Imágenes de páginas

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, Psal.cxix. 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 awhile, when a sense of those tem-, porary impressions is worn off, finding no real spiritual be-; nefit 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, Mal. i. 13. and iii. 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, with 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 pretences. And when they are thus insnared, every foolish prejudice, 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 effecs

tual, 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 having 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 encouragements it hath brought their souls into, what encouragements unto faith and obedience it hath furnished them withal, and long after renewed sense of its enjoyments. 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 of 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 unto 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 are 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


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 these saving mercies and privileges wherewith they are 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 the 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 prayer, 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 dependance 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 Saviour 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 is 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. :


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 and heavenly things unto 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 affection 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 superstitions, 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 things he 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; Heb. xi. 6. Matt. vi. 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

2 F


« AnteriorContinuar »