Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and will pray that he may not be affected with them in any higher degree, because high affections are improper, and very unlovely in Christians, being enthusiastical, and ruinous to true religion?

Our text plainly speaks of great and high affections, when it speaks of rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: here the most superlative expressions are used, which language will afford. And the scriptures often require us to exercise very high affections: thus in the first and great commandment of the law, there is an accumulation of expressions, as though words were wanting to express the degree in which we ought to love God: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. So the saints are called upon to exercise high degrees of joy: Rejoice, says Christ to his disciples, and be exceeding glad, Matth. v. 12. So it is said, Psal. Ixviij. 3. Let the righteous be glad: let them rejoice before God; yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. So in the same book of Psalms, the saints are often called upon to shout for joy; and in Luke vi. 23. to leap for joy. So they are abundantly called upon to exercise high degrees of gratitude for mercies, to “ praise God with all their hearts, with hearts lifted up in the ways of the Lord, and their souls magnifying the Lord, singing his praises, talking of his wonderous works, declaring his doings, &c.

And we find the most eminent saints in scripture often professing high affections. Thus the Psalmist speaks of his love, as if it were unspeakable; Psal. cxix. 97. O how love I thy low! So he expresses a great degree of hatred of sin; Psal. cxxxix. 21, 22. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred. He also expresses a high degree of sorrow for sin: he speaks of his sins going over his head, as an heavy burden, that was too heavy for him : and of his roaring all the day, and his moisture's being turned into the drought of summer, and his bones being as it were broken with sorrow. So he often expresses great degrees of spiritual desires, in a multitude of the strongest expressions which can be conceived of; such as his longing, his soul's thirsting as a dry and thirsty land where no water is, his manting, his flesh and heart crying out, his souls breaking for

e longing it hath, &c. He expresses the exercises of great

indant loveven to angui sercises of ste

and extreme grief for the sins of others, Psal. cxix. 136. Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law. And ver, 53. Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law. He expresses high exercises of joy, Psal. xxi. l. The king shall joy in thy strength, and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Psal. Ixxi. 23. My lips shall greatly rejoice, when I sing unto thee. Psal. Ixiii. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Because thy loving-kindness is better than life : my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee, while I live, I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night-watches.' Because thou hast been my help; therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

The apostle Paul expresses high exercises of affection. Thus he expresses the exercises of pity and concern for others good, even to anguish of heart; a great, fervent, and abundant love, and earnest and longing desires, and exceeding joy; and speaks of the exultation and triumphs of his soul, and his earnest expectation and hope, and his abundant tears, and the travails of his soul, in pity, grief, earnest desires, godly jealousy, and fervent zeal, in many places that have been cited already, and which therefore I need not repeat. John the Baptist expressed great joy, John iii. 39. Those blessed women that anointed the body of Jesus, are represented as in a very high exercise of religious affection, on occasion of Christ's resurrection ; Matth. xxviii. 8. And they departed from the sepulchre, with fear and great joy.

It is often foretold of the church of God, in her future happy seasons here on earth, that they shall exceedingly rejoice; Psal. Ixxxix. 15, 16. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. Zech. ix. 9. Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem : behold, thy King cometh, &c. The same is represented in innumerable other places. And because high degrees of joy are the proper and genuine fruits of the gospel of Christ, therefore the angel calls this gospel, good tidings of great joy, that should be to all people.

The saints and angels in heaven, that have religion in its highest perfection, are exceedingly affected with what they behold and contemplate of God's perfections and works. They are all as a pure heavenly flame of fire, in their love, and in the greatness and strength of their joy and gratitude: their praises are represented as the noise of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. Now the only reason why their affections are so much higher than the holy affections of saints on earth, is, they see the things they are affected by, more according to their truth, and have their affections more conformed to the nature of things. And, therefore, if religious affections in men here below, are but of the same nature and kind with theirs, the higher they are, and the nearer they are to theirs in degree, the better; because therein they will be so much the more conformed to truth, as theirs are. · From these things it certainly appears, that religious affections being in a very high degree, is no evidence that they are not such as have the nature of true religion. Therefore they do greatly err, who condemn persons as enthusiasts, merely because their affections are very high. · And on the other hand, it is no evidence that religious affections are of a spiritual and gracious nature, because they are great. It is very manifest by the holy scripture, our sure and infallible rule to judge of things of this nature, that there are religious affections which are very high, that are not spiritual and saving. The apostle Paul speaks of affections in the Galatians, which had been exceedingly elevated, and which yet he manifestly speaks of, as fearing that they were vain, and had come to nothing, Gal. iv. 15. Where is the blessedness you spake of? for I bear you record, that if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. And in the 11th verse he tells them, he was afraid of them, lest he had bestowed upon them la. bour in vain. So the children of Israel were greatly affected with God's mercy to them, when they had seen how wonderfully he wrought for them at the Red-sea, where they sang God's praise ; though they soon forgat his works. So they were greatly affected again at Mount Sinai, when they saw the marvellous manifestations God made of himself there; and seemed mightily engaged in their minds, and with great forwardness made answer, when God proposed his holy covenant to them, saying, All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient. But how soon was here an end to all this mighty forwardness and engagede$5 of affection? how quickly were they turned aside after other gods, rejoicing and shouting around their golden calf? So great multitudes who were affected with the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, were elevated to a high degree, and made a mighty ado, when Jesus presently after entered into Jerusalem, exceedingly magnifying Christ, as though the ground were not good enough for the ass he rode to tread upon; and therefore cut down branches of palm-trees, and strewed them in the way; yea, pulled off their garments, and spread them in the way; and cried with loud voices, Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest ; so as to make the whole city ring again, and put all into an uproar. We learn by the evangelist John, that the reason why the people made this ado, was because they were affected with the miracle of raising Lazarus, John xii. 18. Here was a vast multitude crying Hosanna on this occasion, so that it gave occasion to the Pharisees to say, Behold, the world is gone after him, John xii. 19. ; but Christ had at that time but few true disciples. And how quickly was this ado at an end ? all of this nature is quelled and dead, when this Jesus stands bound, with a mock robe and a crown of thorns, to be derided, spit upon, scourged, condemned, and executed. Indeed there was a great and loud outcry concerning him, among the multitude then, as well as before ; but of a very different kind : it is not then, Hosanna, Hosanna, but, Crucify, Crucify..

And it is the concurring voice of all orthodox divines, that there may be religious affections, which are raised to a very high degree, and yet there be nothing of true religion *.

[ocr errors]

- II. It is no sign that affections have the nature of true religion, or that they have not, that they have great effects on the body.

All affections whatsoever have, in some respect or degree, an effect on the body. . As was observed before, such is our nature, and such are the laws of union of soul and body, that the mind can have no lively or vigorous exercise, without some effect upon the body. So subject is the body to the mind, and so much do its fluids, especially the animal spirits, attend the motions and exercises of the mind, that there cannot be so much as an intense thought, without an effect upon them. Yea, it is questionable, whether an imbodied soul ever so much as thinks one thought, or has any exercise at all, but that there is some corresponding motion or alteration of motion, in some degree, of the fluids, in some part of the body. But universal experience shews, that the exercise of the affections have in a spe. cial manner a tendency to some sensible effect upon the body. And if this be so, that all affections have some effect on the body, we may then well suppose, the greater those affections be, and the more vigorous their exercise, (other circumstances being equal), the greater will be the effect on the body. Hence it is not to be wondered at, that very great and strong exercises of the affections should have great effects on the body. And therefore, seeing there are very great affections, both common and spiritual; hence it is not to be wondered at, that great effects on the body should arise from both these kinds of affections. And con

* Mr Stoddart observes, “ That common affections are sometimes stronger " than saving." Guide to Cbrist, p. 21.

sequently these effects are no signs, that the affections they · arise from, are of one kind or the other. .

Great effects on the body certainly are no sure evidencès that affections are spiritual, for we see that such effects oftentimes arise from great affections about temporal things, and when religion is no way concerned in them. And if great affections about secular things, that are purely natural, may have these effects, I know not by what rule we should determine, that high affections about religious things, which arise in like manner from nature, cannot have the like effect.

Nor, on the other hand, do I know of any rule any have to determine, that gracious and holy affections, when raised as high as any natural affections, and have equally strong and vigorous exercises, cannot have a great effect on the body. No such rule can be drawn from reason: I know of no reason, why a being affected with a view of God's glory should not cause the body to faint, as well as being affected with a view of Solomon's glory. And no such rule has as yet been produced from the scripture : none has ever been found in all the late controversies which have been about things of this nature. There is a great power in spiritual affections; we read of the power which work

« AnteriorContinuar »