Page images

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 temptarion, and entangles them in a wilderness, out of which they can by no means extricare themselves. By this means, Saran mightily encourages the hearts of open enemies of religion, and strengthens their hands, and fills them witb weapons, and makes strong their fortres828 ; 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 earnese forwardness and zeal, and with all their might. By this means, he brings in even the friends of religion, insensibly 10 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 notion of zeal for God ; and religion, by degrees, degenerates into vain jangling ; and during the strife, Saran leads both parties far out of the right way, driving each to great exa tremes, one on the right hand, and the other on the left,according as he finds they are most inclined, or most easily moved and swaya ed,fill the right path in the middle is almost wholly neglected. And in the midst of this confusion, she 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 scen of the terrible consequences of this counterfeit religion, when not distinguished from true rola ligion, God's people in general have their minds unhinged and unsettled, in things of religion and know not there to set their foot, or what to think or do ; and many are brought into doubts, whether there be any thing at all in religion ; and beresy and infidelity, and atheism greatly prevail.

Therefore it greatly concerns us to use our uimost endeavors clearly to discern, and have it well settled and established, where in true religion does consist. Till this be done, it may be expected, that great revivings of religion will be bur of short continuance : Till This be done, there is but little good 10 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 de. sign of what I have formerly published, which was to shew the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God, including bos!

bis common and saving operations; but what I aim at now, is to shew 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 bave succeeded to bring any light to this subject or no, and however my attempts may be reproached, in she'se captious and censorious times, I hope in the mercy of a gran cious God, for the acceptance of the sincerity of my endeavors ; and hope also for the candor and prayers of the irue followers of ibe meek and charitable Lamb of God.

[ocr errors]



Concerning the Nature of the Affections; and their

Importance in Religion.

I PETER i. 8.




N these words, the apostle represents the state of the minds of the Christians he wrote to, under the persecus tions 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

And the faith of trúe 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 relig. ion; they not only manifest the truth of it, but they make its genuine beauty and amiableness remarkably to appear. Trus VOL. IV.



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 vigor ous, and purifying, it from those things that obscured its lustre and glóry. As gold that ás tried in the fire, purged from its alloy, and all remainders of drass, 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 op: erated in the Christians he wrote to, under their persecutions whereby these benefits of per

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 beau-, ty 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 : 6 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 persecution.

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,

« PreviousContinue »