« PreviousContinue »
First, Their principle.
Secondly, Their object.
Thirdly, The way and manner of their application unto their proper object, by virtue of that principle.
First, As unto the principle acting in them, that our affections may be spiritual, and the spring of our being spiritually minded, it is required that they be changed, renewed, and inlaid with grace, spiritual and supernatural. To clear the sense hereof, we must a little consider, what is their state by nature, and then, by what means they may be wrought upon, as unto a change, or a renovation. For they are like unto some things, which in themselves, and their own nature, are poisonous; but being corrected, and receiving a due temperament from a mixture of other ingredients, become medicinal, and of excellent use.
1. By nature our affections, all of them, are depraved and corrupted. Nothing in the whole nature of man, no power or faculty of the soul, is fallen under greater disorder and depravation by the entrance of sin, than our affections In and by them is the heart wholly gone and turned off from God; Titus. iii. 3. It were a long work to set forth this depravation of our affections, nor doth it belong unto our present design. Some few things I shall briefly observe concerning it, to make way unto what is proposed concerning their change.
1. This is the only corruption and depravation of our nature, by the fall evident in and unto reason, or the light of nature itself. Those who were wise among the heathen, both saw it and complained of it. They found a weakness in the mind, but saw nothing of its darkness and depravation as unto things spiritual. But they were sensible enough of this disorder and tumult of the affections in things moral, which renders the minds of men like a troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. This greatly aggravates the neglect of them who are not sensible of it in themselves, seeing it is discernible in the light of
2. They are as depraved, the seat and subject of all lusts, both of the flesh and of the spirit. Yea, lust or evil concupiscence is nothing but the irregular motion and acting of our affections, as depraved, defiled, corrupted;
Rom. vii. 9. Hence, no one sin can be mortified without a change wrought in the affections.
3. They are the spring, root, and cause of all actual sin in the world; Matt. xv. 9. The evil heart in the Scripture, is the corrupt affections of it, with the imaginations of the mind whereby they are excited and acted; Gen. vi. 5. These are they which at this time fill the whole world with wickedness, darkness, confusion, and terror: and we may learn what is their force and efficacy from these effects. So the nature of the plague is most evident, when we see thousands dying of it every week.
4. They are the way and means whereby the soul applies itself unto all sinful objects and actings. Hence are they called our members, our earthly members; because, as the body applies itself unto its operations by its members, so doth the soul apply itself unto what belongs unto it, by its affections; Rom. vi. 13. Col. iii. 5.
5. They will not be under the conduct of the mind, its light, or convictions. Rebellion against the light of the mind, is the very form whereby their corruption acts itself; Job. xxiv. 13. Let the apprehensions of the mind, and its notions of good and evil be what they will, they reject them, and lead the soul in pursuit of their inclinations. Hence, no natural man whatsoever doth in any measure answer the light of his mind, or the convictions of his understanding; but he sees and approves of better things following those that are worse. And there is no greater spiritual judgment, than for men to be given up unto themselves, and their own evil affections; Rom. i. 26.
Many other instances might be given of the greatness of that depravation which our affections are fallen under by sin; these may suffice as unto our present purpose.
In general, this depravation of our affections by nature may be reduced unto two heads.
1. An utter aversation from God and all spiritual things. In this lies the spring of all that dislike of God and his ways, that the hearts of men are filled withal. Yea, they do not only produce an aversation from them, and dislike of them, but they fill the mind with an enmity, against them. Therefore, men say in their hearts unto God, 'Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy
ways: what is the Almighty that we should serve him? or what profit should we have if we pray unto him?' Job. xxi. 14, 15. See Rom. i. 28. viii. 7, 8.
2. An inordinate cleaving unto things vain, earthly, and sensual; causing the soul to engage into the pursuit of them, as the horse rushes into the battle.
Whilst our affections are in this state and condition, we are far enough from being spiritually minded; nor is it possible to engage them into an adherence unto, or delight in, spiritual things.
In this state, they may be two ways wrought upon, and yet not so renewed, as to be serviceable unto this end.
1. There may be various temporary impressions made on them; sometimes there is so by the preaching of the word. Hereon men may hear it with joy, and do many things gladly. Sometimes it is so by judgments, dangers, sicknesses, apprehensions of the approach of death; Psal. xxxiv. 78. xxxv. 37. These things take men off for a season from their greedy delight in earthly things, and the pursuit of the interest of lust in making provision for the flesh. On many other occasions, by great variety of causes, there may be temporary impressions made on the affections, that shall seem for a season to have turned the stream of them. And thereon we have many, who every day will be wholly as it were for God, resolved to forsake sin, and all the pleasures of it; but the next return unto all their former excesses. For this is the effect of those impressions, that whereas men ordinarily are predominantly acted by love, desire, and delight, which lead them to act according unto the true natural principles of the soul: now they are for a season acted by fear, and dread, which put a kind of force on all their inclinations. Hereon they have other thoughts of good and evil, of things eternal and temporal, of God and their own duty, for a season. And hereon, some of them may, and do persuade themselves, that there is a change in their hearts and affections, which there is not; like a man who persuades himself that he hath lost his ague, because his present fit is over. The next trial of temptation carries them away again unto the world and sin.
There are sometimes sudden impressions made on spiri
tual affections, which are always of great advantage to the soul, renewing its engagements unto God and duty. So was it with Jacob; Gen. xxviii. 16-20. So is it often with believers in hearing the word, and other occasions. On all of them they renew their cleavings unto God with love and delight. But the effect of these impressions on unrenewed affections, are neither spiritual nor durable. Yea, for the most part, they are but checks given in the providence of God, unto the raging of their lusts; Psal. ix. 20.
2. They are liable unto an habitual change. This the experience of all ages gives testimony to. There may be an habitual change wrought in the passions and affections of the mind, as unto the inordinate and violent pursuit of their inclinations, without any gracious renovation of them. Education, philosophy, or reason, long afflictions, spiritual light and gifts, have wrought this change. So Saul, upon his call to be king, became another man. Hereby, persons naturally passionate and furious have been made sedate and moderate; and those who have been sensual, have become temperate; yea, and haters of religion, to be professors of it. All these things, and many more of the like nature, have proceeded from a change wrought upon the affections only; whilst the mind, will, and conscience, have been totally unsanctified.
By this change, where it is alone, no man ever became spiritually minded. For whereas there are two parts of the depravation of our affections, that whereby they are turned off from God, and that whereby they inordinately cleave unto other things: their change principally, if not only, respects the latter. They are brought into some order with respect unto present things. The mind is not continually tossed up and down by them, as the waves of the sea, that are troubled, and cast up mire and dirt. They do not carry those in whom they are into vicious sensual actions, but they allow them to make virtue in moderation, sobriety, temperance, fidelity, and usefulness in several ways, to be their design. And it is admirable to think what degrees of eminency in all sorts of moral virtues upon this one principle of moderating the affections, even many among the heathens attained unto. But as unto their aversation
from God and spiritual things, in the true spiritual notion of them, they are not cured by this change: at least, this change may be, and yet this latter not be wrought.
Again, This alteration doth but turn the course or stream of men's affections, it doth not change the nature of them. They are the same in their spring and fountain as ever they were, only they are habituated unto another course than what of themselves they are inclined unto. You may take a young whelp of the most fierce and savage creatures, as of a tiger, or a wolf, and by custom or usage make it as tame and harmless as any domestic creature; a dog, or the like. But although it may be turned unto quite another way or course of acting than what it was of itself inclined unto, yet its nature is not changed: and therefore, frequently on occasion, opportunity, or provocation, it will fall into its own savage inclination; and having tasted of the blood of creatures, it will never be reclaimed. So is it with the depraved affections of men, with respect unto their change; their streams are turned, they are habituated unto a new course, their nature is not altered, at least not from rational unto spiritual, from earthly unto heavenly. Yet this is that which was most beautiful and desirable in nature, the glory of it, and the utmost of its attainments. He who has by any means proceeded unto such a moderation of his affections, as to render him kind, benign, patient, useful, preferring public good before private, ordinate, and temperate in all things, will rise up in judgment against those, who, professing themselves to be under the conduct of the light of grace, do yet, by being morose, angry, selfish, worldly, manifest that their affections are not subdued by the power of that grace. Wherefore, that we may be spiritually minded, there is yet another work upon our affections required, which is their internal renovation, whereby not only the course of their actings is changed, but their nature is altered, and spiritually renewed. I intend that which is expressed in that great evangelical promise; Isa. xi. 6-9. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, 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 ox. And the sucking