Page images
PDF
EPUB

the past notorious wickedness of the person, Grace has as great a tendency to restrain and mortify such sins, as are con. trary to the spirit that has been spoken of, as it has to mortify drunkenness or lasciviousness. Yea, the scripture represents the change wrought by gospel-grace, as especially appearing in an alteration of the former sort; Is. xi. 6--9. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid : and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the op. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And to the same purpose is Is. Ixv. 25. Accordingly we find, that in the primitive times of the Christian church, converts were remarkably changed in this respect; Tit, iii. 3. &c. For we ourselves also were sometimes faolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,-he saved

by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. And Col. iii. 7, 8. In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now you also put of all all these ; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communia tion out of your mouth,

u

SECT. IX.

Gracious affections soften the heart, and are attended with a Christian tenderness of spirit

.

False affections, however persons may seem to be melted by them while they are new, have a tendency in the end to harden the heart. A disposition to some kind of passions may be established; such as imply self-seeking, self-exaltation, and opposition to others. But false affections, with the des Jusion that attends then, finally tend to stupify the mind, and sliut it up against those affections wherein tenderness of heart consists. The effect of them at last is, that persons in the settled frame of their minds, become less affected with their present and past sins, and less conscientious with respect to future sins; less moved with the warnings and cautions of God's word, or chastisenients in his providence; more careless of the frame of their hearts, and the manner and tendency of their beliaviour; less quick-sighted to discern what is sinful, and less afraid of the appearance of evil, than they were while under legal awakenings and fears of hell. Now they have been the subjects of impressions and affections, have a high opinion of themselves, and look on their state to be safe, they can be much more easy than before, though living in the neglect of duties that are troublesome and inconvenient.--They are much more slow and partial in complying with difficult commands; and are not alarmed at the appearance of their own defects and transgressions. They are emboldened to favour themselves more, with respect to the labour and painful exactress in their walk, and inore easily yield to temptations, and the solicitations of their lusts; and have far less care of their behaviour, when they come into the holy presence of God, in the time of public or private worship. Formerly it may be, under legal convictions, they took much pains in religion, and denied themselves in many things : but now, thinking themselves out of the danger of hell, they very much put off the burden of the cross, and save themselves the trouble of difficult duties, allowing themselves more of the enjoyment of their ease and lusts.

Such persons as these, instead of embracing Christ as their Saviour from sin, trust in him as the saviour of their sins ; instead of Aying to him as their refuge from their spiritual enemies, they make use of himn as the defence of their spiritual enemies, from God, and to strengthen them against him. They make Christ the minister of sin, the great officer and vicegerent of the devil, to strengthen his interest, and make him above all things in the world strong against JEHOVAH ; so that they may sin against him with good courage, and without any fear, being effectually secured from restraints by his most solemn warnings and most awful threatenings. They trust in Christ to preserve to them the quiet enjoyment of their sins, and to be their shield to defend them from God's displeasure ; while they come close to him, even to his bosom, the place of his children, to fight against him, with their mortal weapons, hid under their skirts *. However,

* “These are hypocrites that believe, but fail in regard of the use of the gospel, and of the Lord Jesus. And these we read of, Jude 3. viz. of some men that did turn grace into wantonness. For therein appears the exceeding evil of a man's heart, that not only the law, but also the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus, some of these, at the same time, make a great profession of love to God, and assurance of his favour, and great joy in tasting the sweetness of his love.

After this manner they trusted in Christ, of whom the apostle Jude speaks, who crept in among the saints unknown ; but were really ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, Jude 4. These are they that trust in their being righteous; and because God has promised that the righteous shall surely live, or certainly be saved, are therefore emboldened to commit iniquity, whom God threatens in Ezek, xxxiii. 13. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live : if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity ; all his righteousness shall not be remembered, but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.

Gracious affections are of a quite contrary tendency; they turn a heart of stone more and more into a heart of flesh. Holy love and hope are principles vastly more efficacious upon the heart, to make it tender, and to fill it with a dread of sin,

works in him all manner of uorighteousness. And it is too common for men at the first work of conversion, Oh then 10 cry for grace and Christ, and afterwards grow licentious, live and lie in the breach of the law, and take their warrant for their course from the gospel.” SHEPARD'S Parable, Part I. p. 126.

Again, p. 232. Mr. SHEPARD speaks of such hypocrites as those, « who, like strange eggs being put into the same nest, where honest men bave lived, they have been batched up ; and when they are young, keep their nest, and live by crying and opening their mouths wide after the Lord, and the food of his word; but when their wings are grown, and they have got some affections, some knowledge, some bnpe of mercy, are bardened thereby to fly from God.” And adds, “ Can that man be good, whom God's grace makes worse?"

Again, Part II. p. 167. “ Whea men fly to Christ in times of peace, that so the may preserve their sins with greater peace of conscience ; so that sin makes them Ay to Christ, as well as misery; not that they may destroy and abolish sin, but they may be preserved in their sins with peace; then men may be said ta apprehend Christ only by a seeming faith.-Many an heart secretly saith this, IFI can have my sin, and peace, and conscience quiet for the present, and God merciful to pardon it afterward; hence he doth rely (as he saith) only on the mercy of God in Christ: and now this hardens and bliods him, and makes him secure, and his faith is sermon proof, nothing stirs bim ---And were it not for their faith they should despair, but this keeps them up. And now they think if they have any trouble of mind, the devil troubles them; and so make Christ and faith protectors of sin, not purifiers from sin ; which is most dreadful; turniog grace to wantooness, as they did saorifice. So these would sip uoder the shadow of Christ, because the shadow is good and sweet, Mic. iii. 11. They had subile sly ends in good duties; for therein may lie a man's sin : yet they lean upon the Lord.When money. changers came into the temple, You have made it a den of thieves. Thieves when hunted fly to their den or cave, and there they are secure against all searchers, and hue and cries : so here. But Christ whipped them out. So when men are pursued with cries and fears of cooscience, away to Christ they go as to their den : not as salots, to pray and lament out the life of their sin there, but to preserve their sine This is vile i will the Lord receive sach?

or whatever might displease and offend God; and to engage it to watchfulness, and care, and strictness, than a slavish fear of hell. Gracious affections, as was observed before, flow out of a contrite heart, or (as the word signifies) a bruised beart, bruised and broken with godly sorrow, which makes the beart tender, as bruised flesh is tender, and easily hurt., Godly sorrow has much greater influence to make the heart tender, than mere legal sorrow from selfish principles,

The tenderness of the heart of a true Christian, is elegantly signified by our Saviour, in his comparing such a one to a liule child. The flesh of a little child is very tender : so is the heart of one that is new børn. This is also represented in what we are told of Naaman's cure of his leprosy, by his washing in Jordan, by the direction of the prophet; which was undoubtedly a type of the renewing of the soul, by washing in the laver of regeneration. We are told, 2 Kings v. 14. that he went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child. Not only is the flesh of a little child tender, but his mind is tender. A little child has his heart easily moved, wrought upon, and bowed: so is a Christian in spiritual things. A little child is apt to be affected with sympathy, to weep with ''hem that weep, and cannot well bear to see others in distress: so it is with a Christian; John xi. 35. Rom. xii. 15. I Cor. xii. 26. A little child is easily won by kindness: so is a Christian. A little child is easily affected with grief at temporal evils, his heart is melted, and he falls a-weeping; thus tender is the heart of a Christian, with regard to the evil of sin. A little child is easily affrigbted at the

appearance of outward evils, or any thing that threatens its hurt: so is a Christian apt to be alarmed at the appearance of moral evil, and any thing that threatens the burt of the soul. A little child, when it meets enemies, or fierce beasts, is not apt to trust its own strength, but flies to its parents for refuge; so a saint is not self-confident in engaging spiritual enemies, but flies to Christ. A little child is apt to be suspicious of evil in places of danger, afraid in the dark, afraid when left solitary, or far from home : so is a saint apt to be sensible of his spiritual dangers, jealous of himself, full of fear when he cannot see his way plain before him, afraid to be left alone, and to be at a distance from God; Prov. xxviii. 14. Happy is the man that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart, shall fall into mischief. A little child is apt to be afraid of superiors, and to dread their anger, and tremble at their frowns and threatenings : so is a true saint with respect to God; Psal. cxix. 120. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments. Is. Ixvi. 2. To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and trembleth at my word. ver. 5. Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word. Ezra ix.4. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel. chap. x. 3. According to the counsel of my lord, and of those that iremble at the commandment of our God. A little child approaches superiors with awe: so do the saints approach God with holy awe and reverence; Job xiii. 11. Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you Holy fear is so much the nature of true godliness, that it is called in scripture by no other name more frequently, than the fear of God.

Hence gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, forward, noisy and boisterous; but rather to speak, trembling; Hos. xiii. 1. When Ephraim spake, trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. It tends to clothe them with a kind of holy fear in all their behaviour towards God and man; agreeable to Psal, ji. 11. 1 Pet. iii. 15. 2 Cor. vii. 15. Eph. vi. 5. 1 Pet. iii. 2. Rom. xi. 20.

But, Is there no such thing as a holy boldness in prayer, and the duties of divine worship? There is doubtless such a thing; and it is chiefly to be found in eminent saints, persons of great degrees of faith and love. But this holy boldness is not in the least opposite to reverence; though it be to disunion and servility. It abolishes or lessens that disposition which arises from moral distance or alienation; and also distance of rolation, as that of a slave: but not at all, that which becomes the natural distance, whereby we are infinitely inferior. No boldness in poor sinful worms of the dust, who have a right view of God and themselves, will prompt them to approach God with less fear and reverence, than spotless and glorious angels in heaven, who cover their faces before his throne, Is. vi. 1, &c. Rebecca, (who in her narriage with Isaac, in almost all its circumstances, was manifestly a great type of the church, the spouse of Christ), when she meets · Isaac, alights from her camel, takes a vail, and covers herself; although she was brought to him as his bride, to be with hini, in the nearest relation, and most intimate union *. Elijah,

* Dr. Ames, in bis Cases of conscience, Book III. chap, ir. speaks of an holy modesty in the worship of God, at one sign of true humility:

« PreviousContinue »