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As unto those unto whom this frame is a burden, there is no more effectual means to stir them unto endeavours for deliverance, than a continual remembrance of former things, and experiences they have had of holy intercourse and communion with God. This will revive, quicken, and strengthen the things that are ready to die, and beget a self-abhorrency in them, in consideration of that woful frame and temper of mind, which by their sins and negligence they have brought themselves into.
Secondly, Consider that as there are many things dreadfully pronounced in the Scripture against backsliding and backsliders in heart, as it is with you, yet also there are especial calls and promises given and proposed unto those in your condition. And know assuredly, that upon your compliance or non-compliance with them, depends your everlasting blessedness or woe.
Consider both call and promise in that word of God's grace, Jer. iii. 12–14. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you : for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion. Add thereunto this blessed promise, Hos. xiv. 4. 'I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from them. If you design to live and not die, it must be by yielding obedience unto this call, and pleading this promise before God, mixing it with faith. Your return must be by the word; Isa. lvii. 18, 19. Here lies your great encouragement and direction, herein lieth your only relief. As you value your souls, defer not the duty you are called unto one moment. You know not how soon you may be without the reach of calls and promises. And he that can hear them without stirring
himself in sincerity to comply with them, hath made already a great progress towards that length.
Thirdly, As unto those who on these and the like consi
derations do not only desire, but will endeavour also to retrieve themselves from this condition, I shall give no advice at present but this; be in good earnest. As the prophet speaks in another case; if you will return, return and come,' make thorough work of it. You must do so at one time or another, or you will perish. Why not now? Why is not this the best season? Who knows but it may be the only time you will have for it? It were easy to multiply all sorts of arguments unto this purpose. Trifling endeavours, occasional resolutions and attempts, like the early cloud, and morning dew, shifting with warnings and convictions, by renewed duties until their impressions are worn out, will ruin your souls. Unless there be universal diligence and permanency in your endeavours, you are undone. Then shall ye know the Lord, if you follow on to know him.
But now to return. These things, I say, through our sloth, negligence, and sin, may befall us, as unto our spiritually renewed affections. Their progress in conformity unto spiritual and heavenly things, may be slow, imperceptible, yea, totally obstructed for a season; and not only so, but they may fall under decays, and the soul therein be guilty of backsliding from God. But this is that which they are capacitated for by their renovation; this is that whereby the grace wherewith they are renewed doth lead unto; this is that which, in the diligent use of means, they will grow up unto, whereon our comfort and peace do depend ; namely, a holy assimilation unto those spiritual and heavenly things which they are set and fixed on, wherein they are renewed and made more spiritual and heavenly every day.
It remains only as unto this head now spoken unto, that we briefly consider what is the state of spiritual affections thus daily exercised and improved. And this we shall do by shewing,
First, What is their pattern.
Thirdly, What is their measure, or whereunto they may attain.
First, The pattern which we ought continually to bear in our eyes, whereunto our affections ought to be conformed, is Jesus Christ, and the affections of his holy soul. The mind is the seat of all our affections; and this is that we ought continually to design and endeavour, namely, that the same mind be in us, that was in Christ Jesus ;' Phil. ii.5. To have our minds so affected with spiritual things, as was the mind of Christ, is the principal part of our duty and grace. Nor do I think that any man can attain any considerable degree in spiritual mindedness, who is not much in the contemplation of the same mind in Christ; 2 Cor. iii. 18. To this purpose ought we to furnish our minds with instances of the holy affections that were in Christ, and their blessed exercise on all occasions. The Scripture makes a full representation of them unto us, and we ought to be conversant in our meditations on them. What glorious things are spoken of his love to God, and his delight in him, whence also he'delighted to do his will, and his law was in the midst of his bowels ;' Psal. xl. 8. seated in the throne of his affections. What pity and compassion had he for the souls of men, yea, for the whole human kind, in all their sufferings, pains, and distresses? How were all bis affections always in perfection of order under the conduct of the spirit of his mind ? Thence was his self-denial, his contempt of the world, his readiness for the cross, to do or suffer according to the will of God. If this pattern be continually before us, it will put forth a transforming efficacy, to change us unto the same image. When we find our minds liable unto any disorders, cleaving inordinately unto the things of this world, moved with intèmperate passions, vain and frothy in conversation, darkened, or disturbed by the fumes of distempered lusts, let us call things to an account, and ask of ourselves, whether this be the frame of mind that was in Christ Jesus. This therefore is an evidence that our affections are spiritually renewed, and that they have received some progress in an assimilation unto heavenly things; namely, when the soul is delighted in making Christ their pattern in all things.
Secondly, The rule of our affections in their utmost spiritual improvement is the Scripture. And two things are respected in them:
1. Their internal actings.
2. Their exercise in outward ways and means whereby they are expressed. Of them both the Scripture is the entire rule. And with respect unto the former, it gives us one general law or rule that is comprehensive of all others ; namely, 'that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. The actings of all our affections towards God in the utmost degree of perfection is required of us ; that in all instances we prefer and value him above all things; that we inseparably cleave unto him, and do nothing whatever at any time, that is not influenced and directed by the love of God. This perfection, as we shall see immediately, is not attainable absolutely in this life; but it is proposed unto us as that which the excellency of God's nature requires, and which the faculties and powers of our nature were created for, and which we ought in all things to design and aim at. But the indispensable obligation of this rule is, that we should always be in a sincere endeavour to cleave unto God continually in all things, to prefer him above all, and delight in him as our chiefest good. When this frame and disposition is habitually fixed in our minds, it will declare and act itself in all instances of duties, on all occasions of trial, when other things put in for a predominant interest in our affections, as they do every day. And if it be not so with us, we shall be at a continual loss in all our ways. This is that which makes us lifeless and heartless in duties, careless in temptations or occasions of them, forgetful of God, when it is impossible we should be preserved from sin without a due remembrance of his holi
In brief, the want of a predominant love unto God, kept in continual exercise, is the spring of all that unprofitable profession of religion that the world is filled withal.
2. There are outward ways and duties whereby our spiritual affections are expressed. The rule of them also is the Scripture. The way marked out therein, is the only channel wherein the stream of spiritual affections doth take its course unto God. The graces required therein, are to act themselves by; the duties it prescribes, are those which they stir and enliven; the religious worship it appoints is that wherein they have their exercise. Where this rule hath been neglected, men's religious affections have grown irregular, yes, wild and ungovernable. All the superstitions that the
world is filled withal, owe their original principally unto men's affections set at loose from the rule of the word. There is nothing so fond, absurd, and foolish, but they have imbondaged the souls of men unto, nothing so horrid and difficult but they have engaged them in. And having once taken unto themselves this liberty, the corrupt minds of men are a thousand times more satisfied, than in the regular exercise of them according to the word of God. Hence they will rejoice in such penances as are not without their austerities; in such outward duties of devotion, as are troublesome and chargeable; in every thing that hath a show of wisdom in' will-worship, and humility, and neglect of the body. Hence will all their affections bè more sensibly moved by images and pictures, and a melting devotion be stirred up in them, than by all the motives and incentives which God proposeth unto them to draw their affections unto himself. Nothing is more extravagant than the affections of men, tinctured with some devotion, if they forsake the rule of the Scripture.
Thirdly, There is considerable concerning them, the measure of their attainments, or what through due exercise and holy diligence they may be raised unto. Now this is not absolute perfection. “Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect, but I follow after,' as the apostle speaks, Phil. iii. 12. But there is that attainable, which those who pretend highly unto perfection seem to be strangers unto. And the state of our affections under a due exercise on heavenly things, and in their assimilation unto them, may be fixed in these three things.
1. An habitual suitableness unto spiritual things, upon the proposal of them. The ways whereby spiritual things are proposed unto our minds are various. They are so directly in all ordinances of divine worship; they are so indirectly and in just consequence, by all the especial providences wherein we are concerned, by our own thoughts and stated meditations; they are so by the motions of the Holy Spirit, when he causeth us to hear a “word behind us saying, This is the way, walk in it;' by holy converse with others; by all sorts of occurrences. And as the ways posal are various, so the times and seasons wherein a representation of them is made unto us, are comprehensive of all,
of their pro