THERE is no question whatsoever, that is of greater importance to
mankind, and what is more concerns every individual person to be well
resolved in, than this: What are the distinguishing qualifications of
those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal
rewards? Or, which comes to the same thing, What is the nature of true
religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue
and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God? But though it be
of such importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the
word of God to direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point, wherein
professing Christians do more differ one from another. It would be endless
to reckon up the variety of opinions in this point, that divide the Christian
world; making manifest the truth of that declaration of our Savior, "Strait
is the gate and narrow is the way, that leads to life, and few there be that
find it."
The consideration of these things has long engaged me to attend to this
matter, with the utmost diligence and care, and exactness of search and
inquiry, that I have been capable of. It is a subject on which my mind has
been peculiarly intent, ever since I first entered on the study of divinity.
But as to the success of my inquiries it must be left to the judgment of the
reader of the following treatise.
I am sensible it is much more difficult to judge impartially of that which is
the subject of this discourse, in the midst of the dust and smoke of such a
state of controversy, as this land is now in, about things of this nature. As
it is more difficult to write impartially, so it is more difficult to read
impartially. Many will probably be hurt in their spirits, to find so much
that appertains to religious affection, here condemned: and perhaps
indignation and contempt will be excited in others by finding so much here
justified and approved. And it may be, some will be ready to charge me
with inconsistency with myself, in so much approving some things, and so
much condemning others; as I have found this has always been objected to
by some, ever since the beginning of our late controversies about religion.
It is a hard thing to be a hearty zealous friend of what has been good and.
glorious, in the late extraordinary appearances, and to rejoice much in it;
and at the same time to see the evil and pernicious tendency of what has
been bad, and earnestly to oppose that. But yet, I am humbly but fully
persuaded, we shall never be in the way of truth, nor go on in a way
acceptable to God, and tending to the advancement of Christ's kingdom till
we do so. There is indeed something very mysterious in it, that so much
good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God; as
it is a mysterious thing, and what has puzzled and amazed many a good
Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious, as the
saving grace of God, and the new and divine nature dwelling in the same
heart, with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity, in a particular
saint. Yet neither of these is more mysterious than real. And neither of
them is a new or rare thing. It is no new thing, that much false religion
should prevail, at a time of great reviving of true religion, and that at such a
time multitudes of hypocrites should spring up among true saints. It was
so in that great reformation, and revival of religion, that was in Josiah's
time; as appears by Jeremiah 3:10, and 4:3, 4, and also by the great
apostasy that there was in the land, so soon after his reign. So it was in
that great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews, that was in the days of
John the Baptist; as appears by the great apostasy of that people so soon
after so general an awakening, and the temporary religious comforts and
joys of many: John 5:35, "Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his
light." So it was in those great commotions that were among the multitude,
occasioned by the preaching of Jesus Christ; of the many that were then
called, but few were chosen; of the multitude that were roused and affected
by his preaching, and at one time or other appeared mightily engaged, full
of admiration of Christ, and elevated with joy, but few were true disciples,
that stood the shock of the great trials that came afterwards, and endured
to the end. Many were like the stony ground, or thorny ground; and but
few, comparatively, like the good ground. Of the whole heap that was
gathered, great part was chaff; that the wind afterwards drove away; and
the heap of wheat that was left, was comparatively small; as appears
abundantly, by the history of the New Testament. So it was in that great
outpouring of the Spirit that was in the apostles' days as appears by
Matthew 24:10-13. Galatians 3:1, and 4:11, 15. Philippians 2:21, and
3:18, 19, and the two epistles to the Corinthians, and many other parts of
the New Testament. And so it was in the great reformation from Popery.
It appears plainly to have been in the visible church of God, in times of
great reviving of religion, from time to time, as it is with the fruit trees in
the spring; there are a multitude of blossoms, all of which appear fair and
beautiful, and there is a promising appearance of young fruits; but many of
them are but of short continuance; they soon fall off, and never come to
Not that it is to be supposed that it will always be so; for though there
never will, in this world, be an entire purity, either in particular saints, in a
perfect freedom from mixtures of corruption; or in the church of God,
without any mixture of hypocrites with saints, and counterfeit religion,
and false appearances of grace with true religion, and real holiness: yet it is
evident, that there will come a time of much greater purity in the church of
God, than has been in ages past; it is plain by these texts of Scripture,
Isaiah 52:1. Ezekiel 44:6, 7, Joel 3:17. Zechariah 14:21. Psalm 69:32, 35,
36. Isaiah 35:8, 10, chap. 4:3, 4. Ezekiel 20:38. Psalm 37:9, 10, 21, 29.
And one great reason of it will be that at that time God will give much
greater light to his people, to distinguish between true religion and its
counterfeits. Malachi 3:3, "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of
silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and
silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness." With
ver. 18, which is a continuation of the prophecy of the same happy times.
"Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked,
between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not."
It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and
distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the
cause and kingdom of Christ, all along hitherto. It is by this means,
principally, that he has prevailed against all revivings of religion, that ever
have been sheen the first founding of the Christian church. By this, he hurt
the cause of Christianity, in and after the apostolic age, much more than
by all the persecutions of both Jews and Heathens. The apostles, in all
their epistles, show themselves much more concerned at the former
mischief, than the latter. By this, Satan prevailed against the reformation,
began by Luther. Zwinglius, etc., to put a stop to its progress, and bring it
into disgrace; ten times more, than by all those bloody, cruel, and before
unheard of persecutions of the church of Rome. By this, principally, has
he prevailed against revivals of religion, that have been in our nation since
the reformation. By this he prevailed against New England, to quench the
love and spoil the joy of her espousals, about a hundred years ago. And I
think, I have had opportunity enough to see plainly that by this the devil
has prevailed against the late great revival of religion in New England, so
happy and promising in its beginning. Here, most evidently has been the
main advantage Satan has had against us; by this he has foiled us. It is by
this means, that the daughter of Zion in this land now lies on the ground,
in such piteous circumstances as we now behold her; with her garments
rent, her face disfigured, her nakedness exposed, her limbs broken, and
weltering in the blood of her own wounds, and in no wise able to arise, and
this, so quickly after her late great joys and hopes: Lamentations 1:17,
"Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the
Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries shall be
roundabout him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them." I have
seen the devil prevail the same way, against two great revivings of religion
in this country. Satan goes on with mankind, as he began with them. He
prevailed against our first parents, and cast them out of paradise, and
suddenly brought all their happiness and glory to an end, by appearing to
be a friend to their happy paradisaic state, and pretending to advance it to
higher degrees. So the same cunning serpent, that beguiled Eve through his
subtlety, by perverting us from the simplicity that is in Christ, hath
suddenly prevailed to deprive us of that fair prospect, we had a little while
ago, of a kind of paradisaic state of the church of God in New England.
After religion has revived in the church of God, and enemies appear,
people that are engaged to defend its cause, are commonly most exposed,
where they are sensible of danger. While they are wholly intent upon the
opposition that appears openly before them, to make head against that,
and do neglect carefully to look all around them, the devil comes behind
them, and gives a fatal stab unseen; and has opportunity to give a more
home stroke, and wound the deeper, because he strikes at his leisure, and
according to his pleasure, being obstructed by no guard or resistance.
And so it is ever likely to be in the church, whenever religion revives
remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false
religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair
shows, and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited; the
consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often
inexpressibly dreadful. By this means, the devil gratifies himself, by
bringing it to pass, that that should be offered to God, by multitudes,
under a notion of a pleasing acceptable service to him, that is indeed above
all things abominable to him. By this means he deceives great multitudes
about the state of their souls; making them think they are something, when
they are nothing; and so eternally undoes them; and not only so, but
establishes many in a strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who are
in God's sight some of the vilest of hypocrites. By this means, he many
ways damps and wounds religion in the hearts of the saints, obscures and
deforms it by corrupt mixtures, causes their religious affections woefully
to degenerate, and sometimes, for a considerable time, to be like the manna
that bred worms and stank; and dreadfully ensnares and confounds the
minds of others of the saints and brings them into great difficulties and
temptation, and entangles them in a wilderness, out of which they can by
no means extricate themselves. By this means, Satan mightily encourages
the hearts of open enemies of religion, and strengthens their hands, and
fills them with weapons, and makes strong their fortresses; when, at the
same time, religion and the church of God lie exposed to them, as a city
without walls. By this means, he brings it to pass, that men work
wickedness under a notion of doing God service, and so sin without
restraint, yea with earnest forwardness and zeal, any with all their might.
By this means he brings in even the friends of religion, insensibly to
themselves, to do the work of enemies, by destroying religion in a far more
effectual manner than open enemies can do, under a notion of advancing it.
By this means the devil scatters the flock of Christ, and sets them one
against another, and that with great heat of spirit, under a nation of zeal for
God; and religion, by degrees degenerates into vain jangling; and during the
strife, Satan leads both parties far out of the right way, driving each to
great extremes, one on the right hand, and the other on the left, according
as he finds they are most inclined, or most easily moved and swayed, till
the right path in the middle is almost wholly neglected. And in the midst
of this confusion, the devil has great opportunity to advance his own
interest, and make it strong in ways innumerable, and get the government
of all into his own hands and work his own will. And by what is seen of
the terrible consequences of this counterfeit religion, when not
distinguished from true religion, God's people in general have their minds
unhinged and unsettled in things of religion, and know not where to set
their foot, or what to think or do; and many are brought into doubts,
whether there be anything in religion; and heresy, and infidelity, and
atheism greatly prevail.
Therefore it greatly concerns us to use our utmost endeavors clearly to
discern, and have it well settled and established, wherein true religion does
consist. Till this be done, it may be expected, that great revivings of
religion will be but of short continuance; till this be done, there is but little
good to be expected of all our warm debates in conversation and from the
press, not knowing clearly and distinctly what we ought to contend for.
My design is to contribute my mite, and use my best (however feeble)
endeavors to this end, in the ensuing treatise; wherein it must be noted,
that my design is somewhat diverse from the design of what I have
formerly published, which was to show the distinguishing marks of a
work of the Spirit of God, including both his common and saving
operations; but what I aim at now, is to show the nature and signs of the
gracious operations of God's Spirit, by which they are to be
distinguished from all things whatsoever, that the minds of men are the
subjects of, which are not of a saving nature. If I have succeeded, in this
my aim, in any tolerable measure, I hope it will tend to promote the
interest of religion. And whether I have succeeded to bring any light to this
subject or no, and however my attempts may be reproached in these
captious and censorious times, I hope ins the mercy of a gracious God, for
the acceptance of the sincerity of my endeavors; and hope also for the
candor and prayers of the true followers of the meek and charitable Lamb
of God.




1 Peter 1:8: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see

him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
IN these words, the apostle represents the state of the minds of the
Christians he wrote to, under the persecutions they were then the subjects
of. These persecutions are what he has respect to, in the two preceding
verses, when he speaks of the trial of their faith, and of their being in
heaviness through manifold temptations.
Such trials are of threefold benefit to true religion. Hereby the truth of it is
manifested, and it appears to be indeed true religion; they, above all other
things, have a tendency to distinguish between true religion and false, and
to cause the difference between them evidently to appear. Hence they are
called by the name of trials, in the verse nextly preceding the text, and in
innumerable other places; they try the faith and religion of professors, of
what sort it is, as apparent gold is tried in the fire, and manifested,
whether it be true gold or no. And the faith of true Christians being thus
tried and proved to be true, is "found to praise, and honor, and glory," as
in that preceding verse.
And then, these trials are of further benefit to true religion; they not only
manifest the truth of it, but they make its genuine beauty and amiableness
remarkably to appear. True virtue never appears so lovely, as when it is
most oppressed; and the divine excellency of real Christianity, is never
exhibited with such advantage, as when under the greatest trials: then it is
that true faith appears much more precious than gold! And upon this
account is "found to praise, and honor, and glory."
And again, another benefit that such trials are of to true religion, is, that
they purify and increase it. They not only manifest it to be true, but also
tend to refine it, and deliver it from those mixtures of that which is false,
which encumber and impede it; that nothing may be left but that which is
true. They tend to cause the amiableness of true religion to appear to the
best advantage, as was before observed; and not only so, but they tend to
increase its beauty, by establishing and confirming it, and making it more
lively and vigorous, and purifying it from those things that obscured its
luster and glory. As gold that is tried in the fire, is purged from its alloy,
and all remainders of dross, and comes forth more solid and beautiful; so
true faith being tried as gold is tried in the fire, becomes more precious, and
thus also is "found unto praise, and honor, and glory." The apostle seems
to have respect to each of these benefits, that persecutions are of to true
religion, in the verse preceding the text.
And, in the text, the apostle observes how true religion operated in the
Christians he wrote to, under their persecutions, whereby these benefits of
persecution appeared in them; or what manner of operation of true
religion, in them, it was, whereby their religion, under persecution, was
manifested to be true religion, and eminently appeared in the genuine
beauty and amiableness of true religion, and also appeared to be increased
and purified, and so was like to be "found unto praise, and honor, and
glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." And there were two kinds of
operation, or exercise of true religion, in them, under their sufferings, that
the apostle takes notice of in the text, wherein these benefits appeared.
1. Love to Christ: "Whom having not yet seen, ye love." The world was
ready to wonder, what strange principle it was, that influenced them to
expose themselves to so great sufferings, to forsake the things that were
seen, and renounce all that was dear and pleasant, which was the object of
sense. They seemed to the men of the world about them, as though they
were beside themselves, and to act as though they hated themselves; there
was nothing in their view, that could induce them thus to suffer, and
support them under, and carry them through such trials. But although
there was nothing that was seen, nothing that the world saw, or that the
Christians themselves ever saw with their bodily eyes, that thus
influenced and supported them, yet they had a supernatural principle of
love to something unseen; they loved Jesus Christ, for they saw him
spiritually whom the world saw not, and whom they themselves had never
seen with bodily eyes.
2. Joy in Christ. Though their outward sufferings were very grievous, yet
their inward spiritual joys were greater than their sufferings; and these
supported them, and enabled them to suffer with cheerfulness.
There are two things which the apostle takes notice of in the text
concerning this joy. 1. The manner in which it rises, the way in which
Christ, though unseen, is the foundation of it, viz., by faith; which is the
evidence of things not seen: "In whom, though now ye see him not, yet
believing, ye rejoice." 2. The nature of this joy; "unspeakable and full of
glory." Unspeakable in the kind of it; very different from worldly joys,
and carnal delights; of a vastly more pure, sublime, and heavenly nature,
being something supernatural, and truly divine, and so ineffably excellent;
the sublimity and exquisite sweetness of which, there were no words to
set forth. Unspeakable also in degree; it pleasing God to give them this
holy joy, with a liberal hand, and in large measure, in their state of
Their joy was full of glory. Although the joy was unspeakable, and no
words were sufficient to describe it, yet something might be said of it, and
no words more fit to represent its excellency than these, that it was full of
glory; or, as it is in the original, glorified joy. In rejoicing with this joy,
their minds were filled, as it were, with a glorious brightness, and their
natures exalted and perfected. It was a most worthy, noble rejoicing, that
did not corrupt and debase the mind, as many carnal joys do; but did
greatly beautify and dignify it; it was a prelibation of the joy of heaven,
that raised their minds to a degree of heavenly blessedness; it filled their
minds with the light of God's glory, and made themselves to shine with
some communication of that glory.
Hence the proposition or doctrine, that I would raise from these words, is
this: DOCTRINE. True religion, in great part, consists in holy
We see that the apostle, in observing and remarking the operations and
exercises of religion in the Christians he wrote to, wherein their religion
appeared to be true and of the right kind, when it had its greatest trial of
what sort it was, being tried by persecution as gold is tried in the fire, and
when their religion not only proved true, but was most pure, and cleansed
from its dross and mixtures of that which was not true, and when religion
appeared in them most in its genuine excellency and native beauty, and
was found to praise, and honor, and glory; he singles out the religious
affections of love and joy, that were then in exercise in them: these are the
exercises of religion he takes notice of wherein their religion did thus
appear true and pure, and in its proper glory. Here, I would,
1. Show what is intended by the affections.
2. Observe some things which make it evident, that a great part of true
religion lies in the affections.
I. It may be inquired, what the affections of the mind are?
I answer: The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible
exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.
God has endued the soul with two faculties: one is that by which it is
capable of perception and speculation, or by which it discerns, and views,
and judges of things; which is called the understanding. The other faculty
is that by which the soul does not merely perceive and view things, but is
some way inclined with respect to the things it views or considers; either
is inclined to them, or is disinclined and averse from them; or is the faculty
by which the soul does not behold things, as an indifferent unaffected
spectator, but either as liking or disliking, pleased or displeased, approving
or rejecting. This faculty is called by various names; it is sometimes called
the inclination: and, as it has respect to the actions that are determined and
governed by it, is called the and the will: and the mind, with regard to the
exercises of this faculty, is often called the heart.
The exercise of this faculty are of two sorts; either those by which the
soul is carried out towards the things that are in view, in approving of
them, being pleased with them, and inclined to them; or those in which the
soul opposes the things that are in view, in disapproving of them, and in
being displeased with them, averse from them, and rejecting them.
And as the exercises of the inclination and will of the soul are various in
their kinds, so they are much more various in their degrees. There are some
exercises of pleasedness or displeasedness, inclination or disinclination,
wherein the soul is carried but a little beyond the state of indifference. —
And there are other degrees above this, wherein the approbation or dislike,
pleasedness or aversion, are stronger, wherein we may rise higher and
higher, till the soul comes to act vigorously and sensibly, and the actings of
the soul are with that strength, that (through the laws of the union which
the Creator has fixed between the soul and the body) the motion of the
blood and animal spirits begins to be sensibly altered; whence oftentimes
arises some bodily sensation, especially about the heart and vitals, that are
the fountain of the fluids of the body: from whence it comes to pass, that
the mind, with regard to the exercises of this faculty, perhaps in all nations
and ages, is called the heart. And it is to be noted, that they are these more
vigorous and sensible exercises of this faculty that are called the affections.
The will, and the affections of the soul, are not two faculties; the
affections are not essentially distinct from the will, nor do they differ from
the mere actings of the will, and inclination of the soul, but only in the
liveliness and sensibleness of exercise.
It must be confessed, that language is here somewhat imperfect, and the
meaning of words in a considerable measure loose and unfixed, and not
precisely limited by custom, which governs the use of language. In some
sense, the affection of the soul differs nothing at all from the will and
inclination, and the will never is in any exercise any further than it is
affected; it is not moved out of a state of perfect indifference, any
otherwise than as it is affected one way or other, and acts nothing any
further. But yet there are many actings of the will and inclination, that are
not so commonly called affections: in everything we do, wherein we act
voluntarily, there is an exercise of the will and inclination; it is our
inclination that governs us in our actions; but all the actings of the
inclination and will, in all our common actions of life, are not ordinarily
called affections. Yet, what are commonly called affections are not
essentially different from them, but only in the degree and manner of
exercise. In every act of the will whatsoever, the soul either likes or
dislikes, is either inclined or disinclined to what is in view: these are not
essentially different from those affections of love and hatred: that liking or
inclination of the soul to a thing, if it be in a high degree, and be vigorous
and lively, is the very same thing with the affection of love; and that
disliking and disinclining, if in a greater degree, is the very same with
hatred. In every act of the will for, or towards something not present, the
soul is in some degree inclined to that thing; and that inclination, if in a.14
considerable degree, is the very same with the affection of desire. And in
every degree of the act of the will, wherein the soul approves of something
present, there is a degree of pleasedness; and that pleasedness, if it be in a
considerable degree, is the very same with the affections of joy or delight.
And if the will disapproves of what is present, the soul is in some degree
displeased, and if that displeasedness be great, it is the very same with the
affection of grief or sorrow.
Such seems to be our nature, and such the laws of the union of soul and
body, that there never is in any case whatsoever, any lively and vigorous
exercise of the will or inclination of the soul, without some effect upon the
body, in some alteration of the motion of its fluids, and especially of the
animal spirits. And, on the other hand, from the same laws of the union of
the soul and body, the constitution of the body, and the motion of its
fluids, may promote the exercise of the affections. But yet it is not the
body, but the mind only, that is the proper seat of the affections. The
body of man is no more capable of being really the subject of love or
hatred, joy or sorrow, fear or hope, than the body of a tree, or than the
same body of man is capable of thinking and understanding. As it is the
soul only that has ideas, so it is the soul only that is pleased or displeased
with its ideas. As it is the soul only that thinks, so it is the soul only that
loves or hates, rejoices or is grieved at what it thinks of. Nor are these
motions of the animal spirits, and fluids of the body, anything properly
belonging to the nature of the affections, though they always accompany
them, in the present state; but are only effects or concomitants of the
affections that are entirely distinct from the affections themselves, and no
way essential to them; so that an unbodied spirit may be as capable of
love and hatred, joy or sorrow, hope or fear, or other affections, as one
that is united to a body.
The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as the same; and yet
in the more common use of speech, there is in some respect a difference;
and affection is a word that in its ordinary signification, seems to be
something more extensive than passion, being used for all vigorous lively
actings of the will or inclination; but passion for those that are more
sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent, and the
mind more overpowered, and less in its own command.
As all the exercises of the inclination and will, are either in approving and
liking, or disapproving and rejecting; so the affections are of two sorts;
they are those by which the soul is carried out to what is in view, cleaving
to it, or seeking it; or those by which it is averse from it, and opposes it.
Of the former sort are love, desire, hope, joy, gratitude, complacence. Of
the latter kind are hatred, fear, anger, grief, and such like; which it is
needless now to stand particularly to define.
And there are some affections wherein there is a composition of each of
the aforementioned kinds of actings of the will; as in the affection of pity,
there is something of the former kind, towards the person suffering, and
something of the latter towards what he suffers. And so in zeal, there is in
it high approbation of some person or thing, together with vigorous
opposition to what is conceived to be contrary to it.
There are other mixed affections that might be also mentioned, but I hasten
II. The second thing proposed, which was to observe some things that
render it evident, that true religion, in great part consists in the
affections. And here,
1. What has been said of the nature of the affections makes this evident,
and may be sufficient, without adding anything further, to put this matter
out of doubt; for who will deny that true religion consists in a great
measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the
soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?
That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in
weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of
indifference: God, in his word, greatly insists upon it, that we be good in
earnest, "fervent in spirit," and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion:
Romans 12:11, "Be ye fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Deuteronomy
10:12, "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but
to fear the Lord the God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to
serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul?" and
chap. 6:4, 6, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy might." It
is such a fervent vigorous engagedness of the heart in religion, that is the
fruit of a real circumcision of the heart, or true regeneration, and that has
the promises of life; Deuteronomy 30:6, "And the Lord thy God will
circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."
If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be
not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great,
that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their
nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is
vigor in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in
nothing is lukewarmness so odious. True religion is evermore a powerful
thing; and the power of it appears, in the first place in the inward exercises
of it in the heart, where is the principal and original seat of it. Hence true
religion is called the power of godliness, in distinction from the external
appearances of it, that are the form of it, 2 Timothy 3:5: "Having a form
of godliness, but denying the power of it." The Spirit of God, in those that
have sound and solid religion, is a spirit of powerful holy affection; and
therefore, God is said "to have given the Spirit of power, and of love, and
of a sound mind," 2 Timothy 1:7. And such, when they receive the Spirit
of God, in his sanctifying and saving influences, are said to be "baptized
with the Holy Ghost, and with fire;" by reason of the power and fervor of
those exercises the Spirit of God excites in their hearts, whereby their
hearts, when grace is in exercise, may be said to "burn within them;" as is
said of the disciples, Luke 24:32.
The business of religion is from time to time compared to those exercises,
wherein men are wont to have their hearts and strength greatly exercised
and engaged, such as running, wrestling or agonizing for a great prize or
crown, and fighting with strong enemies that seek our lives, and warring as
those, that by violence take a city or kingdom.
And though true grace has various degrees, and there are some that are but
babes in Christ, in whom the exercise of the inclination and will, towards
divine and heavenly things, is comparatively weak; yet everyone that has
the power of godliness in his heart, has his inclinations and heart exercised
towards God and divine things, with such strength and vigor that these
holy exercises do prevail in him above all carnal or natural affections, and
are effectual to overcome them: for every true disciple of Christ "loves
him above father or mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters, houses
and lands: yea, than his own life." From hence it follows, that wherever
true religion is, there are vigorous exercises of the inclination and will
towards divine objects: but by what was said before, the vigorous, lively,
and sensible exercises of the will, are no other than the affections of the
2. The Author of the human nature has not only given affections to men,
but has made them very much the spring of men's actions. As the
affections do not only necessarily belong to the human nature, but are a
very great part of it; so (inasmuch as by regeneration persons are renewed
in the whole man, and sanctified throughout) holy affections do not only
necessarily belong to true religion, but are a very great part of it. And as
true religion is of a practical nature, and God hath so constituted the
human nature, that the affections are very much the spring of men's
actions, this also shows, that true religion must consist very much in the
Such is man's nature, that he is very inactive, any otherwise than he is
influenced by some affection, either love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, or
some other. These affections we see to be the springs that set men agoing,
in all the affairs of life, and engage them in all their pursuits: these are the
things that put men forward, and carry them along, in all their worldly
business; and especially are men excited and animated by these, in all
affairs wherein they are earnestly engaged, and which they pursue with
vigor. We see the world of mankind to be exceeding busy and active; and
the affections of men are the springs of the motion: take away all love and
hatred, all hope and fear, all anger, zeal, and affectionate desire, and the
world would be, in a great measure motionless and dead; there would be no
such thing as activity amongst mankind, or any earnest pursuit
whatsoever. It is affection that engages the covetous man, and him that is
greedy of worldly profits, in his pursuits; and it is by the affections, that
the ambitious man is put forward in pursuit of worldly glory; and it is the
affections also that actuate the voluptuous man, in his pursuit of pleasure
and sensual delights: the world continues, from age to age, in a continual
commotion and agitation, in a pursuit of these things, but take away all
affection, and the spring of all this motion would be gone, and the motion
itself would cease. And as in worldly things, worldly affections are very
much the spring of men's motion and action; so in religious matters, the
spring of their actions is very much religious affection: he that has
doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is
engaged in the business of religion.
3. Nothing is more manifest in fact, than that the things of religion take
hold of men's souls, no further than they affect them. There are multitudes
that often hear the word of God, and therein hear of those things that are
infinitely great and important, and that most nearly concern them, and all
that is heard seems to be wholly ineffectual upon them, and to make no
alteration in their disposition or behavior; and the reason is, they are not
affected with what they hear. There are many that often hear of the
glorious perfections of God, his almighty power and boundless wisdom,
his infinite majesty, and that holiness of God, by which he is of purer eyes
than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, and the heavens are not
pure in his sight, and of God's infinite goodness and mercy, and hear of
the great works of God's wisdom, power and goodness, wherein there
appear the admirable manifestations of these perfections; they hear
particularly of the unspeakable love of God and Christ, and of the great
things that Christ has done and suffered, and of the great things of another
world, of eternal misery in bearing the fierceness and wrath of Almighty
God, and of endless blessedness and glory in the presence of God, and the
enjoyment of his dear love; they also hear the peremptory commands of
God, and his gracious counsels and warnings, and the sweet invitations of
the gospel; I say, they often hear these things and yet remain as they were
before, with no sensible alteration in them, either in heart or practice,
because they are not affected with what they hear; and ever will be so till
they are affected. — I am bold to assert, that there never was any
considerable change wrought in the mind or conversation of any person,
by anything of a religious nature, that ever he read, heard or saw, that had
not his affections moved. Never was a natural man engaged earnestly to
seek his salvation; never were any such brought to cry after wisdom, and
lift up their voice for understanding, and to wrestle with God in prayer for
mercy; and never was one humbled, and brought to the foot of God, from
anything that ever he heard or imagined of his own unworthiness and
deserving of God's displeasure; nor was ever one induced to fly for refuge
unto Christ, while his heart remained unaffected. Nor was there ever a
saint awakened out of a cold, lifeless flame, or recovered from a declining
state in religion, and brought back from a lamentable departure from God,
without having his heart affected. And in a word, there never was anything
considerable brought to pass in the heart or life of any man living, by the
things of religion, that had not his heart deeply affected by those things.
4. The holy Scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the
affection; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude,
compassion, and zeal.
The Scriptures place much of religion in godly fear; insomuch, that it is
often spoken of as the character of those that are truly religious persons,
that they tremble at God's word, that they fear before him, that their flesh
trembles for fear of him, and that they are afraid of his judgments, that his
excellency makes them afraid, and his dread falls upon them, and the like:
and a compilation commonly given the saints in Scripture, is "fearers of
God," or, "they that fear the Lord." And because the fear of God is a great
part of true godliness, hence true godliness in general, is very commonly
called by the name of the fear of God; as everyone knows, that knows
anything of the Bible.
So hope in God and in the promises of his word, is often spoken of in the
Scripture, as a very considerable part of true religion. It is mentioned as
one of the three great things of which religion consists, 1 Corinthians
13:13. Hope in the Lord is also frequently mentioned as the character of
the saints: Psalm 146:5, "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his
help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." Jeremiah 17:7, "Blessed is the
man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is." Psalm 31:24,
"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in
the Lord." And the like in many other places. Religious fear and hope are,
once and again, joined together, as jointly constituting the character of the
true saints; Psalm 33:18, "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that
fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy." Psalm 147:11, "The Lord
taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy."
Hope is so great a part of true religion, that the apostle says, "we are
saved by hope," Romans 8:24. And this is spoken of as the helmet of the
Christian soldier. 1 Thessalonians 5:8, "And for a helmet, the hope of
salvation;" and the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, which preserves
it from being cast away by the storms of this evil world." Hebrews 6:19,
"Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,
and which entereth into that within the vail." It is spoken of as a great fruit
and benefit which true saints receive by Christ's resurrection: 1 Peter 1:3,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according
to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
The Scriptures place religion very much in the affection of love, in love to
God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and love to the people of God, and to
mankind. The texts in which this is manifest, both in the Old Testament
and New, are innumerable. But of this more afterwards.
The contrary affection of hatred also, as having sin for its object, is spoken
of in Scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion. It is spoken of as
that by which true religion may be known and distinguished; Proverbs
8:13, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." And accordingly the saints are
called upon to give evidence of their sincerity by this; Psalm 97:10, "Ye
that love the Lord hate evil." And the Psalmist often mentions it as an
evidence of his sincerity; Psalm 2, 3, "I will walk within my house with a
perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes; I hate the work
of them that turn aside." Psalm 119:104, "I hate every false way." So ver.
127. Again, Psalm 139:21, "Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?"
So holy desire, exercised in longings, hungerings, and thirstings after God
and holiness, is often mentioned in Scripture as an important part of true
religion; Isaiah 26:8, "The desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the
remembrance of thee." Psalm 27:4, "One thing have I desired of the Lord,
and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the
days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his
temple." Psalm 42:1, 2, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so
panteth my soul after thee, O God; my soul thirsteth for God, for the
living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" Psalm 63:1, 2,
"My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty
land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen
thee in the sanctuary." Psalm 84:1, 2, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O
Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the
Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." Psalm 119:20,
"My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all
times." So Psalm 73:25, and 143:6, 7, and 130:6. Cant. 3:1, 2, and 6:8.
Such a holy desire and thirst of soul is mentioned, as one thing which
renders or denotes a man truly blessed, in the beginning of Christ's sermon
on the mount, Matthew 5:6: "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst
after righteousness; for they shall be filled." And this holy thirst is spoken
of, as a great thing in the condition of a participation of the blessings of
eternal life; Revelation 21:6, "I will give unto him that is athirst, of the
fountain of the water of life freely."
The Scriptures speaks of holy joy, as a great part of true religion. So it is
represented in the text. And as an important part of religion, it is often
exhorted to, and pressed, with great earnestness; Psalm 37:4, "Delight
thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Psalm
97:12, "Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous." So Psalm 33:1, "Rejoice in the
Lord, O ye righteous." Matthew 5:12, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad."
Philippians 3:1, "Finally, brethren, rejoice in the Lord." And chap. 4:4,
"Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice." 1 Thessalonians
5:16, "Rejoice evermore." Psalm 149:2, "Let Israel rejoice in him that made
him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king." This is mentioned
among the principal fruits of the Spirit of grace; Galatians 5:21, "The fruit
of the Spirit is love," etc. The Psalmist mentions his holy joy, as an
evidence of his sincerity. Psalm 119:14, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy
testimonies, as much as in all riches."
Religious sorrow, mourning, and brokenness of heart, are also frequently
spoken of as a great part of true religion. These things are often mentioned
as distinguishing qualities of the true saints, and a great part of their
character; Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be
comforted." Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken
heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." Isaiah 61:1, 2, "The Lord
hath anointed me, to bind up the broken-hearted, to comfort all that
mourn." This godly sorrow and brokenness of heart is often spoken of,
not only as a great thing in the distinguishing character of the saints, but
that in them, which is peculiarly acceptable and pleasing to God; Psalm
51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite
heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Isaiah 57:15, "Thus saith the high
and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the
high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite
ones." Chap. 66:2, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and
of a contrite spirit."
Another affection often mentioned, as that in the exercise of which much
of true religion appears, is gratitude; especially as exercised in thankfulness
and praise to God. This being so much spoken of in the book of Psalms,
and other parts of the holy Scriptures, I need not mention particular texts.
Again, the holy Scriptures do frequently speak of compassion or mercy,
as a very great and essential thing in true religion, insomuch that good men
are in Scripture denominated from hence; and a merciful man and a good
man are equivalent terms in Scripture; Isaiah 57:1, "The righteous
perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken
away." And the Scripture chooses out this quality, as that by which, in a
peculiar manner, a righteous man is deciphered; Psalm 37:21, "The
righteous showeth mercy, and giveth;" and ver. 26, "He is ever merciful,
and lendeth." And Proverbs 14:21, "He that honoreth the Lord, hath
mercy on the poor." And Colossians 3:12, "Put ye on, as the elect of God,
holy and beloved, bowels of mercies," etc. This is one of those great things
by which those who are truly blessed are described by our Savior;
Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." And
this Christ also speaks of, as one of the weightier matters of the law;
Matthew 23:23, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye
pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier
matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith." To the like purpose is
that, Micah 6:8, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good: and what
doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, and love mercy, and walk
humbly with thy God?" And also that, Hosea 6:6 "For I desired mercy,
and not sacrifice." Which seems to have been a text much delighted in by
our Savior, by his manner of citing it once and again, Matthew 9:13, and
Zeal is also spoken of, as a very essential part of the religion of true saints.
It is spoken of as a great thing Christ had in view, in giving himself for our
redemption; Titus 2:14, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us
from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of
good works." And this is spoken of, as the great thing wanting in the
lukewarm Laodiceans, Revelation 3:15, 16, 19.
I have mentioned but a few texts, out of an innumerable multitude, all over
the Scripture, which place religion very much in the affections. But what
has been observed, may be sufficient to show that they who would deny
that much of true religion lies in the affections, and maintain the contrary,
must throw away what we have been wont to own for our Bible, and get
some other rule, by which to judge of the nature of religion.
5. The Scriptures do represent true religion, as being summarily
comprehended in love, the chief of the affections, and fountain of all other
So our blessed Savior represents the matter, in answer to the lawyer, who
asked him, which was the great commandment of the law Matthew
22:37-40: "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and
great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the
prophets." Which last words signify as much, as that these two
commandments comprehend all the duty prescribed, and the religion
taught in the law and the prophets. And the apostle Paul does from time
to time make the same representation of the matter; as in Romans 13:8,
"He that loveth another, hath fulfilled the law." And ver. 10, "Love is the
fulfilling of the law." And Galatians 5:14, "For all the law is fulfilled in one
word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." So likewise in
1 Timothy 1:5, "Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a
pure heart," etc. So the same apostle speaks of love, as the greatest thing
in religion, and as the vitals, essence and soul of it; without which, the
greatest knowledge and gifts, and the most glaring profession, and
everything else which appertains to religion, are vain and worthless; and
represents it as the fountain from whence proceeds all that is good, in 1
Corinthians 13 through out; for that which is there rendered charity, in the
original is agaph, the proper English of which is love.
Now, although it be true, that the love thus spoken of includes the whole
of a sincerely benevolent propensity of the soul towards God and man;
yet it may be considered, that it is evident from what has been before
observed, that this propensity or inclination of the soul, when in sensible
and vigorous exercise, becomes affection, and is no other than affectionate
love. And surely it is such vigorous and fervent love which Christ speaks
of, as the sum of all religion, when he speaks of loving God with all our
hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, and our neighbor as
ourselves, as the sum of all that was taught and prescribed in the law and
the prophets.
Indeed it cannot be supposed, when this affection of love is here, and in
other Scriptures, spoken of as the sum of all religion, that hereby is meant
the act, exclusive of the habit, or that the exercise of the understanding is
excluded, which is implied in all reasonable affection. But it is doubtless
true, and evident from these Scriptures, that the essence of all true religion
lies in holy love; and that in this divine affection, and an habitual
disposition to it, and that light which is the foundation of it, and those
things which are the fruits of it, consists the whole of religion.
From hence it clearly and certainly appears, that great part of true religion
consists in the affections. For love is not only one of the affections, but it
is the first and chief of the affections, and the fountain of all the affections.
From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we
love, or which oppose and thwart us in those things that we delight in: and
from the various exercises of love and hatred, according to the
circumstances of the objects of these affections, as present or absent,
certain or uncertain, probable or improbable, arise all those other affections
of desire, hope, fear, joy, grief, gratitude, anger, etc. From a vigorous,
affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious
affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin, fear of
sin, and a dread of God's displeasure, gratitude to God for his goodness,
complacence and joy in God, when God is graciously and sensibly
present, and grief when he is absent, and a joyful hope when a future
enjoyment of God is expected, and fervent zeal for the glory of God. And
in like manner, from a fervent love to men, will arise all other virtuous
affections towards men.
6. The religion of the most eminent saints we have an account of in the
Scripture, consisted much in holy affections.
I shall take particular notice of three eminent saints, who have expressed
the frame and sentiments of their own hearts, and so described their own
religion, and the manner of their intercourse with God, in the writings
which they have left us, that are a part of the sacred canon.
The first instance I shall take notice of, is David, that "man after God's
own heart;" who has given us a lively portraiture of his religion in the book
of Psalms. Those holy songs of his he has there left us, are nothing else
but the expressions and breathings of devout and holy affections; such as
an humble and fervent love to God, admiration of his glorious perfections
and wonderful works, earnest desires, thirstings, and pantings of soul after
God, delight and joy in God, a sweet and melting gratitude to God, for his
great goodness, a holy exultation and triumph of soul in the favor,
sufficiency, and faithfulness of God, his love to, and delight in the saints,
the excellent of the earth, his great delight in the word and ordinances of
God, his grief for his own and others' sins, and his fervent zeal for God,
and against the enemies of God and his church. And these expressions of
holy affection, which the psalms of David are everywhere full of, are the
more to our present purpose, because those psalms are not only the
expressions of the religion of so eminent a saint, that God speaks of as so
agreeable to his mind; but were also, by the direction of the Holy Ghost,
penned for the use of the church of God in its public worship, not only in
that age, but in after ages; as being fitted to express the religion of all
saints, in all ages, as well as the religion of the Psalmist. And it is moreover
to be observed, that David, in the book of Psalms, speaks not as a private
person, but as the Psalmist of Israel, as the subordinate head of the church
of God, and leader in their worship and praises; and in many of the psalms
speaks in the name of Christ, as personating him in these breathings forth
of holy affection; and in many other psalms he speaks in the name of the
Another instance I shall observe, is the apostle Paul; who was in many
respects, the chief of all the ministers of the New Testament; being above
all others, a chosen vessel unto Christ, to bear his name before the
Gentiles, and made a chief instrument of propagating and establishing the
Christian church in the world, and of distinctly revealing the glorious
mysteries of the gospel, for the instruction of the church in all ages; and
(as has not been improperly thought by some) the most eminent servant
of Christ that ever lived, received to the highest rewards in the heavenly
kingdom of his Master. By what is said of him in the Scripture, he appears
to have been a person that was full of affection. And it is very manifest,
that the religion he expresses in his epistles, consisted very much in holy
affections. It appears by all his expressions of himself, that he was, in the
course of his life, inflamed, actuated, and entirely swallowed up, by a most
ardent love to his glorious Lord, esteeming all things as loss, for the
excellency of the knowledge of him, and esteeming them but dung that he
might win him. He represents himself, as overpowered by this holy
affection, and as it were compelled by it to go forward in his service,
through all difficulties and sufferings, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15. And his
epistles are full of expressions of an overpowering affection towards the
people of Christ. He speaks of his dear love to them, 2 Corinthians 12:19,
Philippians 4:1, 2 Timothy 1:2; of his "abundant love," 2 Corinthians 2:4;
and of his "affectionate and tender love," as of a nurse towards her
children, 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8: "But we were gentle among you, even as
a nurse cherisheth her children; so, being affectionately desirous of you we
were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but
also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us." So also he speaks of
his "bowels of love," Philippians 1:8, Philemon 5, 12, and 20. So he
speaks of his "earnest care" for others, 2 Corinthians 8:16, and of his
"bowels of pity, or mercy towards them, Philippians 2:1; and of his
concern for others, even to anguish of heart," 2 Corinthians 2:4: "For out
of much affliction and anguish of heart, I wrote unto you with many tears;
not that you should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I
have more abundantly unto you." He speaks of the great conflict of his
soul for them, Colossians 2:1. He speaks of great and continual grief that
he had in his heart from compassion to the Jews, Romans 9:2. He speaks
of "his mouth's being opened, and his heart enlarged" towards Christians,
2 Corinthians 6:11: "O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our
heart is enlarged." He often speaks of his "affectionate and longing
desires," 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Romans 1:11, Philippians 1:8, and chap.
4:1, 2 Timothy 1:4. The same apostle is very often, in his epistles,
expressing the affection of joy, 2 Corinthians 1:12 and chap. 7:7, and ver.
9. 16. Philippians 1:4, and chap. 2:12, and chap 3:3. Colossians 1:34. 1
Thessalonians 3:9. He speaks of his "rejoicing with great joy," Philippians
4:10, Philemon 1:7; of his "joying and rejoicing," Philippians 2:1, 7, and
"of his rejoicing exceedingly," 2 Corinthians 7:13, and of his being "filled
with comfort, and being exceeding joyful," 2 Corinthians 7:4. He speaks of
himself as "always rejoicing," 2 Corinthians 6:10. So he speaks of the
triumphs of his soul, 2 Corinthians 2:14, and of his glorying in
tribulation," 2 Thessalonians 1:4, and Romans 5:3. He also expresses the
affection of hope; in Philippians 1:20, he speaks of his "earnest
expectation, and his hope." He likewise expresses an affection of godly
jealousy, 2 Corinthians 11:2, 3. And it appears by his whole history, after
his conversion, in the Acts, and also by all his epistles, and the accounts
he gives of himself there that the affection of zeal, as having the cause of
his Master, and the interest and prosperity of his church, for its object,
was mighty in him, continually inflaming his heart, strongly engaging to
those great and constant labors he went through, in instructing, exhorting,
warning, and reproving others, "travailing in birth with them;" conflicting
with those powerful and innumerable enemies who continually opposed
him, wrestling with principalities and powers, not fighting as one who
beats the air, running the race set before him, continually pressing
forwards through all manner of difficulties and sufferings; so that others
thought him quite beside himself. And how full he was of affection, does
further appear by his being so full of tears: in 2 Corinthians 2:4, he speaks
of his a many tears;" and so Acts 20:19; and of his "tears that he shed
continually night and day," ver. 31.
Now if anyone can consider these accounts given in the Scripture of this
great apostle, and which he gives of himself, and yet not see that his
religion consisted much in affection, must have a strange faculty of
managing his eyes to shut out the light which shines most full in his face.
The other instance I shall mention, is of the apostle John, that beloved
disciple, who was the nearest and dearest to his Master, of any of the
twelve, and was by him admitted to the greatest privileges of any of them;
being not only one of the three who were admitted to be present with him
in the mount at his transfiguration, and at the raising of Jairus's daughter,
and whom he took with him when he was in his agony, and one of the
three spoken of by the apostle Paul, as the three main pillars of the
Christian church; but was favored above all, in being admitted to lean on
his Master's bosom at his last supper, and in being chosen by Christ, as
the disciple to whom he would reveal his wonderful dispensations towards
his church, to the end of time; as we have an account in the Book of
Revelation; and to shut up the canon of the New Testament, and of the
whole Scripture; being preserved much longer than all the rest of the
apostles, to set all things in order in the Christian church, after their death.
It is evident by all his writings (as is generally observed by divines) that he
was a person remarkably full of affection: his addresses to those whom he
wrote to being inexpressibly tender and pathetical, breathing nothing but
the most fervent love; as though he were all made up of sweet and holy
affection. The proofs of which cannot be given without disadvantage,
unless we should transcribe his whole writings.
7. He whom God sent into the world to be the light of the world, and head
of the whole church, and the perfect example of true religion and virtue, for
the imitation of all, the Shepherd whom the whole flock should follow
wherever he goes, even the Lord Jesus Christ, was a person who was
remarkably of a tender and affectionate heart; and his virtue was expressed
very much in the exercise of holy affections. He was the greatest instance
of ardency, vigor and strength of love, to both God and man, that ever
was. It was these affections which got the victory, in that mighty struggle
and conflict of his affections, in his agonies, when "he prayed more
earnestly, and offered strong crying and tears," and wrestled in tears and in
blood. Such was the power of the exercises of his holy love, that they
were stronger than death, and in that great struggle, overcame those strong
exercises of the natural affections of fear and grief, when he was sore
amazed, and his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. And he
also appeared to be full of affection in the course of his life. We read of his
great zeal, fulfilling that in the 69th Psalm, "The zeal of thine house hath
eaten me up," John 2:17. We read of his grief for the sins of men, Mark
3:5: "He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the
hardness of their hearts;" and his breaking forth in tears and exclamations,
from the consideration of the sin and misery of ungodly men and on the
sight of the city of Jerusalem, which was full of such inhabitants, Luke
19:41, 42: "And, when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept
over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the
things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine
eyes." With chap. 13:34, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the
prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I
have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under
her wings, and ye would not!" We read of Christ's earnest desire, Luke
22:15: "With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I
suffer." We often read of the affection of pity or compassion in Christ,
Matthew 15:32, and 18:34. Luke 7:13, and of his "being moved with
compassion," Matthew 9:36, and 14:14, and Mark 6:34. And how tender
did his heart appear to be, on occasion of Mary's and Martha's mourning
for their brother, and coming to him with their complaints and tears! Their
tears soon drew tears from his eyes he was affected with their grief, and
wept with them; though he knew their sorrow should so soon be turned
into joy, by their brother's being raised from the dead; see John 11. And
how ineffably affectionate was that last and dying discourse, which Jesus
had with his eleven disciples the evening before he was crucified; when he
told them he was going away, and foretold them the great difficulties and
sufferings they should meet with in the world, when he was gone; and
comforted and counseled them as his dear little children; and bequeathed to
them his Holy Spirit, and therein his peace, and his comfort and joy, as it
were in his last will and testament, in the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th
chapters of John; and concluded the whole with that affectionate
intercessory prayer for them, and his whole church, in chap. 17. Of all the
discourses ever penned, or uttered by the mouth of any man, this seems to
be the most affectionate and affecting.
8. The religion of heaven consists very much in affection.
There is doubtless true religion in heaven, and true religion in its utmost
purity and perfection. But according to the Scripture representation of the
heavenly state, the religion of heaven consists chiefly in holy and mighty
love and joy, and the expression of these in most fervent and exalted
praises. So that the religion of the saints in heaven, consists in the same
things with that religion of the saints on earth, which is spoken of in our
text, viz., love, and "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Now it would be
very foolish to pretend, that because the saints in heaven be not united to
flesh and blood, and have no animal fluids to be moved (through the laws
of union of soul and body) with those great emotions of their souls, that
therefore their exceeding love and joy are no affections. We are not
speaking of the affections of the body, but of the affections of the soul,
the chief of which are love and joy. When these are in the soul, whether
that be in the body or out of it, the soul is affected and moved. And when
they are in the soul, in that strength in which they are in the saints in
heaven, the soul is mightily affected and moved, or, which is the same
thing, has great affections. It is true, we do not experimentally know what
love and joy are in a soul out of a body, or in a glorified body; i.e., we have
not had experience of love and joy in a soul in these circumstances; but the
saints on earth do know what divine love and joy in the soul are, and they
know that love and joy are of the same kind with the love and joy which
are in heaven, in separate souls there. The love and joy of the saints on
earth, is the beginning and dawning of the light, life, and blessedness of
heaven, and is like their love and joy there; or rather, the same in nature,
though not the same with it, or like to it, in degree and circumstances. This
is evident by many Scriptures, as Proverbs 4:18; John 4:14, and chap.
6:40, 47, 50, 51, 54, 58; 1 John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. It is
unreasonable therefore to suppose, that the love and joy of the saints in
heaven, not only differ in degree and circumstances, from the holy love and
joy of the saints on earth, but is so entirely different in nature, that they
are no affections; and merely because they have no blood and animal
spirits to be set in motion by them, which motion of the blood and animal
spirits is not of the essence of these affections, in men on the earth, but
the effect of them; although by their reaction they may make some
circumstantial difference in the sensation of the mind. There is a sensation
of the mind which loves and rejoices, that is antecedent to any effects on
the fluids of the body; and this sensation of the mind, therefore, does not
depend on these motions in the body, and so may be in the soul without
the body. And wherever there are the exercises of love and joy, there is
that sensation of the mind, whether it be in the body or out; and that
inward sensation, or kind of spiritual sense, or feeling, and motion of the
soul, is what is called affection: the soul when it thus feels (if I may say
so), and is thus moved, is said to be affected, and especially when this
inward sensation and motion are to a very high degree, as they are in the
saints in heaven. If we can learn anything of the state of heaven from the
Scripture, the love and joy that the saints have there, is exceeding great and
vigorous; impressing the heart with the strongest and most lively sensation
of inexpressible sweetness, mightily moving, animating and engaging them,
making them like a flame of fire. And if such love and joy be not
affections, then the word affection is of no use in language. Will any say,
that the saints in heaven, in beholding the face of their Father, and the
glory of their Redeemer, and contemplating his wonderful works, and
particularly his laying down his life for them, have their hearts nothing
moved and affected by all which they behold or consider?
Hence, therefore, the religion of heaven, consisting chiefly in holy love and
joy, consists very much in affection; and therefore, undoubtedly, true
religion consists very much in affection. The way to learn the true nature
of anything, is to go where that thing is to be found in its purity and
perfection. If we would know the nature of true gold we must view it, not
in the ore, but when it is refined. If we would learn what true religion is,
we must go where there is true religion, and nothing but true religion, and
in its highest perfection, without any defect or mixture. All who are truly
religious are not of this world, they are strangers here, and belong to
heaven; they are born from above, heaven is their native country, and the
nature which they receive by this heavenly birth, is a heavenly nature,
they receive an anointing from above; that principle of true religion which
is in them, is a communication of the religion of heaven; their grace is the
dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it.
9. This appears from the nature and design of the ordinances and duties,
which God hath appointed, as means and expressions of true religion.
To instance in the duty of prayer: it is manifest, we are not appointed in
this duty, to declare God's perfections, his majesty, holiness, goodness,
and all-sufficiency, and our own meanness, emptiness, dependence, and
unworthiness, and our wants and desires, to inform God of these things, or
to incline his heart, and prevail with him to be willing to show us mercy;
but suitably to affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to
prepare us to receive the blessings we ask. And such gestures and manner
of external behavior in the worship of God, which custom has made to be
significations of humility and reverence, can be of no further use than as
they have some tendency to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others.
And the duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to
excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned
why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose,
and do it with music but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these
things have a tendency to move our affections.
The same thing appears in the nature and design of the sacraments, which
God hath appointed. God, considering our frame, hath not only appointed
that we should be told of the great things of the gospel, and of the
redemption of Christ, and instructed in them by his word; but also that
they should be, as it were, exhibited to our view, in sensible
representations, in the sacraments, the more to affect us with them.
And the impressing divine things on the hearts and affections of men, is
evidently one great and main end for which God has ordained that his
word delivered in the holy Scriptures, should be opened, applied, and set
home upon men, in preaching. And therefore it does not answer the aim
which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good
commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of
divinity; because, although these may tend as well as preaching to give
men a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the things of the
word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on
men's hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively
application of his word to men in the preaching of it, as a fit means to
affect sinners with the importance of the things of religion, and their own
misery, and necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a
remedy provided; and to stir up the pure minds of the saints, and quicken
their affections, by often bringing the great things of religion to their
remembrance, and setting them before them in their proper colors, though
they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already, 2 Peter
1:12, 13. And particularly, to promote those two affections in them,
which are spoken of in the text, love and joy: "Christ gave some, apostles;
and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; that the body of Christ might be edified in love," Ephesians 4:11,
12, 16. The apostle in instructing and counseling Timothy concerning the
work of the ministry, informs him that the great end of that word which a
minister is to preach, is love or charity, 1 Timothy 3, 4, 5. And another
affection which God has appointed preaching as a means to promote in the
saints, is joy; and therefore ministers are called "helpers of their joy," 2
Corinthians 1:24.
10. It is an evidence that true religion, or holiness of heart, lies very much
in the affection of the heart, that the Scriptures place the sin of the heart
very much in hardness of heart. Thus the Scriptures do everywhere. It was
hardness of heart which excited grief and displeasure in Christ towards the
Jews, Mark 3:5: "He looked round about on then, with anger, being
grieved for the hardness of their hearts." It is from men's having such a
heart as this, that they treasure up wrath for themselves: Romans 2:5,
"After thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself
wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of
God." The reason given why the house of Israel would not obey God,
was, that they were hardhearted: Ezekiel 3:7, "But the house of Israel will
not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house
of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted." The wickedness of that perverse
rebellious generation in the wilderness, is ascribed to the hardness of their
hearts: Psalm 95:7-10, "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your
heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the
wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work:
forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people
that do err in their heart," etc. This is spoken of as what prevented
Zedekiah's turning to the Lord: 2 Chronicles 36:13, "He stiffened his neck,
and hardened his heart from turning to the Lord God of Israel." This
principle is spoken of, as that from whence men are without the fear of
God, and depart from God's ways: Isaiah 63:17, "O Lord, why hast thou
made us to err from thy ways and hardened our heart from thy fear?" And
men's rejecting Christ, and opposing Christianity, is laid to this principle:
Acts 19:9, "But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake
evil of that way before the multitude." God's leaving men to the power of
the sin and corruption of the heart is often expressed by God's hardening
their hearts: Romans 9:18, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will
have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." John 12:40, "He hath
blinded their minds, and hardened their hearts." And the apostle seems to
speak of "an evil heart that departs from the living God, and a hard heart,"
as the same thing: Hebrews 3:8, "Harden not your heart, as in the
provocation," etc.; ver. 12, 13, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any
of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God: but
exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; lest any of you be
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." And that great work of God in
conversion, which consists in delivering a person from the power of sin,
and mortifying corruption, is expressed, once and again, by God's "taking
away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh," Ezekiel 11:19, and
chap. 36:26.
Now by a hard heart, is plainly meant an unaffected heart, or a heart not
easy to be moved with virtuous affections, like a stone, insensible, stupid,
unmoved, and hard to be impressed. Hence the hard heart is called a stony
heart, and is opposed to a heart of flesh, that has feeling, and is sensibly
touched and moved. We read in Scripture of a hard heart, and a tender
heart; and doubtless we are to understand these, as contrary the one to the
other. But what is a tender heart, but a heart which is easily impressed
with what ought to affect it? God commends Josiah, because his heart was
tender; and it is evident by those things which are mentioned as
expressions and evidences of this tenderness of heart, that by his heart
being tender is meant, his heart being easily moved with religious and
pious affection: 2 Kings 22:19, "Because thine heart was tender, and thou
hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake
against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should
become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept
before me, I also have heard thee, saith the Lord." And this is one thing,
wherein it is necessary we should "become as little children, in order to
our entering into the kingdom of God," even that we should have our
hearts tender, and easily affected and moved in spiritual and divine things,
as little children have in other things.
It is very plain in some places, in the texts themselves, that by hardness of
heart is meant a heart void of affection. So, to signify the ostrich's being
without natural affection to her young, it is said, Job 39:16, "She
hardeneth her heart against her young ones, as though they were not hers."
So a person having a heart unaffected in time of danger, is expressed by his
hardening his heart: Proverbs 28:14, "Happy is the man that feareth
alway; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief."
Now, therefore, since it is so plain, that by a hard heart, in Scripture, is
meant a heart destitute of pious affections, and since also the Scriptures do
so frequently place the sin and corruption of the heart in hardness of heart;
it is evident, that the grace and holiness of the heart, on the contrary, must,
in a great measure, consist in its having pious affections, and being easily
susceptive of such affection. Divines are generally agreed, that sin radically
and fundamentally consist in what is negative, or privative, having its root
and foundation in a privation or want of holiness. And therefore
undoubtedly, if it be so that sin does very much consist in hardness of
hearts and so in the want of pious affections of heart, holiness does
consist very much in those pious affections.
I am far from supposing that all affections do show a tender heart: hatred,
anger, vainglory, and other selfish and self-exalting affections, may greatly
prevail in the hardest heart. But yet it is evident, that hardness of heart
and tenderness of heart, are expressions that relate to the affection of the
heart, and denote the heart's being susceptible of, or shut up against
certain affections; of which I shall have occasion to speak more afterwards.
Upon the whole, I think it clearly and abundantly evident, that true
religion lies very much in the affections. Not that I think these arguments
prove, that religion in the hearts of the truly godly, is ever in exact
proportion to the degree of affection, and present emotion of the mind: for
undoubtedly, there is much affection in the true saints which is not
spiritual; their religious affections are often mixed; all is not from grace, but
much from nature. And though the affections have not their seat in the
body; yet the constitution of the body may very much contribute to the
present emotion of the mind. And the degree of religion is rather to be
judged of by the fixedness and strength of the habit that is exercised in
affection, whereby holy affection is habitual, than by the degree of the
present exercise; and the strength of that habit is not always in proportion
to outward effects and manifestations, or inward effects, in the hurry and
vehemence, and sudden changes of the course of the thoughts of the mind.
But yet it is evident, that religion consists so much in affection, as that
without holy affection there is no true religion; and no light in the
understanding is good, which does not produce holy affection in the heart:
no habit or principle in the heart is good, which has no such exercise; and
no external fruit is good, which does not proceed from such exercises.
Having thus considered the evidence of the proposition laid down, I
proceed to some inferences.
1. We may hence learn how great their error is, who are for discarding all
religious affections, as having nothing solid or substantial in them.
There seems to be too much of a disposition this way, prevailing in this
land at this time. Because many who, in the late extraordinary season,
appeared to have great religious affections, did not manifest a right temper
of mind, and run into many errors, in the time of their affections, and the
heat of their zeal; and because the high affections of many seem to be so
soon come to nothing, and some who seemed to be mightily raised and
swallowed up with joy and zeal, for a while, seem to have returned like the
dog to his vomit; hence religious affections in general are grown out of
credit with great numbers, as though true religion did not at all consist in
them. Thus we easily and naturally run from one extreme to another. A
little while ago we were in the other extreme; there was a prevalent
disposition to look upon all high religious affections as eminent exercises
of true grace, without much inquiring into the nature and source of those
affections, and the manner in which they arose: if persons did but appear
to be indeed very much moved and raised, so as to be full of religious talk,
and express themselves with great warmth and earnestness, and to be
filled, or to be very full, as the phrases were; it was too much the manner,
without further examination, to conclude such persons were full of the
Spirit of God, and had eminent experience of his gracious influences. This
was the extreme which was prevailing three or four years ago. But of late,
instead of esteeming and admiring all religious affections without
distinction, it is a thing much more prevalent, to reject and discard all
without distinction. Herein appears the subtlety of Satan. While he saw
that affections were much in vogue, knowing the greater part of the land
were not versed in such things, and had not had much experience of great
religious affections to enable them to judge well of them, and distinguish
between true and false: then he knew he could best play his game, by
sowing tares amongst the wheat, and mingling false affections with the
works of God's Spirit: he knew this to be a likely way to delude and
eternally ruin many souls, and greatly to wound religion in the saints, and
entangle them in a dreadful wilderness, and by and by, to bring all religion
into disrepute.
But now, when the ill consequences of these false affections appear, and it
is become very apparent, that some of those emotions which made a
glaring show, and were by many greatly admired, were in reality nothing;
the devil sees it to be for his interest to go another way to work, and to
endeavor to his utmost to propagate and establish a persuasion, that all
affections and sensible emotions of the mind, in things of religion, are
nothing at all to be regarded, but are rather to be avoided, and carefully
guarded against, as things of a pernicious tendency. This he knows is the
way to bring all religion to a mere lifeless formality, and effectually shut
out the power of godliness, and everything which is spiritual, and to have
all true Christianity turned out of doors. For although to true religion there
must indeed be something else besides affection; yet true religion consists
so much in the affections, that there can be no Hue religion without them.
He who has no religious affection, is in a state of spiritual death, and is
wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the
Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion where there is
nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no
religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the
understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat
without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on
the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored
with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can
be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual
knowledge of divine things. If the great things of religion are rightly
understood, they will affect the heart. The reason why men are not
affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful
things, as they often hear and read of, in the word of God, is undoubtedly
because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and
utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be
otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.
This manner of slighting all religious affections, is the way exceedingly to
harden the hearts of men, and to encourage them in their stupidity and
senselessness, and to keep them in a state of spiritual death as long as they
live, and bring them at last to death eternal. The prevailing prejudice
against religious affections at this day, in the land, is apparently of awful
effect to harden the hearts of sinners, and damp the graces of many of the
saints, and stun the life and power of religion, and preclude the effect of
ordinances, and hold us down in a state of dullness and apathy, and
undoubtedly causes many persons greatly to offend God, in entertaining
mean and low thoughts of the extraordinary work he has lately wrought in
this land.
And for persons to despise and cry down all religious affections, is the
way to shut all religion out of their own hearts, and to make thorough
work in ruining their souls.
They who condemn high affections in others, are certainly not likely to
have high affections themselves. And let it be considered, that they who
have but little religious affection, have certainly but little religion. And
they who condemn others for their religious affections, and have none
themselves, have no religion.
There are false affections, and there are true. A man's having much
affection, does not prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no
affection it proves that he has no true religion. The right way, is not to
reject all affections, nor to approve all; but to distinguish between
affections, approving some, and rejecting others; separating between the
wheat and the chaff, the gold and the dross, the precious and the vile.
2. If it be so, that true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may
infer, that such means are to be desired, as have much of a tendency to
move the affections. Such books, and such a way of preaching the word,
and administration of ordinances, and such a way of worshipping God in
prayer, and singing praises, is much to be desired, as has a tendency
deeply to affect the hearts of those who attend these means.
Such a kind of means would formerly have been highly approved of, and
applauded by the generality of the people of the land, as the most
excellent and profitable, and having the greatest tendency to promote the
ends of the means of grace. But the prevailing taste seems of late strangely
to be altered: that pathetical manner of praying and preaching, which
would formerly have been admired and extolled, and that for this reason,
because it had such a tendency to move the affections, now, in great
multitudes, immediately excites disgust, and moves no other affections,
that those of displeasure and contempt.
Perhaps, formerly the generality (at least of the common people) were in
the extreme, of looking too much to an affectionate address, in public
performances: but now, a very great part of the people seem to have gone
far into a contrary extreme. Indeed there may be such means, as may have
a great tendency to stir up the passions of weak and ignorant persons, and
yet have no great tendency to benefit their souls: for though they may
have a tendency to excite affections, they may have little or none to excite
gracious affections, or any affections tending to grace. But undoubtedly, if
the things of religion, in the means used, are treated according to their
nature, and exhibited truly, so as tends to convey just apprehensions, and
a right judgment of them; the more they have a tendency to move the
affections the better.
3. If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn, what
great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we
are no more affected with the great things of religion. It appears from what
has been said, that this arises from our having so little true religion.
God has given to mankind affections, for the same purpose which he has
given all the faculties and principles of the human soul for, viz., that they
might be subservient to man's chief end, and the great business for which
God has created him, that is, the business of religion. And yet how
common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised
and engaged in other matters, than in religion! In things which concern
men's worldly interest, their outward delights, their honor and reputation,
and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites
vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these
things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply
impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged;
much depressed with grief at worldly losses, and highly raised with joy at
worldly successes and prosperity. But how insensible and unmoved are
most men, about the great things of another world! How dull are their
affections! How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! Here their
love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small.
How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and
breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of his giving his infinitely dear
Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled
love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in his
dying agonies, his bloody sweat, his loud and bitter cries, and bleeding
heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal
burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory; and
yet be cold, and heavy, insensible, and regardless! Where are the exercises
of our affections proper, if not here? What is it that does more require
them? And what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise,
if not such a one as this? Can anything be set in our view, greater and more
important? Any thing more wonderful and surprising? Or more nearly
concerning our interest? Can we suppose the wise Creator implanted such
principles in the human nature as the affections, to be of use to us, and to
be exercised on certain proper occasions, but to lie still on such an
occasion as this? Can any Christian who believes the truth of these things,
entertain such thoughts?
If we ought ever to exercise our affections at all, and if the Creator has not
unwisely constituted the human nature in making these principles a part of
it, when they are vain and useless; then they ought to be exercised about
those objects which are most worthy of them. But is there anything which
Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their
admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their
rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in
the gospel of Jesus Christ? In which not only are things declared most
worthy to affect us, but they are exhibited in the most affecting manner.
The glory and beauty of the blessed Jehovah, which is most worthy in
itself, to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the
most affecting manner that can he conceived of, as it appears, shining in all
its luster, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek,
compassionate, dying Redeemer. All the virtues of the Lamb of God, his
humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love and
compassion, are exhibited to our view, in a manner the most tending to
move our affections, of any that can be imagined; as they all had their
greatest trial, and their highest exercise, and so their brightest
manifestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even
when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalleled
sufferings he endured, from his tender love and pity to us. There also the
hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner
possible: as we see the dreadful effects of them, in that our Redeemer, who
undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the
most affecting manifestation of God's hatred of sin, and his wrath and
justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and
inflexibleness of it; and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully
punishing our sins, in one who was infinitely dear to him, and loving to us.
So has God disposed things, in the affair of our redemption, and in his
glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though everything
were purposely contrived in such a manner, as to have the greatest
possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move
our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we
therefore to be humbled to the dust, that we are no more affected!
IF anyone, on the reading of what has been just now said, is ready to
acquit himself, and say, "I am not one of those who have no religious
affections; I am often greatly moved with the consideration of the great
things of religion:" let him not content himself with this, that he has
religious affections: for as we observed before, as we ought not to reject
and condemn all affections, as though true religion did not at all consist in
affection; so on the other hand, we ought not to approve of all, as though
everyone that was religiously affected had true grace, and was therein the
subject of the saving influences of the Spirit of God; and that therefore the
right way is to distinguish among religious affections, between one sort
and another. Therefore let us now endeavor to do this; and in order to do
it, I would do two things.
I. I would mention some things, which are no signs one way or the other,
either that affections are such as true religion consists in, or that they
are otherwise; that we may be guarded against judging of affections by
false signs.
II. I would observe some things, wherein those affections which are
spiritual and gracious, differ from those which are not so, and may be
distinguished and known.
First, I would take notice of some things, which are no signs that affect
titans are gracious, or that they are not.
It is no sign one way or the other, that religious affections are very great,
or raised very high.
Some are ready to condemn all high affections: if persons appear to have
their religious affections raised to an extraordinary pitch, they are
prejudiced against them, and determine that they are delusions, without
further inquiry. But if it be, as has been proved, that true religion lies very
much in religious affections, then it follows, that if there be a great deal of
true religion, there will be great religious affections; if true religion in the
hearts of men be raised to a great height, divine and holy affections will be
raised to a great height.
Love is an affection, but will any Christian say, men ought not to love
God and Jesus Christ in a high degree? And will any say, we ought not to
have a very great hatred of sin, and a very deep sorrow for it? Or that we
ought not to exercise a high degree of gratitude to God for the mercies we
receive of him, and the great things he has done for the salvation of fallen
men? Or that we should not have very great and strong desires after God
and holiness? Is there any who will profess, that his affections in religion
are great enough; and will say, "I have no cause to be humbled, that I am
no more affected with the things of religion than I am; I have no reason to
be ashamed, that I have no greater exercises of love to God and sorrow for
sin, and gratitude for the mercies which I have received?" Who is there that
will bless God that he is affected enough with what he has read and heard
of the wonderful love of God to worms and rebels, in giving his only
begotten Son to die for them, and of the dying love of Christ; 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
"repining 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," Matthew 5:12. So it is
said, Psalm 68:3, "Let the righteous be glad: let them rejoice before God:
yea, let them exceedingly rejoice." So in the book of Psalms, the saints are
often called upon to shout for joy; and in Luke 6:23, 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 wondrous works, declaring his doings, etc."
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;
Psalm 119:97, "O how love I thy law!" So he expresses a great degree of
hatred of sin, Psalm 139:21, 29: "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 a heavy burden that was
too heavy for him: and of his roaring all the day, and his moisture 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 panting, his flesh and heart crying out, his soul's breaking for the
longing it hath," etc. He expresses the exercises of great and extreme grief
for the sins of others, Psalm 119:136, "Rivers of water run down mine
eyes, because they keep not thy law." And verse 53, "Horror hath taken
hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law." He expresses
high exercises of joy, Psalm 21:1: "The king shall joy in thy strength, and
in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice." Psalm 71:23 "My lips shall
greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee." Psalm 63:3, 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
3:39. 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, Matthew 28:8: "And they departed from the
sepulcher 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: Psalm 89:15, 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."
Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of
Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh," etc. 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 voice 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: Galatians 4:15, "Where is the blessedness you spoke 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 labor
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 forgot his
works. So they were greatly affected again at mount Sinai, when they saw
the marvelous 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 there an end
to all this mighty forwardness and engagedness 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 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 12:18. Here was a vast multitude crying Hosanna on this
occasion, so that it gave occasion to the Pharisees to say, "Behold, the
world has gone after him," John 12:19, 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. 1
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 shows, that the exercise of the affections have in a
special manner a tendency to some sensible effect upon the body. And if
this be so, that all affections have some effect upon 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 consequently 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 evidences 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 worketh in Christians, 2 and of the Spirit of God being in
them as the Spirit of power, 3 and of the effectual working of his power in
them. 4 But man's nature is weak: flesh and blood are represented in
Scripture as exceeding weak; and particularly with respect to its unfitness
for great spiritual and heavenly operations and exercises, Matthew 26:41,
1 Corinthians 15:43, and 50. The text we are upon speaks of "joy
unspeakable, and full of glory." And who that considers what man's
nature is, and what the nature of the affections is, can reasonably doubt
but that such unutterable and glorious joys, may be too great and mighty
for weak dust and ashes, so as to be considerably overbearing to it? It is
evident by the Scripture that true divine discoveries, or ideas of God's
glory, when given in a great degree have a tendency, by affecting the mind,
to overbear the body; because the Scripture teaches us often, that if these
ideas or views should be given to such a degree as they are given in heaven,
the weak frame of the body could not subsist under it, and that no man
can, in that manner, see God and live. The knowledge which the saints
have of God's beauty and glory in this world, and those holy affections
that arise from it, are of the same nature and kind with what the saints are
the subjects of in heaven, differing only in degree and circumstances: what
God gives them here, is a foretaste of heavenly happiness, and an earnest
of their future inheritance. And who shall limit God in his giving this
earnest, or say he shall give so much of the inheritance, such a part of the
future reward as an earnest of the whole, and no more? And seeing God.49
has taught us in his word, that the whole reward is such, that it would at
once destroy the body, is it not too bold a thing for us, so to set bounds to
the sovereign God, as to say that in giving the earnest of this reward in this
world, he shall never give so much of it, as in the least to diminish the
strength of the body, when God has nowhere thus limited himself?
The Psalmist, speaking of the vehement religious affections he had, speaks
of an effect in his flesh or body, besides what was in his soul, expressly
distinguishing one from the other, once and again: Psalm 84:2, "My soul
longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my
flesh crieth out for the living God." Here is a plain distinction between the
heart and the flesh, as being each affected. So Psalm 63:1, "My soul
thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land,
where no water is." Here also is an evident designed distinction between
the soul and the flesh.
The prophet Habakkuk speaks of his bodies being overborne by a sense of
the majesty of God, Habakkuk 3:16: "When I heard, my belly trembled:
my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness enter into my bones, and I
trembled in myself." So the Psalmist speaks expressly of his flesh
trembling, Psalm 119:120: My flesh trembleth for fear of thee."
That such ideas of God's glory as are sometimes given in this world, have
a tendency to overhear the body, is evident, because the Scripture gives us
an account, that this has sometimes actually been the effect of those
external manifestations God has made of himself to some of the saints
which were made to that end, viz., to give them an idea of God's majesty
and glory. Such instances we have in the prophet Daniel, and the apostle
John. Daniel, giving an account of an external representation of the glory of
Christ, says, Daniel 10:8, "And there remained no strength in me; for my
comeliness was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength." And
the apostle John, giving an account of the manifestation made to him, says,
Revelation 1:17, "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead." It is in
vain to say here, these were only external manifestations or symbols of the
glory of Christ, which these saints beheld: for though it be true, that they
were outward representations of Christ's glory, which they beheld with
their bodily eyes; yet the end and use of these external symbols are
representations was to give to these prophets an idea of the thing.50
represented, and that was the true divine glory and majesty of Christ,
which is his spiritual glory; they were made use of only as significations of
this spiritual glory, and thus undoubtedly they received them, and
improved them, and were affected by them. According to the end for
which God intended these outward signs, they received by them a great
and lively apprehension of the real glory and majesty of God's nature,
which they were signs of; and thus were greatly affected, their souls
swallowed up, and their bodies overborne. And I think they are very bold
and daring, who will say God cannot, or shall not give the like clear and
affecting ideas and apprehensions of the same real glory and majesty of his
nature, to any of his saints, without the intervention of any such external
shadows of it.
Before I leave this head, I would farther observe, that it is plain the
Scripture often makes use of bodily effects, to express the strength of holy
and spiritual affections; such as trembling, 5 groaning, 6 being sick, 7 crying
out, 8 panting, 9 and fainting. 10 Now if it be supposed, that these are only
figurative expressions, to represent the degree of affection: yet I hope all
will allow, that they are fit and suitable figures to represent the high degree
of those spiritual affections, which the Spirit of God makes use of them to
represent; which I do not see how they would be, if those spiritual
affections, let them be in never to high a degree, have no tendency to any
such things; but that on the contrary, they are the proper effects and sad
tokens of false affections, and the delusion of the devil. I cannot think,
God would commonly make use of things which are very alien from
spiritual affections, and are shrewd marks of the hand of Satan, and smell
strong of the bottomless pit, as beautiful figures, to represent the high
degree of holy and heavenly affections.
III. It is no sign that affections are truly gracious affections, or that they
are not, that they cause those who have them to be fluent, fervent,
and abundant, in talking of the things of religion.
There are many persons, who, if they see this in others, are greatly
prejudiced against them. Their being so full of talk, is with them a
sufficient ground to condemn them, as Pharisees, and ostentatious
hypocrites. On the other hand, there are many, who if they see this effect
in any, are very ignorantly and imprudently forward, at once to determine.51
that they are the true children of God, and are under the saving influences
of his Spirit, and speak of it as a great evidence of a new creature; they
say, "such a one's mouth is now opened: he used to be slow to speak; but
now he is full and free; he is free now to open his heart, and tell his
experiences, and declare the praises of God; it comes from him, as free as
water from a fountain;" and the like. And especially are they captivated
into a confident and undoubting persuasion, that they are savingly
wrought upon, if they are not only free and abundant, but very
affectionate and earnest in their talk.
But this is the fruit of but little judgment, a scanty and short experience; as
events do abundantly show: and is a mistake persons often run into,
through their trusting to their own wisdom and discerning, and making
their own notions their rule, instead of the holy Scripture. Though the
Scripture be full of rules, both how we should judge of our own state, and
also how we should be conducted in our opinion of others; yet we have
nowhere any rule, by which to judge ourselves or others to be in a good
estate, from any such effect: for this is but the religion of the mouth and of
the tongue, and what is in the Scripture represented by the leaves of a tree,
which, though the tree ought not to be without them, yet are nowhere
given as an evidence of the goodness of the tree.
That persons are disposed to be abundant in talking of things of religion,
may be from a good cause, and it may be from a bad one. It may be
because their hearts are very full of holy affections; "for out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh:" and it may be because
persons' hearts are very full of religious affection which is not holy; for
still out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. It is very much
the nature of the affections, of whatever kind they be, and whatever
objects they are exercised about, if they are strong, to dispose persons to
be very much in speaking of that which they are affected with: and not
only to speak much, but to speak very earnestly and fervently. And
therefore persons talking abundantly and very fervently about the things
of religion, can be an evidence of no more than this, that they are very
much affected with the things of religion; but this may be (as has been
already shown) and there be no grace. That which men are greatly affected
with, while the high affection lasts, they will be earnestly engaged about,
and will be likely to show that earnestness in their talk and behavior; as.52
the greater part of the Jews, in all Judah and Galilee, did for a while, about
John the Baptist's preaching and baptism, when they were willing for a
season to rejoice in his light; a mighty ado was made, all over the land, and
among all sorts of persons, about this great prophet and his ministry. And
so the multitude, in like manner, often manifested a great earnestness, a
mighty engagedness of spirit in everything that was external, about Christ
and his preaching and miracles, "being astonished at his doctrine, anon
with joy receiving the word," following him sometimes night and day,
leaving meat, drink, and sleep to hear him: once following him into the
wilderness, fasting three days going to hear him; some times crying him up
to the clouds, saying, "Never man spake like this man!" being fervent and
earnest in what they said. But what did these things come to, in the greater
part of them?
A person may be over full of talk of his own experiences; commonly
falling upon it, everywhere, and in all companies; and when it is so, it is
rather a dark sign than a good one. As a tree that is over full of leaves
seldom bears much fruit; and as a cloud, though to appearance very
pregnant and full of water, if it brings with it overmuch wind, seldom
affords much rain to the dry and thirsty earth; which very thing the Holy
Spirit is pleased several times to make use of, to represent a great show of
religion with the mouth, without answerable fruit in the life: Proverbs
25:24, "Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift, is like clouds and wind
without rain." And the apostle Jude, speaking of some in the primitive
times, that crept in unawares among the saints, and having a great show of
religion, where for a while not suspected, "These are clouds (says he)
without water, carried about of winds," Jude ver. 4 and 12. And the
apostle Peter, speaking of the same, says, 2 Peter 2:17, "These are clouds
without water, carried with a tempest."
False affections, if they are equally strong, are much more forward to
declare themselves, than true: because it is the nature of false religion, to
affect show and observation; as it was with the Pharisees. 11
IV. It is no sign that affections are gracious, or that they are otherwise,
that persons did not make them themselves, or excite them of their
own contrivance and by their own strength..53
There are many in these days, that condemn all affections which are
excited in a way that the subjects of them can give no account of, as not
seeming to be the fruit of any of their own endeavors, or the natural
consequence of the faculties and principles of human nature, in such
circumstances, and under such means; but to be from the influence of some
extrinsic and supernatural power upon their minds. How greatly has the
doctrine of the inward experience, or sensible perceiving of the immediate
power and operation of the Spirit of God, been reproached and ridiculed
by many of late! They say, the manner of the Spirit of God is to
co-operate in a silent, secret, and undiscernable way with the use of
means, and our own endeavors; so that there is no distinguishing by sense,
between the influences of the Spirit of God, and the natural operations of
the faculties of our own minds.
And it is true, that for any to expect to receive the saving influences of the
Spirit of God, while they neglect a diligent improvement of the appointed
means of grace, is unreasonable presumption. And to expect that the Spirit
of God will savingly operate upon their minds, without the Spirit's
making use of means, as subservient to the effect, is enthusiastical. It is
also undoubtedly true, that the Spirit of God is very various in the manner
and circumstances of his operations, and that sometimes he operates in a
way more secret and gradual, and from smaller beginnings, than at others.
But if there be indeed a power, entirely different from, and beyond our
power, or the power of all means and instruments, and above the power of
nature, which is requisite in order to the production of saving grace in the
heart, according to the general profession of the country; then, certainly it
is in no wise unreasonable to suppose, that this effect should very
frequently be produced after such a manner, as to make it very manifest,
apparent, and sensible that it is so. If grace be indeed owing to the
powerful and efficacious operation of an extrinsic agent, or divine efficient
out of ourselves, why is it unreasonable to suppose it should seem to be
so to them who are the subjects of it? Is it a strange thing, that it should
seem to be as it is? When grace in the heart indeed is not produced by our
strength, nor is the effect of the natural power of our own faculties, or any
means or instruments, but is properly the workmanship and production of
the Spirit of the Almighty, is it a strange and unaccountable thing, that it
should seem to them who are subjects of it, agreeable to truth, and not.54
right contrary to truth; so that if persons tell of effects that they are
conscious to in their own minds, that seem to them not to be from the
natural power or operation of their minds, but from the supernatural
power of some other agent, it should at once be looked upon as a sure
evidence of their being under a delusion, because things seem to them to be
as they are? For this is the objection which is made: it is looked upon as a
clear evidence, that the apprehensions and affections that many persons
have, are not really from such a cause, because they seem to them to be
from that cause: they declare that what they are conscious of, seems to
them evidently not to be from themselves, but from the mighty power of
the Spirit of God; and others from hence condemn them, and determine
what they experience is not from the Spirit of God, but from themselves,
or from the devil. Thus unreasonably are multitudes treated at this day by
their neighbors.
If it be indeed so, as the Scripture abundantly teaches, that grace in the
soul is so the effect of God's power, that it is fitly compared to those
effects which are farthest from being owing to any strength in the subject,
such as a generation, or a being begotten, and resurrection, or a being raised
from the dead, and creation, or a being brought out of nothing into being,
and that it is an effect wherein the mighty power of God is greatly
glorified, and the exceeding greatness of his power is manifested; 12 then
what account can be given of it, that the Almighty, in so great a work of
his power, should so carefully hide his power, that the subjects of it
should be able to discern nothing of it? Or what reason or revelation have
any to determine that he does so? If we may judge by the Scripture this is
not agreeable to God's manner, in his operations and dispensations; but on
the contrary, it is God's manner, in the great works of his power and
mercy which he works for his people, to order things so as to make his
hand visible, and his power conspicuous, and men's dependence on him
most evident, that no flesh should glory in his presence, 13 that God alone
might be exalted, 14 and that the excellency of the power might be of God
and not of man, 15 and that Christ's power might be manifested in our
weakness, 16 and none might say mine own hand hath saved me. 17 So it
was in most of those temporal salvations which God wrought for Israel of
old, which were types of the salvation of God's people from their
spiritual enemies. So it was in the redemption of Israel from their Egyptian.55
bondage; he redeemed them with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm;
and that his power might be the more conspicuous, he suffered Israel first
to be brought into the most helpless and forlorn circumstances. So it was
in the great redemption by Gideon; God would have his army diminished
to a handful, and they without any other arms than trumpets and lamps,
and earthen pitchers. So it was in the deliverance of Israel from Goliath, by
a stripling with a sling and a stone. So it was in that great work of God, his
calling the Gentiles, and converting the Heathen world, after Christ's
ascension, after that the world by wisdom knew not God, and all the
endeavors of philosophers had proved in vain, for many ages, to reform
the world, and it was by everything become abundantly evident, that the
world was utterly helpless, by anything else but the mighty power of
God. And so it was in most of the conversions of particular persons, we
have an account of in the history of the New Testament: they were not
wrought on in that silent, secret, gradual, and insensible manner, which is
now insisted on; but with those manifest evidences of a supernatural
power, wonderfully and suddenly causing a great change, which in these
days are looked upon as certain signs of delusion and enthusiasm.
The Apostle, in Ephesians 1:18, 19, speaks of God's enlightening the
minds of Christians, and so bringing them to believe in Christ, to the end
that they might know the exceeding greatness of his power to them who
believe. The words are, "The eyes of our understanding being enlightened;
that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of
the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding
greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of
his mighty power, " etc. Now when the apostle speaks of their being thus
the subjects of his power, in their enlightening and effectual calling, to the
end that they might know what his mighty power was to them who
believe, he can mean nothing else than, "that they might know by
experience." But if the saints know this power by experience, then they
feel it and discern it, and are conscious of it; as sensibly distinguishable
from the natural operations of their own minds, which is not agreeable to a
motion of God's operating so secretly, and undiscernably, that it cannot
be known that they are the subjects of the influence of any extrinsic power
at all, any otherwise than as they may argue it from Scripture assertions;
which is a different; thing from knowing it by experience.
So that it is very unreasonable and unscriptural to determine that
affections are not from the gracious operations of God's Spirit, because
they are sensibly not from the persons themselves that are the subjects of
On the other hand, it is no evidence that affections are gracious, that they
are not properly produced by those who are the subjects of them, or that
they arise in their minds in a manner they cannot account for.
There are some who make this an argument in their own favor; when
speaking of what they have experienced, they say, "I am sure I did not
make it myself; it was a fruit of no contrivance or endeavor of mine; it
came when I thought nothing of it; if I might have the world for it, I cannot
make it again when I please." And hence they determine that what they
have experienced, must be from the mighty influence of the Spirit of God,
and is of a saving nature; but very ignorantly, and without grounds. What
they have been the subjects of, may indeed not be from themselves
directly, but may be from the operation of an invisible agent, some spirit
besides their own: but it does not thence follow, that it was from the Spirit
of God. There are other spirits who have influence on the minds of men,
besides the Holy Ghost. We are directed not to believe every spirit, but to
try the spirits, whether they be of God. There are many false spirits,
exceeding busy with men, who often transform themselves into angels of
light, and do in many wonderful ways, with great subtlety and power,
mimic the operations of the Spirit of God. And there are many of Satan's
operations which are very distinguishable from the voluntary exercises of
men's own minds. They are so, in those dreadful and horrid suggestions,
and blasphemous injections with which he follows many persons; and in
vain and fruitless frights and terrors, which he is the author of. And the
power of Satan may be as immediate, and as evident in false comforts and
joys, as in terrors and horrid suggestions; and oftentimes is so in fact. It is
not in men's power to put themselves in such raptures, as the Anabaptists
in Germany, and many other raving enthusiasts like them, have been the
subjects of.
And besides, it is to be considered that persons may have those
impressions on their minds, which may not be of their own producing, nor
from an evil spirit, but from the Spirit of God, and yet not be from any
saving, but a common influence of the Spirit of God; and the subjects of
such impressions may be of the number of those we read of, Hebrews 6:4,
5, "that are once enlightened, and taste of the heavenly gift, and are made
partakers of the Holy Ghost, and taste the good word of God, and the
power of the world to come;" and yet may be wholly unacquainted with
those "better things that accompany salvations" of spoken of ver. 9.
And where neither a good nor evil spirit have any immediate hand,
persons, especially such as are of a weak and vapory habit of body, and
the brain weak and easily susceptive of impressions, may have strange
apprehensions and imaginations, and strong affections attending them,
unaccountably arising, which are not voluntarily produced by themselves.
We see that such persons are liable to such impressions about temporal
things; and there is equal reason, why they should about spiritual things.
As a person who is asleep has dreams that he is not the voluntary author
of; so may such persons, in like manner, be the subjects of involuntary
impressions, when they are awake.
V. It is no sign that religious affections are truly holy and spiritual, or that
they are not, that they come with texts of Scripture, remarkably
brought to the mind.
It is no sign that affections are not gracious, that they are occasioned by
Scriptures so coming to mind; provided it be the Scripture itself, or the
truth which the Scripture so brought contains and teaches, that is the
foundation of the affection, and not merely, or mainly, the sudden and
unusual manner of its coming to the mind.
But on the other hand, neither is it any sign that affections are gracious,
that they arise on occasion of Scriptures brought suddenly and
wonderfully to the mind; whether those affections be fear or hope, joy or
sorrow, or any other. Some seem to look upon this as a good evidence that
their affections are saving, especially if the affections excited are hope or
joy, or any other which are pleasing and delightful. They will mention it as
an evidence that all is right, that their experience came with the word, and
will say, "There were such and such sweet promises brought to my mind:
they came suddenly, as if they were spoken to me: I had no hand in
bringing such a text to my own mind; I was not thinking of anything
leading to it; it came all at once, so that I was surprised. I had not thought
of it a long time before; I did not know at first that it was Scripture; I did
not remember that ever I had read it." And it may be, they will add, "One
Scripture came flowing in after another, and so texts all over the Bible, the
most sweet and pleasant, and the most apt and suitable which could be
devised; and filled me full as I could hold: I could not but stand and admire:
the tears flowed; I was full of joy, and could not doubt any longer." And
thus they think they have undoubted evidence that their affections must
be from God, and of the right kind, and their state good: but without any
manner of grounds. How came they by any such rule, as that if any
affections or experiences arise with promises, and comfortable texts of
Scripture, unaccountably brought to mind, without their recollection, or if
a great number of sweet texts follow one another in a chain, that this is a
certain evidence their experiences are saving? Where is any such rule to be
found in the Bible, the great and only sure directory in things of this
What deceives many of the less understanding and considerate sort of
people, in this matter, seems to be this; that the Scripture is the word of
God, and has nothing in it which is wrong, but is pure and perfect; and
therefore, those experiences which come from the Scripture must be right.
But then it should be considered, affections may arise on occasion of the
Scripture, and not properly come from the Scripture, as the genuine fruit
of the Scripture, and by a right use of it; but from an abuse of it. All that
can be argued from the purity and perfection of the word of God, with
respect to experiences, is this, that those experiences which are agreeable
to the word of God, are right, and cannot be otherwise; and not that those
affections must be right, which arise on occasion of the word of God
coming to the mind.
What evidence is there that the devil cannot bring texts of Scripture to the
mind, and misapply them to deceive persons? There seems to be nothing
in this which exceeds the power of Satan. It is no work of such mighty
power, to bring sounds or letters to persons' minds, that we have any
reason to suppose nothing short of Omnipotence can be sufficient for it. If
Satan has power to bring any words or sounds at all to persons' minds, he
may have power to bring words contained in the Bible. There is no higher
sort of power required in men, to make the sounds which express the
words of a text of Scripture, than to make the sounds which express the
words of an idle story or song. And so the same power in Satan, which is
sufficient to renew one of those kinds of sounds in the mind, is sufficient
to renew the other: the different signification, which depends wholly on
custom, alters not the case, as to ability to make or revive the sounds or
letters. Or will any suppose, that texts or Scriptures are such sacred
things, that the devil durst not abuse them, nor touch them? In this also
they are mistaken. He who was bold enough to lay hold on Christ himself,
and carry him hither and thither, into the wilderness, and into a high
mountain, and to a pinnacle of the temple, is not afraid to touch the
Scripture, and abuse that for his own purpose; as he showed at the same
time that he was so bold with Christ, he then brought one Scripture and
another, to deceive and tempt him. And if Satan did presume, and was
permitted to put Christ himself in mind of texts of Scripture to tempt him,
what reason have we determine that he dare not, or will not be permitted,
to put wicked men in the mind of texts of Scripture, to tempt and deceive
them? And if Satan may thus abuse one text of Scripture, so he may
another. Its being a very excellent place of Scripture, a comfortable and
precious promise, alters not the case, as to his courage or ability. And if he
can bring one comfortable text to the mind, so he may a thousand; and may
choose out such Scriptures as tend most to serve his purpose; and may
heap up Scripture promises, tending, according to the perverse application
he makes of them, wonderfully to remove the rising doubts, and to confirm
the false joy and confidence of a poor deluded sinner.
We know the devil's instruments, corrupt and heretical teachers, can and
do pervert the Scripture, to their own and others' damnation, 2 Peter 3:16.
We see they have the free use of Scripture, in every part of it: there is no
text so precious and sacred, but they are permitted to abuse it, to the
eternal ruin of multitudes of souls; and there are no weapons they make
use of with which they do more execution. And there is no manner of
reason to determine, that the devil is not permitted thus to use the
Scripture, as well as his instruments. For when the latter do it, they do it
as his instruments and servants, and through his instigation and influence:
and doubtless he does the same he instigates others to do; the devil's
servants do but follow their master, and do the same work that he does
And as the devil can abuse the Scripture, to deceive and destroy men, so
may men's own folly and corruptions as well. The sin which is in men,
acts like its father. Men's own hearts are deceitful like the devil, and use
the same means to deceive.
So that it is evident, that any person may have high affections of hope and
joy, arising on occasion of texts of Scripture, yea, precious promises of
Scripture coming suddenly and remarkably to their minds, as though they
were spoken to them, yea, a great multitude of such texts, following one
another in a wonderful manner; and yet all this be no argument that these
affections are divine, or that they are any other than the effects of Satan's
And I would further observe, that persons may have raised and joyful
affections, which may come with the word of God, and not only so, but
from the word, and those affections not be from Satan, nor yet properly
from the corruptions of their own hearts, but from some influence of the
Spirit of God with the word and yet have nothing of the nature of true and
saving religion in them. Thus the stony ground hearers had great joy from
the word; yea, which is represented as arising from the word, as growth
from a seed; and their affections had, in their appearance, a very great and
exact resemblance with those represented by the growth on the good
ground, the difference not appearing until it was discovered by the
consequences in a time of trial: and yet there was no saving religion in
these affections. 18
VI. It is no evidence that religious affections are saving, or that they are
otherwise, that there is an appearance of love in them.
There are no professing Christians who pretend, that this is an argument
against the truth and saving nature of religious affections. But, on the other
hand, there are some who suppose, it is a good evidence that affections are
from the sanctifying and saving influences of the Holy Ghost. — Their
argument is that Satan cannot love; this affection being directly contrary to
the devil, whose very nature is enmity and malice. And it is true, that
nothing is more excellent, heavenly, and divine, than a spirit of true
Christian love to God and men: it is more excellent than knowledge, or
prophecy, or miracles, or speaking with the tongue of men and angels. It is
the chief of the graces of God's Spirit, and the life, essence and sum of all
true religion; and that by which we are most conformed to heaven, and
most contrary to hell and the devil. But yet it is in arguing from hence, that
there are no counterfeits of it. It may be observed that the more excellent
anything is, the more will be the counterfeits of it. Thus there are many
more counterfeits of silver and gold, than of iron and copper: there are
many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about to counterfeit
common stones? Though the more excellent things are, the more difficult it
is to make anything that shall be like them, in their essential nature and
internal virtues; yet the more manifold will the counterfeits be, and the
more will art and subtlety be displayed, in an exact imitation of the
outward appearance. Thus there is the greatest danger of being cheated in
buying of medicines that are most excellent and sovereign, though it be
most difficult to imitate them with anything of the like value and virtue,
and their counterfeits are good for nothing when we have them. So it is
with Christian virtues and graces; the subtlety of Satan, and men's
deceitful hearts, are wont chiefly to be exercised in counterfeiting those
that are in highest repute. So there are perhaps no graces that have more
counterfeits than love and humility; these being virtues wherein the beauty
of a true Christian does especially appear.
But with respect to love; it is plain by the Scripture, that persons may
have a kind of religious love, and yet have no saving grace. Christ speaks
of many professing Christians that have such love, whose love will not
continue, and so shall fail of salvation, Matthew 24:12, 13: "And because
iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall
endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Which latter words plainly
show, that those spoken of before, whose love shall not endure to the end,
but wax cold, should not be saved.
Persons may seem to have love to God and Christ, yea, to have very
strong and violent affections of this nature, and yet have no grace. For this
was evidently the case with many graceless Jews, such as cried Jesus up
so high, following him day and night, without meat, drink, or sleep; such
as said, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest, " and cried,
"Hosanna to the Son of David." 19
The apostle seems to intimate, that there were many in his days who had a
counterfeit love to Christ, in Ephesians 6:24: "Grace be with all them that
love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." The last word, in the original,
signifies incorruption; which shows, that the apostle was sensible that
there were many who had a kind of love to Christ, whose love was not
pure and spiritual.
So also Christian love to the people of God may be counterfeited. It is
evident by the Scripture, that there may be strong affections of this kind,
without saving grace; as there were in the Galatians towards the Apostle
Paul, when they were ready to pluck out their eyes and give them to him;
although the apostle expresses his fear that their affections were come to
nothing, and that he had bestowed upon them labor in vain, Galatians 4:11,
VII. Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one
another, is not sufficient to determine whether they have any
gracious affections or no.
Though false religion is wont to be maimed and monstrous, and not to
have that entireness and symmetry of parts, which is to be seen in true
religion: yet there may be a great variety of false affections together, that
may resemble gracious affections.
It is evident that there are counterfeits of all kinds of gracious affections;
as of love to God, and love to the brethren, as has been just now observed;
so of godly sorrow for sin, as in Pharaoh, Saul, and Ahab, and the children
of Israel in the wilderness, Exodus 9:27, 1 Samuel 24:16, 17, and 31:21, 1
Kings 21:27, Numbers 14:39, 40; and of the fear of God, as in the
Samaritans, "who feared the Lord, and served their own gods at the same
time, " 2 Kings 17:32, 33; and those enemies of God we read of, Psalm
66:3, who, "through the greatness of God's power, submit themselves to
him, " or, as it is in the Hebrew, "lie unto him, " i.e., yield a counterfeit
reverence and submission. So of a gracious gratitude, as in the children of
Israel, who sang God's praise at the Red Sea, Psalm 106:12; and Naaman
the Syrian, after his miraculous cure of his leprosy, 2 Kings 5:15, etc.
So of spiritual joy, as in the stony ground hearers, Matthew 13:20, and
particularly many of John the Baptist's hearers, John 5:35. So of zeal, as
in Jehu, 2 Kings 10:16, and in Paul before his conversion, Galatians 1:14,
Philippians 3:6, and the unbelieving Jews, Acts 22:3, Romans 10:2. So
graceless persons may have earnest religious desires, which may be like
Baalam's desires, which he expresses under an extraordinary view that he
had of the happy state of God's people, as distinguished from all the rest
of the world, Numbers 23:9, 10. They may also have a strong hope of
eternal life, as the Pharisees had.
And as men, while in a state of nature, are capable of a resemblance of all
kinds of religious affections, so nothing hinders but that they may have
many of them together. And what appears in fact, does abundantly evince
that it is very often so indeed. It seems commonly to be so, that when
false affections are raised high, many false affections attend each other.
The multitude that attended Christ into Jerusalem, after that great miracle
of raising Lazarus, seem to have been moved with many religious
affections at once, and all in a high degree. They seem to have been filled
with admiration, and there was a show of a high affection of love, and also
of a great degree of reverence, in their laying their garments on the ground
for Christ to tread upon; and also of great gratitude to him, for the great
and good works he had wrought, praising him with loud voices for his
salvation; and earnest desires of the coming of God's kingdom, which they
supposed Jesus was now about to set up, and showed great hopes and
raised expectations of it, expecting it would immediately appear; and hence
were filled with joy, by which they were so animated in their
acclamations, as to make the whole city ring with the noise of them; and
appeared great in their zeal and forwardness to attend Jesus, and assist
him without further delay, now in the time of the great feast of the
Passover, to set up his kingdom. And it is easy, from nature, and the
nature of the affections, to give an account why, when one affection is
raised very high, that it should excite others; especially if the affection
which is raised high, be that of counterfeit love, as it was in the multitude
who cried Hosanna. This will naturally draw many other affections after
it. For, as was observed before, love is the chief of the affections, and as it
were the fountain of them. Let us suppose a person who has been for
some time in great exercise and terror through fear of hell, and his heart
weakened with distress and dreadful apprehensions, and upon the brink of
despair, and is all at once delivered, by being firmly made to believe,
through some delusion of Satan, that God has pardoned him, and accepts
him as the object of his dear love, and promises him eternal life; as
suppose through some vision, or strong idea or imagination, suddenly
excited in him, of a person with a beautiful countenance, smiling on him,
and with arms open, and with blood dropping down, which the person
conceives to be Christ, without any other enlightening of the
understanding, to give a view of the spiritual divine excellency of Christ
and his fullness; and of the way of salvation revealed in the gospel: or
perhaps by some voice or words coming as if they were spoken to him,
such as these, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee;" or, "Fear
not, it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, " which he
takes to be immediately spoken by God to him, though there was no
preceding acceptance of Christ, or closing of the heart with him: I say, if
we should suppose such a case, what various passions would naturally
crowd at once, or one after another, into such a person's mind! It is easy
to be accounted for, from mere principles of nature, that a person's heart,
on such an occasion, should be raised up to the skies with transports of
joy; and be filled with fervent affection, to that imaginary God or
Redeemer, who he supposes has thus rescued him from the jaws of such
dreadful destruction, that his soul was so amazed with the fears of, and
has received him with such endearment, as a peculiar favorite; and that
now he should be filled with admiration and gratitude, and his mouth
should be opened, and be full of talk about what he has experienced; and
that, for a while he should think and speak of scarce anything else, and
should seem to magnify that God who has done so much for him, and call
upon others to rejoice with him, and appear with a cheerful countenance,
and talk with a loud voice: and however, before his deliverance, he was full
of quarrelings against the justice of God, that now it should be easy for
him to submit to God, and own his unworthiness, and cry out against
himself, and appear to be very humble before God, and lie at his feet as
tame as a lamb; and that he should now confess his unworthiness, and cry
out, "Why me? Why me?" (Like Saul, who when Samuel told him that
God had appointed him to be king, makes answer, "Am not I a Benjamite,
of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the
families of the tribe of Benjamin? Wherefore then speakest thou so to
me?" Much in the language of David, the true saint, 2 Samuel 7:18, "Who
am I, and what is my father's house, that thou has brought me hitherto?")
Nor is it to be wondered at, that now he should delight to be with them
who acknowledge and applaud his happy circumstances, and should love
all such as esteem and admire him and what he has experienced, and have
violent zeal against all such as would make nothing of such things, and be
disposed openly to separate, and as it were to proclaim war with all who
be not of his party, and should now glory in his sufferings, and be very
much for condemning and censuring all who seem to doubt, or make any
difficulty of these things; and while the warmth of his affections lasts,
should be mighty forward to take pains, and deny himself, to promote the
interest of the party who he imagines favors such things, and seem
earnestly desirous to increase the number of them, as the Pharisees
compassed sea and land to make one proselyte. 20 And so I might go on,
and mention many other things, which will naturally arise in such
circumstances. He must have but slightly considered human nature, who
thinks such things as these cannot arise in this manner, without any
supernatural interposition of divine power.
As from true divine love flow all Christian affections, so from a counterfeit
love in like manner naturally flow other false affections. In both cases, love
is the fountain, and the other affections are the streams. The various
faculties, principles, and affections of the human nature, are as it were
many channels from one fountain: if there be sweet water in the fountain,
sweet water will from thence flow out into those various channels; but if
the water in the fountain be poisonous, then poisonous streams will also
flow out into all those channels. So that the channels and streams will be
alike, corresponding one with another; but the great difference will lie in
the nature of the water. Or, man's nature may be compared to a tree, with
many branches, coming from one root: if the sap in the root be good, there
will also be good sap distributed throughout the branches, and the fruit
that is brought forth will be good and wholesome; but if the sap in the root
and stock be poisonous, so it will be in many branches (as in the other
case), and the fruit will be deadly. The tree in both cases may be alike;
there may be an exact resemblance in shape; but the difference is found
only in eating the fruit. It is thus (in some measure at least) oftentimes
between saints and hypocrites. There is sometimes a very great similitude
between true and false experiences, in their appearance, and in what is
expressed and related by the subjects of them: and the difference between
them is much like the difference between the dreams of Pharaoh's chief
butler and baker; they seemed to be much alike, insomuch that when
Joseph interpreted the chief butler's dream, that he should be delivered
from his imprisonment, and restored to the king's favor, and his honorable
office in the palace, the chief baker had raised hopes and expectations, and
told his dream also; but he was woefully disappointed; and though his
dream was so much like the happy and well boding dream of his
companion, yet it was quite contrary in its issue.
VIII. Nothing can certainly be determined concerning the nature of the
affections, by this, that comforts and joys seem to follow
awakenings and convictions of conscience, in a certain order.
Many persons seem to be prejudiced against affections and experiences
that come in such a method, as has been much insisted on by many
divines; first, such awakenings, fears, and awful apprehensions, followed
with such legal humblings, in a sense of total sinfulness and helplessness,
and then, such and such light and comfort; they look upon all such
schemes, laying down such methods and steps, to be of men's devising;
and particularly if high affections of joy follow great distress and terror, it
is made by many an argument against those affections. But such prejudices
and objections are without reason or Scripture. Surely it cannot be
unreasonable to suppose, that before God delivers persons from a state of
sin and exposedness to eternal destruction, he should give them some
considerable sense of the evil he delivers from; that they may be delivered
sensibly, and understand their own salvation, and know something of what
God does for them. As men that are saved are in two exceeding different
states, first a state of condemnation, and then in a state of justification and
blessedness: and as God, in the work of the salvation of mankind, deals
with them suitably to their intelligent rational nature; so its seems
reasonable, and agreeable to God's wisdom, that men who are saved
should be in these two states sensibly; first, that they should, sensibly to
themselves, be in a state of condemnation, and so in a state of woeful
calamity and dreadful misery, and so afterwards in a state of deliverance
and happiness; and that they should be first sensible of their absolute
extreme necessity, and afterwards of Christ's sufficiency and God's mercy
through him.
And that it is God's manner of dealing with men, to "lead them into a
wilderness, before he speaks comfortably to them, " and so to order it,
that they shall be brought into distress, and made to see their own
helplessness and absolute dependence on his power and grace, before he
appears to work any great deliverance for them, is abundantly manifest by
the Scripture. Then is God wont to "repent himself for his professing
people, when their strength is gone, and there is none shut up or left, " and
when they are brought to see that their false gods cannot help them, and
that the rock in whom they trusted is vain, Deuteronomy 32:36, 37.
Before God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, they were
prepared for it, by being made to "see that they were in an evil case, " and
"to cry unto God, because of their hard bondage, " Exodus 2:23, and 5:19.
And before God wrought that great deliverance for them at the Red Sea,
they were brought into great distress, the wilderness had shut them in,
they could not turn to the right hand nor the left, and the Red Sea was
before them, and the great Egyptian host behind, and they were brought to
see that they could do nothing to help themselves, and that if God did not
help them, they should be immediately swallowed up; and then God
appeared, and turned their cries into songs. So before they were brought to
their rest, and to enjoy the milk and honey of Canaan, God "led them
through a great and terrible wilderness, that he might humble them and
teach them what was in their heart, and so do them good in their latter end,
" Deuteronomy 8:2, 16. The woman that had the issue of blood twelve
years, was not delivered, until she had first "spent all her living on earthly
physicians, and could not be healed of any, " and so was left helpless,
having no more money to spend; and then she came to the great Physician,
without any money or price, and was healed by him, Luke 8:43, 44.
Before Christ would answer the request of the woman of Canaan, he first
seemed utterly to deny her, and humbled her, and brought her to own
herself worthy to be called a dog; and then he showed her mercy, and
received her as a dear child, Matthew 15:22, etc. The Apostle Paul, before
a remarkable deliverance, was "pressed out of measure, above strength,
insomuch that he despaired even of life; but had the sentence of death in
himself, that he might not trust in himself, but in God that raiseth the
dead, " 2 Corinthians 1:8, 9, 10. There was first a great tempest, and the
ship was covered with the waves, and just ready to sink, find the disciples
were brought to cry to Jesus, "Lord save us, we perish;" and then the
winds and seas were rebuked, and there was a great calm, Matthew 8:24,
25, 26. The leper, before he is cleansed, must have his mouth stopped, by
a covering on his upper lip, and was to acknowledge his great misery and
utter uncleannesss by rending his clothes, and crying, "Unclean, unclean, "
Leviticus 13:45. And backsliding Israel, before God heals them, are
brought to "acknowledge that they have sinned, and have not obeyed the
voice of the Lord, " and to see that "they lie down in their shame, and that
confusion covers them, " and "that in vain is salvation hoped for from the
hills, and from the multitude of mountains, " and that God only can save
them, Jeremiah 3:23, 24, 25. Joseph, who was sold be his brethren, and
therein was a type of Christ, brings his brethren into great perplexity and
distress, and brings them to reflect on their sin, and to say, We are verily
guilty; and at last to resign up themselves entirely into his hands for
bondmen; and then reveals himself to them, as their brother and their
And if we consider those extraordinary manifestations which God made of
himself to saints of old, we shall find that he commonly first manifested
himself in a way which was terrible, and then by those things that were
comfortable. So it was with Abraham; first, a horror of great darkness fell
upon him, and then God revealed himself to him in sweet promises,
Genesis 15:12, 13. So it was with Moses at Mount Sinai; first, God
appeared to him in all the terrors of his dreadful Majesty, so that Moses
said, "I exceedingly fear and quake, " and then he made all his goodness to
pass before him, and proclaimed his name, "The Lord God gracious and
merciful, " etc. So it was with Elijah; first, there is a stormy wind, and
earthquakes and devouring fire, and then a still, small, sweet voice, 1 Kings
19. So it was with Daniel; he first saw Christ's countenance as lightning,
that terrified him, and caused him to faint away; and then be is
strengthened and refreshed with such comfortable words as these, "O
Daniel, a man greatly beloved, " Daniel 10. So it was with the apostle
John, Revelation 1. And there is an analogy observable in God's
dispensations and deliverances which he works for his people, and the
manifestations which he makes of himself to them, both ordinary and
But there are many things in Scripture which do more directly show, that
this is God's ordinary manner in working salvation for the souls of men,
and in the manifestations God makes of himself and of his mercy in Christ,
in the ordinary works of his grace on the hearts of sinners. The servant
that owed his prince ten thousand talents, is first held to his debt, and the
king pronounces sentence of condemnation upon him, and commands him
to be sold, and his wife and children, and payment to be made; and thus he
humbles him, and brings him to own the as whole of the debt to be just,
and then forgives him all. The prodigal son spends all he has, and is
brought to see himself in extreme circumstances, and to humble himself,
and own his unworthiness, before he is relieved and feasted by his father,
Luke 15. Old inveterate wounds must be searched to the bottom, in order
to healing: and the Scripture compares sin, the wound of the soul, to this,
and speaks of healing this wound without thus searching of it, as vain and
deceitful, Jeremiah 7:11. Christ, in the work of his grace on the hearts of
men, is compared to rain on the new mown grass, grass that is cut down
with a scythe, Psalm 72:6, representing his refreshing, comforting
influences on the wounded spirit. Our first parents, after they had sinned,
were first terrified with God's majesty and justice, and had their sin, with
its aggravations, set before them by their Judge, before they were relieved
by the promise of the seed of the woman. Christians are spoken of as
those "that have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them, "
Hebrews 6:18, which representation implies great fear and sense of danger,
preceding. To the like purpose, Christ is called "a hiding place from the
wind, and a covert from the tempest, and as rivers of water in a dry place,
and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, " Isaiah 32 at the
beginning. And it seems to be the natural import of the word gospel, glad
tidings, that it is news of deliverance and salvation, after great fear and
distress. There is also reason to suppose, that God deals with particular
believers, as he dealt with his church, which he first made to hear his voice
in the law, with terrible thunders and lightning and kept her under that
schoolmaster to prepare her for Christ; and then comforted her with the
joyful sound of the gospel from Mount Zion. So likewise John the Baptist
came to prepare the way for Christ, and prepare men's hearts for his
reception, by showing them their sins, and by bringing the self-righteous
Jews off from their own righteousness, telling them that they were "a
generation of vipers, " and showing them their danger of "the wrath to
come, " telling them that "the axe was laid at the root of the trees, " etc.
And if it be indeed God's manner (as I think the foregoing considerations
show that it undoubtedly is), before he gives men the comfort of a
deliverance from their sin and misery, to give them a considerable sense of
the greatness and dreadfulness of those evils, and their extreme
wretchedness by reason of them; surely it is not unreasonable to suppose,
that persons, at least oftentimes, while under these views, should have
great distresses and terrible apprehensions of mind; especially if it be
considered what these evils are that they have a view of; which are no
other than great and manifold sins, against the infinite majesty of the great
Jehovah, and the suffering of the fierceness of his wrath to all eternity.
And the more so still, when we have many plain instances in Scripture of
persons that have actually been brought into great distress, by such
convictions, before they have received saving consolations: as the
multitude at Jerusalem, who were "pricked in their heart, and said unto
Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
And the apostle Paul, who trembled and was astonished, before he was
comforted; and the gaoler, when "he called for a light, and sprang in, and
came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and said, Sirs, what
must I do to be saved?"
From these things it appears to be very unreasonable in professing
Christians to make this an objection against the truth and spiritual nature
of the comfortable and joyful affections which any have, that they follow
such awful apprehensions and distresses as have been mentioned.
And, on the other hand, it is no evidence that comforts and joys are right,
because they succeed great terrors, and amazing fears of hell. 21 This
seems to be what some persons lay a great weight upon; esteeming great
terrors an evidence of the great work of the law as wrought on the heart,
well preparing the way for solid comfort; not considering that terror and a
conviction of conscience are different things. For though convictions of
conscience do often cause terror; yet they do not consist in it; and terrors
do often arise from other causes. Convictions of conscience, through the
influences of God's Spirit, consist in conviction of sinfulness of heart and
practices and of the dreadfulness of sins as committed against a God of
terrible majesty, infinite holiness and hatred of sin, and strict justice in
punishing of it. But there are some persons that have frightful
apprehensions of hell, a dreadful pit ready to swallow them up, and flames
just ready to lay hold of them, and devils around them, ready to seize
them; who at the same time seem to have very little proper enlightenings
of conscience really convincing them of their sinfulness of heart and life.
The devil, if permitted, can terrify men as well as the Spirit of God, it is a
work natural to him, and he has many ways of doing it, in a manner
tending to no good.
He may exceedingly affright persons, by impressing on them images and
ideas of many external things, of a countenance frowning, a sword drawn,
black clouds of vengeance, words of an awful doom pronounced, 22 hell
gaping, devils coming, and the like, not to convince persons of things that
are true, and revealed in the word of God, but to lead them to vain and
groundless determinations; as that their day is past, that they are
reprobated, that God is implacable, that he has come to a resolution
immediately to cut them off, etc.
And the terrors which some persons have, are very much owing to the
particular constitution and temper they are of. Nothing is more manifest
than that some persons are of such a temper and frame, that their
imaginations are more strongly impressed with everything they are
affected with, than others; and the impression on the imagination reacts on
the affection, and raises that still higher; and so affection and imagination
act reciprocally, one on another, till their affection is raised to a vast
height, and the person is swallowed up, and loses as possession of
himself. 23
And some speak of a great sight they have of their wickedness, who really,
when the matter comes to be well examined into and thoroughly weighted,
are found to have little or no convictions of conscience. They tell of a
dreadful hard heart, and how their heart lies like a stone; when truly they
have none of those things in their minds or thoughts, wherein the hardness
of men's heart does really consist. They tell of a dreadful load and sink of
sin, a heap of black and loathsome filthiness within them; when, if the
matter be carefully inquired into, they have not in view anything wherein
the corruption of nature does truly consist, nor have they any thought of
any particular thing wherein their hearts are sinfully defective, or fall short
of what ought to be in them, or any exercises at all of corruption in them.
And many think also they have great convictions of their actual sins, who
truly have none. They tell how their sins are set in order before them, they
see them stand encompassing them round in a row, with a dreadful,
frightful appearance; when really they have not so much as one of the sins
they gave been guilty of in the course of their lives, coming into view, that
they are affected with the aggravations of.
And if persons have had great terrors which really have been from the
awakening and convincing influences of the Spirit of God, it doth not
thence follow that their terrors must needs issue in true comfort. The
unmortified corruption of the heart may quench the Spirit of God (after he
has been striving) by leading men to presumptuous, and self-exalting
hopes and joys, as well as otherwise. It is not every woman who is really
in travail, that brings forth a real child; but it may be a monstrous
production, without anything of the form or properties of human nature
belonging to it. Pharaoh's chief baker after he had lain in the dungeon with
Joseph, had a vision that raised his hopes and he was lifted out of the
dungeon, as well as the chief butler; but it was to be hanged.
But if comforts and joys do not only come after great terrors and
awakenings, but there be an appearance of such preparatory convictions
and humiliations, and brought about very distinctly, by such steps, and in
such a method as has frequently been observable in true converts; this is
no certain sign that the light and comforts which follow are true and
saving. And for these following reasons:
First, As the devil can counterfeit all the saving operations and graces of
the Spirit of God, so he can counterfeit those operations that are
preparatory to grace. If Satan can counterfeit those effects of God's Spirit,
which are special, divine and sanctifying, so that there shall be a very great
resemblance, in all that can be observed by others; much more easily may
he imitate those works of God's Spirit which are common, and which men,
while they are yet his own children, are the subjects of. These works are in
no wise so much above him as the other. There are no works of God that
are so high and divine, and above the powers of nature, and out of reach of
the power of all creatures, as those works of his Spirit, whereby he forms
the creature in his own image, and makes it to be a partaker of the divine
nature. But if the devil can be the author of such resemblances of these as
have been spoken of, without doubt he may of those that are of an
infinitely inferior kind. And it is abundantly evident in fact, that there are
false humiliations and false submissions, as well as false comforts. 24 How
far was Saul brought, though a very wicked man, and of a haughty spirit,
when he (though a great king) was brought, in conviction of his sin, as it
were to fall down, all in tears, weeping aloud, before David his own
subject (and one that he had for a long time mortally hated, and openly
treated as an enemy), and condemn himself before him, crying out, "Thou
art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have
rewarded thee evil!" And at another time, "I have sinned, I have played the
fool, I have erred exceedingly, " 1 Samuel 24:16, 17, and chap. 26:21. And
yet Saul seems then to have had very little of the influences of the Spirit of
God, it being after God's Spirit had departed from him, and given him up,
and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. And if this proud monarch,
in a pang of affection, was brought to humble himself so low before a
subject that he hated, and still continued an enemy to, there doubtless may
be appearances of great conviction and humiliation in men, before God,
while they yet remain enemies to him, and though they finally continue so.
There is oftentimes in men who are terrified through fears of hell, a great
appearance of their being brought off from their own righteousness, when
they are not brought off from it in all ways, although they are in many
ways that are more plain and visible. They have only exchanged some
ways of trusting in their own righteousness, for others that are more secret
and subtle. Oftentimes a great degree of discouragement, as to many things
they used to depend upon, is taken for humiliation: that is called a
submission to God, which is no absolute submission, but has some secret
bargain in it, that it is hard to discover.
Secondly, If the operations and effects of the Spirit of God, in the
convictions, and comforts of true converts, may be sophisticated, then the
order of them may be imitated. If Satan can imitate the things themselves,
he may easily put them one after another, in such a certain order. If the
devil can make A, B, and C, it is as easy for him to put A first, and B next,
and C next, as to range item in a contrary order. The nature of divine things
is harder for the devil to imitate, than their order. He cannot exactly imitate
divine operations in their nature, though his counterfeits may be very
much like them in external appearance, but he can exactly imitate their
order. When counterfeits are made, there is no divine power needful in.74
order to the placing one of them first, and another last. And therefore no
order or method of operations and experiences is any certain sign of their
divinity. That only is to be trusted to, as a certain evidence of grace, which
Satan cannot do, and which it is impossible should be brought to pass by
any power short of divine.
Thirdly, We have no certain rule to determine how far God's own Spirit
may go in those operations and convictions which in themselves are not
spiritual and saving, and yet the person that is the subject of them never
be converted, but fall short of salvation at last. There is no necessary
connection in the nature of things, between anything that a natural man
may experience while in a state of nature, and the saving grace of God's
Spirit. And if there be no connection in the nature of things, then there can
be no known and certain connection at all, unless it be by divine revelation.
But there is no revealed certain connection between a state of salvation,
and anything that a natural man can be the subject of, before he believes in
Christ. God has revealed no certain connection between salvation, and any
qualifications in men, but only grace and its fruits. And therefore we do
not find any legal convictions, or comforts, following these legal
convictions, in any certain method or order, ever once mentioned in the
Scripture, as certain signs of grace, or things peculiar to the saints;
although we do find gracious operations and effects themselves, so
mentioned, thousands of times. Which should be enough with Christians
who are willing to have the word of God, rather than their own
philosophy, and experiences and conjectures, as their sufficient and sure
guide in things of this nature.
Fourthly, Experience does greatly confirm, that persons seeming to have
convictions and comforts following one another in such a method and
order, as is frequently observable in true converts, is no certain sign of
grace. 25 I appeal to all those ministers in this land, who have had much
occasion of dealing with souls in the late extraordinary season, whether
there have not been many who do not prove well, that have given a fair
account of their experiences, and have seemed to be converted according to
rule, i.e., with convictions and affections, succeeding distinctly and
exactly, in that order and method, which has been ordinarily insisted on, as
the order of the operations of the Spirit of God in conversion.
And as a seeming to have this distinctness as to steps and method, is no
certain sign that a person is converted; so a being without it, is no evidence
that a person is not converted. For though it might be made evident to a
demonstration, on Scripture principles, that a sinner cannot be brought
heartily to receive Christ as his Savior, who is not convinced of his sin and
misery, and of his own emptiness and helplessness, and his just desert of
eternal condemnation; and that therefore such convictions must be some
way implied in what is wrought in his soul; yet nothing proves it to be
necessary, that all those things which are implied or presupposed in an act
of faith in Christ, must be plainly and distinctly wrought in the soul, in so
many successive and separate works of the Spirit, that shall be each one
plain and manifest, in all who are truly converted. On the contrary (as Mr.
Shepard observes), sometimes the change made in a saint, at first work, is
like a confused chaos; so that the saints know not what to make of it. The
manner of the Spirit's proceeding in them that are born of the Spirit, is
very often exceeding mysterious and unsearchable; we, as it were, hear the
sound of it, the effect of it is discernible; but no man can tell whence it
came, or whither it went. And it is oftentimes as difficult to know the way
of the Spirit in the new birth, as in the first birth; Ecclesiastes 11:5, "Thou
knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, or how the bones do grow in
the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of
God, that worketh all." The ingenerating of a principle of grace in the soul,
seems in Scripture to be compared to the conceiving of Christ in the
womb, Galatians 4:19. And therefore the Church is called Christ's mother,
Cant. 3:11. And so is every particular believer, Matthew 12:49, 50. And
the conception of Christ in the womb of the blessed virgin, by the power
of the Holy Ghost, seems to be a designed resemblance of the conception
of Christ in the soul of a believer, by the power of the same Holy Ghost.
And we know not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do
grow, either in the womb, or heart that conceives this holy child. The new
creature may use that language in Psalm 139:14, 15, "I am fearfully and
wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth
right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in
secret." Concerning the generation of Christ, both in his person, and also in
the hearts of his people, it may be said, as in Isaiah 53:8, "Who can declare
his generation?" We know not the works of God, that worketh all. "It is
the glory of God to conceal a thing" (Proverbs 25:2), and to have "his path
as it were in the mighty waters, that his footsteps may not be known;"
and especially in the works of his Spirit on the hearts of men, which are
the highest and chief of his works. And therefore it is said, Isaiah 40:13,
"Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath
taught him?" It is to be feared that some have gone too far towards
directing the Spirit of the Lord, and marking out his footsteps for him, and
limiting him to certain steps and methods. Experience plainly shows, that
God's Spirit is unsearchable and untraceable, in some of the best of
Christians, in the method of his operations, in their conversion. Nor does
the Spirit of God proceed discernibly in the steps of a particular
established scheme, one half so often as is imagined. A scheme of what is
necessary, and according to a rule already received and established by
common opinion, has a vast (though to many a very insensible) influence
in forming persons' notions of the steps and method of their own
experiences. I know very well what their way is; for I have had much
opportunity to observe it. Very often, at first, their experiences appear
like a confused chaos, as Mr. Shepard expresses it: but then those
passages of their experience are picked out, that have most of the
appearance of such particular steps that are insisted on; and these are
dwelt upon in the thoughts, and these are told of from time to time, in the
relation they give: these parts grow brighter and brighter in their view; and
others, being neglected, grow more and more obscure: and what they have
experienced is insensibly strained to bring all to an exact conformity to the
scheme that is established. And it becomes natural for ministers, who have
to deal with them, and direct them that insist upon distinctness and
clearness of method, to do so too. But yet there has been so much to be
seen of the operations of the Spirit of God, of late, that they who have had
much to do with souls, and are not blinded with a seven-fold vail of
prejudice, must know that the Spirit is so exceeding various in the manner
of his operating, that in many cases it is impossible to trace him, or find
out his way.
What we have principally to do with, in our inquiries into our own state,
or directions we give to others, is the nature of the effect that God has
brought to pass in the soul. As to the steps which the Spirit of God took
to bring that effect to pass, we may leave them to him. We are often in
Scripture expressly directed to try ourselves by the nature of the fruits of
the Spirit; but nowhere by the Spirit's method of producing them. 26
Many do greatly err in their notions of a clear work of conversion; calling
that a clear work, where the successive steps of influence, and method of
experience are clear: whereas that indeed is the clearest work (not where
the order of doing is clearest, but) where the spiritual and divine nature of
the work done, and effect wrought, is most clear.
IX.It is no certain sign that the religious affections which persons have are
such as have in them the nature of true religion, or that they have not,
that they dispose persons to spend much time in religion, and to be
zealously engaged in the external duties of worship.
This has, very unreasonably of late, been looked upon as an argument
against the religious affections which some have had, that they spend so
much time in reading, praying, singing, hearing sermons, and the like. It is
plain from the Scripture, that it is the tendency of true grace to cause
persons to delight in such religious exercises. True grace had this effect on
Anna the prophetess: Luke 2:27, "She departed not from the temple, but
served God with fastings and prayers night and day." And grace had this
effect upon the primitive Christians in Jerusalem: Acts 2:46, 47, "And
they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread
from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of
heart, praising God." Grace made Daniel delight in the duty of prayer, and
solemnly to attend it three times a day, as it also did David: Psalm 55:17,
"Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray." Grace makes the saints
delight in singing praises to God: Psalm 135: 3, "Sing praises unto his
name, for it is pleasant." And 147:1, "Praise ye the Lord; for it is good to
sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely." It also
causes them to delight to hear the word of God preached: it makes the
gospel a joyful sound to them, Psalm 89:15, and makes the feet of those
who publish these good tidings to be beautiful: Isaiah 52:7, "How
beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good
tidings!" etc. It makes them love God's public worship: Psalm 26:8,
"Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine
honor dwelleth." And 27:4, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will
I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my
life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Psalm
84:1, 2, etc. "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul
longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord. — Yea, the sparrow
hath found a house and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay
her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee.
Blessed is the man in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing
through the valley of Baca-go from strength to strength, everyone of them
in Zion appeareth before God." Ver 10, "A day in thy courts is better than
a thousand."
This is the nature of true grace. But yet, on the other hand, persons' being
disposed to abound and to be zealously engaged in the external exercises of
religion, and to spend much time in them, is no sure evidence of grace;
because such a disposition is found in many that have no grace. So it was
with the Israelites of old, whose services were abominable to God; they
attended the "new moons, and Sabbaths, and calling of assemblies, and
spread forth their hands, and made many prayers, " Isaiah 1:12-15. So it
was with the Pharisees; they "made long prayers, and fasted twice a
week." False religion may cause persons to be loud and earnest in prayer:
Isaiah 58: 4, "Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to cause your voice to be
heard on high." That religion which is not spiritual and saving, may cause
men to delight in religious duties and ordinances: Isaiah 58:2, "Yet they
seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did
righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me
the ordinances of justice: they take delight in approaching to God." It may
cause them to take delight in hearing the word of God preached, as it was
with Ezekiel's hearers: Ezekiel 33:31, 32, "And they come unto thee as
the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear
thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show
much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art
unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can
play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them
not." So it was with Herod; he heard John the Baptist gladly, Mark 6:20.
So it was with others of his hearers, "for a season they rejoiced in his light,
" John 5:35. So the stony ground hearers heard the word with joy.
Experience shows, that persons, from false religion, may be inclined to be
exceeding abundant in the external exercises of religion; yea, to give
themselves up to them, and devote almost their whole time to them.
Formerly a sort of people were very numerous in the Romish church,
called recluses, who forsook the world, and utterly abandoned the society
of mankind, and shut themselves up close in a narrow cell, with a vow
never to stir out of it, nor to see the face of any of mankind any more
(unless that they might be visited in case of sickness), to spend all their
days in the exercise of devotion and converse with God. There were also in
old time, great multitudes called Hermits and Anchorites, that left the
world to spend all their days in lonesome deserts, to give themselves up to
religious contemplations and exercises of devotion; some sorts of them
having no dwellings, but the caves and vaults of the mountains, and no
food, but the spontaneous productions of the earth. I once lived, for many
months, next door to a Jew (the houses adjoining one to another), and had
much opportunity daily to observe him; who appeared to me the
devoutest person that I ever saw in my life; great part of his time being
spent in acts of devotion, at his eastern window, which opened next to
mine, seeming to be most earnestly engaged, not only in the daytime, but
sometimes whole nights.
X. Nothing can be certainly known of the nature of religious affections by
this, that they much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and
glorify God. This indeed is implied in what has been just now
observed, of abounding and spending much time in the external
exercises of religion, and was also hinted before; but because many
seem to look upon it as a bright evidence of gracious affection, when
persons appear greatly disposed to praise and magnify God, to have
their mouths full of his praises, and affectionately to be calling on
others to praise and extol him, I thought it deserved a more particular
No Christian will make it an argument against a person, that he seems to
have such a disposition. Nor can it reasonably be looked upon as an
evidence for a person, if those things that have been already observed and
proved, be duly considered, viz., that persons, without grace, may have
high affections towards God and Christ, and that their affections, being
strong, may fill their mouths and incline them to speak much, and very
earnestly, about the things they are affected with, and that there may be
counterfeits of all kinds of gracious affection. But it will appear more
evidently and directly, that this is no certain sign of grace, if we consider
what instances the Scripture gives us of it in those that were graceless. We
often have an account of this, in the multitude that were present when
Christ preached and wrought miracles; Mark 2:12, "And immediately he
arose, took up his bed, and went forth before them all, insomuch that they
were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this
fashion." So Matthew 9:8, and Luke 5:26. Also Matthew 15:31,
"Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to
speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and
they glorified the God of Israel." So we are told, that on occasion of
Christ's raising the son of the widow of Nain, Luke 7:16, "There came a
fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up
among us; and, That God hath visited his people." So we read of their
glorifying Christ, or speaking exceeding highly of him: Luke 4:15, "And he
taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all." And how did they praise
him, with loud voices, crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; hosanna in
the highest; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, " a little
before he was crucified! And after Christ's ascension, when the apostles
had healed the impotent man, we are told, that all men glorified God for
that which was done, Acts 4:21. When the Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia,
heard from Paul and Barnabas, that God would reject the Jews, and take
the Gentiles to be his people in their room, they were affected with the
goodness of God to the Gentiles, "and glorified the word of the Lord:" but
all that did so were not true believers; but only a certain elect number of
them; as is intimated in the account we have of it, Acts 13:48: "And when
the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord:
and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." So of old the
children of Israel at the Red Sea, "sang God's praise; but soon forgat his
works." And the Jews in Ezekiel's time, "with their mouth showed much
love, while their heart went after their covetousness." And it is foretold of
false professors and real enemies of religion, that they should show a
forwardness to glorify God: Isaiah 66:5, "Hear the word of the Lord, ye
that tremble at his word. Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out
for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified."
It is no certain sign that a person is graciously affected, if, in the midst of
his hopes and comforts, he is greatly affected with God's unmerited mercy
to him that is so unworthy, and seems greatly to extol and magnify free
grace. Those that yet remain with unmortified pride and enmity against
God, may, when they imagine that they have received extraordinary
kindness from God, cry out of their unworthiness, and magnify God's
undeserved goodness to them, from no other conviction of their ill
deservings, and from no higher principle than Saul had, who, while he yet
remained with unsubdued pride and enmity against David, was brought,
though a king, to acknowledge his unworthiness, and cry out, "I have
played the fool, I have erred exceedingly, " and with great affection and
admiration, to magnify and extol David's unmerited and unexampled
kindness to him, 1 Samuel 25:16-19, and 26:21, and from no higher
principle than that from whence Nebuchadnezzar was affected with God's
dispensations, that he saw and was the subject of, and praises, extols and
honors the King of heaven; and both he, and Darius, in their high
affections, call upon all nations to praise God, Daniel 3:28, 29, 30, and 4:1,
2, 3, 34, 35, 37, and 6:25, 26, 27.
XI. It is no sign that affections are right, or that they are wrong, that they
make persons that have them exceeding confident that what they
experience is divine, and that they are in a good estate.
It is an argument with some, against persons, that they are deluded if they
pretend to be assured of their good estate, and to be carried beyond all
doubting of the favor of God; supposing that there is no such thing to be
expected in the church of God, as a full and absolute assurance of hope;
unless it be in some very extraordinary circumstances; as in the case of
martyrdom; contrary to the doctrine of Protestants, which has been
maintained by their most celebrated writers against the Papists; and
contrary to the plainest Scripture evidence. It is manifest, that it was a
common thing for the saints that we have a history or particular account of
in Scripture, to be assured. God, in the plainest and most positive manner,
revealed and testified his special favor to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,
Moses, Daniel, and others. Job often speaks of his sincerity and
uprightness with the greatest imaginable confidence and assurance, often
calling God to witness to it; and says plainly, "I know that my Redeemer
liveth, and that I shall see him for myself, and not another, " Job 19:25,
etc. David, throughout the book of Psalms, almost everywhere speaks
without any hesitancy, and in the most positive manner, of God as his
God glorying in him as his portion and heritage, his rock and confidence,
his shield; salvation, and high tower, and the like. Hezekiah appeals to
God, as one that knew that he had walked before him in truth, and with a
perfect heart, 2 Kings 20:3. Jesus Christ, in his dying discourse with his
eleven disciples, in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John (which was
as it were Christ's last will and testament to his disciples, and to his whole
church), often declares his special and everlasting love to them in the
plainest and most positive terms and promises them a future participation
with him in his glory, in the most absolute manner; and tells them at the
same time that he does so, to the end that their joy might be full: John
15:11, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in
you, and that your joy might be full." See also at the conclusion of his
whole discourse, chap. 16:33: "These things have I spoken unto you, that
in me ye might have peace. In the would ye shall have tribulation: but be
of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Christ was not afraid of
speaking too plainly and positively to them; he did not desire to hold them
in the least suspense. And he concluded that last discourse of his with a
prayer in their presence, wherein he speaks positively to his Father of
those eleven disciples, as having all of them savingly know him, and
believed in him, and received and kept his word; and that they were not of
the world; and that for their sakes he sanctified himself; and that his will
was, that they should be with him in his glory; and tells his Father, that he
spake those things in his prayer, to the end, that his joy might be fulfilled
in them, verse 13. By these things it is evident, that it is agreeable to
Christ's designs, and the contrived ordering and disposition Christ makes
of things in his church, that there should be sufficient and abundant
provision made, that his saints might have full assurance of their future
The Apostle Paul, through all his epistles speaks in an assured strain; ever
speaking positively of his special relation to Christ, his Lord, and Master,
and Redeemer, and his interest in, and expectation of the future reward. It
would be endless to take notice of all places that might be enumerated; I
shall mention but three or four: Galatians 2:20, "Christ liveth in me; and
the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me;" Philippians 1:21, "For me to live
is Christ, and to die is gain;" 2 Timothy 1:12, "I know whom I have
believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have
committed unto him against that day;" 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, "I have fought a
good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth
there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will give me at that day."
And the nature of the covenant of grace, and God's declared ends in the
appointment and constitution of things in that covenant, do plainly show
it to be God's design to make ample provision for the saints having an
assured hope of eternal life, while living here upon earth. For so are all
things ordered and contrived in that covenant, that everything might be
made sure on God's part. "The covenant is ordered in all things and sure:"
the promises are most full, and very often repeated, and various ways
exhibited; and there are many witnesses, and many seals; and God has
confirmed his promises with an oath. And God's declared design in all
this, is, that the heirs of the promises might have an undoubting hope and
full joy, in an assurance of their future glory. Hebrews 6:17, 18, "Wherein
God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the
immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two
immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have
a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set
before us." But all this would be in vain, to any such purpose, as the
saints' strong consolation, and hope of their obtaining future glory, if their
interest in those sure promises in ordinary cases was not ascertainable. For
God's promises and oaths, let them be as sure as they will, cannot give
strong hope and comfort to any particular person, any further than he can
know that those promises are made to him. And in vain is provision made
in Jesus Christ, that believers might be perfect as pertaining to the
conscience, as is signified, Hebrews 9:9, if assurance of freedom from the
guilt of sin is not attainable.
It further appears that assurance is not only attainable in some very
extraordinary cases, but that all Christians are directed to give all diligence
to make their calling and election sure, and are told how they may do it, 2
Peter 1:5-8. And it is spoken of as a thing very unbecoming Christians,
and an argument of something very blamable in them, not to know whether
Christ be in them or no: 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Know ye not your own
selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" And it
is implied that it is an argument of a very blamable negligence in
Christians, if they practice Christianity after such a manner as to remain
uncertain of the reward, in 1 Corinthians 9:26: "I therefore so run, as not
uncertainly." And to add no more, it is manifest, that Christians' knowing
their interest in the saving benefits of Christianity is a thing ordinarily
attainable, because the apostle tells us by what means Christians (and not
only the apostles and martyrs) were wont to know this: 1 Corinthians
2:12, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit
which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us
of God." And 1 John 2:3, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if
we keep his commandments." And verse 5, "Hereby know we that we are
in him." Chap. 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren;" ver. 19, "Hereby we know that we are of
the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him;" ver. 24, "Hereby we
know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." So chap.
4:13, and chap. 5:2, and verse 19.
Therefore it must needs be very unreasonable to determine, that persons
are hypocrites, and their affections wrong, because they seem to be out of
doubt of their own salvation, and the affections they are the subjects of
seem to banish all fears of hell.
On the other hand, it is no sufficient reason to determine that men are
saints, and their affections gracious, because the affections they have are
attended with an exceeding confidence that their state is good, and their
affections divine. 27 Nothing can be certainly argued from their confidence,
how great and strong soever it seems to be. If we see a man that boldly
calls God his Father, and commonly speaks in the most bold, familiar, and
appropriating language in prayer, "My Father, my dear Redeemer, my
sweet Savior, my Beloved, " and the like; and it is a common thing for him
to use the most confident expressions before men, about the goodness of
his state; such as, I know certainly that God is my Father; I know so
surely as there is a God in heaven, that he is my God; I know I shall go to
heaven, as well as if I were there; I know that God is now manifesting
himself to my soul, and is now smiling upon me;" and seems to have done
forever with any inquiry or examination into his state, as a thing
sufficiently known, and out of doubt, and to contemn all that so much as
intimate or suggest that there is some reason to doubt or fear whether all is
right; such things are no signs at all that it is indeed so as he is confident it
is. 28 Such an overbearing, high-handed, and violent sort of confidence as
this, so affecting to declare itself with a most glaring show in the sight of
men, which is to be seen in many, has not the countenance of a true
Christian assurance: it savors more of the spirit of the Pharisees, who
never doubted but that they were saints, and the most eminent of saints,
and were bold to go to God, and come up near to him, and lift up their
eyes, and thank him for the great distinction he had made between them
and other men; and when Christ intimated that they were blind and
graceless, despised the suggestion: John 9:40, "And some of the Pharisees
which were with him, heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind
also?" If they had more of the spirit of the publican, with their confidence,
who, in a sense of his exceeding unworthiness, stood afar off, and durst
not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, and
cried out of himself as a sinner, their confidence would have more of the
aspect of the confidence of one that humbly trusts and hopes in Christ,
and has no confidence in himself.
If we do but consider what the hearts of natural men are, what principles
they are under the dominion of, what blindness and deceit, what
self-flattery, self-exaltation, and self-confidence reign there, we need not at
all wonder that their high opinion of themselves, and confidence of their
happy circumstances, be as high and strong as mountains, and as violent as
a tempest, when once conscience is blinded, and convictions killed, with
false high affections, and those forementioned principles let loose, fed up
and prompted by false joys and comforts, excited by some pleasing
imaginations, impressed by Satan, transforming himself into an angel of
When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false hope, he has not those
things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the
occasion of the doubting of true saints; as, first, he has not that cautious
spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and
that dread of being deceived. The comforts of the true saints increase
awakening and caution, and a lively sense how great a thing it is to appear
before an infinitely holy, just and omniscient Judge. But false comforts
put an end to these things and dreadfully stupefy the mind. Secondly, The
hypocrite has not the knowledge of his own blindness, and the
deceitfulness of his own heart, and that mean opinion of his own
understanding that the true saint has. Those that are deluded with false
discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and
understanding. Thirdly, The devil does not assault the hope of the
hypocrite, as he does the hope of a true saint. The devil is a great enemy
to a true Christian hope, not only because it tends greatly to the comfort
of him that hath it, but also because it is a thing of a holy, heavenly nature,
greatly tending to promote and cherish grace in the heart, and a great
incentive to strictness and diligence in the Christian life. But he is no
enemy to the hope of a hypocrite, which above all things establishes his
interest in him that has it. A hypocrite may retain his hope without
opposition, as long as he lives, the devil never disturbing it, nor attempting
to disturb it. But there is perhaps no true Christian but what has his hope
assaulted by him. Satan assaulted Christ himself upon this, whether he
were the Son of God or no: and the servant is not above his Master, nor
the disciple above his Lord; it is enough for the disciple, that is most
privileged in this world, to be as his Master. Fourthly, He who has a false
hope, has not that sight of his own corruptions, which the saint has. A
true Christian has ten times so much to do with his heart and its
corruptions, as a hypocrite: and the sins of his heart and practice, appear
to him in their blackness; they look dreadful; and it often appears a very
mysterious thing, that any grace can be consistent with such corruption, or
should be in such a heart. But a false hope hides corruption, covers it all
over, and the hypocrite looks clean and bright in his own eyes.
There are two sorts of hypocrites: one that are deceived with their
outward morality and external religion; many of whom are professed
Arminians, in the doctrine of justification: and the other, are those that are
deceived with false discoveries and elevations; who often cry down works,
and men's own righteousness, and talk much of free grace; but at the same
time make a righteousness of their discoveries and of their humiliation, and
exalt themselves to heaven with them. These two kinds of hypocrites, Mr.
Shepard, in his exposition of the Parable of the Ten Virgins, distinguishes
by the name of legal and evangelical hypocrites; and often speaks of the
latter as the worst. And it is evident that the latter are commonly by far
the most confident in their hope, and with the most difficulty brought of
from it: I have scarcely known the instance of such a one, in my life, that
has been undeceived. The chief grounds of the confidence of many of
them, are the very same kind of impulses and supposed revelations
(sometimes with texts of Scripture, and sometimes without) that so many
of late have had concerning future events; calling these impulses about
their good estate, the witness of the Spirit; entirely misunderstanding the
nature of the witness of the Spirit, as I shall show hereafter. Those that
have had visions and impulses about other things, it has generally been to
reveal such things as they are desirous and fond of: and no wonder that
persons who give heed to such things, have the same sort of visions or
impressions about their own eternal salvation, to reveal to them that their
sins are forgiven them, that their names are written in the book of life, that
they are in high favor with God, etc., and especially when they earnestly
seek, expect, and wait for evidence of their election and salvation this way,
as the surest and most glorious evidence of it. Neither is it any wonder,
that when they have such a supposed revelation of their good estate, it
raises in them the highest degree of confidence of it. It is found by
abundant experience, that those who are led away by impulses and
imagined revelations, are extremely confident: they suppose that the great
Jehovah has declared these and those things to them; and having his
immediate testimony, a strong confidence is the highest virtue. Hence they
are bold to say, I know this or that-I know certainly-I am as sure as that I
have a being, and the like; and they despise all argument and inquiry in the
case. And above all things else, it is easy to be accounted for, that
impressions and impulses about that which is so pleasing, so suiting their
self-love and pride, as their being the dear children of God, distinguished
from most in the world in his favor, should make them strongly confident;
especially when with their impulses and revelations they have high
affections, which they take to be the most eminent exercises of grace. I
have known of several persons, that have had a fond desire of something
of a temporal nature, through a violent passion that has possessed them;
and they have been earnestly pursuing the thing they have desired should
come to pass, and have met with great difficulty and many
discouragements in it, but at last have had an impression, or supposed
revelation, that they should obtain what they sought; and they have
looked upon it as a sure promise from the Most High, which has made
them most ridiculously confident, against all manner of reason to convince
them to the contrary, and all events working against them. And there is
nothing hinders, but that persons who are seeking their salvation, may be
deceived by the like delusive impressions, and be made confident of that,
the same way.
The confidence of many of this sort of hypocrites, that Mr. Shepard calls
evangelical hypocrites, is like the confidence of some mad men, who think
they are kings; they will maintain it against all manner of reason and
evidence. And in one sense, it is much more immovable than a truly
gracious assurance; a true assurance is not upheld, but by the soul's being
kept in a holy frame, and Grace maintained in lively exercise. If the actings
of grace do much decay in the Christian, and he falls into a lifeless frame,
he loses his assurance: but this kind of confidence of hypocrites will not
be shaken by sin; they (at least some of them) will maintain their boldness
in their hope, in the most corrupt frames and wicked ways; which is a sure
evidence of their delusion. 29
And here I cannot but observe, that there are certain doctrines often
preached to the people, which need to be delivered with more caution and
explanation than they frequently are; for, as they are by many understood,
they tend greatly to establish this delusion and false confidence of
hypocrites. The doctrines I speak of are those of "Christians living by
faith, not by sight; their giving glory to God, by trusting him in the dark;
living upon Christ, and not upon experiences; not making their good
frames the foundation of their faith:" which are excellent and important
doctrines indeed, rightly understood, but corrupt and destructive, as many
understand them. The Scripture speaks of living or walking by faith, and
not by sight, in no other way than these, viz., a being governed by a
respect to eternal things, that are the objects of faith, and are not seen, and
not by a respect to temporal things, which are seen; and believing things
revealed, that we never saw with bodily eyes; and also living by faith in
the promise of future things, without yet seeing or enjoying the things
promised, or knowing the way how they can be fulfilled. This will be
easily evident to anyone who looks over the Scriptures, which speak of
faith in opposition to sight; as 2 Corinthians 4:18, and 5:7, Hebrews 11:1,
8, 13, 17, 27, 29, Romans 8:24, John 20:29. But this doctrine, as it is
understood by many, is, that Christians ought firmly to believe and trust
in Christ, without spiritual sight or light, and although they are in a dark
dead frame, and, for the present, have no spiritual experiences or
discoveries. And it is truly the duty of those who are thus in darkness, to
come out of darkness into light and believe. But that they should
confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without spiritual light
or sight, is an anti-scriptural and absurd doctrine. The Scripture is ignorant
of any such faith in Christ of the operation of God, that is not founded in
a spiritual sight of Christ. That believing on Christ, which accompanies a
title to everlasting life, is a "seeing the Son, and believing on him, " John
6:40. True faith in Christ is never exercised, any further than persons
"behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and have the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, " 2 Corinthians 3:18, and 4:6.
They into whose minds "the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is
the image of God, does not shine, believe not, " 2 Corinthians 4:5. That
faith, which is without spiritual light, is not the faith of the children of the
light, and of the day; but the presumption of the children of darkness. And
therefore to press and urge them to believe, without any spiritual light or
sight, tends greatly to help forward the delusions of the prince of
darkness. Men not only cannot exercise faith without some spiritual light,
but they can exercise faith only just in such proportion as they have
spiritual light. Men will trust in God no further than they know him; and
they cannot be in the exercise of faith in him one ace further than they
have a sight of his fullness and faithfulness in exercise. Nor can they have
the exercise of trust in God, any further than they are in a gracious frame.
They that are in a dead carnal frame, doubtless ought to trust in God;
because that would be the same thing as coming out of their bad frame, and
turning to God; but to exhort men confidently to trust in God, and so hold
up their hope and peace, though they are not in a gracious frame, and
continue still to be so, is the same thing in effect, as to exhort them
confidentially to trust in God, but not with a gracious trust: and what is
that but a wicked presumption? It is just as impossible for men to have a
strong or lively trust in God, when they have no lively exercises of grace,
or sensible Christian experiences, as it is for them to be in the lively
exercises of grace, without the exercises of grace.
It is true, that it is the duty of God's people to trust in him when in
darkness, and though they remain still in darkness, in that sense, that they
ought to trust in God when the aspects of his providence are dark, and
look as though God had forsaken them, and did not hear their prayers, and
many clouds gather, and many enemies surround them, with a formidable
aspect, threatening to swallow them up, and all events of providence seem
to be against them, all circumstances seem to render the promises of God
difficult to be fulfilled, and God must be trusted out of sight, i.e., when we
cannot see which way it is possible for him to fulfill his word; everything
but God's mere word makes it look unlikely, so that if persons believe,
they must hope against hope. Thus the ancient Patriarchs, and Job, and
the Psalmist, and Jeremiah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego,
and the Apostle Paul, gave glory to God by trusting in God in darkness.
And we have many instances of such a glorious victorious faith in the
eleventh of Hebrews. But how different a thing is this, from trusting in
God, without spiritual sight, and being at the same time in a dead and
carnal frame!
There is also such a thing as spiritual light's being let into the soul in one
way, when it is not in another; and so there is such a thing as the saints
trusting in God, and also knowing their good estate, when they are
destitute of some kinds of experience. As for instance, they may have clear
views of God's sufficiency and faithfulness, and so confidently trust in
him, and know that they are his children; and at the same time, not have
those clear and sweet ideas of his love as at other times: for it was thus
with Christ himself in his last passion. And they may have views of much
of God's sovereignty, holiness, and all sufficiency, enabling them quietly
to submit to him, and exercise a sweet and most encouraging hope in
God's fullness, when they are not satisfied of their own good estate. But
how different things are these, from confidently trusting in God, without
spiritual light or experience!
Those that thus insist on persons living by faith, when they have no
experience, and are in very bad frames, are also very absurd in their
notions of faith. What they mean by faith is, believing that they are in a
good estate. Hence they count it a dreadful sin for them to doubt of their
state, whatever frames they are in, and whatever wicked things they do,
because it is the great and heinous sin of unbelief; and he is the best man,
and puts most honor upon God, that maintains his hope of his good estate
the most confidently and immovably, when he has the least light or
experience; that is to say, when he is in the worst and most wicked frame
and way; because, forsooth, that is a sign that he is strong in faith, giving
glory to God, and against hope believes in hope. But what Bible do they
learn this notion of faith out of, that it is a man's confidently believing that
he is in a good estate? 30 If this be faith, the Pharisees had faith in an
eminent degree; some of which, Christ teaches, committed the
unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. The Scripture represents faith
as that by which men are brought into a good estate; and therefore it
cannot be the same thing as believing that they are already in a good estate.
To suppose that faith consists in persons believing that they are in a good
estate, is in effect the same thing, as to suppose that faith consists in a
person's believing that he has faith, or believing that he believes.
Indeed persons doubting of their good estate, may in several respects arise
from unbelief. It may be from unbelief, or because they have so little faith
that they have so little evidence of their good estate: if they had more
experience of the actings of faith, and so more experience of the exercise of
grace, they would have clearer evidence that their state was good; and so
their doubts would be removed. And then their doubting of their state may
be from unbelief thus, when, though there be many things that are good
evidences of a work of grace in them, yet they doubt very much whether
they are really in a state of favor with God, because it is they, those that
are so unworthy, and have done so much to provoke God to anger against
them. Their doubts in such a case arise from unbelief, as they arise from
want of a sufficient sense of, and reliance on, the infinite riches of God's
grace, and the sufficiency of Christ for the chief of sinners. They may also
be from unbelief, when they doubt of their state, because of the mystery
of God's dealings with them; they are not able to reconcile such
dispensations with God's favor to them; or when they doubt whether
they have any interest in the promises, because the promises from the
aspect of providence appear so unlikely to be fulfilled; the difficulties that
are in the way are so many and great. Such doubting arises from want of
dependence upon God's almighty power, and his knowledge and wisdom,
as infinitely above theirs. But yet, in such persons, their unbelief, and their
doubting of their state, are not the same thing; though one arises from the
Persons may be greatly to blame for doubting of their state, on such
grounds as these last mentioned; and they may be to blame, that they have
no more grace, and no more of the present exercises and experiences of it,
to be an evidence to them of the goodness of their state: men are doubtless
to blame for being in a dead, carnal frame; but when they are in such a
frame, and have no sensible experience of the exercises of grace, but on the
contrary, are much under the prevalence of lusts and an unchristian spirit,
they are not to blame for doubting their state. It is as impossible, in the
nature of things, that a holy and Christian hope be kept alive, in its
clearness and strength, in such circumstances, as it is to keep the light in
the room, when the candle is put out; or to maintain the bright sunshine in
the air, when the sun is gone down. Distant experiences, when darkened
by present prevailing lust and corruption, never keep alive a gracious
confidence and assurance; but that sickens and decays upon it, as
necessarily as a little child by repeated blows on the head with a hammer.
Nor is it at all to be lamented, that persons doubt of their state in such
circumstances: but, on the contrary, it is desirable and every way best that
they should. It is agreeable to that wise and merciful constitution of things,
which God hath established, that it should be so. For so hath God
contrived and constituted things, in his dispensations towards his own
people, that when their love decays, and the exercises of it fail, or become
weak, fear should arise; for then they need it to restrain them from sin, and
to excite them to care for the good of their souls, and so to stir them up to
watchfulness and diligence in religion: but God hath so ordered, that when
love rises, and is in vigorous exercise, then fear should vanish, and be
driven away; for then they need it not, having a higher and more excellent
principle in exercise, to restrain them from sin, and stir them up to their
duty. There are no other principles, which human nature is under the
influence of, that will ever make men conscientious, but one of these two,
fear or love; and therefore, if one of these should not prevail as the other
decays, God's people, when fallen into dead and carnal frames, when love
is asleep, would be lamentably exposed indeed: and therefore God has
wisely ordained, that these two opposite principles of love and fear
should rise and fall, like the two opposite scales of a balance; when one
rises the other sinks. As light and darkness necessarily and unavoidably
succeed each other; if light prevails, so much does darkness cease, and no
more; and if light decays, so much does darkness prevail; so it is in the
heart of a child of God: if divine love decays and falls asleep, and lust
prevails, the light and joy of hope go out, and dark fear and doubting
arises; and if, on the contrary, divine love prevails and comes into lively
exercise, this brings in the brightness of hope, and drives away black lust,
and fear with it. Love is the spirit of adoption, or the childlike principle; if
that slumbers, men fall under fear, which is the spirit of bondage, or the
servile principle; and so on the contrary. And if it be so, that love, or the
spirit of adoption, be carried to a great height, it quite drives away all fear,
and gives full assurance; agreeable to that of the apostle, 1 John 4:18,
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." These two
opposite principles of lust and holy love, bring hope and fear into the
hearts of God's children, in proportion as they prevail; that is, when left
to their own natural influence, without something adventitious, or
accidental intervening; as the distemper of melancholy, doctrinal ignorance,
prejudices of education, wrong instruction, false principles, peculiar
temptations, etc.
Fear is cast out by the Spirit of God, no other way than by the prevailing
of love; nor is it ever maintained by his Spirit but when love is asleep. At
such a time, in vain is all the saint's self-examinations, and poring on past
experience, in order to establish his peace, and get assurance. For it is
contrary to the nature of things, as God hath constituted them, that he
should have assurance at such a time.
They therefore do directly thwart God's wise and gracious constitution of
things, who exhort others to be confident in their hope, when in dead
frames; under a notion of "living by faith, and not by sight, and trusting
God in the dark, and living upon Christ, and not upon experiences;" and
warn them not to doubt of their good estate, lest they should be guilty of
the dreadful sin of unbelief. And it has a direct tendency to establish the
most presumptuous hypocrites, and to prevent their ever calling their
state in question, how much soever wickedness rages, and reigns in their
hearts, and prevails in their lives; under a notion of honoring God, by
hoping against hope, and confidently trusting in God, when things look
very dark. And doubtless vast has been the mischief that has been done
this way.
Persons cannot be said to forsake Christ, and live on their experiences of
the exercises of grace, merely because they take them and use them as
evidences of grace; for there are no other evidences that they can or ought
to take. But then may persons be said to live upon their experiences, when
they make a righteousness of them, and instead of keeping their eye on
God's glory and Christ's excellency, they turn their eyes off these objects
without them, on to themselves, to entertain their minds, by viewing their
own attainments, and high experiences, and the great things they have met
with, and are bright and beautiful in their own eyes, and are rich and
increased with goods in their own apprehensions, and think that God has
as admiring an esteem of them, on the same account, as they have of
themselves: this is living on experiences, and not on Christ; and is more
abominable in the sight of God, than the gross immoralities of those who
make no pretenses to religion. But this is a far different thing from a mere
improving experiences as evidences of an interest in a glorious Redeemer.
But to return from this digression, I would mention one thing more under
the general head that I am upon.
XII. Nothing can be certainly concluded concerning the nature of religious
affections, that any are the subjects of, from this, that the outward
manifestations of them, and the relation persons give of them, are
very affecting and pleasing to the truly godly, and such as greatly gain
their charity, and win their hearts.
The true saints have not such a spirit of discerning that they can certainly
determine who are godly, and who are not. For though they know
experimentally what true religion is, in the internal exercises of it; yet these
are what they can neither feel, nor see, in the heart of another. 31 There is
nothing in others, that comes within their view, but outward
manifestations and appearances; but the Scripture plainly intimates, that
this way of judging what is in men by outward appearances, is at best
uncertain, and liable to deceit: 1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord seeth not as man
seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh
on the heart." Isaiah 11:3, "He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
neither reprove after the hearing of his ears." 32 They commonly are but
poor judges, and dangerous counselors in soul cases, who are quick and
peremptory in determining persons' states, vaunting themselves in their
extraordinary faculty of discerning and distinguishing, in these great affairs;
as though all was open and clear to them. They betray one of these three
things: either that they have had but little experience; or are persons of a
weak judgment; or that they have a great degree of pride and
self-confidence, and so ignorance of themselves. Wise and experienced men
will proceed with great caution in such an affair.
When there are many probable appearances of piety in others, it is the
duty of the saints to receive them cordially into their charity, and to love
them and rejoice in them, as their brethren in Christ Jesus. But yet the best
of men may be, when the appearances seem to them exceeding fair and
bright, as entirely to gain their charity, and conquer their hearts. It has
been common thing in the church of God, for such bright professors, that
are received as eminent saints, among the saints, to fall away and come to
nothing. 33 And this we need not wonder at, if we consider the things that
have been already observed; what things it has been shown may appear in
men who are altogether graceless. Nothing hinders but that all these things
may meet together in men, and yet they be without a spark of grace in
their hearts. They may have religious affections of many kinds together;
they may have a sort of affection towards God, that bears a great
resemblance of dear love to him; and so a kind of love to the brethren, and
great appearances of admiration of God's perfections and works, and
sorrow for sin, and reverence, submission, self-abasement, gratitude, joy,
religious longings, and zeal for religion and the good of souls. And these
affections may come after great awakenings and convictions of conscience;
and there may be great appearances of a work of humiliation: and
counterfeit love and joy, and other affections may seem to follow these,
and one another, just in the same order that is commonly observable in the
holy affections of true converts. And these religious affections may be
carried to a great height, and may cause abundance of tears, yea, may
overcome the nature of those who are the subjects of them, and may make
them affectionate, and fervent, and fluent, in speaking of the things of
God, and dispose them to be abundant in it; and may be attended with
many sweet texts of Scripture, and precious promises, brought with great
impression on their minds; and may dispose them with their mouths to
praise and glorify God, in a very ardent manner, and fervently to call upon
others to praise him, crying out of their unworthiness, and extolling free
grace. And may, moreover, dispose them to abound in the external duties
of religion, such as prayer, hearing the word preached, singing, and
religious conference; and these things attended with a great resemblance of
a Christian assurance, in its greatest height, when the saints mount on
eagles' wings, above all darkness and doubting. I think it has been made
plain, that there may be all these things, and yet there be nothing more
than the common influences of the Spirit of God, joined with the delusions
of Satan, and the wicked and deceitful heart. — To which I may add, that
all these things may be attended with a sweet natural temper, and a good
doctrinal knowledge of religion, and a long acquaintance with the saints'
way of talking, and of expressing their affections and experiences, and a
natural ability and subtlety in accommodating their expressions and
manner of speaking to the dispositions and notions of the hearers, and a
taking decency of expression and behavior, formed by a good education.
How great therefore may the resemblance be, as to all outward expressions
and appearances, between a hypocrite and a true saint! Doubtless it is the
glorious prerogative of the omniscient God, as the great searcher of hearts,
to be able well to separate between sheep and goats. And what an indecent
self-exaltation and arrogance it is, in poor, fallible, dark mortals, to pretend
that they can determine and know, who are really sincere and upright
before God, and who are not!
Many seem to lay great weight on that, and to suppose it to be what may
determine them with respect to others' real piety, when they not only tell
a plausible story, but when, in giving an account of their experiences, they
make such a representation, and speak after such a manner, that they feel
their talk; that is to say, when their talk seems to harmonize with their
own experience, and their hearts are touched and affected and delighted, by
what they hear them say, and drawn out by it, in dear love to them. But
there is not that certainty in such things, and that full dependence to be
had upon them, which many imagine. A true saint greatly delights in
holiness; it is a most beautiful thing in his eyes; and God's work, in
savingly renewing and making holy and happy, a poor, and before
perishing soul, appears to him a most glorious work: no wonder, therefore,
that his heart is touched, and greatly affected, when he hears another give a
probable account of this work, wrought on his own heart, and when he
sees in him probable appearances of holiness; whether those pleasing
appearances have anything real to answer them, or no. And if he uses the
same words, which are commonly made use of, to express the affections of
true saints, and tells of many things following one another in an order,
agreeable to the method of the experience of him that hears him, and also
speaks freely and boldly, and with an air of assurance; no wonder the
other thinks his experiences harmonize with his own. And if, besides all
this, in giving his relation, he speaks with much affection; and, above all, if
in speaking he seems to show much affection to him to whom he speaks,
such an affection as the Galatians did to the Apostle Paul; these things will
naturally have a powerful influence, to affect and draw his hearer's heart,
and open wide the doors of his charity towards him. David speaks as one
who had felt Ahithophel's talk, and had once a sweet savor and relish of it.
And therefore exceeding great was his surprise and disappointment, when
he fell; it was almost too much for him: Psalm 55:12, 13, 14, "It was not
an enemy — then I could have borne it; but it was thou, a man, mine equal,
my guide, and mine acquaintance: we took sweet counsel together, and
walked unto the house of God in company."
It is with professors of religion, especially such as become so in a time of
outpouring of the Spirit of God, as it is with blossoms in the spring; 34
there are vast numbers of them upon the trees, which all look fair and
promising; but yet many of them never come to anything. And many of
those, that in a little time wither up, and drop off, and rot under the trees;
yet for a while look as beautiful and gay as others; and not only so, but
smell sweet, and send forth a pleasant odor; so that we cannot, by any of
our senses, certainly distinguish those blossoms which have in them that
secret virtue, which will afterwards appear in the fruit, and that inward
solidity and strength which shall enable them to bear, and cause them to be
perfected by the hot summer sun, that will dry up the others. It is the
mature fruit which comes afterwards, and not the beautiful colors and
smell of the blossoms, that we must judge by. So new converts
(professedly so), in their talk about things of religion, may appear fair, and
be very savory, and the saints may think they talk feelingly. They may
relish their talk, and imagine they perceive a divine savor in it, and yet all
may come to nothing.
It is strange how hardly men are brought to be contented with the rules
and directions Christ has given them, but they must needs go by other
rules of their counsels which Christ ever delivered more plainly, than the
rule. I know of no directions or councils which Christ ever delivered more
plainly, than the rule he has given us, to guide our judging of others'
sincerity, viz., that we should judge of the tree chiefly by the fruit: but yet
this will not do; but other ways are found out, which are imagined to be
more distinguishing and certain. And woeful have been the mischievous
consequences of this arrogant setting up men's wisdom above the wisdom
of Christ. I believe many saints have gone much out of the way of Christ's
word, in this respect: and some of them have been chastised with whips,
and (I had almost said) scorpions, to bring them back again. But many
things which have lately appeared, and do now appear, may convince that
ordinarily those who have gone farthest this way, that have been most
highly conceited of their faculty of discerning, and have appeared most
forward, peremptorily and suddenly to determine the state of men's souls,
have been hypocrites, who have known nothing of true religion.
In the parable of the wheat and tares, it is said, Matthew 13:26, "When
the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares
also." As though the tares were not discerned, nor distinguishable from the
wheat, until then, as Mr. Flavel observes, 35 who mentions it as an
observation of Jerome's, that "wheat and tares are so much alike, until the
blade of the wheat comes to bring forth the ear, that it is next to
impossible to distinguish them." And then Mr. Flavel adds, "How difficult
soever it be to discern the difference between wheat and tares; yet
doubtless the eye of sense can much easier discriminate them, than the
most quick and piercing eye of man can discern the difference between
special and common grace. For all saving graces in the saints, have their
counterfeits in hypocrites; there are similar works in those, which a
spiritual and very judicious eye may easily mistake for the saving and
genuine effects of a sanctifying spirit."
As it is the ear of the fruit which distinguishes the wheat from the tares, so
this is the true Shibboleth, that he who stands as judge at the passages of
Jordan, makes use of to distinguish those that shall pass over Jordan into
the true Canaan, from those that should be slain at the passages. For the
Hebrew word Shibboleth signifies an ear of corn. And perhaps the more
full pronunciation of Jephthah's friends, Shibboleth, may represent a full
ear with fruit in it, typifying the fruits of the friends of Christ, the
antitype of Jephthah; and the more lean pronunciation of the Ephraimites,
his enemies, may represent their empty ears, typifying the show of
religion in hypocrites, without substance and fruit. This is agreeable to the
doctrine we are abundantly taught in Scripture, viz., that he who is set to
judge those that pass through death, whether they have a right to enter
into the heavenly Canaan or no, or whether they should not be slain, will
judge every man according to his works.
We seem to be taught the same things, by the rules given for the priest's
discerning the leprosy. In many cases it was impossible for the priest to
determine whether a man had the leprosy, or whether he were clean, by
the most narrow inspection of the appearances that were upon him, until
he had waited to see what the appearances would come to, and had shut
up the person who showed himself to him, one seven days after another;
and when he judged, he was to determine by the hair, which grew out of
the spot that was showed him, which was as it were the fruit that it
brought forth.
And here, before I finish what I have to say under this head, I would say
something to a strange notion some have of late been led away with, of
certainly knowing the good estate that others are in, as though it were
immediately revealed to them from heaven, by their love flowing out to
them in an extraordinary manner. They argue thus, that their love being
very sensible and great, it may be certainly known by them who feel it, to
be a true Christian love: and if it be a true Christian love, the Spirit of God
must be the author of it: and inasmuch as the Spirit of God who knows
certainly, whether others are the children of God or no, and is a spirit of
truth, is pleased by an uncommon influence upon them, to cause their love
to flow out, in an extraordinary manner, towards such a person as a child
of God; it must needs be, that this infallible Spirit, who deceives none,
knows that that person is a child of God. But such persons might be
convinced of the falseness of their reasoning, if they would consider
whether or no it be not their duty, and what God requires of them, to love
those as the children of God who they think are the children of God, and
whom they have no reason to think otherwise of, from all that they can
see in them, though God, who searches the hearts, knows them not to be
his children.
If it be their duty, then it is good, and the want of it sin; and therefore
surely the Spirit of God may be the author of it: the Spirit of God,
without being a spirit of falsehood, may in such a case assist a person to
do his duty, and keep him from sin. But then they argue from the
uncommon degree and special manner, in which their love flows out to the
person, which they think the Spirit of God never would cause, if he did
not know the object to be a child of God. But then I would ask them,
whether or no it is not their duty to love all such as they are bound to
think are the children of God, from all that they can see in them, to a very
great degree, though God, from other things which he sees, that are out of
sight to them, knows them not to be so. It is men's duty to love all whom
they are bound in charity to look upon as the children of God, with a
vastly dearer affection than they commonly do. As we ought to love
Christ to the utmost capacity of our nature, so it is our duty to love those
who we think are so near and dear to him as his members, with an
exceeding dear affection, as Christ has loved us; and therefore it is sin in us
not to love them so. We ought to pray to God that he would by his Spirit
keep us from sin, and enable us to do our duty: and may not his Spirit
answer our prayers, and enable us to do our duty, in a particular instance,
without lying? If he cannot, then the Spirit of God is bound not to help his
people to do their duty in some instances, because he cannot do it without
being a spirit of falsehood. But surely God is so sovereign as that comes
to, that he may enable us to do our duty when he pleases, and on what
occasion he pleases. When persons think others are his children, God may
have other ends in causing their exceedingly endeared love to flow out to
them, besides revealing to them whether their opinion of them be right or
no: he may have that merciful end in it to enable them to know their duty,
and to keep them from that dreadful infinite evil, sin. And will they say
God shall not show them that mercy in such a case? If I am at a distance
from home, and hear, that in my absence my house is burnt, but my family
have, in some extraordinary manner, all escaped the flames; and everything
in the circumstances of the story, as I hear it, makes it appear very
credible, it would be sin in me, in such a case, not to feel a very great
degree of gratitude to God, though the story indeed be not true. And is not
God so sovereign, that he may, if he pleases, show me that mercy on that
occasion, and enable me to do my duty in a much further degree than I
used to do it, and yet not incur the charge of deceitfulness in confirming a
It is exceeding manifest, that error or mistake may be the occasion of a
gracious exercise, and consequently a gracious influence of the Spirit of
God by Romans 14:6: "He that eateth to the Lord he eateth, and giveth
God thanks; and he that eateth not to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth
God thanks!" The apostle is speaking of those, who through erroneous
and needless scruples, avoided eating legally unclean meats. — By this it is
very evident, that there may be true exercises of grace, a true respect to the
Lord, and particularly, a true thankfulness, which may be occasioned, both
by an erroneous judgment and practice. And consequently, an error may
be the occasion of those true holy exercises that are from the infallible
Spirit of God. And if so, it is certainly too much for us to determine, to
how great a degree the Spirit of God may give this holy exercise, on such
an occasion.
This notion, of certainly discerning another's state, by love flowing out, is
not only not founded on reason or Scripture, but it is anti-scriptural, it is
against the rules of Scripture; which say not a word of any such way of
judging the state of others as this, but direct us to judge chiefly by the
fruits that are seen in them. And it is against the doctrines of Scripture,
which do plainly teach us, that the state of others' souls towards God
cannot be known by us, as in Revelation 2:17: "To him that overcometh
will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone,
and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he
that receiveth it." And Romans 2:29, "He is a Jew, which is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter,
whose praise is not of men, but of God." That by this last expression,
"whose praise is not of men, but of God, " the apostle has respect to the
insufficiency of men to judge concerning him, whether he be inwardly a
Jew or no (as they could easily see by outward marks, whether men were
outwardly Jews), and would signify, that it belongs to God alone to give a
determining voice in this matter, is confirmed by the same apostle's use of.102
the phrase, in 1 Corinthians 4:5: "Therefore judge nothing before the time,
until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of
darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart:" and then shall
every man have praise of God. The apostle, in the two foregoing verses,
says, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you,
or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing
by myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the
Lord." And again, it is further confirmed, because the apostle, in this
second chapter to the Romans, directs his speech especially to those who
had a high conceit of their own holiness, made their boast of God, and
were confident of their own discerning, and that they knew God's will,
and approved the things which were excellent, or tried the things that
differ (as it is in the margin), ver. 19: "And were confident that they were
guides of the blind, and a light to them which are in darkness, instructors
of the foolish, teachers of babes; and so took upon them to judge others."
See ver. 1, and 17, 18, 19, 20.
And how arrogant must the notion be, that they have, who imagine they
can certainly know others' godliness, when that great Apostle Peter
pretends not to say any more concerning Sylvanus, than that he was a
faithful brother, as he supposed! 1 Peter 5:12. Though this Sylvanus
appears to have been a very eminent minister of Christ, and an evangelist,
and a famous light in God's church at that day, and an intimate companion
of the apostles. See 2 Corinthians 1:19, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, and 2
Thessalonians 1:1..103
I COME now to the second thing appertaining to the trial of religious
affections, which was proposed, viz., To take notice of some things,
wherein those affections that are spiritual and gracious, do differ from
those that are not so.
But before I proceed directly to the distinguishing characters, I would
previously mention some things which I desire may be observed,
concerning the marks I shall lay down.
1. That I am far from undertaking to give such signs of gracious affections,
as shall be sufficient to enable any certainly to distinguish true affection
from false in others; or to determine positively which of their neighbors
are true professors, and which are hypocrites. In so doing, I should be
guilty of that arrogance which I have been condemning. Though it be plain
that Christ has given rules to all Christians, to enable them to judge of
professors of religion, whom they are concerned with, so far as is
necessary for their own safety, and to prevent their being led into a snare
by false teachers, and false pretenders to religion; and though it be also
beyond doubt, that the Scriptures do abound with rules, which may be
very serviceable to ministers, in counseling and conducting souls
committed to their care, in things appertaining to their spiritual and eternal
state; yet it is also evident, that it was never God's design to give us any
rules, by which we may certainly know, who of our fellow professors are
his, and to make a full and clear separation between sheep and goats; but
that, on the contrary, it was God's design to reserve this to himself, as his
prerogative. And therefore no such distinguishing signs as shall enable
Christians or ministers to do this, are ever to be expected to the world's
end: for no more is ever to be expected from any signs, that are to be found
in the word of God, or gathered from it, than Christ designed them for..104
2. No such signs are to be expected, that shall be sufficient to enable those
saints certainly to discern their own good estate, who are very low in
grace, or are such as have much departed from God, and are fallen into a
dead, carnal, and unchristian frame. It is not agreeable to God's design (as
has been already observed), that such should know their good estate: nor is
it desirable that they should; but, on the contrary, every way best that
they should not; and we have reason to bless God, that he has made no
provision that such should certainly know the state that they are in, any
other way than by first coming out of the ill frame and way they are in.
Indeed it is not properly through the defect of the signs given in the word
of God, that every saint living, whether strong or weak, and those who are
in a bad frame, as well as others, cannot certainly know their good estate
by them. For the rules in themselves are certain and infallible, and every
saint has, or has had those things in himself, which are sure evidences of
grace; for every, even the least act of grace is so. But it is through his
defect to whom the signs are given. There is a twofold defect in that saint
who is very low in grace, or in an ill frame, which makes it impossible for
him to know certainly that he has true grace, by the best signs and rules
which can be given him. First, a defect in the object, or the qualification to
be viewed and examined. I do not mean an essential defect; because I
suppose the person to be a real saint; but a defect in degree: grace being
very small, cannot be clearly and certainly discerned and distinguished.
Things that are very small, we cannot clearly discern their form, or
distinguish them one from another; though, as they are in themselves, their
form may be very different. There is doubtless a great difference between
the body of man, and the bodies of other animals, in the first conception in
the womb: but yet if we should view the different embryos, it might not
be possible for us to discern the difference, by reason of the imperfect
state of the object; but as it comes to greater perfection, the difference
becomes very plain. The difference between creatures of very contrary
qualities, is not so plainly to be seen while they are very young; even after
they are actually brought forth, as in their more perfect state. The
difference between doves and ravens, or doves and vultures, when they
first come out of the egg, is not so evident; but as they grow to their
perfection, it is exceeding great and manifest. Another defect attending the
grace of those I am speaking of is its being mingled with so much.105
corruption, which clouds and hides it, and makes it impossible for it
certainly to be known. Though different things that are before us, may
have in themselves many marks thoroughly distinguishing them one from
another; yet if we see them only in a thick smoke, it may nevertheless be
impossible to distinguish them. A fixed star is easily distinguishable from a
comet, in a clear sky; but if we view them through a cloud, it may be
impossible to see the difference. When true Christians are in an ill frame,
guilt lies on the conscience; which will bring fear, and so prevent the peace
and joy of an assured hope.
Secondly. There is in such a case a defect in the eye. As the feebleness of
grace and prevalence of corruption, obscures the object; so it enfeebles the
sight; it darkens the sight as to all spiritual objects, of which grace is one.
Sin is like some distempers of the eyes, that make things to appear of
different colors from those which properly belong to them, and like many
other distempers, that put the mouth out of taste so as to disenable it from
distinguishing good and wholesome food from bad, but everything tastes
Men in a corrupt and carnal frame, have their spiritual senses in but poor
plight for judging and distinguishing spiritual things.
For these reasons no signs that can be given, will actually satisfy persons
in such a case: let the signs that are given be never so good and infallible,
and clearly laid down, they will not serve them. It is like giving a man
rules, how to distinguish visible objects in the dark; the things themselves
may be very different, and their difference may be very well and distinctly
described to him; yet all is insufficient to enable him to distinguish them,
because he is in the dark. And therefore many persons in such a case
spend time in a fruitless labor, in poring on past experiences, and
examining themselves by signs they hear laid down from the pulpit, or that
they read in books; when there is other work for them to do, that is much
more expected of them; which, while they neglect, all their
self-examinations are like to be in vain if they should spend never so much
time in them. The accursed thing is to be destroyed from their camp, and
Achan to be slain; and until this be done they will be in trouble. It is not
God's design that men should obtain assurance in any other way, than by
mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace, and obtaining the lively.106
exercises of it. — And although self-examination be a duty of great use and
importance, and by no means to be neglected; yet it is not the principal
means, by which the saints do get satisfaction of their good estate.
Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination, as by action.
The Apostle Paul sought assurance chiefly this way, even by "forgetting
the things that were behind, and reaching forth unto those things that were
before, pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God
in Christ Jesus; if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of
the dead." And it was by this means chiefly that he obtained assurance: 1
Corinthians 9:26, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly." He obtained
assurance of winning the prize, more by running, than by considering. The
swiftness of his pace did more towards his assurance of a conquest, than
the strictness of his examination. Giving all diligence to grow in grace, by
adding to faith, virtue, etc., is the direction that the Apostle Peter gives us,
for "making our calling and election sure, and having an entrance ministered
to us abundantly, into Christ's everlasting kingdom;" signifying to us, that
without this, our eyes will be dim, and we shall be as men in the dark, that
cannot plainly see things past or to come, either the forgiveness of our sins
past, or our heavenly inheritance that is future, and far off, 2 Peter 1:5-11.
Therefore, though good rules to distinguish true grace from counterfeit,
may tend to convince hypocrites, and be of great use to the saints, in
many respects; and among other benefits may be very useful to them to
remove many needless scruples, and establish their hope; yet I am far from
pretending to lay down any such rules, as shall be sufficient of themselves,
without other means, to enable all true saints to see their good estate, or as
supposing they should be the principal means of their satisfaction.
3. Nor is there much encouragement, in the experience of present or past
times, to lay down rules or marks to distinguish between true and false
affections, in hopes of convincing any considerable number of that sort of
hypocrites, who have been deceived with great false discoveries and
affections, and are once settled in a false confidence, and high conceit of
their own supposed great experiences and privileges. Such hypocrites are
so conceited of their own wisdom, and so blinded and hardened with a
very great self-righteousness (but very subtle and secret, under the
disguise of great humility), and so invincible a fondness of their pleasing.107
conceit of their great exaltation, that it usually signifies nothing at all to lay
before them the most convincing evidences of their hypocrisy. Their state
is indeed deplorable, and next to those who have committed the
unpardonable sin. Some of this sort of persons seem to be most out of the
reach of means of conviction and repentance. But yet the laying down
good rules may be a means of preventing such hypocrites, and of
convincing many of other kinds of hypocrites; and God is able to convince
even this kind, and his grace is not to be limited, nor means to be neglected.
And besides, such rules may be of use to the true saints, to detect false
affections, which they may have mingled with true; and be a means of their
religion's becoming more pure, and like gold tried in the fire.
Having premised these things, I now proceed directly to take notice of
those things in which true religious affections are distinguished from false.
I. Affections that are truly spiritual and gracious, do arise from those
influences and operations on the heart, which are spiritual,
supernatural and divine.
I will explain what I mean by these terms, whence will appear their use to
distinguish between those affections which are spiritual, and those which
are not so.
We find that true saints, or those persons who are sanctified by the Spirit
of God, are in the New Testament called spiritual persons. And their being
spiritual is spoken of as their peculiar character, and that wherein they are
distinguished from those who are not sanctified. This is evident, because
those who are spiritual are set in opposition to natural men, and carnal
men. Thus the spiritual man and the natural man are set in opposition one
to another, 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15: "The natural man receiveth not the
things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can
he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is
spiritual judgeth all things." The Scripture explains itself to mean an
ungodly man, or one that has no grace, by a natural man: thus the Apostle
Jude, speaking of certain ungodly men, that had crept in unawares among
the saints, ver. 4, of his epistle, says, 5:19, "These are sensual, having not
the Spirit." This the apostle gives as a reason why they behaved
themselves in such a wicked manner as he had described. Here the word.108
translated sensual, in the original is yucikoi [psychikoi], which is the very
same, which in those verses in 1 Corinthians chap. 2 is translated natural.
In the like manner, in the continuation of the same discourse, in the next
verse but one, spiritual men are opposed to carnal men; which the
connection plainly shows mean the same, as spiritual men and natural
men, in the foregoing verses; "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you,
as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal;" i.e., as in a great measure
unsanctified. That by carnal the apostle means corrupt and unsanctified, is
abundantly evident, by Romans 7:25, and 8:1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 19, 13,
Galatians 5:16, to the end, Colossians 2:18. Now therefore, if by natural
and carnal in these texts, be intended unsanctified, then doubtless by
spiritual, which is opposed thereto, is meant sanctified and gracious.
And as the saints are called spiritual in Scripture, so we also find that there
are certain properties, qualities, and principles, that have the same epithet
given them. So we read of a "spiritual mind, " Romans 8:6, 7, and of
"spiritual wisdom, " Colossians 1:9, and of "spiritual blessings, "
Ephesians 1:3.
Now it may be observed, that the epithet spiritual, in these and other
parallel texts of the New Testament, is not used to signify any relation of
persons or things to the spirit or soul of man, as the spiritual part of man,
in opposition to the body, which is the material part. Qualities are not said
to be spiritual, because they have their seat in the soul, and not in the
body: for there are some properties that the Scripture calls carnal or
fleshly, which have their seat as much in the soul, as those properties that
are called spiritual. Thus it is with pride and self-righteousness, and a
man's trusting to his own wisdom, which the apostle calls fleshly,
Colossians 2:18. Nor are things called spiritual, because they are
conversant about those things that are immaterial, and not corporeal. For
so was the wisdom of the wise men, and princes of this world, conversant
about spirits, and immaterial beings; which yet the apostle speaks of as
natural men, totally ignorant of those things that are spiritual, 1
Corinthians chap. 2. But it is with relation to the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of
God, that persons or things are termed spiritual in the New Testament.
Spirit, as the word is used to signify the third person in the Trinity, is the
substantive, of which is formed the adjective spiritual, in the holy
Scriptures. Thus Christians are called spiritual persons, because they are.109
born of the Spirit, and because of the indwelling and holy influences of the
Spirit of God in them. And things are called spiritual as related to the
Spirit of God; 1 Corinthians 2:13, 14, "Which things also we speak, not in
the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost
teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." Here the apostle himself
expressly signifies, that by spiritual things, he means the things of the
Spirit of God, and things which the Holy Ghost teacheth. The same is yet
more abundantly apparent by viewing the whole context. Again, Romans
8:6, "To be carnally minded, is death; to be spiritually minded, is life and
peace" The apostle explains what he means by being carnally and
spiritually minded in what follows in the 9th verse, and shows that by
being spiritually minded, he means a having the indwelling and holy
influences of the Spirit of God in the heart: "But ye are not in the flesh,
but in the Spirit, it so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man
have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." The same is evident by all
the context. But time would fail to produce all the evidence there is of this,
in the New Testament.
And it must be here observed, that although it is with relation to the Spirit
of God and his influences, that persons and things are called spiritual; yet
not all those persons who are subject to any kind of influence of the Spirit
of God, are ordinarily called spiritual in the New Testament. They who
have only the common influences of God's Spirit, are not so called, in the
places cited above, but only those who have the special, gracious, and
saving influences of God's Spirit; as is evident, because it has been already
proved, that by spiritual men is meant godly men, in opposition to
natural, carnal, and unsanctified men. And it is most plain, that the apostle
by spiritually minded, Romans 8:6, means graciously minded. And though
the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, which natural men might have, are
sometimes called spiritual, because they are from the Spirit; yet natural
men, whatever gifts of the Spirit they had, were not, in the usual language
of the New Testament, called spiritual persons. For it was not by men's
having the gifts of the Spirit, but by their having the virtues of the Spirit,
that they were called spiritual; as is apparent by Galatians 6:1: "Brethren,
if any man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a
one in the spirit of meekness." Meekness is one of those virtues which the.110
apostle had just spoken of, in the verses next preceding, showing what are
the fruits of the Spirit. Those qualifications are said to be spiritual in the
language of the New Testament, which are truly gracious and holy, and
peculiar to the saints.
Thus, when we read of spiritual wisdom and understanding (as in
Colossians 1:9, "We desire that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his
will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding"), hereby is intended that
wisdom which is gracious, and from the sanctifying influences of the Spirit
of God. For, doubtless, by spiritual wisdom is meant that which is
opposite to what the Scripture calls natural wisdom; as the spiritual man
is opposed to the natural man. And therefore spiritual wisdom is
doubtless the same with that wisdom which is from above, that the
Apostle James speaks of, James 3:17: "The wisdom that is from above, is
first pure, then peaceable, gentle, " etc., for this the apostle opposes to
natural wisdom, ver. 15: "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is
earthly, sensual" — the last word in the original is the same that is
translated natural, in 1 Corinthians 2:14.
So that although natural men may be the subjects of many influences of
the Spirit of God, as is evident by many Scriptures, as Numbers 24:2, 1
Samuel 10:10, and 11:6, and 16:14, 1 Corinthians 13:1, 2, 3, Hebrews 6:4,
5, 6, and many others; yet they are not, in the sense of the Scripture,
spiritual persons; neither are any of those effects, common gifts, qualities,
or affections, that are from the influence of the Spirit of God upon them,
called spiritual things. The great difference lies in these two things.
1. The Spirit of God is given to the true saints to dwell in them, as his
proper lasting abode; and to influence their hearts, as a principle of new
nature or as a divine supernatural spring of life and action. The Scriptures
represent the Holy Spirit not only as moving, and occasionally influencing
the saints, but as dwelling in them as his temple, his proper abode, and
everlasting dwelling place, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16, John
14:16, 17. And he is represented as being there so united to the faculties of
the soul, that he becomes there a principle or spring of new nature and life.
So the saints are said to live by Christ living in them, Galatians 2:20.
Christ by his Spirit not only is in them, but lives in them; and so that they
live by his life; so is his Spirit united to them, as a principle of life in them;.111
they do not only drink living water, but this "living water becomes a well
or fountain of water, " in the soul, "springing up into spiritual and
everlasting life, " John 4:14, and thus becomes a principle of life in them.
This living water, this evangelist himself explains to intend the Spirit of
God, chap. 7:38, 39. The light of the Sun of righteousness does not only
shine upon them, but is so communicated to them that they shine also, and
become little images of that Sun which shines upon them; the sap of the
true vine is not only conveyed into them, as the sap of a tree may be
conveyed into a vessel, but is conveyed as sap is from a tree into one of its
living branches, where it becomes a principle of life. The Spirit of God
being thus communicated and united to the saints, they are from thence
properly denominated from it, and are called spiritual.
On the other hand, though the Spirit of God may many ways influence
natural men; yet because it is not thus communicated to them, as an
indwelling principle, they do not derive any denomination or character
from it: for, there being no union, it is not their own. The light may shine
upon a body that is very dark or black; and though that body be the
subject of the light, yet, because the light becomes no principle of light in
it, so as to cause the body to shine, hence that body does not properly
receive its denomination from it, so as to be called a lightsome body. So
the Spirit of God acting upon the soul only, without communicating itself
to be an active principle in it, cannot denominate it spiritual. A body that
continues black, may be said not to have light, though the light shines
upon it: so natural men are said "not to have the Spirit, " Jude 19, sensual
or natural (as the word is elsewhere rendered), having not the Spirit.
2. Another reason why the saints and their virtues are called spiritual
(which is the principal thing) is, that the Spirit of God, dwelling as a vital
principle in their souls, there produces those effects wherein he exerts and
communicates himself in his own proper nature. Holiness is the nature of
the Spirit of God, therefore he is called in Scripture the Holy Ghost.
Holiness, which is as it were the beauty and sweetness of the divine
nature, is as much the proper nature of the Holy Spirit, as heat is the
nature of fire, or sweetness was the nature of that holy anointing oil,
which was the principal type of the Holy Ghost in the Mosaic
dispensation; yea, I may rather say, that holiness is as much the proper
nature of the Holy Ghost, as sweetness was the nature of the sweet odor.112
of that ointment. The Spirit of God so dwells in the hearts of the saints,
that he there, as a seed or spring of life, exerts and communicates himself,
in this his sweet and divine nature, making the soul a partaker of God's
beauty and Christ's joy, so that the saint has truly fellowship with the
Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, in thus having the communion or
participation of the Holy Ghost. The grace which is in the hearts of the
saints, is of the same nature with the divine holiness, as much as it is
possible for that holiness to be, which is infinitely less in degree; as the
brightness that is in a diamond which the sun shines upon, is of the same
nature with the brightness of the sun, but only that it is as nothing to it in
degree. Therefore Christ says, John 3:6, "That which is born of the Spirit,
is spirit;" i.e., the grace that is begotten in the hearts of the saints, is
something of the same nature with that Spirit, and so is properly called a
spiritual nature; after the same manner as that which is born of the flesh is
flesh, or that which is born of corrupt nature is corrupt nature.
But the Spirit of God never influences the minds of natural men after this
manner. Though he may influence them many ways, yet he never, in any
of his influences, communicates himself to them in his own proper nature.
Indeed he never acts disagreeably to his nature, either on the minds of
saints or sinners: but the Spirit of God may act upon men agreeably to his
own nature, and not exert his proper nature in the acts and exercises of
their minds: the Spirit of God may act so, that his actions may be
agreeable to his nature, and yet may not at all communicate himself in his
proper nature, in the effect of that action. Thus, for instance, the Spirit of
God moved upon the face of the waters, and there was nothing
disagreeable to his nature in that action; but yet he did not at all
communicate himself in that action, there was nothing of the proper nature
of the Holy Spirit in that motion of the waters. And so he may act upon
the minds of men many ways, and not communicate himself any more
than when be acts on inanimate things.
Thus not only the manner of the relation of the Spirit, who is the operator,
to the subject of his operations, is different; as the Spirit operates in the
saints, as dwelling in them, as an abiding principle of action, whereas he
doth not so operate upon sinners; but the influence and operation itself is
different, and the effect wrought exceeding different. So that not only the
persons are called spiritual, as having the Spirit of God dwelling in them;.113
but those qualifications, affections, and experiences, that are wrought in
them by the Spirit, are also spiritual, and therein differ vastly in their
nature and kind from all that a natural man is or can be the subject of,
while he remains in a natural state; and also from all that men or devils can
be the authors of. It is a spiritual work in this high sense; and therefore
above all other works is peculiar to the Spirit of God. There is no work so
high and excellent; for there is no work wherein God doth so much
communicate himself, and wherein the mere creature hath, in so high a
sense a participation of God; so that it is expressed in Scripture by the
saints "being made partakers of the divine nature, " 2 Peter 1:4, and
"having God dwelling in them, and they in God, " 1 John 4:12, 15, 16, and
chap. 3:21; "and having Christ in them, " John 17:21, Romans 8:10; "being
the temples of the living God, " 2 Corinthians 6:16; "living by Christ's
life, " Galatians 2:20; "being made partakers of God's holiness, " Hebrews
12:10; "having Christ's love dwelling in them, " John 17:26; "having his
joy fulfilled in them, " John 17:13; "seeing light in God's light, and being
made to drink of the river of God's pleasures, " Psalm 36:8, 9; "having
fellowship with God, or communicating and partaking with him (as the
word signifies), " 1 John 1:3. Not that the saints are made partakers of the
essence of God, and so are godded with God, and christed with Christ,
according to the abominable and blasphemous language and notions of
some heretics: but, to use the Scripture phrase, they are made partakers of
God's fullness, Ephesians 3:17, 18, 19, John 1:16, that is, of God's
spiritual beauty and happiness, according to the measure and capacity of a
creature; for so it is evident the word fullness signifies in Scripture
language. Grace in the hearts of the saints, being therefore the most
glorious work of God, wherein he communicates of the goodness of his
nature, it is doubtless his peculiar work, and in an eminent manner above
the power of all creatures. And the influences of the Spirit of God in this,
being thus peculiar to God, and being those wherein God does, in so high a
manner, communicate himself, and make the creature partaker of the divine
nature (the Spirit of God communicating itself in its own proper nature);
this is what I mean by those influences that are divine, when I say that
"truly gracious affections do arise from those influences that are spiritual
and divine.".114
The true saints only have that which is spiritual; others have nothing
which is divine, in the sense that has been spoken of. They not only have
not these communications of the Spirit of God in so high a degree as the
saints, but have nothing of that nature or kind. For the Apostle James tells
us, that natural men have not the Spirit; and Christ teaches the necessity
of a new birth, or of being born of the Spirit, from this, that he that is born
of the flesh, has only flesh, and no spirit, John 3:6. They have not the
Spirit of God dwelling in them in any degree; for the apostle teaches, that
all who have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, are some of his, Romans
8:9-11. And a having the Spirit of God is spoken of as a certain sign that
persons shall have the eternal inheritance; for it is spoken of as the earnest
of it, 2 Corinthians 1:29, and 5:5, Ephesians 1:14; and a having anything of
the Spirit is mentioned as a sure sign of being in Christ, 1 John 4:13:
"Hereby know we that we dwell in him, because he hath given us of his
Spirit." Ungodly men not only have not so much of the divine nature as
the saints, but they are not partakers of it; which implies that they have
nothing of it; for a being partaker of the divine nature is spoken of as the
peculiar privilege of the true saints, 2 Peter 1:4. Ungodly men are not
"partakers of God's holiness, " Hebrews 12:10. A natural man has no
experience of any of those things that are spiritual: the apostle teaches us,
that he is so far from it, that he knows nothing about them, he is a perfect
stranger to them, the talk about such things is all foolishness and nonsense
to him, he knows not what it means; 1 Corinthians 2:14, "The natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to
him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
And to the like purpose Christ teaches us that the world is wholly
unacquainted with the Spirit of God, John 14:17: "Even the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth
him." And it is further evident, that natural men have nothing in them of
the same nature with the true grace of the saints, because the apostle
teaches us, that those of them who go farthest in religion have no charity,
or true Christian love, 1 Corinthians chap. 13. So Christ elsewhere
reproves the Pharisees, those high pretenders to religion, that they "had
not the love of God in them, " John 5:42. Hence natural men have no
communion or fellowship with Christ, or participation with him (as these
words signify), for this is spoken of as the peculiar privilege of the saints,
1 John 1:3, together with ver. 6, 7, and 1 Corinthians 1:8, 9. And the.115
Scripture speaks of the actual being of a gracious principle in the soul,
though in its first beginning, as a seed there planted, as inconsistent with a
man's being a sinner, 1 John 3:9. And natural men are represented in
Scripture, as having no spiritual light, no spiritual life, and no spiritual
being; and therefore conversion is often compared to opening the eyes of
the blind, raising the dead, and a work of creation (wherein creatures are
made entirely new), and becoming new-born children.
From these things it is evident, that those gracious influences which the
saints are subjects of, and the effects of God's Spirit which they
experience, are entirely above nature, altogether of a different kind from
anything that men find within themselves by nature, or only in the exercise
of natural principles; and are things which no improvement of those
qualifications, or principles that are natural, no advancing or exalting them
to higher degrees, and no kind of composition of them, will ever bring men
to; because they not only differ from what is natural, and from everything
that natural men experience, in degree and circumstances, but also in kind;
and are of a nature vastly more excellent. And this is what I mean, by
supernatural, when I say that gracious affections are from those influences
that are supernatural.
From hence it follows, that in those gracious exercises and affections
which are wrought in the minds of the saints, through the saving influences
of the Spirit of God, there is a new inward perception or sensation of their
minds, entirely different in its nature and kind, from anything that ever
their minds were the subjects of before they were sanctified. For doubtless
if God by his mighty power produces something that is new, not only in
degree and circumstances, but in its whole nature, and that which could be
produced by no exalting, varying, or compounding of what was there
before, or by adding anything of the like kind; I say, if God produces
something thus new in a mind, that is a perceiving, thinking, conscious
thing; then doubtless something entirely new is felt, or perceived, or
thought; or, which is the same thing, there is some new sensation or
perception of the mind, which is entirely of a new sorts and which could
be produced by no exalting, varying, or compounding of that kind of
perceptions or sensations which the mind had before; or there is what
some metaphysicians call a new simple idea. If grace be, in the sense above
described, an entirely new kind of principle, then the exercises of it are.116
also entirely a new kind of exercises. And if there be in the soul a new sort
of exercises which it is conscious of, which the soul knew nothing of
before, and which no improvement, composition, or management of what
it was before conscious or sensible of, could produce, or anything like it;
then it follows that the mind has an entirely new kind of perception or
sensation; and here is, as it were, a new spiritual sense that the mind has,
or a principle of a new kind of perception or spiritual sensation, which is
in its whole nature different from any former kinds of sensation of the
mind, as tasting is diverse from any of the other senses; and something is
perceived by a true saint, in the exercise of this new sense of mind, in
spiritual and divine things, as entirely diverse from anything that is
perceived in them, by natural men, as the sweet taste of honey is diverse
from the ideas men have of honey by only looking on it, and feeling of it.
So that the spiritual perceptions which a sanctified and spiritual person
has, are not only diverse from all that natural men have after the manner
that the ideas or perceptions of the same sense may differ one from
another, but rather as the ideas and sensations of different senses do differ.
Hence the work of the Spirit of God in regeneration is often in Scripture
compared to the giving a new sense, giving eyes to see, and ears to hear,
unstopping the ears of the deaf, and opening the eyes of them that were
born blind, and turning from darkness unto light. And because this
spiritual sense is immensely the most noble and excellent, and that without
which all other principles of perception, and all our faculties are useless
and vain; therefore the giving this new sense, with the blessed fruits and
effects of it in the soul, is compared to a raising the dead, and to a new
This new spiritual sense, and the new dispositions that attend it, are no
new faculties, but are new principles of nature. I use the word principles
for want of a word of a more determinate signification. By a principle of
nature in this place, I mean that foundation which is laid in nature, either
old or new, for any particular manner or kind of exercise of the faculties of
the soul; or a natural habit or foundation for action, giving a personal
ability and disposition to exert the faculties in exercises of such a certain
kind; so that to exert the faculties in that kind of exercises may be said to
be his nature. So this new spiritual sense is not a new faculty of
understanding, but it is a new foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for.117
a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of understanding. So that new
holy disposition of heart that attends this new sense is not a new faculty
of will, but a foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of
exercises of the same faculty of will.
The Spirit of God, in all his operations upon the minds of natural men,
only moves, impresses, assists, improves, or some way acts upon natural
principles; but gives no new spiritual principle. Thus when the Spirit of
God gives a natural man visions, as he did Balaam, he only impresses a
natural principle, viz., the sense of seeing, immediately exciting ideas of
that sense; but he gives no new sense; neither is there anything
supernatural, spiritual, or divine in it. So if the Spirit of God impresses on
a man's imagination, either in a dream, or when he is awake, any outward
ideas of any of the senses, either voices, or shapes and colors, it is only
exciting ideas of the same kind that he has by natural principles and
senses. So if God reveals to any natural man any secret fact: as, for
instance, something that he shall hereafter see or hear; this is not infusing
or exercising any new spiritual principle, or giving the ideas of any new
spiritual sense; it is only impressing, in an extraordinary manner, the ideas
that will hereafter be received by sight and hearing. — So in the more
ordinary influences of the Spirit of God on the hearts of sinners, he only
assists natural principles to do the same work to a greater degree, which
they do of themselves by nature. Thus the Spirit of God by his common
influences may assist men's natural ingenuity, as he assisted Bezaleel and
Aholiab in the curious works of the tabernacle: so he may assist men's
natural abilities in political affairs, and improve their courage and other
natural qualifications, as he is said to have put his spirit on the seventy
elders, and on Saul, so as to give him another heart: so God may greatly
assist natural men's reason, in their reasoning about secular things, or
about the doctrines of religion, and may greatly advance the clearness of
their apprehensions and notions of things of religion in many respects,
without giving any spiritual sense. So in those awakenings and convictions
that natural men may have, God only assists conscience, which is a natural
principle, to do that work in a further degree, which it naturally does.
Conscience naturally gives men an apprehension of right and wrong, and
suggests the relation there is between right and wrong, and a retribution:
the Spirit of God assists men's consciences to do this in a greater degree,.118
helps conscience against the stupefying influence of worldly objects and
their lusts. And so many other ways might be mentioned wherein the
Spirit acts upon, assists, and moves natural principles; but after all it is no
more than nature moved, acted and improved; here is nothing supernatural
and divine. But the Spirit of God in his spiritual influences on the hearts of
his saints, operates by infusing or exercising new, divine, and supernatural
principles; principles which are indeed a new and spiritual nature, and
principles vastly more noble and excellent than all that is in natural men.
From what has been said it follows, that all spiritual and gracious
affections are attended with and do arise from some apprehension, idea, or
sensation of mind, which is in its whole nature different, yea, exceeding
different, from all that is, or can be in the mind of a natural man; and which
the natural man discerns nothing of, and has no manner of idea of
(agreeable to 1 Corinthians 2:14), and conceives of no more than a man
without the sense of tasting can conceive of the sweet taste of honey, or a
man without the sense of hearing can conceive of the melody of a tune, or
a man born blind can have a notion of the beauty of the rainbow.
But here two things must be observed, in order to the right understanding
of this.
1. On the one hand it must be observed, that not everything which in any
respect appertains to spiritual affections, is new and entirely different
from what natural men can conceive of, and do experience; some things are
common to gracious affections with other affections; many circumstances,
appendages and effects are common. Thus a saint's love to God has a great
many things appertaining to it, which are common with a man's natural
love to a near relation; love to God makes a man have desires of the honor
of God, and a desire to please him; so does a natural man's love to his
friend make him desire his honor, and desire to please him; love to God
causes a man to delight in the thoughts of God, and to delight in the
presence of God, and to desire conformity to God, and the enjoyment of
God; and so it is with a man's love to his friend; and many other things
might be mentioned which are common to both. But yet that idea which
the saint has of the loveliness of God, and that sensation, and that kind of
delight he has in that view, which is as it were the marrow and
quintessence of his love, is peculiar, and entirely diverse from anything.119
that a natural man has, or can have any notion of. And even in those things
that seem to be common, there is something peculiar; both spiritual and
natural love cause desires after the object beloved; but they be not the
same sort of desires: there is a sensation of soul in the spiritual desires of
one that loves God, which is entirely different from all natural desires:
both spiritual love and natural love are attended with delight in the object
beloved; but the sensations of delight are not the same, but entirely and
exceedingly diverse. Natural men may have conceptions of many things
about spiritual affections; but there is something in them which is as it
were the nucleus, or kernel of them, that they have no more conception of,
than one born blind, has of colors.
It may be clearly illustrated by this: we will suppose two men; one is born
without the sense of tasting, the other has it; the latter loves honey, and is
greatly delighted in it, because he knows the sweet taste of it; the other
loves certain sounds and colors; the love of each has many things that
appertain to it, which is common; it causes both to desire and delight in
the object beloved, and causes grief when it is absent, etc., but yet that
idea or sensation which he who knows the taste of honey has of its
excellency and sweetness, that is the foundation of his love, is entirely
different from anything the other has or can have; and that delight which
he has in honey is wholly diverse from anything that the other can
conceive of, though they both delight in their beloved objects. So both
these persons may in some respects love the same object: the one may
love a delicious kind of fruit, which is beautiful to the eye, and of a
delicious taste; not only because he has seen its pleasant colors, but knows
its sweet taste; the other, perfectly ignorant of this, loves it only for its
beautiful colors: there are many things seen, in some respect, to be
common to both; both love, both desire, and both delight; but the love and
desire, and delight of the one, is altogether diverse from that of the other.
The difference between the love of a natural man and a spiritual man is like
to this; but only it must be observed, that in one respect it is vastly
greater, viz., that the kinds of excellency which are perceived in spiritual
objects, by these different kinds of persons, are in themselves vastly more
diverse than the different kinds of excellency perceived in delicious fruit,
by a tasting and a tasteless man; and in another respect it may not be so
great, viz., as the spiritual man may have a spiritual sense or taste, to.120
perceive that divine and most peculiar excellency but in small beginnings,
and in a very imperfect degree.
2. On the other hand, it must be observed that a natural man may have
those religious apprehensions and affections, which may be in many
respects very new and surprising to him, and what before he did not
conceive of; and yet what he experiences be nothing like the exercises of a
principle of new nature, or the sensations of a new spiritual sense; his
affections may be very new, by extraordinarily moving natural principles
in a very new degree, and with a great many new circumstances, and a new
co-operation of natural affections, and a new composition of ideas; this
may be from some extraordinary powerful influence of Satan, and some
great delusion; but there is nothing but nature extraordinarily acted. As if a
poor man that had always dwelt in a cottage and, had never looked beyond
the obscure village where he was born, should in a jest be taken to a
magnificent city and prince's court, and there arrayed in princely robes,
and set on the throne, with the crown royal on his head, peers and nobles
bowing before him, and should be made to believe that he was now a
glorious monarch; the ideas he would have, and the affections he would
experience, would in many respects be very new, and such as he had no
imagination of before; but all this is no more than extraordinarily raising
and exciting natural principles, and newly exalting, varying, and
compounding such sort of ideas, as he has by nature; here is nothing like
giving him a new sense.
Upon the whole, I think it is clearly manifest, that all truly gracious
affections do arise from special and peculiar influences of the Spirit,
working that sensible effect or sensation in the souls of the saints, which
are entirely different from all that is possible a natural man should
experience, not only different in degree and circumstances, but different in
its whole nature; so that a natural man not only cannot experience that
which is individually the same, but cannot experience anything but what is
exceeding diverse, and immensely below it, in its kind; and that which the
power of men or devils is not sufficient to produce the like of, or anything
of the same nature.
I have insisted largely on this matter, because it is of great importance and
use evidently to discover and demonstrate the delusions of Satan, in many.121
kinds of false religious affections, which multitudes are deluded by, and
probably have been in all ages of the Christian church; and to settle and
determine many articles of doctrine, concerning the operations of the Spirit
of God, and the nature of true grace.
Now, therefore, to apply these things to the purpose of this discourse.
From hence it appears, that impressions which some have made on their
imagination, or the imaginary ideas which they have of God or Christ, or
heaven, or anything appertaining to religion, have nothing in them that is
spiritual, or of the nature of true grace. Though such things may attend
what is spiritual, and be mixed with it, yet in themselves they have
nothing that is spiritual, nor are they any part of gracious experience.
Here, for the sake of common people, I will explain what is intended by
impressions on the imagination and imaginary ideas. The imagination is
that power of the mind whereby it can have a conception, or idea of things
of an external or outward nature (that is, of such sort of things as are the
objects of the outward senses) when those things are not present, and be
not perceived by the senses. It is called imagination from the word image;
because thereby a person can have an image of some external thing in his
mind, when that thing is not present in reality, nor anything like it. All
such things as we perceive by our five external senses, seeing, hearing,
smelling, tasting, and feeling, are external things: and when a person has an
idea or image of any of these sorts of things in his mind, when they are not
there, and when he does not really see, hear, smell, taste, nor feel them;
that is to have an imagination of them, and these ideas are imaginary ideas:
and when such kinds of ideas are strongly impressed upon the mind, and
the image of them in the mind is very lively, almost as if one saw them, or
heard them, etc., that is called an impression on the imagination. Thus
colors and shapes, and a form of countenance, they are outward things;
because they are that sort of things which are the objects of the outward
sense of seeing; and therefore when any person has in his mind a lively
idea of any shape, or color, or form of countenance; that is to have an
imagination of those things. So if he has an idea, of such sort of light or
darkness, as he perceives by the sense of seeing; that is to have an idea of
outward light, and so is an imagination. So if he has an idea of any marks
made on paper, suppose letters and words written in a book; that is to.122
have an external and imaginary idea of such kind of things as we sometimes
perceive by our bodily eyes. And when we have the ideas of that kind of
things which we perceive by any of the other senses, as of any sounds or
voices, or words spoken; this is only to have ideas of outward things, viz.,
of such kind of things as are perceived by the external sense of hearing, and
so that also is imagination: and when these ideas are lively impressed,
almost as if they were really heard with the ears, this is to have an
impression on the imagination. And so I might go on, and instance in the
ideas of things appertaining to the other three senses of smelling, tasting,
and feeling.
Many who have had such things have very ignorantly supposed them to
be of the nature of spiritual discoveries. They have had lively ideas of
some external shape, and beautiful form of countenance; and this they call
spiritually seeing Christ. Some have had impressed upon them ideas of a
great outward light; and this they call a spiritual discovery of God's or
Christ's glory. Some have had ideas of Christ's hanging on the cross, and
his blood running from his wounds; and this they call a spiritual sight of
Christ crucified, and the way of salvation by his blood. Some have seen
him with his arms open ready to embrace them; and this they call a
discovery of the sufficiency of Christ's grace and love. Some have had
lively ideas of heaven, and of Christ on his throne there, and shining ranks
of saints and angels; and this they call seeing heaven opened to them. Some
from time to time have had a lively idea of a person of a beautiful
countenance smiling upon them; and this they call a spiritual discovery of
the love of Christ to their souls, and tasting the love of Christ. And they
look upon it a sufficient evidence that these things are spiritual
discoveries, and that they see them spiritually because they say they do
not see these things with their bodily eves, but in their hearts; for they can
see them when their eyes are shut. And in like manner, the imaginations of
some have been impressed with ideas of the sense of hearing; they have
had ideas of words, as if they were sunken to them, sometimes they are
the words of Scripture, and sometimes other words: they have had ideas of
Christ's speaking comfortable words to them. These things they have
called having the inward call of Christ, hearing the voice of Christ
spiritually in their hearts, having the witness of the Spirit, and the inward
testimony of the love of Christ, etc..123
The common and less considerate and understanding sort of people, are
the more easily led into apprehensions that these things are spiritual
things, because spiritual things being invisible, and not things that can be
pointed forth with the finger, we are forced to use figurative expressions in
speaking of them, and to borrow names from external and sensible objects
to signify them by. Thus we call a clear apprehension of things spiritual
by the name of light; and a having such an apprehension of such or such
things, by the name of seeing such things; and the conviction of the
judgment, and the persuasion of the will by the word of Christ in the
gospel, we signify by spiritually hearing the call of Christ: and the
scripture itself abounds with such like figurative expressions. Persons
hearing these often used, and having pressed upon them the necessity of
having their eyes opened, and having a discovery of spiritual things, and
seeing Christ in his glory and having the inward call, and the like, they
ignorantly look and wait for some such external discoveries, and imaginary
views as have been spoken of; and when they have them are confident,
that now their eyes are opened, now Christ has discovered himself to
them, and they are his children; and hence are exceedingly affected and
elevated with their deliverance and happiness, and many kinds of
affections are at once set in a violent motion in them.
But it is exceedingly apparent that such ideas have nothing in them which
is spiritual and divine, in the sense wherein it has been demonstrated that
all gracious experiences are spiritual and divine. These external ideas are in
no wise of such a sort, that they are entirely, and in their whole nature
diverse from all that men have by nature, perfectly different from, and
vastly above any sensation which it is possible a man should have by any
natural sense or principle, so that in order to have them, a man must have a
new spiritual and divine sense given him, in order to have any sensations
of that sort: so far from this, that they are ideas of the same sort which we
have by the external senses, that are some of the inferior powers of the
human nature: they are merely ideas of external objects, or ideas of that
nature, of the same outward, sensitive kind: the same sort of sensations of
mind (differing not in degree, but only in circumstances) that we have by
those natural principles which are common to us with the beasts, viz., the
five external senses. This is a low, miserable notion of spiritual sense, to
suppose that it is only a conceiving or imagining that sort of ideas which.124
we have by our animal senses, which senses the beasts have in as great
perfection as we; it is, as it were, a turning Christ, or the divine nature in
the soul, into a mere animal. There is nothing wanting in the soul, as it is
by nature, to render it capable of being the subject of all these external
ideas, without any new principles. A natural man is capable of having an
idea, and a lively idea of shapes, and colors, and sounds, when they are
absent, and as capable as a regenerate man is: so there is nothing
supernatural in them. And it is known by abundant experience, that it is
not the advancing or perfecting human nature, which makes persons more
capable of having such lively and strong imaginary ideas, but that on the
contrary, the weakness of body and mind, and distempers of body, make
persons abundantly more susceptive of such impressions. 37
As to a truly spiritual sensation, not only is the manner of its coming into
the mind extraordinary, but the sensation itself is totally diverse from all
that men have, or can have, in a state of nature, as has been shown. But as
to these external ideas, though the way of their coming into the mind is
sometimes unusual, yet the ideas in themselves are not the better for that;
they are still of no different sort from what men have by their senses; they
are of no higher kind, nor a whit better. For instance, the external idea a
man has now of Christ hanging on the cross, and shedding his blood, is no
better in itself, than the external idea that the Jews his enemies had, who
stood round his cross, and saw this with their bodily eyes. The imaginary
idea which men have now of an external brightness and glory of God, is no
better than the idea the wicked congregation in the wilderness had of the
external glory of the Lord at Mount Sinai, when they saw it with their
bodily eyes; or any better than that idea which millions of cursed
reprobates will have of the external glory of Christ at the day of judgment,
who shall see, and have a very lively idea of ten thousand times greater
external glory of Christ, than ever yet was conceived in any man's
imagination: 38 yea, the image of Christ, which men conceive in their
imaginations, is not in its own nature of any superior kind to the idea the
Papists conceive of Christ, by the beautiful and affecting images of him
which they see in their churches (though the way of their receiving the idea
may not be so bad); nor are the affections they have, if built primarily on
such imaginations, any better than the affections raised in the ignorant
people, by the sight of those images, which oftentimes are very great;.125
especially when these images, through the craft of the priests, are made to
move, and speak, and weep, and the like. 39 Merely the way of persons
receiving these imaginary ideas, does not alter the nature of the ideas
themselves that are received; let them be received in what way they will,
they are still but external ideas, or ideas of outward appearances, and so
are not spiritual. Yea, if men should actually receive such external ideas by
the immediate power of the most high God upon their minds, they would
not be spiritual, they would be no more than a common work of the Spirit
of God; as is evident in fact, in the instance of Balaam, who had impressed
on his mind, by God himself, a clear and lively outward representation or
idea of Jesus Christ, as "the Star rising out of Jacob, when he heard the
words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, and saw the
vision of the Almighty, failing into a trance, " Numbers 24:16, 17, but yet
had no manner of spiritual discovery of Christ; that Day Star never
spiritually rose in his heart, he being but a natural man.
And as these external ideas have nothing divine or spiritual in their nature
and nothing but what natural men, without any new principles, are capable
of; so there is nothing in their nature which requires that peculiar,
inimitable and unparalleled exercise of the glorious power of God, in order
to their production, which it has been shown there is in the production of
true grace. There appears to be nothing in their nature above the power of
the devil. It is certainly not above the power of Satan to suggest thoughts
to men; because otherwise he could not tempt them to sin. And if he can
suggest any thoughts or ideas at all, doubtless imaginary ones, or ideas of
things external, are not above his power; 40 for the external ideas men have
are the lowest sort of ideas. These ideas may be raised only by
impressions made on the body, by moving the animal spirits, and
impressing the brain. — Abundant experience does certainly show, that
alterations in the body will excite imaginary or external ideas in the mind;
as often, in the case of a high fever, melancholy, etc. These external ideas
are as much below the more intellectual exercises of the soul, as the body
is a less noble part of man than the soul.
And there is not only nothing in the nature of these external ideas or
imaginations of outward appearances, from whence we can infer that they
are above the power of the devil; but it is certain also that the devil can
excite, and often hath excited such ideas. They were external ideas which.126
he excited in the dreams and visions of the false prophets of old, who were
under the influence of lying spirits, that we often read of in Scripture, as
Deuteronomy 13:1., 1 Kings 22:22, Isaiah 33:7, Ezekiel 13:7. And they
were external ideas that he often excited in the minds of the heathen
priests, magicians and sorcerers, in their visions and ecstasies, and they
were external ideas that he excited in the mind of the man Christ Jesus,
when he showed him all the kingdoms of the world, with the glory of
them, when those kingdoms were not really in sight.
And if Satan or any created being, has power to impress the mind with
outward representations, then no particular sort of outward
representations can be any evidence of a divine power. Almighty power is
no more requisite to represent the shape of man to the imagination, than
the shape of anything else: there is no higher kind of power necessary to
form in the brain one bodily shape or color than another: it needs a no
more glorious power to represent the form of the body of a man, than the
form of a chip or block; though it be of a very beautiful human body, with
a sweet smile in his countenance, or arms open, or blood running from the
hands, feet and side: that sort of power which can represent black or
darkness to the imagination, can also represent white and shining
brightness: the power and skill which can well and exactly paint a straw,
or a stick of wood, on a piece of paper or canvass; the same in kind, only
perhaps further improved, will be sufficient to paint the body of a man,
with great beauty and in royal majesty, or a magnificent city, paved with
gold, full of brightness, and a glorious throne, etc. So it is no more than the
same sort of power that is requisite to paint one as the other of these on
the brain. The same sort of power that can put ink upon paper, can put on
leaf gold. So that it is evident to a demonstration, if we suppose it to be in
the devil's power to make any sort of external representation at all on the
fancy (as without doubt it is, and never anyone questioned it who believed
there was a devil, that had any agency with mankind): I say, if so, it is
demonstrably evident, that a created power may extend to all kinds of
external appearances and ideas in the mind. From hence it again clearly
appears, that no such things have anything in them that is spiritual,
supernatural, and divine, in the sense in which it has been proved that all
truly gracious experiences have. And though external ideas, through man's
make and frame, do ordinarily in some degree attend spiritual experiences,.127
yet these ideas are no part of their spiritual experience, any more than the
motion of the blood, and beating of the pulse, that attend experiences, are a
part of spiritual experience. And though undoubtedly, through men's
infirmity in the present state, and especially through the weak constitution
of some persons, gracious affections which are very strong, do excite lively
ideas in the imagination; yet it is also undoubted, that when persons'
affections are founded on imaginations, which is often the case, those
affections are merely natural and common, because they are built on a
foundation that is not spiritual; and so are entirely different from gracious
affections, which, as has been proved, do evermore arise from those
operations that are spiritual and divine.
These imaginations do oftentimes raise the carnal affections of men to an
exceeding great height: 41 and no wonder, when the subjects of them have
an ignorant, but undoubting persuasion, that they are divine
manifestations, which the great Jehovah immediately makes to their souls,
therein giving them testimonies in an extraordinary manner, of his high and
peculiar favor.
Again, it is evident from what has been observed and proved of the manner
in which gracious operations and effects in the heart are spiritual,
supernatural and divine, that the immediate suggesting of the words of
Scripture to the mind has nothing in it which is spiritual.
I have had occasion to say something of this already; and what has been
said may be sufficient to evince it; but if the reader bears in mind what has
been said concerning the nature of spiritual influences and effects, it will be
more abundantly manifest that this is no spiritual effect. For I suppose
there is no person of common understanding, who will say or imagine that
the bringing words (let them be what words they will) to the mind is an
effect of that nature which it is impossible the mind of a natural man,
while he remains in a state of nature, should be the subject of, or anything
like it; or that it requires any new divine sense in the soul; or that the
bringing sounds or letters to the mind, is an effect of so high, holy, and
excellent a nature, that it is impossible any created power should be the
cause of it.
As the suggesting words of Scripture to the mind, is only the exciting in
the mind ideas of certain sounds or letters; so it is only one way of exciting.128
ideas in the imagination; for sounds and letters are external things, that are
the objects of the external senses of seeing and hearing. Ideas of certain
marks upon paper, such as any of the twenty-four letters, in whatever
order, or any sounds of the voice, are as much external ideas, as of any
other shapes or sounds whatsoever; and therefore, by what has been
already said concerning these external ideas, it is evident they are nothing
spiritual; and if at any time the Spirit of God suggests these letters or
sounds to the mind, this is a common, and not any special or gracious
influence of that Spirit. And therefore it follows from what has been
already proved, that those affections which have this effect for their
foundation, are no spiritual or gracious affections. But let it be observed
what it is that I say, viz., when this effect, even the immediate and
extraordinary manner of words of Scripture's coming to the mind, is that
which excites the affections, and is properly the foundation of them, then
these affections are not spiritual. It may be so, that persons may have
gracious affections going with Scriptures which come to their minds, and
the Spirit of God may make use of those Scriptures to excite them; when it
is some spiritual sense, taste or relish they have of the divine and excellent
things contained in those Scriptures, that is the thing which excites their
affections, and not the extraordinary and sudden manner of words being
brought to their minds. They are affected with the instruction they receive
from the words, and the view of the glorious things of God or Christ, and
things appertaining to them, that they contain and teach; and not because
the words came suddenly, as though some person had spoken them to
them, thence concluding that God did as it were immediately speak to
them. Persons oftentimes are exceedingly affected on this foundation; the
words of some great and high promises of Scripture came suddenly to their
minds, and they look upon the words as directed immediately by God to
them, as though the words that moment proceeded out of the mouth of
God as spoken to them: so that they take it as a voice from God,
immediately revealing to them their happy circumstances, and promising
such and such great things to them: and this it is that effects and elevates
them. There is no near spiritual understanding of the divine things
contained in the Scripture, or new spiritual sense of the glorious things
taught in that part of the Bible going before their affection, and being the
foundation of it. All the new understanding they leave, or think they have,
to be the foundation of their affection, is this, that the words are spoken to.129
them, because they come so suddenly and extraordinarily. And so this
affection is built wholly on the sand! Because it is built on a conclusion for
which they have no foundation. For, as has been shown, the sudden
coming of the words to their minds, is no evidence that the bringing them
to their minds in that manner was from God. And if it was true that God
brought the words to their minds, and they certainly knew it, that would
not be spiritual knowledge; it may be without any spiritual sense: Balaam
might know that the words which God suggested to him, were indeed
suggested to him by God, and yet have no spiritual knowledge. So that
these affections which are built on that notion, that texts of Scripture are
sent immediately from God, are built on no spiritual foundation, and are
vain and delusive. Persons who have their affections thus raised, if they
should be inquired of, whether they have and new sense of the excellency
of things contained in those Scriptures, would probably say, Yes, without
hesitation: but it is true no otherwise than thus, that then they have taken
up that notion, that the words are spoken immediately to them, that
makes them seem sweet to them, and they own the things which these
Scriptures say to them, for excellent things and wonderful things. As for
instance supposing these were the words which were suddenly brought to
their minds, Fear not, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you
the kingdom; they having confidently taken up a notion that the words
were as it were immediately spoken from heaven to them, as an immediate
revelation that God was their Father, and had given the kingdom to them,
they are greatly affected by it, and the words seem sweet to them; and oh,
they say, "they are excellent things that are contained in those words!"
But the reason why the promise seems excellent to them, is only because
they think it is made to them immediately; all the sense they have of any
glory in them, is only from self-love, and from their own imagined interest
in the words; not that they had any view or sense of the holy and glorious
nature of the kingdom of heaven and the spiritual glory of that God who
gives it, and of his excellent grace to sinful men, it offering and giving them
this kingdom, of his own good pleasure preceding their imagined interest in
these things, and their being affected by them, and being the foundation of
their affection, and hope of an interest in them. On the contrary, they first
imagine they are interested, and then are highly affected with that, and
then can own these things to be excellent. So that the sudden and
extraordinary way of the Scripture's coming to their mind is plainly the.130
first foundation of the whole; which is a clear evidence of the wretched
delusion they are under.
The first comfort of many persons, and what they call their conversion, is
after this manner: after awakening and terror, some comfortable sweet
promise comes suddenly and wonderfully to their minds; and the manner
of its coming makes them conclude it comes from God to them; and this is
the very thing that is all the foundation of their faith, and hope, and
comfort: from hence they take their first encouragement to trust in God
and in Christ, because they think that God, by some Scripture so brought,
has now already revealed to them that he loves them, and has already
promised them eternal life, which is very absurd; for every one of common
knowledge of the principles of religion, knows that it is God's manner to
reveal his love to men, and their interest in the promises, after they have
believed, and not before, because they must first believe before they have
any interest in the promises to be revealed. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of
truth and not of lies: he does not bring Scriptures to men's minds, to reveal
to them that they have an interest in God's favor and promises, when they
have none, having not yet believed: which would be the case, if God's
bringing texts of Scripture to men's minds, to reveal to them that their sins
were forgiven, or that it was God's pleasure to give them the kingdom, or
anything of that nature, went before, and was the foundation of their first
faith. No promise of the covenant of grace belongs to any man, until he has
first believed in Christ; for it is by faith alone that we become interested in
Christ, and the promises of the new covenant made in him: and therefore
whatever spirit applies the promises of that covenant to a person who has
not first believed, as being already his, must be a lying spirit, and that faith
which is first built on such an application of promises is built upon a lie.
God's manner is not to bring comfortable texts of Scripture to give men
assurance of his love, and that they shall be happy, before they have had a
faith of dependence. 42 And if the Scripture which comes to a person's
mind, be not so properly a promise, as an invitation; yet if he makes the
sudden or unusual manner of the invitations coming to his mind, the
ground on which he believes that he is invited, it is not true faith; because
it is built on that which is not the true ground of faith. True faith is built
on no precarious foundation: but a determination that the words of such a
particular text were, by the immediate power of God, suggested to the.131
mind, at such a time, as though then spoken and directed by God to him,
because the words came after such a manner, is wholly an uncertain and
precarious determination, as has been now shown; and therefore is a false
and sandy foundation for faith; and accordingly that faith which is built
upon it is false. The only certain foundation which any person has to
believe that he is invited to partake of the blessings of the gospel, is, that
the word of God declares that persons so qualified as he is, are invited, and
God who declares it, is true, and cannot lie. If a sinner be once convinced
of the veracity of God, and that the Scriptures are his word, he will need
no more to convince and satisfy him that he is invited; for the Scriptures
are full of invitations to sinners, to the chief of sinners, to come and
partake of the benefits of the gospel; he will not want any never speaking
of God to him; what he hath spoken already will be enough with him.
As the first comfort of many persons, and their affections at the time of
their supposed conversion, are built on such grounds as these which have
been mentioned; so are their joys and hopes and other affections, from
time to time afterwards. They have often particular words of Scripture,
sweet declarations and promises suggested to them, which by reason of
the manner of their coming, they think are immediately sent from God to
them, at that time, which they look upon as their warrant to take them,
and which they actually make the main ground of their appropriating them
to themselves, and of the comfort they take in them, and the confidence
they receive from them. Thus they imagine a kind of conversation is
carried on between God and them; and that God, from time to time, does,
as it were, immediately speak to them, and satisfy their doubts, and
testifies his love to them, and promises them supports and supplies, and
his blessing in such and such cases, and reveals to them clearly their
interest in eternal blessings. And thus they are often elevated, and have a
course of a sudden and tumultuous kind of joys, mingled with a strong
confidence, and high opinion of themselves; when indeed the main ground
of these joys, and this confidence, is not anything contained in, or taught
by these Scriptures, as they lie in the Bible, but the manner of their coming
to them; which is a certain evidence of their delusion. There is no
particular promise in the word of God that is the saint's, or is any
otherwise made to him, or spoken to him, than all the promises of the
covenant of grace are his, and are made to him and spoken to him; 43.132
though it be true that some of these promises may be more peculiarly
adapted to his case than others, and God by his Spirit may enable him
better to understand some than others, and to have a greater sense of the
preciousness, and glory, and suitableness of the blessings contained in
But here some may be ready to say, What, is there no such thing as any
particular spiritual application of the promises of Scripture by the Spirit
of God? I answer, there is doubtless such a thing as a spiritual and saving
application of the invitations and promises of Scripture to the souls of
men; but it is also certain, that the nature of it is wholly misunderstood by
many persons, to the great ensnaring of their own souls, and the giving
Satan a vast advantage against them, and against the interest of religion,
and the church of God. The spiritual application of a Scripture promise
does not consist in its being immediately suggested to the thoughts by
some extrinsic agent, and being borne into the mind with this strong
apprehension, that it is particularly spoken and directed to them at that
time; there is nothing of the evidence of the hand of God in this effect, as
events have proved, in many notorious instances; and it is a mean notion
of a spiritual application of Scripture; there is nothing in the nature of it at
all beyond the power of the devil, if he be not restrained by God; for there
is nothing in the nature of the effect that is spiritual, implying any vital
communication of God. A truly spiritual application of the word of God is
of a vastly higher nature; as much above the devil's power, as it is, so to
apply the word of God to a dead corpse, as to raise it to life; or to a stone,
to turn it into an angel. A spiritual application of the word of God consists
in applying it to the heart, in spiritually enlightening, sanctifying
influences. A spiritual application of an invitation or offer of the gospel
consists, in giving the soul a spiritual sense or relish of the holy and divine
blessings offered, and the sweet and wonderful grace of the offerer, in
making so gracious an offer, and of his holy excellency and faithfulness to
fulfill what he offers, and his glorious sufficiency for it; so leading and
drawing forth the heart to embrace the offer; and thus giving the man
evidence of his title to the thing offered. And so a spiritual application of
the promises of Scripture, for the comfort of the saints, consists in
enlightening their minds to see the holy excellency and sweetness of the
blessings promised, and also the holy excellency of the promiser, and his.133
faithfulness and sufficiency; thus drawing forth their hearts to embrace the
promiser, and thing promised; and by this means, giving the sensible
actings of grace, enabling them to see their grace, and so their title to the
promise. An application not consisting in this divine sense and
enlightening of the mind, but consisting only in the word's being borne
into the thoughts, as if immediately then spoken, so making persons
believe, on no other foundation, that the promise is theirs, is a blind
application, and belongs to the spirit of darkness, and not of light.
When persons have their affections raised after this manner, those
affections are really not raised by the word of God; the Scripture is not the
foundation of them; it is not anything contained in those Scriptures which
come to their minds, that raise their affections; but truly that effect, viz.,
the strange manner of the word's being suggested to their minds, and a
proposition from thence taken up by them, which indeed is not contained
in that Scripture, nor any other; as that his sins are forgiven him, or that it
is the Father's good pleasure to give him in particular the kingdom, or the
like. There are propositions to be found in the Bible, declaring that
persons of such and such qualifications are forgiven and beloved of God:
but there are no propositions to be found in the Bible declaring that such
and such particular persons, independent on any previous knowledge of
any qualifications, are forgiven and beloved of God: and therefore, when
any person is comforted, and affected by any such proposition, it is by
another word, a word newly coined, and not any word of God contained in
the Bible. 44 And thus many persons are vainly affected and deluded.
Again, it plainly appears from what has been demonstrated, that no
revelation of secret facts by immediate suggestion, is anything spiritual
and divine, in that sense wherein gracious effects and operations are so.
By secret facts, I mean things that have been done, or are come to pass, or
shall hereafter come to pass, which are secret in that sense that they do
not appear to the senses, nor are known by any argumentation, or any
evidence to reason, nor any other way, but only by that revelation by
immediate suggestion of the ideas of them to the mind. Thus for instance,
if it should be revealed to me, that the next year this land would be invaded
by a fleet from France, or that such and such persons would then be
converted, or that I myself should then be converted; not by enabling me.134
to argue out these events from anything which now appears in providence,
but immediately suggesting and bearing in upon my mind, in an
extraordinary manner, the apprehension or ideas of these facts, with a
strong suggestion or impression on my mind, that I had no hand in myself,
that these things would come to pass: or if it should be revealed to me,
that this day there is a battle fought between the armies of such and such
powers in Europe; or that such a prince in Europe was this day converted,
or is now in a converted state, having been converted formerly, or that one
of my neighbors is converted, or that I myself am converted; not by having
any other evidence of any of these facts, from whence I argue them, but an
immediate extraordinary suggestion or excitation of these ideas, and a
strong impression of them upon my mind: this is a revelation of secret
facts by immediate suggestion, as much as if the facts were future; for the
facts being past, present, or future, alters not the case, as long as they are
secret and hidden from my senses and reason, and not spoken of in
Scripture, nor known by me any other way than by immediate suggestion.
If I have it revealed to me, that such a revolution is come to pass this day
in the Ottoman Empire, it is the very same sort of revelation, as if it were
revealed to me that such a revolution would come to pass there this day
come twelvemonth; because, though one is present and the other future,
yet both are equally hidden from me, any other way than by immediate
revelation. When Samuel told Saul that the asses which he went to seek
were found, and that his father had left caring for the asses and sorrowed
for him; this was by the same kind of revelation, as that by which he told
Saul, that in the plain of Tabor there should meet him three men going up
to God to Bethel (1 Samuel 10:2, 3), though one of these things was
future, and the other was not. So when Elisha told the king of Israel the
words that the king of Syria spake in his bed-chamber, it was by the same
kind of revelation with that by which he foretold many things to come.
It is evident that this revelation of secret facts by immediate suggestions,
has nothing of the nature of a spiritual and divine operation, in the sense
forementioned; there is nothing at all in the nature of the perceptions or
ideas themselves, which are excited in the mind, that is divinely excellent,
and so, far above all the ideas of natural men; though the manner of exciting
the ideas be extraordinary. In those things which are spiritual, as has been
shown, not only the manner of producing the effect, but the effect.135
wrought is divine, and so vastly above all that can be in an unsanctified
mind. Now simply the having an idea of facts, setting aside the manner of
producing those ideas, is nothing beyond what the minds of wicked men
are susceptible of, without any goodness in them; and they all, either have
or will have, the knowledge of the truth of the greatest and most important
facts, that have been, are, or shall be.
And as to the extraordinary manner of producing the ideas or perception
of facts, even by immediate suggestion, there is nothing in it, but what the
minds of natural men, while they are yet natural men, are capable of, as is
manifest in Balaam, and others spoken of in the Scripture. And therefore it
appears that there is nothing appertaining to this immediate suggestion of
secret facts that is spiritual, in the sense in which it has been proved that
gracious operations are so. If there be nothing in the ideas themselves,
which is holy and divine, and so nothing but what may be in a mind not
sanctified, then God can put them into the mind by immediate power
without sanctifying it. As there is nothing in the idea of a rainbow itself
that is of a holy and divine nature; so that nothing hinders but that an
unsanctified mind may receive that idea; so God, if he pleases, and when
he pleases, immediately, and in an extraordinary manner, may excite that
idea in an unsanctified mind. So also, as there is nothing in the idea or
knowledge that such and such particular persons are forgiven and accepted
of God, and entitled to heaven, but what unsanctified minds may have and
will have concerning many at the day of judgment; so God can, if he
pleases, extraordinarily and immediately, suggest this to, and impress it
upon an unsanctified mind now: there is no principle wanting in an
unsanctified mind, to make it capable of such a suggestion or impression,
nor is there anything in it to exclude, or necessarily to prevent such a
And if these suggestions of secret facts be attended with texts of Scripture,
immediately and extraordinarily brought to mind, about some other facts
that seem in some respects similar, that does not make the operation to be
of a spiritual and divine nature. For that suggestion of words of Scripture
is no more divine, than the suggestion of the facts themselves; as has been
just now demonstrated: and two effects together, which are neither of
them spiritual cannot make up one complex effect, that is spiritual..136
Hence it follows, from what has been already shown, and often repeated,
that those affections which are properly founded on such immediate
suggestions, or supposed suggestions, of secret facts, are not gracious
affections. Not but that it is possible that such suggestions may be the
occasion, or accidental cause of gracious affections; for so may a mistake
and delusion; but it is never properly the foundation of gracious affections:
for gracious affections, as has been shown, are all the effects of an
influence and operation which is spiritual, supernatural, and divine. But
there are many affections, and high affections, which some have, that have
such kind of suggestions or revelations for their very foundation: they look
upon these as spiritual discoveries, which is a gross delusion, and this
delusion is truly the spring whence their affections flow.
Here it may be proper to observe, that it is exceedingly manifest from
what has been said, that what many persons call the witness of the Spirit,
that they are the children of God, has nothing in it spiritual and divine; and
consequently that the affections built upon it are vain and delusive. That
which many call the witness of the Spirit, is no other than an immediate
suggestion and impression of that fact, otherwise secret, that they are
converted, or made the children of God, and so that their sins are
pardoned, and that God has given them a title to heaven. This kind of
knowledge, viz., knowing that a certain person is converted, and delivered
from hell, and entitled to heaven, is no divine sort of knowledge in itself.
This sort of fact, is not that which requires any higher or more divine kind
of suggestion, in order to impress it on the mind, than any other fact which
Balaam had impressed on his mind. It requires no higher sort of idea or
sensation, for a man to have the apprehension of his own conversion
impressed upon him, than to have the apprehension of his neighbor's
conversion, in like manner impressed: but God, if he pleased, might
impress the knowledge of this fact, that he had forgiven his neighbor's
sins, and given him a title to heaven, as well as any other fact, without any
communication of his holiness: the excellency and importance of the fact,
do not at all hinder a natural man's mind being susceptible of an immediate
suggestion and impression of it. Balaam had as excellent, and important,
and glorious facts as this, immediately impressed on his mind, without any
gracious influence; as particularly, the coming of Christ, and his setting up
his glorious kingdom, and the blessedness of the spiritual Israel in his.137
peculiar favor, and their happiness living and dying. Yea, Abimelech, king
of the Philistines, had God's special favor to a particular person, even
Abraham, revealed to him, Genesis 20:6, 7. So it seems that he revealed to
Laban his special favor to Jacob, see Genesis 31:24, and Psalm 105:15.
And if a truly good man should have an immediate revelation or suggestion
from God, after the like manned concerning his favor to his neighbor or
himself; it would be no higher kind of influence; it would be no more than a
common sort of influence of God's Spirit; as the gift of prophecy, and all
revelation by immediate suggestion is; see 1 Corinthians 13:2. And though
it be true, that it is not possible that a natural man should have that
individual suggestion from the Spirit of God, that he is converted, because
it is not true; yet that does not arise from the nature of the influence, or
because that kind of influence which suggests such excellent facts, is too
high for him to be the subject of; but purely from the defect of a fact to be
revealed. The influence which immediately suggests this fact, when it is
true, is of no different kind from that which immediately suggests other
true facts: and so the kind and nature of the influence is not above what is
common to natural men, with good men.
But this is a mean, ignoble notion of the witness of the Spirit of God given
to his dear children, to suppose that there is nothing in the kind and nature
of that influence of the Spirit of God, in imparting this high and glorious
benefit, but what is common to natural men, or which men are capable of,
and be in the mean time altogether unsanctified and the children of hell; and
that therefore the benefit or gift itself has nothing of the holy nature of the
Spirit of God in it, nothing of a vital communication of that Spirit. This
notion greatly debases that high and most exalted kind of influence and
operation of the Spirit, which there is in the true witness of the Spirit. 45
That which is called the witness of the Spirit, Romans 8, is elsewhere in
the New Testament called the seal of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 1:22,
Ephesians 1:13, and 4:13, alluding to the seal of princes, annexed to the
instrument, by which they advanced any of their subjects to some high
honor and dignity, or peculiar privilege in the kingdom, as a token of their
special favor. Which is an evidence that the influence of the Spirit, of the
Prince of princes, in sealing his favorites, is far from being of a common
kind; and that there is no effect of God's Spirit whatsoever, which is in its
nature more divine; nothing more holy, peculiar, inimitable and.138
distinguishing of divinity: as nothing is more royal than the royal seal;
nothing more sacred, that belongs to a prince, and more peculiarly denoting
what belongs to him; it being the very end and design of it, to be the most
peculiar stamp and confirmation of the royal authority, and great note of
distinction, whereby that which proceeds from the king, or belongs to him,
may be known from everything else. And therefore undoubtedly the seal
of the great King of heaven and earth enstamped on the heart, is something
high and holy in its own nature, some excellent communication from the
infinite fountain of divine beauty and glory; and not merely a making
known a secret fact by revelation or suggestion; which is a sort of
influence of the Spirit of God, that the children of the devil have often
been the subjects of. The seal of the Spirit is a kind of effect of the Spirit
of God on the heart, which natural men, while such, are so far from a
capacity of being the subjects of; that they can have no manner of notion
or idea of it, agreeable to Revelation 2:17: "To him that overcometh will I
give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in
the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that
receiveth it." There is all reason to suppose that what is here spoken of, is
the same mark, evidence, or blessed token of special favor, which is
elsewhere called the seal of the Spirit.
What has misled many in their notion of that influence of the Spirit of God
we are speaking of, is the word witness, its being called the witness of the
Spirit. Hence they have taken it, not to be any effect or work of the Spirit
upon the heart, giving evidence, from whence men may argue that they are
the children of God; but an inward immediate suggestion, as though God
inwardly spoke to the man, and testified to him, and told him that he was
his child, by a kind of a secret voice, or impression: not observing the
manner in which the word witness, or testimony, is often used in the New
Testament, where such terms often signify, not only a mere declaring and
asserting a thing to be true, but holding forth evidence from whence a thing
may be argued, and proved to be true. Thus Hebrews 2:4, God is said to
"bear witness, with signs and wonders and divers miracles, and gifts of the
Holy Ghost." Now these miracles, here spoken of, are called God's
witness, not because they are of the nature of assertions, but evidences
and proofs. So Acts 14:3: "Long time therefore abode they speaking
boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and.139
granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands." And John 5:36:
"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the
Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of
me, that the Father hath sent of me." Again, chap. 10:25: "The works that
I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me." So the water and the
blood are said to bear witness, 1 John 5:8, not that they spoke or asserted
anything, but they were proofs and evidences. So God's works of
providence, in the rain and fruitful seasons, are spoken of as witnesses of
God's being and goodness, i.e., they are evidences of these things. And
when the Scripture speaks of the seal of the Spirit, it is an expression
which properly denotes, not an immediate voice or suggestion, but some
work or effect of the Spirit, that is left as a divine mark upon the soul, to
be an evidence by which God's children might be known. The seals of
princes were the distinguishing marks of princes: and thus God's seal is
spoken of as God's mark, Revelation 7:3: "Hurt not the earth, neither the
sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their
foreheads;" together with Ezekiel 9:4, "Set a mark upon the foreheads of
the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the
midst thereof." When God sets his seal on a man's heart by his Spirit,
there is some holy stamp, some image impressed and left upon the heart
by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. And this holy stamp, or
impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience, that the
subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in Scripture is
called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness, or evidence of the Spirit. And
this image enstamped by the Spirit on God's children's hearts, is his own
image; that is the evidence by which they are known to be God's children,
that they have the image of their Father stamped upon their hearts by the
Spirit of adoption. Seals anciently had engraven on them two things, viz.,
the image and the name of the person whose seal it was. Therefore when
Christ says to his spouse, Cant. 8:6, "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as
a seal upon thine arm;" it is as much as to say, let my name and image
remain impressed there. The seals of princes were wont to bear their
image; so that what they set their seal and royal mark upon, had their
image left on it. It was the manner of princes of old to have their image
engraven on their jewels and precious stones; and the image of Augustus
engraven on a precious stone, was used as the seal of the Roman emperors,
in Christ's and the Apostle's times. 46 And the saints are the jewels of.140
Jesus Christ, the great potentate, who has the possession of the empire of
the universe; and these jewels have his image enstamped upon them by his
royal signet, which is the Holy Spirit. And this is undoubtedly what the
Scripture means by the seal of the Spirit; especially when it is stamped in
so fair and clear a manner, as to be plain to the eye of conscience; which is
what the Scripture calls our spirit. This is truly an effect that is spiritual,
supernatural and divine. This is in itself of a holy nature, being a
communication of the divine nature and beauty. That kind of influence of
the Spirit which gives and leaves this stamp upon the heart, is such that no
natural man can be the subject of anything of the like nature with it. This
is the highest sort of witness of the Spirit, which it is possible the soul
should be the subject of: if there were any such thing as a witness of the
Spirit by immediate suggestion or revelation, this would be vastly more
noble and excellent, and as much above it as the heaven is above the earth.
This the devil cannot imitate; as to an inward suggestion of the Spirit of
God, by a kind of secret voice speaking, and immediately asserting and
revealing a fact, he can do that which is a thousand times so like to this, as
he can to that holy and divine effect, or work of the Spirit of God, which
has now been spoken of.
Another thing which is a full proof that the seal of the Spirit is no
revelation of any fact by immediate suggestion, but is grace itself in the
soul, is, that the seal of the Spirit is called in the Scripture, the earnest of
the Spirit. It is very plain that the seal of the Spirit is the same thing with
the earnest of the Spirit, by 2 Corinthians 1:22: "Who hath also sealed us,
and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts;" and Ephesians 1:13, 14,
"In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of
promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of
the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory." Now the earnest is
part of the money agreed for, given in hand, as a token of the whole, to be
paid in due time; a part of the promised inheritance granted now, in token
of full possession of the whole hereafter. But surely that kind of
communication of the Spirit of God, which is of the nature of eternal
glory, is the highest and most excellent kind of communication, something
that is in its own nature spiritual, holy and divine, and far from anything
that is common: and therefore high above anything of the nature of
inspiration, or revelation of hidden facts by suggestion of the Spirit of.141
God, which many natural men have had. What is the earnest, and beginning
of glory, but grace itself, especially in the more lively and clear exercises of
it? It is not prophecy, nor tongues, nor knowledge, but that more excellent
divine thing, "charity that never faileth, " which is a prelibation and
beginning of the light, sweetness and blessedness of heaven, that world of
love or charity. It is grace that is the seed of glory and dawning of glory in
the heart, and therefore it is grace that is the earnest of the future
inheritance. What is it that is the beginning or earnest of eternal life in the
soul, but spiritual life; and what is that but grace? The inheritance that
Christ has purchased for the elect, is the Spirit of God; not in any
extraordinary gifts, but in his vital indwelling in the heart, exerting and
communicating himself there, in his own proper, holy, or divine nature;
and this is the sum total of the inheritance that Christ purchased for the
elect. For so are things constituted in the affair of our redemption, that the
Father provides the Savior or purchaser, and the purchase is made of him;
and the Son is the purchaser and the price; and the Holy Spirit is the great
blessing or inheritance purchased, as is intimated, Galatians 3:13, 14; and
hence the Spirit often is spoken of as the sum of the blessings promised in
the gospel, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, and chap. 2:38, 39, Galatians 3:14,
Ephesians 1:13. This inheritance was the grand legacy which Christ left his
disciples and church, in his last will and testament, John chap. 14, 15, 16.
This is the sum of the blessings of eternal life, which shall be given in
heaven. (Compare John 7:37, 38, 39, and John 4:14, with Revelation 21:6,
and 22:1, 17.) It is through the vital communications and indwelling of the
Spirit that the saints have all their light, life, holiness, beauty, and joy in
heaven; and it is through the vital communications and indwelling of the
same Spirit that the saints have all light, life, holiness, beauty and comfort
on earth; but only communicated in less measure. And this vital indwelling
of the Spirit in the saints, in this less measure and small beginning is, "the
earnest of the Spirit, the earnest of the future inheritance, and the first
fruits of the Spirit, " as the apostle calls it, Romans 8:22, where, by "the
first fruits of the Spirit, " the apostle undoubtedly means the same vital,
gracious principle that he speaks of in all the preceding part of the chapter,
which he calls Spirit, and sets in opposition to flesh or corruption. —
Therefore this earnest of the Spirit, and first fruits of the Spirit, which has
been shown to be the same with the seal of the Spirit, is the vital, gracious,.142
sanctifying communication and influence of the Spirit, and not any
immediate suggestion or revelation of facts by the Spirit. 47
And indeed the apostle, when in that, Romans 8:16, he speaks of the
Spirit's bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,
does sufficiently explain himself, if his words were but attended to. What
is here expressed is connected with the two preceding verses, as resulting
from what the apostle had said there as every reader may see. The three
verses together are thus: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
they are the sons of God: for ye have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry,
Abba, Father: the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are
the children of God." Here, what the apostle says, if we take it together,
plainly shows that what he has respect to, when he speaks of the Spirit's
giving us witness or evidence that we are God's children, is his dwelling in
us, and leading us, as a spirit of adoption, or spirit of a child, disposing us
to behave towards God as to a Father. This is the witness or evidence
which the apostle speaks of that we are children, that we have the spirit of
children, or spirit of adoption. And what is that but the spirit of love?
There are two kinds of spirits the apostle speaks of, the spirit of a slave or
the spirit of bondage, that is fear; and the spirit of a child, or spirit of
adoption, and that is love. The apostle says, we have not received the
spirit of bondage, or of slaves, which is a spirit of fear; but we have
received the more ingenuous noble spirit of children, a spirit of love, which
naturally disposes us to go to God as children to a father, and behave
towards God as children. And this is the evidence or witness which the
Spirit of God gives us that we are his children. This is the plain sense of
the apostle; and so undoubtedly he here is speaking of the very same way
of casting out doubting and fear and the spirit of bondage, which the
Apostle John speaks of, 1 John 4:18, viz., by the prevailing of love, that is
the spirit of a child. The spirit of bondage works by fear, the slave fears
the rod: but love cries, Abba, Father; it disposes us to go to God, and
behave ourselves towards God as children; and it gives us clear evidence of
our union to God as his children, and so casts out fear. So that it appears
that the witness of the Spirit the apostle speaks of, is far from being any
whisper, or immediate suggestion or revelation; but that gracious holy
effect of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the saints, the disposition and.143
temper of children, appearing in sweet childlike love to God, which casts
out fear, or a spirit of a slave.
And the same thing is evident from all the context: it is plain the apostle
speaks of the Spirit, over and over again, as dwelling in the hearts of the
saints as a gracious principle, set in opposition to the flesh or corruption:
and so he does in the words that immediately introduce this passage we
are upon, ver. 13, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye
through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live."
Indeed it is past doubt with me, that the apostle has a more special respect
to the spirit of grace, or the spirit of love, or spirit of a child, in its more
lively actings; for it is perfect love, or strong love only, which so
witnesses or evidences that we are children as to cast out fear, and wholly
deliver from the spirit of bondage. The strong and lively exercises of a
spirit of childlike, evangelical, humble love to God, give clear evidence of
the soul's relation to God as his child; which does very greatly and
directly satisfy the soul. And though it be far from being true, that the soul
in this case, judges only by an immediate witness without any sign or
evidence; for it judges and is assured by the greatest sign and clearest
evidence; yet in this case the saint stands in no need of multiplied signs, or
any long reasoning upon them. And though the sight of his relative union
with God, and his being in his favor, is not without a medium, because he
sees it by that medium, viz., his love; yet his sight of the union of his heart
to God is immediate: love, the bond of union, is seen intuitively: the saint
sees and feels plainly the union between his soul and God; it is so strong
and lively, that he cannot doubt of it. And hence he is assured that he is a
child. How can he doubt whether he stands in a childlike relation to God,
when he plainly sees a childlike union between God and his soul, and
hence does boldly, and as it were naturally and necessarily cry, Abba,
And whereas the apostle says, the Spirit bears witness with our spirits;
by our spirit here, is meant our conscience, which is called the spirit of
man, Proverbs 20:17, "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,
searching all the inward parts of the belly." We elsewhere read of the
witness of this spirit of ours: 2 Corinthians 1:12, "For our rejoicing is this,
the testimony of our conscience." And 1 John 3:19, 20, 21: "And hereby.144
we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all
things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence
towards God." When the Apostle Paul speaks of the Spirit of God bearing
witness with our spirit, he is not to be understood of two spirits that are
two separate, collateral, independent witnesses; but it is by one that we
receive the witness of the other: the Spirit of God gives the evidence by
infusing and shedding abroad the love of God, the spirit of a child, in the
heart, and our spirit, or our conscience, receives and declares this evidence
for our rejoicing.
Many have been the mischiefs that have arisen from that false and delusive
notion of the witness of the Spirit, that it is a kind of inward voice,
suggestion, or declaration from God to man, that he is beloved of him, and
pardoned, elected, or the like, sometimes with, and sometimes without a
text of Scripture; and many have been the false and vain (though very high)
affections that have arisen from hence. And it is to be feared that
multitudes of souls have been eternally undone by it. I have therefore
insisted the longer on this head. But I proceed now to a second
characteristic of gracious affections.
II. The first objective ground of gracious affections, is the transcendently
excellent and amiable nature of divine things as they are themselves;
and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest.
I say, that the supremely excellent nature of divine things, is the first, or
primary and original objective foundation of the spiritual affections of true
saints; for I do not suppose that all relation which divine things bear to
themselves, and their own particular interest, is wholly excluded from all
influence in their gracious affections. For this may have, and indeed has, a
secondary and consequential influence in those affections that are truly
holy and spiritual, as I shall show how by and by.
It was before observed that the affection of love is, as it were, the fountain
of all affection; and particularly that Christian love is the fountain of all
gracious affections: now the divine excellency and glory of God and Jesus
Christ the word of God, the works of God, and the ways of God, etc., is
the primary reason why a true saint loves these things; and not any.145
supposed interest that he has in them, or any conceived benefit that he has
received from them, or shall receive from them, or any such imagined
relation which they bear to his interest, that self-love can properly be said
to be the first foundation of his love to these things.
Some say that all love arises from self-love; and that it is impossible in the
nature of things, for any man to have any love to God, or any other beings,
but that love to himself must be the foundation of it. But I humbly
suppose it is for want of consideration that they say so. They argue, that
whoever loves God, and so desires his glory or the enjoyment of him, he
desires these things as his own happiness; the glory of God, and the
beholding and enjoying his perfections are considered as things agreeable to
him, tending to make him happy; he places his happiness in them, and
desires them as things, which (if they were obtained) would be delightful
to him, or would fill him with delight and joy, and so make him happy.
And so, they say, it is from self-love, or a desire of his own happiness,
that he desires God should be glorified, and desires to behold and enjoy his
glorious perfections. But then they ought to consider a little further, and
inquire how the man came to place his happiness in God's being glorified,
and in contemplating and enjoying God's perfections. — There is no
doubt but that after God's glory, and the beholding his perfections, are
become so agreeable to him, that he places his highest happiness in these
thinks then he will desire them, as he desires his own happiness. But how
came these things to be so agreeable to him, that he esteems it his highest
happiness to glorify God, etc.? Is not this the fruit of love? A man must
first love God or have his heart united to him, before he will esteem God's
good his own, and before he will desire the glorifying, and enjoying of God
as his happiness. It is not strong arguing, that because after a man has his
heart united to God in love, as a fruit of this, he desires his glory and
enjoyment, as his own happiness, that therefore a desire of this happiness
of his own must needs be the cause and foundation of his love; unless it be
a strong arguing, that because a father begat a son, therefore his son
certainly begat him. If after a man loves God, and has his heart so united to
him, as to look upon God as his chief good, and on God's good as his own,
it will be a consequence and fruit of this, that even self-love, or love to his
own happiness, will cause him to desire the glorifying and enjoying of
God; it will not thence follow, that this very exercise of self-love, went.146
before his love to God, and that his love to God was a consequence and
fruit of that. Something else, entirely distinct from self-love, might be the
cause of this, viz., a change made in the views of his mind, and relish of his
heart; whereby he apprehends a beauty, glory, and supreme good, in
God's nature, as it is in itself. This may be the thing that first draws his
heart to him, and causes his heart to be united to him, prior to all
considerations of his own interest or happiness, although after this, and as
a fruit of this, he necessarily seeks his interest and happiness in God.
There is such a thing as a kind of love or affection that a man may have
towards persons or things, which does properly arise from self-love; a
preconceived relation to himself, or some respect already manifested by
another to him, or some benefit already received or depended on, is truly
the first foundation of his love, and what his affection does wholly arise
from; and is what precedes any relish of, or delight in the nature and
qualities inherent in the being beloved, as beautiful and amiable. When the
first thing that draws a man's benevolence to another, is the beholding
those qualifications and properties in him, which appear to him lovely in
themselves; and the subject of them, on this account, worthy of esteem
and good will, love arises in a very different manners than when it first
arises from some gift bestowed by another or depended on from him, as a
judge loves and favors a man that has bribed him; or from the relation he
supposes another has to him, as a man who loves another, because he
looks upon him as his child. When love to another arises thus, it does truly
and properly arise from self-love.
That kind of affection to God or Jesus Christ, which does thus properly
arise from self-love, cannot be a truly gracious and spiritual love, as
appears from what has been said already: for self-love is a principle
entirely natural, and as much in the hearts of devils as angels; and therefore
surely nothing that is the mere result of it can be supernatural and divine,
in the manner before described. 48 Christ plainly speaks of this kind of
love, as what is nothing beyond the love of wicked men: Luke 6:32, "If ye
love them that love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those
that love them." And the devil himself knew that that kind of respect to
God which was so mercenary, as to be only for benefits received or
depended on (which is all one), is worthless in the sight of God; otherwise
he never would have made use of such a slander before God, against Job,.147
as in Job 1:9, 10: "Doth Job serve God for naught? Has not thou made a
hedge about him, and about his house, " etc. Nor would God ever have
implicitly allowed the objection to have been good, in case the accusation
had been true, by allowing that that matter should be tried, and that Job
should be so dealt with, that it might appear in the event, whether Job's
respect to God was thus mercenary or no, and by putting the proof of the
sincerity and goodness of his respect upon that issue.
It is unreasonable to think otherwise, than that the first foundation of a
true love to God, is that whereby he is in himself lovely, or worthy to be
loved, or the supreme loveliness of his nature. This is certainly what
makes him chiefly amiable. What chiefly makes a man, or any creature
lovely, is his excellency; and so what chiefly renders God lovely, and must
undoubtedly be the chief ground of true love, is his excellency. God's
nature, or the divinity, is infinitely excellent; yea it is infinite beauty,
brightness, and glory itself. But how can that be true love of this excellent
and lovely nature, which is not built on the foundation of its true
loveliness? How can that be true love of beauty and brightness which is
not for beauty and brightness' sake? How can that be a true prizing of that
which is in itself infinitely worthy and precious, which is not for the sake
of its worthiness and preciousness? This infinite excellency of the divine
nature, as it is in itself, is the true ground of all that is good in God in any
respect; but how can a man truly and rightly love God, without loving him
for that excellency in him, which is the foundation of all that is in any
manner of respect good or desirable in him? They whose affection to God
is founded first on his profitableness to them, their affection begins at the
wrong end; they regard God only for the utmost limit of the stream of
divine good, where it touches them, and reaches their interest; and have no
respect to that infinite glory of God's nature, which is the original good,
and the true fountain of all good, the first fountain of all loveliness of
every kind, and so the first foundation of all true love.
A natural principle of self-love may be the foundation of great affections
towards God and Christ, without seeing anything of the beauty and glory
of the divine nature. There is a certain gratitude that is a mere natural thing.
Gratitude is one of the natural affections of the soul of man, as well as
anger, and there is a gratitude that arises from self-love, very much in the
same manner that anger does. Anger in men is an affection excited against
another, or in opposition to another, for something in him that crosses
self-love: gratitude is an affection one has towards another, for loving him,
or gratifying him, or for something in him that suits self-love. And there
may be a kind of gratitude, without any true or proper love: as there may
be anger without any proper hatred, as in parents towards their children,
that they may be angry with, and yet at the same time have a strong
habitual love to them. This gratitude is the principle which is an exercise in
wicked men, in that which Christ declares concerning them, in the 6th of
Luke, where he says, sinners love those that love them; and which he
declares concerning even the publicans, who were some of the most carnal
and profligate sort of men, Matthew 5:46. This is the very principle that
is wrought upon by bribery, in unjust judges; and it is a principle that even
the brute beasts do exercise; a dog will love his master that is kind to him.
And we see in innumerable instances, that mere nature is sufficient to
excite gratitude in men, or to affect their hearts with thankfulness to others
for kindnesses received; and sometimes towards them, whom at the same
time they have a habitual enmity against. Thus Saul was once and again
greatly affected, and even dissolved with gratitude towards David, for
sparing his life, and yet remained a habitual enemy to him. And as men,
from mere nature, may be thus affected towards men; so they may
towards God. There is nothing hinders but that the same self-love may
work after the same manner towards God as towards men. And we have
manifest instances of it in Scripture; as indeed the children of Israel, who
sang God's praises at the Red Sea, but soon forgot God's works: and in
Naaman the Syrian, who was greatly affected with the miraculous cure of
his leprosy, so as to have his heart engaged thenceforward to worship the
God that had healed him, and him only, excepting when it would expose
him to be ruined in his temporal interest. So was Nebuchadnezzar greatly
affected with God's goodness to him, in restoring him to his reason and
kingdom, alter his dwelling with the beasts.
Gratitude being thus a natural principle, it renders ingratitude so much the
more vile and heinous; because it shows a dreadful prevalence of
wickedness, when it even overbears and suppresses the better principles
of human nature: as it is mentioned as an evidence of the high degree of the
wickedness of many of the heathen, that they were without natural
affection, Romans 2:31. But that the want of gratitude, or natural
affection, is evidence of a high degree of vice, is no argument that all
gratitude and natural affection has the nature of virtue, or saving grace.
Self-love, through the exercise of mere natural gratitude, may be the
foundation of a sort of love to God many ways. A kind of love may arise
from a false notion of God, that men have been educated in, or have some
way imbibed; as though he were only goodness and mercy, and not
revenging justice; or as though the exercises of his goodness were
necessary, and not free and sovereign; or as though his goodness were
dependent on what is in them, and as it were constrained by them. Men on
such grounds as these, may love a God of their own forming in their
imaginations, when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in
Again, self-love may be the foundation of an affection in men towards
God, through a great insensibility of their state with regard to God, and for
want of conviction of conscience to make them sensible how dreadfully
they have provoked God to anger; they have no sense of the heinousness
of sin, as against God, and of the infinite and terrible opposition of the
holy nature of God against it: and so, having formed in their minds such a
God as suits them, and thinking God. to be such a one as themselves, who
favors and agrees with them, they may like him very well, and feel a sort
of love to him, when they are far from loving the true God. And men's
affections may be much moved towards God, from self-love, by some
remarkable outward benefits received from God; as it was with Naaman,
Nebuchadnezzar, and the children of Israel at the Red Sea.
Again, a very high affection towards God may, and often does, arise in
men, from an opinion of the favor and love of God to them, as the first
foundation of their love to him. After awakenings and distress, through
fears of hell, they may suddenly get a notion, through some impression on
their imagination, or immediate suggestion with or without texts of
Scripture, or by some other means, that God loves them, and has forgiven
their sins, and made them his children; and this is the first thing that causes
their affections to flow towards God and Jesus Christ: and then after this,
and upon this foundation, many things in God may appear lovely to them,
and Christ may seem excellent. And if such persons are asked, whether
God appears lovely and amiable in himself, they would perhaps readily.150
answer, yes; when indeed, if the matter be strictly examined, this good
opinion of God was purchased and paid for before ever they afforded it, in
the distinguishing and infinite benefits they imagined they received from
God: and they allow God to be lovely in himself, no otherwise than that
he has forgiven them, and accepted them, and loves them above most in
the world, and has engaged to improve all his infinite power and wisdom in
preferring, dignifying, and exalting them, and will do for them just as they
would have him. When once they are firm in this apprehension, it is easy
to own God and Christ to be lovely and glorious, and to admire and extol
them. It is easy for them to own Christ to be a lovely person, and the best
in the world, when they are first firm in it, that he, though Lord of the
universe, is captivated with love to them, and has his heart swallowed up
in them, and prizes them far beyond most of their neighbors, and loved
them from eternity, and died for them, and will make them reign in eternal
glory with him in heaven. When this is the case with carnal men, their very
lusts will make him seem lovely: pride itself will prejudice them in favor of
that which they call Christ: selfish, proud man naturally calls that lovely
that greatly contributes to his interest, and gratifies his ambition.
And as this sort of persons begin, so they go on. Their affections are
raised from time to time, primarily on this foundation of self-love and a
conceit of God's love to them. Many have a false notion of communion
with God, as though it were carried on by impulses, and whispers, and
external representations, immediately made to their imagination. These
things they often have; which they take to be manifestations of God's
great love to them, and evidences of their high exaltation above others of
mankind; and so their affections, we often renewedly set agoing.
Whereas the exercises of true and holy love in the saints arise in another
way. They do not first see that God loves them, and then see that he is
lovely, but they first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent
and glorious, and their hearts are first captivated with this view, and the
exercises of their love are wont from time to time to begin here, and to
arise primarily from these views; and then, consequentially, they see
God's love, and great favor to them. 49 The saint's affections begin with
God; and self-love has a hand in these affections consequentially, and
secondarily only. On the contrary, those false affections begin with self,
and an acknowledgment of an excellency in God, and an affectedness with.151
it, is only consequential and dependent. In the love of the true saint God is
the lowest foundation; the love of the excellency of his nature is the
foundation of all the affections which come afterwards wherein self-love is
concerned as a handmaid: on the contrary, the hypocrite lays himself at
the bottom of all, as the first foundation, and lays on God as the
superstructure; and even his acknowledgment of God's glory itself
depends on his regard to his private interest.
Self-love may not only influence men, so as to cause them to be affected
with God's kindness to them separately; but also with God's kindness to
them as parts of a community: as a natural principle of self-love, without
any other principle, may be sufficient to make a man concerned for the
interest of the nation to which he belongs: as for instance, in the present
war, self-love may make natural men rejoice at the successes of our nation,
and sorry for their disadvantages, they being concerned as members of the
body. So the same natural principle may extend further, and even to the
world of mankind, and might be affected with the benefits the inhabitants
of the earth have, beyond those of the inhabitants of other planets, if we
knew that such there were, and how it was with them. So this principle
may cause men to be affected with the benefits that mankind have received
beyond the fallen angels. And hence men, from this principle, may be
much affected with the wonderful goodness of God to mankind, his great
goodness in giving his Son to die for fallen man, and the marvelous love of
Christ in suffering such great things for us, and with the great glory they
hear God has provided in heaven for us; looking on themselves as persons
concerned and interested, as being some of this species of creatures so
highly favored: the same principle of natural gratitude may influence men
here, as in the case of personal benefits.
But these things that I have said do by no means imply, that all gratitude
to God is a mere natural thing, and that there is no such thing as a spiritual
gratitude, which is a holy and divine affection: they imply no more, than
that there is a gratitude which is merely natural, and that when persons
have affections towards God only or primarily for benefits received, their
affection is only the exercise of a natural gratitude. There is doubtless such
a thing as a gracious gratitude, which does greatly differ from all that
gratitude which natural men experience. It differs in the following respects:.152
1. True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from
a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself, whereas
a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious
stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are
from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on
other grounds, viz., God's own excellency; and hence the affections are
disposed to flow out on occasions of God's kindness. The saint, having
seen the glory of God, and his heart being overcome by it, and captivated
with love to him on that account, his heart hereby becomes tender, and
easily affected with kindnesses received. If a man has no love to another,
yet gratitude be moved by some extraordinary kindness; as in Saul towards
David: but this is not the same kind of thing, as a man's gratitude to a dear
friend, that his heart was before possessed with a high esteem of, and love
to; whose heart by this means became tender towards him, and more easily
affected with gratitude, and affected in another manner. Self-love is not
excluded from a gracious gratitude; the saints love God for his kindness to
them: Psalm 116:1, "I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of
my supplication." But something else is included; and another love
prepares the way, and lays the foundation for these grateful affections.
2. In a gracious gratitude men are affected with the attribute of God's
goodness and free grace not only as they are concerned in it, or as it affects
their interest, but as a part of the glory and beauty of God's nature. That
wonderful and unparalleled grace of God, which is manifested in the work
of redemption, and shines forth in the face of Jesus Christ, is infinitely
glorious in itself, and appears so to the angels; it is a great part of the
moral perfection and beauty of God's nature. This would be glorious,
whether it were exercised towards us or no; and the saint who exercises a
gracious thankfulness for it, sees it to be so, and delights in it as such:
though his concern in it serves the more to engage his mind and raise the
attention and affection; and self-love here assists as a handmaid, being
subservient to higher principles, to lead forth the mind to the view and
contemplation, and engage and fix the attention, and heighten the joy and
love. — God's kindness to them is a glass that God sets before them,
wherein to behold the beauty of the attribute of God's goodness: the
exercises and displays of this attribute, by this means, are brought near to
them, and set right before them. So that in a holy thankfulness to God, the.153
concern our interest has in God's goodness is not the first foundation of
our being affected with it; that was laid in the heart before, in that stock of
love which was to God, for his excellency in himself, that makes the heart
tender and susceptive of such impressions from his goodness to us. Poor
is our own interest, or the benefits we have received, the only, or the chief
objective ground of the present exercises of the affection, but God's
goodness, as part of the beauty of his nature; although the manifestations
of that lovely attribute, set immediately before our eyes, in the exercises of
it for us, be the special occasion of the mind's attention to that beauty, at
that time, and serves to fix the attention, and heighten the affection.
Some may perhaps be ready to object against the whole that has been said,
that text, 1 John 4:19: "We love him, because he first loved us, " as though
this implied that God's love to the true saints were the first foundation of
their love to him.
In answer to this, I would observe, that the apostle's drift in these words,
is to magnify the love of God to us from hence, that he loved us, while we
had no love to him; as will be manifest to anyone who compares this verse
and the two following with the 9th, 10th, and 11th verses. And that God
loved us, then we had no love to him, the apostle proves by this argument,
that God's love to the elect is the ground of their love to him. And that it
is three ways. — 1. The saints' love to God is the fruit of God's love to
them, as it is the gift of that love. God gave them a spirit of love to him,
because he loved them from eternity. And in this respect God's love to his
elect is the first foundation of their love to him as it is the foundation of
their regeneration, and the whole of their redemption. 2. The exercises and
discoveries that God has made of his wonderful love to sinful men, by
Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, is one of the chief manifestations,
which God has made of the glory of his moral perfection, to both angels
and men; and so is one main objective ground of the love of both to God;
in a good consistence with what was said before. 3. God's love to a
particular elect person, discovered by his conversion, is a great
manifestation of God's moral perfection and glory to him, and a proper
occasion of the excitation of the love of holy gratitude, agreeable to what
was before said. And that the saints do in these respects love God,
because he first loved them, fully answers the design of the apostle's
argument in that place. So that no good argument can be drawn from hence,.154
against a spiritual and gracious love in the saints, arising primarily from the
excellency of divine things, as they are in themselves, and not from any
conceived relation they bear to their interest.
And as it is with the love of the saints, so it is with their joy, and spiritual
delight and pleasure: the first foundation of it is not any consideration or
conception of their interest in divine things; but it primarily consists in the
sweet entertainment their minds have in the view of contemplation of the
divine and holy beauty of these things, as they are in themselves. And this
is indeed the very main difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and
the joy of the true saint. The former rejoices in himself; self is the first
foundation of his joy: the latter rejoices in God. The hypocrite has his
mind pleased and delighted, in the first place, with his own privilege, and
the happiness which he supposes he has attained to, or shall attain to.
True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and
delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the
things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of
all their pleasures: it is the joy of their joy. This sweet and ravishing
entertainment they have in the view of the beautiful and delightful nature
of divine things, is the foundation of the joy that they have afterwards, in
the consideration of their being theirs. But the dependence of the
affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice and are
elevated with it, that they are made so much of by God; and then on that
ground he seems, in a sort, lovely to them.
The first foundation of the delight a true saint has in God, is his own
perfection; and the first foundation of the delight he has in Christ, is his
own beauty; he appears in himself the chief among ten thousand, and
altogether lovely. The way of salvation by Christ is a delightful way to
him, for the sweet and admirable manifestations of the divine perfections
in it: the holy doctrines of the gospel, by which God is exalted and man
abased, holiness honored and promoted, and sin greatly disgraced and
discouraged, and free and sovereign love manifested, are glorious doctrines
in his eyes, and sweet to his taste, prior to any conception of his interest
in these things. Indeed the saints rejoice in their interest in God, and that
Christ is theirs: and so they have great reason, but this is not the first
spring of their joy. They first rejoice in God as glorious and excellent in
himself, and then secondarily rejoice in it, that so glorious a God is theirs..155
— They first have their hearts filled with sweetness, from the view of
Christ's excellency, and the excellency of his grace and the beauty of the
way of salvation by him, and then they have a secondary joy in that so
excellent a Savior, and such excellent grace are theirs. 50 But that which is
the true saint's superstructure is the hypocrite's foundation. When they
hear of the wonderful things of the gospel, of God's great love in sending
his Son, of Christ's diving love to sinners, and the great things Christ has
purchased and promised to the saints, and hear these things lively and
eloquently set forth; they may bear with a great deal of pleasure, and be
lifted up with what they hear; but if their joy be examined, it will be found
to have no other foundation than this, that they look upon these things as
theirs, all this exalts them, they love to hear of the great love of Christ, so
vastly distinguishing some from others; for self-love, and even pride itself
makes them affect great distinction from others. No wonder, in this
confident opinion of their own good estate, that they feel well under such
doctrine, and are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God
and Christ makes of them. So that their joy is really a joy in themselves,
and not in God.
And because the joy of hypocrites is in themselves, hence it comes to pass
that in their rejoicings and elevations, they are wont to keep their eye
upon themselves: having received what they call spiritual discoveries or
experience, their minds are taken up about them, admiring their own
experiences; and what they are principally taken and elevated with, is not
the glory of God, or beauty of Christ, but the beauty of their experiences.
They keep thinking with themselves, What a good experience is this! What
a great discovery is this! What wonderful things have I met with! And so
they put their experiences in the place of Christ, and his beauty and
fullness; and instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus, they rejoice in their
admirable experiences; instead of feeding and fasting their souls in the view
of what is without them, viz., the innate, sweet refreshing amiableness of
the things exhibited in the gospel, their eyes are off from these things, or at
least they view them only as it were sideways; but the object that fixes
their contemplation, is their experience; and they are feeding their souls,
and feasting a selfish principle, with a view of their discoveries: they take
more comfort in their discoveries than in Christ discovered, which is the
true notion of living upon experiences and frames, and not a using.156
experiences as the signs on which they rely for evidence of their good
estate, which some call living on experiences; though it be very observable,
that some of them who do so are most notorious for living upon
experiences, according to the true notion of it.
The affections of hypocrites are very often after this manner; they are first
much affected with some impression on their imagination, or some impulse
which they take to be an immediate suggestion or testimony from God of
his love and their happiness, and high privileges in some respect, either
with or without a text of Scripture; they are mightily taken with this as a
great discovery, and hence arise high affections. And when their affections
are raised, then they view those high affections, and call them great and
wonderful experiences; and they have a notion that God is greatly pleased
with those affections; and this affects them more; and so they are affected
with their affections. And thus their affections rise higher and higher, until
they sometimes are perfectly swallowed up: and self-conceit, and a fierce
zeal rises withal; and all is built like a castle in the air, on no other
foundation but imagination, self-love, and pride.
And as the thoughts of this sort of persons are, so is their talk; for out of
the abundance of their heart their mouth speaketh. As in their high
affections they keep their eye upon the beauty of their experiences, and
greatness of their attainments; so they are great talkers about themselves.
— The true saint, when under great spiritual affections, from the fullness
of his heart, is ready to be speaking much of God, and his glorious
perfections and works, and of the beauty and amiableness of Christ, and
the glorious things of the gospel: but hypocrites, in their high affections,
talk more of the discovery, than they do of the thing discovered; they are
full of talk about the great things they have met with, the wonderful
discoveries they have had, how sure they are of the love of God to them,
how safe their condition is, and how they know they shall go to heaven,
A true saint, when in the enjoyment of true discoveries of the sweet glory
of God and Christ, has his mind too much captivated and engaged by what
he views without himself, to stand at that time to view himself, and his
own attainments: it would be a diversion and loss which he could not bear,
to take his eye off from the ravishing object of his contemplation, to.157
survey his own experience, and to spend time in thinking with himself,
what a high attainment this is, and what a good story I now have to tell
others. Nor does the pleasure and sweetness of his mind at that time
chiefly arise from the consideration of the safety of his state, or anything
he has in view of his own qualifications, experiences, or circumstances; but
from the divine and supreme beauty of what is the object of his direct
views without himself; which sweetly entertains, and strongly holds his
As the love and joy of hypocrites are all from the source of self love, so it
is with their other affections, their sorrow for sin, their humiliation and
submission, their religious desires and zeal: everything is, as it were, paid
tail beforehand, in God's highly gratifying their self-love, and their lusts,
by making so much of them, and exalting them so highly, as things are in
their imagination. It is easy for nature, as corrupt as it is, under a notion of
being already some of the highest favorites of heaven, and having a God
who does so protect them and favor them in their sins, to love this
imaginary God that suits them so well, and to extol him, and submit to
him, and to be fierce and zealous for him. The high affections of many are
all built on the supposition of their being eminent saints. If that opinion
which they have of themselves were taken away, if they thought they
were some of the lower form of saints (though they should yet suppose
themselves to be real saints), their high affections would fall to the ground.
If they only saw a little of the sinfulness and vileness of their own hearts,
and their deformity, in the midst of their best duties and their best
affections, it would knock their affections on the head; because their
affections are built upon self, therefore self-knowledge would destroy
them. But as to truly gracious affections, they are built elsewhere; they
have their foundation out of self in God and Jesus Christ; and therefore a
discovery of themselves, of their own deformity, and the meanness of
their experiences, though it will purify their affections, yet it will not
destroy them, but in some respects sweeten and heighten them.
III. Those affections that are truly holy, are primarily founded on the
loveliness of the moral excellency of divine things. Or (to express it
otherwise) a love to divine things for the beauty and sweetness of
their moral excellency is the first beginning and spring of all holy
Here, for the sake of the more illiterate reader, I will explain what I mean
by the moral excellency of divine things.
And it may be observed, that the word moral is not to be understood here
according to the common and vulgar acceptation of the word when men
speak of morality, and a moral behavior; meaning an outward conformity
to the duties of the moral law, and especially the duties of the second
table; or intending no more at farthest, than such seeming virtues, as
proceed from natural principles, in opposition to those virtues that are
more inward, spiritual, and divine; as the honesty, justice, generosity, good
nature, and public spirit of many of the heathen are called moral virtues, in
distinction from the holy faith, love, humility, and heavenly-mindedness
of true Christians: I say, the word moral is not to be understood thus in
this place.
But in order to a right understanding what is meant, it must be observed,
that divines commonly make a distinction between moral good and evil,
and natural good and evil. By moral evil, they mean the evil of sin, or that
evil which is against duty, and contrary to what is right and ought to be.
By natural evil, they do not mean that evil which is properly opposed to
duty; but that which is contrary to mere nature, without any respect to a
rule of duty. So the evil of suffering is called natural evil, such as pain and
torment, disgrace, and the like: these things are contrary to mere nature,
contrary to the nature of both bad and good, hateful to wicked men and
devils, as well as good men and angels. So likewise natural defects are
called natural evils, as if a child be monstrous or a natural fool; these are
natural evils, but are not moral evils, because they have not properly the
nature of the evil of sin. On the other hand, as by moral evil, divines mean
the evil of sin, or that which is contrary to what is right; so by moral good,
they mean that which is contrary to sin, or that good in beings who have
will and choice, whereby, as voluntary agents, they are, and act, as it
becomes them to be and to act, or so as is most fit, and suitable, and
lovely. By natural good, they mean that good that is entirely of a different
kind from holiness or virtue, viz., that which perfects or suits nature,
considering nature abstractly from any holy or unholy qualifications, and
without any relation to any rule or measure of right and wrong..159
Thus pleasure is a natural good; so is honor, so is strength; so is
speculative knowledge, human learning, and policy. — Thus there is a
distinction to be made between the natural good that men are possessed of,
and their moral good; and also between the natural and moral good of the
angels in heaven: the great capacity of their understandings, and their great
strength, and the honorable circumstances they are in as the great ministers
of God's kingdom, whence they are called thrones, dominions,
principalities, and powers, is the natural good which they are possessed
of; but their perfect and glorious holiness and goodness, their pure and
flaming love to God, and to the saints and to one another, is their moral
good. So divines make a distinction between the natural and moral
perfections of God: by the moral perfections of God, they mean those
attributes which God exercises as a moral agent, or whereby the heart and
will of God are good, right, and infinitely becoming and lovely; such as his
righteousness, truth, faithfulness, and goodness; or, in one word, his
holiness. By God's natural attributes or perfections, they mean those
attributes, wherein, according to our way of conceiving of God, consists,
not the holiness or moral goodness of God, but his greatness, such as his
power, his knowledge, whereby he knows all things, and his being eternal,
from everlasting to everlasting, his omnipresence, and his awful and
terrible majesty.
The moral excellency of an intelligent voluntary being is more immediately
seated in the heart or will of moral agents. That intelligent being, whose
will is truly right and lovely, is morally good or excellent.
This moral excellency of an intelligent being, when it is true and real, and
not only external or merely seeming and counterfeit, is holiness. Therefore
holiness comprehends all the true moral excellency of intelligent beings:
there is no other true virtue, but real holiness. Holiness comprehends all
the true virtue of a good man, his love to God, his gracious love to men, his
justice, his charity, and bowels of mercies, his gracious meekness and
gentleness, and all other true Christian virtues that he has, belong to his
holiness. So the holiness of God in the more extensive sense of the word,
and the sense in which the word is commonly, if not universally used
concerning God in Scripture, is the same with the moral excellency of the
divine nature, or his purity and beauty as a moral agent, comprehending all
his moral perfections, his righteousness faithfulness, and goodness. As in.160
holy men, their charity, Christian kindness and mercy, belong to their
holiness; so the kindness and mercy of God belong to his holiness.
Holiness in man is but the image of God's holiness; there are not more
virtues belonging to the image than are in the original: derived holiness has
not more in it than is in that underived holiness which is its fountain: there
is no more than grace for grace, or grace in the image, answerable to grace in
the original.
As there are two kinds of attributes in God, according to our way of
conceiving of him, his moral attributes, which are summed up in his
holiness, and his natural attributes of strength, knowledge, etc., that
constitute the greatness of God; so there is a twofold image of God in man,
his moral or spiritual image, which is his holiness, that is the image of
God's moral excellency (which image was lost by the fall), and God's
natural image, consisting in man's reason and understanding, his natural
ability, and dominion over the creatures, which is the image of God's
natural attribute.
From what has been said, it may easily be understood what I intend, when
I say that a love to divine things for the beauty of their moral excellency, is
the beginning and spring of all holy affections. It has been already shown,
under the former head, that the first objective ground of all holy affections
is the supreme excellency of divine things as they are in themselves, or in
their own nature; I now proceed further, and say more particularly, that
that kind of excellency of the nature of divine things, which is the first
objective ground of all holy affections, is their moral excellency, or their
holiness. Holy persons, in the exercise of holy affections, do love divine
things primarily for their holiness: they love God, in the first place, for the
beauty of his holiness or moral perfection, as being supremely amiable in
itself. Not that the saints, in the exercise of gracious affections, do love
God only for his holiness; all his attributes are amiable and glorious in their
eyes; they delight in every divine perfection; the contemplation of the
infinite greatness, power, knowledge, and terrible majesty of God, is
pleasant to them. But their love to God for his holiness is what is most
fundamental and essential in their love. Here it is that true love to God
begins; all other holy love to divine things flows from hence: this is the
most essential and distinguishing thing that belongs to a holy love to God,
with regard to the foundation of it. A love to God for the beauty of his.161
moral at tributes leads to, and necessarily causes a delight in God for all his
attributes; for his moral attributes cannot be without his natural attributes:
for infinite holiness supposes infinite wisdom, and an infinite capacity and
greatness; and all the attributes of God do as it were imply one another.
The true beauty and loveliness of all intelligent beings does primarily and
most essentially consist in their moral excellency or holiness. Herein
consists the loveliness of the angels, without which, with all their natural
perfections, their strength, and their knowledge, they would have no more
loveliness than devils. It is a moral excellency alone, that is in itself, and on
its own account, the excellency of intelligent beings: it is this that gives
beauty to, or rather is the beauty of their natural perfections and
qualifications. Moral excellency is the excellency of natural excellencies.
Natural qualifications are either excellent or otherwise, according as they
are joined with moral excellency or not. Strength and knowledge do not
render any being lovely, without holiness, but more hateful; though they
render them more lovely, when joined with holiness. Thus the elect angels
are the more glorious for their strength and knowledge, because these
natural perfections of theirs are sanctified by their moral perfection. But
though the devils are very strong, and of great natural understanding, they
be not the more lovely: they are more terrible indeed, but not the more
amiable; but on the contrary, the more hateful. The holiness of an
intelligent creature, is the beauty of all his natural perfections. And so it is
in God, according to our way of conceiving of the divine Being: holiness is
in a peculiar manner the beauty of the divine nature. Hence we often read
of the beauty of holiness, Psalm 29:2, Psalm 96:9, and 110:3. This renders
all his other attributes glorious and lovely. It is the glory of God's
wisdom, that it is a holy wisdom, and not a wicked subtlety and
craftiness. This makes his majesty lovely; and not merely dreadful and
horrible, that it is a holy majesty. It is the glory of God's immutability,
that it is a holy immutability, and not an flexible obstinacy in wickedness.
And therefore it must needs be, that a sight of God's loveliness must begin
here. A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not
with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely
without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving
of God) it derives its loveliness from this; and therefore it is impossible
that other attributes should appear lovely, in their true loveliness, until.162
this is seen; and it impossible that any perfection of the divine nature
should be loved with true love until this is loved. If the true loveliness of
all God's perfections arises from the loveliness of his holiness; then the
true love of all his perfections arises from the love of his holiness. They
that do not see the glory of God's holiness, cannot see anything of the true
glory of his mercy and grace: they see nothing of the glory of those
attributes, as any excellency of God's nature, as it is in itself; though they
may be affected with them, and love them, as they concern their interest:
for these attributes are no part of the excellency of God's nature, as that is
excellent in itself, any otherwise than as they are included in his holiness,
more largely taken; or as they are a part of his moral perfection.
As the beauty of the divine nature does primarily consist in God's
holiness, so does the beauty of all divine things. Herein consists the
beauty of the saints, that they are saints, or holy ones; it is the moral
image of God in them, which is their beauty; and that is their holiness.
Herein consists the beauty and brightness of the angels of heaven, that
they are holy angels, and so not devils. Daniel 4:13, 17, 23; Matthew
25:31, Mark 8:38, Acts 10:22, Revelation 14:10. Herein consists the
beauty of the Christian religion, above all other religions, that it is so holy
a religion. Herein consists the excellency of the word of God, that it is so
holy: Psalm 119:140, "Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant
loveth it." Ver. 128, "I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be
right; and I hate every false way." Ver. 138, "Thy testimonies that thou
hast commanded are righteous, and very faithful." And 172, "My tongue
shall speak of thy word; for all thy commandments are righteousness."
And Psalm 19:7-10, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of
the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is
pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever:
the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be
desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than
honey, and the honey comb." Herein does primarily consist the
amiableness and beauty of the Lord Jesus, whereby he is the chief among
ten thousands, and altogether lovely, even in that he is the holy one of
God, Acts 3:14, and God's holy child, Acts 4:27, and he that is holy, and
he that is true, Revelation 3:7. All the spiritual beauty of his human.163
nature, consisting in his meekness, lowliness, patience, heavenliness, love
to God, love to men, condescension to the mean and vile, and compassion
to the miserable, etc., all is summed up in his holiness. And the beauty of
his divine nature, of which the beauty of his human nature is the image and
reflection, does also primarily consist in his holiness. Herein primarily
consists the glory of the gospel, that it is a holy gospel, and so bright an
emanation of the holy beauty of God and Jesus Christ: herein consists the
spiritual beauty of its doctrines, that they are holy doctrines, or doctrines
according to goodness. And herein does consist the spiritual beauty of the
way of salvation by Jesus Christ, that it is so holy a way. And herein
chiefly consists the glory of heaven, that it is the holy city, the holy
Jerusalem, the habitation of God's holiness, and so of his glory, Isaiah
63:15. All the beauties of the new Jerusalem, as it is described in the two
last chapters of Revelation, are but various representations of this. See
chap. 21:2, 10, 11, 18, 21, 27, chap. 22:1, 3.
And therefore it is primarily on account of this kind of excellency, that the
saints do love all these things. Thus they love the word of God, because it
is very pure. It is on this account they love the saints; and on this account
chiefly it is, that heaven is lovely to them, and those holy tabernacles of
God amiable in their eyes: it is on this account that they love God; and on
this account primarily it is, that they love Christ, and that their hearts
delight in the doctrines of the gospel, and sweetly acquiesce in the way of
salvation therein revealed. 51
Under the head of the first distinguishing characteristic of gracious
affections, I observed, that there is given to those that are regenerated, a
new supernatural sense, that is as it were a certain divine spiritual taste,
which is, in its whole nature, diverse from any former kinds of sensation
of the mind, as tasting is diverse from saint in the exercise of this new
sense of mind, in spiritual and divine things as entirely different from
anything that is perceived in them by natural men, as the sweet taste of
honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by looking on it or
feeling it. Now this that I have been speaking of, viz., the beauty of
holiness, is that thing in spiritual and divine things, which is perceived by
this spiritual sense, that is so diverse from all that natural men perceive in
them; this kind of beauty is the quality that is the immediate object of this
spiritual sense; this is the sweetness that is the proper object of this.164
spiritual taste. The Scripture often represents the beauty and sweetness of
holiness as the grand object of a spiritual taste and spiritual appetite. This
was the sweet food of the holy soul of Jesus Christ, John 4:32, 34: "I have
meat to eat that ye know not of-My meat is to do the will of him that sent
me, and to finish his work." I know of no part of the holy Scriptures,
where the nature and evidences of true and sincere godliness are so much
of set purpose and so fully and largely insisted on and delineated, as the
119th Psalm; the Psalmist declares his design in the first verses of the
Psalm, and he keeps his eye on this design all along, and pursues it to the
end: but in this Psalm the excellency of holiness is represented as the
immediate object of a spiritual taste, relish, appetite, and delight of God's
law; that grand expression and emanation of the holiness of God's natures
and prescription of holiness to the creature, is all along represented as the
food and entertainment, and as the great object of the love, the appetite,
the complacence and rejoicing of the gracious nature, which prizes God's
commandments above gold, yea, the finest gold, and to which they are
sweeter than the honey and honey comb; and that upon account of their
holiness, as I observed before. The same Psalmist declares, that this is the
sweetness that a spiritual taste relishes in God's law: Psalm 19:7, 8, 9, 10,
"The law of the Lord is perfect; the commandment of the Lord is pure; the
fear of the Lord is clean; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the
heart; — the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether; more
to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also
than honey, and the honey comb."
A holy love has a holy object. The holiness of love consists especially in
this, that it is the love of that which is holy, as holy, or for its holiness; so
that it is the holiness of the object, which is the quality whereon it fixes
and terminates. A holy nature must needs love that in holy things chiefly,
which is most agreeable to itself; but surely that in divine things, which
above all others is agreeable to a holy nature, is holiness, because holiness
must be above all other things agreeable to holiness; for nothing can be
more agreeable to any nature than itself; holy nature must be above all
things agreeable to holy nature: and so the holy nature of God and Christ,
and the word of God, and other divine things, must be above all other
things agreeable to the holy nature that is in the saints..165
And again, a holy nature doubtless loves holy things, especially on the
account of that for which sinful nature has enmity against them; but that
for which chiefly sinful nature is at enmity against holy things, is their
holiness; it is for this, that the carnal mind is at enmity against God, and
against the law of God, and the people of God. Now it is just arguing from
contraries; from contrary causes to contrary effects; from opposite natures
to opposite tendencies. We know that holiness is of a directly contrary
nature to wickedness; as therefore it is the nature of wickedness chiefly to
oppose and hate holiness; so it must be the nature of holiness chiefly to
tend to, and delight in holiness.
The holy nature in the saints and angels in heaven (where the true
tendency of it best appears) is principally engaged by the holiness of
divine things. This is the divine beauty which chiefly engages the
attention, admiration, and praise of the bright and burning seraphim: Isaiah
6:3, "One cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of
hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory." And Revelation 4:8, "They rest
not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which
was, and is, and is to come." So the glorified saints chap. 15:4, "Who shall
not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy."
And the Scriptures represent the saints on earth as adoring God primarily
on this account, and admiring and extolling all God's attributes, either as
deriving loveliness from his holiness, or as being a part of it. Thus when
they praise God for his power, his holiness is the beauty that engages
them: Psalm 98:1, "O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he hath done
marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm hath gotten him the
victory." So when they praise him for his justice and terrible majesty:
Psalm 99:2, 3, "The Lord is great in Zion, and he is high above all people.
Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy." Ver. 5, "Exalt
ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy." Ver. 8,
9, "Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance
of their inventions. Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his holy
hill: for the Lord our God, is holy." So when they praise God for his
mercy and faithfulness: Psalm 97:11, 12, "Light is sown for the righteous,
and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and
give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness." 1 Samuel 2:2, "There is.166
none holy as the Lord: for there is none besides thee; neither is there any
rock like our God."
By this therefore all may try their affections, and particularly their love
and joy. Various kinds of creatures show the difference of their natures,
very much in the different things they relish as their proper good, one
delighting in that which another abhors. Such a difference is there between
true saints, and natural men: natural men have no sense of the goodness
and excellency of holy things at least for their holiness; they have no taste
for that kind of good; and so may be said not to know that divine good, or
not to see it; it is wholly hid from them; but the saints, by the mighty
power of God, have it discovered to them; they have that supernatural,
most noble and divine sense given them, by which they perceive it; and it
is this that captivates their hearts, and delights them above all things; it is
the most amiable and sweet thing to the heart of a true saint, that is to be
found in heaven or earth; that which above all others attracts and engages
his soul; and that whereby above all things, he places his happiness, and
which he lots upon for solace and entertainment to his mind, in this world,
and full satisfaction and blessedness in another. By this, you may examine
your love to God, and to Jesus Christ, and to the word of God, and your
joy in them, and also your love to the people of God, and your desires
after heaven; whether they be from a supreme delight in this sort of
beauty, without being primarily moved from your imagined interest in
them, or expectations from them. There are many high affections, great
seeming love and rapturous joys, which have nothing of this holy relish
belonging to them.
Particularly, by what has been said you may try your discoveries of the
glory of God's grace and love, and your affections arising from them. The
grace of God may appear lovely two ways; either as bonum utile, a
profitable good to me, that which greatly serves my interest, and so suits
my self-love; or as bonum formosum, a beautiful good in itself, and part of
the moral and spiritual excellency of the divine nature. In this latter respect
it is that the true saints have their hearts affected, and love captivated by
the free grace of God in the first place.
From the things that have been said, it appears, that if persons have a great
sense of the natural perfections of God, and are greatly affected with them,.167
or have any other sight or sense of God than that which consists in, or
implies a sense of the beauty of his moral perfections, it is no certain sign
of grace; as particularly men's having a great sense of the awful greatness
and terrible majesty of God; for this is only God's natural perfection, and
what men may see and yet be entirely blind to the beauty of his moral
perfection, and have nothing of that spiritual taste which relishes this
divine sweetness.
It has been shown already, in what was said upon the first distinguishing
mark of gracious affections, that that which is spiritual, is entirely
different in its nature, from all that it is possible any graceless person
should be the subject of, while he continues graceless. But it is possible
that those who are wholly without grace should have a clear sight and very
great and affecting sense of God's greatness, his mighty power, and awful
majesty; for this is what the devils have, though they have lost the
spiritual knowledge of God, consisting in a sense of the amiableness of his
moral perfections; they are perfectly destitute of any sense or relish of
that kind of beauty, yet they have a very great knowledge of the natural
glory of God (if I may so speak), or his awful greatness and majesty; this
they behold, and are affected with the apprehensions of, and therefore
tremble before him. This glory of God all shall behold at the day of
judgment; God will make all rational beings to behold it to a great degree
indeed, angels and devils, saints and sinners: Christ will manifest his
infinite greatness, and awful majesty, to everyone, in a most open, clear,
and convincing manner, and in a light that none can resist, "when he shall
come in the glory of his Father, and every eye shall see him;" when they
shall cry to the mountains to fall upon them, to hide them from the face of
him that sits upon the throne, they are represented as seeing the glory of
God's majesty, Isaiah 2:10, 19, 21. God will make all his enemies to
behold this, and to live in a most clear and affecting view of it, in hell, to all
eternity. God hath often declared his immutable purpose to make all his
enemies to know him in this respect, in so often annexing these words to
the threatenings he denounces against them: "And they shall know that I
am the Lord;" yea he hath sworn that all men shall see his glory in this
respect: Numbers 14:21, "As truly as I live, 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.168
enemies in this world, Exodus 9:16, and chap. 14:18, and 15:16, Psalm
66:3, and 46:10, and other places innumerable. This was a manifestation
which God made of himself in the sight of that wicked congregation 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
everything that appertains to the glory of God, but only the beauty of his
moral perfection; they will see his infinite greatness and majesty, his
infinite power, and will be fully convinced of his omniscience, and his
eternity and immutability; and they will see and know everything
appertaining to his moral attributes themselves, but only the beauty and
amiableness of them; they will see and know that he is perfectly just, and
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; and
there is nothing will be hid from their eyes, but only the beauty of these
moral attributes, and that beauty of the other attributes, which arises from
it. And so natural men in this world are capable of having a very affecting
sense of everything else that appertains to God, but this only.
Nebuchadnezzar had a great and very affecting sense of the infinite
greatness and awful majesty of God, of his supreme and absolute
dominion, and mighty and irresistible power, and of his sovereignty, and
that he, and all the inhabitants of the earth were nothing before him; and
also had a great conviction in his conscience of his justice, and an affecting
sense of his great goodness, Daniel 4:1, 2, 3, 34, 35, 37. And the sense that
Darius had of God's perfections, seems to be very much like his, Daniel
6:25, etc. But the saints and angels do behold the glory of God consisting
in the beauty of his holiness; and it is this sight only that will melt and
humble the hearts of men, and wean them from the world, and draw them
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 enkindled, all will not be effectual to
gain the will, but that will remain inflexible; whereas the first glimpse of
the moral and spiritual glory of God shining into the heart, produces all
these effects as it were with omnipotent power, which nothing can
The sense that natural men may have of the awful greatness of God may
affect them various ways; it may not only terrify them, but it may elevate
them, and raise their joy and praise, as their circumstances may be. 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 shown 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 that he receives remarkable kindness
from God, has a sense of his infinite greatness, and that he is but 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, under the receipt of that
extraordinary favor 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 lofty terms,
extol and magnify God, and calls upon all the world to do it with him; and
much more if a natural man, at the same time that he 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 favorite, and promised
him eternal glory in his highest love, will 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, by many
persons of late, on discoveries of God's greatness, awful majesty, and
natural perfection, operating after this manner, without any real view of
the holy majesty of God. And experience does abundantly witness to
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 majesty of God, and consequently elevated in the manner that has
been spoken of, who have been very far from having appearances of a
Christian spirit and temper, in any manner of proportion, or fruits in
practice in any wise agreeable; but 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 exceeding
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.170
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
natural men; and grace tends to enable 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.
IV. Gracious affections do arise from the mind's being enlightened, richly
and spiritually to understand or apprehend divine things.
Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from the
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 some clearer and better view than he had
before, when he was not affected: either he receives some understanding of
divine things that is new to him; or has his former knowledge renewed
after the view was decayed: 1 John 4:7, "Everyone that loveth, knoweth
God." Philippians 1:9, "I pray that your love may abound more and more
in knowledge, and in all judgment." Romans 10:2, "They have a zeal of
God, but not according to knowledge." Colossians 3:10, "The new man,
which is renewed in knowledge." Psalm 43:3, 4, "O send out thy light and
thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill." John
6:45, "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, and
enlarges the affections, and so opens the way for men into the kingdom of
heaven; Luke 11:52, "Ye have taken away the key of knowledge."
Now there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the
understanding. And when it is thus, it is a sure evidence that these
affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high. 52 Indeed 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 of. But in many
persons those apprehensions or conceptions that they have, wherewith
they are affected, have nothing of the nature of knowledge or instruction in.171
them. As for instance, when a person is affected with a lively idea,
suddenly excited in his mind, of some shape or very beautiful pleasant
form of countenance, or some shining light, or other glorious outward
appearance: here is something apprehended or conceived by the mind; but
there is nothing of the nature of instruction in it; persons become never the
wiser by such things, or more knowing about God, or a Mediator between
God and man, or the way of salvation by Christ, or anything contained in
any of 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, or any of
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 that are taught of God and Christ, in a new manner,
the coming to a new understanding of the excellent nature of God, and his
wonderful perfections, some new view of Christ in his spiritual
excellencies and fullness, or things opened to him in a new manner, that
appertain to the way of salvation by Christ, whereby he now sees how it
is, and understands those divine and spiritual doctrines which once were
foolishness to him. Such enlightenings of the understanding as these, are
things entirely different in their nature from strong ideas of shapes and
colors, and outward brightness and glory, or sounds and voices. That all
gracious affections do arise from some instruction or enlightening of the
understanding, is therefore a further proof, that affections which arise from
such impression on the imagination, are not gracious affections, besides the
things observed before, which make this evident.
Hence also it appears, that affections arising from texts of Scripture
coming to the mind: are vain, when no instruction received in the
understanding from those texts, or anything taught in those texts, 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
24:32, "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
affection which is occasioned by the coming of a text of Scripture must be
vain, when the affection is founded on some thing that is supposed to be
taught by it, which really is not contained in it nor in any other Scripture;.172
because such supposed instruction is not real instruction, but a mistake
and misapprehension of the mind. As 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, or that their sins are forgiven,
that God is their Father, and the like, this is a mistake or misapprehension;
for the Scripture nowhere reveals the individual persons who are be loved,
expressly; but only by consequence, by revealing the qualifications of
persons that are beloved of God: and therefore this matter is not to be
learned from Scripture any other way than by consequence, and 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 these
instances which have been mentioned; as likewise in some others that
might be mentioned. As some, when they find themselves free of speech in
prayer, they call it God's being with them; and this affects them more; and
so their affections are set agoing and 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 some
apt thoughts that come into their minds about the Scripture, and call it the
Spirit of God teaching them. So they ascribe many of the workings of their
own minds, which they have a high opinion of, and are pleased and taken
with, to the special immediate influences of God's Spirit; and so are
mightily affected with their privilege. And 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
animal spirits are put into such a motion as is wont to be connected with
the exhilaration of the mind; and the soul, by the laws of the union of soul
and body, hence feels pleasure. The motion of the animal spirits does not
first arise from any affection or apprehension of the mind whatsoever; but
the very first thing that is felt, is an exhilaration of the animal spirits, 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.173
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 if men's religious affections do truly arise from some instruction or
light in the understanding; yet the affection is not gracious, unless the light
which is the ground of it be spiritual. Affections may be excited by that
understanding of things, which they obtain merely by human teaching,
with the common improvement of the faculties of the mind. Men may be
much affected by knowledge of things of religion that they obtain this
way; as some philosophers have been mightily affected and almost carried
beyond themselves, by the discoveries they have made in mathematics and
natural philosophy. So men may be much affected from common
illuminations of the Spirit of God, in which God assists men's faculties to
a greater degree of that kind of understanding of religious matters, which
they have in some degree, by only the ordinary exercise and improvement
of their own faculties. Such illuminations may much affect the mind; as in
many whom we read of in Scripture, that were once enlightened; but these
affections are not spiritual.
There is such a thing, if the Scriptures are of any use to teach us anything,
as a spiritual, supernatural understanding of divine things, that is peculiar
to the saints, and which those who are not saints have nothing of. It is
certainly a kind of understanding, apprehending or discerning of divine
things, that natural men have nothing of, which the apostle speaks of, 1
Corinthians 2:14: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is certainly a kind of
seeing or discerning spiritual things peculiar to the saints, which is spoken
of, 1 John 3:6: "Whosoever sinneth, hath not been him, neither known
him." 3 John 11, "He that doeth evil, hath not seen God." And John 6:40,
"This is the will of him that sent me, that everyone that seeth the Son, and
believeth on him, may have everlasting life." Chap. 14:19, "The world
seeth me no more; but ye see me." Chap. 17:3, "This is eternal life, that
they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou
hast sent." Matthew 11:27, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father;
neither knoweth any man the Father, but the Son, and he to whomsoever.174
the Son will reveal him." John 12:45, "He that seeth me, seeth him that
sent me." Psalm 9:10, "They that know thy name, will put their trust in
thee." Philippians 3:8, "I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:" — ver. 10, "That I may know him."
And innumerable other places there are, all over the Bible, which show the
same. And that there is such a thing as an understanding of divine things,
which in its nature and kind is wholly different from all knowledge that
natural men have, is evident from this, that there is an understanding of
divine things, which the scripture calls spiritual understanding, Colossians
1:9: "We do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you may be filled
with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."
It has been already shown, that that which is spiritual, in the ordinary use
of the word in the New Testament, is entirely different in nature and kind,
from all which natural men are, or can be the subjects of.
From hence it may be surely inferred wherein spiritual understanding
consists. For if there be in the saints a kind of apprehension or perception,
which is in its nature perfectly diverse from all that natural men have, or
that it is possible they should have, until they have a new nature; it must
consist in their having a certain kind of ideas or sensations of mind, which
are simply diverse from all that is or can be in the minds of natural men.
And that is the same thing as to say, that it consists in the sensations of a
new spiritual sense, which the souls of natural men have not; as is evident
by what has been before, once and again observed. But I have already
shown what that new spiritual sense is which the saints have given them
in regeneration, and what is the object of it. I have shown that the
immediate object of it is the supreme beauty and excellency of the nature
of divine things, as they are in themselves. And this is agreeable to the
Scripture; the apostle very plainly teaches, that the great thing discovered
by spiritual light, and understood by spiritual knowledge, is the glory of
divine things, 2 Corinthians 4:3, 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 unto them;" together with ver. 6: "For
God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into
our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the
face of Jesus Christ." And chap. 3:18, preceding: "But we all with open.175
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." And it
must needs be so, for, as has been before observed, the Scripture often
teaches that all true religion summarily consists in the love of divine
things. And therefore that kind of understanding or knowledge, which is
the proper foundation of true religion, must be the knowledge of the
loveliness of divine things. For doubtless, that knowledge which is the
proper foundation of love, is the knowledge of loveliness. What that
beauty of divine things is, which is the proper and immediate object of a
spiritual sense of mind, was showed under the last head insisted on, viz.,
that it is the beauty of their moral perfection. Therefore it is in the view or
sense of this, that spiritual understanding does more immediately and
primarily consist. And indeed it is plain it can be nothing else; for (as has
been shown) there is nothing pertaining to divine things besides the beauty
of their moral excellency, and those properties and qualities of divine
things which this beauty is the foundation of, but what natural men and
devils can see and know, and will know fully and clearly to all eternity.
From what has been said, therefore, we come necessarily to this
conclusion, concerning that wherein spiritual understanding consists, viz.,
that it consists in "a sense of the heart, of the supreme beauty and
sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things, together
with all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, that depends
upon, and flows from such a sense."
Spiritual understanding consists primarily in a sense of heart of that
spiritual beauty. I say, a sense of heart; for it is not speculation merely
that is concerned in this kind of understanding; nor can there be a clear
distinction made between the two faculties of understanding and will, as
acting distinctly and separately, in this matter. When the mind is sensible
of the sweet beauty and amiableness of a thing, that implies a sensibleness
of sweetness and delight in the presence of the idea of it: and this
sensibleness of the amiableness or delightfulness of beauty, carries in the
very nature of it the sense of the heart; or an effect and impression the
soul is the subject of, as a substance possessed of taste, inclination and
There is a distinction to be made between a mere notional understanding
wherein the mind only beholds things in the exercise of a speculative
faculty; and the sense of the heart, wherein the mind does not only
speculate and behold, but relishes and feels. That sort of knowledge, by
which a man has a sensible perception of amiableness and loathsomeness,
or of sweetness and nauseousness, is not just the same sort of knowledge
with that by which he knows what a triangle is, and what a square is. The
one is mere speculative knowledge, the other sensible knowledge, in which
more than the mere intellect is concerned; the heart is the proper subject of
it, or the soul, as a being that not only beholds, but has inclination, and is
pleased or displeased. And yet there is the nature of instruction in it; as he
that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it,
than he who has only looked upon, and felt of it.
The apostle seems to make a distinction between mere speculative
knowledge of the things of religion, and spiritual knowledge, in calling that
the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law, Romans 2:20, "Which
hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law." The latter is often
represented by relishing, smelling, or tasting 2 Corinthians 2:14, "Now
thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus,
and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge in every place." Matthew
16:23, "Thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those things that
be of men." 1 Peter 2:2, 3, "As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of
the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord
is gracious." Cant. 1:3, "Because of the savor of thy good ointments, thy
name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee;"
compared with 1 John 2:20, "But ye have an unction from the Holy One,
and ye know all things."
Spiritual understanding primarily consists in this sense, of taste of the
moral beauty of divine things; so that no knowledge can be called spiritual,
any further than it arises from this, and has this in it. But secondarily it
includes all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, which
depend upon and flow from such a sense.
When the true beauty and amiableness of the holiness or true moral good
that is in divine things is discovered to the soul, it as it were opens a new
world to its views. This shows the glory of all the perfections of God, and.177
of everything appertaining to the divine Being. For, as was observed
before, the beauty of all arises from God's moral perfection. This shows
the glory of all God's works, both of creation and providence. For it is the
special glory of them, that God's holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, and
goodness, are so manifested in them; and without these moral perfections,
there would be no glory in that power and skill with which they are
wrought. The glorifying of God's moral perfections, is the special end of
all the works of God's hands. By this sense of the moral beauty of divine
things, is understood the sufficiency of Christ as a mediator; for it is only
by the discovery of the beauty of the moral perfection of Christ, that the
believer is let into the knowledge of the excellency of his person, so as to
know anything more of it than the devils do; and it is only by the
knowledge of the excellency of Christ's person, that any know his
sufficiency as a mediator; for the latter depends upon, and arises from the
former. It is by seeing the excellency of Christ's person, that the saints are
made sensible of the preciousness of his blood, and its sufficiency to atone
for sin; for therein consists the preciousness of Christ's blood, that it is
the blood of so excellent and amiable a person. And on this depends the
meritoriousness of his obedience, and sufficiency and prevalence of his
intercession. By this sight of the moral beauty of divine things, is seen the
beauty of the way of salvation by Christ; for that consists in the beauty of
the moral perfections of God, which wonderfully shines forth in every
step of this method of salvation, from beginning to end. By this is seen the
fitness and suitableness of this way: for this wholly consists in its
tendency to deliver us from sin and hell, and to bring us to the happiness
which consists in the possession and enjoyment of moral good, in a way
sweetly agreeing with God's moral perfections. And in the way's being
contrived so as to attain these ends, consists the excellent wisdom of that
way. By this is seen the excellency of the word of God. Take away all the
moral beauty and sweetness in the word, and the Bible is left wholly a
dead letter, a dry, lifeless, tasteless thing. By this is seen the true
foundation of our duty, the worthiness of God to be so esteemed,
honored, loved, submitted to, and served, as he requires of us, and the
amiableness of the duties themselves that are required of us. And by this is
seen the true evil of sin; for he who sees the beauty of holiness, must
necessarily see the hatefulness of sin, its contrary. By this men understand
the true glory of heaven, which consists in the beauty and happiness that.178
is in holiness. By this is seen the amiableness and happiness of both saints
and angels. He that sees the beauty of holiness, or true moral good, sees
the greatest and most important thing in the world, which is the fullness of
all things, without which all the world is empty, no better than nothing,
yea, worse than nothing. Unless this is seen, nothing is seen that is worth
the seeing; for there is no other true excellency or beauty. Unless this be
understood, nothing is understood that is worthy of the exercise of the
noble faculty of understanding. This is the beauty of the Godhead, and the
divinity of divinity (if I may so speak), the good of the infinite fountain of
good; without which, God himself (if that were possible) would be an
infinite evil; without which we ourselves had better never have been; and
without which there had better have been no being. He therefore in effect
knows nothing, that knows not this; his knowledge is but the shadow of
knowledge, or the form of knowledge, as the apostle calls it. Well therefore
may the Scriptures represent those who are destitute of that spiritual
sense by which is perceived the beauty of holiness, as totally blind, deaf,
and senseless, yea, dead. And well may regeneration, in which this divine
sense is given to the soul by its Creator, be represented as opening the
blind eyes, and raising the dead, and bringing a person into a new world.
For if what has been said be considered, it will be manifest, that when a
person has this sense and knowledge given him, he will view nothing as he
did before; though before he knew all things "after the flesh, yet
henceforth he will know them so no more; and he is become a new
creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new;"
agreeable to 2 Corinthians 5:16, 17.
And besides the things that have been already mentioned, there arises from
this sense of spiritual beauty, all true experimental knowledge of religion,
which is of itself as it were a new world of knowledge. He that sees not
the beauty of holiness, knows not what one of the graces of God's Spirit
is, he is destitute of any idea or conception of all gracious exercises of the
soul, and all holy comforts and delights, and all effects of the saving
influences of the Spirit of God on the heart; and so is ignorant of the
greatest works of God, the most important and glorious effects of his
power upon the creature; and also is wholly ignorant of the saints as
saints, he knows not what they are; and in effect is ignorant of the whole
spiritual world..179
Things being thus, it plainly appears, that God's implanting that spiritual
supernatural sense which has been spoken of, makes a great change in a
man. And were it not for the very imperfect degree, in which this sense is
commonly given at first, or the small degree of this glorious light, that first
dawns upon the soul; the change made by this spiritual opening of the
eyes in conversion, would be much greater and more remarkable every
way, than if a man, who had been born blind, and with only the other four
senses, should continue so a long time, and then at once should have the
sense of seeing imparted to him, in the midst of the clear light of the sun,
discovering a world of visible objects. For though sight be more noble than
any of the other external senses, yet this spiritual sense which has been
spoken of, is infinitely more noble than that, or any other principle of
discerning that a man naturally has, and the object of this sense infinitely
greater and more important.
This sort of understanding or knowledge, is that knowledge of divine
things from whence all truly gracious affections do proceed; by which
therefore all affections are to be tried. Those affections that arise wholly
from any other kind of knowledge, or do result from any other kind of
apprehensions of mind, are vain.
From what has been said, may be learned wherein the most essential
difference lies between that light or understanding which is given by the
common influences of the Spirit of God, on the hearts of natural men, and
that saving instruction which is given to the saints. The latter primarily
and most essentially lies in beholding the holy beauty that is in divine
things; which is the only true moral good, and which the soul of fallen man
is by nature totally blind to. The former consists only in a further
understanding, through the assistance of natural principles, of those things
which men may know, in some measure, by the alone ordinary exercise of
their faculties. And this knowledge consists only in the knowledge of
those things pertaining to religion, which are natural. Thus for instance, in
those awakenings of the conscience, that natural men are often subject to,
the Spirit of God gives no knowledge of the true moral beauty which is in
divine things; but only assists the mind to a clearer idea of the guilt of sin,
or its relation to punishment, and connection with the evil of suffering
(without any sight of its moral evil, or odiousness as sin), and a clearer
idea of the natural perfections of God, wherein consists, not his holy.180
beauty and glory, but his awful and terrible greatness. It is a clear sight of
this, that will fully awaken the consciences of wicked men at the day of
judgment, without any spiritual light. And it is a less degree of the same
that awakens the consciences of natural men, without spiritual light in this
world. The same discoveries are in some measure given in the conscience
of an awakened sinner in this world, which will be given more fully, in the
consciences of sinners at the day of judgment. The same kind of sight or
apprehension of God, in a less degree, makes awakened sinners in this
world sensible of the dreadful guilt of sin, against so great and terrible a
God, and sensible of its amazing punishment, and fills them with fearful
apprehensions of divine wrath, that will thoroughly convince all wicked
men, of the infinitely dreadful nature and guilt of sin, and astonish them
with apprehensions of wrath, when Christ shall come in the glory of his
power and majesty, and every eye shall see him, and all the kindreds of the
earth shall wail because of him. And in those common illuminations which
are sometimes given to natural men, exciting in them some kind of religious
desire, love, and joy, the mind is only assisted to a clearer apprehension of
the natural good that is in divine things. Thus sometimes, under common
illuminations, men are raised with the ideas of the natural good that is in
heaven; as its outward glory; its ease, its honor and advancement, a being
there the object of the high favor of God, and the great respect of men, and
angels, etc. So there are many things exhibited in the gospel concerning
God and Christ, and the way of salvation, that have a natural good in
them, which suits the natural principle of self-love. Thus in that great
goodness of God to sinners, and the wonderful dying love of Christ, there
is a natural good which all men love, as they love themselves; as well as a
spiritual and holy beauty, which is seen only by the regenerate. Therefore
there are many things appertaining to the word of God's grace delivered in
the gospel, which may cause natural men, when they hear it, anon with joy
to receive it. All that love which natural men have to God and Christ, and
Christian virtues, and good men, is not from any sight of the amiableness
of the holiness, or true moral excellency of these things; but only for the
sake of the natural good there is in them. All natural men's hatred of sin, is
as much from principles of nature, as men's hatred of a tiger for his
rapaciousness, or their aversion to a serpent for his poison and
hurtfulness; and all their love of Christian virtue, is from no higher
principle, than their love of a man's good nature, which appears amiable to.181
natural men; but no otherwise than silver and gold appears amiable in the
eyes of a merchant, or than the blackness of the soil is beautiful in the eyes
of the farmer.
From what has been said of the nature of spiritual understanding, it
appears that spiritual understanding does not consist in any new doctrinal
knowledge or in having suggested to the mind any new proposition, not
before read or heard of; for it is plain that this suggesting of new
propositions, is a thing entirely diverse from giving the mind a new taste
or relish of beauty and sweetness. 53 It is also evident that spiritual
knowledge does not consist in any new doctrinal explanation of any part
of the Scripture; for still, this is but doctrinal knowledge, or the knowledge
of propositions; the doctrinal explaining of an part of Scripture, is only
giving us to understand what are the propositions contained or taught in
that part of Scripture.
Hence it appears, that the spiritual understanding of the Scripture, does
not consist in opening to the mind the mystical meaning of the Scripture,
in its parables, types, and allegories; for this is only a doctrinal explication
of the Scripture. He that explains what is meant by the stony ground, and
the seed's springing up suddenly, and quickly withering away, only
explains what propositions or doctrines are taught in it. So he that explains
what is typified by Jacob's ladder, and the angels of God ascending and
descending on it, or what was typified by Joshua's leading Israel through
Jordan, only shows what propositions are hid in these passages. And
many men can explain these types who have no spiritual knowledge. It is
possible that a man might know how to interpret all the types, parables,
enigmas, and allegories in the Bible, and not have one beam of spiritual
light in his mind; because he may not have the least degree of that spiritual
sense of the holy beauty of divine things which has been spoken of, and
may see nothing of this kind of glory in anything contained in any of these
mysteries, or any other part of the Scripture. It is plain, by what the
apostle says, that a man might understand all such mysteries, and have no
saving grace, 1 Corinthians 13:2: "And though I have the gift of prophecy,
and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have not charity, it
profiteth me nothing." They therefore are very foolish, who are exalted in
an opinion of their own spiritual attainments, from notions that come into
their minds, of the mystical meaning of these and those passages of.182
Scripture, as though it was a spiritual understanding of these passages,
immediately given them by the Spirit of God, and hence have their
affections highly raised; and what has been said shows the vanity of such
From what has been said, it is also evident, that it is not spiritual
knowledge for persons to be informed of their duty, by having it
immediately suggested to their minds, that such and such outward actions
or deeds are the will of God. If we suppose that it is truly God's manner
thus to signify his will to his people, by immediate inward suggestions,
such suggestions have nothing of the nature of spiritual light. Such kind of
knowledge would only be one kind of doctrinal knowledge; a proposition
concerning the will of God, is as properly a doctrine of religion, as a
proposition concerning the nature of God, or a work of God; and a having
either of these kinds of propositions, or any other proposition, declared to
a man, either by speech, or inward suggestion, differs vastly from a having
the holy beauty of divine things manifested to the soul, wherein spiritual
knowledge does most essentially consist. Thus there was no spiritual light
in Balaam; though he had the will of God immediately suggested to him by
the Spirit of God from time to time, concerning the way that he should go,
and what he should do and say.
It is manifest, therefore, that a being led and directed in this manner, is not
that holy and spiritual leading of the Spirit of God, which is peculiar to the
saints, and a distinguishing mark of the sons of God, spoken of, Romans
8:14: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God."
Galatians 5:18, "But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law."
And if persons have the will of God concerning their actions, suggested to
them by some text of Scripture, suddenly and extraordinarily brought to
their minds, which text, as the words lay in the Bible before they came to
their minds, related to the action and behavior of some other person, but
they suppose, as God sent the words to them, he intended something
further by them, and meant such a particular action of theirs; I say, if
persons should have the will of God thus suggested to them with texts of
Scripture, it alters not the case. The suggestion being accompanied with an
apt text of Scripture, does not make the suggestion to be the nature of
spiritual instruction. As for instance, if a person in New England, on some.183
occasion, were at a loss whether it was his duty to go into some popish or
heathenish land, where he was like to be exposed to many difficulties and
dangers, and should pray to God that he would show him the way of his
duty; and after earnest prayer, should have those words which God spake
to Jacob, Genesis 46, suddenly and extraordinarily brought to his mind, as
if they were spoken to him; "Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will go
with thee; and I will also surely bring you up again." In which words,
though as they lay in the Bible before they came to his mind, they related
only to Jacob, and his behavior; yet he supposes that God has a further
meaning, as they were brought and applied to him; that thus they are to be
understood in a new sense, that by Egypt is to be understood this
particular country he has in his mind, and that the action intended is his
going thither, and that the meaning of the promise is, that God would bring
him back into New England again. There is nothing of the nature of a
spiritual or gracious leading of the Spirit in this; for there is nothing of the
nature of spiritual understanding in it. Thus to understand texts of
Scripture, is not to have a spiritual understanding of them. Spiritually to
understand the Scriptures, is rightly to understand what is in the Scripture,
and what was in it before it was understood: it is to understand rightly,
what used to be contained in the meaning of it, and not the making of a
new meaning. When the mind is enlightened spiritually and rightly to
understand the Scripture, it is enabled to see that in the Scripture, which
before was not seen by reason of blindness. But if it was by reason of
blindness, that is an evidence that the same meaning was in it before,
otherwise it would have been no blindness not to see it; it is no blindness
not to see a meaning which is not there. Spiritually enlightening the eyes to
understand the Scripture, is to open the eyes: Psalm 119:18, "Open thou
mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law;" which
argues that the reason why the same was not seen in the Scripture before,
was that the eyes were shut; which would not be the case, if the meaning
that is now understood was not there before, but is now newly added to
the Scripture, by the manner of the Scripture's coming to my mind. This
making a new meaning to the Scripture, is the same thing as making a new
Scripture; it is properly adding to the word, which is threatened with so
dreadful a curse. Spiritually to understand the Scripture, is to have the
eyes of the mind opened, to behold the wonderful spiritual excellency of
the glorious things contained in the true meaning of it, and that always.184
were contained in it, ever since it was written; to behold the amiable and
bright manifestations of the divine perfections, and of the excellency and
sufficiency of Christ, and the excellency and suitableness of the way of
salvation by Christ, and the spiritual glory of the precepts and promises
of the Scripture, etc., which things are, and always were in the Bible, and
would have been seen before, if it had not been for blindness, without
having any new sense added, by the words being sent by God to a
particular person, and spoken anew to him, with a new meaning.
And as to a gracious leading of the Spirit, it consists in two things: partly
in instructing a person in his duty by the Spirit, and partly in powerfully
inducing him to comply with that instruction. But so far as the gracious
leading of the Spirit lies in instruction, it consists in a person's being
guided by a spiritual and distinguishing taste of that which has in it true
moral beauty. I have shown that spiritual knowledge primarily consists in
a taste or relish of the amiableness and beauty of that which is truly good
and holy: this holy relish is a thing that discerns and distinguishes between
good and evil, between holy and unholy, without being at the trouble of a
train of reasoning. As he who has a true relish of external beauty, knows
what is beautiful by looking upon it; he stands in no need of a train of
reasoning about the proportion of the features, in order to determine
whether that which he sees be a beautiful countenance or no; he needs
nothing, but only the glance of his eye. He who has a rectified musical ear,
knows whether the sound he hears be true harmony; he does not need first
to be at the trouble of the reasonings of a mathematician about the
proportion of the notes. He that has a rectified palate knows what is good
food, as soon as he tastes it, without the reasoning of a physician about it.
There is a holy beauty and sweetness in words and actions, as well as a
natural beauty in countenances and sounds, and sweetness in food: Job
12:11, "Doth not the ear try words, and the mouth taste his meat?" When
a holy and amiable action is suggested to the thoughts of a holy soul, that
soul, if in the lively exercise of its spiritual taste, at once sees a beauty in
it, and so inclines to it, and closes with it. On the contrary, if an
unworthy, unholy action be suggested to it, its sanctified eye sees no
beauty in it, and is not pleased with it; its sanctified taste relishes no
sweetness in it, but on the contrary, it is nauseous to it. Yea, its holy taste
and appetite leads it to think of that which is truly lovely, and naturally.185
suggests it; as a healthy taste and appetite naturally suggests the idea of its
proper object. Thus a holy person is led by the Spirit, as he is instructed
and led by his holy taste and disposition of heart; whereby, in the lively
exercise of grace, he easily distinguishes good and evil, and knows at once
what is a suitable amiable behavior towards God, and towards man, in this
case and the other, and Judges what is right, as it were spontaneously, and
of himself, without a particular deduction, by any other arguments than
the beauty that is seen, and goodness that is tasted. Thus Christ blames
the Pharisees, that they "did not, even of their own selves, judge what was
right, " without needing miracles to prove it, Luke 12:57. The apostle
seems plainly to have respect to this way of judging of spiritual beauty, in
Romans 12:2: "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye
may prove what is that good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God."
There is such a thing as good taste of natural beauty (which learned men
often speak of) that is exercised about temporal things, in judging of them,
as about the justness of a speech, the goodness of style, the beauty of a
poem, the gracefulness of deportment, etc. A late great philosopher of our
nation writes thus upon it: 54 "To have a taste, is to give things their real
value, to be touched with the good, to be shocked with the ill; not to be
dazzled with false lusters, out in spite of all colors, and everything that
might deceive or amuse, to judge soundly. Taste and judgment, then,
should be the same thing; and yet it is easy to discern a difference. The
judgment forms its opinions from reflection: the reason on this occasion
fetches a kind of circuit, to arrive at its end; it supposes principles, it
draws consequences, and it judges; but not without a thorough knowledge
of the case; so that after it has pronounced, it is ready to render a reason of
its decrees. Good taste observes none of these formalities; ere it has time
to consult, it has taken its side; as soon as ever the object is presented, the
impression is made, the sentiment formed, ask no more of it. As the ear is
wounded with a harsh sound, as the smell is soothed with an agreeable
odor, before ever the reason have meddled with those objects to judge of
them, so the taste opens itself at once, and prevents all reflection. They
may come afterwards to confirm it, and discover the secret reasons of its
conduct; but it was not in its power to wait for them. Frequently it
happens not to know them at all, and what pains soever it uses, cannot
discover what it was determined it to think as it did. This conduct is very.186
different from what the judgment observes in its decisions: unless we
choose to say, that good taste is, as it were, a first motion, or a kind of
instinct of right reason, which hurries on with rapidity and conducts more
securely, than all the reasonings she could make; it is a first glance of the
eye, which discovers to us the nature and relations of things in a moment.
Now as there is such a kind of taste of the mind as this, which
philosophers speak of, whereby persons are guided in their judgment, of
the natural beauty, gracefulness, propriety, nobleness, and sublimity of
speeches and action, whereby they judge as it were by the glance of the
eye, or by inward sensation, and the first impression of the object; so
there is likewise such a thing as a divine taste, given and maintained by the
Spirit of God, in the hearts of the saints, whereby they are in like manner
led and guided in discerning and distinguishing the true spiritual and holy
beauty of actions; and that more easily, readily, and accurately, as they
have more or less of the Spirit of God dwelling in them. And thus "the
sons of God are led by the Spirit of God, in their behavior in the world."
A holy disposition and spiritual taste, where grace is strong and lively,
will enable the soul to determine what actions are right and becoming
Christians, not only more speedily, but far more exactly, than the greatest
abilities without it. This may be illustrated by the manner in which some
habits of mind, and dispositions of heart, of a nature inferior to true grace,
will teach and guide a man in his actions. As for instance, if a man be a
very good natured man, his good nature will teach him better how to act
benevolently amongst mankind, and will direct him, on every occasion, to
those speeches and actions, which are agreeable to rules of goodness, than
the strongest reason will a man of a morose temper. So if a man's heart be
under the influence of an entire friendship, and most endeared affection to
another; though he be a man of an indifferent capacity, yet this habit of his
mind will direct him, far more readily and exactly, to a speech and
deportment, or manner of behavior, which shall in all respects be sweet
and kind, and agreeable to a benevolent disposition of heart, than the
greatest capacity without it. He has as it were a spirit within him, that
guides him; the habit of his mind is attended with a taste, by which he
immediately relishes that air and mien which is benevolent, and disrelishes
the contrary, and causes him to distinguish between one and the other in a
moment, more precisely, than the most accurate reasonings can find out in.187
many hours. As the nature and inward tendency of a stone, or other heavy
body, that is let fall from aloft, shows the way to the center of the earth,
more exactly in an instant, than the ablest mathematician, without it, could
determine, by his most accurate observations, in a whole day. Thus it is
that a spiritual disposition and taste teaches and guides a man in his
behavior in the world. So an eminently humble, or meek, or charitable
disposition, will direct a person of mean capacity to such a behavior, as is
agreeable to Christian rules of humility, meekness and charity far more
readily and precisely than the most diligent study, and elaborate
reasonings, of a man of the strongest faculties, who has not a Christian
spirit within him. So also will a spirit of love to God, and holy fear and
reverence towards God, and filial confidence in God, and a heavenly
disposition, teach and guide a man in his behavior.
It is an exceedingly difficult thing for a wicked man, destitute of Christian
principles in his heart to guide him, to know how to demean himself like a
Christian with the life and beauty, and heavenly sweetness of a truly holy,
humble, Christ like behavior. He knows not how to put on these garments,
neither do they fit him: Ecclesiastes 10:2, 3, "A wise man's heart is at his
right hand; but a fool's heart is at his left. Yea also, when he that is a fool
walketh by the ways his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to everyone that
he is a fool;" with ver. 15, "The labor of the foolish wearieth everyone of
them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city." Proverbs 10:32,
"The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable." Chap. 15:2, "The
tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright; but the mouth of fools poureth
out foolishness." And chap. 16:23, "The heart of the righteous teacheth
his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips." The saints in thus judging of
actions by a spiritual taste, have not a particular recourse to express rules
of God's word, with respect to every word and action that is before them,
the good or evil of which they thus judge: but yet their taste itself, in
general, is subject to the rule of God's word, and must be tried by that,
and a right reasoning upon it. As a man of a rectified palate judges of
particular morsels by his taste; but yet his palate itself must be judged of,
whether it be right or no, by certain rules and reasons. But a spiritual taste
of soul mightily helps the soul in its reasonings on the word of God, and in
judging of the true meaning of its rules: as it removes the prejudices of a
depraved appetite, and naturally leads the thoughts in the right channel,.188
casts a light on the word of God, and causes the true meaning most
naturally to come to mind, through the harmony there is between the
disposition and relish of a sanctified soul, and the true meaning of the rules
of God's word. Yea, this harmony tends to bring the texts themselves to
mind, on proper occasions; as the particular state of the stomach and
palate tends to bring such particular meats and drinks to mind, as are
agreeable to that state. "Thus the children of God are led by the Spirit of
God, " in judging of actions themselves, and in their meditations upon, and
judging of, and applying the rules of God's holy word: and so God
"teaches them his statutes, and causes them to understand the way of his
precepts;" which the Psalmist so often prays for.
But this leading of the Spirit is a thing exceedingly diverse from that which
some call so; which consists not in teaching them God's statutes and
precepts, that he has already given; but in giving them new precepts, by
immediate inward speech or suggestion, and has in it no tasting the true
excellency of things, or judging or discerning the nature of things at all.
They do not determine what is the will of God by any taste or relish, or
any manner of judging of the nature of things, but by an immediate dictate
concerning the thing to be done; there is no such thing as any judgment or
wisdom in the case. Whereas in that leading of the Spirit which is peculiar
to God's children, is imparted that true wisdom, and holy discretion, so
often spoken of in the word of God; which is high above the other way, as
the stars are higher than a glow worm; and that which Balaam and Saul
(who sometimes were led by the Spirit in that other way) never had, and
no natural man can have, without a change of nature.
What has been said of the nature of spiritual understanding, as consisting
most essentially in a divine supernatural sense and relish of the heart, not
only shows that there is nothing of it in this falsely supposed leading of
the Spirit, which has been now spoken of; but also shows the difference
between spiritual understanding, and all kinds and forms of enthusiasm, all
imaginary sights of God, and Christ, and heaven, all supposed witnessing
of the Spirit, and testimonies of the love of God by immediate inward
suggestion: and all impressions of future events, and immediate revelations
of any secret facts whatsoever; all enthusiastical impressions and
applications of words of Scripture, as though they were words now
immediately spoken by God to a particular person, in a new meaning, and.189
carrying something more in them, than the words contain as they lie in the
Bible; and all interpretations of the mystical meaning of the Scripture, by
supposed immediate revelation. None of these things consists in a divine
sense and relish of the heart, of the holy beauty and excellency of divine
things; nor have they anything to do with such a sense; but all consists in
impressions in the head; all are to be referred to the head of impressions on
the imagination, and consist in the exciting external ideas in the mind, either
in ideas of outward shapes and colors, or words spoken, or letters written,
or ideas of things external and sensible, belonging to actions done, or
events accomplished or to be accomplished. An enthusiastical supposed
manifestation of the love of God, is made by the exciting an idea of a
smiling countenance, or some other pleasant outward appearance, or by
the idea of pleasant words spoken, or written, excited in the imagination,
or some pleasant bodily sensation. So when persons have an imaginary
revelation of some secret fact, it is by exciting external ideas; either of
some words, implying a declaration of that fact, or some visible or sensible
circumstances of such a fact. So the supposed leading of the Spirit, to do
the will of God, in outward behavior, is either by exciting the idea of
words (which are outward things) in their minds, either the words of
Scripture, or other words, which they look upon as an immediate
command of God; or else by exciting and impressing strongly the ideas of
the outward actions themselves. So when an interpretation of a Scripture
type or allegory, is immediately, in an extraordinary way, strongly
suggested, it is by suggesting words, as though one secretly whispered and
told the meaning, or by exciting other ideas in the imagination.
Such sort of experiences and discoveries as these, commonly raise the
affections of such as are deluded by them, to a great height, and make a
mighty uproar in both soul and body. And a very great part of the false
religion that has been in the world, from one age to another, consists in
such discoveries as these, and in the affections that flow from them. In
such things consisted the experiences of the ancient Pythagoreans among
the heathen, and many others among them, who had strange ecstasies and
raptures, and pretended to a divine afflatus, and immediate revelations
from heaven. In such things as these seem to have consisted the
experiences of the Essenes, an ancient sect among the Jews, at and after
the time of the apostles. In such things as these consisted the experiences.190
of many of the ancient Gnostics, and the Montanists, and many Other
sects of ancient heretics, in the primitive ages of the Christian church. And
in such things as these consisted the pretended immediate converse with
God and Christ, and saints and angels of heaven, of the Monks,
Anchorites, and Recluses, that formerly abounded in the Church of Rome.
In such things consisted the pretended high experiences and great
spirituality of many sects of enthusiasts, that swarmed in the world after
the Reformation; such as the Anabaptists, Antinomians, and Familists, the
followers of N. Stork, Th. Muncer, Jo. Becold, Henry Pfeiser, David
George, Casper Swenckfield, Henry Nicolas Johannes Agrcola Eislebius;
and the many wild enthusiasts that were in England in the days of Oliver
Cromwell; and the followers of Mrs. Hutchison in New England; as
appears by the particular and large accounts given of all these sects by that
eminently holy man, Mr. Samuel Rutherford, in his "Display of the
Spiritual Antichrist." And in such things as these consisted the experiences
of the late French prophets, and their followers. And in these things seems
to lie the religion of the many kinds of enthusiasts of the present day. It is
by such sort of religion as this, chiefly, that Satan transforms himself into
an angel of light: and it is that which he has ever most successfully made
use of to confound hopeful and happy revivals of religion, from the
beginning of the Christian church to this day. When the Spirit of God is
poured out, to begin a glorious work, then the old serpent, as fast as
possible, and by all means, introduces this bastard religion, and mingles it
with the true; which has from time to time soon brought all things into
confusion. The pernicious consequence of it is not easily imagined or
conceived of, until we see and are amazed with the awful effects of it, and
the dismal desolation it has made. If the revival of true religion be very
great in its beginning, yet if this bastard comes in, there is danger of its
doing as Gideon's bastard Abimelech did, who never left until he had slain
all his threescore and ten true-born sons, excepting one, that was forced to
fly. Great and strict therefore should be the watch and guard that ministers
maintain against such things, especially at a time of great awakening: for
men, especially the common people, are easily bewitched with such
things; they having such a glaring and glistering show of high religion; and
the devil biding his own shape, and appearing as an angel of light, that men
may not be afraid of him, but may adore him..191
The imagination or phantasy seems to be that wherein are formed all those
delusions of Satan, which those are carried away with, who are under the
influence of false religion, and counterfeit graces and affections. Here is the
devil's grand lurking place, the very nest of foul and delusive spirits. It is
very much to be doubted, whether the devil can come at the soul of man at
all to affect it, or to excite any thought, or motion, or produce any effect
whatsoever in it, any other way, than by the phantasy; which is that
power of the soul, by which it receives, and is the subject of the species,
or ideas of outward and sensible things. As to the laws and means which
the Creator has established, for the intercourse and communication of
unbodied spirits, we know nothing about them; we do not know by what
medium they manifest their thoughts to each other, or excite thoughts in
each other. But as to spirits that are united to bodies, those bodies God
has united them to, are their medium of communication. They have no
other medium of acting on other creatures, or being acted on by them, than
the body. Therefore it is not to be supposed that Satan can excite any
thought, or produce any effect in the soul of man, any otherwise, than by
some motion of the animal spirits, or by causing some motion or alteration
in some thing which appertains to the body. There is this reason to think
that the devil cannot produce thoughts in the soul immediately, or any
other way than by the medium of the body, viz., that he cannot
immediately see or know the thoughts of the soul: it is abundantly
declared in the Scripture, to be peculiar to the omniscient God to do that.
But it is not likely that the devil can immediately produce an effect, which
is out of the reach of his immediate view. It seems unreasonable to
suppose, that his immediate agency should be out of his own sight, or that
it should be impossible for him to see what he himself immediately does.
Is it not unreasonable to suppose, that any spirit or intelligent agent,
should by the act of his will, produce effects according to his
understanding, or agreeable to his own thoughts, and that immediately, and
yet the effects produced be beyond the reach of his understanding, or
where he can have no immediate perception or discerning at all? But if this
be so, that the devil cannot produce thoughts in the soul immediately, or
any other way than by the animal spirits, or by the body, then it follows,
that he never brings to pass anything in the soul, but by the imagination or
phantasy, or by exciting external ideas. For we know that alterations in the
body do immediately excite no other sort of ideas in the mind, but external.192
ideas, or ideas of the outward senses, or ideas which are of the same
outward nature. As to reflection, abstraction, reasoning, etc., and those
thoughts and inward motions which are the fruits of these acts of the
mind, they are not the next effects of impressions on the body. So that it
must be only by the imagination, that Satan has access to the soul, to
tempt and delude it, or suggest anything to it. 55 And this seems to be the
reason why persons that are under the disease of melancholy, are
commonly so visibly and remarkably subject to the suggestions and
temptations of Satan; that being a disease which peculiarly affects the
animal spirits, and is attended with weakness of that part of the body
which is the fountain of the animal spirits, even the brain, which is, as it
were, the seat of the phantasy. It is by impressions made on the brain,
that any ideas are excited in the mind, by the motion of the animal spirits,
or any changes made in the body. The brain being thus weakened and
diseased, it is less under the command of the higher faculties of the soul,
and yields the more easily to extrinsic impressions, and is overpowered by
the disordered motions of the animal spirits; and so the devil has greater
advantage to affect the mind, by working on the imagination. And thus
Satan, when he casts in those horrid suggestions into the minds of many
melancholy persons, in which they have no hand themselves, he does it by
exciting imaginary ideas, either of some dreadful words or sentences, or
other horrid outward ideas. And when he tempts other persons who are
not melancholy, he does it by presenting to the imagination, in a lively and
alluring manner, the objects of their lusts, or by exciting ideas of words,
and so by them exciting thoughts; or by promoting an imagination of
outward actions, events, circumstances, etc. Innumerable are the ways by
which the mind might be led on to all kind of evil thoughts, by exciting
external ideas in the imagination.
If persons keep no guard at these avenues of Satan, by which he has access
to the soul, to tempt and delude it, they will be likely to have enough of
him. And especially, if instead of guarding against him, they lay
themselves open to him, and seek and invite him, because he appears as an
angel of light, and counterfeits the illuminations and graces of the Spirit of
God, by inward whispers, and immediate suggestions of facts and events,
pleasant voices, beautiful images, and other impressions on the
imagination. There are many who are deluded by such things, and are lifted.193
up with them, and seek after them, that have a continued course of them,
and can have them almost when they will; and especially when their pride
and vainglory has most occasion for them, to make a show of them before
company. It is with them, something as it is with those who are
professors of the art of telling where lost things are to be found, by
impressions made on their imaginations; they laying themselves open to
the devil, he is always on hand to give them the desired impression.
Before I finish what I would say on this head of imaginations,
counterfeiting spiritual light, and affections arising from them, I would
renewedly (to prevent misunderstanding of what has been said) desire it
may be observed, that I am far from determining, that no affections are
spiritual which are attended with imaginary ideas. Such is the nature of
man, that he can scarcely think of anything intensely, without some kind
of outward ideas. They arise and interpose themselves unavoidably, in the
course of a man's thoughts; though oftentimes they are very confused, and
are not what the mind regards. When the mind is much engaged, and the
thoughts intense, oftentimes the imagination is more strong, and the
outward idea more lively, especially in persons of some constitutions of
body. But there is a great difference between these two things viz., lively
imaginations arising from strong affections, and strong affections arising
from lively imaginations. The former may be, and doubtless often is, in
case of truly gracious affections. The affections do not arise from the
imagination, nor have any dependence upon it; but on the contrary, the
imagination is only the accidental effect, or consequent of the affection,
through the infirmity of human nature. But when the latter is the case, as it
often is, that the affection arises from the imagination, and is built upon it,
as its foundation, instead of a spiritual illumination or discovery, then is
the affection, however elevated, worthless and vain. And this is the drift of
what has been now said, of impressions on the imagination. Having
observed this, I proceed to another mark of gracious affections.
V. Truly gracious affections are attended with a reasonable and spiritual
conviction of the judgment, of the reality and certainty of divine
This seems to be implied in the text that was laid as the foundation of this
discourse: "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see
him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
All those who are truly gracious persons have a solid, full, thorough and
effectual conviction of the truth of the great things of the gospel; I mean,
that they no longer halt between two opinions; the great doctrines of the
gospel cease to be any longer doubtful things, or matters of opinion,
which, though probable, are yet disputable; but with them, they are points
settled and determined, as undoubted and indisputable, so that they are
not afraid to venture their all upon their truth. Their conviction is an
effectual conviction; so that the great spiritual mysterious and invisible
things of the gospel, have the influence of real and certain things upon
them; they have the weight and power of real things in their hearts; and
accordingly rule in their affections, and govern them through the course of
their lives. With respect to Christ's being the Son of God, and Savior of
the world, and the great things he has revealed concerning himself, and his
Father, and another world, they have not only a predominating opinion
that these things are true, and so yield their assent, as they do in many
other matters of doubtful speculation; but they see that it is really so; their
eyes are opened, so that they see that really Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
the living God. And as to the things which Christ has revealed, of God's
eternal purposes and designs, concerning fallen man, and the glorious and
everlasting things prepared for the saints in another world, they see that
they are so indeed; and therefore these things are of great weight with
them, and have a mighty power upon their hearts, and influence over their
practice, in some measure answerable to their infinite importance.
That all true Christians have such a kind of conviction of the truth of the
things of the gospel, is abundantly manifest from the Holy Scriptures. I
will mention a few places of many: Matthew 16:15, 16, 17, "But whom
say ye that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son
of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art
thou, Simon Barjona; — My Father which is in heaven hath revealed it
unto thee." John 6:68, 69 "Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we
believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God."
John 17:6, 7, 8, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou
gavest me out of the world. Now they have known that all things.195
whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee. For I have given unto them the
words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have
known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou
didst send me." Acts 8:37, "If thou believest with all thy heart, thou
mayest." 2. Corinthians 4:11, 12, 13, 14, "We which live, are always
delivered unto death for Jesus' sake. — Death worketh in us. — We
having the spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and
therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing,
that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and
shall present us with you." Together with ver. 16, "For which cause we
faint not." And ver. 18 "While we look not at the things which are seen, "
etc. And chap. 5:1, "For we know, that if our earthly house of this
tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God." And ver. 6, 7, 8,
"Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home
in the body, we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by
sight. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the
body, and present with the Lord." 2 Timothy 1:12, "For the which cause I
also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I
have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have
committed unto him against that day." Hebrews 3:6, "Whose house are
we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto
the end." Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
and the evidence of things not seen;" together with that whole chapter. 1
John 4:13, 14, 15, 16, "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in
us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen, and do
testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in
him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God
hath to us." Chap. 5:4, 5, "For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the
world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is
the Son of God?"
Therefore truly gracious affections are attended with such a kind of
conviction and persuasion of the truth of the things of the gospel, and
sight of their evidence and reality, as these and other Scriptures speak of..196
There are many religious affections, which are not attended with such a
conviction of the judgment. There are many apprehensions and ideas
which some have, that they call divine discoveries, which are affecting, but
not convincing. Though for a little while they may seem to be more
persuaded of the truth of the things of religion than they used to be, and
may yield a forward assent, like many of Christ's hearers, who believed
for a while; yet they have no thorough and effectual conviction; nor is
there any great abiding change in them, in this respect, that whereas
formerly they did not realize the great things of the gospel, now these
things, with regard to reality and certainty, appear new to them, and they
behold them, quite in another view than they used to do. There are many
persons who have been exceedingly raised with religious affections, and
think they have been converted, that do not go about the world any more
convinced of the truth of the gospel, than they used to be; or at least, there
is no remarkable alteration: they are not men who live under the influence
and power of a realizing conviction of the infinite and eternal things which
the gospel reveals; if they were, it would be impossible for them to live as
they do. Because their affections are not attended with a thorough
conviction of the mind, they are not at all to be depended on; however
great a show and noise they make, it is like the blaze of tow, or crackling
of thorns, or like the forward flourishing blade on stony ground, that has
no root, nor deepness of earth to maintain its life.
Some persons, under high affections, and a confident persuasion of their
good estate, have that, which they very ignorantly call a seeing the truth of
the word of God, and which is very far from it, after this manner; they
have some text of Scripture coming to their minds in a sudden and
extraordinary manner, immediately declaring unto them (as they suppose)
that their sins are forgiven, or that God loves them, and will save them;
and it may be, have a chain of Scriptures coming one after another, to the
same purpose; and they are convinced that it is truth; i.e., they are
confident that it is certainly so, that their sins are forgiven, and God does
love them, etc. — they say they know it is so; and when the words of
Scripture are suggested to them, and as they suppose immediately spoken
to them by God, in this meaning, they are ready to cry out, Truth, truth!
It is certainly so! The word of God is true! And this they call a seeing the
truth of the word of God. Whereas the whole of their faith amounts to no.197
more, than only a strong confidence of their own good estate, and so a
confidence that these words are true, which they suppose tell them they
are in a good estate: when indeed (as was shown before) there is no
Scripture which declares that any person is in a good estate directly, or
any other way than by consequence. So that this, instead of being a real
sight of the truth of the word of God, is a sight of nothing but a phantom,
and is wholly a delusion. Truly to see the truth of the word of God, is to
see the truth of the gospel; which is the glorious doctrine the word of God
contains, concerning God, and Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation by
him, and the world of glory that he is entered into, and purchased for all
them who believe; and not a revelation that such and such particular
persons are true Christians, and shall go to heaven. Therefore those
affections which arise from no other persuasion of the truth of the word of
God than this, arise from delusion, and not true conviction; and
consequently are themselves delusive and vain.
But if the religious affections that persons have, do indeed arise from a
strong persuasion of the truth of the Christian religion, their affections are
not the better, unless their persuasion be a reasonable persuasion or
conviction. By a reasonable conviction, I mean, a conviction founded on
real evidence, or upon that which is a good reason, or just ground of
conviction. Men may have a strong persuasion that the Christian religion
is true, when their persuasion is not at all built on evidence, but altogether
on education, and the opinion of others; as many Mahometans are
strongly persuaded of the truth of the Mahometan religion, because their
fathers, and neighbors, and nation believe it. That belief of the troth of the
Christian religion, which is built on the very same grounds with a
Mahometan's belief of the Mahometan religion, is the same sort of belief.
And though the thing believed happens to be better, yet that does not
make the belief itself to be of a better sort; for though the thing believed
happens to be true, yet the belief of it is not owing to this truth, but to
education. So that as the conviction is no better than the Mahometan's
conviction; so the affections that flow from it, are no better in themselves,
than the religious affections of Mahometans.
But if that belief of Christian doctrines, which persons' affections arise
from, be not merely from education, but indeed from reasons and
arguments which are offered, it will not from thence necessarily follow,.198
that their affections are truly gracious: for in order to that, it is requisite
not only that the belief which their affections arise from, should be a
reasonable, but also a spiritual belief or conviction. I suppose none will
doubt but that some natural men do yield a kind of assent of their
judgments to the truth of the Christian religion, from the rational proofs or
arguments that are offered to evince it. Judas, without doubt, thought
Jesus to be the Messiah, from the things which he saw and heard; but yet
all along was a devil. So in John 2:23, 24, 25, we read of many that
believed in Christ's name, when they saw the miracles that he did; whom
yet Christ knew had not that within them, which was to be depended on.
So Simon the sorcerer believed, when he beheld the miracles and signs
which were done; but yet remained in the gall of bitterness, and bond of
iniquity, Acts 8:13, 23. And if there is such a belief or assent of the
judgment in some natural men, none can doubt but that religious affections
may arise from that assent or belief; as we read of some who believed for a
while, that were greatly affected, and anon with joy received the word.
It is evident that there is such a thing as a spiritual belief or conviction of
the truth of the things of the gospel, or a belief that is peculiar to those
who are spiritual, or who are regenerated, and have the Spirit of God, in
his holy communications, and dwelling in them as a vital principle. So that
the conviction they have, does not only differ from that which natural men
have, in its concomitants, in that it is accompanied with good works; but
the belief itself is diverse, the assent and conviction of the judgment is of a
kind peculiar to those who are spiritual, and that which natural men are
wholly destitute of. This is evident by the Scripture, if anything at all is
so: John 17:8, "They have believed that thou didst send me." Titus 1:1,
"According to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth
which is after godliness." John 16:27, "The Father himself loveth you,
because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." 1
John 4:15, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God
dwelleth in him, and he in God." Chap. 5:1, "Whosoever believeth that
Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." Ver. 10, "He that believeth on the Son
of God, hath the witness in himself."
What a spiritual conviction of the judgment is, we are naturally led to
determine from what has been said already under the former head of a
spiritual understanding. The conviction of the judgment arises from the.199
illumination of the understanding; the passing of a right judgment on
things, depends on having aright apprehension or idea of things. And
therefore it follows, that a spiritual conviction of the truth of the great
things of the gospel, is such a conviction, as arises from having a spiritual
view or apprehension of those things in the mind. And this is also evident
from the Scripture, which often represents, that a saving belief of the
reality and divinity of the things proposed and exhibited to us in the
gospel, is from the Spirit of God's enlightening the mind, to have right
apprehensions of the nature of those things, and so as it were unveiling
things, or revealing them, and enabling the mind to view them and see them
as they are. Luke 10:21, 22, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast
revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy
sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth
who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he
to whom the Son will reveal him." John 6:40, "And this is the will of him
that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him,
may have everlasting life." Where it is plain, that true faith arises from a
spiritual sight of Christ. And John 17:6, 7, 8, "I have manifested thy name
unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. Now they have
known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee. For I
have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have
received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they
have believed that thou didst send one." Where Christ's manifesting God's
name to the disciples, or giving them a true apprehension and view of
divine things, was that whereby they knew that Christ's doctrine was of
God, and that Christ himself was of him, and was sent by him: Matthew
16:16, 17, "Simon Peter said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is
in heaven." 1 John 5:10, "He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the
witness in himself." Galatians 1:14, 16, 16, "Being more exceedingly
zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who
separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to
reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;
immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.".200
If it be so, that that is a spiritual conviction of the divinity and reality of
the things exhibited in the gospel, which arises from a spiritual
understanding of those things; I have shown already what that is, viz., a
sense and taste of the divine, supreme, and holy excellency and beauty of
those things. So that then is the mind spiritually convinced of the divinity
and truth of the great things of the gospel, when that conviction arises,
either directly or remotely, from such a sense or view of their divine
excellency and glory as is there exhibited. This clearly follows, from things
that have been already said: and for this the Scripture is very plain and
express, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6: "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 unto them. For we preach not ourselves,
but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 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." Together with the last verse of the foregoing chapter,
which introduces this, "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." Nothing can be more evident, than that
a saving belief of the gospel is here spoken of, by the apostle, as arising
from the mind's being enlightened to behold the divine glory of the things
it exhibits.
This view or sense of the divine glory, and unparalleled beauty of the
things exhibited to us in the gospel, has a tendency to convince the mind of
their divinity, two ways; directly, and more indirectly, and remotely. 1. A
view of this divine glory directly convinces the mind of the divinity of
these things, as this glory is in itself a direct, clear, and all-conquering
evidence of it; especially when clearly discovered, or when this
supernatural sense is given in a good degree.
He that has his judgment thus directly convinced and assured of the
divinity of the things of the gospel, by a clear view of their divine glory,
has a reasonable conviction; his belief and assurance is altogether agreeable
to reason; because the divine glory and beauty of divine things is, in itself,
real evidence of the divinity, and the most direct and strong evidence. He
that truly sees the divine transcendent, supreme glory of those things.201
which are divine, does as it were know their divinity intuitively: he not
only argues that they are divine, but he sees that they are divine; he sees
that in them wherein divinity chiefly consists, for in this glory which is so
vastly and inexpressibly distinguished from the glory of artificial things,
and all other glory, does mainly consist the true notion of divinity. God is
God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above them,
chiefly by his divine beauty, which is infinitely diverse from all other
beauty. — They therefore that see the stamp of this glory in divine things,
they see divinity in them, they see God in them, and see them to be divine;
because they see that in them wherein the truest idea of divinity does
consist. Thus a soul may have a kind of intuitive knowledge of the divinity
of the things exhibited in the gospel; not that he judges the doctrines of the
gospel to be from God, without any argument or deduction at all; but it is
without any long chain of arguments; the argument is but one, and the
evidence direct; the mind ascends to the truth of the gospel but by one
step, and that is its divine glory.
It would be very strange, if any professing Christian should deny it to be
possible, that there should be an excellency in divine things, which is so
transcendent, and exceedingly different from what is in other things, that if
it were seen, would evidently distinguish them. We cannot rationally
doubt, but that things that are divine, that appertain to the Supreme Being,
are vastly different from things that are human: that there is a Godlike,
high, and glorious excellency in them, that does so distinguish them from
the things which are of men, that the difference is inevitable; and therefore
such as, if seen, will have a most convincing, satisfying influence upon
anyone, that they are what they are, viz., divine. Doubtless there is that
glory and excellency in the divine Being, by which he is so infinitely
distinguished from all other beings, that if it were seen, he might be known
by it. It would therefore be very unreasonable to deny, that it is possible
for God to give manifestations of this distinguishing excellency, in things
by which he is pleased to make himself known; and that this distinguishing
excellency may be clearly seen in them. There are natural excellencies, that
are very evidently distinguishing of the subjects or authors, to anyone who
beholds them. How vastly is the speech of an understanding man different
from that of a little child! And how greatly distinguished is the speech of
some men of great genius, as Homer, Cicero, Milton, Locke, Addison, and.202
others, from that of many other understanding men! There are no limits to
be set to the degrees of manifestation of mental excellency, that there may
be in speech. But the appearances of the natural perfections of God, in the
manifestations he makes of himself, may doubtless be unspeakably more
evidently distinguishing, than the appearances of those excellencies of
worms of the dust, in which they differ one from another. He that is well
acquainted with mankind, and their works, by viewing the sun, may know
it is no human work. And it is reasonable to suppose, that when Christ
comes at the end of the world, in the glory of his Father, it will be with
such ineffable appearances of divinity, as will leave no doubt to the
inhabitants of the world, even the most obstinate infidels, that he who
appears is a divine person. But above all, do the manifestations of the
moral and spiritual glory of the divine Being (which is the proper beauty
of the divinity) bring their own evidence, and tend to assure the heart.
Thus the disciples were assured that Jesus was the Son of God, "for they
beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of
grace and truth, " John 1:14. When Christ appeared in the glory of his
transfiguration to his disciples, with that outward glory to their bodily
eyes, which was a sweet and admirable symbol and semblance of his
spiritual glory, together with his spiritual glory itself, manifested to their
minds; the manifestation of glory was such, as did perfectly, and with
good reason, assure them of his divinity; as appears by what one of them,
viz., the Apostle Peter, says concerning it, 2 Peter 1:16, 17, 18, "For we
have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto
you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were
eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father, honor
and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory,
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which
came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount."
The apostle calls that mount, the holy mount, because the manifestations
of Christ which were there made to their minds, and which their minds
were especially impressed and ravished with, were the glory of his
holiness, or the beauty of his moral excellency; or, as another of these
disciples, who saw it, expresses it, "his glory, as full of grace and truth."
Now this distinguishing glory of the divine Being has its brightest
appearance and manifestation, in the things proposed and exhibited to us.203
in the gospel, the doctrines there taught, the word there spoken, and the
divine counsels, acts and works there revealed. These things have the
clearest, most admirable, and distinguishing representations and exhibitions
of the glory of God's moral perfections, that ever were made to the world.
And if there be such a distinguishing, evidential manifestation of divine
glory in the gospel, it is reasonable to suppose that there may be such a
thing as seeing it. What should hinder but that it may be seen? It is no
argument that it cannot be seen, that some do not see it; though they may
be discerning men in temporal matters. If there be such ineffable,
distinguishing, evidential excellencies in the gospel, it is reasonable to
suppose, that they are such as are not to be discerned, but by the special
influence and enlightenings of the Spirit of God. There is need of
uncommon force of mind to discern the distinguishing excellencies of the
works of authors of great genius: those things in Milton, which, to mean
judges, appear tasteless and imperfections, are his inimitable excellencies in
the eyes of those, who are of greater discerning and better taste. And if
there be a book, which God is the author of, it is most reasonable to
suppose, that the distinguishing glories of his word are of such a kinds as
that the corruption of men's hearts, which above all things alienates men
from the Deity, and makes the heart dull and stupid to any sense or taste
of those things wherein the moral glory of the divine perfections consists:
I say, it is but reasonable to suppose, that this would blind men from
discerning the beauties of such a book; and that therefore they will not see
them, but as God is pleased to enlighten them, and restore a holy taste, to
discern and relish divine beauties.
This sense of the spiritual excellency and beauty of divine things, does
also tend directly to convince the mind of the truth of the gospel, as there
are very many of the most important things declared in the gospel, that are
hid from the eyes of natural men, the truth of which does in effect consist
in this excellency, or does so immediately depend upon it, and result from
it, that in this excellency's being seen, the truth of those things is seen. As
soon as ever the eyes are opened to behold the holy beauty and
amiableness that is in divine things, a multitude of most important
doctrines of the gospel that depend upon it (which all appear strange and
dark to natural men) are at once seen to be true. As for instance, hereby
appears the truth of what the word of God declares concerning the.204
exceeding evil of sin; for the same eye that discerns the transcendent
beauty of holiness, necessarily therein sees the exceeding odiousness of
sin: the same taste which relishes the sweetness of true moral good, tastes
the bitterness of moral evil. And by this means a man sees his own
sinfulness and loathsomeness; for he has now a sense to discern objects of
this nature; and so sees the truth of what the word of God declares
concerning the exceeding sinfulness of mankind, which before he did not
see. He now sees the dreadful pollution of his heart, and the desperate
depravity of his nature, in a new manner; for his soul has now a sense
given it to feel the pain of such a disease; and this shows him the truth of
what the Scripture reveals concerning the corruption of man's nature, his
original sin, and the ruinous, undone condition man is in, and his need of a
Savior, his need of the mighty power of God to renew his heart and change
his nature. Men, by seeing the true excellency of holiness, do see the glory
of all those things, which both reason and Scripture show to be in the
divine Being; for it has been shown, that the glory of them depends on
this: and hereby they see the truth of all that the Scripture declares
concerning: God's glorious excellency and majesty, his being the fountain
of all good, the only happiness of the creature, etc. And this again shows
the mind the truth of what the Scripture teaches concerning the evil of sin
against so glorious a God; and also the truth of what it teaches concerning
sin's just desert of that dreadful punishment which it reveals; and also
concerning the impossibility of our offering any satisfaction, or sufficient
atonement for that which is so infinitely evil and heinous. And this again
shows the truth of what the Scripture reveals concerning the necessity of a
Savior, to offer an atonement of infinite value for sin. And this sense of
spiritual beauty that has been spoken of, enables the soul to see the glory
of those things which the gospel reveals concerning the person of Christ;
and so enables to see the exceeding beauty and dignity of his person,
appearing in what the gospel exhibits of his word, works, acts, and life:
and this apprehension of the superlative dignity of his person shows the
truth of what the gospel declares concerning the value of his blood and
righteousness, and so the infinite excellency of that offering he has made to
God for us, and so its sufficiency to atone for our sins, and recommend us
to God. And thus the Spirit of God discovers the way of salvation by
Christ; thus the soul sees the fitness and suitableness of this way of
salvation, the admirable wisdom of the contrivance, and the perfect.205
answerableness of the provision that the gospel exhibits (as made for us)
to our necessities. A sense of true divine beauty being given to the soul,
the soul discerns the beauty of every part of the gospel scheme. This also
shows the soul the truth of what the word of God declares concerning
man's chief happiness, as consisting in holy exercises and enjoyments.
This shows the truth of what the gospel declares concerning the
unspeakable glory of the heavenly state. And what the prophecies of the
Old Testaments and the writings of the apostles declare concerning the
glory of the Messiah's kingdom, is now all plain; and also what the
Scripture teaches concerning the reasons and grounds of our duty. The
truth of all these things revealed in the Scripture, and many more that
might be mentioned, appears to the soul, only by imparting that spiritual
taste of divine beauty, which has been spoken of; they being hidden things
to the soul before.
And besides all this, the truth of all those things which the Scripture says
about experimental religion, is hereby known; for they are now
experienced. And this convinces the soul, that one who knew the heart of
man, better than we know our own hearts, and perfectly knew the nature
of virtue and holiness, was the author of the Scriptures. And the opening
to view, with such clearness, such a world of wonderful and glorious truth
in the gospel, that before was unknown, being quite above the view of a
natural eye, but now appearing so clear and bright, has a powerful and
invincible influence on the soul, to persuade of the divinity of the gospel.
Unless men may come to a reasonable, solid persuasion and conviction of
the truth of the gospel, by the internal evidences of it, in the way that has
been spoken, viz., by a sight of its glory; it is impossible that those who
are illiterate, and unacquainted with history, should have any thorough and
effectual conviction of it at all. They may without this, see a great deal of
probability of it; it may be reasonable for them to give much credit to what
learned men and historians tell them; and they may tell them so much, that
it may look very probable and rational to them, that the Christian religion
is true; and so much that they would be very unreasonable not to entertain
this opinion. But to have a conviction, so clear, and evident, and assuring,
as to be sufficient to induce them, with boldness to sell all, confidently and
fearlessly to run the venture of the loss of all things, and of enduring the
most exquisite and long continued torments, and to trample the world.206
under foot, and count all things but dung for Christ, the evidence they can
have from history, cannot be sufficient. It is impossible that men, who
have not something of a general view of the historical world, or the series
of history from age to age, should come at the force of arguments for the
truth of Christianity, drawn from history, to that degree, as effectually to
induce them to venture their all upon it. After all that learned men have
said to them, there will remain innumerable doubts on their minds; they
will be ready, when pinched with some great trial of their faith, to say,
"How do I know this, or that? How do I know when these histories were
written? Learned men tell me these histories were so and so attested in the
day of them; but how do I know that there were such attestations then?
They tell me there is equal reason to believe these facts, as any whatsoever
that are related at such a distance; but how do I know that other facts
which are related of those ages, ever were? Those who have not something
of a general view of the series of historical events, and of the state of
mankind from age to age, cannot see the clear evidence from history of the
truth of facts, in distant ages; but there will endless doubts and scruples
But the gospel was not given only for learned men. There are at least
nineteen in twenty, if not ninety-nine in a hundred, of those for whom the
Scriptures were written, that are not capable of any certain or effectual
conviction of the divine authority of the Scriptures, by such arguments as
learned men make use of. If men who have been brought up in Heathenism,
must wait for a clear and certain conviction of the truth of Christianity,
until they have learning and acquaintance with the histories of politer
nations, enough to see clearly the force of such kind of arguments; it will
make the evidence of the gospel to then immensely cumbersome, and will
render the propagation of the gospel among them infinitely difficult.
Miserable is the condition of the Houssatunnuck Indians, and others, who
have lately manifested a desire to be instructed in Christianity, if they can
come at no evidence of the truth of Christianity, sufficient to induce them
to sell all for Christ, in any other way but this.
It is unreasonable to suppose, that God has provided for his people no
more than probable evidence of the truth of the gospel. He has with great
care, abundantly provided, and given them, the most convicting, assuring,
satisfying and manifold evidence of his faithfulness in the covenant of.207
grace; and as David says, "made a covenant, ordered in all things and sure."
Therefore it is rational to suppose, that at the same time, he would not fail
of ordering the matter so, that there should not be wanting, as great, and
clear evidence, that this is his covenant, and that these promises are his
promises; or, which is the same thing, that the Christian religion is true,
and that the gospel is his word. Otherwise in vain are those great
assurances he has given of his faithfulness in his covenant, by confirming it
with his oath, and so variously establishing it by seals and pledges. For the
evidence that it is his covenant, is properly the foundation on which all the
force and effect of those other assurances do stand. We may therefore
undoubtedly suppose and conclude, that there is some sort of evidence
which God has given, that this covenant, and these promises are his,
beyond all mere probability; that there are some grounds of assurance of it
held forth, which, if we were not blind to them, tend to give a higher
persuasion, than any arguing from history, human traditions etc., which
the illiterate and unacquainted with history are capable of; yea, that which
is good ground of the highest and most perfect assurance, that mankind
have in any case whatsoever, agreeable to those high expressions which the
apostle uses, Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near in full assurance of faith."
And Colossians 2:2, "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit
together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding,
to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of
Christ." It is reasonable to suppose, that God would give the greatest
evidence of those things which are greatest, and the truth of which is of
greatest importance to us: and that we therefore, if we are wise, and act
rationally, shall have the greatest desire of having full, undoubting and
perfect assurance of. But it is certain, that such an assurance is not to be
attained by the greater part of them who live under the gospel, by
arguments fetched from ancient traditions, histories, and monuments.
And if we come to fact and experience, there is not the least reason to
suppose, that one in a hundred of those who have been sincere Christians,
and have had a heart to sell all for Christ, have come by their convection of
the truth of the gospel this way. If we read over the histories of the many
thousands that died martyrs for Christ, since the beginning of the
Reformation, and have cheerfully undergone extreme tortures in a
confidence of the truth of the gospel, and consider their circumstances and.208
advantages; how few of them were there, that we can reasonably suppose,
ever came by their assured persuasion this way; or indeed for whom it was
possible, reasonably to receive so full and strong an assurance, from such
arguments! Many of them were weak women and children, and the greater
part of them illiterate persons, many of whom had been brought up in
popish ignorance and darkness, and were but newly come out of it, and
lived and died in times wherein those arguments for the truth of
Christianity, from antiquity and history had been but very imperfectly
handled. And indeed, it is but very lately that these arguments have been
set in a clear and convincing light, even by learned men themselves: and
since it has been done, there never were fewer thorough believers among
those who have been educated in the true religion; infidelity never
prevailed so much, in any age, as in this, wherein these arguments are
handled to the greatest advantage.
The true martyrs of Jesus Christ, are not those who have only been strong
in opinion that the gospel of Christ is true, but those that have seen the
truth of it; as the very name of martyrs or witnesses (by which they are
called in Scripture) implies. Those are very improperly called witnesses of
the truth of any them, who only declare they are very much of opinion
that such a thing is true. Those only are proper witnesses, who can, and
do testify, that they have seen the truth of the thing they assert: John
3:11, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." John
1:34, "And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God." 1 John 4:14,
"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the
Savior of the world." Acts 22:14, 15, "The God of our fathers hath chosen
thee, that thou shouldst know his will, and see that just one, and shouldst
hear the voice of his mouth; for thou shalt be his witness unto all men, of
what thou hast seen and heard." But the true martyrs of Jesus Christ are
called his witnesses; and all the saints, who by their holy practice under
great trials, declare that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for,
and the evidence of things not seen, are called witnesses, Hebrews 11:1,
and 12:1, because by their profession and practice, they declare their
assurance of the truth and divinity of the gospel, having had the eyes of
their minds enlightened to see divinity in the gospel, or to behold that
unparalleled, ineffably excellent, and truly divine glory shining in it, which
is altogether distinguishing, evidential, and convincing: so that they may.209
truly be said to have seen God in it, and to have seen that it is indeed
divine; and so can speak in the style of witnesses; and not only say, that
they think the gospel is divine, but say, that it is divine, giving it in as their
testimony, because they have seen it to be so. Doubtless Peter, James and
John, after they had seen that excellent glory of Christ in the mount,
would have been ready, when they came down, to speak in the language of
witnesses, and to say positively that Jesus is the Son of God; as Peter
says, they were eyewitnesses, 2 Peter 1:16. And so all nations will be
ready positively to say this, when they shall behold his glory at the day of
judgment; though what will be universally seen, will be only his natural
glory, and not his moral and spiritual glory, which is much more
distinguishing. But yet it must be noted, that among those who have a
spiritual sight of the divine glory of the gospel, there is a great variety of
decrees of strength of faith, as there is a vast variety of the degrees of
clearness of views of this glory: but there is no true and saving faith, or
spiritual conviction of the judgment, of the truth of the gospel, that has
nothing in it, of this manifestation of its internal evidence in some degree.
The gospel of the blessed God does not go abroad a begging for its
evidence, so much as some think; it has its highest and most proper
evidence in itself. Though great use may be made of external arguments,
they are not to be neglected, but highly prized and valued; for they may be
greatly serviceable to awaken unbelievers, and bring them to serious
consideration, and to confirm the faith of true saints; yea, they may be in
some respect subservient to the begetting of a saving faith in men. Though
what was said before remains true, that there is no spiritual conviction of
the judgment, but what arises from an apprehension of the spiritual beauty
and glory of divine things: for, as has been observed, this apprehension or
view has a tendency to convince the mind of the truth of the gospel, two
ways, either directly or indirectly. Having therefore already observed how
it does this directly, I proceed now,
2. To observe how a view of this divine glory does convince the mind of
the truth of Christianity, more indirectly.
First, it doth so, as the prejudices of the heart against the truth of divine
things are hereby removed, so that the mind thereby lies open to the force
of the reasons which are offered. The mind of man is naturally full of
enmity against the doctrines of the gospel; which is a disadvantage to.210
those arguments that prove their truth, and causes them to lose their force
upon the mind; but when a person has discovered to him the divine
excellency of Christian doctrines, this destroys that enmity, and removes
the prejudices, and sanctifies the reason, and causes it to be open and free.
Hence is a vast difference, as to the force that arguments have to convince
the mind. Hence was the very different effect, which Christ's miracles had
to convince the disciples, from what they had to convince the Scribes and
Pharisees: not that they had a stronger reasons or had their reason more
improved; but their reason was sanctified, and those blinding prejudices,
which the Scribes and Pharisees were under, were removed by the sense
they had of the excellency of Christ and his doctrine.
Secondly, It not only removes the hindrances of reason, but positively
helps reason. It makes even the speculative notions more lively. It assists
and engages the attention of the mind to that kind of objects which causes
it to have a clearer view of them, and more clearly to see their mutual
relations. The ideas themselves, which otherwise are dim and obscure, by
this means have a light cast upon them, and are impressed with greater
strength, so that the mind can better judge of them; as he that beholds the
objects on the face of the earth, when the light of the sun is cast upon
them, is under greater advantage to discern them, in their true forms, and
mutual relations, and to see the evidences of divine wisdom and skill in
their contrivance, than he that sees them in a dim starlight, or twilight.
What has been said, may serve in some measure to show the nature of a
spiritual conviction of the judgment of the truth and reality of divine
things; and so to distinguish truly gracious affections from others; for
gracious affections are evermore attended with such a conviction of the
But before I dismiss this head, it will be needful to observe the ways
whereby some are deceived, with respect to this matter; and take notice of
several things, that are sometimes taken for a spiritual and saving belief of
the truth of the things of religion, which are indeed very diverse from it.
1. There is a degree of conviction of the truth of the great things of religion,
that arises from the common enlightenings of the Spirit of God. That more
lively and sensible apprehension of the things of religion, with respect to
what is natural in them, such as natural men have who are under.211
awakenings and common illuminations, will give some degree of conviction
of the truth of divine things, beyond what they had before they were thus
enlightened. For hereby they see the manifestations there are, in the
revelation made in the holy Scriptures, and things exhibited in that
revelation, of the natural perfections of God; such as his greatness, power,
and awful majesty; which tends to convince the minds that this is the
word of a great and terrible God. From the tokens there are of God's
greatness and majesty in his word and works, which they have a great
sense of, from the common influence of the Spirit of God, they may have a
much greater conviction that these are indeed the words and works of a
very great invisible Being. And the lively apprehension of the greatness of
God, which natural men may have, tends to make them sensible of the
great guilt which sin against such a God brings, and the dreadfulness of his
wrath for sin. And this tends to cause them more easily and fully to
believe the revelation the Scripture makes of another world, and of the
extreme misery it threatens there to be indicted on sinners. And so from
that sense of the great natural good there is in the things of religion, which
is sometimes given in common illuminations, men may be the more
induced to believe the truth of religion. These things persons may have,
and yet have no sense of the beauty and amiableness of the moral and holy
excellency that is in the things of religion; and therefore no spiritual
conviction of their truth. But yet such convictions are sometimes mistaken
for saving convictions, and the affections flowing from them, for saving
2. The extraordinary impressions which are made on the imaginations of
some persons, in the visions and immediate strong impulses and
suggestions that they have, as though they saw sights, and had words
spoken to them, may, and often do beget a strong persuasion of the truth
of invisible things. Though the general tendency of such things, in their
final issue, is to draw men off from the word of God, and to cause them to
reject the gospel, and to establish unbelief and Atheism; yet for the
present, they may, and often do beget a confident persuasion of the truth
of some things that are revealed in the Scriptures; however their confidence
is founded in delusion, and so nothing worth. As for instance, if a person
has by some invisible agent, immediately and strongly impressed on his
imagination, the appearance of a bright light, and glorious form of a person.212
seated on a throne, with great external majesty and beauty, uttering some
remarkable words, with great force and energy; the person who is the
subject of such an operation, may be from hence confident, that there are
invisible agents, spiritual beings, from what he has experienced, knowing
that he had no hand himself in this extraordinary effect, which he has
experienced: and he may also be confident, that this is Christ whom he
saw and heard speaking: and this may make him confident that there is a
Christ, and that Christ reigns on a throne in heaven, as he saw him; and
may be confident that the words which he heard him speak are true, etc.
— In the same manner, as the lying miracles of the Papists may, for the
present, beget in the minds of the ignorant deluded people, a strong
persuasion of the truth of many things declared in the New Testament.
Thus when the images of Christ, in Popish churches, are on some
extraordinary occasions, made by priestcraft to appear to the people as if
they wept, and shed fresh blood, and moved, and uttered such and such
words; the people may be verily persuaded that it is a miracle wrought by
Christ himself; and from thence may be confident there is a Christ, and
that what they are told of his death and sufferings, and resurrection, and
ascension, and present government or the world is true; for they may look
upon this miracle, as a certain evidence of all these things, and a kind of
ocular demonstration of them. This may be the influence of these lying
wonders for the present; though the general tendency of them is not to
convince that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, but finally to promote
Atheism. Even the intercourse which Satan has with witches, and their
often experiencing his immediate power, has a tendency to convince them
of the truth of some of the doctrines of religion; as particularly the reality
of an invisible world, or world of spirits, contrary to the doctrine of the
Sadducees. The general tendency of Satan's influence is delusion: but yet
he may mix some truth with his lies, that his lies may not be so easily
There are multitudes that are deluded with a counterfeit faith, from
impressions on their imagination, in the manner which has been now
spoken of. They say they know that there is a God, for they have seen
him; they know that Christ is the Son of God, for they have seen him in
his glory; they know that Christ died for sinners, for they have seen him
hanging on the cross, and his blood running from his wounds; they know.213
there is a heaven and a hell, for they have seen the misery of the damned
souls in hell, and the glory of saints and angels in heaven (meaning some
external representations strongly impressed on their imagination); they
know that the Scriptures are the word of God, and that such and such
promises in particular are his word, for they have heard him speak them to
them, they came to their minds suddenly and immediately from God,
without their having any hand in it.
3. Persons may seem to have their belief of the truth of the things of
religion greatly increased, when the foundation of it is only a persuasion
they have received of their interest in them. They first, by some means or
other, take up a confidence, that if there be a Christ and heaven, they are
theirs; and this prejudices them more in favor of the truth of them. When
they hear of the great and glorious things of religion, it is with this notion,
that all these things belong to them; and hence easily become confident
that they are true; they look upon it to be greatly for their interest that
they should be true. It is very obvious what a strong influence men's
interest and inclinations have on their judgments. While a natural man
thinks, that if there be a heaven and hell, the latter, and not the former,
belongs to him; then he will be hardly persuaded that there is a heaven or
hell: but when he comes to be persuaded, that hell belongs only to other
folks, and not to him, then he can easily allow the reality of hell, and cry
out of others' senselessness and sottishness in neglecting means of escape
from it: and being confident that he is a child of God, and that God has
promised heaven to him, he may seem strong in the faith of its reality, and
may have a great zeal against that infidelity which denies it.
But I proceed to another distinguishing sign of gracious affections.
VI. Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation.
Evangelical humiliation is a sense that a Christian has of his own utter
insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousness, with an answerable
frame of heart.
There is a distinction to be made between a legal and evangelical
humiliation. The former is what men may be the subjects of, while they
are yet in a state of nature, and have no gracious affections; the latter is
peculiar to true saints: the former is from the common influence of the.214
Spirit of God, assisting natural principles, and especially natural
conscience; the latter is from the special influences of the Spirit of God,
implanting and exercising supernatural and divine principles: the former is
from the mind's being assisted to a greater sense of the things of religion,
as to their natural properties and qualities, and particularly of the natural
perfections of God, such as his greatness, terrible majesty, etc., which
were manifested to the congregation of Israel, in giving the law at mount
Sinai; the latter is from a sense of the transcendent beauty of divine things
in their moral qualities: in the former, a sense of the awful greatness, and
natural perfections of God, and of the strictness of his law, convinces men
that they are exceeding sinful, and guilty, and exposed to the wrath of
God, as it will wicked men and devils at the day of judgment; but they do
not see their own odiousness on the account of sin; they do not see the
hateful nature of sin; a sense of this is given in evangelical humiliation, by a
discovery of the beauty of God's holiness and moral perfection. In a legal
humiliation, men are made sensible that they are little and nothing before
the great and terrible God, and that they are undone, and wholly
insufficient to help themselves; as wicked men will be at the day of
judgment: but they have not an answerable frame of heart, consisting in a
disposition to abase themselves, and exalt God alone; this disposition is
given only in evangelical humiliation, by overcoming the heart, and
changing its inclination, by a discovery of God's holy beauty: in a legal
humiliation, the conscience is convinced; as the consciences of all will be
most perfectly at the day of judgment; but because there is no spiritual
understanding, the will is not bowed, nor the inclination altered: this is
done only in evangelical humiliation. In legal humiliation, men are brought
to despair of helping themselves; in evangelical, they are brought
voluntarily to deny and renounce themselves: in the former, they are
subdued and forced to the ground; in the latter, they are brought sweetly
to yield, and freely and with delight to prostrate themselves at the feet of
Legal humiliation has in it no spiritual good, nothing of the nature of true
virtue; whereas evangelical humiliation is that wherein the excellent beauty
of Christian grace does very much consist. Legal humiliation is useful, as a
means in order to evangelical; as a common knowledge of the things of
religion is a means requisite in order to spiritual knowledge. Men may be.215
legally humbled and have no humility: as the wicked at the day of
judgment will be thoroughly convinced that they have no righteousness,
but are altogether sinful, and exceedingly guilty, and justly exposed to
eternal damnation, and be fully sensible of their own helplessness, without
the least mortification of the pride of their hearts: but the essence of
evangelical humiliation consists in such humility, as becomes a creature, in
itself exceeding sinful, under a dispensation of grace; consisting in a mean
esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether contemptible and
odious; attended with a mortification of a disposition to exalt himself, and
a free renunciation of his own glory.
This is a great and most essential thing in true religion. The whole frame of
the gospel, and everything appertaining to the new covenant, and all God's
dispensations towards fallen man, are calculated to bring to pass this effect
in the hearts of men. They that are destitute of this, have no true religion,
whatever profession they may make, and how high soever their religious
affections may be: Habakkuk 2:4, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is
not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith;" i.e., he shall live by
his faith on God's righteousness and grace, and not his own goodness and
excellency. God has abundantly manifested in his word, that this is what
he has a peculiar respect to in his saints, and that nothing is acceptable to
him without it. Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a
broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." Psalm 51:17,
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O
God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm 138:6, "Though the Lord be high, yet
hath he respect unto the lowly." Proverbs 3:34, "He giveth grace unto the
lowly." Isaiah 57:15, "Thus saith the high and lofty One who inhabiteth
eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him
also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the
humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 66:1, 2, "Thus
saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: but
to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit,
and trembleth at my word." Micah 6:8, "He hath showed thee, O man,
what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee; but to do
justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Matthew
5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of God."
Matthew 18:3, 4, "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and.216
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is
greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Mark 10:15, "Verily I say unto you,
Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall
not enter therein." The centurion, that we have an account of, Luke 7,
acknowledged that he was not worthy that Christ should enter under his
roof, and that he was not worthy to come to him. See the manner of the
woman's coming to Christ, that was a sinner, Luke 7:37, etc.: "And
behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that
Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of
ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his
feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head." She did not
think the hair of her head, which is the natural crown and glory of a
woman (1 Corinthians 11:15), too good to wipe the feet of Christ withal.
Jesus most graciously accepted her, and says to her, "thy faith hath saved
thee, go in peace." The woman of Canaan submitted to Christ, in his
saying, "it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs, "
and did as it were own that she was worthy to be called a dog; whereupon
Christ says unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee, even as
thou wilt, " Matthew 15:26, 27, 28. The prodigal son said, "I will arise
and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make
me as one of thy hired servants, " Luke 15:18, etc. See also Luke 18:9, etc.:
"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that
they were righteous, and despised others, etc. The publican, standing afar
off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his
breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went
down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that
exalteth himself, shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself, shall be
exalted." Matthew 28:9, "And they came, and held him by the feet and
worshipped him." Colossians 3:12, "Put ye on, as the elect of God,
humbleness of mind." Ezekiel 20:41, 42, "I will accept you with your
sweet savor, when I bring you out from the people, etc. And there shall ye
remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled,
and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for all your evils that ye
have committed." Chap. 36:26, 27, 31, "A new heart also will I give unto
you-and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my.217
statutes, etc. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your
doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight,
for your iniquities, and for your abominations." Chap. 16:63, "That thou
mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more
because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou
hast done, saith the Lord." Job 42:6, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust
and ashes."
As we would therefore make the holy Scriptures our rule in judging of the
nature of true religion, and judging of our own religious qualifications and
state; it concerns us greatly to look at this humiliation, as one of the most
essential things pertaining to true Christianity. 56 This is the principal part
of the great Christian duty of self-denial. That duty consists in two things,
viz., first, in a man's denying his worldly inclinations, and in forsaking and
renouncing all worldly objects and enjoyments; and, secondly, in denying
his natural self-exaltation, and renouncing his own dignity and glory and in
being emptied of himself; so that he does freely and from his very heart, as
it were renounce himself, and annihilate himself. Thus the Christian doth
in evangelical humiliation. And this latter is the greatest and most difficult
part of self-denial: although they always go together, and one never truly
is, where the other is not; yet natural men can come much nearer to the
former than the latter. Many Anchorites and Recluses have abandoned
(though without any true mortification) the wealth, and pleasures, and
common enjoyments of the world, who were far from renouncing their
own dignity and righteousness; they never denied themselves for Christ,
but only sold one lust to feed another, sold a beastly lust to pamper a
devilish one; and so were never the better, but their latter end was worse
than their beginning; they turned out one black devil, to let in seven white
ones, that were worse than the first, though of a fairer countenance. It is
inexpressible, and almost inconceivable, how strong a self-righteous,
self-exalting disposition is naturally in man; and what he will not do and
suffer to feed and gratify it: and what lengths have been gone in a seeming
self-denial in other respects, by Essenes and Pharisees among the Jews,
and by Papists, many sects of heretics, and enthusiasts, among professing
Christians; and by many Mahometans; and by Pythagorean philosophers,
and others among the Heathen; and all to do sacrifice to this Moloch of.218
spiritual pride or self-righteousness; and that they may have something
wherein to exalt themselves before God, and above their fellow creatures.
That humiliation which has been spoken of, is what all the most glorious
hypocrites, who make the most splendid show of mortification to the
world, and high religious affection, do grossly fail in. Were it not that this
is so much insisted on in Scripture, as a most essential thing in true grace,
one would be tempted to think that many of the heathen philosophers
were truly gracious, in whom was so bright an appearance of many
virtues, and also great illuminations, and inward fervors and elevations of
mind, as though they were truly the subjects of divine illapses and
heavenly communications. 57 It is true, that many hypocrites make great
pretenses to humility, as well as other graces; and very often there is
nothing whatsoever which they make a higher profession of. They
endeavor to make a great show of humility in speech and behavior; but
they commonly make bungling work of it, though glorious work in their
own eyes. They cannot find out what a humble speech and behavior is, or
how to speak and act so that there may indeed be a savor of Christian
humility in what they say and do: that sweet humble air and mien is
beyond their art, being not led by the Spirit, or naturally guided to a
behavior becoming holy humility, by the vigor of a lowly spirit within
them. And therefore they have no other way, many of them, but only to
be much in declaring that they be humble, and telling how they were
humbled to the dust at such and such times, and abounding in very bad
expressions which they use about themselves; such as, "I am the least of
all saints, I am a poor vile creature, I am not worthy of the least mercy, or
that God should look upon me! Oh, I have a dreadful wicked heart! My
heart is worse than the devil! Oh, this cursed heart of mine, " etc. Such
expressions are very often used, not with a heart that is broken, not with
spiritual mourning, not with the tears of her that washed Jesus's feet, not
as "remembering and being confounded, and never opening their mouth
more because of their shame, when God is pacified, " as the expression is,
Ezekiel 16:63, but with a light air, with smiles in the countenance, or with
a pharisaical affectation: and we must believe that they are thus humble,
and see themselves so vile, upon the credit of their say so; for there is
nothing appears in them of any savor of humility, in the manner of their
deportment and deeds that they do. There are many that are full of.219
expressions of their own vileness, who yet expect to be looked upon as
eminent and bright saints by others, as their due; and it is dangerous for
any, so much as to hint the contrary, or to carry it towards them any
otherwise, than as if we looked upon them as some of the chief of
Christians. There are many that are much in crying out of their wicked
hearts, and their great short comings, and unprofitableness, and speaking
as though they looked on themselves as the meanest of the saints; who
yet, if a minister should seriously tell them the same things in private, and
should signify, that he feared they were very low and weak Christians, and
thought they had reason solemnly to consider of their great barrenness and
unprofitableness, and falling so much short of many others, it would be
more than they could digest; they would think themselves highly injured;
and there would be a danger of a rooted prejudice in them against such a
There are some that are abundant in talking against legal doctrines, legal
preaching, and a legal spirit, who do but little understand the thing they
talk against. A legal spirit is a more subtle thing than they imagine; it is too
subtle for them. It lurks, and operates, and prevails in their hearts, and
they are most notoriously guilty of it, at the same time, when they are
inveighing against it. So far as a man is not emptied of himself, and of his
own righteousness and goodness, in whatever form or shape, so far he is of
a legal spirit. A spirit of pride of man's own righteousness, morality,
holiness, affection, experience, faith, humiliation, or any goodness
whatsoever, is a legal spirit. It was no pride in Adam before the fall, to be
of a legal spirit; because of his circumstances, he might seek acceptance by
his own righteousness. But a legal spirit in a fallen, sinful creature, can be
nothing else but spiritual pride; and reciprocally, a spiritually proud spirit
is a legal spirit. There is no man living that is lifted up with a conceit of his
own experiences and discoveries, and upon the account of them glisters in
his own eyes, but what trusts in his experiences, and makes a
righteousness of them; however he may use humble terms, and speak of
his experiences as of the great things God has done for him, and it may be
calls upon others to glorify God for them; yet he that is proud of his
experiences, arrogates something to himself, as though his experiences
were some dignity of his. And if he looks on them as his own dignity, he
necessarily thinks that God looks on them so too; for he necessarily thinks.220
his own opinion of then, to be true; and consequently judges that God
looks on them as he does; and so unavoidably imagines that God looks on
his experiences as a dignity in him, as he looks on them himself; and that
he glisters as much in God's eyes, as he does in his own. And thus he
trusts in what is inherent in him, to make him shine in God's sight, and
recommend him to God: and with this encouragement he goes before God
in prayer; and this makes him expect much from God; and this makes him
think that Christ loves him, and that he is willing clothe him with his
righteousness; because he supposes that he is taken with his experiences
and graces. And this is a high degree of living on his own righteousness;
and such persons are in the high road to hell. Poor deluded wretches, who
think they look so glistering in God's eyes, when they are smoke in his
nose, and are many of them more odious to him, than the most impure
beast in Sodom, that makes no pretense to religion! To do as these do, is
to live upon experiences, according to the true notion of it; and not to do
as those who only make use of spiritual experiences, as evidences of a
state of grace, and in that way receive hope and comfort from them.
There is a sort of men, who indeed abundantly cry down works, and cry
up faith in opposition to works, and set up themselves very much as
evangelical persons, in opposition to those that are of a legal spirit, and
make a fair show of advancing Christ and the gospel, and the way of free
grace; who are indeed some of the greatest enemies to the gospel way of
free grace, and the most dangerous opposers of pure humble Christianity.
There is a pretended great humiliation, and being dead to the law, and
emptied of self, which is one of the biggest and most elated things in the
world. Some there are, who have made great profession of experience of a
thorough work of the law on their hearts, and of being brought fully off
from works; whose conversation has savored most of a self-righteous
spirit of any that ever I had opportunity to observe. And some who think
themselves quite emptied of themselves, and are confident that they are
abased in the dust, are full as they can hold with the glory of their own
humility, and lifted up to heaven with a high opinion of their own
abasement. Their humility is a swelling, self-conceited, confident, showy,
noisy, assuming humility. It seems to be the nature of spiritual pride to
make men conceited and ostentatious of their humility. This appears in
that first born of pride among the children of men, that would be called his.221
holiness, even the man of sin, that exalts himself above all that is called
God or is worshipped; he styles himself Servant of servants; and to make
a show of humility, washes the feet of a number of poor men at his
For persons to be truly emptied of themselves, and to be poor in spirit,
and broken in heart, is quite another thing, and has other effects, than
many imagine. It is astonishing how greatly many are deceived about
themselves as to this matter, imagining themselves most humble, when
they are most proud, and their behavior is really the most haughty. The
deceitfulness of the heart of man appears in no one thing so much as this
of spiritual pride and self-righteousness. The subtlety of Satan appears in
its height, in his managing of persons with respect to this sin. And
perhaps one reason may be, that here he has most experience; he knows
the way of its coming in; he is acquainted with the secret springs of it: it
was his own sin. — Experience gives vast advantage in leading souls, either
in good or evil.
But though spiritual pride be so subtle and secret an iniquity, and
commonly appears under a pretext of great humility; yet there are two
things by which it may (perhaps universally and surely) be discovered and
The first thing is this; he that is under the prevalence of this distemper, is
apt to think highly of his attainments in religion, as comparing himself
with others. It is natural for him to fall into that thought of himself, that he
is an eminent saint, that he is very high amongst the saints, and has
distinguishingly good and great experiences. That is the secret language of
his heart: Luke 18:11, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men." And
Isaiah 65:5, "I am holier than thou." Hence such are apt to put themselves
forward among God's people, and as it were to take a high seat among
them, as if there was no doubt of it but it belonged to them. They, as it
were, naturally do that which Christ condemns, Luke 14:7, etc., take the
highest room. This they do, by being forward to take upon them the place
and business of the chief; to guide, teach, direct, and manage; "they are
confident that they are guides to the blind, a light of them which are in
darkness, instructors of the foolish, teachers of babes, " Romans 2:19, 20.
It is natural for them to take it for granted, that it belongs to them to do.222
the part of dictators and masters in matters of religion; and so they
implicitly affect to be called of men Rabbi, which is by interpretation
Master, as the Pharisees did, Matthew 23:6, 7, i.e., they are yet apt to
expect that others should regard them, and yield to them, as masters in
matters of religion. 58
But he whose heart is under the power of Christian humility, is of a
contrary disposition. If the Scriptures are at all to be relied on, such a one
is apt to think his attainments in religion to be comparatively mean, and to
esteem himself low among the saints, and one of the least of saints.
Humility, or true lowliness of mind, disposes persons to think others
better than themselves: Philippians 2:3, "In lowliness of mind, let each
esteem others better than themselves." Hence they are apt to think the
lowest room belongs to them, and their inward disposition naturally leads
them to obey that precept of our Savior, Luke 14:10. It is not natural to
them to take it upon them to do the part of teachers; but on the contrary,
they are disposed to think that they are not the persons, that others are
fitter for it than they; as it was with Moses and Jeremiah (Exodus 3:11,
Jeremiah 1:6), though they were such eminent saints, and of great
knowledge. It is not natural to them to think that it belongs to them to
teach, but to be taught; they are much more eager to hear, and to receive
instruction from others, than to dictate to others: James 1:19, "Be ye swift
to hear, slow to speak." And when they do speak, it is not natural to them
to speak with a bold, masterly air; but humility disposes them rather to
speak, trembling. Hosea 13:1, "When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted
himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died." They are not apt
to assume authority, and to take upon them to be chief managers and
masters; but rather to be subject to others: James 3:1, 2, "Be not many
masters." 1 Peter 5:5, "All of you be subject one to another, and be
clothed with humility." Ephesians 5:21, "Submitting yourselves one to
another in the fear of God."
There are some persons' experiences that naturally work that way, to
make them think highly of them; and they do often themselves speak of
their experiences as very great and extraordinary; they freely speak of the
great things they have met with. This may be spoken and meant in a good
sense. In one sense, every degree of saving mercy is a great thing: it is
indeed a thing great, yea, infinitely great, for God to bestow the least.223
crumb of children's bread on such dogs as we are in ourselves; and the
more humble a person is that hopes that God has bestowed such mercy on
him, the more apt will he be to call it a great thing that he has met with in
this sense. But if by great things which they have experienced they mean
comparatively great spiritual experiences, or great compared with others'
experiences, or beyond what is ordinary, which is evidently oftentimes the
case; then for a person to say, I have met with great things, is the very
same thing as to say, I am an eminent saint, and have more grace than
ordinary: for to have great experiences, if the experiences be true and
worth the telling of, is the same thing as to have great grace: there is no
true experience, but the exercise of grace; and exactly according to the
degree of true experience, is the degree of grace and holiness. The persons
that talk thus about their experiences, when they give an account of them,
expect that others should admire them. Indeed they do not call it boasting
to talk after this manner about their experiences, nor do they look upon it
as any sign of pride; because they say, "they know that it was not they
that did it, it was free grace, they are things that God has done for them,
they would acknowledge the great mercy God has shown them, and not
make light of it." But so it was with the Pharisee that Christ tells us of,
Luke 18. He in words gave God the glory of making him to differ from
other men; God, I thank thee, says he, that I am not as other men. 59 Their
verbally ascribing it to the grace of God, that they are holier than other
saints, does not hinder their forwardness to think so highly of their
holiness, being a sure evidence of the pride and vanity of their minds. If
they were under the influence of a humble spirit, their attainments in
religion would not be so apt to shine in their own eyes, nor would they be
so much in admiring their own beauty. The Christians that are really the
most eminent saints, and therefore have the most excellent experiences,
and are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, humble themselves as a little
child, Matthew 8:4; because they look on themselves as but little children
in grace, and their attainments to be but the attainments of babes in Christ,
and are astonished at, and ashamed of the low degrees of their love, and
their thankfulness, and their little knowledge of God. Moses, when he had
been conversing with God in the mount, and his face shone so bright in the
eyes of others as to dazzle their eyes, wist not that his face shone. There
are some persons that go by the name of high professors, and some will
own themselves to be high professors: but eminently humble saints, that.224
will shine brightest in heaven, are not at all apt to profess high. I do not
believe there is an eminent saint in the world that is a high professor. Such
will be much more likely to profess themselves to be least of all saints, and
to think that every saint's attainments and experiences are higher than his.
Such is the nature of grace, and of true spiritual light, that they naturally
dispose the saints in the present state, to look upon their grace and
goodness little, and their deformity great. And they that have the most
grace and spiritual light, of any in this world, have most of this
disposition. As will appear most clear and evident to anyone that soberly
and thoroughly weighs the nature and reason of things, and considers the
things following.
That grace and holiness is worthy to be called little, that is, little in
comparison of what it ought to be. And so it seems to one that is truly
gracious: for such a one has his eye upon the rule of his duty; a conformity
to that is that he aims at; it is what his soul struggles and reaches after; and
it is by that that he estimates and judges of what he does, and what he has.
To a gracious soul, and especially to one eminently gracious, that holiness
appears little, which is little of what it should be; little of what he sees
infinite reason for, and obligation to. If his holiness appears to him to be at
a vast distance from this, it naturally appears despicable in his eyes, and
not worthy to be mentioned as any beauty or amiableness in him. For the
like reason as a hungry man naturally accounts that which is set before
him, but a little food, a small matter, not worth mentioning, that is nothing
in comparison of his appetite. Or as the child of a great prince, that is
jealous for the honor of his father, and beholds He respect which men
show him, naturally looks on that honor and respect very little, and not
worthy to be regarded, which is nothing in comparison of that which the
dignity of his father requires.
But that is the nature of true grace and spiritual light, that it opens to a
person's view the infinite reason there is that he should be holy in a high
degree. And the more grace he has, the more this is opened to view, the
greater sense he has of the infinite excellency and glory of the divine Being,
and of the infinite dignity of the person of Christ, and the boundless length
and breadth, and depth and height, of the love of Christ to sinners. And as.225
grace increases, the field opens more and more to a distant view, until the
soul is swallowed up with the vastness of the object, and the person is
astonished to think how much it becomes him to love this God, and this
glorious Redeemer, that has so loved man, and how little he does love. And
so the more he apprehends, the more the smallness of his grace and love
appears strange and wonderful: and therefore is more ready to think that
others are beyond him. For wondering at the littleness of his own grace, he
can scarcely believe that so strange a thing happens to other saints: it is
amazing to him, that one that is really a child of God, and that has actually
received the saving benefits of that unspeakable love of Christ, should love
no more: and he is apt to look upon it as a thing peculiar to himself, a
strange and exempt instance; for he sees only the outside of other
Christians, but he sees his own inside.
Here the reader may possibly object, that love to God is really increased in
proportion as the knowledge of God is increased; and therefore how
should an increase of knowledge in a saint make his love appear less, in
comparison of what is known? To which I answer, that although grace and
the love of God in the saints, be answerable to the degree of knowledge or
sight of God; yet it is not in proportion to the object seen and known. The
soul of a saint, by having something of God opened to sight, is convinced
of much more than is seen. There is something that is seen, that is
wonderful; and that sight brings with it a strong conviction of something
vastly beyond, that is not immediately seen. So that the soul, at the same
time, is astonished at its ignorance, and that it knows so little, as well as
that it loves so little. And as the soul, in a spiritual view, is convinced of
infinitely more in the object, yet beyond sight; so it is convinced of the
capacity of the soul, of knowing vastly more, if the clouds and darkness
were but removed. Which causes the soul, in the enjoyment of a spiritual
view, to complain greatly of spiritual ignorance, and want of love, and to
long and reach after more knowledge and more love.
Grace and the love of God in the most eminent saints in this world, is
truly very little in comparison of what it ought to be. Because the highest
love that ever any attain to in this life, is poor, cold, exceedingly low, and
not worthy to be named in comparison of what our obligations appear to
be, from the joint consideration of these two things, viz.: 1. The reason
God has given us to love him, in the manifestations he has made of his.226
infinite glory, in his word, and in his works; and particularly in the gospel
of his Son, and what he has done for sinful man by him. And, 2. The
capacity there is in the soul of man, by those intellectual faculties which
God has given it, of seeing and understanding these reasons, which God
has given us to love him. How small indeed is the love of the most eminent
saint on earth, in comparison of what these things, jointly considered, do
require! And this grace tends to convince men of this, and especially
eminent grace; for grace is of the nature of light, and brings truth to view.
And therefore he that has much grace, apprehends much more than others
that great height to which his love ought to ascend; and he sees better than
others, how little a way he has risen towards that height. And therefore
estimating his love by the whole height of his duty, hence it appears
astonishingly little and low in his eyes.
And the eminent saint, having such a conviction of the high degree in
which he ought to love God, this shows him, not only the littleness of his
grace, but the greatness of his remaining corruption. In order to judge how
much corruption or sin we have remaining in us, we must take our measure
from that height to which the rule of our duty extends: the whole of the
distance we are at from that height, is sin: for failing of duty is sin;
otherwise our duty is not our duty, and by how much the more we fall
short of our duty, so much the more sin have we. Sin is no other than
disagreeableness, in a moral agent, to the law or rule of his duty. And
therefore the degree of sin is to be judged of by the rule: so much
disagreeableness to the rule, so much sin, whether it be in defect or excess.
Therefore if men, in their love to God, do not come up half way to that
height which duty requires, then they have more corruption in their hearts
than grace; because there is more goodness wanting, than is there: and all
that is wanting is sin: it is an abominable defect; and appears so to the
saints; especially those that are eminent; it appears exceeding abominable
to them, that Christ should be loved so little, and thanked so little for his
dying love: it is in their eyes hateful ingratitude.
And then the increase of grace has a tendency another way, to cause the
saints to think their deformity vastly more than their goodness: it not only
tends to convince them that their corruption is much greater than their
goodness, which is indeed the case; but it also tends to cause the deformity
that there is in the least sin, or the least degree of corruption, to appear so.227
great as vastly to outweigh all the beauty there is in their greatest holiness;
for this also is indeed the case. For the least sin against an infinite God, has
an infinite hatefulness or deformity in it, but the highest degree of holiness
in a creature, has not an infinite loveliness in it: and therefore the loveliness
of it is as nothings, in comparison of the deformity of the least sin. That
every sin has infinite deformity and hatefulness in it, is most
demonstrably evident; because what the evil, or iniquity, or hatefulness of
sin consists in, is the violating of an obligation, or the being or doing
contrary to what we should be or do, or are obliged to. And therefore by
how much the greater the obligation is that is violated, so much the greater
is the iniquity and hatefulness of the violation. But certainly our obligation
to love and honor any being is in some proportion to his loveliness and
honorableness, or to his worthiness to be loved and honored by us; which
is the same thing. We are surely under greater obligation to love a more
lovely being, than a less lovely; and if a Being be infinitely lovely or
worthy to be loved by us, then our obligations to love him are infinitely
great; and therefore, whatever is contrary to this love, has in it infinite
iniquity, deformity, and unworthiness. But on the other hand, with
respect to our holiness or love to God, there is not an infinite worthiness
in that. The sin of the creature against God, is in deserving and hateful in
proportion to the distance there is between God and the creature: the
greatness of the object, and the meanness and inferiority of the subject,
aggravates it. But it is the reverse with regard to the worthiness of the
respect of the creature to God; it is worthless, and not worthy, in
proportion to the meanness of the subject. So much the greater the
distance between God and the creature, so much the less is the creature's
respect worthy of God's notice or regard. The great degree of superiority
increases the obligation on the inferior to regard the superior; and so makes
the want of regard more hateful. But the great degree of inferiority
diminishes the worth of the regard of the interior; because the more he is
inferior, the less he is worthy of notice; the less he is, the less is what he
can offer worth; for he can offer no more than himself, in offering his best
respect; and therefore as he is little, and little worth, so is his respect little
worth. And the more a person has of true grace and spiritual light, the
more will it appear thus to him; the more will he appear to himself
infinitely deformed by reason of sin, and the less will the goodness that is
in his grace, or good experience, appear in proportion to it. For indeed it is.228
nothing to it; it is less than a drop to the ocean; for finite bears no
proportion at all to that which is infinite. But the more a person has of
spiritual light, the more do things appear to him, in this respect, as they
are indeed. — Hence it most demonstrably appears, that true grace is of
that nature, that the more a person has of it, with remaining corruption,
the less does his goodness and holiness appear, in proportion to his
deformity; and not only to his past deformity, but to his present
deformity, in the sin that now appears in his heart, and the abominable
defects of his highest and best affections, and brightest experiences.
The nature of many high and religious affections, and great discoveries (as
they are called) in many persons that I have been acquainted with, is to
hide and cover over the corruption of their hearts, and to make it seem to
them as if all their sin was gone, and to leave them without complaints of
any hateful evil left in them (though it may be they cry out much of their
past unworthiness); a sure and certain evidence that their discoveries (as
they call them) are darkness and not light. It is darkness that hides men's
pollution and deformity; but light let into the heart discovers it, searches it
out in its secret corners, and makes it plainly to appear; especially that
penetrating, all searching light of God's holiness and glory. It is true, that
saving discoveries may for the present hide corruption in one sense; they
restrain the positive exercises of it, such as malice, envy, covetousness,
lasciviousness, murmuring, etc., but they bring corruption to light, in that
which is privative, viz., that there is no more love, no more humility, no
more thankfulness. Which defects appear most hateful in the eyes of those
who have the most eminent exercises of grace; and are very burdensome,
and cause the saints to cry out of their leanness, and odious pride and
ingratitude. And whatever positive exercises of corruption at any time
arise, and mingle themselves with eminent actings of grace, grace will
exceedingly magnify the view of them, and render their appearance far
more heinous and horrible.
The more eminent saints are, and the more they have of the light of heaven
in their souls, the more do they appear to themselves, as the most eminent
saints in this world do to the saints and angels in heaven. How can we
rationally suppose the most eminent saints on earth appear to them, if
beheld any otherwise than covered over with the righteousness of Christ,
and their deformities swallowed up and hid in the coruscation of the beams.229
of his abundant glory and love? How can we suppose our most ardent love
and praises appear to them, that do behold the beauty and glory of God
without a vail? How does our highest thankfulness for the dying love of
Christ appear to them, who see Christ as he is, who know as they are
known, and see the glory of the person of him that died, and the wonders
of his dying love, without any cloud of darkness? And how do they look
on the deepest reverence and humility, with which worms of the dust on
earth approach that infinite Majesty which they behold? Do they appear
great to them, or so much as worthy of the name of reverence and
humility, in those that they see to be at such an infinite distance from that
great and holy God, in whose glorious presence they are? The reason why
the highest attainments of the saints on earth appear so mean to them, is
because they dwell in the light of God's glory, and see God as he is. And it
is in this respect with the saints on earth, as it is with the saints in heaven,
in proportion as they are more eminent in grace.
I would not be understood, that the saints on earth have in all respects the
worst opinion of themselves, when they have most of the exercises of
grace. In many respects it is otherwise. With respect to the positive
exercises of corruption, they may appear to themselves freest and best
when grace is most in exercise, and worst when the actings of grace are
lowest. And when they compare themselves with themselves at different
times, they may know, when grace is in lively exercise, that it is better
with them than it was before (though before, in the time of it, they did not
see so much badness as they see now) and when afterwards they sink
again in the frame of their minds, they may know that they sink, and have
a new argument of their great remaining corruption, and a rational
conviction of a greater vileness than they saw before; and many have more
of a sense of guilt, and a kind of legal sense of their sinfulness by far, than
when in the lively exercise of grace. But yet it is true, and demonstrable
from the forementioned considerations, that the children of God never
have so much of a sensible and spiritual conviction of their deformity, and
so great, and quick and abasing a sense of their present vileness and
odiousness, as when they are highest in the exercise of true and pure grace;
and never are they so much disposed to set themselves low among
Christians as then. And thus he that is greatest in the kingdom, or most
eminent in the church of Christ, is the same that humbles himself, as the.230
least infant among them; agreeable to that great saying of Christ, Matthew
A true saint may know that he has some true grace: and the more grace
there is, the more easily is it known, as was observed and proved before.
But yet it does not follow, that an eminent saint is easily sensible that he
is an eminent saint, when compared with others. I will not deny that it is
possible, that he that has much grace, and is an eminent saint, may know
it. But he will not be apt to know it; it will not be a thing obvious to him:
that he is better than others, and has higher experiences and attainments, is
not a foremost thought; nor is it that which, from time to time readily
offers itself; it is a thing that is not in his way, but lies far out of sight; he
must take pains to convince himself of it; there will be need of a great
command of reason, and a high degree of strictness and care in arguing, to
convince himself. And if he be rationally convinced by a very strict
consideration of his own experiences compared with the great appearances
of low degrees of grace in some other saints, it will hardly seem real to
him, that he has more grace than they; and he will be apt to lose the
conviction that he has by pains obtained: nor will it seem at all natural to
him to act upon that supposition. And this may be laid down as an
infallible thing, "that the person who is apt to think that he, as compared
with others, is a very eminent saint, much distinguished in Christian
experience, in whom this is a first thoughts that rises of itself, and
naturally offers itself; he is certainly mistaken; he is no eminent saint, but
under the great prevailings of a proud and self-righteous spirit." And if this
be habitual with the man, and is steadily the prevailing temper of his mind,
he is no saint at all; he has not the least degree of any true Christian
experience; so surely as the word of God is true.
And that sort of experiences that appears to be of that tendency, and is
found from time to time to have that effect, to elevate the subject of them
with a great conceit of those experiences, is certainly vain and delusive.
Those supposed discoveries that naturally blow up the person with an
admiration of the eminency of his discoveries, and fill him with conceit
that now he has seen, and knows more than most other Christians, have
nothing of the nature of true spiritual light in them. All true spiritual
knowledge is of that nature, that the more a person has of it, the more is he
sensible of his own ignorance; as is evident by 1 Corinthians 8:2: "He that.231
thinketh he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to
know." Agur, when he had a great discovery of God, and sense of the
wonderful height of his glory, and of his marvelous works, and cries out of
his greatness and incomprehensibleness; at the same time, had the deepest
sense of his brutish ignorance, and looked upon himself the most ignorant
of all the saints. Proverbs 30:2, 3, 4: "Surely I am more brutish than any
man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom,
nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or
descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the
waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What
is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?"
For a man to be highly conceited of his spiritual and divine knowledge, is
for him to be wise in his own eyes, if anything is. And therefore it comes
under those prohibitions: Proverbs 3:7, "Be not wise in thine own eyes."
Romans 12:16, "Be not wise in your own conceits;" and brings men under
that woe, Isaiah 5:21: "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and
prudent in their own sight." Those that are thus wise in their own eyes,
are some of the least likely to get good of any in the world. Experience
shows the truth of that, Proverbs 26:12: "Seest thou a man wise in his
own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him."
To this some may object, that the Psalmist, when we must suppose that
he was in a holy frame, speaks of his knowledge as eminently great, and
far greater than that of other saints: Psalm 119:99, 100, "I have more
understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts."
To this I answer two things:
(1.) There is no restraint to be laid upon the Spirit of God, as to what he
shall reveal to a prophet, for the benefit of his church, who is speaking or
writing under immediate inspiration. The Spirit of God may reveal to such
a one, and dictate to him, to declare to others secret things, that otherwise
would be hard, yea impossible for him to find out. As he may reveal to
him mysteries, that otherwise would be above the reach of his reason; or
things in a distant place, that he cannot see; or future events, that it would
be impossible for him to know and declare, if they were not extraordinarily
revealed to him; so the Spirit of God might reveal to David this.232
distinguishing benefit he had received by conversing much with God's
testimonies; and use him as his instrument to record it for the benefit of
others, to excite them to the like duty, and to use the same means to gain
knowledge. Nothing can be gathered concerning the natural tendency of the
ordinary gracious influences of the Spirit of God, from that that David
declares of his distinguishing knowledge under the extraordinary influences
of God's Spirit, immediately dictating to him the divine mind by
inspiration, and using David as his instrument to write what he pleased for
the benefit of his church; any more than we can reasonably argue, that it is
the natural tendency of grace to incline men to curse others, and wish the
most dreadful misery to them that can be thought of, because David, under
inspiration, often curses others, and prays that such misery may come
upon them.
(2.) It is not certain that the knowledge David here speaks of, is spiritual
knowledge, wherein holiness does fundamentally consist. But it may be
that greater revelation which God made to him of the Messiah, and the
things of his future kingdom, and the far more clear and extensive
knowledge that he had of the mysteries and doctrines of the gospel, than
others; as a reward for his keeping God's testimonies. In this, it is
apparent by the book of Psalms, that David far exceeded all that had gone
before him.
Secondly, Another thing that is an infallible sign of spiritual pride, is
persons being apt to think highly of their humility. False experiences are
commonly attended with a counterfeit humility. And it is the very nature
of a counterfeit humility, to be highly conceited of itself. False religious
affections have generally that tendency, especially when raised to a great
height to make persons think that their humility is great, and accordingly
to take much notice of their great attainments in this respect, and admire
them. But eminently gracious affections (I scruple not to say it) are
evermore of a contrary tendency, and have universally a contrary effect in
those that have them. They indeed make them very sensible what reason
there is that they should be deeply humbled, and cause them earnestly to
thirst and long after it; but they make their present humility, or that which
they have already attained to, to appear small; and their remaining pride
great, and exceedingly abominable..233
The reason why a proud person should be apt to think his humility great,
and why a very humble person should think his humility small, may be
easily seen, if it be considered, that it is natural for persons, in judging of
the degree of their own humiliation, to take their measure from that which
they esteem their proper height, or the dignity wherein they properly
stand. That may be great humiliation in one, that is no humiliation at all in
another; because the degree of honorableness, or considerableness wherein
each does properly stand, is very different. For some great man, to stoop
to loose the latchet of the shoes of another great man, his equal, or to wash
his feet, would be taken notice of as an act of abasement in him; and he,
being sensible of his own dignity, would look upon it so himself. But if a
poor slave is seen stooping to unloose the shoes of a great prince, nobody
will take any notice of this, as any act of humiliation in him, or token of
any great degree of humility: nor would the slave himself, unless he be
horribly proud and ridiculously conceited of himself: and if after he had
done it, he should, in his talk and behavior, show that he thought his
abasement great in it, and had his mind much upon it, as an evidence of his
being very humble; would not every body cry out upon him, "Whom do
you think yourself to be, that you should think this that you have done
such a deep humiliation?" This would make it plain to a demonstration,
that this slave was swollen with a high degree of pride and vanity of mind,
as much as if he declared in plain terms, "I think myself to be some great
one." And the matter is no less plain and certain, when worthless, vile, and
loathsome worms of the dust, are apt to put such a construction on their
acts of abasement before God; and to think it a token of great humility in
them that obey, under their affections, can find themselves so willing to
acknowledge themselves to be so mean and unworthy, and to behave
themselves as those that are so inferior. The very reason why such
outward acts, and such inward exercises, look like great abasement in such
a one, is because he has a high conceit of himself. Whereas if he thought of
himself more justly, these things would appear nothing to him, and his
humility in them worthy of no regard; but would rather be astonished at
his pride, that one so infinitely despicable and vile is brought no lower
before God. — When he says in his heart, "This is a great act of
humiliation; it is certainly a sign of great humility in me, that I should feel
thus and do so;" his meaning is, "This is great humility for me, for such a
one as I, that am so considerable and worthy." He considers how low he is.234
now brought, and compares this with the height of dignity on which he in
his heart thinks he properly stands, and the distance appears very great,
and he calls it all mere humility, and as such admires it. Whereas, in him
that is truly humble, and really sees his own vileness, and loathsomeness
before God, the distance appears the other way. When he is brought
lowest of all, it does not appear to him, that he is brought below his
proper station, but that he is not come to it; he appears to himself yet
vastly above it, he longs to get lower, that he may come to it, but appears
at a great distance from it. And this distance he calls pride. And therefore
his pride appears great to him, and not his humility. For although he is
brought much lower than he used to be, yet it does not appear to him
worthy of the name of humiliation, for him that is so infinitely mean and
detestable, to come down to a place, which, though it be lower than what
he used to assume, is yet vastly higher than what is proper for him. As
men would hardly count it worthy of the name of humility, in a
contemptible slave, that formerly affected to be a prince, to have his spirit
so far brought down, as to take the place of a nobleman; when this is still
so far above his proper station.
All men in the world, in judging of the degree of their own and others'
humility, as appearing in any act of theirs, consider two things, viz., the
real degree of dignity they stand in; and the degree of abasement, and the
relation it bears to that real dignity. Thus the complying with the same
low place, or low act, may be an evidence of great humility in one, that
evidences but little or no humility in another. But truly humble Christians
have so mean an opinion of their own real dignity, that all their
self-abasement, when considered with relation to that, and compared to
that, appears very small to them. It does not seem to them to be any great
humility, or any abasement to be made much of, for such poor, vile, abject
creatures as they, to lie at the foot of God.
The degree of humility is to be judged of by the degree of abasement, and
the degree of the cause for abasement: but he that is truly and eminently
humble, never thinks his humility great, considering the cause. The cause
why he should be abased appears so great, and the abasement of the frame
of his heart so greatly short of it, that he takes much more notice of his
pride than his humility..235
Everyone that has been conversant with souls under convictions of sin,
knows that those who are greatly convinced of sin, are not apt to think
themselves greatly convinced. And the reason is this: men judge of the
degree of their own convictions of sin by two things jointly considered,
viz., the degree of sense which they have of guilt and pollution, and the
degree of cause they have for such a sense, in the degree of their real
sinfulness. It is really no argument of any great conviction of sin, for some
men to think themselves to be very sinful, beyond most others in the
world; because they are so indeed, very plainly and notoriously. And
therefore a far less conviction of sin may incline such a one to think so
than another; he must be very blind indeed not to be sensible of it. But he
that is truly under great convictions of sin, naturally thinks this to be his
case. It appears to him, that the cause he has to be sensible of guilt and
pollution, is greater than others have; and therefore he ascribes his
sensibleness of this to the greatness of his sin, and not to the greatness of
his sensibility. It is natural for one under great convictions, to think
himself one of the greatest of sinners in reality, and also that it is so very
plainly and evidently; for the greater his convictions are, the more plain
and evident it seems to be to him. And therefore it necessarily seems to
him so plain and so easy to him to see it, that it may be seen without
much conviction. That man is under great convictions, whose conviction is
great in proportion to his sin. But no man that is truly under great
convictions, thinks his conviction great in proportion to his sin. For if he
does, it is a certain sign that he inwardly thinks his sins small. And if that
be the case, that is a certain evidence that his conviction is small. And this,
by the way, is the main reason that persons, when under a work of
humiliation, are not sensible of it in the time of it.
And as it is with conviction of sin, just so it is, by parity of reason, with
respect to persons' conviction or sensibleness of their own meanness and
vileness, their own blindness, their own impotence, and all that low sense
that a Christian has of himself, in the exercise of evangelical humiliation. So
that in a high degree of this, the saints are never disposed to think their
sensibleness of their own meanness, filthiness, impotence, etc., to be great;
because it never appears great to them considering the cause.
An eminent saint is not apt to think himself eminent in any thing; all his
graces and experiences are ready to appear to him to be comparatively.236
small; but especially his humility. There is nothing that appertains to
Christian experience, and true piety, that is so much out of his sight as his
humility. He is a thousand times more quick-sighted to discern his pride
than his humility: that he easily discerns, and is apt to take much notice
of, but hardly discerns his humility. On the contrary, the deluded
hypocrite, that is under the power of spiritual pride, is so blind to nothing
as his pride; and so quick-sighted to nothing, as the shows of humility that
are in him.
The humble Christian is more apt to find fault with his own pride than
with other men's. He is apt to put the best construction on others' words
and behavior, and to think that none are so proud as himself. But the
proud hypocrite is quick to discern the mote in his brother's eye, in this
respect; while he sees nothing of the beam in his own. He is very often
much in crying out of others' pride, finding fault with others' apparel, and
way of living; and is affected ten times as much with his neighbor's ring or
ribband, as with all the filthiness of his own heart.
From the disposition there is in hypocrites to think highly of their
humility, it comes to pass that counterfeit humility is forward to put itself
forth to view. Those that have it, are apt to be much in speaking of their
humiliations, and to set them forth in high terms, and to make a great
outward show of humility, in affected looks, gestures, or manner of
speech, or meanness of apparel, or some affected singularity. So it was of
old with the false prophets, Zechariah 13:4; so it was with the
hypocritical Jews, Isaiah 57:5, and so Christ tells us it was with the
Pharisees, Matthew 6:16. But it is contrariwise with true humility; they
that have it, are not apt to display their eloquence in setting it forth, or to
speak of the degree of their abasement in strong terms. 61 It does not affect
to show itself in any singular outward meanness of apparel, or way of
living; agreeable to what is implied in Matthew 6:17, "But thou, when
thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face. Colossians 2:23. Which
things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship and humility, and
neglecting of the body." Nor is true humility a noisy thing; it is not loud
and boisterous. The Scripture represents it as of a contrary nature. Ahab,
when he had a visible humility, a resemblance of true humility, went
softly, 1 Kings 21:27. A penitent, in the exercise of true humiliation, is
represented as still and silent, Lamentations 3:28: "He sitteth alone and.237
keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him." And silence is
mentioned as what attends humility, Proverbs 30:32: "If thou hast done
foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand
upon thy mouth."
Thus I have particularly and largely shown the nature of that true humility
that attends holy affections, as it appears in its tendency to cause persons
to think meanly of their attainments in religion, as compared with the
attainments of others, and particularly of their attainments in humility:
and have shown the contrary tendency of spiritual pride, to dispose
persons to think their attainments in these respects to be great. I have
insisted the longer on this, because I look upon it as a matter of great
importance, as it affords a certain distinction between true and counterfeit
humility; and also as this disposition of hypocrites to look on themselves
better than others, is what God has declared to be very hateful to him, "a
smoke in his nose, and a fire that burneth all the day, " Isaiah 65:5. It is
mentioned as an instance of the pride of the inhabitants of that holy city
(as it was called) Jerusalem, that they esteemed themselves far better than
the people of Sodom, and so looked upon them worthy to be overlooked
and disregarded by them: Ezekiel 16:56, "For thy sister Sodom was not
mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride."
Let not the reader lightly pass over these things in application to himself.
If you once have taken it in, that it is a bad sign for a person to be apt to
think himself a better saint than others, there will arise a blinding prejudice
in your own favor; and there will probably be need of a great strictness of
self-examination, in order to determine whether it be so with you. If on the
proposal of the question, you answer, "No, it seems to me, none are so
bad as I, " do not let the matter pass off so; but examine again, whether or
no you do not think yourself better than others on this very account,
because you imagine you think so meanly of yourself. Have not you a high
opinion of this humility? And if you answer again, "No; I have not a high
opinion of my humility; it seems to one I am as proud as the devil;" yet
examine again, whether self-conceit do not rise up under this cover;
whether on this very account, that you think yourself as proud as the
devil, you do not think yourself to be very humble..238
From this opposition that there is between the nature of a true, and of a
counterfeit humility, as to the esteem that the subjects of them have of
them selves, arises a manifold contrariety of temper and behavior.
A truly humble person, having such a mean opinion of his righteousness
and holiness, is poor in spirit. For a person to be poor in spirit, is to be in
his own sense and apprehension poor, as to what is in him, and to be of an
answerable disposition. Therefore a truly humble person, especially one
eminently humble, naturally behaves himself in many respects as a poor
man. "The poor useth entreaties, but the rich answereth roughly." A poor
man is not disposed to quick and high resentment when he is among the
rich: he is apt to yield to others, for he knows others are above him; he is
not stiff and self-willed; he is patient with hard fare; he expects no other
than to be despised, and takes it patently; he does not take it heinously
that he is overlooked and but little regarded; he is prepared to be in a low
place; he readily honors his superiors; he takes reproofs quietly; he readily
honors others as above him; he easily yields to be taught, and does not
claim much to his understanding and judgment; he is not over nice or
humorsome, and has his spirit subdued to hard things, he is not assuming,
nor apt to take much upon him, but it is natural for him to be subject to
others. Thus it is with the humble Christian. Humility is (as the great
Mastricht expresses it) a kind of holy pusillanimity.
A man that is very poor is a beggar; so is he that is poor in spirit. There is
a great difference between those affections that are gracious, and those that
are false: under the former, the person continues still a poor beggar at
God's gates, exceeding empty and needy; but the latter make men appear
to themselves rich, and increased with goods, and not very necessitous;
they have a great stock in their own imagination for their subsistence. 62
A poor man is modest in his speech and behavior; so, and much more, and
more certainly and universally, is one that is poor in spirit; he is humble
and modest in his behavior amongst men. It is in vain for any to pretend
that they are humble, and as little children before God, when they are
haughty, assuming, and impudent in their behavior amongst men. The
apostle informs us, that the design of the gospel is to cut off all glorying,
not only before God, but also before men, Romans 4:1, 2. Some pretend to
great humiliation, that are very haughty, audacious, and assuming in their.239
external appearance and behavior: but they ought to consider those
Scriptures, Psalm 131:1, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes
lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things too high for
me." Proverbs 6:16, 17, "These six things doth the Lord hate; yea seven
are an abomination unto him: a proud look, etc." — Chap. 21:4, "A high
look, and a proud heart are sin." Psalm 18:27, "Thou wilt bring down high
looks." And Psalm 101:5, "Him that hath a high look, and a proud heart, I
will not suffer." 1 Corinthians 13:4. "Charity vaunteth not itself, doth not
behave itself unseemly." There is a certain amiable modesty and fear that
belongs to a Christian behavior among men, arising from humility, that the
Scripture often speaks of, 1 Peter 3:15, "Be ready to give an answer to
every man that asketh you-with meekness and fear." Romans 13:7, "Fear
to whom fear." 2 Corinthians 7:15, "Whilst he remembereth the obedience
of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him." Ephesians 6:5,
"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the
flesh, with fear and trembling." 1 Peter 2:18, "Servants, be subject to your
masters with all fear." 1 Peter 3:2, "While they behold your chaste
conversation coupled with fear." 1 Timothy 2:9, "That women adorn
themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety." In this
respect a Christian is like a little child; a little child is modest before men,
and his heart is apt to be possessed with fear and awe amongst them.
The same spirit will dispose a Christian to honor all men: 1 Peter 2:17,
"Honor all men." A humble Christian is not only disposed to honor the
saints in his behavior; but others also, in all those ways that do not imply
a visible approbation of their sins. Thus Abraham, the great pattern of
believers, honored the children of Heth: Genesis 23:7, "Abraham stood up,
and bowed himself to the people of the land." This was a remarkable
instance of a humble behavior towards them that were out of Christ, and
that Abraham knew to be accursed: and therefore would by no means
suffer his servant to take a wife to his son, from among them; and Esau's
wives, being of these children of Heth, were a grief of mind to Isaac and
Rebekah. So Paul honored Festus: Acts 26:25, "I am not mad, most noble
Festus." Not only will Christian humility dispose persons to honor those
wicked men that are out of the visible church, but also false brethren and
persecutors. As Jacob, when he was in an excellent frame, having just been
wrestling all night with God, and received the blessing, honored Esau, his.240
false and persecuting brother: Genesis 33:3, "Jacob bowed himself to the
ground seven times, until he came near to his brother Esau." So he called
him Lord; and commanded all his family to honor him in like manner.
Thus I have endeavored to describe the heart and behavior of one that is
governed by a truly gracious humility, as exactly agreeable to the
Scriptures as I am able.
Now, it is out of such a heart as this, that all truly holy affections do flow.
Christian affections are like Mary's precious ointment that she poured on
Christ's head, that filled the whole house with a sweet odor. That was
poured out of an alabaster box; so gracious affections flow out to Christ
out of a pure heart. That was poured out of a broken box; until the box
was broken, the ointment could not flow, nor diffuse its odor; so gracious
affections flow out of a broken heart. Gracious affections are also like
those of Mary Magdalene (Luke 7 at the latter end), who also pours
precious ointment on Christ, out of an alabaster broken box, anointing
therewith the feet of Jesus, when she had washed them with her tears, and
wiped them with the hair of her head. All gracious affections that are a
sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly
sweetness and fragrancy, are broken hearted affections. A truly Christian
love, either to God or men, is a humble broken hearted love. The desires of
the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble
hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a
humble broken hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit;
and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of
VII. Another thing, wherein gracious affections are distinguished from
others, is, that they are attended with a change of nature.
All Gracious affections do arise from a spiritual understanding, in which
the soul has the excellency and glory of divine things discovered to it, as
was shown before. But all spiritual discoveries are transforming; and not
only make an alteration of the present exercise, sensation, and frame of the
soul, but such power and efficacy have they, that they make an alteration
in the very nature of the soul: 2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all with open
face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the.241
same image, from glory to Glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Such
power as this is properly divine power, and is peculiar to the Spirit of the
Lord: other power may make an alteration in men's present frames and
feelings: but it is the power of a Creator only that can change the nature, or
give a new nature. And no discoveries or illuminations but those that are
divine and supernatural, will have this supernatural effect. But this effect
all those discoveries have, that are truly divine. The soul is deeply affected
by these discoveries, and so affected as to be transformed.
Thus it is with those affections that the soul is the subject of in its
conversion. The Scripture representations of conversion do strongly imply
and signify a change of nature: such as "being born again; becoming new
creatures; rising from the dead; being renewed in the spirit of the mind;
dying to sin, and living to righteousness; putting off the old man, and
putting on the new man; a being engrafted into a new stock; a having a
divine seed implanted in the heart; a being made partakers of the divine
nature, " etc.
Therefore if there be no great and remarkable abiding change in persons
that think they have experienced a work of conversion, vain are all their
imaginations and pretenses, however they have been affected. 63
Conversion is a great and universal change of the man, turning him from sin
to God. A man may be restrained from sin before he is converted; but
when he is converted, he is not only restrained from sin, his very heart and
nature is turned from it unto holiness: so that thenceforward he becomes a
holy person, and an enemy to sin. If, therefore, after a person's high
affections at his supposed first conversion, it comes to that in a little time,
that there is no very sensible, or remarkable alteration in him, as to those
bad qualities, and evil habits, which before were visible in him, and he is
ordinarily under the prevalence of the same kind of dispositions that he
used to be, and the same thing seems to belong to his character; he appears
as selfish, carnal, as stupid, and perverse, as unchristian and unsavory as
ever; it is greater evidence against him, than the brightest story of
experiences that ever was told, is for him. For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision, nor uncircumcision, neither high profession, nor low
profession, neither a fair story, nor a broken one, avails any thing; but a
new creature..242
If there be a very great alteration visible in a person for a while; if it be not
abiding, but he afterwards returns, in a stated manner, to be much as he
used to be; it appears to be no change of nature; for nature is an abiding
thing. A swine that is of a filthy nature may be washed, but the swinish
nature remains; and a dove that is of a cleanly nature may be defiled, but
its cleanly nature remains. 64
Indeed allowances must be made for the natural temper; conversion does
not entirely root out the natural temper; those sins which a man by his
natural constitution was most inclined to before his conversions he may be
most apt to fall into still. But yet conversion will make a great alteration
even with respect to these sins. Though grace, while imperfect, does not
root out an evil natural temper, yet it is of great power and efficacy with
respect to it, to correct it. The change that is wrought in conversion, is a
universal change; grace changes a man with respect to whatever is sinful in
him; the old man is put off, and the new man put on, he is sanctified
throughout; and the man becomes a new creature, old things are passed
away, and all things are become new; all sin is mortified, constitution sins,
as well as others. If a man before his conversion; was by his natural
constitution especially inclined to lasciviousness, or drunkenness, or
maliciousness; converting grace will make a great alteration in him, with
respect to these evil dispositions; so that however he may be still most in
danger of these sins, yet they shall no longer have dominion over him; nor
will they any more be properly his character. Yea, true repentance does in
some respects, especially turn a man against his own iniquity, that
wherein he has been most guilty, and has chiefly dishonored God. He that
forsakes other sins, but saves his leading sin, the iniquity he is chiefly
inclined to, is like Saul, when sent against God's enemies the Amalekites,
with a strict charge to save none of them alive, but utterly to destroy
them, small and great; who utterly destroyed inferior people, but saved the
king, the chief of them all, alive.
Some foolishly make it an argument in favor of their discoveries and
affections, that when they are gone, they are left wholly without any life
or sense, or anything beyond what they had before. They think it an
evidence that what they experienced was wholly of God, and not of
themselves, because (say they) when God is departed, all is gone; they can
see and feel nothing, and are no better than they used to be..243
It is very true, that all grace and goodness in the hearts of the saints is
entirely from God; and they are universally and immediately dependent on
him for it. But yet these persons are mistaken, as to the manner of God's
communicating himself and his Holy Spirit, in imparting saving grace to
the soul. He gives his Spirit to be united to the faculties of the soul, and to
dwell there after the manner of a principle of nature; so that the soul, in
being endued with grace, is endued with a new nature: but nature is an
abiding thing. All the exercises of grace are entirely from Christ: but those
exercises are not from Christ, as something that is alive, moves and stirs,
something that is without life, and remains without life; but as having life
communicated to it; so as, through Christ's power, to have inherent in
itself a vital nature. In the soul where Christ savingly is, there he lives. He
does not only live without it, so as violently to actuate it, but he lives in it,
so that that also is alive. Grace in the soul is as much from Christ, as the
light in a glass, held out in the sunbeams, is from the sun. But this
represents the manner of the communication of grace to the soul, but in
part; because the glass remains as it was, the nature of it not being at all
changed, it is as much without any lightsomeness in its nature as ever. But
the soul of a saint receives light from the Sun of righteousness, in such a
manner, that its nature is changed, and it becomes properly a luminous
thing; not only does the sun shine in the saints, but they also become little
suns, partaking of the nature of the fountain of their light. In this respect,
the manner of their derivation of light, is like that of the lamps in the
tabernacle, rather than that of a reflecting glass; which, though they were
lit up by fire from heaven, yet thereby became themselves burning shining
things. The saints do not only drink of the water of life, that flows from
the original fountain; out this water becomes a fountain of water in them,
springing up there, and flowing out of them, John 4:14, and chap. 7:38, 39.
Grace is compared to a seed implanted, that not only is in the ground, but
has hold of it, has root there, and grows there, and is an abiding principle
of life and nature there.
As it is with spiritual discoveries and affections given at first conversion,
so it is in all illuminations and affections of that kind, that persons are the
subjects of afterwards; they are all transforming. There is a like divine
power and energy in them, as in the first discoveries; and they still reach
the bottom of the heart, and affect and alter the very nature of the soul, in.244
proportion to the degree in which they are given. And a transformation of
nature is continued and carried on by them, to the end of life, until it is
brought to perfection in glory. Hence the progress of the work of grace in
the hearts of the saints, is represented in Scripture, as a continued
conversion and renovation of nature. So the apostle exhorts those that
were at Rome, "beloved of God, called to be saints, " and that were
subjects of God's redeeming mercies, "to be transformed by the renewing
of their mind:" Romans 12:1, 2, "I beseech you therefore, by the mercies
of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice; and be not
conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your
mind;" compared with chap. 1:7. So the apostle, writing to the "saints and
faithful in Christ Jesus, " that were at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1), and those
who were once dead in trespasses and sins, but were now quickened and
raised up, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ, and
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that were once far off, but were
now made nigh by the blood of Christ, and that were no more strangers
and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of
God, and that were built together for a habitation of God through the
Spirit; I say, the apostle writing to these, tells them, "that he ceased not to
pray for them, that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and
revelation, in the knowledge of Christ; the eyes of their understanding
being enlightened, that they might know, or experience, what was the
exceeding greatness of God's power towards them that believe, according
to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he
raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly
places, " Ephesians 1:16, to the end. In this the apostle has respect to the
glorious power and work of God in converting and renewing the soul; as is
most plain by the sequel. So the apostle exhorts the same persons "to put
off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be
renewed in the spirit of their minds; and to put on the new man, which
after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, " Ephesians 4:22,
23, 24.
There is a sort of high affections that some have from time to time, that
leave them without any manner of appearance of an abiding effect. They
go off suddenly; so that from the very height of their emotion, and seeming
rapture, they pass at once to be quite dead, and void of all sense and.245
activity. It surely is not wont to be thus with high gracious affections; 65
they leave a sweet savor and a relish of divine things on the heart, and a
stronger bent of soul towards God and holiness. As Moses' face not only
shone while he was in the mount, extraordinarily conversing with God, but
it continued to shine after he came down from the mount. When men have
been conversing with Christ in an extraordinary manner, there is a sensible
effect of it remaining upon them; there is something remarkable in their
disposition and frame, which if we take knowledge of, and trace to its
cause, we shall find it is because they have been with Jesus, Acts 4:13.
VIII. Truly gracious affections differ from those affections that are false
and delusive, in that they tend to, and are attended with the lamb-like,
dove-like spirit and temper of Jesus Christ; or in other words,
they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness,
quietness, forgiveness and mercy, as appears in Christ.
The evidence of this in the Scripture is very abundant. If we judge of the
Nature of Christianity, and the proper spirit of the gospel, by the word of
God, this spirit is what may, by way of eminency, be called the Christian
spirit; and may be looked upon as the true, and distinguishing disposition
of the hearts of Christians as Christians. When some of the disciples of
Christ said something, through inconsideration and infirmity, that was not
agreeable to such a spirit, Christ told them, that they knew not what
manner of spirit they were of, Luke 9:55, implying that this spirit that I
am speaking of, is the proper spirit of his religion and kingdom. All that
are truly godly, and real disciples of Christ, have this spirit in them; and
not only so, but they are of this spirit; it is the spirit by which they are so
possessed and governed, that it is their true and proper character. This is
evident by what the wise man says, Proverbs 17:27 (having respect
plainly to such a spirit as this): "A man of understanding is of an excellent
spirit." And by the particular description Christ gives of the qualities and
temper of such as are truly blessed, that shall obtain mercy, and are God's
children and heirs: Matthew 5:5, 7, 9, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall
inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
And that this spirit is the special character of the elect of God, is
manifested by Colossians 3:12, 13: "Put on therefore as the elect of God,.246
holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind,
meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one
another." And the apostle, speaking of that temper and disposition, which
he speaks of as the most excellent and essential thing in Christianity, and
that without which none are true Christians, and the most glorious
profession and gifts are nothing (calling this spirit by the name of charity),
he describes it thus, 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5: "Charity suffereth long, and is
kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily
provoked, thinketh no evil." And the same apostle, Galatians 5, designedly
declaring the distinguishing marks and fruits of true Christian grace, chiefly
insists on the things that appertain to such a temper and spirit as I am
speaking of, ver. 22, 23: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." And so
does the Apostle James, in describing true grace, or that wisdom that is
from above, with that declared design, that others who are of a contrary
spirit may not deceive themselves, and lie against the truth, in professing
to be Christians, when they are not, James 3:14-17: "If ye have bitter
envying and strife in your hearts, glory not; and lie not against the truth.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle,
and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits."
Every thing that appertains to holiness of heart, does indeed belong to the
nature of true Christianity; and the character of Christians; but a spirit of
holiness as appearing in some particular graces, may more especially be
called the Christian spirit or temper. There are some amiable qualities and
virtues, that do more especially agree with the nature of the gospel
constitution, and Christian profession; because there is a special
agreeableness in them, with those divine attributes which God has more
remarkably manifested and glorified in the work of redemption by Jesus
Christ, that is the grand subject of the Christian revelation; and also a
special agreeableness with those virtues that were so wonderfully
exercised by Jesus Christ towards us in that affair, and the blessed
example he hath therein set us; and likewise because they are peculiarly
agreeable to the special drift and design of the work of redemption, and the.247
benefits we thereby receive, and the relation that it brings us into, to God
and one another. And these virtues are such as humility, meekness, love,
forgiveness, and mercy. These things therefore especially belong to the
character of Christians, as such.
These things are spoken of as what are especially the character of Jesus
Christ himself, the great head of the Christian church. They are so spoken
of in the prophecies of the Old Testament; as in that cited Matthew 21:5:
"Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek,
and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." So Christ himself
speaks of them, Matthew 11:29: "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in
heart." The same appears by the name by which Christ is so often called
in Scripture, viz., the Lamb. And as these things are especially the
character of Christ, so they are also especially the character of Christians.
Christians are Christ-like; none deserve the name of Christians, that are
not so in their prevailing character. "The new man is renewed, after the
image of him that created him, " Colossians 3:10. All true Christians
behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same
image, by his Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18. The elect are all predestinated to
be conformed to the image of the Son of God, that he might be the first
born among many brethren, Romans 8:29. As we have borne the image of
the first man, that is earthly, so we must also bear the image of the
heavenly; for as is the earthly, such are they also that are earthly; and as is
the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly, 1 Corinthians 15:47,
48, 49. — Christ is full of grace; and Christians all receive of his fullness,
and grace for grace; i.e., there is grace in Christians answering to grace in
Christ, such an answerableness as there is between the wax and the seal;
there is character for character: such kind of graces, such a spirit and
temper, the same things that belong to Christ's character, belong to theirs.
That disposition, wherein Christ's character does in a special manner
consist, therein does his image in a special manner consist. Christians that
shine by reflecting the light of the Sun of righteousness, do shine with the
same sort of brightness, the same mild, sweet, and pleasant beams. These
lamps of the spiritual temple, that are enkindled by fire from heaven, burn
with the same sort of flame. The branch is of the same nature with the
stock and root, has the same sap, and bears the same sort of fruit. The
members have the same kind of life with the head. It would be strange if
Christians should not be of the same temper and spirit that Christ is of;
when they are his flesh and his bone, yea, are one spirit, 1 Corinthians
6:17; and live so, that it is not they that live, but Christ that lives in them.
A Christian spirit is Christ's mark that he sets upon the souls of his
people, his seal in their foreheads, bearing his image and superscription. —
Christians are the followers of Christ; and they are so, as they are obedient
to that call of Christ, Matthew 11:28, 29, "Come unto me-and learn of me:
for I am meek and lowly of heart." They follow him as the Lamb:
Revelation 14:4, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he
goeth." True Christians are as it were clothed with the meek, quiet, and
loving temper of Christ; for as many as are in Christ, have put on Christ.
And in this respect the church is clothed with the sun, not only by being
clothed with his imputed righteousness, but also by being adorned with his
graces, Romans 13:14. Christ, the great Shepherd, is himself a Lamb, and
believers are also lambs; all the flock are lambs: John 21:15, "Feed my
lambs." Luke 10:3, "I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves.
"The redemption of the church by Christ from the power of the devil, was
typified of old, by David's delivering the lamb out of the mouth of the lion
and the bear.
That such manner of virtue as has been spoken of, is the very nature of the
Christian spirit, or the spirit that worketh in Christ, and in his members,
and in the distinguishing nature of it, is evident by this, that the dove is the
very symbol or emblem, chosen of God, to represent it. Those things are
fittest emblems of other things, which do best represent that which is
most distinguishing in their nature. The Spirit that descended on Christ,
when he was anointed of the Father, descended on him like a dove. The
dove is a noted emblem of meekness, harmlessness, peace and love. But
the same Spirit that descended on the head of the church, descends to the
members. "God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, "
Galatians 4:6. And "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of
his, " Romans 8:9. There is but one Spirit to the whole mystical body,
head and members, 1 Corinthians 6:17, Ephesians 4:4. Christ breathes his
own Spirit on his disciples, John 20:22. As Christ was anointed with the
Holy Ghost, descending on him like a dove, so Christians also "have an
anointing from the Holy One, " 1 John 2:20, 27. And they are anointed
with the same oil; it is the same "precious ointment on the head, that goes
down to the skirts of the garments." And on both, it is a spirit of peace
and love. Psalm 133:1, 2, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for
brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon
the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went
down to the skirts of his garments." The oil on Aaron's garments had the
same sweet and inimitable odor with that on his head; the smell of the
same sweet spices, Christian affections, and a Christian behavior, is but
the flowing out of the savor of Christ's sweet ointments. Because the
church has a dove-like temper and disposition, therefore it is said of her
that she has doves' eyes, Cant. 1:15: "Behold, thou art fair, my love,
behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves' eyes." And chap. 4:1, "Behold, thou
art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves' eyes within thy
locks." The same that is said of Christ, chap. 6:12: "His eyes are as the
eyes of doves." And the church is frequently compared to a dove in
Scripture: Cant. 2:14, "O, my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock."
Chap. 5:2, "Open to me, my love, my dove." And chap. 6:9, "My dove,
my undefiled is but one." Psalm 68:13, "Ye shall be as the wings of a dove,
covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." And 74:19, "O
deliver not the soul of the turtle dove unto the multitude of the wicked."
The dove that Noah sent out of the ark, that could find no rest for the sole
of her foot, until she returned, was a type of a true saint.
Meekness is so much the character of the saints, that the meek and the
godly, are used as synonymous terms in Scripture: so Psalm 37:10, 11, the
wicked and the meek are set in opposition one to another, as wicked and
godly: "Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; but the meek shall
inherit the earth." So Psalm 147:6, "The Lord lifteth up the meek: he
casteth the wicked down to the ground."
It is doubtless very much on this account, that Christ represents all his
disciples, all the heirs of heaven, as little children: Matthew 19:14, "Suffer
little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the
kingdom of heaven." Matthew 10:42, "Whosoever shall give to drink unto
one of these little ones, a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple,
verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Matthew 18:6,
"Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, etc." Ver. 10, "Take heed that
ye despise not one of these little ones." Ver. 14, "It is not the will of your
Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.".250
John 13:33, "Little children, yet a little while I am with you." Little
children are innocent and harmless; they do not do a great deal of mischief
in the world; men need not be afraid of them; they are no dangerous sort of
persons; their anger does not last long, they do not lay up injuries in high
resentment, entertaining deep and rooted malice. So Christians, in malice,
are children, 1 Corinthians 14:20. Little children are not guileful and
deceitful, but plain and simple; they are not versed in the arts of fiction
and deceit; and are strangers to artful disguises. They are yieldable and
flexible, and not willful and obstinate; do not trust to their own under
standing, but rely on the instructions of parents, and others of superior
understanding. Here is therefore a fit and lively emblem of the followers of
the Lamb. Persons being thus like little children, is not only a thing highly
commendable, and what Christians approve and aim at, and which some
extraordinary proficiency do attain to: but it is their universal character,
and absolutely necessary in order to entering into the kingdom of heaven:
Matthew 18:3, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Mark 10:15, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the
kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."
But here some may be ready to say, Is there no such thing as Christian
fortitude, and boldness for Christ, being good soldiers in the Christian
warfare, and coming out boldly against the enemies of Christ and his
To which I answer, There doubtless is such a thing. The whole Christian
life is compared to a warfare, and fitly so. And the most eminent
Christians are the best soldiers, endued with the greatest degrees of
Christian fortitude. And it is the duty of God's people to be steadfast and
vigorous in their opposition to the designs and ways of such as are
endeavoring to overthrow the kingdom of Christ, and the interest of
religion. But yet many persons seem to be quite mistaken concerning the
nature of Christian fortitude. It is an exceeding diverse thing from a brutal
fierceness, or the boldness of the beasts of prey. True Christian fortitude
consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling
and suppressing the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting, and following good affections and
dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear, or the opposition of.251
enemies. But the passions that are restrained and kept under, in the
exercise of this Christian strength and fortitude, are those very passions
that are vigorously and violently exerted in a false boldness for Christ.
And those affections that are vigorously exerted in true fortitude, are those
Christian, holy affections that are directly contrary to them. Though
Christian fortitude appears, in withstanding and counteracting the enemies
that are without us; yet it much more appears, in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest
enemies, and have greatest advantage against us. The strength of the good
soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more, than in steadfastly
maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his
mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts
and events of this evil and unreasonable world. The Scripture seems to
intimate that true fortitude consists chiefly in this: Proverbs 16:32, "He
that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his
spirit, than he that taketh a city."
The directest and surest way in the world, to make a right judgment what a
holy fortitude is, in fighting with God's enemies, is to look to the Captain
of all God's hosts, and our great leader and example, and see wherein his
fortitude and valor appeared, in his chief conflict, and in the time of the
greatest battle that ever was, or ever will be fought with these enemies,
when he fought with them alone, and of the people there was none with
him, and exercised his fortitude in the highest degree that ever he did, and
got that glorious victory that will be celebrated in the praises and triumphs
of all the hosts of heaven, throughout all eternity; even to Jesus Christ in
the time of his last sufferings, when his enemies in earth and hell made
their most violent attack upon him, compassing him round on every side,
like renting and roaring lions. Doubtless here we shall see the fortitude of a
holy warrior and champion in the cause of God, in its highest perfection
and greatest luster, and an example fit for the soldiers to follow that fight
under this Captain. But how did he show his holy boldness and valor at
that time? Not in the exercise of any fiery passions; not in fierce and
violent speeches, and vehemently declaiming against and crying out of the
intolerable wickedness of opposers, giving them their own in plain terms:
but in not opening his mouth when afflicted and oppressed, in going as a
lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, not.252
opening his mouth; praying that the Father would forgive his cruel enemies
because they knew not what they did; not shedding others' blood, but
with all conquering patience and love, shedding his own. Indeed one of his
disciples, that made a forward pretense to boldness for Christ, and
confidently declared he would sooner die with Christ than deny him, began
to lay about him with a sword: but Christ meekly rebukes him, and heals
the wound he gives. And never was the patience, meekness, love, and
forgiveness of Christ in so glorious a manifestation, as at that time. Never
did he appear so much a lamb, and never did he show so much of the dove-like
spirit, as at that time. If therefore we see any of the followers of
Christ, in the midst of the most violent, unreasonable, and wicked
opposition of God's and his own enemies, maintaining under all this
temptation, the humility, quietness, and gentleness of a lamb, and the
harmlessness, and love and sweetness of a dove, we may well judge that
here is a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
When persons are fierce and violent, and exert their sharp and bitter
passions, it shows weakness instead of strength and fortitude. 1
Corinthians 3 at the beginning, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you
as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. For ye
are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and
divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
There is a pretended boldness for Christ that arises from no better
principle than pride. A man may be forward to expose himself to the
dislike of the world, and even to provoke their displeasure out of pride.
For it is the nature of spiritual pride to cause men to seek distinction and
singularity; and so oftentimes to set themselves at war with those that
they call carnal, that they may be more highly exalted among their party.
True boldness for Christ is universal, and overcomes all, and carries men
above the displeasure of friends and foes; so that they will forsake all
rather than Christ; and will rather offend all parties, and be thought meanly
of by all, than offend Christ. And that duty which tries whether a man is
willing to be despised by them that are of his own party, and thought the
least worthy to be regarded by them, is a much more proper trial of his
boldness for Christ, than his being forward to expose himself to the
reproach of opposers. The apostle sought not glory, not only of Heathens
and Jews, but of Christians; as he declares, 1 Thessalonians 2:6. 66 He is.253
bold for Christ, that has Christian fortitude enough, to confess his fault
openly, when he has committed one that requires it, and as it were to come
down upon his knees before opposers. Such things as these are of vastly
greater evidence of holy boldness, than resolutely and fiercely confronting
As some are much mistaken concerning the nature of true boldness for
Christ, so they are concerning Christian zeal. It is indeed a flame, but a
sweet one; or rather it is the heat and fervor of a sweet flame. For the
flame of which it is the heat, is no other than that of divine love, or
Christian charity; which is the sweetest and most benevolent thing that is,
or can be, in the heart of man or angel. Zeal is the fervor of this flame, as it
ardently and vigorously goes out towards the good that is its object, in
desires of it, and pursuit after it and so consequentially, in opposition to
the evil that is contrary to it, and impedes it. There is indeed oppositions
and vigorous opposition, that is a part of it, or rather is an attendant of it;
but it is against things and not persons. Bitterness against the persons of
men is no part of it, but is very contrary to it; insomuch that so much the
warmer true zeal is, and the higher it is raised, so much the farther are
persons from such bitterness, and so much fuller of love, both to the evil
and to the good. As appears from what has been just now observed, that it
is no other, in its very nature and essence, than the fervor of a spirit of
Christian love. And as to what opposition there is in it to things, it is
firstly and chiefly against the evil things in the person himself, who has
this zeal: against the enemies of God and holiness, that are in his own heart
(as these are most in view, and what he has most to do with); and but
secondarily against the sins of others And therefore there is nothing in a
true Christian zeal, that is contrary to that spirit of meekness, gentleness,
and love, that spirit of a little child, a lamb and dove, that has been spoken
of; but it is entirely agreeable to it, and tends to promote it.
But to say something particularly concerning this Christian spirit I have
been speaking of, as exercised in these three things, forgiveness, love, and
mercy; I would observe that the Scripture is very clear and express
concerning the absolute necessity of each of these, as belonging to the
temper and character of every Christian..254
It is so as to a forgiving spirit, or a disposition to overlook and forgive
injuries. Christ gives it to us both as a negative and positive evidence; and
is express in teaching us, that if we are of such a spirit, it is a sign that we
are in a state of forgiveness and favor ourselves: and that if we are not of
such a spirit, we are not forgiven of God; and seems to take special care
that we should take good notice of it, and always bear it on our minds:
Matthew 6:12, 14, 15, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
For if ye forgive men their trespassed your heavenly Father will also
forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your
Father forgive your trespasses." Christ expresses the same again at another
time, Mark 11:25, 26, and again in Matthew 18:22, to the end, in the
parable of the servant that owed his Lord ten thousand talents, that would
not forgive his fellow servant a hundred pence; and therefore was delivered
to the tormentors. In the application of the parable Christ says, ver. 35,
"So likewise shall my heavenly Father do, if ye from your hearts forgive
not everyone his brother their trespasses."
And that all true saints are of a loving, benevolent, and beneficent temper,
the Scripture is very plain and abundant. Without it the apostle tells us,
though we should speak with the tongues of men and angels, we are as a
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal; and that though we have the gift of
prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, yet without
this spirit we are nothing. And there is no one virtue or disposition of the
mind, that is so often, and so expressly insisted on, in the marks that are
laid down in the New Testament, whereby to know true Christians. It is
often given as a sign that is peculiarly distinguishing, by which all may
know Christ's disciples, and by which they may know themselves; and is
often laid down, both as a negative and positive evidence. Christ calls the
law of love, by way of eminency, his commandment: John 13:34, "A new
commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved
you, that ye also love one another." And chap. 15:12, "This is my
commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you." And ver. 17,
"These things I command you, that ye love one another." And says, chap.
13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have
love one to another." And chap. 14:21 (still with a special reference to this
which he calls his commandment), "He that hath my commandments, and
keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." The beloved disciple who had so.255
much of this sweet temper himself, abundantly insists on it, in his
epistles. There is none of the apostles so much in laying down express
signs of grace, for professors to try themselves by, as he; and in his signs,
he insists scarcely on anything else, but a spirit of Christian love, and an
agreeable practice: 1 John 2:9, 10, "He that saith he is in the light, and
hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his
brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in
him." Chap. 3:14, "We know that we are passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren: he that loveth not his brother abideth in
death." Ver. 18, 19, "My little children, let us not love in word and in
tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the
truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." Ver. 23, 24, "This is his
commandment, that we should love one another. And he that keepeth his
commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that
he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." Chap. 4:7, 8,
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that
loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not
God: for God is love." Ver. 12, 13, "No man hath seen God at any time. If
we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, because he hath given us of his
Spirit." Ver. 16, "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in
God, and God in him." Ver. 20, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his
brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen,
how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?"
And the Scripture is as plain as it is possible it should be, that none are
true saints, but those whose true character it is, that they are of a
disposition to pity and relieve their fellow creatures, that are poor,
indigent, and afflicted: Psalm 37:21, "The righteous showeth mercy, and
giveth." Ver. 26, "He is ever merciful, and lendeth." Psalm 112:5, "A good
man showeth favor, and lendeth." Ver. 9, "He hath dispersed abroad, and
given to the poor." Proverbs 14:31, "He that honoreth God, hath mercy on
the poor." Proverbs 21:26, "The righteous giveth, and spareth not."
Jeremiah 22:16, "He judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was
well with him: Was not this to know me? saith the Lord." Jam 1:27, "Pure
religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, To visit the
fatherless and widows in their affliction, " etc. Hosea 6:6, "For I have.256
desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God, more than
burnt offerings." Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall
obtain mercy. "2 Corinthians 8:8, "I speak not by commandment, but by
occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your
love." James 2:13-16, "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that
hath showed no mercy. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man
say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or
sister be naked, and destitute of daily food; and one of you say unto them,
Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them
not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?" 1
John 3:17, "Whoso hath this world's good and seeth his brother have
need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth
the love of God in him?" Christ in that description he gives us of the day
of judgment, Matthew 25 (which is the most particular that we have in the
Bible), represents that judgment will be passed at that day, according as
men have been found to have been of a merciful spirit and practice or
otherwise. Christ's design in giving such a description of the process of
that day, is plainly to possess all his followers with that apprehension,
that unless this was their spirit and practice, there was no hope of their
being accepted and owned by him at that day. Therefore this is an
apprehension that we ought to be possessed with. We find in Scripture,
that a righteous man, and a merciful man are synonymous expressions,
Isaiah 57:1, "The righteous perisheth and no man layeth it to heart; and
merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken
away from the evil to come."
Thus we see how full, clear, and abundant, the evidence from Scripture is
that those who are truly gracious, are under the government of that lamb-like,
dove-like Spirit of Jesus Christ, and that this is essentially and
eminently the nature of the saving grace of the gospel, and the proper
spirit of true Christianity. We may therefore undoubtedly determine, that
all truly Christian affections are attended with such a spirit, and that this
is the natural tendency of the fear and hope, the sorrow and the joy, the
confidence and the zeal of true Christians.
None will understand me, that true Christians have no remains of a
contrary Spirit, and can never, in any instances, be guilty of a behavior
disagreeable to such a spirit. But this I affirm, and shall affirm, until I deny.257
the Bible to be anything worth, that everything in Christians that belongs
to true Christianity, is of this tendency, and works this way; and that
there is no true Christian upon earth, but is so under the prevailing power
of such a spirit, that he is properly denominated from it, and it is truly and
justly his character, and that therefore ministers, and others, have no
warrant from Christ to encourage persons that are of a contrary character
and behavior, to think they are converted, because they tell a fair story of
illuminations and discoveries. In so doing, they would set up their own
wisdom against Christ's, and judge without, and against that rule by which
Christ has declared all men should know his disciples. Some persons place
religion so much in certain transient illuminations and impressions
(especially if they are on such a particular method and order) and so little
in the spirit and temper persons are of, that they greatly deform religion,
and form notions of Christianity quite different from what it is, as
delineated in the Scriptures. The Scripture knows of no such true
Christians, as are of a sordid, selfish, cross and contentious spirit. Nothing
can be invented that is a greater absurdity, than a morose, hard, close,
high-spirited, spiteful, true Christian. We must learn the way of bringing
men to rules, and not rules to men, and so strain and stretch the rules of
God's word, to take in ourselves, and some of our neighbors, until we
make them wholly of none effect.
It is true, that allowances must be made for men's natural temper, with
regard to these things, as well as others; but not such allowances, as to
allow men, that once were wolves and serpents, to be now converted,
without any remarkable change in the spirit of their mind. The change
made by true conversion is wont to be most remarkable and sensible, with
respect to that which before was the wickedness the person was most
notoriously guilty of. Grace has as great a tendency to restrain and mortify
such sins, as are contrary to the spirit that has been spoken of, as it is to
mortify drunkenness or lasciviousness. Yea, the Scripture represents the
change wrought by gospel grace, as especially appearing in an alteration of
the former sort: Isaiah 11:6-9, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and
the leopard shall lie down with the kid: and the calf, and the young lion,
and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and
the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion
shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of.258
the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth
shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
And to the same purpose is Isaiah 65:25. Accordingly we find, that in the
primitive times of the Christian church, converts were remarkably changed
in this respect: Titus 3:3, etc., "For we ourselves also were sometimes
foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in
malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But after that the
kindness and love of God our Savior towards man appeared-he saved us
by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." And
Colossians 3:7, 8, "In the which ye also walked sometime, when ye lived
in them. But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice,
blasphemy, filthy communications out of your mouth."
IX. Gracious affections soften the heart, and are attended and followed
with a Christian tenderness of spirit.
False affections, however persons may seem to be melted by them while
they are new, yet have a tendency in the end to harden the heart. A
disposition to some kind of passions may be established; such as imply
self-seeking, self-exaltation, and opposition to others. But false affections,
with the delusion that attends them, finally tend to stupify the mind, and
shut it up against those affections wherein tenderness of heart consists:
and the effect of them at last is, that persons in the settled frame of their
minds, become less affected with their present and past sins, and less
conscientious with respect to future sins, less moved with the warnings
and cautions of God's word, or God's chastisements in his providence,
more careless of the frame of their hearts, and the manner and tendency of
their behavior, less quick-sighted to discern what is sinful, less afraid of
the appearance of evil, than they were while they were under legal
awakenings and fears of hell. Now they have been the subjects of such and
such impressions and affections, and have a high opinion of themselves,
and look on their state to be safe; they can be much more easy than before,
in living in the neglect of duties that are troublesome and inconvenient; and
are much more slow and partial in complying with difficult commands; are
in no measure so alarmed at the appearance of their own defects and
transgressions; are emboldened to favor themselves more, with respect to.259
the labor, and painful care and exactness in their walk, and more easily
yield to temptations, and the solicitations of their lusts; and have far less
care of their behavior, when they come into the holy presence of God, in
the time of public or private worship. Formerly it may be, under legal
convictions, they took much pains in religion, and denied themselves in
many things: but now they think themselves out of danger of hell, they
very much put off the burden of the cross, and save themselves the trouble
of difficult duties, and allow themselves more in the enjoyment of their
ease and their lusts.
Such persons as these, instead of embracing Christ as their Savior from sin,
trust in him as the Savior of their sins; instead of flying to him as their
refuge from their spiritual enemies they make use of him as the defense of
their spiritual enemies, from God, and to strengthen them against him.
They make Christ the minister of sin, and great officer and vicegerent of
the devil, to strengthen his interest, and make him above all things in the
world strong against Jehovah; so that they may sin against him with good
courage, and without any fear, being effectually secured from restraints, by
his most solemn warnings and most awful threatenings. They trust in
Christ to preserve to them the quiet enjoyment of their sins, and to be
their shield to defend them from God's displeasure; while they come close
to him, even to his bosom, the place of his children, to fight against him,
with their mortal weapons, hid under their skirts. 67 However, some of
these, at the same time, make a great profession of love to God, and
assurance of his favor, and great joy in tasting the sweetness of his love.
After this manner they trusted in Christ, that the Apostle Jude speaks of,
who crept in among the saints unknown; but were really ungodly men,
turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, Jude 4. These are they that
trust in their being righteous; and because God has promised that the
righteous shall surely live, or certainly be saved, are therefore emboldened
to commit iniquity, whom God threatens in Ezekiel 33:13: "When I shall
say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own
righteousness, and commit iniquity; all his righteousness shall not be
remembered, but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for
Gracious affections are of a quite contrary tendency; they turn a heart of
stone more and more into a heart of flesh. A holy love and hope are
principles that are vastly more efficacious upon the heart, to make it
tender, and to fill it with a dread of sin, or whatever might displease and
offend God, and to engage it to watchfulness, and care, and strictness, than
a slavish fear of hell. Gracious affections, as was observed before, flow out
of a contrite heart, or (as the word signifies) a bruised heart, bruised and
broken with godly sorrow; which makes the heart tender, as bruised flesh
is tender, and easily hurt. Godly sorrow has much greater influence to
make the heart tender, than mere legal sorrow from selfish principles.
The tenderness of the heart of a true Christian, is elegantly signified by our
Savior, in his comparing such a one to a little child. The flesh of a little
child is very tender; so is the heart of one that is new born. This is
represented in what we are told of Naaman's cure of his leprosy, by his
washing in Jordan; which was undoubtedly a type of the renewing of the
soul, by washing in the laver of regeneration. We are told, 2 Kings 5:14,
"That he went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according
to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the
flesh of a little child." Not only is the flesh of a little child tender, but his
mind is tender. A little child has his heart easily moved, wrought upon and
bowed: so is a Christian in spiritual things. A little child is apt to be
affected with sympathy, to weep with them that weep, and cannot well
bear to see others in distress: so it is with a Christian, John 11:25, Romans
12:15, 1 Corinthians 12:26. A little child is easily won by kindness: so is a
Christian. A little child is easily affected with grief at temporal evils, and
has his heart melted, and falls a weeping: thus tender is the heart of a
Christian, with regard to the evil of sin. A little child is easily affrighted at
the appearance of outward evils, or anything that threatens its hurt: so is a
Christian apt to be alarmed at the appearance of moral evil, and anything
that threatens the hurt of the soul. A little child, when it meets enemies, or
fierce beasts, is not apt to trust its own strength, but flies to its parents
for refuge: so a saint is not self-confident in engaging spiritual enemies, but
flies to Christ. A little child is apt to be suspicious of evil in places of
danger, afraid in the dark, afraid when left alone, or far from home: so is a
saint apt to be sensible of his spiritual dangers, jealous of himself, full of
fear when he cannot see his way plain before him, afraid to be left alone,.261
and to be at a distance from God: Proverbs 28:14, "Happy is the man that
feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." A
little child is apt to be afraid of superiors, and to dread their anger, and
tremble at their frowns and threatenings: so is a true saint with respect to
God: Psalm 119:120, "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid
of thy judgments." Isaiah 66:2, "To this man will I look, even to him that
is poor, and trembleth at my word." ver. 5, "Hear ye the word of the Lord,
ye that tremble at his word." Ezra. 9:4, "Then were assembled unto me
everyone that trembled at the words of the God of Israel." Chap. 10:3;
"According to the counsel of my Lord, and of those that tremble at the
commandment of our God." A little child approaches superiors with awe:
so do the saints approach God with holy awe and reverence: Job 13:2,
"Shall not his excellency make you afraid? And his dread fall upon you?"
Holy fear is so much the nature of true godliness, that it is called in
Scripture by no other name more frequently, than the fear of God.
Hence gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, forward, noisy,
and boisterous; but rather to speak trembling: Hosea 13:1, "When Ephraim
spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal,
he died;" and to clothe with a kind of holy fear in all their behavior
towards God and man; agreeably to Psalm 2:11, 1 Peter 3:15, 2
Corinthians 7:15, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 3:2, Romans 11:20.
But here some may object and say, is there no such thing as a holy
boldness in prayer, and the duties of divine worship? I answer, there is
doubtless such a thing; and it is chiefly to be found in eminent saints,
persons of great degrees of faith and love. But this holy boldness is not in
the least opposite to reverence; though it be to disunion and servility. It
abolishes or lessens that dispositions which arises from moral distance or
alienation; and also distance of relation, as that of a slave; but not at all,
that which becomes the natural distance, whereby we are infinitely
inferior. No boldness in poor sinful worms of the dust, that have a right
sight of God and themselves, will prompt them to approach to God with
less fear and reverence, than spotless and glorious angels in heaven, who
cover their faces before his throne, Isaiah 6, at the beginning. Rebecca (who
in her marriage with Isaac, in almost all its circumstances, was manifestly a
great type of the church, the spouse of Christ) when she meets Isaac,
lights off from her camel, and takes a vail and covers herself; although she.262
was brought to him as his bride, to be with him in the nearest relation, and
most intimate union, that mankind are ever united one to another. 68 Elijah,
that great prophet, who had so much holy familiarity with God, at a time
of special nearness to God, even when he conversed with him in the
mount, wrapped his face in his mantle. Which was not because he was
terrified with any servile fear, by the terrible wind, and earthquake, and
fire; but after these were all over, and God spake to him as a friend, in a
still small voice: 1 Kings 19:12, 13, "And after the fire, a still small voice;
and it was so, when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle."
And Moses, with whom God spake face to face, as a man speaks with his
friend, and was distinguished from all the prophets, in the familiarity with
God that he was admitted to; at a time when he was brought nearest of all,
when God showed him his glory in that same mount where he afterwards
spake to Elijah: "He made haste, and bowed his head towards the earth,
and worshipped, " Exodus 34:8. There is in some persons a most
unsuitable and unsufferable boldness, in their addresses to the great
Jehovah, in an affectation of a holy boldness, and ostentation of eminent
nearness and familiarity; the very thoughts of which would make them
shrink into nothing, with horror and confusion, if they saw the distance
that is between God and them. They are like the Pharisee, that boldly
came up near, in a confidence of his own eminency in holiness. Whereas, if
they saw their vileness, they would be more like the publican, that "stood
afar off, and durst not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven; but smote
upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." It becomes such
sinful creatures as we, to approach a holy God (although with faith, and
without terror, yet) with contrition, and penitent shame and confusion of
face. It is foretold that this should be the disposition of the church, in the
time of her highest privileges on earth in her latter day of glory, when God
should remarkably comfort her, by revealing his covenant mercy to her,
Ezekiel 16:60, to the end: "I will establish unto thee an everlasting
covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed. — And I
will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the
Lord; that thou mayest remember and be confounded and never open thy
mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for
all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God." The woman that we read of in
the 7th chapter of Luke, that was an eminent saint, and had much of that
true love which casts out fear, by Christ's own testimony, ver. 47, she.263
approached Christ in an amiable and acceptable manner, when she came
with that humble modesty, reverence and shame, when she stood at his
feet, weeping behind him, as not being fit to appear before his face, and
washed his feet with her tears.
One reason why gracious affections are attended with this tenderness of
spirit which has been spoken of, is, that true grace tends to promote
convictions of conscience. Persons are wont to have convictions of
conscience before they have any grace: and if afterwards they are truly
converted, and have true repentance, and joy, and peace in believing; this
has a tendency to put an end to errors, but has no tendency to put an end
to convictions of sin, but to increase them. It does not stupify man's
conscience; but makes it more sensible, more easily and thoroughly
discerning the sinfulness of that which is sinful, and receiving a greater
conviction of the heinous and dreadful nature of sin, susceptive of a
quicker and deeper sense of it, and more convinced of his own sinfulness
and wickedness of his heart; and consequently it has a tendency to make
him more jealous of his heart. Grace tends to give the soul a further and
better conviction of the same things concerning sin, that it was convinced
of, under a legal work of the Spirit of God; viz., its great contrariety to the
will, and law, and honor of God, the greatness of God's hatred of it, and
displeasure against it, and the dreadful punishment it exposes to and
deserves. And not only so, but it convinces the soul of something further
concerning sin, that it saw nothing of, while only under legal convictions;
and that is the infinitely hateful nature of sin, and its dreadfulness upon
that account. And this makes the heart tender with respect to sin; like
David's heart, that smote him when he had cut off Saul's skirt. The heart
of a true penitent is like a burnt child that dreads the fire. Whereas, on the
contrary, he that has had a counterfeit repentance, and false comforts and
joys, is like iron that has been suddenly heated and quenched; it becomes
much harder than before. A false conversion puts an end to convictions of
conscience; and so either takes away, or much diminishes that
conscientiousness, which was manifested under a work of the law.
All gracious affections have a tendency to promote this Christian
tenderness of heart, that has been spoken of; not only a godly sorrow, but
also a gracious joy: Psalm 2:11, "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with
trembling." As also a gracious hope: Psalm 33:18, "Behold the eye of the.264
Lord is upon them that fear him; upon them that hope in his mercy." And
Psalm 147:11, "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those
that hope in his mercy." Yea, the most confident and assured hope, that is
truly gracious, has this tendency. The higher a holy hope is raised, the
more there is of this Christian tenderness. The banishing of a servile fear,
by a holy assurance, is attended with a proportionable increase of a
reverential fear. The diminishing of the fear of the fruits of God's
displeasure in future punishment, is attended with a proportionable
increase of fear of his displeasure itself; the diminishing of the fear of hell,
with an increase of the fear of sin. The vanishing of jealousies of the
person's state, is attended with a proportionable increase of jealousies of
his heart, in a distrust of its strength, wisdom, stability, faithfulness, etc.
The less apt he is to be afraid of natural evil, having his heart fixed,
trusting in God, and so not afraid of evil tidings; the more apt he is to be
alarmed, with the appearance of moral evil, or the evil of sin. As he has
more holy boldness, so he has less of self-confidence, and a forward
assuming boldness, and more modesty. As he is more sure than others of
deliverance from hell, so he has more of a sense of the desert of it. He is
less apt than others to be shaken in faith; but more apt than others to be
moved with solemn warnings, and with God's frowns, and with the
calamities of others. He has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart:
richer than others, but the poorest of all in spirit: the tallest and strongest
saint, but the least and tenderest child among them.
X. Another thing wherein those affections that are truly gracious and
holy, differ from those that are false, is beautiful symmetry and
Not that the symmetry of the virtues, and gracious affections of the saints,
in this life is perfect: it oftentimes is in many things defective, through the
imperfection of grace, for want of proper instructions, through errors in
judgment, or some particular unhappiness of natural temper, or defects in
education, and many other disadvantages that might be mentioned. But yet
there is, in no wise, that monstrous disproportion in gracious affections,
and the various parts of true religion in the saints, that is very commonly
to be observed, in the false religion, and counterfeit graces, of hypocrites..265
In the truly holy affections of the saints is found that proportion, which is
the natural consequence of the universality of their sanctification. They
have the whole image of Christ upon them: they have put off the old man,
and have put on the new man entire in all its parts and members. It hath
pleased the Father that in Christ all fullness should dwell: there is in him
every grace; he is full of grace and truth: and they that are Christ's, do, "of
his fullness receive grace for grace" (John 1:14, 16); i.e., there is every
grace in them which is in Christ; grace for grace; that is, grace answerable
to grace: there is no grace in Christ, but there is its image in believers to
answer it: the image is a true image; and there is something of the same
beautiful proportion in the image, which is in the original; there is feature
for feature, and member for member. There is symmetry and beauty in
God's workmanship. The natural body, which God hath made, consists of
many members; and all are in a beautiful proportion: so it is in the new
man, consisting of various graces and affections. The body of one that was
born a perfect child, may fail of exact proportion through distemper, and
the weakness and wounds of some of its members; yet the disproportion
is in no measure like that of those that are born monsters.
It is with hypocrites, as it was with Ephraim of old, at a time when God
greatly complains of their hypocrisy, Hosea 7:8: "Ephraim is a cake not
turned, " half roasted and half raw: there is commonly no manner of
uniformity in their affections.
There is in many of them great partiality with regard to the several kinds
of religious affections; great affections in some things, and no manner of
proportion in others. A holy hope and holy fear go together in the saints,
as has been observed from Psalm 33:18, and 147:11. But in some of these
is the most confident hope, while they are void of reverence, self-jealousy
and caution, to a great degree cast off fear. In the saints, joy and holy fear
go together, though the joy be never so great: as it was with the disciples,
in that joyful morning of Christ's resurrection, Matthew 28:8: "And they
departed quickly from the sepulcher, with fear and great joy." 69 But
many of these rejoice without trembling: their joy is of that sort, that it is
truly opposite to godly fear.
But particularly one great difference between saints and hypocrites is this,
that the joy and comfort of the former is attended with godly sorrow and.266
mourning for sin. They have not only sorrow to prepare them for their
first comfort, but after they are comforted, and their joy established. As it
is foretold of the church of God, that they should mourn and loathe
themselves for their sins, after they were returned from the captivity, and
were settled in the land of Canaan, the land of rest, and the land that flows
with milk and honey, Ezekiel 20:42, 43: "And ye shall know that I am the
Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for
the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall
ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been
defiled, and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils
that ye have committed." As also in Ezekiel 16:61, 62, 63. A true saint is
like a little child in this respect; he never had any godly sorrow before he
was born again; but since has it often in exercise: as a little child, before it
is born, and while it remains in darkness, never cries; but as soon as it sees
the light, it begins to cry; and thenceforward is often crying. Although
Christ hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, so that we are freed
from the sorrow of punishment, and may now sweetly feed upon the
comforts Christ hath purchased for us; yet that hinders not but that our
feeding on these comforts should be attended with the sorrow of
repentance. As of old, the children of Israel were commanded, evermore to
feed upon the paschal lamb, with bitter herbs. True saints are spoken of in
Scripture, not only as those that have mourned for sin, but as those that
do mourn, whose manner it is still to mourn: Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are
they that mourn; for they shall be comforted."
Not only is there often in hypocrites an essential deficiency as to the
various kinds of religious affections, but also a strange partiality and
disproportion, in the same affections, with regard to different objects.
Thus, as to the affection of love, some make high pretenses, and a great
show of love to God and Christ, and it may be, have been greatly affected
with what they have heard or thought concerning them: but they have not
a spirit of love and benevolence towards men, but are disposed to
contention, envy, revenge, and evil speaking; and will, it may be, suffer an
old grudge to rest in their bosoms towards a neighbor, for seven years
together, if not twice seven years; living in real ill will and bitterness of
spirit towards him: and it may be in their dealings with their neighbors, are
not very strict and conscientious in observing the rule of "doing to others.267
as they would that they should do to them." And, on the other hand, there
are others that appear as if they had a great deal of benevolence to men, are
very good natured and generous in their way, but have no love to God.
And as to love to men, there are some that have flowing affections to
some; but their love is far from being of so extensive and universal a
nature, as a truly Christian love is. They are full of dear affections to
some, and full of bitterness towards others. They are knit to their own
party, them that approve of them, love them and admire them; but are
fierce against those that oppose and dislike them. Matthew 5:45, 46, "Be
like your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise upon the
evil, and on the good. For if ye love them which love you, what reward
have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?" Some show a great
affection to their neighbors, and pretend to be ravished with the company
of the children of God abroad; and at the same time are uncomfortable and
churlish towards their wives and other near relations at home, and are very
negligent of relative duties. And as to the great love to sinners and
opposers of religion, and the great concern for their souls, that there is an
appearance of in some, even to extreme distress and agony, singling out a
particular person, from among a multitude, for its object, there being at the
same time no general compassion to sinners, that are in equally miserable
circumstances, but what is in a monstrous disproportion; this seems not to
be of the nature of gracious affection. Not that I suppose it to be at all
strange, that pity to the perishing souls of sinners should be to a degree of
agony; if other things are answerable: or that a truly gracious compassion
to souls should be exercised much more to some persons than others that
are equally miserable, especially on some particular occasions: there may
many things happen to fix the mind, and affect the heart, with respect to a
particular person, at such a juncture; and without doubt some saints have
been in great distress for the souls of particular persons, so as to be as it
were in travail for them; but when persons appear, at particular times, in
racking agonies for the soul of some single person, far beyond what has
been usually heard or read of in eminent saints, but appear to be persons
that have a spirit of meek and fervent love, charity, and compassion to
mankind in general, in a far less degree than they: I say, such agonies are
greatly to be suspected, for reasons already given; viz., that the Spirit of.268
God is wont to give graces and gracious affections in a beautiful symmetry
and proportion.
And as there is a monstrous disproportion in the love of some, in its
exercises towards different persons, so there is in their seeming exercises
of love towards the same persons. — Some men show a love to others as
to their outward man, they are liberal of their worldly substance, and often
give to the poor; but have no love to, or concern for the souls of men.
Others pretend a great love to men's souls, that are not compassionate and
charitable towards their bodies. The making a great show of love, pity and
distress for souls, costs them nothing; but in order to show mercy to
men's bodies, they must part with money out of their pockets. But a true
Christian love to our brethren extends both to their souls and bodies; and
herein is like the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. He showed mercy
to men's souls, by laboring for them, in preaching the gospel to them; and
showed mercy to their bodies in going about doing good, healing all manner
of sickness and diseases among the people. We have a remarkable instance
of Christ's having compassion at once both to men's souls and bodies, and
showing compassion by feeding both, in Mark 6:34, etc.: "And Jesus
when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion
towards them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd; and he
began to teach them many things." Here was his compassion to their souls.
And in the sequel we have an account of his compassion to their bodies,
because they had been a long while having nothing to eat; he fed five
thousand of them with five loaves and two fishes. And if the compassion
of professing Christians towards others does not work in the same ways,
it is a sign that it is no true Christian compassion.
And furthermore, it is a sign that affections are not of the right sort, if
persons seem to be much affected with the bad qualities of their fellow
Christians as the coldness and lifelessness of other saints, but are in no
proportion affected with their own defects and corruptions. A true
Christian may be affected with the coldness and unsavoriness of other
saints, and may mourn much over it: but at the same time, he is not so apt
to be affected with the badness of anybody's heart, as his own; this is
most in his view; this he is most quick-sighted to discern; this he sees
most of the aggravations of, and is most ready to lament. And a less degree
of virtue will bring him to pity himself, and be concerned at his own.269
calamities, than rightly to be affected with others' calamities. And if men
have not attained to the less, we may determine they never attained to the
And here by the way, I would observe, that it may be laid down as a
general rule, that if persons pretend that they come to high attainments in
religion, but have never yet arrived to the less attainments, it is a sign of a
vain pretense. As if persons pretend, that they have got beyond mere
morality, to live a spiritual and divine life; but really have not come to be
so much as moral persons: or pretend to be greatly affected with the
wickedness of their hearts, and are not affected with the palpable
violations of God's commands in their practice, which is a less attainment:
or if they pretend to be brought to be even willing to be damned for the
glory of God, but have no forwardness to suffer a little in their estates and
names, and worldly convenience, for the sake of their duty: or pretend that
they are not afraid to venture their souls upon Christ, and commit their all
to God, trusting to his bare word, and the faithfulness of his promises, for
their eternal welfare; but at the same time, have not confidence enough in
God, to dare to trust him with a little of their estates, bestowed to pious
and charitable uses; I say, when it is thus with persons, their pretenses are
manifestly vain. He that is in a journey, and imagines he has got far
beyond such a place in his road, and never yet came to it, must be
mistaken; and he is not yet arrived to the top of the hill, that never yet got
half way thither. But this by the way.
The same that has been observed of the affection of love, is also to be
observed of other religious affections. Those that are true, extend in some
proportion to the various things that are their due and proper objects; but
when they are false, they are commonly strangely disproportionate. So it
is with religious desires and longings: these in the saints, are to those
things that are spiritual and excellent in general, and that in some
proportion to their excellency, importance or necessity, or their near
concern in them; but in false longing it is often far otherwise. They will
strangely run, with an impatient vehemence, after something of less
importance, when other things of greater importance are neglected. —
Thus for instance, some persons, from time to time, are attended with a
vehement inclination, and unaccountably violent pressure, to declare to
others what they experience, and to exhort others; when there is, at the.270
same time, no inclination, in any measure equal to it, to other things, that
true Christianity has as great, yea, a greater tendency to; as the pouring
out the soul before God in secret, earnest prayer and praise to him, and
more conformity to him, and living more to his glory, etc. We read in
Scripture of "groanings that cannot be uttered, and soul breakings for the
longing it hath, and longings, thirstings, and pantings, " much more
frequently to these latter things, than the former.
And so as to hatred and zeal; when these are from right principles, they
are against sin in general, in some proportion to the degree of sinfulness:
Psalm 119:104, "I hate every false way." So ver. 128. But a false hatred
and zeal against sin, is against some particular sin only. Thus some seem
to be very zealous against profaneness, and pride in apparel, who
themselves are notorious for covetousness, closeness, and it may be
backbiting, envy towards superiors, turbulency of spirit towards rulers,
and rooted ill will to them that have injured them. False zeal is against the
sins of others, while men have no zeal against their own sins. But he that
has true zeal, exercises it chiefly against his own sins; though he shows
also a proper zeal against prevailing and dangerous iniquity in others. And
some pretend to have a great abhorrence of their own sins of heart, and cry
out much of their inward corruption; and yet make light of sins in practice,
and seem to commit them without much restraint or remorse; though these
imply sin both in heart and life.
As there is a much greater disproportion in the exercises of false affections
than of true, as to different objects, so there is also, as to different times.
For although true Christians are not always alike; yea, there is very great
difference, at different times, and the best have reason to be greatly
ashamed of their unsteadiness; yet there is in no wise that instability and
inconstancy in the hearts of those who are true virgins, "that follow the
Lamb whithersoever he goeth, " which is in false-hearted professors. The
righteous man is truly said to be one whose heart is fixed, trusting in God,
Psalm 112:7, and to have his heart established with grace, Hebrews 13:9,
and to hold on his way, Job 17:9: "The righteous shall hold on his way,
and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." It is spoken
of as a note of the hypocrisy of the Jewish church, that they were as a
swift dromedary, traversing her ways..271
If therefore persons are religious only by fits and starts; if they now and
then seem to be raised up to the clouds in their affections, and then
suddenly fall down again, lose all, and become quite careless and carnal,
and this is their manner of carrying on religion; if they appear greatly
moved, and mightily engaged in religion, only in extraordinary seasons, in
the time of a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit, or other uncommon
dispensation of providence, or upon the real or supposed receipt of some
great mercy, when they have received some extraordinary temporal mercy,
or suppose that they are newly converted, or have lately had what they
call a great discovery; but quickly return to such a frame, that their hearts
are chiefly upon other things, and the prevailing bent of their hearts and
stream of their affections, is ordinarily towards the things of this world;
when they are like the children of Israel in the wilderness, who had their
affections highly raised by what God had done for them at the Red Sea,
and sang his praise, and soon fell a lusting after the fleshpots of Egypt; but
then again, when they came to Mount Sinai, and saw the great
manifestations God made of himself there, seemed to be greatly engaged
again, and mightily forward to enter into covenant with God, saying, "All
that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient, " but then quickly
made them a golden calf; I say, when it is thus with persons, it is a sign of
the unsoundness of their affections. 70 They are like the waters in the time
of a shower of rain, which, during the shower, and a little after, run like a
brook, and flow abundantly; but are presently quite dry; and when another
shower comes, then they will flow again. Whereas a true saint is like a
stream from a living spring; which, though it may be greatly increased by a
shower of rain, and diminished in time of drought, yet constantly runs:
John 4:14, "The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water,
springing up, " etc., or like a tree planted by such a stream, that has a
constant supply at the root, and is always green, even in time of the
greatest drought: Jeremiah 17:7, 8, "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the
Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the
waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see
when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in
the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Many
hypocrites are like comets that appear for a while with a mighty blaze; but
are very unsteady and irregular in their motion (and are therefore called
wandering stars, Jude 13), and their blaze soon disappears, and they.272
appear but once in a great while. But the true saints are like the fixed stars,
which, though they rise and set, and are often clouded, yet are steadfast in
their orb, and may truly be said to shine with a constant light.
Hypocritical affections are like a violent motion; like that of the air that is
moved with winds (Jude 12), but gracious affections are more a natural
motion; like the stream of a river, which, though it has many turns hither
and thither, and may meet with obstacles, and runs more freely and
swiftly in some places than others; yet in the general, with a steady and
constant course, tends the same stay, until it gets to the ocean.
And as there is a strange unevenness and disproportion in false affections,
at different times; so there often is in different places. Some are greatly
affected from time to time, when in company; but have nothing that bears
any manner of proportion to it in secret, in close meditations secret
prayer, and conversing with God, when alone, and separated from all the
world. 71 A true Christian doubtless delights in religious fellowship, and
Christian conversation, and finds much to affect his heart in it; but he also
delights at times to retire from all mankind to converse with God in
solitary places. And this also has its peculiar advantages for fixing his
heart, and engaging its affections. True religion disposes persons to be
much alone in solitary places, for holy meditation and prayer. So it
wrought in Isaac, Genesis 24:63. And which is much more, so it wrought
in Jesus Christ. How often do we read of his retiring into mountains and
solitary places, for holy converse with his Father! It is difficult to conceal
great affections, but yet gracious affections are of a much more silent and
secret nature, than those that are counterfeit. So it is with the gracious
sorrow of the saints. So it is with their sorrow for their own sins. Thus the
future gracious mourning of true penitents, at the beginning of the latter
day glory, is represented as being so secret, as to be hidden from the
companions of their bosom, Zechariah 12:12, 13, 14: "And the land shall
mourn, every family apart, the family of the house of David apart, and
their wives apart: the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives
apart: the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart: the
family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart: all the families that remain,
every family apart, and their wives apart." So it is with their sorrow for
the sins of others. The saints' pains and travailing for the souls of sinners
are chiefly in secret places: Jeremiah 13:17, "If ye will not hear it, my soul.273
shall weep in secret places for your pride, and mine eye shall weep sore,
and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away
captive." So it is with gracious joys: they are hidden manna, in this
respect, as well as others, Revelation 2:17.
The Psalmist seems to speak of his sweetest comforts, as those that were
to be had in secret: Psalm 63:5, 6, "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." Christ calls forth his spouse, away from the world, into retired
places, that he may give her his sweetest love: Cant. 7:11, 12, "Come, my
beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages: Here I will
give thee my loves." The most eminent divine favors that the saints
obtained, that we read of in Scripture, were in their retirement. The
principal manifestations that God made of himself, and his covenant
mercy to Abraham, were when he was alone, apart from his numerous
family; as anyone will judge that carefully reads his history. Isaac received
that special gift of God to him, Rebekah, who was so great a comfort to
him, and by whom he obtained the promised seed, walking alone
meditating in the field. Jacob was retired for secret prayer, when Christ
came to him, and he wrestled with him, and obtained the blessing. God
revealed himself to Moses in the bush, when he was in a solitary place in
the desert, in Mount Horeb, Exodus 3 at the beginning. And afterwards,
when God showed him his glory, and he was admitted to the highest
degree of communion with God that ever he enjoyed; he was alone, in the
same mountain, and continued there forty days and forty nights, and then
came down with his face shining. God came to those great prophets, Elijah
and Elisha, and conversed freely with them, chiefly in their retirement.
Elijah conversed alone with God at Mount Sinai, as Moses did. And when
Jesus Christ had his greatest prelibation of his future glory, when he was
transfigured; it was not when he was with the multitude, or with the
twelve disciples, but retired into a solitary place in a mountain, with only
three select disciples, charging then, that they should tell no man until he
was risen from the dead. When the angel Gabriel came to the blessed
virgin, and when the Holy Ghost came upon her, and the power of the
Highest overshadowed her, she seems to have been alone, and to be in this
matter hid from the world; her nearest and dearest earthly friend Joseph,.274
that had betrothed her (though a just man), knew nothing of the matter.
And she that first partook of the joy of Christ's resurrection, was alone
with Christ at the sepulcher, John 20. And when the beloved disciple was
favored with those wonderful visions of Christ and his future
dispensations towards the church and the world, he was alone in the isle of
Patmos. Not but that we have also instances of great privileges that the
saints have received when with others; or that there is not much in
Christian conversation, and social and public worship, tending greatly to
refresh and rejoice the hearts of the saints. But this is all that I aim at by
what has been said, to show that it is the nature of true grace, that
however it loves Christian society in its place, yet it in a peculiar manner
delights in retirement, and secret converse with God. So that if persons
appear greatly engaged in social religion, and but little in the religion of the
closet, and are often highly affected when with others, and but little moved
when they have none but God and Christ to converse with, it looks very
darkly upon their religion.
XI. Another great and very distinguishing difference between gracious
affections and others is, that gracious affections, the higher they are
raised, the more is a spiritual appetite and longing of soul after
spiritual attainments increased. On the contrary, false affections rest
satisfied in themselves. 72
The more a true saint loves God with a gracious love, the more he desires
to love him, and the more uneasy is he at his want of love to him; the more
he hates sin, the more he desires to hate it, and laments that he has so
much remaining love to it; the more he mourns for sin, the more he longs to
mourn for sin; the more his heart is broke, the more he desires it should be
broke the more he thirsts and longs after God and holiness, the more he
longs to long, and breathe out his very soul in longings after God: the
kindling and raising of gracious affections is like kindling a flame; the higher
it is raised, the more ardent it is; and the more it burns, the more
vehemently does it tend and seek to burn. So that the spiritual appetite
after holiness, and an increase of holy affections is much more lively and
keen in those that are eminent in holiness, than others, and more when
grace and holy affections are in their most lively exercise, than at other
times. It is as much the nature of one that is spiritually new born, to thirst.275
after growth in holiness, as it is the nature of a new born babe to thirst
after the mother's breast; who has the sharpest appetite, when best in
health. 1 Peter 2:2, 3, "As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the
word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is
gracious." The most that the saints have in this world, is but a taste, a
prelibation of that future glory which is their proper fullness; it is only an
earnest of their future inheritance in their hearts, 2 Corinthians 1:22, and
5:5, and Ephesians 1:14. The most eminent saints in this state are but
children, compared with their future, which is their proper state of
maturity and perfection; as the apostle observes, 1 Corinthians 13:10, 11.
The greatest eminency that the saints arrive to in this world, has no
tendency to satiety, or to abate their desires after more; but, on the
contrary, makes them more eager to press forwards; as is evident by the
apostle's words, Philippians 3:13, 14, 15: "Forgetting those things which
are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press
towards the mark. — Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus
The reasons of it are, that the more persons have of holy affections, the
more they have of that spiritual taste which I have spoken of elsewhere;
whereby they perceive the excellency, and relish the divine sweetness of
holiness. And the more grace they have, while in this state of imperfection,
the more they see their imperfection and emptiness, and distance from
what ought to be: and so the more do they see their need of grace; as I
showed at large before, when speaking of the nature of evangelical
humiliation. And besides, grace, as long as it is imperfect, is of a growing
nature, and in a growing state. And we see it to be so with all living things,
that while they are in a state of imperfection, and in their growing state,
their nature seeks after growth; and so much the more, as they are more
healthy and prosperous. Therefore the cry of every true grace, is like that
cry of true faith, Mark 9:24: "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." And
the greater spiritual discoveries and affections the true Christian has, the
more does he become an earnest beggar for grace, and spiritual food, that
he may grow; and the more earnestly does he pursue after it, in the use of
proper means and endeavors; for true and gracious longings after holiness
are no idle ineffectual desires..276
But here some may object and say, How is this consistent with what all
allow, that spiritual enjoyments are of a soul satisfying nature?
I answer, its being so, will appear to be not at all inconsistent with what
has been said, if it be considered in what manner spiritual enjoyments are
said to be of a soul satisfying nature. Certainly they are not so in that
sense, that they are of so cloying a nature, that he who has anything of
them, though but in a very imperfect degree, desires no more. But spiritual
enjoyments are of a soul satisfying nature in the following respects.
1. They in their kind and nature, are fully adapted to the nature, capacity,
and need of the soul of man. So that those who find them, desire no other
kind of enjoyments; they sit down fully contented with that kind of
happiness which they have, desiring no change, nor inclining to wander
about any more, saying, "Who will show us any good?" The soul is never
cloyed, never weary; but perpetually giving up itself, with all its powers,
to this happiness. But not that those who have something of this
happiness, desire no more of the same.
2. They are satisfying also in this respect, that they answer the
expectation of the appetite. When the appetite is high to any thing, the
expectation is consequently so. Appetite to a particular object, implies
expectation in its nature. This expectation is not satisfied by worldly
enjoyments; the man expected to have a great accession of happiness, but
he is disappointed. But it is not so with spiritual enjoyments; they fully
answer and satisfy the expectation.
3. The gratification and pleasure of spiritual enjoyments is permanent. It is
not so with worldly enjoyments. They in a sense satisfy particular
appetites: but the appetite, in being satisfied, is glutted, and then the
pleasure is over: and as soon as that is over, the general appetite of human
nature after happiness returns; but is empty, and without anything to
satisfy it. So that the glutting of a particular appetite, does but take away
from, and leave empty, the general thirst of nature.
4. Spiritual good is satisfying, as there is enough in it to satisfy the soul, as
to degree, if obstacles were but removed, and the enjoying faculty duly
applied. There is room enough here for the soul to extend itself; here is an
infinite ocean of it. If men be not satisfied here, in degree of happiness, the.277
cause is with themselves; it is because they do not open their mouths wide
But these things do not argue that a soul has no appetite excited after more
of the same, that has tasted a little; or that his appetite will not increase,
the more he tastes, until he comes to fullness of enjoyment: as bodies that
are attracted to the globe of the earth, tend to it more strongly, the nearer
they come to the attracting body, and are not at rest out of the center.
Spiritual good is of a satisfying nature; and for that very reason, the soul
that tastes, and knows its nature, will thirst after it, and a fullness of it,
that it may be satisfied. And the more he experiences, and the more he
knows this excellent, unparalleled, exquisite, and satisfying sweetness, the
more earnestly will he hunger and thirst for more, until he comes to
perfection. And therefore this is the nature of spiritual affections, that the
greater they be, the greater the appetite and longing is, after grace and
But with those joys, and other religious affections, that are false and
counterfeit, it is otherwise. If before, there was a great desire, of some sort,
after grace; as these affections rise, that desire ceases, or is abated. It may
be before, while the man was under legal convictions, and much afraid of
hell, he earnestly longed that he might obtain spiritual light in his
understanding, and faith in Christ, and love to God: but now, when these
false affections are risen, that deceive him, and make him confident that he
is converted, and his state good, there are no more earnest longings after
light and grace; for his end is answered; he is confident that his sins are
forgiven him, and that he shall go to heaven; and so he is satisfied. And
especially when false affections are raised very high, they put an end to
longings after grace and holiness. The man now is far from appearing to
himself a poor empty creature; on the contrary, he is rich, and increased
with goods, and hardly conceives of anything more excellent than what he
has already attained to.
Hence there is an end to many persons' earnestness in seeking, after they
have once obtained that which they call their conversion; or at least, after
they have had those high affections, that make them fully confident of it.
Before while they looked upon themselves as in a state of nature, they
were engaged in seeking after God and Christ, and cried earnestly for grace,.278
and strove in the use of means: but now they act as though they thought
their work was done; they live upon their first work, or some high
experiences that are past; and there is an end to their crying, and striving
after God and grace. Whereas the holy principles that actuate a true saint,
have a far more powerful influence to stir him up to earnestness in seeking
God and holiness, than servile fear. Hence seeking God is spoken of as one
of the distinguishing characters of the saints, and those that seek God is
one of the names by which the godly are called in Scripture: Psalm 24:6,
"This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O
Jacob!" Psalm 69:6, "Let not those that seek thee, be confounded for my
sake." Ver. 32, "The humble shall see this and be glad: and your heart shall
live that seek God." And 70:4, "Let all these that seek thee, rejoice, and be
glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation, say continually, The Lord
be magnified." And the Scriptures everywhere represent the seeking,
striving, and labor of a Christian, as being chiefly after his conversion, and
his conversion as being but the beginning of his as work. And almost all
that is said in the New Testament, of men's watching, giving earnest heed
to themselves, running the race that is set before them, striving, and
agonizing, wrestling not with flesh and blood, but principalities and
powers, fighting, putting on the whole armor of God, and standing, having
done all to stand, pressing forward, reaching forth, continuing instant in
prayer, crying to God day and night; I say, almost all that is said in the
New Testament of these things, is spoken of, and directed to the saints.
Where these things are applied to sinners' seeking conversion once, they
are spoken of the saints' prosecution of the great business of their high
calling ten times. But many in these days have got into a strange
antiscriptural way, of having all their striving and wrestling over before
they are converted; and so having an easy time of it afterwards, to sit
down and enjoy their sloth and indolence; as those that now have a supply
of their wants, and are become rich and full. But when the Lord "fills the
hungry with good things, these rich are like to be sent away empty, " Luke
But doubtless there are some hypocrites, that have only false affections,
who will think they are able to stand this trial; and will readily say, that
they desire not to rest satisfied with past attainments, but to be pressing
forward, they do desire more, they long after God and Christ, and desire.279
more holiness, and do seek it. But the truth is, their desires are not
properly the desires of appetite after holiness, for its own sake, or for the
moral excellency and holy sweetness that is in it; but only for by-ends.
They long after clearer discoveries, that they may be better satisfied about
the state of their souls; or because in great discoveries self is gratified, in
being made so much of by God, and so exalted above others; they long to
taste the love of God (as they call it) more than to have more love to God.
Or, it may be, they have a kind of forced, fancied, or made longings;
because they think they must long for more grace, otherwise it will be a
dark sign upon them. But such things as these are far different from the
natural, and as it were necessary appetite and thirsting of the new man,
after God and holiness. There is an inward burning desire that a saint has
after holiness, as natural to the new creature, as vital heat is to the body.
There is a holy breathing and panting after the Spirit of God, to increase
holiness, as natural to a holy nature, as breathing is to a living body. And
holiness or sanctification is more directly the object of it, than any
manifestation of God's love and favor. This is the meat and drink that is
the object of the spiritual appetite: John 4:34, "My meat is to do the will
of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Where we read in Scripture of
the desires, longings, and thirstings of the saints, righteousness and God's
laws are much more frequently mentioned as the object of them, than
anything else. The saints desire the sincere milk of the word, not so much
to testify God's love to them, as that they may grow thereby in holiness. I
have shown before, that holiness is that good which is the immediate
object of a spiritual taste. But undoubtedly the same sweetness that is the
chief object of a spiritual taste, is also the chief object of a spiritual
appetite. Grace is the godly man's treasure: Isaiah 32:6, "The fear of the
Lord is his treasure." Godliness is the gain that he is covetous and greedy
of. 1 Timothy 6:6. Hypocrites long for discoveries more for the present
comfort of the discovery, and the high manifestation of God's love in it,
than for any sanctifying influence of it. But neither a longing after great
discoveries, or after great tastes of the love of God, nor longing to be in
heaven nor longing to die, are in any measure so distinguishing marks of
true saints, as longing after a more holy heart, and living a more holy life.
But I am come now to the last distinguishing mark of holy affections that I
shall mention..280
XII. Gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian
practice. — I mean, they have that influence and power upon him
who is the subject of them, that they cause that a practice, which is
universally conformed to, and directed by Christian rules, should be
the practice and business of his life.
This implies three things: 1. That his behavior or practice in the world be
universally conformed to, and directed by Christian rules. 2. That he
makes a business of such a holy practice above all things; that it be a
business which he as chiefly engaged in, and devoted to, and pursues with
highest earnestness and diligence: so that he may be said to make this
practice of religion eminently his work and business. And 3. That he
persists in it to the end of life: so that it may be said, not only to be his
business at certain seasons, the business of Sabbath days, or certain
extraordinary times, or the business of a month, or a year, or of seven
years, or his business under certain circumstances; but the business of his
life; it being that business which he perseveres in through all changes, and
under all trials, as long as he lives.
The necessity of each of these, in all true Christians, is most clearly and
fully taught in the word of God.
1. It is necessary that men should be universally obedient: 1 John 3:3 etc.,
"Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is
pure. — And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and
in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not; whosoever sinneth
hath not seen him, neither known him. He that doeth righteousness, is
righteous even as he is righteous: he that committeth sin is of the devil."
Chap. 5:18, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he
that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him
not." John 15:14, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command
If one member only be corrupt, and we do not cut it off, it will carry the
whole body to hell, Matthew 5:29, 30. Saul was commanded to slay all
God's enemies, the Amalekites; and he slew all but Agag, and the saving
him alive proved his ruin. Caleb and Joshua entered into God's promised
rest, because they wholly followed the Lord, Numbers 14:24, and 32:11,.281
12, Deuteronomy 1:36. Joshua 14:6, 8, 9, 14. Naaman's hypocrisy
appeared in that, however ever he seemed to be greatly affected with
gratitude to God for healing his leprosy, and engaged to serve him, yet in
one thing he desired to be excused. And Herod, though he feared John, and
observed him, and heard him gladly, and did many things; yet was
condemned, in that in one thing he would not hearken to him, even in
parting with his beloved Herodias. So that it is necessary that men should
part with their dearest iniquities, which are as their right hand and right
eyes, sins that most easily beset them, and which they are most exposed
to by their natural inclinations, evil customs, or particular circumstances,
as well as others. As Joseph would not make known himself to his
brethren, who had sold him, until Benjamin the beloved child of the family,
that was most hardly parted with, was delivered up; no more will Christ
reveal his love to us, until we part with our dearest lusts, and until we are
brought to comply with the most difficult duties, and those that we have
the greatest aversion to.
And it is of importance that it should be observed that in order to man's
being truly said to be universally obedient, his obedience must not only
consist in negatives, or in universally avoiding wicked practices, consisting
in sins of commission, but he must also be universal in the positives of
religion. Sins of omission are as much breaches of God's commands as sins
of commission. Christ, in Matthew 25 represents those on the left hand as
being condemned and cursed to everlasting fire for sins of omission. "I was
an hungered, and ye gave me no meat, " etc. A man, therefore, cannot be
said to be universally obedient, and of a Christian conversation, only
because he is no thief, nor oppressor, nor fraudulent person, nor drunkard,
nor tavern haunter, nor whore-master, nor rioter, nor night walker, nor
unclean, nor profane in his language, nor slanderer, nor liar, nor furious, nor
malicious, nor reviler. He is falsely said to be of a conversation that
becomes the gospel, who goes thus far and no farther; but in order to this,
it is necessary that he should also be of a serious, religious, devout,
humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, respectful, condescending, benevolent,
merciful, charitable and beneficent walk and conversation. Without such
things as these, he does not obey the laws of Christ, and laws that he and
his apostles did abundantly insist on, as of the greatest importance and
2. In order to men's being true Christians, it is necessary that they
prosecute the business of religion, and the service of God with great
earnestness and diligence, as the work which they devote themselves to,
and make the main business of their lives. All Christ's peculiar people not
only do good works, but are zealous of good works, Titus 2:14. No man
can do the service of two masters at once. They that are God's true
servants do give up themselves to his service, and make it as it were their
whole work, therein employing their whole hearts, and the chief of their
strength: Philippians 3:13, "This one thing I do." Christians in their
effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labor in God's vineyard,
and spend their day in doing a great and laborious service. All true
Christians comply with this call (as is implied in its being an effectual
call), and do the work of Christians; which is everywhere in the New
Testament compared to those exercises wherein men are wont to exert
their strength with the greatest earnestness, as running, wrestling, fighting.
All true Christians are good and faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, and "fight
the good fight of faith;" for none but those who do so, do "ever lay hold
on eternal life." Those who "fight as those that beat the air, " never win
the crown of victory. "They that run in a race, run all, but one wins the
prize, " and they that are slack and negligent in their course, do not "so run
as that they may obtain." The kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by
violence. Without earnestness there is no getting along, in that narrow way
that leads to life; and so no arriving at that state of glorious life and
happiness which it leads to. Without earnest labor there is no ascending
the steep and high hill of Zion, and so no arriving at the heavenly city on
the top of it. Without a constant laboriousness there is no stemming the
swift stream in which we swim, so as ever to come to that fountain of
water of life that is at the head of it. There is need that we should "watch
and pray always, in order to our escaping those dreadful things that are
coming on the ungodly, and our being counted worthy to stand before the
Son of man." There is need of our "putting on the whole armor of God,
and doing all, to stand, " in order to our avoiding a total overthrow, and
being utterly destroyed by "the fiery darts of the devil." There is need that
we should "forget the things that are behind, and be reaching forth to the
things that are before, and pressing towards the mark for the prize of the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, " in order to our obtaining
that prize. Slothfulness in the service of God in his professed servants, is.283
as damning as open rebellion; for the slothful servant is a wicked servant,
and shall be cast into outer darkness, among God's open enemies,
Matthew 25:26, 30. They that are slothful are not "followers of them who
through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:11, 12, "And
we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence, to the full
assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of
them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises." And all they
who follow that cloud of witnesses that are gone before to heaven, "do lay
aside every weight, and the sin that easily besets them, and do run with
patience the race that is set before them, " Hebrews 12:1. That true faith,
by which persons rely on the righteousness of Christ, and the work that
he hath done for them, and do truly feed and live upon him, is evermore
accompanied with such a spirit of earnestness in the Christian work and
course. Which was typified of old, by the manner of the children of
Israel's feeding on the paschal lamb; who were directed to eat it, as those
that were in haste, with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and
their staff in their hand, Exodus 12:11.
3. Every true Christian perseveres in this way of universal obedience, and
diligent and earnest service of God, through all the various kinds of trials
that he meets with, to the end of life. That all true saints, all those that do
obtain eternal life, do thus persevere in the practice of religion, and the
service of God, is a doctrine so abundantly taught in the Scripture, that
particularly to rehearse all the texts which imply it would be endless; I
shall content myself with referring to some in the margin. 73
But that perseverance in obedience, which is chiefly insisted on in the
Scripture, as a special note of the truth of grace, is the continuance of
professors in the practice of their duty, and being steadfast in a holy walk,
through the various trials that they meet with.
By trials here, I mean those things that occur, and that a professor meets
with in his course, that do especially render his continuance in his duty
and faithfulness to God, difficult to nature. These things are from time to
time called in Scripture by the name of trials, or temptations (which are
words of the same signification). These are of various kinds: there are
many things that render persons' continuance in the way of their duty
difficult, by their tendency to cherish and foment, or to stir up and.284
provoke their lusts and corruptions. Many things make it hard to continue
in the way of their duty, by their being of an adhering nature, and having a
tendency to entice persons to sin, or by their tendency to take off
restraints, and embolden them in iniquity. Other things are trials of the
soundness and steadfastness of professors, by their tendency to make
their duty appear terrible to them, and so to affright and drive them from
it; such as the sufferings which their duty will expose them to; pain, ill
will, contempt, and reproach, or loss of outward possessions and
comforts. If persons, after they have made a profession of religion, live
any considerable time in this world, which is so full of changes, and so full
of evil, it cannot be otherwise than that they should meet with many trials
of their sincerity and steadfastness. And besides, it is God's manner, in his
providence, to bring trials on his professing friends and servants
designedly, that he may manifest them, and may exhibit sufficient matter
of conviction of the state which they are in, to then own consciences, and
oftentimes to the world; as appears by innumerable Scriptures.
True saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, and
may be foiled by particular temptations, and may fall into sin, yea great
sins; but they never can fall away so as to grow weary of religion, and the
service of God, and habitually to dislike it and neglect it, either on its own
account, or on account of the difficulties that attend it; as is evident by
Galatians 6:9, Romans 2:7, Hebrews 10:36, Isaiah 43:22, Malachi 1:13.
They can never backslide, so as to continue no longer in a way of universal
obedience; or so, that it shall cease to be their manner to observe all the
rules of Christianity, and do all duties required, even in the most difficult
circumstances. This is abundantly manifest by the things that have been
observed already. Nor can they ever fall away so as habitually to be more
engaged in other things than in the business of religion; or so that it should
become their way and manner to serve something else more than God; or
so as statedly to cease to serve God, with such earnestness and diligence,
as still to be habitually devoted and given up to the business of religion;
unless those words of Christ can fall to the ground, "Ye cannot serve two
masters, " and those of the apostle, "He that will be a friend of the world,
is the enemy of God;" and unless a saint can change his God, and yet be a
true saint. Nor can a true saint ever fall away so, that it shall come to this,
that ordinarily there shall be no remarkable difference in his walk and.285
behavior since his conversion, from what was before. They that are truly
converted are new men, new creatures; new not only within, but without;
they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body; old things are
passed away, all things are become new; they have new hearts, and new
eyes, new ears, new tongues, new hands, new feet; i.e., a new conversation
and practice; and they walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the
end of life. And they that fall away, and cease visibly to do so, it is a sign
they never were risen with Christ. And especially when men's opinion of
their being converted, and so in a safe estate, is the very cause of their
coming to this, it is a most evident sign of their hypocrisy. And that,
whether their falling away be into their former sins, or into some new kind
of wickedness, having the corruption of nature only turned into a new
channel, instead of its being mortified. As when persons that think
themselves converted, though they do not return to former profaneness
and lewdness; yet from the high opinion they have of their experiences,
graces, and privileges, gradually settle more and more in a self-righteous
and spiritually proud temper of mind, and in such a manner of behavior as
naturally arises therefrom. When it is thus with men, however far they
may seem to be from their former evil practices, this alone is enough to
condemn them, and may render their last state far worse than the first. For
this seems to be the very case of the Jews of that generation that Christ
speaks of, Matthew 12:43, 44, 45, who being awakened by John the
Baptist's preaching, and brought to a reformation of their former licentious
courses, whereby the unclean Spirit was as it were turned out, and the
house swept and garnished; yet, being empty of God and of grace, became
full of themselves, and were exalted in an exceeding high opinion of their
own righteousness and eminent holiness, and became habituated to an
answerably self-exalting behavior; so changing the sins of publicans and
harlots, for those of the Pharisees; and in issue, had seven devils, worse
than the first.
Thus I have explained what exercise and fruit I mean, when I say, that
gracious affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice.
The reason why gracious affections have such a tendency and effect
appears from many things that have already been observed, in the
preceding parts of this discourse..286
The reason of it appears from this, that gracious affections do arise from
those operations and influences which are spiritual, and that the inward
principle from whence they flow, is something divine, a communication of
God, a participation of the divine nature, Christ living in the heart, the
Holy Spirit dwelling there, in union with the faculties of the soul, as an
internal vital principle, exerting his own proper nature, in the exercise of
those faculties. This is sufficient to show us why true grace should have
such activity, power, and efficacy. No wonder that which is divine, is
powerful and effectual; for it has omnipotence on its side. If God dwells in
the heart, and be vitally united to it, he will show that he is a God, by the
efficacy of his operation. Christ is not in the heart of a saint, as in a
sepulcher, or as a dead savior, that does nothing; but as in his temple, and
as one that is alive from the dead. For in the heart where Christ savingly is,
there he lives, and exerts himself after the power of that endless life that he
received at his resurrection. Thus every saint that is a subject of the
benefit of Christ's sufferings, is made to know and experience the power
of his resurrection. The Spirit of Christ, which is the immediate spring of
grace in the heart, is all life, all power, all act: 1 Corinthians 2:4, "In
demonstration of the Spirit, and of power." 1 Thessalonians 1:5, "Our
gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the
Holy Ghost." 1 Corinthians 4:20, "The kingdom of God is not in word,
but in power." Hence saving affections, though oftentimes they do not
make so great a noise and show as others, yet have in them a secret
solidity, life, and strength, whereby they take hold of, and carry away the
heart, leading it into a kind of captivity, 2 Corinthians 10:5, gaining a full
and steadfast determination of the will for God and holiness. Psalm 110:3,
"Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." And thus it is that
holy affections have a governing power in the course of a man's life. A
statue may look very much like a real man, and a beautiful man; yea, it
may have, in its appearance to the eye, the resemblance of a very lively,
strong, and active man; but yet an inward principle of life and strength is
wanting; and therefore it does nothing, it brings nothing to pass, there is no
action or operation to answer the show. False discoveries and affections
do not go deep enough to reach and govern the spring of men's actions and
practice. The seed in stony ground had not deepness of earth, and the root
did not go deep enough to bring forth fruit. But gracious affections go to.287
the very bottom of the heart and take hold of the very inmost springs of
life and activity.
Herein chiefly appears the power of true godliness, viz., in its being
effectual practice. And the efficacy of godliness in this respect, is what the
apostle has respect to, when he speaks of the power of godliness, 2
Timothy 3:5, as is very plain; for he there is particularly declaring, how
some professors of religion would notoriously fail in the practice of it, and
then in the 5th verse observes, that in being thus of an unholy practice,
they deny the power of godliness, though they have the form of it. Indeed
the power of godliness is exerted in the first place within the soul, in the
sensible, lively exercise of gracious affections there. Yet the principal
evidence of this power of godliness, is in those exercises of holy affections
that are practical, and in their being practical; in conquering the will, and
conquering the lusts and corruptions of men, and carrying men on in the
way of holiness, through all temptations, difficulty, and opposition.
Again, the reason why gracious affections have their exercise and effect in
Christian practice, appears from this (which has also been before
observed), that "the first objective around of gracious affections, is the
transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in
themselves, and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or
self-interest." This shows why holy affection will cause men to be holy in
their practice universally. What makes men partial in religion is, that they
seek themselves, and not God, in their religion; and close with religion, not
for its own excellent nature, but only to serve a turn. He that closes with
religion only to serve a turn, will close with no more of it than he imagines
serves that turn; but he that closes with religion for its own excellent and
lovely nature, closes with all that has that nature: he that embraces religion
for its own sake, embraces the whole of religion. This also shows why
gracious affections will cause men to practice religion perseveringly, and at
all times. Religion may alter greatly in process of time, as to its
consistence with men's private interest, in many respects; and therefore he
that complies with it only for selfish views, is liable, in chance of times, to