the want of the growth of our affections in spirituality and heavenliness, which in this case of their decay are more abominable, there is a multiplication of evils wherewith this state of heart and mind is accompanied; for, — (1.) It is that which, of all things, the Lord Christ is most displeased with in churches or professors. He pities them in their temptations, he suffers with them in their persecutions, he intercedes for them on their surprisal, but threatens them under their spiritual decays, Revelation 2:4,5; 3:1-3.
This he cannot bear with, as that which both reflects dishonor upon himself, and which he knows to be ruinous unto those in whom it is, He will longer bear with them who are utterly dead than with those who abide under these decays, Revelation 3:15,16. This is the only case wherein he threatens to reject and cast off a professing church, to take away his candlestick from it, unless it be that of false worship and idolatry. He that spake thus unto the churches of old speaks now the same unto us; for he lives forever, and is always the same, and his word is living and unchangeable. There is not one of us who are under this frame, but the Lord Christ by his word and Spirit testifieth his displeasure against us; and if he be against us, who shall plead for us? Consider what he says in this ease, Revelation 2:5, 3:3. Oh! who can stand before these dreadful intimations of his displeasure? The Lord help us to mind it, lest he in whom we profess to place our only trust be in our trim found our greatest enemy! Take heed of such sins as Christ himself, our only advocate, hath put a mark upon as those which he will not save us in. (2.) It is that wherewith, above all things, the Holy Spirit is grieved. His work it is to give grace an increase and progress in our souls; he begins it, and he carries it on. And there can be no greater grief unto a wise and gracious worker than to have his work decay and go backward under his hand. This is the occasion of those complaints of God which we find in the Scripture, of the unprofitableness and backsliding of men after the use of means and remedies for their fruitfulness and cure. “What,” saith he, “could I have done more for my vineyard than I have done? Why, then, when I looked for grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?” Can any thing be apprehended to be such a just matter of grief and complaint unto the Holy Spirit, as to see and find those whom he had once raised up unto holy and heavenly affections, so as that their delights were in, and their thoughts much upon, the things that are above, become earthly or sensual, to have no sensible actings of any of his graces in them? which is the state of them who are under the power of spiritual decays, And this is the only case wherein God speaks unto men in the way of complaint and expostulation, and useth all sorts of arguments to convince them of their folly herein.
When a wise, tender, and careful parent, [who] hath been diligent in the use of all means for the education of his child, and he for some time hath given good hopes of himself, finds him to slacken in his diligence, to be careless in his calling, to delight in evil company, — how solicitous is his heart about him! how much is he grieved and affected with his miscarriage! The heart of the Spirit of God is infinitely more tender towards us than that of the most affectionate parent can be towards an only child; and when he with cost and care hath nourished and brought us up unto some growth and progress in spiritual affections, wherein all his concerns in us do lie, for us to grow cold, dull, earthly minded, to cleave unto the pleasures or lusts of this world, — how is he grieved! how is he provoked! It may be this consideration of grieving the Holy Spirit is of no great weight with some; they should have little concernment herein if they could well free themselves in other respects: but let such persons know it is impossible for them to give a greater evidence of a profligate hardness in sin. (3.) This is that which in an especial manner provoketh the judgments of God against any church, as was intimated before. When, in the order of profession and worship, any church hath a name to live, but as to the power of grace acting in the affections is dead; when it is not so cold as to forsake the external institutions of worship, nor so hot as to enliven their duties with spiritual affections, — the Lord Christ will not long bear with them; yea, judgment will suddenly break out towards such a house of God. (4.) It is absolutely inconsistent with all comfortable assurance of the love of God. Whatever persons under the power of such a frame pretend unto of that kind, it is sinful security, not gracious assurance or peace. And constantly as professors grow cold and decay in their spiritual affections, stupidity of conscience and security of mind do grow also upon them. It is so, I say, unless they are sometimes surprised or overtaken with some greater sin, which reflects severely on their consciences, and casts them for a time under troubles and distresses. But that peace with God and a comfortable assurance of salvation should be consistent with an habitual decay in grace, especially in those graces which should act themselves in our affections, is contrary to the whole tenor and testimony of the Scripture; and the supposition of it would be the bane and poison of religion. I do not say that our assurance and peace with God do arise wholly from the actings of grace in us; there are other causes of them, where-into they are principally resolved; — but this I say, under an habitual declension or decay of grace in the spirituality of our affections, no man can keep or maintain a gracious sense of the love of God, or of peace with him. And therefore there is no duty more severely to be pressed on all at this day than a diligent examination and trial of the grounds of their peace, lest it should be with any of them as it was with Laodicea, who was satisfied in her good state and condition, when it was most miserable and almost desperate. Yea, I must say that it is impossible that many professors whom we see and converse withal should have any solid peace with God. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” it is a fruit that will not grow on a vain, earthly, selfish frame of mind and conversation. And therefore such persons, whatever they pretend, are either asleep in a sinful security, or live on most uncertain hopes, which probably may deceive them. Nothing can be so ruinous unto our profession as once to suppose it is an easy matter, a thing of course, to maintain our peace with God. God forbid but that our utmost diligence and continued endeavors to thrive in every grace should be required hereunto!
The whole beauty and glory of our religion depends hereon. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (5.) Such a decay as that described is a dangerous symptom of an evil state and condition, and that those in whom it is will at last be found to be but hypocrites. I know such persons will or may have pretended evidences unto the contrary, and that they are well enough satisfied of and with their own sincerity in many things, so as that it is impossible to fix upon them the sense and conviction of being but hypocrites. But this apprehension ariseth from a false notion of hypocrisy. No man, they suppose, is a hypocrite, but he that generally or universally pretends himself in religion to be what he is not, and what he knows himself not to be, or at least might easily do so; and it is true that this is the broadest notion of pharisaical hypocrisy: but take a hypocrite for him who, under light, profession, gifts, duties, doth habitually and willingly fail in any point of sincerity, he is no less a perishing hypocrite than the former, and it may alter the case with them. I do not say that every one in whom there is this prevalent decay in spiritual affections is a hypocrite; God forbid! I only say that when it continues without remedy, it is such a symptom of hypocrisy as that he who is wise and hath a care of his soul will not rest until he hath searched it unto the bottom. For it seems as if it were thus with such persons: They have had a false or imperfect work in that conversion unto God which they have professed. Conviction of sin, communication of spiritual light and gifts, alteration upon the affections, change of society and conversation, have made it up. Now, it is the nature of such a work greatly to flourish for a season, in all the principal parts and duties of profession; but it is in its nature also gradually to decay, until it be quite withered away. In some it is lost by the power of some vigorous temptations, and particular lusts indulged unto, ending in worldliness and sensuality; but in the most it decays gradually, until it hath lost all its savor and sap. See John 15:5. Wherefore, whilst men find this decay in themselves, unless they are fallen under the power of a destructive security, unless they are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, they cannot but think it their duty to examine how things stand with them, whether they ever effectually closed with Christ, and had the faith of God’s elect, which works by love, seeing it is with them as though they had only a work of another nature: for a saving work, in its own nature and in the diligent use of means, thrives and groweth, as the whole Scripture testifieth; but it is this false and imperfect working that hath no root, and is thus subject to withering. (6.) Persons in such an estate are apt to deceive themselves with false hopes and notions, whereby the deceitfulness of sin doth put forth its power to harden them unto their ruin. Two ways there are whereby this pernicious effect is produced; — the one by the prevalency of a particular lust or sin; the other by a neglect of spiritual duties, and a vain conversation in the world, under which the soul pines away and consumes.
As unto the first of these, there are three false notions whereby the deceitfulness of sin deludes the souls of men: — [1.] The first is, that it is that one sin alone wherein they would be indulged. Let them be spared in this one thing, and in all others they will be exact enough. This is the composition that Naaman would have made in the matters of religion, 2 Kings 5:18, and it is that which many trust unto. Hence it hath, by the event, been made to appear that some persons have lived long in the practice of some gross sin, and yet all the while used a semblance of great diligence in other duties of religion. This is a false notion, whereby poor sinners delude their own souls; for suppose it possible that a man should give himself up unto any lust, or be under the power of it, and yet be observant of all other duties, yet this would give him no relief as unto the eternal condition of his soul. The rule is peremptory unto this purpose, James 2:10,11. One sin willingly lived in is as able to destroy a man’s soul as a thousand. Besides, it is practically false. There is no man that lives in any one known sin but he really lives in more, though that only bears the chiefest sway. With some such persons these sins appear unto others, who observe their frame and spirit, though they appear not to themselves; in some they are manifest in themselves, although they are hidden from others, 1 Timothy 5:24. But let no man relieve himself with thoughts that it is but one sin, whilst that one sin keeps him in a constant neglect of God. Hence, — [2.] They deceive themselves hereby; for they judge that although they cannot as yet shake off their sin, yet they will continue still to love God and abound in the duties of his worship. They will not become haters of God and his ways and persecutors for all the world; and therefore hope that, notwithstanding this one Zoar, this lesser sin, which their constitution and their circumstances engage them in, it may be well with them at the last. This also is a false notion, a mere instrument in the hand of sin to act its deceit by; for no man that willingly liveth in any sin can love God at all, as is evident in that rule, 1 John 2:15. It is but a false pretense of love to God that any man hath who liveth in any known sin.
Where God is not loved above all, he is not loved at all; and he is not so where men will not part with one cursed lust for his sake. Let not your light deceive you, nor your gifts, nor your duties, nor your profession; if you live in sin, you love not God. [3.] They determine that at such or such a season or time, after such satisfaction given unto their lusts or pleasures, they will utterly give over, so as that iniquity shall not be their ruin. But this is a false notion also, an effectual instrument of the deceitfulness of sin. He that will not now give over, who will not immediately upon the discovery of the prevalency of any sin and warning about it endeavor sincerely and constantly its relinquishment, say what he will and pretend what he will, never intends to give over, nor is it probable, in an ordinary way, that ever he will do so.
When men’s decays are from the prevalency of particular sins, by these and the like false notions do they harden themselves unto ruin.
For those who are pining away under hectical consumption, a general decay of the vital spirits of religion, they have also false notions whereby they deceive themselves; as, — [1.] That although they have some cause to mistrust themselves, yet indeed their condition is not so bad as some may apprehend it, or as they are warned it is. And this ariseth from hence, that they have not as yet been overtaken with any enormous sin which hath filled their consciences with terror and disquietment. But this is a false notion also; for every decay is dangerous, especially such as the mind is ready to plead for and to countenance itself in. [2.] They are prone to suppose that this decay doth not arise from themselves and the evil of their own hearts, but from their circumstances, businesses, present occasions, and state of life; which when they are freed from, they will at least return unto their former love and delight in spiritual things. But this is a false notion also, by virtue of that rule, Hebrews 3:12. Let men’s circumstances and occasions of life be what they will, all their departures from God are from “an evil heart of unbelief.” [3.] They judge it no hard matter to retrieve themselves out of this state, but that which they can easily do when there is an absolute necessity for it.
Wherefore, I say, lastly, upon the whole, that whoso find themselves under the power of this wretched frame, whoso are sensible in themselves, or at least make it evident unto others, that they are under a decay in their spiritual condition, if they rest in that state, without groaning, laboring, endeavoring for deliverance from it, they can have no well-grounded hopes in themselves of life and immortality; yea, they are in those “paths which go down unto the chambers of death.”
I cannot let this pass without something of advice unto them who find themselves under such decays, are sensible of them, and would be delivered from them, and I shall give it in a few words: — First, Remember former things; call to mind how it was with you in the spring and vigor of your affections, and compare your present state, enjoyment, peace, and quiet, with what they were then. This will be a great principle of return unto God, Hosea 2:7. And to put a little weight upon it, we may consider, — First, God himself makes it on his part a ground and reason of his return unto us in a way of mercy, and of the continuance of his love, Jeremiah 2:2. Even when a people are under manifold decays, whilst yet they are within the bounds of God’s covenant and mercy, he will remember their first love, with the fruits and actings of it in trials and temptations; which moves his compassion towards them. And the way to have God thus remember it, is for us to remember it with delight, and longing of soul that it were with us as in those days of old, when we had the love of espousals for God in Christ, Jeremiah 31:18-20.
Secondly, It is the way whereby the saints of old have refreshed and encouraged themselves under their greatest despondencies. So doth the psalmist in many places; as, for instance, Psalm 42:6, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.”
David in the time of his persecution by Saul, when he wandered up and down in deserts, wildernesses, and solitudes, had, under his fears, distresses, and exercises, great, holy, spiritual communion with God; as many of his psalms composed on such occasions do testify. And the greater his distresses were, the more fervent were his affections in all his addresses unto God; and he was never in greater than when he escaped out of the cave at Adul-lam, and went thence unto Mizpeh of Moab, to get shelter for his parents, 1 Samuel 22:3. Then was he in the land of the Hermonites, the hill Hermon being the boundary eastward of the Israelites’ possession next to Moab, Deuteronomy 3:8,9. There, no doubt, David had a blessed exercise of his. faith and of all his affections towards God, wherein his soul found great refreshment. Being now in great distress and disconsolation of spirit, among other things under a sense that God had forgotten him, Psalm 42:9, he calls to mind the blessed experience he had of communion with God, in the land of the Hermonites, wherein he now found support and refreshment. So at other times he called to remembrance “the days of old,” and in them his “songs in the night,” or the sweet refreshment he had in spiritual converse with God in former times. I have known one in the depth of distress and darkness of mind, who, going through temptation to destroy himself, was relieved and delivered in the instant of ruin by a sudden remembrance that at such a time, and in such a place, he had prayed fervently with the engagement of all his affections unto God.
Wherefore, you that are sensible of these decays, or ought so to be, take the advice of our Savior, “Remember whence you are fallen.” Call to mind the former days. Consider if it were not better with you [then] than now, when in your lying down and your rising up you had many thoughts of God and of the things of God, and they were sweet and precious unto your souls; when you rejoiced at the remembrance of his holiness; when you had zeal for his glory, delight in his worship, and were glad when they said, “Let us go to the house of God together;” when you poured forth your souls with freedom and enlarged affections before him, and were sensible of the visits and refreshments of his love. Remember what peace, what tranquility of mind, what joy you had whilst it was so with you; and consider what you have gotten since you have forsaken God, in any measure or degree. Dare to deal plainly with yourselves. Is not all wherein you have now to do with God either form, custom, and selfishness, or attended with trouble, disquietment, and fears? Do you truly know either how to live or how to diet Are you not sometimes a terror unto yourselves? It must be so, unless you are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. What have all your lovers done for you, that you have entertained in the room of God in Christ and spiritual things? Speak plainly; have they not defiled you, wounded you, weakened you, and brought you into that condition that you know not what you are nor to whom you do belong? What are your thoughts when you are most awake, when you are most yourselves? Do you not sometimes pant within yourselves, and say, “O that it were with us as in former days.”
And if you can be no way affected with the remembrance of former things, then one of these two great evils you are certainly under; for either, 1. You never had a true and real work on your souls, whatever you professed, and so never had true and real communion with God in any duties. You had only a temporary work, which excited your affections for a season; which, now it is worn off, leaves no sweet remembrance of itself upon your minds. Had your faith and love been sincere in what you did, it were impossible but that the remembrance of their actings, in some especial instances, should be sweet and refreshing unto you. Or else, 2. You are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and there is no way left to give a sense or impression of spiritual things upon your minds. You have truly nothing left in religion but the fear of hell and trouble of duties. I speak not to such at present.
As unto those unto whom this frame is a burden, there is no more effectual means to stir them up unto endeavors for deliverance than a continual remembrance of former things, and experiences they have had of holy intercourse and communion with God. This will revive, quicken, and strengthen the things that are ready to die, and beget a self-abhorrency in them in consideration of that woful frame and temper of mind which, by their sins and negligence, they have brought themselves into.
Secondly, Consider that as there are many things dreadfully pronounced in the Scripture against backsliding and backsliders in heart, as it is with you, yet also there are especial calls and promises given and proposed unto those in your condition; and know assuredly that upon your compliance or non-compliance with them depends your everlasting blessedness or woe.
Consider both call and promise in that word of God’s grace, Jeremiah 3:12-14, “Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith theLORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith theLORD, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against theLORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith theLORD.
Turn, O backsliding children, saith theLORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” Add hereunto this blessed promise, Hosea 14:4, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.”
If you design to live and not die, it must be by yielding obedience unto this call, and pleading this promise before God, mixing it with faith. Your return must be by the word, Isaiah 57:18,19. Here lies your great encouragement and direction, herein lieth your only relief. As you value your souls, defer not the duty you are called unto one moment. You know not how soon you may be without the reach of calls and promises; and he that can hear them without stirring up himself in sincerity to comply with them hath made already a great progress towards that length.
Thirdly, As unto those who on these and the like considerations do not only desire but will endeavor also to retrieve themselves from this condition, I shall give no advice at present but this, Be in good earnest. As the prophet speaks in another case, if you will return, “return and come,” make thorough work of it. You must do so at one time or another, or you will perish. Why not now? Why, is not this the best season? Who knows but it may be the only time you will have for it? It were easy to multiply all sorts of arguments unto this purpose. Trifling endeavors, occasional resolutions and attempts, like the early cloud and morning dew, shifting with warnings and convictions, by renewed duties, until their impressions are worn out, will ruin your souls. Unless there be universal diligence and permanency in your endeavors, you are undone. “Then shall ye know the\parLORD, if ye follow on to know him.”
But now to return. These things, I say, through our sloth, negligence, and sin, may befall us as unto our spiritually-renewed affections: Their progress in conformity unto spiritual and heavenly things may be slow, imperceptible, yea, totally obstructed for a season; and not only so, but they may fall under decays, and the soul therein be guilty of backsliding from God; but this is that which they are capacitated for by their renovation, this is that which the grace wherewith they are renewed doth lead unto, this is that which, in the diligent use of means, they will grow up unto, whereon our comfort and peace do depend, — namely, a holy assimilation unto those spiritual and heavenly things which they are set and fixed on, wherein they are renewed and made more spiritual and heavenly every day.
CHAPTER 18. [The state of spiritual affections.] IT remains only, as unto this head now spoken unto, that we briefly consider what is the state of spiritual affections thus daily exercised and improved. And this we shall do by showing, — first, What is their pattern; secondly, What is their rule; thirdly, What is their measure, or whereunto they may attain: — FIRST, The pattern which we ought continually to bear in our eyes, whereunto our affections ought to be conformed, is Jesus Christ and the affections of his holy soul. The mind is the seat of all our affections; and this is that we ought continually to design and endeavor, namely, that the “same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5. To have our minds so affected with spiritual things as was the mind of Christ is the principal part of our duty and grace; nor do I think that any man can attain any considerable degree in spiritual mindedness who is not much in the contemplation of the same mind in Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18. To this purpose ought we to furnish our minds with instances of the holy affections that were in Christ, and their blessed exercise on all occasions.
The Scripture makes a full representation of them unto us, and we ought to be conversant in our meditations on them. What glorious things are spoken of his love to God and his delight in him, whence also he “delighted to do his will, and his law was in the midst of his bowels,” Psalm 40:8, — seated in the throne of his affections! What pity and compassion had he for the souls of men, yea, for the whole human kind, in all their sufferings, pains, and distresses! How were all his affections always in perfection of order, under the conduct of the spirit of his mind! Hence was his selfdenial, his contempt of the world, his readiness for the cross, to do or suffer according to the will of God. If this pattern be continually before us, it will put forth a transforming efficacy to change us into the same image.
When we find our minds liable unto any disorders, cleaving inordinately unto the things of this world, moved with intemperate passions, vain and frothy in conversation, darkened or disturbed by the fumes of distempered lusts, let us call things to an account, and ask of ourselves whether this be the frame of mind that was in Christ Jesus. This, therefore, is an evidence that our affections are spiritually renewed, and that they have received some progress in an assimilation unto heavenly things, — namely, when the soul is delighted in making Christ their pattern in all things.
Secondly, The rule of our affections in their utmost spiritual improvement is the Scripture. And two things are respected in them: — their internal actings; their exercise in outward ways and means, whereby they are expressed. Of them both the Scripture is the entire rule: — 1. And with respect unto the former, it gives us one general law or rule, that is comprehensive of all others, — namely, “That we love theLORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.” The acting of all our affections towards God in the utmost degree of perfection is required of us; that in all instances we prefer and value him above all things; that we inseparably cleave unto him, and do nothing whatever at any time that is not influenced and directed by the love of God. This perfection, as we shall see immediately, is not attainable absolutely in this life; but it is proposed unto us as that which the excellency of God’s nature requires, and which the faculties and powers of our nature were created for, and which we ought in all things to design and aim at. But the indispensable obligation of this rule is, that we should always be in a sincere endeavor to cleave unto God continually in all things, to prefer him above all, and delight in him as our chiefest good. When this frame and disposition is habitually fixed in our minds, it will declare and act itself in all instances of duties, on all occasions of trial, when other things put in for a predominant interest in our affections, as they do every day; and if it be not so with us, we shall be at a continual loss in all our ways. This is that which makes us lifeless and heartless in duties, careless in temptations or occasions of them, forgetful of God, when it is impossible we should be preserved from sin without a due remembrance of his holiness. In brief, the want of a predominant love unto God, kept in continual exercise, is the spring of all that unprofitable profession of religion that the world is filled withal. 2. There are outward ways and duties whereby our spiritual affections are expressed. The rule of them also is the Scripture. The way marked out therein is the only channel wherein the stream of spiritual affections doth take its course unto God. The graces required therein are to act themselves by [them]; the duties it prescribes are those which they stir up and enliven; the religious worship it appoints is that wherein they have their exercise. Where this rule hath been neglected, men’s religious affections have grown irregular, yea, wild and ungovernable. All the superstitions that the world is filled withal owe their original principally unto men’s affections set at loose from the rule of the word. There is nothing so fond, absurd, and foolish, but they have imbondaged the souls of men unto, nothing so horrid and difficult but they have engaged them in. And having once taken unto themselves this liberty, the corrupt minds of men are a thousand times more satisfied than in the regular exercise of them according to the word of God. Hence they will rejoice in such penances as are not without their austerities; in such outward duties of devotion as are troublesome and chargeable; in every thing that hath a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglect of the body. Hence will all their affections be more sensibly moved by images and pictures, and a melting devotion be more stirred up in them, than by all the motives and incentives which God proposeth unto them to draw their affections unto himself.
Nothing is more extravagant than the affections of men, tinctured with some devotion, if they forsake the rule of the Scripture.
Thirdly, There is considerable concerning them the measure of their attainments, or what, through due exercise and holy diligence, they may be raised unto. Now, this is not absolute perfection: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after,” as the apostle speaks, Philippians 3:12. But there is that attainable which those who pretnd highly unto perfection seem to be strangers unto. And the state of our affections under a due exercise on heavenly things, and in their assimilation unto them, may be fixed on these three things: — 1. An habitual suitableness unto spiritual things upon the proposal of them.
The ways whereby spiritual things are proposed unto our minds are various. They are so directly in all ordinances of divine worship; — they are so indirectly and in just consequence by all the especial providences wherein we are concerned, by our own thoughts and stated meditations; — they are so by the motions of the Holy Spirit, when he causeth us to “hear a word behind us saying, This is the way, walk ye in it;” by holy converse with others; by all sorts of occurrences. And as the ways of their proposal are various, so the times and seasons wherein a representation of them is made unto us are comprehensive of all, at least are not exclusive of any, times and seasons of our lives. Be the way of their proposal what it will, and whenever be the season of it, if our affections are duly improved by spiritual exercises, they are suited unto them and will be ready to give them entertainment. Hence, or for want hereof, on the other hand, are tergiversations and shiftings in duties, proneness to comply with diversions, all to keep off the mind from closing with and receiving of those spiritual things which it is not suited unto. Wherefore, as unto the solemn way of proposing spiritual things unto our minds which is in and by the ordinances of divine worship, when men have a prevalent loathness to engage in them, or when they are satisfied with an outward attendance on them, but not enabled unto a vigorous stirring up of the inward man unto a holy, affectionate converse with spiritual and heavenly things, it is because they are carnal. When men can receive the fiery darts of Satan in his temptations into their bosoms, and suffer them to abide there, yea, foster and cherish them in thoughts of the lusts that they kindle, but quickly quench the motions of the Spirit stirring them up unto the embracing of heavenly things, they are carnal, and carnally minded. When providences of concernment, in afflictions, trials, deliverances, do not engage the mind unto thoughts of spiritual things, and excite the affections unto the entertainment of them, men are carnal and earthly. When every lust, corruption, or passion, as anger, envy, displeasure, at this or that person or thing, can divert the mind from compliance with the proposal of spiritual things that is made unto it, we are carnal.
It is otherwise when our affections are conformed unto things spiritual and heavenly. Upon every proposal of these, the mind finds a suitableness unto itself, like that which a well-disposed appetite finds unto savory meat. As “the full soul loatheth an honey-comb,” so a mind under the power of carnal affections hath an aversion unto all spiritual sweetness.
But spiritualized affections desire them, have an appetite unto them, readily receive them on all occasions, as those which are natural unto them, as milk is unto new-born babes. 2. Affections so disposed constantly find a gust, a pleasant taste, a relish, in spiritual things. They do in them “taste that the Lord is gracious,” Peter 2:3. To taste of God’s goodness, is to have an experience of a savory relish and sweetness in converse and communion with him. And persons whose affections are thus renewed and thus improved do taste a sweet savor in all spiritual things. Some of them, as a sense of the love of Christ, are sometimes as it were too hard for them, and overpower them, until they are “sick of love,” and do “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Neither is there any of them, however condited with afflictions or mortifications, but is sweet unto them, Proverbs 27:7. Every thing that is wholesome food, that is good nourishment, though it be but bitter herbs, is sweet to him that is hungry. And when by our affections we have raised up in us a spiritual appetite unto heavenly things, however any of them in their own nature or in their dispensation may be bitter to flesh and blood, — as are all the doctrines of the cross, — they are all sweet unto us, and we can taste how gracious the Lord is in them. When the soul is filled with earthly things, the love of this world, or when the appetite is lost by spiritual sickness, or vitiated and corrupted by any prevalent sin, heavenly things are unsavory and sapless, or, as Job speaks, “like the white of an egg, wherein there is no taste.” There may be in the dispensation of the word a taste or pleasing relish given unto the fancy, there may be so unto the notional understanding, when the affections find no complacency in the things themselves; but unto them who are spiritually minded unto the degree intended, they are all sweet, savory, pleasant, — the affections taste them immediately, as the palate doth meat. 3. They are a just repository of all graces, and therein the treasury of the soul. There are graces of the Spirit whose formal direct residence is in the understanding and the will, as faith itself, and therein are all other graces radically comprised; they grow from that root. Howbeit, the most of them have their principal residence in the affections. In them are they preserved secure and ready for exercise on all occasions. And when they are duly spiritual, there is nothing that tends to their growth or improvement, to their cherishing or quickening, which they stand in need of continually, and which God hath made provision for in his word, but they readily receive it, lay it up, keep and preserve it. Hereby they come to be filled with grace, with all graces, — for there is room in them for all the graces of the Spirit to inhabit, — and do readily comply with the light and direction of faith unto their exercise. When faith discerns and determines that there is any thing to be done or suffered in a way of duty unto the glory of God, the affections thus disposed do not shut up or stifle the graces that are in them, but carefully offer them unto their proper exercise.
These are some of those things which our affections, conformed unto heavenly things, will attain unto. And thus it is with affections spiritually renewed: by being fixed on things spiritual and heavenly, they are more and more conformed unto them, made like them, and become more spiritual and heavenly themselves.
It is not thus with them whose affections have only an occasional change wrought upon them by the means before described, but are not spiritually renewed; yea, on the contrary, such persons do design to debase spiritual things, to bring down heavenly things into a conformity with their affections, which, however changed, are not spiritual, but carnal. To evince this we may observe, — 1. Their affections are under the light and conduct of such notions in the mind and understanding as do not give a clear, distinct representation of them in their own nature unto them: for where they are not themselves spiritually renewed, there the mind itself is carnal and unrenewed; and such a mind “perceiveth not the things of God, neither can do so, because they are spiritually discerned.” They cannot be discerned aright in their own beauty and glory, but in and by a spiritual, saving light, which the mind is devoid of. And where they are not thus represented, the affections cannot receive or cleave unto them as they ought, nor will ever be conformed unto them. 2. Those notions in such persons are ofttimes variously influenced and corrupted by fancy and imagination. They are merely “puffed up by their fleshly minds;” that is, they are filled with vain, foolish, proud imaginations about spiritual things, as the apostle declares, Colossians 2:18,19. And the work of fancy, in a fleshly mind, is to raise up such images of spiritual things as may render them suitable unto natural, unrenewed affections. 3. This, in the progress of it, produceth superstition, false worship, and idolatry; for they are all of them an attempt to represent spiritual things in a way suited unto carnal, unrenewed affections. Hence men suppose themselves to be excited by them unto love, joy, fear, delight in the things themselves, when they all respect that false representation of them whereby they are suited unto them as carnal. These have been the spring of all false worship and idolatry in the Christian world. 1. The mind and affections have been changed and tinctured with devotion by some of the means we have before insisted on. Herein they will, one way or other, be exercised about spiritual things, and are ready to receive impressions from any thing that superstition can impose upon them. 2. They are, by error and false information, set at liberty from the only rule of their actings and exercise; that is, the word of God. Men satisfied themselves, that so their affections were engaged about things spiritual and heavenly, it was no matter at all whether the way of their exercise was directed by the Scripture or no. Having thus lost their guide and their way, every “ignis fatuus,” every wandering meteor, allures them to follow its conduct into foolish superstitions. Nothing almost is so ridiculous, nothing so horrid and difficult, that they will not embrace under the notion of things spiritual and heavenly. 3. The carnal minds of men, having no proper, distinct apprehensions and notions of spiritual things in their own nature, do endeavor to represent them under such notions and images as may suit them unto their carnal, unrenewed affections; for it is implanted almost indelibly upon them, that the end of all knowledge of spiritual things is to propose them unto the embraces of the affections.
It were easy to manifest that from these three corrupt springs arose that flood of idolatry and false worship which spread itself over the church of Rome, and with whose machinations the minds of men are yet too much replenished. 4. Where it is not thus, yet carnal affections do variously debase spiritual things, to bring them into a conformity with themselves; and this may proceed so far, until men think wickedly that God is altogether like unto themselves. But I shall not insist on these things any farther.
Lastly, Where affections are spiritually renewed, the person of Christ is the center of them; but where they are changed only, they tend unto an end in self. Where the “new man” is put on, “Christ is all, and in all,” Colossians 3:10,11. He is the spring, by his Spirit, that gives them life, light, and being; and he is the ocean that receives all their streams. God, even the Father, presents not himself in his beauty and amiableness as the object of our affections, but as he is in Christ, acting his love in him, 1 John 4:8,9. And as unto all other spiritual things, renewed affections cleave unto them according as they derive from Christ and lead unto him; for he is unto them “all, and in all.” It is he whom the souls of his saints do love for himself, for his own sake, and all other things of religion in and for him.
The air is pleasant and useful, that without which we cannot live or breathe; but if the sun did not enlighten it and warm it with its beams, if it were always one perpetual night and cold, what refreshment could be received by it? Christ is the “Sun of Righteousness,” and if his beams do not quicken, animate, and enlighten, the best, the most necessary duties of religion, nothing desirable would remain in them. This is the most certain character of affections spiritually renewed: They can rest in nothing but in Christ; they fix on nothing but what is amiable by a participation of his beauty; and in whatever he is, therein do they find complacency. It is otherwise with them whose affections may be changed but are not renewed. The truth is, — and it may be made good by all sorts of instances, — that Christ, in the mystery of his person and in the glory of his mediation, is the only thing that they dislike in religion. False representations of him by images and pictures they may embrace and delight in; false notions of his present glory, greatness, and power may affect them; a worship of their own devising they may give unto him, and please themselves in it; corrupt opinions concerning his office and grace may possess their minds, and they may contend for them: but those who are not spiritually renewed cannot love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, yea, they have an inward, secret aversation from the mystery of his person and his grace. It is self which all their affections center in, the ways whereof are too long here to be declared.
This is the first thing that is required to render our affections in such a state and condition as that from and by them we may be spiritually minded, — namely, that they themselves are spiritually and savingly renewed.
The things that remain will admit of a speedy despatch, as I suppose.
CHAPTER 19. [The true notion and consideration of spiritual and heavenly things.] II. THE second thing required that we may be spiritually minded, as unto the interest of our affections therein, is, the object of them about which they are conversant and whereunto they do adhere. What this is materially, or what are the spiritual things which our affections are to be set upon, hath been declared already, under the consideration of the objects of our thoughts and meditations, for they are the same; yea, as hath been intimated, the fixing of our affections upon them is the spring and cause of our thoughts about them. But that which we shall now inquire into is, the true notion and consideration of spiritual and heavenly things, that which renders them the formal, proper object of spiritual affections, and is the reason of their adherence unto them; for, as was intimated before, men may have false notions of spiritual things, under which they may like them and embrace them with unrenewed affections. Wherefore we shall inquire into some of those considerations of heavenly things under which affections spiritually renewed do satisfactorily cleave unto them with delight and complacency. 1. And the first is, that as they comprehend God in Christ, and all other things as deriving from him and tending unto him, they have an infinite beauty, goodness, and amiableness in them, which are powerfully attractive of spiritual affections, and which alone are able to fill them, to satisfy them, to give them rest and acquiescency. Love is the most ruling and prevalent affection in the whole soul; but it cannot be fixed on any object without an apprehension, true or false, of an amiableness and desirableness in it, from a goodness suitable unto all its desires.
And our fear, so far as it is spiritual, hath divine goodness for its object, Hosea 3:5. Unless this be that which draws our hearts unto God and the things of God, in all pretense of love unto him, men do but frame idols to themselves “according to their own understanding,” as the prophet speaks, Hosea 13:2. Wherefore, that our affections may cleave unto spiritual things in a due manner, three things are required: — (1.) That we apprehend and do find a goodness, a beauty, and thence an amiableness and desirableness, in them, Zechariah 9:17. Many pretend to love God and spiritual things, but they know not why. Why they love other things they know well enough, but why they love God they cannot tell. Many are afraid of him, and suppose they ought to love him, and therefore pretend so to do, though indeed they know they do not; they do but flatter him with their lips, when their hearts are far from him. Some are much affected with the benefits and mercies they receive from him, and suppose that they love him on that account; but this love is no other but what the devil falsely charged Job withal, chapter 1:8-11. Some have delight in the outward modes and rites of divine worship, wherewith they satisfy themselves that they love God and spiritual things, when they only please their own imaginations and carnal minds Many have a traditional apprehension that they ought to love God, they know no reason why they should not, they know it will be ill for them if they do not; and these take it for granted that they do. How few are there who have that spiritual discerning and apprehension of the divine excellencies, that view of the excellency of the goodness and love of God in Christ, as thereby alone to be drawn after him, and to delight in him! yet is this the ground of all sincere, real love unto God. Two things are required that we may apprehend an amiable goodness in any thing, and cleave unto it with sincere affection: — [1.] A real worth or excellency in itself; [2.] A suitableness therein unto our condition, state, and desires after rest and blessedness.
The first of these is in God, from what he is in himself; the latter is from what he is unto us in Christ; — from both he is the only suitable object unto our affections. Under this apprehension do we love God for himself, or for his own sake, but not exclusively unto our own advantage therein; for a desire of union and enjoyment, which is our only advantage, is inseparable from this love.
It may be, some cannot say that a distinct apprehension of these things was the first foundation and cause of their love to God; yet are they satisfied that they do love him in sincerity, with all their souls. And I say it may be so. God sometimes casts the skirt of his own love over the heart of a poor sinner, and efficaciously draws it unto himself, without a distinct apprehension of these things, by a mere sense of the love it hath received.
So Elijah passed by Elisha, and cast his mantle upon him, as a transient act; but there was such a communication of virtue thereby that he ran after him, and would not be deferred, though Elijah said, “Go back again; for what have I done to thee?” 1 Kings 19:19,20. When God hath so cast his love on any soul, it follows after him with all its affections. And whereas God may seem at some times to say, “Go back again; for what have I done unto thee?” its answer is, “Lord, whither shall I got I cannot leave thee; my heart is given up unto thee, and shall never be taken from thee.”
But I say unto such, and to all others, that if we would have refreshing evidences of our love unto God that it is sincere, if we would have it thrive and flourish, be fervent and constant, we are to exercise ourselves unto the contemplation of the divine goodness, and the suitableness of it unto our souls, in and by Jesus Christ. Nor can we cleave unto any spiritual thing whatever with sincere affection but under these notions of it: — first, That it hath a real worth or excellency in itself; secondly, That it is suitable and desirable unto us. And it is to be bewailed to see how many walk at random in profession, that know neither what they do nor where they go. (2.) As we must see a goodness and profitableness in spiritual things absolutely, so as that we may fix our affections on them in a due manner, so we must see it comparatively, with respect unto all other things, which gives them a preference in our affections before and above them all. The trial of love lies in the prevailing degree, — on more or less. If we love other things, father, mother, houses, lands, possessions, more than Christ, we do not love him at all. Nor is there any equality allowed in this matter, that we may equally love temporal and spiritual things. If we love not Christ more than all these things, we love him not at all. Wherefore, that our affections may cleave unto them in a due manner, we must see an excellency in things spiritual and heavenly, rendering them more desirable than all other things whatever.
They see that in them which is amiable, which is desirable and suitable unto their affections. Let them pretend what they please, if they see not a greater goodness, that which is more amiable, more desirable, in spiritual things, they love them not in a due manner; it is temporal things that have the rule of their affections. One psalmist prefers “Jerusalem before his chief joy,” <19D706> Psalm 137:6. Another affirms that “the law of God’s mouth was better unto him than thousands of gold and silver,” <19B972> Psalm 119:72. “More to be desired are the statutes of theLORD than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb,” Psalm 19:10. “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it,” Proverbs 8:11.
This is the only stable foundation of all divine affections. A spiritual view and judgment of a goodness, an excellency in them, incomparably above whatever is in the most desirable things of this world, are required thereunto. And if the affections of many pretending highly to them should come to be weighed in this balance, I fear they would be found light and wanting. However, it is the duty of them who would not be deceived in this matter, — which is of eternal importance, — to examine what is that goodness and excellency which is in spiritual things, which they desire in them, upon the account whereof they do sincerely value and esteem them above all things in this world whatever. And let not any deceive themselves with vain words and pretences. Whilst their esteem and valuation of present enjoyments doth evidently engage all their affections, their care, their diligence, their industry, so as that a man of a discerning spirit may even feel them turned into self; whilst they are cold, formal, negligent about spiritual things, — we must say, “How dwelleth the love of God in them?” Much more when we see men not only giving up the whole of their time and strength, with the vigor of their spirits, but sacrificing their consciences also, unto the attaining of dignities, honors, preferments, wealth, and ease in the world, who know in their own hearts that they perform religious duties with respect unto temporal advantages, I cannot conceive how it is possible they should discern and approve of a goodness and excellency in spiritual things above all others. (3.) A due consideration is required hereunto, that all spiritual things do proceed from and are resolved into an infinite Fountain of goodness, so as that our affections may absolutely come unto rest and complacency, and find full assured satisfaction in them. It is otherwise as unto all temporal things. Men would very fain have them to be such as might give absolute rest and satisfaction unto all their affections; but they are every one of them so far from it that all of them together cannot compose their minds in rest and peace for one hour. They give sometimes a transport of affections, and seem for a season to have filled the whole soul, so as it hath no leisure to consider their emptiness and vanity: but a little composure of men’s thoughts shows that they are but a diversion in a journey or labor; they are no rest. Hence are they called “broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Let a man prize them at the highest rate that it is possible for a rational creature to be seduced into the thoughts of, whereof there have been prodigious instances; let him possess them in abundance, beyond what ever any man enjoyed in this world or his own imagination could beforehand reach unto; let him be assured of the utmost peaceable continuance in the enjoyment of them that his and their natures are capable of, — yet would he not dare to pretend that all his affections were filled and satisfied with them, that they afforded him perfect rest and peace.
But all spiritual things derive from and lead unto that which is infinite; which is therefore able to fill all our affections, and to give them full satisfaction with rest and peace. They all lead us to the Fountain of living waters, the eternal Spring of goodness and blessedness I do not say that our affections do attain unto this full rest and satisfaction in this life; but what they come short of herein ariseth not from any defect in the things themselves to give this rest and satisfaction, as it is with the whole world, but from the weakness of our affections themselves, which are in part only renewed, and cannot take in the full measures of divine goodness, which in another world they will receive. But whilst we are here, the more we receive them in our minds and souls, the more firmly we adhere unto them, the nearer approaches we make unto our rest and center. 2. Spiritual things are to be considered as they are filled with divine wisdom. I speak not of God himself, whose essential wisdom is one of the most amiable excellencies of his holy nature, but of all the effects of his will and grace by Jesus Christ. All spiritual truths, all spiritual and heavenly things, whereby God reveals and communicates himself unto the souls of men, and all the ways and means of our approach unto him in faith and obedience through Christ Jesus, I now intend. All these are filled with divine wisdom. See 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:10, 1:8,9.
Now, wisdom in itself and in all the effects of it is attractive of rational affections. Most men are brutish in them and their actings, for the most part pouring them out on things fleshly, sensual, and carnal; but where they are at all reduced under the conduct of reason, nothing is so attractive of them, so suited unto them, which they delight in, as that which hath at least an appearance of wisdom. A wise and good man doth command the affections of others; unless it be their interest to hate and oppose him, as commonly it is. And where there is true wisdom in the conduct of civil affairs, sober men cannot but approve of it, like it, delight in it; and men of understanding do bewail the loss of it, since craft, falsehood, treachery, and all sorts of villany, have driven it out of the world. So is divine wisdom attractive of divine, gracious affections. The psalmist declares his admiration of and delight in the works of God, because he hath “made them all in wisdom,” <19A424> Psalm 104:24. Those characters of divine wisdom which are upon them, which they are filled with, draw the souls of men into a delightful contemplation of them. But all the treasures, all the glory of this wisdom are laid up and laid forth in the great spiritual things of the gospel, in the mystery of God in Christ, and the dispensation of his grace and goodness unto us by him. The consideration hereof fills the souls of believers with holy admiration and delight, and thereon they cleave unto them with all their affections. When we see there is light in them, and all other things are in darkness, that wisdom is in them, in them alone, and all other things are filled with vanity and folly, then are our souls truly affected with them, and do rejoice in them with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
And therefore is the mystery of the gospel despised by them; they can see neither form nor comeliness in it for which it should be desired. Nor will ever any man have sincere spiritual affections unto spiritual things who hath not a spiritual view of the wisdom of God in them.
This is that which attracts our souls by holy admiration unto unspeakable delight. And the reason why men do so generally decline from any love unto the gospel, and lose all satisfaction in the mystery of it, is because they are not able to discern that infinite wisdom which is the spring, life, and soul of it. When our minds are raised unto the admiration of this wisdom in divine revelations, then will our affections cleave unto the things that are revealed. 3. The acting of our affections in their adherence unto spiritual things is perfective of our present state and condition. That which of all other things doth most debase the nature of man, wherein it makes the nearest approaches unto brutality, yea, whereby it becomes in some respects more vile than the nature of beasts, is the giving up of the affections unto things sensual, unclean, base, and unworthy of its more noble principles. Hence are men said to “debase themselves unto hell,” Isaiah 57:9. And their affections do become vile, so as that their being under the power of them is an effect of revenging justice, punishing men for the worst of sins, Romans 1:26. There is nothing more vile, nothing more contemptible, nothing more like to beasts in baseness and to hell in punishment, than is the condition of them who have enslaved their nature unto brutish, sensual affections. I say, vile affections, fixed on and cleaving unto sensual objects, do debase the nature of man, and do both corrupt and enslave all the more noble faculties of it; the very consciences and minds of men are defiled by them. If you see a man whose affections are set inordinately on any thing here below, it is easy to discern how he goes off from his native worth, and debaseth himself therein.
But the fixing of spiritual affections on spiritual objects is perfective of our present state and condition; not that we can attain perfection by it, but that therein our souls are in a progress towards perfection. This may be granted. Look, how much vile affections, fixed on and furiously pursuing things carnal and sensual, do debase our nature beneath its rational constitution, and make it degenerate into bestiality; so much spiritual affections, fixed on and cleaving unto things spiritual and heavenly, do exalt our nature above its mere natural capacity, making an approach unto the state of angels and of just men made perfect. And as brutish affections, when they have the reins, as they say, on their necks, and are pursued with delight and greediness, do darken the mind, and disturb all the rational powers of the soul (for “whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart,” as the prophet speaks, and wickedness altereth the understanding): so holy affections fixed on spiritual things do elevate, raise, and enlighten the mind with true wisdom and understanding; for the “fear of theLORD, that is wisdom, and to depart from iniquity, that is understanding.’’ And again, as the power of vile affections fills the soul and conscience with tumult, disorder, fear, and shame, where men are not utterly profligate, so as that the minds, thoughts, and consciences of persons under their power is a very hell for confusion and troubles: so spiritual affections, duly exercised on their proper objects, do preserve all things in order in the whole soul; they are life and peace. All things are quiet and secure in the mind; there is order and peace in the whole soul, in all its faculties and all their operations, whilst the affections are in a due prevailing manner fixed upon the things that are above. Hence many persons, after great turmoilings in the world, after they have endeavored by all means to come to rest and satisfaction therein, have utterly renounced all concernment in earthly things, and betaken themselves unto the contemplation of things above, and that only. Many of them, I confess, were mistaken as to the practical part of their devotions, having various superstitions imposed on their minds by the craft of others; but they missed it not in the principle that tranquility of mind was attainable only in setting our affections on things above. James 4:1, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” — “Whence are all the disorders in your minds, your vexations and disquietments, your passions, breaking forth sometimes into unseemly brawlings? are they not from hence,” (the question is put unto yourselves and your own consciences,) “namely, from your lusts, — that is, the disorderly affections that tumultuate in you? Do but search yourselves, and you will quickly see whence all your troubles and disquietments do arise. Your lusts, or corrupt and inordinate affections, do war in you, continually inclining you to things earthly or sensual.” Hence many are best and most at quiet when they are in the world, worst when at home in their families; but never are they in such confusion as when they are forced to retire into themselves.
The due exercise of our affections on heavenly things hath quite another tendency and effect. It so unites the mind unto them, it so bringeth them unto it, and gives them such a subsistence in it, as that all the powers and faculties of it are in a progress towards their perfection. See <470701> Corinthians 7:1. True wisdom and understanding, with soundness of judgment in eternal things in the mind, holiness in the affections themselves, liberty in the will, power in the heart, and peace in the conscience, do in their measures all ensue hereon. Whatever tastes we may have of these things, whatever temporary experience we have of them, they will not flourish in us, they will not abide with us in any constancy, unless we are thus spiritually minded. 4. In the future enjoyment of the present objects of our spiritual affections doth our eternal blessedness consist. All men who are convinced of a future eternal condition do desire, when they depart hence, to enter into blessedness and glory. Howbeit, what that blessedness is, even as unto the general nature of it, they know nothing at all; and if they did, they would not know how to desire it: for heaven or blessedness is nothing but the full enjoyment of what we are here to love and delight in above all, of that which is the object of our affections as spiritually renewed Herein have they neither interest nor concern. But this is that which giveth life unto the affections of believers; they know that in the enjoyment of God in Christ their eternal blessedness doth consist. How this is their happiness and glory, how it will give them an everlasting, overflowing satisfaction and rest, they understand in the first-fruits of it which they here receive. And this is the ultimate object of their affections in this world, and they go forth unto all other spiritual things in order hereunto. The more, therefore, their affections are fixed on them, the more they are kept up unto that due exercise, the nearer approaches they make unto this blessed state. When their minds are possessed with this persuasion, when it is confirmed in them by daily experience of that sweetness, rest, and satisfaction, which they find in cleaving unto God with fervent love and delight, in vain shall any other objects rise up in competition to draw them off unto themselves.
The more we love God, the more like we are unto him, and the more near the enjoyment of him.
CHAPTER 20. [The application of the soul unto spiritual objects.] III. HAVING considered the nature of spiritual affections as renewed by grace, and those notions of their objects under which they cleave unto them, it remains only that we inquire into the way of the soul’s application of itself unto those objects by its affections, which belongs also unto our being spiritually minded; and I shall give an account hereof in some few particulars, with brief observations on them: — 1. It is required that our adherence unto all spiritual things with love and delight be firm and stable. The affections are the powers and instruments of the soul, whereby it makes application unto any thing without itself, and cleaves unto it. This is their nature and use with reference unto things spiritual. Transient thoughts of spiritual things, with vanishing desires, may rise out of present convictions, as they did with them who cried out unto our Savior, “Lord, evermore give us this bread,” and immediately left him. Such occasional thoughts and desires axe common unto all sorts of men, yea, the worst of them: “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” Fading satisfaction, with joy and delight, do often befall men in their attendance on the word, who yet never come to have it rooted in their hearts.
There are sundry things wanting unto the sincerity of these affections: — (1.) Those in whom they are never had a clear spiritual view of the things themselves in their own nature which they pretend to be affected withal. (2.) They have not a sincere love unto them and delight in them for their own sakes, but are only affected with some outward circumstances and concernments of them. (3.) They find not a suitableness in them unto the ruling principles of their minds. They do not practically, they cannot truly say, “The yoke of Christ is easy, and his burden is light; his commandments are not grievous;” or, with the psalmist, “O how love I thy law!” (4.) Their affections are transient, unstable, vanishing, as unto their exercise and operations. They are on and off; now pleased and anon displeased; earnest for a little while, and then cold and indifferent. Hence the things which they seem to affect have no transforming efficacy upon their souls; they dwell not in them in their power.
But where our affections unto spiritual things are sincere, where they are the true, genuine application of the soul and adherence unto them, they are firm and stable; love and delight are kept up unto such a constant exercise as renders them immovable. This is that which we are exhorted unto, Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Transient affections, with their occasional operations, deceive multitudes; ofttimes they are as pregnant in their actions as those that are most sincere; and many effects, in joys, in mournings, in complaints, they will produce, especially when excited by any outward affliction, sickness, and the like; — but their goodness is like the early cloud or morning dew. Let none, therefore, please themselves with the operations of transient affections with respect unto spiritual things, be they never so urgent, or so pleasant, or so frequent in their returns; those that are sincere are at all times firm and stable. 2. That the soul do find a spiritual relish and savor in the things which it so adheres unto. The affections are the palate of the soul, whereby it tastes of all things which it receiveth or refuseth, and it will not long cleave unto any thing which they find not a savor and relish in. Something was spoken before of that sweetness which is in spiritual things, and the taste of them consists in a gracious sense of their suitableness unto the affections, inclinations, and dispositions of the mind. Hence they have no relish unto men of carnal minds. Whoever, therefore, would know whether his affections do sincerely adhere unto spiritual things, let him examine what relish, what sweetness, what savor he findeth in them. When he is pleased with them, as the palate with suitable and proper food, when he finds that he receives nourishment by them in the inward man, then doth he adhere unto them in a due manner.
This spiritual taste is the ground of all experience. It is not what we have heard or understood only, but what we have tried and tasted, whereof we have experience. This makes us long for what we have formerly enjoyed, and strengthens faith as unto what we pray for and expect In every darkness, in every damp of spirit, under every apprehension of deadness, or the withdrawing of the sense of divine love, the soul knoweth what it wants and what it doth desire. “Oh!” saith such an one, “that it were now with me as in former days. I know he who then gave me such refreshing tastes of his own goodness, who made every thing of himself sweet and pleasant unto me, can renew this work of his grace towards me; he can give me a new spiritual appetite and relish, he can make all spiritual things savory unto me again.”
As a man under a languishing sickness, or when he is chastened with strong pain, so as that his soul abhorreth bread and his daily meat, can remember what appetite he had, with what gust and relish he was wont to take in his food in the days of his health, which makes him to know that there is such a condition, and to desire a return unto it; so is it with a sin-sick soul. It can find no relish, no gust, no sweetness, in spiritual things; he finds no savor in the bread of the word, nor any refreshment in the ordinances of the gospel, which yet in themselves are daily meat, “a feast of fat things, and of wine well refined:” yet doth it remember former days, when all these things were sweet unto him; and if he have any spark of spiritual life yet remaining, it will stir him up to seek with all diligence after a recovery.
How is it with you who are now under spiritual decays, who find no taste or relish in spiritual things, unto whom the word is not savory, nor other ordinances powerful? Call to mind how it hath been with you in former days, and what ye found in these things: “If so be,” saith the apostle, “that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” If you have not, it is to be feared that you have never yet had the least sincere love unto spiritual things; for where that is, it will give a spiritual relish of them. If you have, how is it you can give yourselves rest one moment without an endeavor after the healing of your blacksliding? 3. It is required that our affections be so set on spiritual things as to be a continual spring of spiritual thoughts and meditations. No man can be so forsaken of reason as to suppose that he hath any sincere affection for what he thinks little on or not at all, or that he can have a true affection for any thing which will not stir up and ingenerate in him continual thoughts about it. Let men try themselves as unto their relations, or their enjoyments, or the objects of their predominant lusts, and they will find how things are stated in their own minds. And, therefore, whereas all men pretend to love God, and Christ, and the ways of God, and yet know in their own hearts that they little think of them or meditate upon them, both their pretense and religion is vain. Where our affections are duly placed on heavenly things, so as that we are indeed spiritually minded, they will be a constant spring of spiritual thoughts and meditations. But this also hath been before spoken unto. 4. When our affections are thus applied unto spiritual things, they will be prevalent and victorious against solicitations unto the contrary, or allurements to draw them off unto any other objects. The work of all our spiritual adversaries is to solicit and tempt our affections, to divert them from their proper object. There are some temptations of Satan that make an immediate impression on the mind and conscience. Such are his injection of diabolical, blasphemous thoughts concerning God, his being, nature, and will; and the distresses which he reduceth men unto in their consciences through darkness and misrepresentations of God and his goodness. But the high road and constant practice of all our spiritual adversaries, is by the solicitation of our affections unto objects that are in themselves, or in the degree of our affection towards them, evil and sinful. Of the first are all sensual pleasures of the flesh, as drunkenness, uncleanness, gluttony, chambering and wantonness, with all sorts of sensual pleasures. Of the latter is all our inordinate love unto self, our families, and the whole world, or the things of it. Unto this end every thing in the whole world that may make provision for lust is made use of. Herein consists the nature and efficacy of most of those temptations which we have to conflict withal.
Solicitations they are of our affections, to draw them off from things spiritual and heavenly and to divert them unto other things. Hereby do our enemies endeavor to beguile us, as the serpent beguiled Eve, with fair and false representations of other beloveds, that our hearts be not preserved as a chaste virgin in all their affections for Christ.
And it is almost incredible how apt we are to be beguiled by the specious pretenses wherewith we are solicited.
That our affections, in the degree treated about, — suppose of love unto the world and the things of it, — are lawful and allowable, is one of the sophisms and artifices wherewith many are deluded. Hereon, provided they run not out into scandalous excesses, they approve of themselves in such a worldly frame of mind, and acting according unto it, as renders them fruitless, useless, senseless, and is inconsistent with that prevailing adherence of affections unto spiritual things that ought to be in us. Others are deluded by a pretense that it is in one instance only they would be spared; it is but this or that object they would give out the embraces of the affections unto, in all other things they will be entire for God: the vanity of which pretense we have spoken unto before. Others are ruined by giving place unto their solicitations with respect unto any one affection whatever; as suppose it be that of fear. In times of danger for profession, multitudes have lost all their affection unto spiritual things through a fear of losing that which is temporal, as their lives, their liberties, their goods, and the like. When once Satan and the world have gotten, as it were, the mastery of this affection, or a prevalent interest in it, they will not fail to draw all others into a defection from Christ and the gospel. “He that loveth his life shall lose it.”
Wherefore, it is no ordinary nor easy thing to preserve our affections pure, entire, and steady, in their vigorous adherence unto spiritual things, against all these solicitations. Watchfulness, prayer, faith in exercise, and a daily examination of ourselves, are required hereunto. For want of a due attendance unto these things, and that with respect unto this end, — namely, the preservation of our spiritual affections in their integrity, — many, even before they are aware, die away as to all power and vigor of spiritual life. 5. Affections thus fixed upon things spiritual and heavenly will give great relief against the remainders of that vanity of mind which believers themselves are ofttimes perplexed withal; yea, I do not know any thing that is a greater burden unto them, nor which they more groan for deliverance from. The instability of the mind, its readiness to receive impressions from things vain and useless, the irregularity of their thoughts, are a continual burden unto many. Nothing can give the soul any relief herein, nothing can give bounds unto the endless variety of foolish imaginations, nothing can dry up the springs from whence they arise, or render the soil wherein they grow barren as unto their production and maintenance, but only the growth of spiritual affections, with their continual vigorous actings on heavenly things; for hereby the heart and mind will be so united unto them (that which the psalmist prays for, Psalm 86:11), as that they will not be ready to depart from them, and give entertainment unto vain, empty, foolish imaginations. Thoughts of other things, greater and better than what this world can contain, will be continually arising in the mind, not to be laid aside by any solicitations of vanity: for he that is wise cannot but know and consider that the spiritual things which it exerciseth its thoughts about have substance in them, are durable, profitable, always the same; that the advantage, peace, rest, riches, and reward of the soul, lieth in them; but other imaginations, which the foolish mind is apt to give entertainment unto, are vain, empty, fruitless, and such as end in shame and trouble.
Again; the vanity of the mind in an indulgence unto foolish imaginations ariseth from, or is animated and increased by, that gust and relish which it finds in earthly things and enjoyment of them, whether lawful or unlawful.
Hence on all occasions, yea, in holy duties, it will be ready to turn aside and take a taste of them, and sometimes to take up with them: like a tippling traveler, who, though he be engaged in a journey on the most earnest occasion, yet he cannot but be bibbing here and there as he passes by, and it may be, at length, before he comes to his journey’s end, lodgeth himself in a nasty ale-house. When men are engaged in important duties, yet if they always carry about them a strong gust and relish of earthly things, they will ever and anon in their thoughts divert unto them, either as unto such real objects as they are accustomed unto, or as unto what present circumstances do administer unto corrupt affections, or as to what they fancy and create in their own minds; and sometimes, it may be, after they have made them a few short visits, they take up with them, and lose wholly the work they were engaged in. Nothing, as was said, will give relief herein but the vigorous and constant exercise of our affections on heavenly things; for this will insensibly take off that gust and relish which the mind hath found in things present, earthly, and sensual, and make them as a sapless thing unto the whole soul They will so place the cross of Christ, in particular, on the heart as that the world shall be crucified unto it, losing all that brightness, beauty, and savor, which it made use of to solicit our minds unto thoughts and desires about it.
Moreover, this frame of spirit alone will keep us on our watch against all those ways and means whereby the vanity of the mind is excited and maintained. Such are the wandering and roving of the outward senses. The senses, especially that of the eye, are ready to become purveyors to make provision for the vanity and lusts of the mind. Hence the psalmist prays, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” If the eyes rove after vain objects the mind will ruminate upon them. And another affirms that he had “made a covenant with his eyes,” to preserve them from fixing on such objects as might solicit lust or corrupt affections. And it were a useful labor, would this place admit of it, to discover the ready serviceableness of the outward senses and members of the body unto sin and folly, if not watched against, Romans 6:13,19. Of the same nature is the incessant working of the fancy and imagination, which of itself is evil continually and all the day long. This is the food of a vain mind, and the vehicle or means of conveyance for all temptations from Satan and the world.
Wherever our affections are fixed on spiritual things, our mind will constantly be under a warning or charge to keep diligent watch against all those things whereby that vanity which it so abhorreth, which it is so burdened withal, is maintained and excited. Nor without this prevalency in the mind will ever a work of mortification be carried on in the soul, Colossians 3:2,4,5.
CHAPTER -[Spiritual mindedness life and peace.’] HAVING declared wherein this duty of being “spiritually minded” doth consist, that which remains, in compliance with the text from whence the whole is educed, is to manifest how it is “life and peace,” which is affirmed by the apostle. This shall be done with all brevity, as having passed through that which was principally designed.
And two things are we to inquire into: — I. What is meant by “life and peace.” II. In what sense to be “spiritually minded” is both of them.
I. 1. That spiritual life whereof we are made partakers in this world is threefold, or there are three gospel privileges or graces so expressed: — (1.) There is the life of justification. Therein the just by faith do live, as freed from the condemnatory sentence of the law. So “the righteousness of one cometh” on all that believe “unto justification of life,” Romans 5:18.
It gives unto believers a right and title to life; for “they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Christ Jesus,” verse 17. This is not the life here intended, for this life depends solely on the sovereign grace of God by Jesus Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness unto us, unto pardon, the right to life and salvation. (2.) There is a life of sanctification. As life in the foregoing sense is opposed unto death spiritual as unto the guilt of it and the condemnatory sentence of death wherewith it was accompanied, so in this it is opposed unto it as unto its internal power on and efficacy in the soul, to keep it under an impotency unto all acts of spiritual life, yea, an enmity against them. This is that life wherewith we are “quickened” with Christ Jesus, when before we were “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1-5. Of this life the apostle treats directly in this place [Romans 8]; for having in the first four verses of the chapter declared the life of justification in the nature and causes of it, in the following he treats of death spiritual in sin, with the life of sanctification, whereby we are freed from it.
And to be spiritually minded is this life in a double sense: — [1.] In that it is the principal effect and fruit of that life. The life itself consists in the infusion and communication of a principle of life, — that is, of faith and obedience, — into all the faculties and powers of our soul, enabling us to live unto God. To be spiritually minded, which is a grace whereunto many duties do concur, and that not only as to the actings of all grace in them, but as unto the degree of their exercise, cannot be this life formally; but it is that wherein the power of this principle of life doth in the first and chiefest place put forth itself. All actings of grace, all duties of obedience, internal and external, do proceed from this spring and fountain.
Nothing of that kind is acceptable unto God but what is influenced by it and is an effect of it. But it principally puts forth its virtue and efficacy in rendering our minds spiritual; which if it effect not, it works not at all, — that is, we are utterly destitute of it. The next and immediate work of the principle of life in our sanctification is to renew the mind, to make it spiritual, and thereon gradually to carry it on unto that degree which is here called being spiritually minded. [2.] It is the proper adjunct and evidence of it. Would any one know whether he be spiritually alive unto God with the life of sanctification and holiness? The communication of it unto him being by an almighty act of creating power, Ephesians 2:10, it is not easily discernible, so as to help us to make a right judgment of it from its essence or form; but where things are themselves indiscernible, we may know them from their proper and inseparable adjuncts, which are therefore called by the names of the essence or the form itself. Such is this being spiritually minded with respect unto the life of sanctification; it is an inseparable property and adjunct of it, whereby it infallibly evidenceth itself unto them in whom it is, In these two respects it is the life of sanctification. (3.) “Life” is taken for the comforts and refreshments of life. So speaks the apostle, 1 Thessalonians 3:8, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord;” — “ Now our life will do us good; we have the comforts, the refreshments, and the joys of it.” “Non est vivere, sed valere vita.” The comforts and satisfactions of life are more life than life itself. It is “life;” that is, that which makes life to be so, bringing in that satisfaction, those refreshments unto it, which make it pleasant and desirable. And I do suppose this is that which is principally intended in the words of the apostle. It is “life,” a cheerful joyous life, a life worth the living. In explication and confirmation whereof it is added that it is “peace” also. 2. “Peace” is twofold: — (1.) General and absolute; that is, peace with God through Jesus Christ, which is celebrated in the Scripture, and which is the only original spring and fountain of all consolation unto believers, — that which virtually contains in it every thing that is good, useful, or desirable unto them. But it is not here precisely intended. It is not so as to the immediate ground and cause of it, which is our justification, not our sanctification: Romans 5:1, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” So Christ alone is “our peace,” as he who hath “made peace through the blood of his cross,” Ephesians 2:14,15, Colossians 1:20. Hereof our being spiritually minded is no way the cause or reason; only it is an evidence and pledge of it, as we shall see. [Nor is it so] as unto the formal nature of it. Peace with God through the blood of Christ is one thing, and peace in our minds through a holy frame in them is another. The former is communicated unto us by an immediate act of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, Romans 5:5; the latter is an effect on our minds, begun and gradually carried on by the duties we have before at large declared. The immediate actings of the Holy Spirit, in sealing us, witnessing unto our adoption, and being an earnest of glory, are required unto the former; our own sedulity and diligence in duties, and in the exercise of all grace, are required unto the latter. (2.) “Peace” is taken for a peculiar fruit of the Spirit, consisting in a gracious quietness and composure of mind in the midst of difficulties, temptations, troubles, and such other things as are apt to fill us with fears, despondencies, and disquietments. This is that which keeps the soul in its own power, free from transports by fears or passions, on all the abiding grounds of gospel consolation; for although this be a peculiar especial grace, yet it is that which is influenced and kept alive by the consideration of all the love of God in Christ, and all the fruits of it.
And whereas “peace” includes, in the first notion of it, an inward freedom from oppositions and troubles, which those in whom it is are outwardly exposed unto, there are two things from which we are secured by this peace, which is an effect of being spiritually minded: — [1.] The first is offenses. There is nothing of whose danger we are more warned in the gospel than of offenses. “Woe to the world,” saith the Savior, “because of offenses!” All ages, all times and seasons, are filled with them, and they prove pernicious and destructive to the souls of many. Such are the scandalous divisions that are among Christians. The endless differences of opinions and diversity of practices in religion and the worship of God; the falls and sins of professors, the fearful end of some of them; the reproaches that are cast on all that engage into any peculiar way of holiness and strictness of life; with other things of the like nature, — whereby the souls of innumerable persons are disquieted, subverted, or infected, — are to be reckoned unto this head. Against any hurtful or noxious influence on our minds from these things, against disquietments, dejections of spirit, and disconsolations, are we secured by this peace. So the psalmist assures us: <19B9165> Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”
The law, or the word of God, is the only way of the revelation of God and his will unto us, and the only outward way and rule of our converse and communion with him. Wherefore, to love the law is the principal part of our being heavenly minded, yea, virtually that which comprehends the whole. To such as do so, nothing, none of those things before mentioned, nor any other of the like nature, shall be an offense, a stumbling-block, or cause of falling into sin. And the reason is, because they have such an experience in themselves of the truth, power, efficacy, and holiness, of the gospel, as that the miscarriages of men under a profession of it shall never be unto them an occasion of falling, or being offended at Christ. And I look upon it as a sign of a very evil frame of heart, when men are concerned in the miscarriages of some that have made profession, whereby they are, it may be, damaged in their outward concerns, so as that they are surprised into reflections on that religion which they profess, professing the same themselves. [2.] The second is afflictions, persecutions, and sufferings of all sorts. It is known by all (it were well if it were not so well known) what disquietments, dejections, and disconsolations, these things are apt to fill the minds of men withal; what fears, troubles, sorrows, they reflect upon them. Against all these effects of them, this peace intended gives us security. It makes us to preserve a peaceable, yea, a joyous life in our conflict with them. See John 16:33.
Both these, as here joined together, “life and peace,” do comprise a holy frame of heart and mind, wherein the souls of believers do find rest, quietness, refreshment, and satisfaction in God, in the midst of temptations, afflictions, offenses, and sufferings. It is the soul’s composure of itself in God, in his love in Christ Jesus, so as not greatly to be put out of order, or to be cast down with any thing that may befall it, but affords men cheerfulness and satisfaction in themselves, though they walk sometimes in the valley of the shadow of death. Such persons have that in them, abiding with them, which will give them life and peace under all occurrences.
II. Our next inquiry is, how this “spiritual mindedness” is “life and peace,” or what it contributes unto them, how it produceth the frame of heart and mind so expressed. And this it doth several ways: — 1. It is the only means on our part of retaining a sense of divine love. The love of God, in a gracious sense of it, as shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is the first and only foundation of all durable comforts, such as will support and refresh us under all oppositions and distresses, — that is, of life and peace in our souls, in any condition. This God communicates by an act of sovereign grace, for the most part without any preparation for it in ourselves: “He createth the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace.” But although divine love be in itself unchangeable and always the same, yet this sense of it may be lost, as it was in David, when he prayed that God would “restore unto him the joy of his salvation,” Psalm 51:12; and so many others have found it by woful experience. To insist upon all that is required on our part that we may retain a gracious, refreshing sense of divine love, after it is once granted unto us, belongs not unto my present purpose; but this I say, there is not any thing wherein we are more concerned to be careful and diligent in than as unto what belongs to that end. For men who, by a mere act of sovereign grace, have tasted herein of the goodness of God, who have had the consolation and joys of it, to be negligent in the keeping and preserving it in their souls, is a provocation that they will at one time or other be sensible of. There is nothing doth more grieve the Holy Spirit than to have his especial work, whereby he seals us unto the day of redemption, neglected or despised; and it argues a mighty prevalency of some corruption or temptation that shall cause men willingly and by their own sloth to forfeit so inestimable a grace, mercy, and privilege; and it is that which there are but few of us who have not reason to bewail our folly in. Every intimation of divine love is an inestimable jewel, which, if safely treasured up in our hearts, adds unto our spiritual riches; and being lost will at one time or another affect us with sorrow.
And I am afraid that many of us are very negligent herein, unto the great prejudice of our souls and spiritual state. Many of such intimations are given us by the Holy Ghost through the word, which we take little notice of. Either we know not the voice of Christ in them, or do not hearken unto him in a due manner, or refuse a compliance with him, when we cannot but know that he speaks unto us. See Song of Solomon 5:2,3. Or if we receive any impressions of a gracious sense of divine love in them, we quickly lose them, not knowing how much the life of our souls is concerned therein, and what use of them we may have in our following temptations, trials, and duties.
Now, the great means of retaining a sense of the love of God, which is the only spring of life and peace unto our souls, is this grace and duty of being spiritually minded. This is evident from the very nature of the duty; for, — (1.) It is the soul’s preserving of itself in a frame meet to receive and retain this sense of God’s love. What other way can there be on our part, but that our minds, which are so to receive it and retain it, be spiritual and heavenly, always prepared for that holy converse and communion with himself which he is pleased to grant us through Jesus Christ. And, — (2.) It will fix our thoughts and affections upon the grace and love of God, in communicating such an inestimable mercy unto us as is a sense of his love; which is the only means for the preservation of a relish of it in our hearts. He who is in this frame of mind will remember, call over, and ruminate upon, all such gracious pledges of divine favor, as David is often remembering and calling over what he received in such places as in the “land of the Hermonites and at the hill Mizar,” Psalm 42. This is the great way whereby this treasure may be preserved. (3.) A person so minded, and he alone, will have a due valuation of such intimations and pledges of divine love. Those who are full of other things, whose affections cleave unto them, do never esteem heavenly mercies and privileges as they ought. “The full soul loatheth an honey-comb.” And God is well pleased when a high valuation is put upon his kindness, as he is greatly provoked by the contrary frame; which, indeed, nothing but infinite patience could bear withal. It is a high provocation of God, when men are regardless of and unthankful for outward, temporal mercies, — when they receive them and use them as if they were their own, that they were lords of them, at least that they are due unto them. Much more is he provoked with our regardlessness of the least of those mercies which are the peculiar purchase of the blood of his Son, and the effects of his eternal love and grace. He alone who is spiritually minded valueth, prizeth, and lays up these inestimable jewels in a due manner. (4.) Such persons only know how to use and improve all communications of a sense of divine love. These things are not granted unto us to lie by us without any use of them. They are gracious provisions wherewith we are furnished to enable us unto all other duties, conflicts, and trials. On all occasions are they to be called over for our spiritual relief and encouragement. Hereby are they safely retained: for in the due improvement of them they grow more bright in our minds every day, and are ready for use; in which posture they are safely preserved. But these things will yet be farther manifest in the instances that ensue. 2. This frame of mind casts out all principles and causes of trouble and disquietment, which are inconsistent with life and peace. There are in us by nature principles of contrariety and opposition unto spiritual life and peace, with sundry things whose abode and prevalency in us is inconsistent with them. I shall give only one or two instances hereof: — (1.) It will cast out all “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” from our minds. Without this we can receive no benefit by the means of grace, nor perform any duty in a right manner, James 1:27. This is that which stands in direct, immediate opposition and contrariety unto our being spiritually minded, so as they can have no consistency in the same person; and they expel one another like heat and cold. And where there is this “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness,” there is neither life nor peace.
Unclean lusts of the flesh or of the spirit, working, tumultuating, acting themselves in the minds of men, will not suffer either the life of holiness to flourish in them or any solid peace to abide with them. The soul is weakened by them as unto all spiritual actings, and made like “the troubled sea, that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Where they are absolutely predominant, there is a hell within of darkness, confusion, and enmity against God, preparing men for a hell of punishment without unto eternity. And according as they remain or have any prevalency in us, so are spiritual life and peace impaired and obstructed by them. Now, the very nature of this grace and its universal exercise is suited to the casting out of all the relics of this “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.” It brings in a principle into the mind directly contrary unto that from whence they do proceed. All the actings of it which we have described lie in direct tendency unto the extirpation of these causes of filthiness which ruin life and peace; nor will they by any other way be cast out. If the mind be not spiritual, it will be carnal; if it mind not things above, it will fix itself inordinately on things below. (2.) That disorder which is by nature in the affections and passions of the mind, which is directly opposite unto spiritual life and peace, is cast out or cured hereby. It is a blessed promise of the times of the new testament, of the kingdom and rule of Christ, that, through the efficacy of gospel grace, “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,” Isaiah 11:6.
Persons of the most intemperate and outrageous passions shall be made meek and lowly. Where this is not in some measure effected, according unto the degrees of the prevalency of such passions in us, we have not been made partakers of evangelical grace. It were an easy task to demonstrate how the disorder of our affections and passions is destructive of spiritual life and peace. The contrariety that is in them, and contradiction unto one another, their violence, impetuousness, and restlessness, their readiness to receive and take in provocations on all occasions, and frequently on none at all but what imagination presents unto them, are sufficient evidences hereof.
Can we think that life and peace do inhabit that soul wherein anger, wrath, envy, excess in love unto earthly things, do dwell, and on all occasions exert themselves? there where there is a continual tumult, fighting, and rebellion, as there is where the passions of the mind are not under the conduct of reason or of grace?
The nature and principal effect of this spiritual mindedness is, to bring all the affections and passions of our minds into that holy order wherein they were created. This was that uprightness wherein God made us, — namely, the whole blessed order of all the powers, faculties, and affections of our souls, in all their operations, in order unto our living unto God. And this is restored unto us by this grace, this duty of being spiritually minded. And wherein it falls short of that perfection which we had originally (for the remainders of that disorder which befell us by sin will still in part continue), it is recompensed by the actings of that new principle of gospel grace which is exercised in it; for every act of our affections towards God in the power of grace exceeds, and is of another nature, above that we could do or attain unto in the state of nature uncorrupted. Hereby are life and peace brought into our souls, and preserved in them. 3. It is that whereby our hearts and minds are taken off from the world, and all inordinate love thereunto. Where this is in a prevalent degree, there is neither life nor peace; and every excess in it both weakens spiritual life and disturbs, yea, destroys, all solid spiritual peace. I have occasionally spoken unto it before, as also of the way whereby our minding of the things that are above in a due manner doth deliver and preserve our souls from the snares of it. And if we diligently examine ourselves, we shall find that, in our inordinate affections and cleaving unto these things, the principal causes why we thrive no more in the power of spiritual life, and whence we meet with so many disquietments and dejections of spirit, unto the disturbance of our peace and rest in God, are from hence; for there is no grace which is not impaired by it in its nature, or not obstructed by it in its exercise. Wherefore, “to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” because it subdues and expels that inordinate love unto present things which is destructive of them both and inconsistent with them. 4. It preserves the mind in a due and holy frame in the performance of all other duties. This also is indispensably required unto the preservation of life and peace, especially unto the improvement of them. They will not abide, much less thrive and flourish, in any persons who are negligent in holy duties, or do not perform them in a due manner. And there are four things which impede or hinder us from such an attendance unto holy duties as may be advantageous unto our souls, against all which we have relief by being spiritually minded: — Distractions; Despondencies; Weariness; Unreadiness of grace for exercise. (1.) Distraction of mind and thoughts hath this evil effect, which many complain of, but few take the right way of deliverance from; for this evil will not be cured by attendance unto any particular directions, without a change of the whole frame of our minds. Nothing can give us relief herein but a prevalent delight in being exercised about things spiritual and heavenly. For hence arise all our distractions; the want of fixing our minds on spiritual things with delight makes them obnoxious to be diverted from them on all occasions, yea, to seek occasions for such diversions, It is this frame alone, — namely, of spiritual mindedness, — that will give us this delight; for hereby the soul is transformed into the likeness of spiritual thing, so as that they are suited unto it and pleasant unto our affections.
The mind and the things themselves are thereby so fitted unto each other that on every occasion they are ready for mutual embraces, and not easily drawn off by any cause or means of the distractions so complained of; yea, they will all be prevented hereby. (2.) Despondencies in duties arise from the frequent incursions of the guilt of sin. The remembrance hereof frequently solicits the minds of persons in their first entrances into duty, unless they are under especial actings of grace, stirring them up unto earnestness and fervency in what they undertake. At other seasons it renders men lifeless and heartless, so as that they know not whether they had best pray or no, when duty and opportunity call them thereunto. To be spiritually minded, we have manifested in many instances, is the great preservative against these disheartening incursions of sin. It is the soul’s watch and guard against them, whencesoever they arise or proceed. No lust or corruption can be prevalent in a spiritual mind; and this is the principal cause of such incursions of sin as affect the soul with a disheartening sense of guilt. No affections can abide in any sinful disorder where the mind is so affected; this also gives sin an entrance unto a distracting sense of guilt. But the sole cure hereof lies in this grace and duty. The like may be said of all other ways, means, and occasions of such incursions of sin. (3.) Weariness in, and of, spiritual duties abates their tendency unto the improvement of life and peace in us. This evil ariseth from the same cause with that of distraction before mentioned; and it is ofttimes increased by the weakness and indispositions of the flesh, or of the outward man.
Sometimes the spirit is willing, but through the weakness of the flesh it is disappointed. The principal cure hereof lies in that delight which spiritual mindedness gives unto the soul in spiritual things; for where there is a constant delight in any thing, there will be no weariness, at least not such as shall hinder any one from cleaving firmly unto the things wherein he doth delight. Whilst, therefore, we are exercised in a delight in spiritual things, weariness cannot prevalently assault the mind. And it is the only relief against that weariness which proceeds from the indispositions of the outward man; for as it will preserve the mind from attending too much unto their solicitations, crying, “Spare thyself,” by filling and possessing the thoughts with other things, so it will offer a holy violence unto the complaints of the flesh, silencing them with a sense of and delight in holy duties. (4.) The unreadiness of grace for its due and proper exercise is another thing which defeats us of the benefit of holy duties. The seasons of them are come, sense of duty carries men unto an attendance unto them and the performance of them; but when they should enter upon them, those graces of faith, love, fear, and delight, wherein the soul and being of them do consist, are out of the way, unready for a due exercise, so as that men take up and satisfy themselves with the mere outward performance of them.
The heart and mind have been taken up with other things; due preparation hath been wanting; men come unto them with reeking thoughts of earthly occasions; and it is no easy matter in, or immediately out of, such a frame, to stir up grace unto a due exercise. But herein lieth the very life of being spiritually minded: The nature of it consists in the keeping and preserving all grace in a readiness for its exercise as our occasions require. And this is an effectual way whereby this grace comes to be “life and peace;” for they cannot be attained, they cannot be preserved, without such a constancy and spirituality in all holy duties as we shall never arrive at unless we are spiritually minded.
Lastly, This frame of mind brings the soul unto and keeps it at its nearest approaches unto heaven and blessedness, wherein lie the eternal springs of life and peace. According unto the degrees of this grace in us, such are those of our approaches unto God. Nearness unto him gives us our initial conformity unto him, by the renovation of his image in us, as our presence with him will give us perfection therein; for when we see him, we shall be like unto him. He therefore alone, as he is in Christ, being the fountain of life and peace, by our drawing nigh unto him and by our likeness of him will they thrive and flourish in our souls.