« PreviousContinue »
orous 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 ; Deut. xxx. 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 impor. tance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vig. or in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion ; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious. Trụe religton 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 Tim. iii. 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 Tim. i. 7. And such, when they receive the Spirit of God, in his sanctifying and saving influences, are said to be a 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 xxiv. 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 trụe grace has various degrees, and there are some that are bụt babes in Christ, in whom the exercise of VOL. IV.
of the inclination and will, towards divine and heavenly things, is comparatively weak; yet every one that has the power of godliness in his heart, has his inclinations and heart cxercised 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 Tands : 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 soul,
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 shews, that true religion must consisť very much in the affections.
Such is man's nature, that he is very unactive, 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 a going, 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 whatso
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 his 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 ; 90 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, aná 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 any thing 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 any thing 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 frame, 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 any thing 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 every where place religion very much in the affections ; 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 excelJency makes them afraid, and his dread falls upon them, and the like : And a compellation 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 every one knows, that knows any thing 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 Cor. xii. 13. Hope in the Lord is also frequently mentioned as the character of the saints : Psal. cxlvi. 5. “ Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Jer. xvii. 7. « Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Psal. xxxi, 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; Psal. xxxiii. 18. “ Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.” Psal. cxlvii. 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,” Rom. viii. 24. And this is spoken of as the helmet of the Christian soldier. 1 Thes. y. 8: " And for an helmet, the hope of salvation;" and the sure and stedfast anchor of the soul, which preserves it from being cast away by the storms of this evil world. Heb. vi. 19. “ Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, 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 Pet. i. 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