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great sense of the awful greatness, and terrible majesty of God; this is only his natural perfection, which men may see, and yet be entirely blind to the beauty of his moral perfection, and have nothing of that spiritual taste which relisbes this divine sweetness.
It has been shown already, in what was said upon the first distinguishing mark of gracious affections, that what is spiritual, is entirely different in its nature, from all that it is possible for any graceless person to have, while he continues graceless. But it is possible that those who are wholly without grace, should have a clear sight, and very great and affecting sense of God's greatness, his mighty power, and awful majesty; for this is what the devils have, though they have lost the spiritual knowledge of God, consisting in a sense of the amiableness of his moral perfections. They are perfectly destitute of any relish of that kind of beauty, yet they have a very great knowledge of the natural glory of God, his awful greatness and majesty; this they behold, and therefore tremble before him. This glory of God all shall behold at the day of judgment; God will make all rational beings to behold it, angels and devils, saints and sinners. Christ will manifest bis infinite greatness and awful majesty to every one, in a light that none can resist, when he shall come in the glory of hi Father, and every eye shall see him. Then they shall cry to the mountains to fall upon them, to hide them from the face of him that sits upon the throne. God will make all his enemies to behold this, and to live in a most clear and affecting view of it, to all eternity. God hath often declared his immutable purpose to make all his enemies to know him in this respect, in so often annexing these words to the threatenings he denounces against them, And they shall know that I am the Lord; yea, he hath sworn that all men shall see his glory in this respect, Numb. xiv. 21. As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. And this kind of manifestation of God is very often spoken of in scripture, as made, or to be made, in the sight of God's enemies in this world *. This was a manifestation which God made of himself in the sight of that wicked congregation at Mount Sinai; deeply affecting them with it; so that all the people in the camp trembled. Wicked men and devils will see, and bave a great sense of every thing that appertaims to the glory of God,
* See Exod. ix. 16. and chap. xiv. 18. apd xv. 16. Psal. Ixvi. 3. and xlri. 10. and other places innumerable.
except the beauty of his moral perfection. They will see bis infinite greatness, majesty, and power, and will be fully convinced of his omniscience, eternity and immutability; and even will see every thing appertaining to his moral attributes themselves, except their beauty and amiableness. They will see and know that he is perfectly just, righteous, and true; and that he is a holy God, of purer eyes than to behold evil, who cannot look on iniquity; and they will see the wonderful manifestations of his infinite goodness and free grace to the saints. Nothing will be hid from their eyes, but the beauty of these moral attributes, and that beauty of the other attributes, which arises from it. And so natural men wbile in this world are capable of having a very affecting sense of every thing that appertains to God, but this only. Nebuchadnezzar had a great and very affecting sense of the infinite greatness and awful majesty of God; of his supreme and absolute dominion, his irresistible power, and high sovereignty. He saw that be, and all the inhabitants of the earth, were as nothing before him, had a great conviction in his conscience of his justice, and an affecting sense of his great goodness, Dan. iv. 1-3, 34, 35, 37. And the sense that Darius had of God's perfections, seems to be very much like bis, Dan. vi. 25, &c. But saints and angels behold the beauty of God's holiness : and this sight only, will melt and humble the hearts of men, wean them from the world, draw them to God, and effectually change them. A sight of the awful greatness of God may overpower men's strength, and be more than they can endure; but if the moral beauty of God be bid, the enmity of the heart will remain in its full strength. No love will be kindled, the will, instead of being effectually gained, will remain inflexible; whereas the first glimpse of the moral and spiritual glory of God shining into the heart, produces all these effects with a power which nothing can withstand.
The sense that natural men may have of the awful greatness of God, may affect them various ways; it may not only terrify, but elevate them, and raise their joy and praise. This will be the natural effect of it, under the real or supposed receipt of some extraordinary mercy from God, by the influence of mere principles of nature.
It has been shown already, that the receipt of kindness may, by the influence of natural principles, affect the heart with gratitude and praise to God; but if a person, at the same time, bas a sense of his infinite greatness, and that he is as nothing in comparison of
him, surely this will naturally raise his gratitude and praise the higher, for kindness to one so much inferior. A sense of God's greatness had this effect upon Nebuchadnezzar, on that extraordinary favour of his restoration, after he had been driven from men, and had his dwelling with the beasts. A sense of God's exceeding greatness raises his gratitude very high; so that he does, in the most lofty terms, extol and magnify God, and calls upon all the world to do it with him. If a natural man, at the same time that he is greatly affected with God's infinite greatness and majesty, entertains a strong conceit that this great God has made him his child and special favourite, and promised him eternal glory in his highest love, will not this have a tendency, according to the course of nature, to raise his joy and praise to a great height.
Therefore, it is beyond doubt, that too much weight has been laid on discoveries of God's greatness, awful majesty, and natural perfection, operating after this manner, without any real view of the holy, lovely majesty of God. And experience does abundantly confirm, what reason and scripture declare as to this matter; there having been very many persons, who have seemed to be overpowered with the greatness and awful majesty of God, but have been very far from a Christian spirit and temper, in any proportion, or fruits in practice in any wise agreeable; nay, their discoveries have worked in a way contrary to the operation of truly spiritual discoveries.
Not that a sense of God's greatness and natural attributes is not useful and necessary. For, as I observed before, this is implied in a manifestation of the beauty of God's holiness. Though that be something beyond it, it supposes it, as the greater supposes the less.
And though natural men may have a sense of the natural perfections of God; yet undoubtedly this is more frequent and common with the saints, than with them. Grace enables men to see these things in a better manner, than natural men do; and not only enables them to see God's natural attributes, but that beauty of those attributes, which (according to our way of conceiving of God) is derived from his holiness.
Gracious affections arise from the mind being enlightened rightly
and spiritually to apprehend divine things. Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from some information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before, more of God or Christ, and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel. He has a clearer and better view than he had before, when he was not affected; either he receives some new understanding of divine things, or has his former knowledge renewed after the view was decayed; 1 John iv. 7. Every one that loveth, knoweth God. Phil. i. 9. I pray that your love may abound more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment. Rom. x. ii. They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. Col. ij. 10. The new man, which is renewed in knowledge. Psal. xliii. 3, 4. O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill. John vi. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all laught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Knowledge is the key that first opens the hard heart, enlarges the affections, and opens the way for men into the kingdom of heaven; Luke xi. 52. Ye have taken away the key of knowledge.
Now there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the understanding; which is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high *.
* “ Many that have had mighty strong affections at first conversion, afterwards become dry, and wither, and consume, and pine, and die away: and now their hye pocrisy is manifest ; if not to all the world by open profaneness, yet to the discerning eye of living Christians, by a formal, barren, uosavoury, unfruitful hear and course ; because they never had light to conviction enougb as yet--It is strange to see some people carried with mighty affection against sin and hell, and after Christ. And what is the hell you fear? A dreadful place. What is Christ? They scarce know so much as devils do; but that is all. Oh trust them not! Many have, and these will fall away to some lust, or opinion, or pride, or world; and the reason is, they never had light enough, Jorn v. 35. John was a burning and shining light, and they did joy in him for a season ; yet glorious as it was, they saw not Christ by it, especially not with divine light. It is rare to see Christians full both of light and affection. And therefore consider of this; many a man has been well brought up, And is of a sweet loving nature, mild and gentle, and harmless, likes and loves the best things, and his meaning, and mind, and heart is good, and has more in heart than in shew; and so hopes all sball go well with bim. I say, there may lie greatest
Indeed they have some new apprehensions which they had not before. Such' is the nature of man, that it is impossible his mind should be affected, unless it be by something that he apprehends, or that his mind conceives. But in many persons those apprehensions or conceptions wherewith they are affected, have nothing of the nature of knowledge or instruction in them. For instance; when a person is affected with a lively idea, suddenly excited in his mind, of soine shape, or beautiful pleasant form of countenance, a shining light, or other glorious outward appearance: here is something conceived by the mind; but nothing of the nature of instruction. Persons become never the wiser by such things, more knowing about God, a Mediator between God and man, the way of salvation by Christ, or any thing contained in the doctrines of the gospel. Persons by these external ideas have no further acquaintance with God, as to any of the attributes or perfections of his nature; nor have they any further understanding of his word, his ways or works. Truly spiritual and gracious affections are not raised after this manner; these arise from the enlightening of the understanding, to understand the things taught of God and Christ, in a new manner. There is a new understanding of the excellent nature of God and his wonderful perfections, some new view of Christ in his spiritual excellencies and fulness; or things are opened to him in a new manner, whereby he now understands those divine and spiritual doctrines which once were foolishness to him. Such enlightenings of the understanding as these, are entirely different in their nature, from strong ideas of shapes and colours, outward brightness and glory, or sounds and voices. That all gracious affections arise from some instruction, or enlightening of the understanding, is therefore a further proof, that affections which arise from such an impression on the imagination, are not gracious.
Hence also it appears, that affections arising from texts of scripture coming to the mind, are yain, when no instruction received in the understanding from those texts, or any thing taught in them, is the ground of the affection, but the manner of their coming to the mind. When Christ makes the scripture a means of the heart's burning with gracious affection, it
hypocrisy under greatest affectious; especially if they want light. You shall be hardened in your bypocrisy by them. I never liked violeat adections and pangs, buí only such as were dropped in by light: because those come from an external principle, and last mint, but there do --Men are not affrighted by the light of the sun, though clearer than the lighering,'SHEPARD'S Parable, Part I. p. 1463