« ElőzőTovább »
Ans. I answer, those exercises and affections which are good evidences of grace, differ from all that the devils have, and all that can arise from such principles as are in their hearts, in two things, viz. their foundation and their tendency.
1. They differ in their foundation, or in that belonging to them which is the foundation of all the rest that pertains to them, viz. an apprehension or sense of the supreme holy beauty and comeliness of divine things, as they are in themselves, or in their own nature.
Of this the devils and damned in hell are, and for ever will be, entirely destitute. This the devils once had, while they stood in their integrity ; but they wholly lost it when they fell. And this is the only thing that can be mentioned pertaining to the devil's apprehension and sense of the divine Being, that he did lose. Nothing else belonging to the knowledge of God can be devised, of which he is destitute. It has been observed that there is no one attribute of the divine nature, but what he knows, with a strong and very affecting conviction. This I think is evident and undeniable. But to the supreme beauty of the divine nature he is altogether blind. He sees no more of it, than a man born perfectly blind does of colours. The great sight he has of the attributes of God gives him an idea and strong sense of his awful majesty, but no idea of his beauty and comeliness. Though he has seen so much of God's wonderful works of power, wisdom, holiness, justice, and truth, and his wonderful works of grace to mankind, for so many thousand years, and has had occasion to observe them with the strongest attention; yet all serves not to give him the least sense of his divine beauty. And though the devils should continue to exercise their mighty powers of mind with the strongest intention ; and should take things in all possible views, in every order and arrangement; yet they never will see this. So little akin is the knowledge they have to this, that the great degrees of that knowledge bring them no nearer to it. Yet the more knowledge they have of God of that kind, the more do they hate God. That wherein the beauty of the divine nature does most essentially consist, viz. his holiness, or moral excellency, appears in their eyes farthest from beauty. It is on that very account chiefly that he appears bateful to them. The more holiness they see in him, the more hateful he appears : the greater their sight is of his holiness, the higher is their hatred of him raised. And because of their hatred of his holiness, they hate him the more, the more they see of his other attributes. They would hate a holy Being, whatever his other attributes were ; but they hate such a holy Being the worse, for his being infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful, &c. more than they would do, if they saw in him less power and less wisdom.
The wicked, at the day of judgment, will see every thing else in Christ but his beauty and amiableness. There is no one quality or property of his person that can be thought of, but what will be set before them in the strongest light at that day, but only such as consist in this. They will see him coming in the clouds of heaven, "in power, and great glory, in the glory of his Father.” They will have that view of his external glory, which is vastly beyond what we can imagine ; and they will have the strongest and most convincing demonstrations of all his attributes and perfections. They will have a sense of his great majesty, that will be, as it were, infinitely affecting to them. They shall be made to know effectually, “that he is the Lord." They shall see what he is, and what he does ; his nature and works shall appear in the strongest view : but his infinite beauty and amiableness, which is all in all, and without which every other property is nothing, and worse than nothing, they will not
Therefore in a sight or sense of this, fundamentally consists the difference between the saving grace of God's Spirit, and the experiences of devils and damned souls. This is the foundation of every thing else that is distinguishing in true Christian experience. This is the foundation of the faith of God's elect. This gives the mind a saving belief of the truth of dirine things. It is a view of the excellency of the gospel, or sense of the divine beauty and amiableness of the scheme of doctrine there exhibited, that savingly convinces the mind that it is indeed divine or of God. This account of the matter is plainly implied ; 2. Cor. iv. 3, 4. "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them." And, verse 6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is very evident that a saving belief of the gospel is here spoken of by the apostle, as arising from a view of the divine glory or beauty of the things it exhibits. It is by this view that the soul of a true convert is enabled savingly to see the sufficiency of Christ for his salvation. He that has his eyes opened to behold the divine superlative beauty and love. liness of Jesus Christ, is convinced of his sufficiency to stand as a Mediator between him, a guilty hell-deserving wretch, and an infinitely holy God, in an exceeding different manner than ever he can be convinced by the arguments of authors or preachers, however excellent.
When he once comes to see Christ's divine loveliness, he wonders no more that he is thought worthy by God the Father, to be accepted for the vilest sinner. Now it is not difficult for him to conceive how the blood of Christ should be esteemed by God so precious as to be worthy to be accepted as a compensa
tion for the greatest sins. The soul now properly sees the preciousness of Christ, and so does properly see and understand the very ground and reason of his acceptableness to God, and the value God sets on his blood, obedience, and intercession. This satisfies the poor guilty soul, and gives it rest, when the finest and most elaborate discourses about the sufficiency of Christ and suitableness of the way of salvation, would not do it. When a man comes to see the proper foundation of faith and affiance with his own eyes, then he believes savingly. “He that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, hath everlasting lise ; John vi. 40. When Christ thus manifests God's name to men, then they believe that all things whatsoever God has given to Christ are of him, and believe that Christ was sent of God; John xvii. 6. 7, 8. And “they that thus know Christ's name will trust in him;" Psalm ix. 10. In order to true faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God is revealed in men, Gal. i. 15, 16. And it is this sight of the divine beauty of Christ, that bows the wills, and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the greatness of God in his attributes may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure ; but the enmity and opposition of the heart may remain in its full strength, and the will remain inflexible. Whereas one glimpse of the moral and spiritual glory of God, and the supreme amiableness of Jesus Christ shining into the heart, overcomes and abolishes this opposition, and inclines the soul to Christ, as it were, by an omnipotent power. So that now, not only the understanding, but the will and the whole soul receives and embraces the Saviour. This is most certainly the discovery, which is the first internal foundation of a saving faith in Christ in the soul of the true convert, and not any immediate outward or inward witness that Christ loves him, or that he died for him in particular, and is his Saviour; so begetting confidence and joy, and a seeming love to Christ, because he loves him. By
such faith and conversion, (demonstrably vain and counterfeit,) · multitudes have been deluded. The sight of the glory of God,
in the face of Jesus Christ, works true supreme love to God. This is a sight of the proper foundation of supreme love to God, viz. the supreme loveliness of his nature; and a love to him on this ground is truly above any thing that can come from a mere principle of self-love, which is in the hearts of devils as well as men. And this begets true spiritual and holy joy in the soul, which is indeed joy in God, and glorying in him, and not rejoicing in ourselves.
This sight of the beauty of divine things, will excite true - desires and longings of soul after those things; not like the longings of devils, but natural, free desires; the desires of appetite, the thirstings of a new pature, as a new-born babe desires the mother's breast; and as a hungry man longs for some Vol. VI.
pleasant food he thinks of; or, as the thirsty hart pants after the cool and clear stream.
This sense of divine beauty is the first thing in the actual change made in the soul in true conversion, and is the foundation of every thing else belonging to that change; as is evident by those words of the apostle, 2 Cor. iii. 18. 66 But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2. Truly gracious affections and exercises of mind differ from such as are counterfeit, which arise from no higher principles than are in the hearts of devils, in their tendency; and that in these two respects.
(1.) They are of a tendency and influence very contrary to that wbich was especially the devil's sin, even pride. That pride was in a peculiar manner the devil's sin, is manifest from 1 Tim. iii. 6. “Not a novice, lest, being lifted up with prid he fall into the condemnation of the devil." False and delusive experiences evermore tend to this, though oftentimes under the disguise of great and extraordinary humility. Spiritual pride is the prevailing temper and general character of hypocrites, deluded with false discoveries and affections.They are, in general, of a disposition directly contrary to those two things belonging to the Christian temper, directed to by the apostle; the one in Rom. xii. 16. “Be not wise in your
“ own conceit;" and the other in Phil. ii. 3. “Let each esteem others better than themselves." False experience is conceited of itself, and affected with itself. Thus he that has false humi. lity, is much affected to think how he is abased before God. He that has false love, is affected, when he thinks of the greatness of his love. The very food and nourishment of false experience, is to view itself, and take much notice of itself; and, its very breath and life is to be some way showing itself.Whereas, truly gracious views and affections, are of a quite contrary tendency. They nourish no self-conceit; no exalting notion of the man's own righteousness, experience, or privi. leges; no high conceit of his humiliations. They incline to no ostentation, nor self-exaltation, under any disguise whatsoever. But that sense of the supreme, holy beauty, and glory of God and Christ, which is the foundation of them, mortifies pride, and truly humbles the soul. It not only cuts off some of the outermost branches, but it strikes at the very root of pride; it alters the very nature and disposition of the heart. The light of God's beauty, and that alone, truly shows the soul its own deformity, and effectually inclines it to exalt God and abase itself.
(2.) These gracious exercises and affections differ from the other in their tendency to destroy Satan's interest; and that in two respects :
First, in the person himself. They cause the soul to hate every evil and false way, and to produce universal holiness of heart and life, disposing him to make the service of God, the promotion of his glory, and the good of mankind, the very business of his life; whereas those false discoveries and affections have not this effect. There may, indeed, be great zeal, and a great deal of what is called religion ; but it is not a truly Christian zeal ; it is not being zealous of good works. Their religion is not the service of God; it is not seeking and serving God; but, indeed, seeking and serving themselves. Though there may be a change of life, it is not a change from every wicked way to a uniform Christian life and practice, but only turning the stream of corruption from one channel to another. fhus the apostle James distinguishes, in our context, a true faith from the faith of devils; James ii. 19, 20. “Thou believest that there is one God. The devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead ?" And thus the apostle John distinguishes true communion with God; 1 John i. 6, 7. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth : But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin." By this he distinguishes truc spiritual know.. ledge, chap. ii. 3, 4.° “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him. and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” And hereby the same apostle distinguishes true love, chap. iii. 18, 19. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, bat in deed (in work, as the word signifies) and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."
2. Truly gracious experiences have a tendency to destroy Satan's interest in the world.
When false religion, consisting in the counterfeits of the operations of the Spirit of God, and in high pretences and great appearances of inward experimental religion, prevails among a people--though for the present it may surprise many, and may be the occasion of alarming and awakening some sinners--it tends greatly to wound and weaken the cause of vital religion, and to strengthen the interest of Satan, desperately to harden the hearts of sinners, exceedingly to fill the world with prejudice against the power of godliness, to promote infidelity and licentious principles and practices, to build up and make strong · the devil's kingdom in the world, more than open vice and