Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

better conviction of the same things concerning sin, that it was convinced of under a legal work of the Spirit; viz. its great contrariety to the will, and law, and honour 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, of which it saw nothing, 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 beated 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 conscienciousness which was manifested under a work of the law.

All gracious affections have a tendency to promote this Christian tenderness of heart. Not only godly sorrow, but even a gracious joy does this. Psal. ii. 11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. As also a gracious hope ; Psal. xxxiii. 18. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him ; upon them that hope in his mercy. And Psal. cxlvii. 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 servile fear by a holy assurance, is attended with a proportionable increase of a reverential fear. The diminishing of the fear of God's displeasure in future punishment, is attended with a proportionable increase of fear of his displeasure itself; a diminished fear of hell, with an increase of the fear of sin. The vanishing of jealousies concerning the person's state, is attended with a proportionable increase of jealousy of his heart, in a distrust of its strength, wisdom, stability, faithfulness, &c. 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 is he 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, or a forward assuming boldness, and more modesty. As he is more sure than others of deliverance from hell, so he has a greater sense of its desert. He is less apt than others to be shaken in faith ; but more apt to be moved with solemn warnings, with God's frowns, and with the calamities of others. He

a

has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart : richer than others, but poorest of all in spirit. He is the tallest and strongest saint, but the least and tenderest child among them.

SECT. X.

Another thing wherein those affections that are truly gracious and holy,

differ from those that are false, is beautiful symmetry and proportion.

[ocr errors]

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, want of proper instructions, errors in judgment, some particular unhappiness of natural temper, 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.

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 his parts and members. It hath pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell: there is in him every grace; he is full of grace and truth : and they that are Christ's of his fulness receive, and grace for grace; (John i. 14, 16.) 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 the new man consists of various graces and affections. The body of one that was born a perfect child, may fail of exact proportion through distemper, weakness, or injury of some of its members ; yet the disproportion is in no measure like that of those who are born monsters.

It is with hypocrites, as it was with Ephraim of old, at a time when God greatly complains of their hypocrisy ; Hos. vii. 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 a great partiality, with regard to the several kinds of religious affections; great affections in some things, and no proportion in others. A holy hope and holy fear go together in the saints, Psal. xxxiii. 18. and cxlvii. 11. But in some of these there is the most confdent hope, while they are void of reverence, self-jealousy and caution, and while they 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, Matth. xxviii. 8. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre, with fear and GREAT joy* Bút many of these rejoice without trembling: their joy 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 mourning for sin. They have not only sorrow to prepare them for their first comfort, but after they are comforted, and their joy is 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, the land flowing with milk and honey, Ezek. xx. 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 listed 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; (also Ezek. xvi. 61-63.) 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. A little child, before it is born, and while it remains in darkness, vever cries ; but as soon as ever 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. Thus of old, the children of Israel were commanded evermore to feed upon the paschal lamb with bitter herbs*, True saints are spoken

* « Renewed care and diligence follow the sealings of the Spirit. Now is the snul at the foot of Christ, as Mary was at the sepulchre, 'wiih fear and great joy. He that travels the road with a rich treasure about him, is afraid of a thief in every bush.” (Flavel's Sacrameulal Meditations, Med. 4)

† " If repentance accompanies faith, it is no presumption to believe. Many know the sin, and hence believe in Christ, trust in Christ, and there is an end of their faith. But what confession and corrow for sin ? what more lore to Christ follows this faith? Truly none. Nay, their faith is the cause why they bave none. For they think, if I trust ja Christ to forgive me, he will do it; and there is an end of the business. Verily this hele faith, this bramble faith, that catches hold on Christ, and pricks and scratrhes Chriat, hy more impenitency, more contempt of him, is mere presumption ; which shall one day be burnt up and destroyed by

of in scripture, not only as those that have mourned for sin, bat as those that do mourn, whose manner it is still to mourn ; Matth. v. 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 bigh pretences, and a great show of love to God and Christ, and it may 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 neighbour for seven years together, if not twice seven years ; living in real ill-will and bitternes of spirit towards him. And it may be in their dealings with their neighbours, they are not very strict and conscientious in observing the rule of doing to others, as they would that they should do to them: 1 John iv. 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 lore God whom he hath not seen? On the other hand, there are others who appear as if they had a great deal of benevolence to men, who are very good-natured and generous in their way; but have no love to God.

And as to love to men, there are some who 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 the fire of God's jealousy. Fye upon that faith, that serves only to keep a man from being tormented before his time! Your sins would be your sorrows, but that your faith quiets you. But if faith be accompanied with repentance, mourning for sin, more esteem of God's grace in Christ, so that nothing breaks thy heart more than the thoughts of Christ's unchangeable love to one so vile, and this love makes thee love much, and love him the more; as thy sin increaseth, so thou desirest thy love's increase; and now the stream of thy !houghts run, how thou mayst live to him that died for thee: this was Mary's faith, who sat at Christ's feet weeping, washing them with her tears, and loving much, because much was sor. given.”-Shepard's Sound Believer, p. 128, 129.

" You shall know godly sorrow (says Dr. Preston, in his discourse on Paul's conversion) by the continuance of it ; it is constant; but worldly sorrow is but a passion of the mind; it changes, it lasts not. Though for the present it may be violent and strong, and work much outwardly; yet it comes but by fits, and continues not; like a land-food, which violently, for the present, over fows the banks; but it will away again; it is not always thus. But godly sorrow is like a spring, that still keeps running both winter and summer, wet and dry, in heat and cold, early and late. So this godly sorrow is the same in a regenerate man still; take him when you will, he is still sorrowing for sin. This godly sorrow stands like the centre of the earth, which removes not, but still remains."

“ I am persuaded, many a man's heart is kept from breaking and mourning, because of this. He saith (it may be) that he is a vile sinuer ; but I trust in Christ, &c. If they do go to Christ to destroy their sin, this makes them more secure in their sin. For (say they) I cannot help it, and Christ must do all. Whereas faith makes the soul mourn after the Lord the more.”-Shepard's Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part II. p. 168.

dear affections to some, and full of bitterness towards others. They are knit to their own party, those who approve, those who love, and admire them; but are fierce against those that oppose and dislike them. Matth. v. 45, 46. Be like your father which is in heaven ; for he maketh his sun to rise on 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 neighbours, and pretend to be ravished with the company of the children of God abroad: but at the same time are uncomfortable and churlish towards their 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 some express, even to extreme agony-singling out a particular person from among a multitude for its object—while at the same time there is no general compassion to sinners in equally miserable circumstances, but what is in a monstrous disproportion; this seems not to be of the nature of a 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 who are equally miserable, especially on some particular occasions. Many things may 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 agonies for the soul of some single person, far beyond what has been usual in eminent saints, but appear to be far inferior to them in a spirit of meek and fervent love, charity, and compassion to mankind in general; I say, such agonies are greatly to be suspected, because the Spirit of 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, but are not compassionate and charitable towards their bodies. To make 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. 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 laboriously preaching the gospel to

« AnteriorContinuar »