Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

them, And they shall know that I am the Lord ; yea, he hath sworn that all men shall see his glory in this respect, Numb. xiv. 21. As truly as Ilive, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. And this kind of manifestation of God is very often spoken of in scripture, as made, or to be made, in the sight of God's enemies in this world*.

* This was a manifestation which God made of himself in the sight of that wicked congregatioa at Mount Sinai ; deeply affecting them with it; so that all the people in the camp trembled. Wicked men and devils will see, and have a great sense of every thing that appertains to the glory of God, except the beauty of his moral perfection. They will see his infinite greatness, majesty, and power, and will be fully convinced of his omniscience, eternity and immutability ; and even will see every thing appertaining to his moral attributes themselves, except their beauty and amiableness. They will see and know that he is perfectly just, righteous, and true; and that he is a holy God, of purer eyes than to behold evil, who cannot look on iniquity; and they will see the wonderful manifestations of his infinite goodness and free grace to the saints. Nothing will be hid from their eyes, but the beauty of these moral attributes, and that beauty of the other attributes, which arises from it. And so natural men while in this world are capable of having a very affecting sense of every thing that appertains to God,

a but this only. Nebuchandnezzar had a great and very affecting sense of the infinite greatness and awsul majesty of God; of his supreme and absolute dominion, hụs irresistible power, and high sovereignty. He saw that he, and all the inhabitants of the earth, were as nothing before him, had a great conviction in his conscience of bis justice, and an affecting sense of his great goodness, Dan. iv. 1-3, 34, 35, 37. And the sense that Darius had of God's perfections, seeins to be very much like his, Dan. vi. 25, &c. But saints and angels behold the beauty of God's holiness : and this sight only, will melt and humble the hearts of men, wean them from the world, draw thein to God, and effectually change them. A sight of the awful greatness of God may overpower men's strength, and be more than they can endure; but if the moral beauty of God be hid, the enmity of the heart will remain in its full strength. No love will be kindled, the will, instead of being effectually gained, will remain inflexible; whereas the first glimpse of the moral and spiritual glory of God shining into the heart, produces all these effects with a power which nothing can withstand.

The sense that natural men may have of the awful greatness of God, may affect them various ways; it may not only terrify, but

See Exod. ix. 16, and chap. xiv. 18, and xv. 16. Psal. Ixvi. 3. and xlvi. 10. and other places innumerable.

elevate them, and raise their joy and praise. This will be the natural effect of it, under the real or supposed receipt of some extraordinary mercy from God, by the influence of mere principles of nature. It has been shewn already, that the receipt of

. kindness may, by the influence of natural principles, affect the heart with gratitude and praise to God; but if a person, at the same time, has a sense of his infinite greatness, and that he is as nothing in comparison of him, surely this will naturally raise his gratitude and praise the higher, for kindness to one so much inferior. A sense of God's greatness had this effect upon

Nebuchadnezzar, on that extraordinary favour of his restoration, after he had been driven from men, and had his dwelling with the beasts. A sense of God's exceeding greatness raises his gratitude very high; so that he does, in the most losiy terms, extol and magnify God, and calls upon all the world to do it with him. If a natural man, at the same time that die is greatly affected with God's infinite greatness and majesty, entertains a strong conceit that this great God has made him his child and special favourite, and promised him eternal glory in his highest love, will not this have a tendency, according to the course of nature, to raise his joy and praise to a great height ?

Therefore, it is beyond doubt, that too much weight has been laid on discoveries of God's greatness, awful majesty, and natural perfection, operating after this manner, without any real view of the holy, lovely majesty of God. And experience does abundantly confirm, what reason and scripture declare as to this matter; there having been very many persons, who have seemed to • be overpowered with the greatness and awful majesty of God, but have been very far from a Christian spirit and temper, in any proportion, or fruits in practice in any wise agreeable; nay, their discoveries have worked in a way contrary to the operation of truly spiritual discoveries.

Not that a sense of God's greatness and natural attributes is not useful and necessary. For, as I observed before, this is implied in a manifestation of the beauty of God's holiness. Though that be something beyond it, it supposes it, as the greater supposes the less. And though natural men may have a sense of the natural perfections of God, yet undoubtedly this is more frequent and common with the saints, than with them. Grace enables men to see these things in a better manner, than natural men do; and not only enables them to see God's natural attributes, but that beauty of those attributes which (according to our way of conceiving of God) is derived from his holiness.

a

SECT. IV.

Gracious affections arise from the mind being enlightened rightly

and spiritually to apprehend divine things.

Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from some information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before, more of God or Christ, and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel. He has a clearer and better view than he had before, when he was not affected; either he receives some new understanding of divine things, or has his former knowledge renewed after the view was decayed; 1 John iv. 7. Every one that loveth, knoweth God. Phil. i. 9. I pray that your love may abound

j more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment. Rom. xii. They have

a seal of God, but not according to knowledge. Col. ii. 10. The new man, which is renewed in knowledge. Psal. xliii. 3, 4. O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill. John vi. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Knowledge is the key that first opens the hard heart, enlarges the affections, and opens the way for men into the kingdom of heaven; Luke xi. 52. Ye have taken away the key of knowledge.

Now there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the understanding, which is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high*. Indeed

"Many that have had mighly strong affectiors at first conversion, afterwids become dry, and wither, and consume, and pine, and die away: and now their hypocrisy is manifest, if not to all the world by open profaneness, yet to the discerning eye of living Christians, by a formal, barren, ungaroury, unfruitful Sheart and course; because they never had light to conviction enough as yet.- It is strange to see some people carried with mighty affection against sin and hell, and after Christ. And what is the hell you fear?--A dreadful place. What is Christ?- They scarce know so much as devils do ; but that is all. Oh! trust them dot. Many have, and these will fall away to some lust, or opinion, or pride, or world; and the reason is, they never had light enough, John v. 35. •Joho was a burning and shining light, and they did joy in him for a season ;' yet glorious as it was, they saw not Christ by it, especially not with divine light. It is rare to see Christians full both of light and affection. And therefore, consider of this, many a man has been well brought up, and is of a sweet loving nature, mild and gentle, and harmless, likes and loves the best things, and his meaning, and mind, and heart is good, and has more in heart than in shew; and so hopes all shall go well with him. I say, there may lie greatest hypocrisy under greatest affections; especially if they want light. You shall be hardened in your hypocrisy by them I never liked violent affections and pangs; but ouly such as were dropped in by light; be

6

they have some new apprehensions which they had not before. Such is the nature of man, that it is impossible his mind should be affected, unless it be by something that he apprehends, or that his mind conceives. But in many persons those apprehensions or conceptions wherewith they are affected, have nothing of the nature of knowledge or instruction in them. For instance; when a person is affected with a lively idea, suddenly excited in his mind, of some shape, or beautiful pleasant form of countenance, a shining light, or other glorious outward appearance: here is something conceived by the mind; but nothing of the nature of instruction. Persons become never the wiser by such things, more knowing about God, a Mediator between God and man, the way of salvation by Christ, or any thing contained in the doctrines of the gospel. Persons by these external ideas have no further acquaintance with God, as to any of the attributes or perfections of his nature; nor have they any further understanding of his word, his ways, or works. Truly spiritual and gracious affections are not raised after this manner; these arise from the enlightening of the understanding, to understand the things taught of God and Christ, in a new manner. There is a new understanding of the excellent nature of God and his wonderful perfections, some new view of Christ in his spiritual excellencies and fulness; or things are opened to him in a new manner, whereby he now understands those divine and spiritual doctrines which once were foolishness to him. Such enlightenings of the understanding as these, are entirely different in their nature, from strong ideas of shapes and colours, outward brightness and glory, or sounds and voices. That all gracious affections arise from some instruction, or enlightening of the understanding, is therefore a further proof, that affections which arise from such an impression on the imagination, are not gracious.

Hence also it appears, that affections arising from texts of scriptitre coming to the mind, are vain, when no instruction received in the understanding from those texts, or any thing taught in them, is the ground of the affection, but the manner of their coming to the mind. When Christ makes the scripture a means of the heart's burning with gracious affection, it is by opening the scriptures to their understandings ; Luke xxiv. 32. Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? It appears also that the afsection wbich is occasioned by the coming of a text of scripture must be vain, when the affection is founded on something supposed to be taught by it, which really is not contained in it, nor in cause those come from an external principle, and last not, but these do.-Men are not affrighted by the light of the sun, though clearer than lightning."-(Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 146.)

any other scripture ; because such supposed instruction is not real instruction, but a misapprehension of the mind. For instance, when persons suppose that they are expressly taught by some scripture coming to their minds, that they in particular are beloved of God, that their sins are forgiven, that God is their father, and the like; this is a misapprehension ; for the scripture no where reveals the individual persons who are beloved, expressly, but only by revealing the qualifications of persons beloved of God. -Therefore this matter is not to be learned from scripture any other way than by consequence, from these qualifications; for things are not to be learned from the scripture any other way than they are taught in the scripture.

Affections really arise from ignorance, rather than instruction, in the instances which have been mentioned; as likewise in some others that might be mentioned. Some, when they find themselves free of speech in prayer, call it God's being with them; this affects them, and their affections are increased; when they look not into the cause of this freedom of speech, which may arise many other ways besides God's spiritual presence. So some are much affected with apt thoughts that come into their minds about the scripture, and call it the Spirit of God teaching them. They ascribe many of the workings of their own minds, of which they have a high opinion, to the special, immediate influences of God's Spirit; and so are mightily affected with their privilege.Avd there are some instances of persons, in whom it seems manifest, that the first ground of their affection is some bodily sensation. The animal spirits, by some cause, (and probably sometimes by the devil,) are suddenly and unaccountably put into a very agreeable motion, causing persons to feel pleasantly in their bodies; the spirits being put into such a motion as is wont to be connected with the exhilaration of the mind; and the soul, by the laws of its union with the body, hence feels pleasure. This motion of the animal spirits does not first arise from any apprehension of the mind whatsoever ; but the very first thing felt, is an exhilaration and a pleasant external sensation, it may be in their breasts. Hence, through ignorance, the person being surprised, begins to think, surely this is the Holy Ghost coming into him. And then the mind begins to be affected and raised; there is first great joy, and then many other affections, in a very tumultuous manner, putting all nature, both body and mind, into a mighty ruffle. For, though, as I observed before, it is the soul only that is the seat of the affections, yet this hinders not but that bodily sensations may, in this manner, be an occasion of affections in the mind.

And though men's religious affections truly arise from some instruction, or light in the understanding, yet the affection is not VOL. v.

20

« ElőzőTovább »