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Another great and very distinguishing difference is, that the higher gracious affections are raised, the more is a spiritual appetite and longing of soul after spiritual attainments increased: on the contrary, false affections rest satisfied in themselves.†
The more a true saint loves God with a gracious love, the more he desires to love him, and the more uneasy is he at his want of love to him: the more he hates sin, the more he desires to hate it, and laments that he has so much remaining love to it. The more he mourns for sin, the more he longs to mourn; the more his heart is broken, the more he desires it should be broken. The more he thirsts and longs after God and holiness, the more he longs to long, and breathe out his very soul in longings after God. The kindling and raising of gracious affections is like kindling a flame; the higher it is raised, the more ardent it is; and the more it burns, the more vehemently does it tend and seek to burn. So that the spiritual appetite after holiness, and an increase of holy affections, is much more lively and keen in those that are eminent in holiness, than others; and more when grace and holy affections are in their most lively exercise, than at other times. It is as much the nature of one that is spiritually new-born, to thirst after growth in holiness, as it is the nature of a new-born babe to thirst after the mother’s breast; who has the sharpest appetite, when best in health; 1 Pet. ii. 2, 3. “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The most that the saints have in this world, is but a taste, a prelibation of that future glory which is their proper fulness; it is only an earnest of their future inheritance; (2 Cor. i. 22. and v. 5. and Eph. i. 14.) The most eminent saints in this state are but children, compared with their future, which is their proper, state of maturity and perfection; as the apostle observes, 1 Cor. xiii. 10, 11. The greatest eminence and perfection that the saints arrive at in this world, has no tendency to satiety, or to abate their desires after more; but, on the contrary, makes them more eager to 313 press forwards; as is evident by the apostle’s words, Phil. iii. 13-15. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”
The reasons of it are, that the more persons have of holy affections, the more they have of that spiritual taste which I have spoken of elsewhere; whereby they perceive the excellency, and relish the divine sweetness, of holiness. And the more grace they have, while in this state of imperfection, the more they see their imperfection and emptiness, and distance from what ought to be; and so the more do they see their need of grace; as I showed at large before, when speaking of the nature of evangelical humiliation. And besides, grace, as long as it is imperfect, is of a growing nature, and in a growing state. And we see it to be so with all living things, that while they are in a state of imperfection, and in their growing state, their nature seeks after growth; and so much the more, as they are more healthy and prosperous. Therefore the cry of every true grace, is like that cry of true faith, Mark ix. 24. “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” And the greater spiritual discoveries and affections the true Christian has, the more does he become an earnest supplicant for grace, and spiritual food, that he may grow; and the more earnestly does he pursue after it, in the use of proper means and endeavours; for true and gracious longings after holiness, are no idle ineffectual desires.
But here some may object, How is this consistent with what all allow, that spiritual enjoyments are of a soul-satisfying nature?
I answer, Its being so will appear to be not at all inconsistent with what has been said, if it be considered in what manner spiritual enjoyments are said to be of a soul-satisfying nature. Certainly they are not of a cloying nature, so that he who has any thing of them, though but in a very imperfect degree, desires no more. But spiritual enjoyments are of a soul-satisfying nature in the following respects. 1. They in their kind and nature, are fully adapted to the nature, capacity, and need of the soul of man. So that those who find them, desire no other kind of enjoyments; they sit down fully contented with that kind of happiness which they have, desiring no change, nor inclining to wander about any more, saying, Who will show us any good? the soul is never closed, never weary; but perpetually giving up itself, with all its powers, to this happiness. But not that those who have something of this happiness, desire no more of the same. 2. They are satisfying also in this respect, that they answer the expectation of the appetite. When the appetite is high to any thing, the expectation is consequently so. Appetite to a particular object, implies expectation in its nature. This expectation is not satisfied by worldly enjoyments; the man expected to have a great accession of happiness, but he is disappointed. But it is not so with spiritual enjoyments; they fully answer and satisfy the expectation. 3. The gratification and pleasure of spiritual enjoyments is permanent. It is not so with worldly enjoyments. They in a sense satisfy particular appetites; but the appetite in being satisfied, is glutted, and then the pleasure is over: and as soon as that is over, the general appetite of human nature after happiness returns; but is empty, and without any thing to satisfy it. So that the glutting of a particular appetite, does but take away from. and leave empty, the general thirst of nature. 4. Spiritual good is satisfying, as there is enough in it to satisfy the soul, as to the degree, if obstacles were but removed, and the enjoying faculty duly applied. There is room enough here for the soul to extend itself; here is an infinite ocean. If men be not satisfied here, as to degree of happiness, the cause is with themselves; it is because they do not open their mouths wide enough.
But these things do not argue that a soul has no appetite excited after more of the same, when it has tasted a little; or that the appetite will not increase, until it comes to fulness of enjoyment: as bodies attracted to the earth, tend to it more strongly, the nearer they come to the attracting body, and are not at rest out of the centre. Spiritual good is of a satisfying nature; and for that very reason, the soul that tastes, and knows its nature, will thirst after it, and a fulness of it, that it may be satisfied. And the more one experiences and knows this excellent, unparalleled, exquisite, and satisfying sweetness, the more earnestly will he hunger and thirst for more, until he comes to perfection. And therefore this is the nature of spiritual affections, that the greater they be, the greater the appetite and longing is, after grace and holiness.
But with those joys, and other religious affections, that are false and counterfeit, it is otherwise. If before there was a great desire, of some sort, after grace; as these affections rise, that desire ceases, or is abated. It may be before, while the man was under legal convictions, and much afraid of hell, he earnestly longed that he might obtain spiritual light in his understanding, faith in Christ, and love to God: but now, when these false affections deceive him, and make him confident that he is converted, and his state good, there are no more earnest longings after light and grace; for his end is answered; he is confident. that his sins are forgiven him, and that he shall go to heaven; and so he is satisfied. And especially when false affections are raised very high, do they put an end to longings after grace and holiness. The man now is far from appearing to himself a poor empty creature; on the contrary, he is rich, and increased with goods, and hardly conceives of any thing more excellent, than what he has already attained.
Hence there is an end to many persons’ earnestness in seeking, after they have once obtained that which they call their conversion; or at least, after they have had those high affections, that make them fully confident of it. Before, while they looked upon themselves as in a state of nature, they were engaged in seeking after God and Christ, and cried earnestly for grace, and strove in the use of means: but now they act as though they thought their work was done; they live upon their first work, or some high past experiences; and there is an end to their crying, and striving after God and grace. 519519 “It is usual to see a false heart most diligent in seeking the Lord, when he has been worst, and most careless when it is best. Hence many at first conversion, sought the Lord earnestly: afterwards affections and endeavours die; that now they are good as the word can make them.—An hypocrite’s last end is to satisfy himself: hence he has enough. A saint’s is to satisfy Christ: hence he never has enough.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 157. Many a man, it may be, may say, I have nothing in myself, and all is in Christ; and comfort himself there; and so falls asleep. Hands off! and touch not this ark, lest the Lord slay thee: a Christ of clouts would serve your turn as well.” Ibid. p. 71. “An hypocrite’s light goes out, and grows not. Hence many ancient slanders take all their comfort from their first work, and droop when in old age.” Ibid. p. 77. And p. 93, 94. Mr. Shepard, mentioning the characters of those that have a dead hope, says, “They that content themselves with any measure of holiness and grace, they look not for Christ’s coming and company. For saints that do look for him, though they have not that holiness and grace they would have, yet they rest not satisfied with any measure; 1 John iii. 3. “He that hath this hope, purifieth himself as he is pure.”—That saints content not themselves with any dressings, until made glorious, and so fit for fellowship with that spouse.—When a man leaves not, until he gets such a measure of faith and grace, and now when he has got this, contents himself with this, as a good sign that he shall be saved, he looks not for Christ. Or when men are heavily laden with sin; then close with Christ; and then are comforted, sealed, and have joy that fills them; and now the work is done. —And when men shall not content themselves with any measure; but wish they had more, if grace would grow, while they tell clocks and sit idle; and so God must do all: but do not purge themselves, and make work of it.” Again, p. 109. “There is never a hypocrite living, but closeth with Christ for his own ends: for he cannot work beyond his principle. Now when men have served their own turns out of another man, away they go, and keep that which they have. An hypocrite closeth with Christ, as a man with a rich shop; he will not be at cost to buy all the shop, but so much as serves his turn. Commonly men in horror, seek so much of Christ as will ease them; and hence profess, and hence seek for so much of Christ as will credit them; and hence their desires after Christ are soon satisfied. Appetitus finis est infinitus.” Woe to thee that canst paint such a Christ in thy head, and receive such a Christ into thy heart, as must be a pander to your sloth. The Lord will revenge this wrong done to his glory, with greater sorrows than ever any felt: to make Christ not only meat and drink to feed, but clothes to cover your sloth—Why what can we do? what can we do?—Why as the first Adam conveys not only guilt, but power; so the second conveys both righteousness and strength.” Ibid. p. 158. “When the Lord hath given some light and affection, and some comfort and some reformation, now a man grows full here. Saints do for God; and carnal hearts do something too; but a little fills them, and quiets them, and so damns them. And hence men at the first work upon them, are very diligent in the use of means; but after that, they be brought to neglect prayer, sleep out sermons, and to be careless, sapless, lifeless.” Ibid. p. 210. “It is an argument of want of grace, when a man saith to himself, as the glutton said to his soul, “Take thy rest, for thou hast goods laid up for many years.” So thou hast repentance and grace, and peace enough for many years: and hence the soul takes its rest, grows sluggish and negligent. Oh, if you die in this case, this night thy soul will be taken away to hell.” Ibid. p. 227. Whereas the holy principles that actuate a true saint, have a far more powerful influence to stir him up to earnestness in seeking God 314 and holiness, than servile fear. Hence seeking God is spoken of as one of the distinguishing characters of the saints; and those that seek God, is one of the names by which the godly are called in Scripture: Ps. xxiv. 6. “This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob.” Ps. lxix. 6. “Let not those that seek thee, be confounded for my sake.” Ver. 32. “The humble shall see this, and be glad; and your heart shall live that seek God.” And 4. “Let all those that seek thee, rejoice, and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.” And the Scriptures every where represent the seeking, striving, and labour of a Christian, as being chiefly after his conversion, and his conversion as being but the beginning of his work. And almost all that is said in the New Testament, of men’s watching, giving earnest heed to themselves, running the race that is set before them, striving and agonizing, wrestling not with flesh and blood, but principalities and powers, fighting, putting on the whole armour of God, and standing, having one all to stand, pressing forward, reaching forth, continuing instant in prayer, crying to God day and night; I say, almost all that is said in the New Testament of these things, is spoken of and directed to the saints. Where these things are applied to sinners’ seeking conversion once, they are spoken of the saints’ prosecution of the great business of their high calling ten times. But many in these days have got into a strange anti-scriptural way, of having all their striving and wrestling over before they are converted; and so having an easy time of it afterwards, to sit down and enjoy their sloth and indolence; as those that now have a supply of their wants, and are become rich and full. But when the Lord fills the hungry with good things, these rich are like to be sent away empty, Luke i. 53.
But doubtless there are some hypocrites, that have only false affections, who will think they are able to stand this trial; and will readily say, that they desire not to rest satisfied with past attainments, but to be pressing forward; they desire more, they long after God and Christ, desire more holiness, and seek it. But the truth is, their desires are not properly the desires of appetite after holiness, for its own sake, or for its moral excellency and holy sweetness; but only for by-ends. They long after clearer discoveries, that they may be better satisfied about the state of their souls; or because in great discoveries self is gratified, in being made so much of by God, and so exalted above others; they long to taste the love of God, (as they call it,) rather than to have more love to God. Or, it may be, they have a kind of forced, fancied, or made longings; because they think they must long for more grace, otherwise it will be a dark sign upon them. But such things as these are far different from the natural, and as it were necessary, appetite and thirsting of the new man after God and holiness. There is an inward burning desire that a saint has after holiness, as natural to the new creature, as vital heat is to the body. There is a holy breathing and panting after the Spirit of God to increase holiness, as natural to a holy nature, as breathing is to a living body. And holiness or sanctification is more directly the object of it, than any manifestation of God’s love and favour. This is the meat and drink that is the object of the spiritual appetite; John iv. 34. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish His work.” Where we read in Scripture of the desires, longings, and thirstings of the saints, righteousness and God’s laws are much more frequently mentioned, as the object of them, than any thing else. The saints desire the sincere milk of the word, not so much to testify God’s love to them, as that they may grow thereby in holiness. I have shown before, that holiness is that good which is the immediate object of a spiritual taste. But undoubtedly the same sweetness that is the chief object of a spiritual taste, is also the chief object of a spiritual appetite. Grace is the godly man’s treasure; Isa. xxxiii. 6. “The fear of the Lord is his treasure.” Godliness is the gain of which he is covetous, 1 Tim. vi. 6. Hypocrites long for discoveries, more for the present comfort of the discovery, and the high manifestation of God’s love in it, than for any sanctifying influence of it. But neither a longing after great discoveries, or after great tastes of the love of God, nor longing to be in heaven, nor longing to die, are in any measure so distinguishing marks of true saints, as longing after a more holy heart, and living a more holy life.
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