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human soul, 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 matters which co
concern men's worldly interest, their outward delights, their honour 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, holy Lamb of God manifested in his dying agonies, bis 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, heavy, insensible, and regardless! Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here? what is it that more requires them ? and what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise, if not such as this ? Can any thing be set in our view, greater and more important ? any thing more wonderful and surprising ? or that more nearly concerns our interest? Can we suppose that the wise Creator implanted such principles in our nature as the affections, 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, then they ought to be exercised about those objerts wbich are most worthy of them. But is there any thing in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of our admiration and love ! our earnest and longing desires, hope, rejoicing, and fervent zeal, as those things which are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ? There not only are things declared most worthy to affect us, but they are exhibited in the most affecting banner. 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 VOL. v.
can be conceived of; as it appears shining in all its lustre, 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; for they all had their greatest trial, their highest exercise, and brightest mavisestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalleled sufferings which he endured from bis 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 cffects of them, in what our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestations 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 every thing 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!
SHEWING WHAT ARE NO CERTAIN SIGNS THAT RELIGIOUS
AFFECTIONS ARE TRULY GRACIOUS, OR THAT THEY ARE NOT.
If any one, op reading 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; for, as we ought not to reject and condemn all affections, as though true religion did not at all consist in them; so, on the other hand, we ought not to approve of all, as though every one that was religiously affected had true grace, and was therein the subject of the saving influences of the Spirit of God. Therefore, the right way is to distinguish, among religious affections, between one sort and another. Let us pow endeavour to do this, by noticing, in the first place, some things, which are no signs that affections are gracious, or that they are not.
It is no sign, one way or other, that religious affections are very
great, or raised very high. Some are ready to condemn all high affection: 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, as before proved, 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 bave 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 go and 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 rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Here the most superlative expressions are used, which language will afford. The scriptures often require us to exercise very high aflections: 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 UEART, with ALL thy soul, with all thy MINI), and with ALL thy STRENGTH. So the saints are called upon to exercise liigh degrees of joy : Rejoice, says Christ to his disciples, and be exceeding glad, Maith. v. 12. So, Psal. Ixviii. 3. Let the righteous be glud: let them rejoice before God; yea, let them erceedingly rejoice. In the book of Psalms, the saints are often called upon to shout for joy: and in Luke vi. 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, their souls magnifying the Lord, singing his praises, talking of his wondrous works, declaring his doings, &c.
We find the most eminent saints in scripture often professing high affections. Thus the psalmist mentious his love as if it were unspeakable ; Psal. cxix. 97. O how love I thy law! So he expresses a great degree of hatred of sin ; Psal. cxxxix. 21, 22. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not Igriered with them that rise up against thec? 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; of his roaring all the day, his moisture being turned into the drought of summer, and his bones being as it were broken with sorrow. So be 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 thirsting as a dry and thirsty land where no water is, his panting, his flesh and heart crying out, his soul breaking for the longing it huth, &c. He expresses the exercises of great and extreme grief for the sins of others, Psal. cxix. 136. Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law. And ver. 53. Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake thy law. He expresses high exercises of joy, Psal. xxi. 1. The king shall joy in thy strength, and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice ! Psal. Ixxi. 23. My lips shall greatły rejoice, when I sing unto thee. Psal. lxiii. 3–7. Because thy loving kindness is beiter than life: my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thée, 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 thec 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 other's good, even to anguish of heart; a great, fervent and abundant love, earnest and longing desires, and exceeding joy. He speaks of the exultation and triumphs of his soul, his earnest expectation and hope, 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 iii. 39. Those blessed women who anointed the body of Jesus, are represented as in a very high exercise of religious affection, at the resurrection of Christ. Matth. xxviii. 8. And they departed from the sepulchre, with fear and great joy.
It is often foretold of the church of God, in her future happy seasons on earth, that they shall exceedingly rejoice; Psal. Isxxix. 15, 16. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy counte
In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalten. Zech. ix. 9. Rejoice greatly,
O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem : behold, thy King cometh, &c. The same is represented in other places innumerable. And because high degrees of joy are the proper and and genuine fruits of the gospel of Christ, therefore the angel calls this gospel, good tidings of great joy, that should be to