« PreviousContinue »
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 pretences 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 longings 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 same time, no inclinac tion, 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, &c. 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,
66 I hate every
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, Psal. cxix. 104. false way." So ver. 128. But a false hatred and zeal against sin, is against some particular sin only. Thus some seem to bé 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 shews 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 vir: gins, « 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, Psal. cxii. 7, and to have his heart established with grace, Heb. xiii. 9, and to hold on his way, Job. xvii. 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 hy. pocrisy of the Jewish church, that they were as a swift dromedary, traversing her ways.
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; VOL. IV.
and become quite careless and carnal, and this is their mans ner 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 apon 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 enfer 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.* They are
* Dr. Owen (op the Spirit, Book III. Chap. ii. Sect. 18.) speaking of a common work of the Spirit, says, “ This work operates greatly on the affections : We have given instances, in fear, sorrow, joy and delight, about spir. įtual things, that are stirred up and acted thereby : But yet it comes short in two things, of a thorough work upon the affections themselves. For ist. It doth not fix them. And edly. It doth not fill them."
« There is (says Dr. Preston) a certain love, by fits, which God accepts not;
when men come and offer to God great promises, like the waves of the sea, as big as mountains : Oh, they think they will do much for God! But their minds change ; and they become as those high waves, which at last fall level with the other waters."
Mr. Flavel, speaking of these changeable professors, says, 6. These profese sors have more of the moon than of the sun : Little light, less heat, and many changes. They deceive many, yea, they deceive themselves, but caonot deceive. God. They want that ballast and establishment in themselves, that would have kept them tight and steady." Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap, II. Sect. 2
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 show. er 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 iv. 14. “ The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water spring. ing up," &c. 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, Jer. xvii. 7, 8. 6 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 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 stedfast 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 ; Jike 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 way, 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 différent 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 meditation, secret prayer, and conversing with God, when alone, and separated from all
the world.* A true Christian doubtless delights in religious fellowship, and Christian conversation, and finds much to af. fect 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, Gen. xxiv. 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 só secret, as to be hidden from the companions of their bosom, Zech. xii. 12, 13, 14. 6 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
*“ The Lord is neglected secretly, yet honored openly; because there is no wind in their chambers to blow their sails; and therefore there they stand still. Hence many men keep their profession, when they lose their affection. They have by the one a name to live and that is enough) though their hearts be dead. And hence so long as you love and commend them, so long they love you; but if not, they will forsake you. They were warm only by another's fire, and hence, having no principle of life within, soon grow dead. This is the water that turns a Pharisee's mill." Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 180.
“ The hypocrite (says Mr. Flavel) is not for the closet, but the synagogue, Mat. vi. 5, 6. It'is not his meat and drink to retire from the clamor of the world, to enjoy God in secret.” Touckstone of Sincerity, Chap. vii. Sect. 2.
Dr. Ames, in his Cases of Conscience, Lib. III. Chap. v. speaks of it as a thing by which sincerity may be known, “ That persons be obedient in the absence, as well as in the presence of lookers on ; in secret, as well, yea more, than in public;" alledging Phil, ii, 12, and Mat, vi. 6.