The Use of the Passions in Religion.

We pro


E have seen already what is included in “ loving God with the heart, and how this divine love will influence all the other affections into a smitable and correspondent exercise." ceed now to the third general bead of discourse, and that is, to shew the use of the passions in religion, or what advantage may be obtained by them, or expected from them in the christian life: And here we shall find the advantages of them so great and nuinerous, as will render it necessary for every one who possesses serįous religion to have the affections of his soul engaged in it.

Advantage I.“ The passions being duly awakened, will set the powers of the understanding at work, in the search of divine truth and religious duty, and render the knowledge of God exceedingly desirable to sinful men.” We are by nature thoughtles of God and divine things : A little, a very little general knowledge of religion satisfies our desires, because we imagine it is sufficient for our necessities. The bulk of mankind have their passions touched with earthly things, and they are ever enquiring who will shew us where corn and wine, the pleasures of sense, the possessions of this world, honours or preferments, are to be gotten? Too many are ready to join with the profane wretches, who are described in Job xxi. 14. They say unto God, depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways : we do not want to know much of God, nor what is our duty to him.

But when the arrows of conviction strike through the soul, when the heart is awakened to a pathetic sense of sin, and the fear of divine vengeance possesses and torments the spirit, then it is the most importunate enquiry of the heart and the lips, What shall we do to be saved ? Acts xvi. 30. How shall we escape the wrath to come? How is the governing justice of the great God to be satisfied for our offences? What is the way to be made partakers of his pardoning mercy? Wherewith shall I appear before the Lord, and in what manner shall I bow myself; and worship the Most High God? Micah vi. 6. This was the language of the awakened jailor, who had just before scourged the saints of the Lord, the holy apostles ; Acts xvi. 30. This was the earnest cryolile crucifiers of Christ himself, at St. Peter's sermon, when they were pricked to their hearts; Acts ii. 37. This is the language of nature convinced of sin, and the danger of divine indignation. St. Paul learned all the terrors of the Lord, and felt all his painful passions in an uproar, when he was struck down to the dust, with the dreadful and overwhelming glory in his way to Damascus ; Acts ix. 3. And with what intense and hasty zeal did he make this enquiry, Lord what wilt thou have' me to do? verse 6. And when he had learned the knowledge of Christ as the only way to the favour of God and salvation, how highly doth he value it! Phil. iii. 8. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus

my Lord.

If I am awakened to a sense of sin, and fear the anger of God, I shall long to know the awful extent of bis power, and the terrible effects of his anger, as well as the methods of obtaining his grace. If I love him, I shall spend many pleasant bours of enquiry into his amiable excellencies. Each pious passion will promote its peculiar enquiries. Fear and love will wander with holy awe and delight among his glories, and be ever pursuing further knowledge of his perfections : If I love God with warm and devout affection, I shall rejoice daily to find new discoveries of his unsearchable wisdom, his all-sufficient power, his immense goodness, and the unbounded riches of his grace : I shall trace his wondrous footsteps through this beautiful creation, and endeavour to find his way in the tract of daily providences : I shall survey him and his attributes in his book of grace, and dwell upon his divine features in Jesus the image, and the brightness of his glory; Heb. i. 3. and I shall search further continually into the knowledge of Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh: I shall dig in the mines of scripture for treasures of divine knowledge, and never grow weary of the work. I shall be always enquiring “What I shall do to please and serve him,” who is the object of my highest love, and how I shall obtain stronger sensations and assurances of his favour, and dwell for ever in his presence, who is the life and the joy of my soul. We long still to know more of this transcendent being whom we love : It is this divine passion that animates these enquiries after the knowledge of God; and this shall render them infinite and everlasting, because God the object of them is everlasting and infinite.

II. “ The affections being once engaged, will keep the soul fixed to divine things. The sense of them is impressed deeper on the mind, by the exercise of devout passions, and it will a ide there much longer.” Even where reason is bright and the judgment clear, yet it will be ineffectual for any valuable purposes, if religion reach no farther than the head, and proceed not to the heart: It will have but little influence if there are none of the affections engaged. Notions of religion in the understanding, withont any touch upon the passions, have been coinpared to the stars in a winter midnight, bright and shining, but very cold ; or

rather to the meteor, which is called a shooting-star, wliich vanislıes quickly and is lost in darkness.

Suppose we are convinced by calm reasoning of the being of a God, of the duties which we owe our Creator, of his government of the world, and of his final judgment; suppose we are led into a demonstration or evident proof, that we are guilty creatures, having broken the laws of God, and that there is no salvation for us, but in and by a Mediator ; suppose we are really convinced in our judgment, that there is a heaven or a hell, that awaits our departure from this world ; that we must die shortly, and that we are for ever miserable without pardoning mercy, and sanctifying grace; all this is valuable in its kind, and is necessary in order to salvation : But if all this knowledge make no impression on the affections, it is not likely to abide with us, nor to do us much good : Knowledge wears off the mind, if never used. Cold unaffecting notions, will have no powerful influence to reform our lives. Every new scene of business or pleasure brushes off these thoughts of religion from our souls, where they have not been let into the heart, nor possessed the passions : They vanish like the morning dew, or like an early cloud that passes away ; Hosea vi. 4.

It is one great end and design of the passions, to fix the attention strongly upon the objects of them, to settle the thoughts with such intenseness and continuance on that which raises them, that they are not easily taken off. Wbat we fear or desire, what we love and hope for, what we lament or rejoice in, will seize and busy our minds, and take them up perpetually, notwithstandjog the importunities of other businesses or cares : The passions are supremely importunate, and will be heard. Now if the passions are strongly engaged for God. the world will have but little

power to call of the heart from religion.

Suppose two preachers were desired to minister to the same auditory, on a day of fasting or praise, and on the same subject too. One of them has all the beauty, force and skill of clear and calm reasoning; the other not only instructs well, but powerfully moves the affections with sacred oratory : Which of these two will best seoure the attention of the people, and guard them from drowsiness or wandering? Surely he that touches the heart will fix the eyes and the ears, and all the powers ; while hé that merely endeavours to inform the head, will find many wandering eyes, and some sleepers.

Suppose two persons have heard the same discourse from the pulpit, which was both rational and pathetic. One of them is pleased with the fine reasoning of the preacher, and hath his judgment convinced of the necessity and importance of the duty which he is exhorted to practise, and goes no further ; the other hath also felt the very same conviction of his understanding by foroe of


Voli 11.

argument, and at the same time finds his soul touched inwardly with an emotion of the lively passions, he is awakened and surprised with an awfal concern about his past neglects, and a holy fear of divine anger; he is struck to the heart with sentiments of piety, he is grieved and ashamed at his folly, he is filled with zeal and holy purposes : Pray which of these two will have the discourse dwell most upon their hearts ; which is like to remember this sermon longest, and which is most likely to put it in practice? This leads me to the third particular.

III. “ All the duties of holiness are rendered much easier, and temptations to sin much weaker, when religion hath taken hold of the heart, and the passions of the soul are engaged in it." Passion animates all the inferior powers of nature, and strengthens them all in their operation. It is a sort of life and fire within the hearts of men, which God the Creator hath ordained to be ever ready there, to give force and spirit for present action. He knew our nature wanted this spur, this inward spring of activity.

Suppose we had been left merely to the exercise of our reason and judgment, to inform us when it was proper to eat and drink, without having any such appetites as thirst and hunger : It is possible indeed that life might have been maintained, but we should have been often ready to neglect the proper seasons of food, and nature would have been supported but in a feeble and languishing manner, without such regular and constant nourishment as we want, and that too without any sensible delight. But the keen appetites of hunger and thirst are implanted in our very natures, to awaken us to take our solid and liquid food, and that with constancy and natural pleasure. It is for the saine end that all the passions were wrought into our constitution, by our great Creator, that we might have some more vigorous principles than the mere power of reasoning, to animate us to activity on all just and proper occasions.

Suppose I were told that my house was a-fire at midnight, and my cold reason informed me, that in a little time I and my goods might be consumed, it is probable I should think of using some method to save anyself : But the passion of surprize and fear exerts itself in a moment, and hurries me out to make an immediate escape. Fear was wrought into human nature for such purposes as these. In such a fright we can almost move mountains, and perform wonders,, to the utmost limits of the strength of man, in order to save ourselves or our dear relatives from the flames. Cold reasoning without passion, would have no such sovereign and powerful effects.

Thus it is in things of religion. A cold information that misery will be the consequent of sin, or even a rational conviction of the distant danger of hell, without the passion of fear, would never animate the man to cry out with such importunate enquiries, # What shall I do to escape everlasting burnings It is this passion of fear that constrains him to fly for his life to the hope that is set before him in the gospel, and to make his escape as Lot did from Sodom, without looking back on the allurements of sin.

I might give instances of the like kind in the affection of divine love. I may learn by reason that God is to be honoured and obeyed, because he is my Creator and my Lord : I may be convinced of the beauty of virtue, and the excellency of religion, and that all the precepts of it are reasonable ; yet these precepts will carry but a feeble sway with them, and have a very imperfect influence on my practice, in opposition to all my carnal interests and corrupt inclinations, if I have nothing to move me but the mere use of my reason, telling me it is a proper thing to obey the great God. This will not do the work, if I have no affectionate love to God as a Father and a Saviour. It is a knowledge and belief of the truth of the gospel, joined with love to Christ my Redeemer, that makes me zealous to fulfil every duty. Christianity itself is thus excellently described by the apostle, it is faith working by love; Gal. v. 6. A mere knowledge of any person will not make us grow like him, but love hath an assimilating and transforming power : The divine affection of love will work perpetually within us, and never cease' till it has made us like our beloved object, till it has made us holy as God is holy, and formed heaven within us.

And when this warm love to God our Maker, and to Jesus our Saviour, is joined to a lively hope of everlasting happiness, how do these united passions invigorate the soul in duty, and bear down all temptations before them? Great is the constraining power of these divine affections, hope and love: They i reak through all obstacles that stand in the way of salvation : When they are united together they arise to holy joy ; and among the saints of the Old Testament as well as the New, the joy of the Lord was their strength to fulfil all the duties of religion and righteousness ; Nehem. viii. 10. The sacred temper of mind carried out the patriarchs of old, and the heroes of the ancient church, to obey the call of God with courage, to leave their own native country, and their friends, to wander through the earth as strangers and pilgrims, and to live upon a naked promise: This taught Moses to ester in the reproach of Christ, and the hope of the Messiah, greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt : This enabled the pious Jews to work wonders of righteousness, to venture into the dens of lions, to dare the edge of the sword, and comat the violence of fire; to endure the trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, to pass through showers of stones, and engines of torture, despising death in its most frightful forms, and not accepting deliverance. These are the wonders which are ascribed to faith in the xi. chapter to the Hebrews : But it was faith animated by

« ElőzőTovább »