« AnteriorContinuar »
that great prophet, who had so much holy familiarity with God, at a time of special nearness to him, even when he conversed with him in the mount, wrapped his face in his mantle. Which was not because he was terrified with any servile fear, by the terrible wind, and earthquake, and fire; but after these were all over, and God spake to him as a friend, in a still small voice; 1 Kings xix. 12, 13. And after the fire, a still small voice; and it was so, when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle. And Moses, with whom God spake face to face, as a man speaks with his friend, and who was distinguished above all the prophets, in the familiarity with God to which he was admitted-at a time when he was brought nearest of all, when God shewed him his glory in that same mount, where he afterwards spake to Elijah-made haste, and bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped, Exod. xxxiv. 8. There is in some persons a most unsuitable and unsufferable boldness, in their addresses to the great JEHOVAH-an affectation of holy boldness, and ostentation of eminent nearness and familiarity-the very thoughts of which would make them shrink into nothing, with horror and confusion, if they saw the distance that is between God and them. They are like the Pharisee, that boldly drew near, in confidence of his own emi. nence in holiness. Whereas, if they saw their vileness, they would be more like the publican, that stood afar of, and durst not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven : but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. It becomes such sinful creatures as we, to approach a holy God (although with faith, and without terror, yet) with contrition, penitent shame, and confusion of face. It is foretold that this should be the disposition of the church, at the time of her highest privileges on earth, in her latter day of glory, when God should remarkably comfort her, by revealing to her his covenant-mercy; Ezek, xvi. 60, &c. I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God. The woman we read of in the viith. chapter of Luke, who was an eminent saint, and had much of that true love which casts out fear, (by Christ's own testimony, ver. 47.) approached Christ in an acceptable manner when she came with humble modesty, reverence and shame. She stood at bis feet, weeping behind
him, as not being fit to appear before his face, and washed his feet with ber tears.
One reason why gracious affections are attended with this tenderness of spirit, is, that true grace tends to promote convictions of conscience, Persons are want to have some convictions of conscience before they have any grace : and if afterwards they are truly converted, have true repentance, joy, and peace in believing; this has a tendency to put an end to terrors, but has na tendency to put an end to convictions of sin; it rather increases them. Grace does not stupify a man's conscience; but makes it more sensible, more easily and thoroughly to discern the sinfulness of that which is sinful, and to receive a greater conviction of the heinous and dreadful nature of sin. The conscience becomes susceptive of a quicker and deeper sense of sin, and the man is more convinced of his own sinfulness, and the wickedness of his heart; consequently grace has a tendency to make him more jealous of his heart. Grace tends to give the soul a further and better conviction of the same things concerning sin, that it was convinced of under a legal work of the Spirit; viz. its great contrariety to the will, and law,' and honour of God, the greatness of God's hatred of it, and displeasure against it, and the dreadful punishment it exposes to and deserves, And not only so, but it convinces the soul of something further concerning sin, of which it saw nothing, while only under legal convictions ; and that is, the infinitely hateful nature of sin, and its dreadfulness upon that account. And this makes the heart tender with respect to. sin; like David's heart, that smote him when he had cut off Saul's skirt. The heart of a true penitent is like a burnt child that dreads the fire. Whereas, on the contrary, he that has had a counterfeit repentance, and false comforts and joys, is like iron that has been suddenly heated and quenched; it becomes much harder than before. A false conversion puts an end to convictions of conscience; and so, either takes away, or much diminishes that conscientiousness which was manifested under a work of the law.
All gracious affections have a tendency to promote this Christian tenderness of heart. Not only godly sorrow, but even a gracious joy does this. Psal. ii. 11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. As also a gracious hope; Psal. xxxiii. 18. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him ; upon them that hope in his mercy. And Psal. cxlvii. 11. The Lord laketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those
that hope in his mercy. Yea, the most confident and assured hope, that is truly gracious, has this tendency. The bigher a holy hope is raised, the more there is of this Christian tenderness. The banishing of servile fear by a holy assurance, is attended with a proportionable increase of a reverential fear. The diminishing of the fear of God's displeasure in future punishment, is attended with a proportionable increase of fear of his displeasure itself ; a diminished fear of hell, with an increase of the fear of sin. The vanishing of jealousies concerning the person's state, is attended with a proportionable increase of jealousy of his heart, in a distrust of its strength, wisdom, stability, faithfulness, &c. The less apt he is to be afraid of natural evil-baving his heart fixed, trusting in God, and so, not afraid of evil tidings-the more apt is he to be alarmed with the appearance of moral evil, or the evil of sin. As he has more holy boldness, so he has less of self-confidence, or a forward assuming boldness, and more modesty. As be is more sure than others of deliverance from hell, so he has a greater sense of its desert. He is less apt than others to be shaken in faith; but more apt to be moved with solemn warnings, with God's frowns, and with the calamities of others. He has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart: richer than others, but poorest of all in spirit. He is the tallest and strongest saint, but the least and tenderest child among them.
Another thing wherein those affections that are truly gracious
and holy, differ from those that are false, is beautiful symmetry and proportion.
Not that the symmetry of the virtues and gracious affections of the saints, in this life, is perfect : it oftentimes is in many things defective, through the imperfection of grace, want of proper instructions, errors in judgment, some particular unhappiness of natural temper, defects in education, and many other disadvantages that might be mentioned. But yet there is in no wise that monstrous disproportion in gracious affections, and the various parts of true religion in the saints, that is very commonly to be observed in the false religion and counterfeit graces of hypocrites. Vol. iv.
In the truly holy affections of the saints is found that proportion, which is the natural consequence of the universality of their sanctification. They have the whole image of Christ upon them: they have put off the old man, and have put on the new man entire in all his parts and members. It hath pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell : there is in him every grace; he is full of grace and truth : and they that are Christ's of his fulness receive, and grace for grace ; (John i. 14, 16.) There is every grace in them which is in Christ : grace for grace : that is, grace answerable to grace: there is no grace in Christ, but there is its image in believers to answer it. The image is a true image; and there is something of the same beautiful proportion in the image, wbich is in the original ; there is feature for feature, and member for member, There is symmetry and beauty in God's workmanship. The natural body which God hath made, consists of many memnbers; and all are in a beautiful proportion: so the new man consists of various graces and affections. The body of one that was born a perfect child, may fail of exact proportion through distemper, weakness, or injury of some of its members; yet the disproportion is in no measure like that of those who are born monsters.
It is with hypocrites, as it was with Ephraim of old, at a time when God greatly complains of their hypocrisy; Hos. vila Ephrain is a cake not turned, half roasted and half raw : there is commonly no manner of uniformity in their affections. There is in many of them a great partiality, with regard to the several kinds of religious affections; great affections in some things, and no proportion in others. A holy hope and holy fear go together in the saints, Psal. xxxiii. 18. and cxlvii. 11. But in some of these there is the most confident hope, while they are void of reverence, self-jealousy and caution, and while they to a great degree cast off fear. In the saints, joy and holy fear go together, though the joy be never so great: as it was with the disciples, in that joy ful morning of Christ's resurrection, Matth. xxviii. 8. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre, with fear and great joy * But many of these rejoice without trembling: their joy is truly oppusite to godly fear.
* "Renewed care and diligence follow the sea'ings of the Spirit. Now is the sou' at the foot of Chrixi, as Mary was at the sepulchre, with fear and greal jay. He that travels the road with a rich treasure about bun, is afraid of a thief in every bush.” FLAVIL's Sucramen!al Meditations, Med. 4.
But particularly, one great difference between saints and hypocrites is this, that the joy and comfort of the former is attended with godly sorrow and mourning for sin. They have not only sorrow to prepare thein for their first comfort, but after they are comforted, and their joy is established. As it is foretold of the church of God, that they should mourn and loath themselves for their sins, after they were returned from the captivity, and were settled in the land of Canaan, the land of rest, the land flowing with milk and honey, Ezek. XX. 42, 43. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled, and ye shall loath yourselves in your own sight, for all your evils that ye have committed ; (also Ezek. xvi. 61-63.) A true saint is like a little child in this respect : he never had any godly sorrow before he was born again; but since, has it often in exercise. A little child, before it is born, and while it remains in darkness, never cries; but as soon as ever it sees the light, it begins to cry; and thenceforward is often crying. Although Christ hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, so that we are freed from the sorrow of punishment, and may now sweetly feed upon the comforts Christ hath purchased for us; yet that hinders not but that our feeding on these comforts should be attended with the sorrow of repentance. Thus of old, the children of Israel were commanded evermore to feed upon the paschal lamb with bitter herbs *. True saints are spoken of in seripture,
* "If repentance accompanies faith, it is no presumption ko believe. Many know the sin, and bence believe in Christ, trust in Christ, and there is an end of their faith. But whát confession and sorrow for sin ? what woré love to Christ follows this faith? Truly aone. Nay, their faith is the cause why they have none. Por they think, if I trust in Christ to forgive me, he will do it ; and there is an end of the business. Verily this hedge faith, this bramble-faith, that catches hold oa Christ, and pricks and scratches Christ, by more impenitency, more contempt of bim, is mere presumption; which shall one day be burnt up and destroyed by the fire of God's jealousy. Fye upon that faith, that serves only to keep a man froma being tormented before his time! Your sins would be your sorrows, but that your faith quiets you. But if faith be accompanied with repentance, mouroing for sin, more esteem of God's grace in Christ; so that nothing breaks thy heart more than the thoughts of Christ's unchangeable love to one so vile, and this love makes thee love much, and love him the more; as thy sin increaseth, so thou desirest thy love's increase ; and now the stream of thy thoughts run, how thou mayst live to him thar diel for thee : this was Mary's faith, who sat at Christ's feet werping, washing them with her tears, and loving much, because much was forgiven." SHEPARD'S Sound Belieser, p. 128, 129.
. You shall know godly sorrow (says Dr. PRESTON, in his discourse os