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It is no sign that affections have the nature of true religion, or that they have not, that they have great effects on the body.
all affections whatsoever have in some respect or degree, an effect on the body. As was observed before, such is our nature, and such are the laws of union of soul and body, that the mind can have no lively or vigorous exercise, without some effect upon the body. So subject is the body to the mind, and so much do its fluids, especially the animal spirits, attend the motions and exercises of the mind, that there cannot be so much as an intense thought, without an effect upon them. Yea it is questionable, whether an embodied soul ever so much as thinks one thought, or has any exercise at all, but that there is some corresponding motion or alteration of the fluids, in some part of the body. But universal experience shows, that the exercise of the affections have, in a special manner, a tendency to some sensible effect upon the body. And if all affections have some effect on the body, we may then well suppose, the greater those affections, and the more vigorous their exercises are, (other circumstances being equal,) the greater will be the effect on the body. Hence it is not to be wondered at, that very great and strong exercises of the affections should have great effects on the body. And therefore, seeing there are very great affections, both common and spiritual; hence it is not to be wondered at, that great efforts on the body should arise from both these kinds of affections. And consequently these effects are no signs, that the affections they arise from are of one kind or the other.
Great effects on the body certainly are no sure evidences that affections are spiritual; for we see them oftentimes arise from great affections about temporal things, and when religion is no way concerned in them. And if great affections about things purely natural may have these effects, I know not by what rule we should determine, that high affections about religious things, which arise in like manner from nature, cannot have the like effect.
Nor, on the other hand, do I know of any rule to determine, that gracious affections, when raised as high as any natural affections, with equally strong and vigorous exercises, cannot have a great effect on the body. No such rule can be drawn from reason: I know of no reason, why a being affected with a view of God’s glory should not cause the body to faint, as well as being affected with a view of Solomon’s glory. And no such rule has as yet been produced from the Scripture: none has ever been found in all the late controversies about things of this nature. There is a great power in spiritual affections; we read of the power which worketh in Christians, 422422 Eph. ii. 7. and of the Spirit of God being in them as the Spirit of power, 423423 2 Tim. i. 7. and of the effectual working of his power in them, 424424 Eph. iii. 7, 20. yea, of the working of God’s mighty power in them. 425425 Eph. i. 19. But man’s nature is weak: flesh and blood are represented in Scripture as exceeding weak; and particularly with respect to its unfitness for great, spiritual, and heavenly operations and exercises. (Matt. xxvi. 41. 1 Cor. xv. 43. and 50.) The text prefixed to this discourse speaks of joy unspeakable, and full of glory. And who that considers what man’s nature is, and what the nature of the affections are, can reasonably doubt, but that such unutterable and glorious joys, may be too great and mighty for weak dust and ashes, so as to be considerably overbearing to it? It is evident by the Scripture, that discoveries of God’s glory, when given in a great degree, have a tendency, by affecting the mind, to overbear the body. The Scripture teaches us, that if these views should be given to such a degree, as they are given in heaven, the weak frame of the body could not subsist under it, and that no man can, in that manner, see God and live. The knowledge which the saints have of God’s beauty and glory in this world, and those holy affections that arise from it, are of the same nature and kind with what the saints are the subjects of in heaven, differing only in degree and circumstances. What God gives them here, is a foretaste of heavenly happiness, and an earnest of their future inheritance. And who shall limit God in his giving this earnest, or say he shall give so much of the inheritance, such a part of the future reward, as an earnest of the whole, and no more? And seeing God has taught us in his word, that the whole reward is such, that it would at once destroy the body, is it not too bold a thing for us to set bounds to the sovereign God; or to say, that in giving the earnest of this reward, he shall never 247 give so much of it, as in the least to diminish the strength of the body, when God has no where thus limited himself?
The psalmist speaking of his vehement religious affections, and of an effect in his flesh or body, besides what was in his soul, expressly distinguishes one from the other, Psal. lxxxiv. 2. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Here is a plain distinction between the heart and the flesh, as being each affected. So Psal. lxiii. 1. “My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” Here also is an evident, designed distinction between the soul and the flesh.
The prophet Habakkuk speaks of his body being overborne by a sense of the majesty of God, Hab. iii. 16. “When I heard my belly trembled: my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself.” So the psalmist, Psal. cxix.120. “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee.”
That such ideas of God’s glory as are given sometimes even in this world, have a tendency to overbear the body, is evident, because the Scripture gives us an account, that this has actually been the effect of those external manifestations which God made of himself to some of the saints, in order to give them an idea of his majesty and glory. Daniel giving an account of an external representation of the glory of Christ, says, Dan. x. 8. “And there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength.” And the apostle John, giving an account of a similar manifestation made to him, says, Rev. i. 17. “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” It is in vain to say here, that these were only external manifestations of the glory of Christ; for though this be true, yet the use of these representations, was to give an idea of the thing represented, the true divine glory and majesty of Christ. They were made use of only as significations of this spiritual glory, and thus undoubtedly they received and improved them, and were affected by them. According to the end for which God intended these outward signs, they received by them a great and lively apprehension of the real glory and majesty of God’s nature, of which they were signs; and thus were greatly affected, their souls swallowed up, and their bodies overborne. And, I think, they are very bold and daring, who will say that God cannot, or shall not, give the like affecting apprehensions of the same real glory of his nature to none of his saints, without the intervention of such external shadows.
Before I leave this head, I would further observe, that it is plain the Scripture often makes use of bodily effects to express the strength of holy and spiritual affections; such as trembling, 426426 Psal. cxix. 120. Ezra ix. 4. Isa. lxvi. 2, 5. Hab. iii. 16. groaning, 427427 Rom. viii. 26. being sick, 428428 Cant. ii. 5. and v. 8 crying out, 429429 Psal. lxxxiv. 2. panting, 430430 Psal. xxxviii. 10. and xliii. 1. and cxix 131. and fainting. 431431 Psal lxxxiv. 2. and cxix 8l. Now if it be supposed, that these are only figurative expressions to represent the degree of affection; yet I hope all will allow, that they are suitable figures to represent the high degree of those spiritual affections; which I see not how they would be, if those spiritual affections are the proper effects and sad tokens of false affections, and the delusion of the devil. I cannot think, God would commonly make use of things which are very alien from spiritual affections, and are shrewd marks of the hand of Satan, and smell strong of the bottomless pit, as beautiful figures, to represent the high degree of holy and heavenly affections.
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