Page images

tions in such a state and condition, as that from and by them we may be spiritually minded, namely, that they themselves are spiritually and savingly renewed.

[ocr errors]

The things that remain will admit of a speedy despatch as I suppose.


THE second thing required that we may be spiritually minded, as unto the interest of our affections therein, is the object of them about which they are conversant, and whereunto they do adhere. What this is materially, or what are the spiritual things which our affections are to be set upon, hath been declared already under the consideration of the object of our thoughts and meditations, for they are the same. Yea, as hath been intimated, the fixing of our affections upon them, is the spring and cause of our thoughts about them. But that which we shall now inquire into, is the true notion and consideration of spiritual and heavenly things, which renders them the formal proper object of spiritual affections, and is the reason of their adherence unto them. For as was intimated before, men may have false notions of spiritual things, under which they may like them and embrace them with unrenewed affections. Wherefore we shall inquire into some of those considerations of heavenly things, under which affections spiritually renewed do satisfactorily cleave unto them with delight and complacency.

1. And the first is, that as they comprehend God in Christ, and all other things, as deriving from him, and tending unto him, they have an infinite beauty, goodness, and amiableness in them, which are powerfully attractive of spiritual affections, and which alone are able to fill them, to satisfy them, to give them rest and acquiescency. Love is the most ruling and prevalent affection in the whole soul. But it cannot be fixed on any object, without an apprehension, true or false, of an amiableness and desirableness in it, from a suitable goodness unto all its desires.

And our fear, so far as it is spiritual, hath divine goodness for its object; Hos. iii. 5. Unless this be that which draws our hearts unto God, and the things of God, in all

pretence of love unto him, men do but frame idols to themselves according to their own understanding, as the prophet speaks, Hos. xiii. 2. Wherefore that our affections may cleave unto spiritual things in a due manner, three things are required.

1. That we apprehend, and do find a goodness, a beauty, and thence an amiableness and desirableness in them; Zech. ix. 17. Many pretend to love God and spiritual things, but they know not why. Why they love other things they know well enough, but why they love God they cannot tell. Many are afraid of him, and suppose they ought to love him, and therefore pretend so to do, though indeed they know they do not; they do but flatter him with their lips when their hearts are far from him. Some are much affected with the benefits and mercies they receive from him, and suppose that they love him on that account. But this love is no other but what the devil falsely charged Job withal, chap. i. 8-11. Some have delight in the outward modes and rites of divine worship, wherewith they satisfy themselves that they love God and spiritual things, when they only please their own imaginations and carnal minds. Many have a traditional apprehension that they ought to love God, they know no reason why they should not, they know it will be ill for them if they do not, and these take it for granted that they do. How few are there who have that spiritual discerning and apprehension of the divine excellencies, that view of the excellency of the goodness and love of God in Christ, as thereby alone to be drawn after him, and to delight in him; yet is this the ground of all sincere real love unto God. Two things are required that we may apprehend an amiable goodness in any thing, and cleave unto it with sincere affection.

1. A real worth or excellency in itself.

2. A suitableness therein unto our condition, state, and desires after rest and blessedness. The first of these is in God, from what he is in himself; the latter is from what he is unto us in Christ; from both he is the only suitable object unto our affections. Under this apprehension do we love God for himself, or for his own sake; not exclusively unto our own advantage therein. For a desire of union and enjoyment, which is our only advantage, is inseparable from this love.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

It may be, some cannot say that a distinct apprehension of these things, was the first foundation and cause of their love to God; yet are they satisfied that they do love him in sincerity with all their souls. And I say it may be so. God sometimes casts the skirt of his own love over the heart of a poor sinner, and efficaciously draws it unto himself, without a distinct apprehension of these things by a mere sense of the love it hath received. So Elijah passed by Elisha, and cast his mantle upon him as a transient act. But there was such a communication of virtue thereby, that he ran after him, and would not be deferred, though Elijah said, 'Go back again; for what have I done unto thee?' 1 Kings xix. 19, 20. When God hath so cast his love on any soul, it follows after him with all its affections. And whereas God may seem at some times to say, 'Go back again; for what have I done unto thee?" its answer is, Lord, whither shall I go?' I cannot leave thee, my heart is given up unto thee, and shall never be taken from thee.

[ocr errors]

But I say unto such, and to all others, that if we would have refreshing evidences of our love unto God, that it is sincere, if we would have it thrive and flourish, be fervent and constant, we are to exercise ourselves unto the contemplation of the divine goodness, and the suitableness of it unto our souls in and by Jesus Christ. Nor can we cleave unto any spiritual things whatever, with sincere affections, but under these notions of it; first, That it hath a real worth or excellency in itself. Secondly, That it is suitable and desir able unto us. And it is to be bewailed to see how many walk at random in profession, that know neither what they do, nor where they go.

2. As we must see a goodness and probableness in spiritual things absolutely, so as that we may fix our affections on them in a due manner, so we must see it comparatively with respect unto all other things, which gives them a preference in our affections before and above them all. The trial of love lies in the prevailing degree; on more or less. If we love other things, father, mother, houses, lands, possessions, more than Christ, we do not love him at all. Nor is there any equality allowed in this matter, that we may equally love temporal and spiritual things. If we love not Christ more than all those things, we love him not at all.

Wherefore that our affections may cleave unto them in a due manner, we must see an excellency in things spiritual and heavenly, rendering them more desirable than all other things whatever.

With what loving countenances do men look upon their temporal enjoyments; with what tenacious embraces do they cleave unto them? They see that in them which is amiable, which is desirable and suitable unto their affections. Let them pretend what they please, if they see not a greater goodness, that which is more amiable, more desirable in spiritual things, they love them not in a due manner; it is temporal things that hath the rule of their affections. Our psalmist prefers Jerusalem before his chiefest joy;' Psal. cxxxvii. 6. Another affirms, that the law of God's mouth was better to him than thousands of gold and silver;' cxix. 72. More to be desired are the statutes of the Lord than gold; yea, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, or the honey-comb;' xix. 1. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all things that may be desired are not to be compared unto it ;' Prov. viii. 11. This is the only stable foundation of all divine affections. A spiritual view and judgment of a goodness, an excellency in them, incomparably above whatever is in the most desirable things of this world, are required thereunto. And if the affections of many pretending highly to them should come to be weighed in this balance, I fear they would be found light and wanting. However it is the duty of them who would not be deceived in this matter, which is of eternal importance, to examine what is that good ness and excellency which is in spiritual things, which they desire in them, upon the account whereof they do sincerely value and esteem them above all things in this world whatever. And let not any deceive themselves with vain words and pretences, whilst their esteem and valuation of present enjoyments doth evidently engage all their affections, their care, their diligence, their industry, so as that a man of a discerning spirit may even feel them turned into self; whilst they are cold, formal, negligent about spiritual things, we must say, 'How dwelleth the love of God in them?' Much more when we see men not only giving up the whole of their time and strength, with the vigour of their spirits, but sacrificing their consciences also unto the attaining of dignities,

honours, preferments, wealth, and ease in the world; who know in their own hearts that they perform religious duties with respect unto temporal advantages; I cannot conceive how it is possible they should discern and approve of a goodness and excellency in spiritual things above all others.

A que consideration is required hereunto, that all spiritual things do proceed from, and are resolved into, an infinite fountain of goodness, so as that our affections may absolutely come unto rest and complacency, and find full assured satisfaction in them. It is otherwise as unto all temporal things. Men would very fain have them to be such, as might give absolute rest and satisfaction unto all their affections. But they are every one of them so far from it, that all of them together cannot compose their minds in rest and peace for one hour. They gain sometimes a transport of affections, and seem for a season to have filled the whole soul, so as it hath no leisure to consider their emptiness and vanity. But a little composure of men's thoughts, shew that they are but a diversion in a journey or labour, they are no rest. Hence are they called 'broken cisterns that will hold no water.' Let a man prize them at the highest rate that it is possible for a rational creature to be seduced into the thoughts of, whereof there have been prodigious instances; let him possess them in abundance beyond whatever any man enjoyed in this world, or his own imagination could beforehand reach unto; let him be assured of the utmost peaceable continuance in the enjoyment of them, that his and their natures are capable of; yet would he not dare to pretend, that all his affections were filled and satisfied with them, that they afforded him perfect rest and peace. Should he do so, the working of his mind every day would convince him of his falsehood and his folly.

But all spiritual things derive from, and lead unto, that which is infinite, which is therefore able to fill all our affections, and to give them full satisfaction with rest and peace. They all lead us to the fountain of living waters, the eternal spring of goodness and blessedness.

I do not say that our affections do attain unto this full rest and satisfaction in this life. But what they come short of therein, ariseth not from any defect in the things themselves to give this rest and satisfaction, as it is with the

« PreviousContinue »