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but little religion. And they who condemn others for their religious affections, and have none themselves, have no religion. There are false affections, and there are true. A man's having much affection, does not prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection, it proves that he has no true religion. The right way, is not to reject all affections, nor to approve all; but to distinguish between them, approving some and rejecting others; separating between the wheat and the chaff, the gold and the dross, the precious and the vile.
2. If true religion lies much in the affections, we may infer, that such means are to be desired, as have much tendency to move the affections. Such books, and such a way of preaching the word and the administration of ordinances, and such a way of worshipping God in prayer and praises, as has a tendency deeply to affect the hearts of those who attend these means, is much to be desired.
Such kind of means would formerly have been highly approved, and applauded by the generality of people, as the most excellent and profitable, and having the greatest tendency to promote the ends of the means of grace. But the prevailing taste seems of late strangely to be altered: that pathetic manner of praying and preaching which would formerly have been admired and extolled, and for this reason, because it had such a tendency to move the affections, now, in great multitudes, immediately excites disgust, and moves no other affections, than those of displeasure and contempt.
Perhaps, formerly, the generality (at least of the common people) were in the extreme of looking too much to an affectionate address in public performances: but now, a very great part of the people seem to have gone far into a contrary extreme. Indeed there may be such means, as have a great tendency to stir up the passions of weak and ignorant persons, and yet have none to benefit their souls: for though they may have a tendency to excite affections, they have little or none to excite gracious affections. But, undoubtedly, if the things of religion in the means used, are treated according to their nature, and exhibited truly, so as tends to convey just apprehensions and a right judgment of them, the more they have a tendency to move the affections, the better.
3. If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn, what great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we are no more affected with the great things of religion. It appears from what has been said, that this arises from our having so little true religion.
God has given to mankind affections, for the same purpose as that for which he has given all the faculties and principles of the
human soul, viz. that they might be subservient to man's chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is, the business of religion. And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters, than in religion! In matters which concern men's worldly interest, their outward delights, their honour and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at worldly losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity. But how insensible and unmoved are most men, about the great things of another world! how dull are their affections! how heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small. How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus; of his giving his infinitely dear Son to he offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, holy Lamb of God manifested in his dying agonies, his bloody sweat, his loud and bitter cries and bleeding heart; and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory; and yet be cold, heavy, insensible, and regardless! Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here? what is it that more requires them? and what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise, if not such as this? Can any thing be set in our view, greater and more important? any thing more wonderful and surprising? or that more nearly concerns our interest? Can we suppose that the wise Creator implanted such principles in our nature as the affections, to lie still on such an occasion as this? Can any Christian, who believes the truth of these things, entertain such thoughts?
If we ought ever to exercise our affections at all, and if the Creator has not unwisely constituted the human nature in making these principles a part of it, then they ought to be exercised about those objects which are most worthy of them. But is there any thing in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of our admiration and love! our earnest and longing desires, hope, rejoicing, and fervent zeal, as those things which are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ? There not only are things declared most worthy to affect us, but they are exhibited in the most affecting manner. The glory and beauty of the blessed JEHOVAH, which is most worthy in itself, to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the most affecting manner that
can be conceived of; as it appears shining in all its lustre, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek, compassionate, dying Redeemer. All the virtues of the Lamb of God, his humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love, and compassion, are exhibited to our view, in a manner the most tending to move our affections, of any that can be imagined; for they all had their greatest trial, their highest exercise, and brightest manifestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalleled sufferings which he endured from his tender love and pity to us. There, also, the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible; as we see the dreadful effects of them, in what our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestations of God's hatred of sin, and his wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it, and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins, in one who was infinitely dear to him, and loving to us. So has God disposed things in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations revealed to us in the gospel, as though every thing were purposely contrived in such a manner, as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we, therefore, to be humbled to the dust, that we are no more affected!
SHEWING WHAT ARE NO CERTAIN SIGNS THAT RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS ARE TRULY GRACIOUS, OR THAT THEY ARE
IF any one, on reading what has been just now said, is ready to acquit himself, and say, "I am not one of those who have no religious affections; I am often greatly moved with the consideration of the great things of religion; let him not content himself with this; for, as we ought not to reject and condemn all affections, as though true religion did not at all consist in them; so, on the other hand, we ought not to approve of all, as though every one that was religiously affected had true grace, and was therein the subject of the saving influences of the Spirit of God. Therefore, the right way is to distinguish, among religious affections, between one sort and another. Let us now endeavour to do this, by noticing, in the first place, some things, which are no signs that affections are gracious, or that they are not.
It is no sign, one way or other, that religious affections are very great, or raised very high.
Some are ready to condemn all high affection: if persons appear to have their religious affections raised to an extraordinary pitch, they are prejudiced against them, and determine that they are delusions, without further inquiry. But if, as before proved, true religion lies very much in religious affections, then it follows, that if there be a great deal of true religion, there will be great religious affections; if true religion in the hearts of men be raised to a great height, divine and holy affections will be raised to a great height.
Love is an affection; but will any Christian say, meu ought not to love God and Jesus Christ in a high degree? and will any say, we ought not to have a very great hatred of sin, and a very deep sorrow for it? or that we ought not to exercise a high degree of gratitude to God, for the mercies we receive of him, and the great things he has done for the salvation of fallen men? or that we should not have very great and strong desires after God and holiness? Is there any who will profess, that his affections in religion are great enough, and will say, "I have no cause to be humbled, that I am no more affected with the things of religion than I am; I have no reason to be ashamed, that I have no greater exercises of love to God, and sorrow for sin, and gratitude for the mercies which I have received?" Who is there that will go and bless God, that he is affected enough with what he has read and heard of the wonderful love of God to worms and rebels in giving his only begotten Son to die for them, and of the dying love of Christ; and will pray that he may not be affected with them in any higher degree, because high affections are improper, and very unlovely in Christians, being enthusiastical, and ruinous to true religion?
Our text plainly speaks of great and high affections, when it speaks of rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Here the most superlative expressions are used, which language will afford. The scriptures often require us to exercise very high affections: thus in the first and great commandment of the law, there is an accumulation of expressions, as though words were wanting to express the degree in which we ought to love God; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy HEART, with ALL thy SOUL, with ALL thy MIND, and with ALL thy STRENGTH. So the saints are called upon to exercise high degrees of joy : Rejoice, says Christ to his disciples, and be exceeding glad, Matth v. 12. So, Psal. lxviii. 3. Let the righteous be glad: let them rejoice before God; yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. In the book of Psalms, the saints are often called upon to shout for joy: and in Luke vi. 23. to leap for joy. So they are abundantly called upon to exercise high degrees of gratitude for mercies, to praise God with all their hearts, with hearts lifted up in the ways of the Lord, their souls magnifying the Lord, singing his praises, talking of his wondrous works, declaring his doings, &c.
We find the most eminent saints in scripture often professing high affections. Thus the psalmist mentions his love as if it were unspeakable; Psal. cxix. 97. O how love I thy law! So he expresses a great degree of hatred of sin; Psal. cxxxix. 21, 22. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not Igrieved with them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred. He also expresses a high degree of sorrow for sin: he