« ElőzőTovább »
with a view of their discoveries. They take more comfort in their discoveries than in Christ discovered. This is the true notion of living upon experiences and frames; and not our using them as an evidence of our good estate. It is very observable, that some who reject evidences are most notorious for living upon experience, according to the true notion of it.
The affections of hypocrites are very often after this manner; they are first much affected with some impression on their imagination, or some impulse, which they take to be an immediate suggestion, or testimony from God, of his love and their happiness. They fancy a high privilege in some respect, either with or without a text of scripture; they are mightily taken with this, as a great discovery: and hence arise high affections. When their affections are raised, they view those high affections, and call them great and wonderful experiences; and they have a notion that God is greatly pleased with those affections. This affects them still more; and so they are affected with their affections. Thus their affections rise higher and higher, until they sometimes are perfectly swallowed up; also self-conceit, and a fierce zeal rises; and all is built, like a castle in the air, on nothing but imagination, self-love and pride.
And as are the thoughts of such persons, so is their talk; for out of the abundance of their heart their mouth speaketh. As in their bigh aflections they keep their eye upon the beauty of their experiences, and greatness of their attainments ; so they are great talkers about themselves. The true saint, when under great spiritual affections, from the fulness of his heart is ready to speak much of God, his glorious perfections and works, the beauty and amiableness of Christ, and the glorious things of the gospel; but hypocrites, in their bigh affections, talk more of the discovery, than of the thing discovered. They are full of talk about the wonderful discoveries they have had, how sure they are of the love of God to them, how safe their condition is, how they know they shall go to heaven, &c.
A true saint, when in the enjoyment of true discoveries of the sweet glory of God and Christ, has his mind too much captivated and engaged by what he views without himself, to stand at that time to view bimself, and his own attainments. It would be a loss which he could not bear, to have his eye taken off from the ravishing object of his contemplation, in order to survey his own experience, and to spend time in thinking with himself, what an high attainment this is, and what a good story I now have to tell others ! Nor does the pleasure and sweetness of his mind at that time, chiefly arise from the consideration of the safety of his state, or any thing he has in view of his own qualifications, experiences, or circumstances; but from the divine and supreme beauty of what is the object of his direct view, without himself; which sweetly entertains, and strongly holds his mind.
As the love and joy of hypocrites, are all from the source of self-love; so it is with their other affections, their sorrow for sin, their humiliation and submission, their religious desires and zeal. Every thing is as it were paid for before-hand, in God's highly gratifying their self-love, by making so much of them, and exaliing them so highly, as things are in their imagination. It is easy for nature, corrupt as it is, under a notion of being already some of the highest favourites of heaven, and having a God who so protects and favours-them in their sins, to love this imaginary God that suits them so well; and equally easy to extol him, submit to him, and to be fierce and zealous for him. The high affections of
, many are all built on the supposition of their being eminent saints. If that opinion which they have of themselves were taken away, if they thought they were some of the lower form of saints, (though they should yet suppose themselves to be real saints) their high affections would fall to the ground. If they only saw a little of the sinfulness and vileness of their owu hearts, and their deformity in the midst of their best duties and their best affections, it would destroy their affections ; because they are built upon self, self-knowledge would destroy them. But as to truly gracious affections, they have their foundation in God and Jesus Christ; and therefore a discovery of themselves, of their own deformity, and the meanness of their experiences, though it will purify their affections, yet it will not destroy them, but in some respects sweeten and heighten them.
Those affections that are truly holy, are primarily founded on the
moral excellency of divine things. Or, a love to divine things for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency, is the spring of all holy affections.
Here, for the sake of the more illiterate reader, I will explain what I mean by the moral excellency of divine things. The word moral is not to be understood here, according to the common acceptation, when men speak of morality, and a moral behaviour; meaning an outward conformity to the duties of the moral law, and especially the duties of the second table. Nor is it taken for mere seeming virtues, proceeding from natural principles, in opposition to those that are more inward, spiritual, and divine. The honesty, justice, generosity, good-nature, and public spirit of many of the heathen, are called moral virtues, in
distinction from the holy faith, love, humility, and heavenly mindedness of true Christians; but the word moral is to be understood so in this place.
In order to a right understanding of what is meant, it must be observed, that divines generally make a distinction between moral good and evil, and natural good and evil. By moral evil, they mean the evil of sin, or that evil which is against duty, and contrary to what is right and ought to be. By natural evil, they do not mean that evil which is properly opposed to duty, but that which is contrary to mere nature, without any respect to a rule of duty. So the evil of suffering is called natural evil, such as pain and torment, disgrace, and the like: these things are contrary to mere nature, hateful to wicked men and devils, as well as good men and angels. If a child be monstrous, or a natural fool, these are natural, but not moral evils, because they have not properly the nature of the evil of sin. On the other hand, as by moral evil divines mean sin, or that which is contrary to what is right; so by moral good, they mean that which is contrary to sin; or, in other words, that good in beings who have will and choice, whereby, as voluntary agents, they are, and act, as it becomes them to be and to act. And, it is obvious, that is becoming, which is most fit, suitable, and lovely. By natural good, they mean that good which is entirely of a different kind from holiness or virtue, viz. that which perfects or suits nature, considering nature abstractly from any holy or unholy qualifications, and without any relation to any rule or measure of right and wrong.
Thus pleasure is a natural good; so is honour ; so is strength; aud so is speculative knowledge, human learning, and policy. Thus there is a distinction to be made between men's natural and their moral good; and also between the natural and moral good of the angels in heaven. The great capacity of angelic understandings, their great strength, and the honourable circumstances they are in as the great ministers of God's kingdom, whence they are called thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, is their natural good. But their perfect holiness and glorious goodness, their pure and flaming love to God, to the saints and one another, is their moral good. So divines make a distinction between the natural and moral perfections of God: by the moral perfections of God, they mean those attributes which God exercises as a moral agent, or whereby the heart and will of God are good, right, infinitely becoming, and lovely; such as his righteousness, truth, faithsulness, and goodness; or, in one word, his holiness. By God's natural perfections, they mean those attributes wherein his greatness consists; such as his power, his knowledge, his being from everlasting to everlasting, his omni-presence, his awful and terrible majesty.
The moral excellency of an intelligent voluntary being, is more immediately seated in the heart or will. That intelligent being whose will is truly right and lovely, he is morally good or excellent.--This moral excellency, when it is true and real, is holiness. Therefore holiness comprehends all the true moral excellency of intelligent beings: there is no other true virtue, but real holiness. Holiness comprehends all the true virtue of a good man; his love to God, his gracious love to men, his justice, his charity, his bowels of mercies, his gracious meekness and gentleness, and all other Christian virtues, belong to his holiness. So the holiness of God, in the more extensive sense of the wordthe sense in which the word is commonly, if not universally used concerning God in scripture—is the same with the moral excellency of the divine nature; comprehending all his moral perfections, his righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness. As in holy men, their Christian kindness and mercy belong to their holiness; so the kindness and mercy of God, belong to his holiness. Holiness in man, is but the image of God's holiness; and surely there are not more virtues belonging to the image, than are in the original. Has derived holiness more in it, than is in that underived holiness, which is its fountain ?
As there are two kinds of attributes in God, occording to our way of conceiving of him, his moral attributes, which are summed up in his holiness, and his natural attributes—strength, knowledge, &c.—that constitute his greatness ; so there is a two-fold image of God in man, his moral or spiritual image, which is bis holiness, that is the innage of God's moral excellency; (wbich image was lost by the fall;) and God's natural image, consisting in man's reason and understanding, his natural ability, and dominion over the creatures, which is the image of God's natural attributes. From what has been said, it may easily be understood what I intend, when I say that love to divine things for the beauty of their moral excellency, is the spring of all holy affections.
It has been already shown, under the former head, that the first objective ground of all holy affections is the supreme excellency of divine things as they are in their own nature; I now proceed further, and say more particularly, that the kind of excellency which is the first objective ground of all holy affections, is their holiness. Holy persons, in the exercise of holy affections, love divine things primarily for their holiness; they love God, in the first place, for the beauty of his holiness, or moral perfection, as being supremely amiable in itself. Not that the saints, in the exercise of gracious aflections, love God only for his holiness; all his attributes are amiable and glorious in their eyes; they delight in every divine perfection; the contemplation of the infinite great
ness, power, knowl dge, and terrible majesty of God, is pleasant to them. But their love to God for his holiness is what is most fundamental and essential in their love. Here it is that true love to God begins; all other holy love to divine things flows from bence. Love to God for the beauty of his moral attributes, necessarily causes a delight in God for all bis attributes; for his moral attributes cannot be without his natural attributes. Infinite holiness supposes infinite wisdom, and infinite greatness; and all the attributes of God as it were imply one another.
The true beauty and loveliness of all intelligent beings primarily and most essentially consist in their moral excellency or holi
Herein consists the loveliness of angels, without which, notwithstanding all their natural perfections, they would have no more loveliness than devils. It is moral excellency alone, that is in itself, and on its own account, the excellency of intelligent beings: it is this that gives beauty to, or rather is the beauty of their natural perfections and qualifications. Moral excellency, it I may so speak, is the excellency of natural excellencies. Natural qualifications are either excellent or otherwise, according as they are joined with moral excellency or not. Strength and knowledge do not render any being lovely without holiness, but more hateful; though they render them more lovely, when joined with holiness. Thus the elect angels are the more glorious for their strength and knowledge, because these natural perfections of theirs are sanctified by their moral perfection. But though the devils are very strong, and of great natural understanding, yet they are not the more lovely. They are more terrible, indeed, not more amiable: but on the contrary, the more hateful. The holiness of an intelligent creature, is the beauty of all his natural perfections. And so it is in God, according to our way of conceiving of the divine Being; holiness is in a peculiar manner the beauty of the divine nature. Hence we often read of the beauty of holiness, (Psal. xxix. 2. Psal. xcvi. 9. and cx. 3.) This renders all his other attributes glorious and lovely. It is the glory of God's wisdom, that it is a holy wisdom, and not a wicked subtilty. This makes his majesty lovely, and not merely dreadful and horrible, that it is a holy majesty. It is the glory of God's immutability, that it is a holy immutability, and not an inflexible obstinacy in wickedness.
And therefore it must needs be, that a sight of God's loveliness must begin here. A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving God) it derives its loveliness from this. Therefore, it is impossible that other attributes should appear lovely, in their true loveliness, until this is seen: and it is impossible that any perfection of the