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The seat of spiritual mindedness in the affections. The nature and use of them. The ways and means used by God himself, to call the affections of men from the world.
In the account given at the entrance of this discourse, of what it is to be spiritually minded, it was reduced under these heads.
The first, was the habitual frame, disposition, and inclination of the mind in its affections.
The second, was the usual exercise of the mind in its thoughts, meditations, and desires about heavenly things.
Whereunto, thirdly, was added, the complacency of mind in that relish and savour which it finds in spiritual things, so thought and meditated on.
The second of these hath hitherto alone been spoken unto, as that which leads the way unto the others, and gives the most sensible evidence of the state inquired after. Therein consists the stream, which rising in the fountain of our affections, runs into a holy rest and complacency of mind.
The first and last I shall now handle together, and therein comprehend the account of what it is to be spiritually minded.
Spiritual affections, whereby the soul adheres unto spiritual things, taking in such a savour and relish of them, as wherein it finds rest and satisfaction, is the peculiar spring and substance of our being spiritually minded. This is that which I shall now farther explain and confirm.
The great contest of heaven and earth is about the affections of the poor worm, which we call man. That the world should contend for them, is no wonder. It is the best that it can pretend unto. All things here below, are capable of no higher ambition, than to be possessed of the affections of And as they lie under the curse, it can do us no
greater mischief, than by prevailing in this design. But that the holy God should as it were engage in the contest, and strive for the affections of man, is an effect of infinite condescension and grace. This he doth expressly; 'My son,' saith he, 'give me thy heart;' Prov. xxiii. 26. It is our affections he asketh for, and comparatively nothing else; to be sure he will accept of nothing from us without them, The most fat and costly sacrifice will not be accepted, if it be without a heart. All the ways and methods of the dispensation of his will, by his word, all the designs of his effectual grace, are suited unto, and prepared for this end, namely, to recover the affections of man unto himself. So he expresseth himself concerning his word; Deut. x. 12. And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love, and to serve the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul?' And as unto the word of his grace, he declares it unto the same purpose, Deut. xxx. 6. 'And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed; to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.'
And on the other side, all the artifices of the world, all the paint it puts on its face, all the great promises it makes, all the false appearances and attires it clothes itself withal by the help of Satan, have no other end but to draw and keep the affections of men unto itself. And if the world be preferred before God, in this address which is made unto us for our affections, we shall justly perish with the world unto eternity; and be rejected by him whom we have rejected; Prov. i. 24, 25. 31.
Our affections are upon the matter our all. They are all we have to give or bestow; the only power of our souls, whereby, if we may give away ourselves from ourselves, and become another's. Other faculties of our souls, even the most noble of them, are suited to receive in unto our own advantage: by our affections we can give away what we are and have. Hereby, we give our hearts unto God, as he requireth. Wherefore unto him we give our affections, unto whom we give our all, ourselves, and all that we have; and to whom we give them not, whatever we give, upon the matter, we give nothing at all.
In what we do unto, or for others; whatsoever is good, valuable, or praiseworthy in it, proceeds from the affections wherewith we do it. To do any thing for others without an animating affection, is but a contempt of them; for we judge them really unworthy, that we should do any thing for them. To give to the poor upon their importunity, without pity or compassion; to supply the wants of saints without love or kindness; with other actings and duties of the like nature, are things of no value; things that recommend us neither unto God nor men. It is so in general with God and the world. Whatsoever we do in the service of God, whatever duty we perform on his command, whatever we undergo, or suffer for his name's sake, if it proceed not from the cleaving of our souls unto him by our affections, it is despised by him; he owns us not. As if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned;' Cant, viii. 7. It is not to be bought nor purchased with riches; so if a man would give to God all the substance of his house without love, it would in like manner be despised. And however, on the other hand, we may be diligent, industrious, and sedulous in and about the things of this world, yet if it have not our affections, we are not of the world, we belong not unto it. They are the seat of all sincerity, which is the jewel of divine and human conversation, the life and soul of every thing that is good and praiseworthy; whatever men pretend, as their affections are, so are they. Hypocrisy is a deceitful interposition of the mind, on various reasons and pretences, between men's affections and their profession, whereby a man appears to be what he is not. Sincerity is the open avowment of the reality of men's affections, which renders them good and useful.
Affections are in the soul, as the helm in the ship; if it be laid hold on by a skilful hand, he turneth the whole vessel which way he pleaseth. If God hath the powerful hand of his grace upon our affections, he turns our souls unto a compliance with his institutions, instructions, in mercy, affections, trials, all sorts of providences, and holds them firm against all winds and storms of temptation, that they shall not hurry them on pernicious dangers. Such a soul alone is tractable and pliable unto all intimations of God's will.
All others are stubborn and obstinate, stout-hearted and
far from righteousness. And when the world hath the hand on our affections, it turns the mind, with the whole industry of the soul, unto its interest and concerns. And it is in vain to contend with any thing that hath the power of our affections in its disposal; it will prevail at last.
On all these considerations, it is of the highest importance to consider aright, how things are stated in our affections, and what is the prevailing bent of them. 'Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend,' saith the wise man, Prov. xxvii. 17. Every man hath his edge, which may be sharpened by outward helps and advantages. The predominant inclination of a man's affections, is his edge. According as that is set, so he cutteth and works; that way, he is sharp and keen, but blunt unto all other things.
Now because it must be, that our affections are either spiritual or earthly in a prevailing degree, that either God hath our hearts, or the world; that our edge is towards heaven, or towards things here below; before I come to give an account of the nature and operations of spiritual affections, I shall consider and propose some of those arguments and motives which God is pleased to make use of to call off our affections from the desirable things of this world: for as they are weighty and cogent, such as cannot be neglected without the greatest contempt of divine wisdom and goodness, so they serve to press and enforce those arguments and motives that are proposed unto us to set our affections on things that are above, which is to be spiritually minded.
First, He hath in all manner of instances poured contempt on the things of this world, in comparison of things spiritual and heavenly. All things here below were at first made beautiful and in order, and were declared by God himself to be exceeding good, and that not only in their being and nature, but in the use whereunto they were designed. They were then desirable unto men, and the enjoyment of them would have been a blessing without danger of temptation: for they were the ordinance of God to lead us unto the knowledge of him, and love unto him. But since the entrance of sin, whereby the world fell under the curse, and into the power of Satan, the things of it in his management are become effectual means to draw off the heart and affections
from God. For it is the world, and the things of it, as summed up by the apostle, 1 John ii. 15, 16. that strive alone for our affections to be the object of them. Sin and Satan do but woo for the world to take them off from God: by them doth the God of this world blind the eyes of them that believe not; and the principal way whereby he worketh in them, is by promises of satisfaction unto all the lusts of the minds of men, with a proposal of whatever is dreadful and terrible in the want of them. Being now in this state and condition, and used unto this end, through the craft of Satan and the folly of the minds of men, God hath shewed, by various instances, that they are all vain, empty, unsatisfactory, and every way to be despised in comparison of things
1. He did it most eminently and signally in the life, death, and cross of Christ. What can be seen or found in this world, after the Son of God hath spent his life in it, not having where to lay his head; and after he went out of it on the cross? Had there been aught of real worth in things here below, certainly he had enjoyed it, if not crowns and empires, which were all in his power, yet such goods and possessions as men of sober reasonings and moderate affections do esteem a competency. But things were quite otherwise disposed, to manifest that there is nothing of value or use in these things, but only to support nature unto the performance of service unto God, wherein they are serviceable unto eternity. He never attained, he never enjoyed, more than daily supplies of bread out of the stores of providence, and which alone he hath instructed us to pray for; Matt. viii. 20. In his cross the world proclaimed all its good qualities and all its powers, and hath given unto them that believe, its naked face to view and contemplate. Nor is it now one jot more comely than it was when it had gotten Christ on the cross. Hence is that inference and conclusion of the apostle; Gal. vi. 14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.' Since I have believed, since I have had a sense of the power and virtue of the cross of Christ, I have done with all things in this world; it is a dead thing unto me, nor have I any affection for it. This is that which made the difference between the promises of the old