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well as of all sorts of affections. The natural means of producing or confirming principles are real or seeming arguments; as the natural means of exciting affections are suitable motives : which are indeed arguments relating not merely to the reality but to the goodness of certain objects, or the contrary. Notwithstanding such general resemblances, as it is absurd to annihilate the difference between truth and falsehood in men's principles, it is no less absurd to annihilate the differences formerly considered in men's affections. It cannot be justly objected against this illustration, that the same evidence produces the same principles. The strongest evidences of the most useful truths are oft-times considered with some attention, without begetting persuasion. Sometimes men may consider such evidences, and then do 'their utmost to refute them. . Sometimes these evi. 'dences procure assent to some good conclusions, while the most important conclusions, deducible from them, are not admitted. There is a resemblance between the various success of the evidenees of the truth and of the motives to holiness. Some. times such motives are heard and considered with some attention, and at the same time with strong "aversion and disgust. Sometimes they excite those inferior good affections, which were formerly described, while the main design of them is not complied with.
The reasonings which have been insisted on, concerning the influence of means, or of natural causes, on all sorts of devout affections, serve equally to vindicate the two important points, formerly mentioned, concerning the holy affections included in divine love: namely, the great importance of these attainments considered in themselves, and the reasonableness of ascribing them to divine grace. But there are various things which make it needful to consider this influence of natural causes, on
men's devout affections, somewhat more particularly. It is a theory in which there has been a good deal of philosophizing against serious piety or affectionate devotion. - But, when duly considered, it is of manifold use for better purposes.
It is of use for vindicating piety, and for unfolding the delusions of self-deceit, in false pretences to it. It is owned on all hands, that there are various causes and helps in the nature of things, which are subservient to devout affections, especially to divine love. It is of importance to consider, whether this be a just objection against such affections, or an argument for them : and whether or not the philosophy that subtilizes so much against devout affections, without any due restriction, reflects dishonour, not merely on the corruption of nature, but on nature itself. On the other hand, it is own. ed by all parties, that men may impose on themselves and others by devout fervours, which either come skort of holiness, or are even of an opposite nature and tendency. A right view of the natural causes, which have an influence on strong fervours of affection, is of manifest use for due caution against so hurtful delusion,
Before we enter on the more particular consider, ation of the natural causes in view, it may not be improper to observe a remarkable inconsistency in the reasonings of many people, against devout affections, as the mere product of such causes. ny people who object against such attainments, as the effects of operations that are merely natural, are against all operation that is supernatural. It might be expected that such people would never make it an objection against the goodness or excel. leney of any effect, that it is a mere natural efficacy that produces it.' According to them, this must be the case as to all the noblest attainments in the minds or hearts of the best of men. reasonable in any people to maintain, that nothing
It is very uncan be of importance that proceeds merely from the natural efficacy of second causes. But that principle is chiefly unreasonable, in people who acknowledge no other efficacy on men's hearts but that alone. If such efficacy is no objection against other valuable attainments, and if they are not to be the less esteemed, because they are the effects of mere natural causes or natural powers; it is manifest partiality to make such a manner of produce tion an objection against all devout affections, especially against the noblest affection of the soul fixed on the noblest object.
These things are so obvious, that though people sometimes argue, not only against the divine origin, but even against the importance of any strong devout affections, on pretence that they may be accounted for from natural causes; yet it seems reasonable to understand such objections with some restriction. The meaning of them seems to be this, that devout affections are of little or no im. portance, not merely because they are the effects of natural causes, but because they are the effects of such causes even in the hearts of wicked men; and that these must be inconsiderable attainments which may be produced in men's bearts without any changing of their hearts to the better.
When the objections in view are understood in this meaning, a sufficient answer to them is contained in the description formerly given of the vast disparity between different sorts of devout affections.
That description proves, that to argue from some particular sorts of devout affections to all sorts of them in general without exception, is contrary to the most evident and incontested rules of just reasoning
In considering the particular natural which have a tendency to excite devout affections, that which deserves to be chiefly inquired into, is
strong attention to proper motives. The native tendency of strong attention affords various arguments in favours of vigorous affections towards objects of the greatest excellency in themselves, and of the greatest importance to us. There is probably no controversy, whether serious and steady attention to such things, or the contrary thoughtlessness and inconsiderateness about them, be most subservient to true wisdom. The same things which are the chief motives to devout affections, are the chief motives to all good actions. If attentive consideration of these things be a natural cause which has a tendency to lively devout affections, the usefulness of the cause is a good argument for the usefulness of the effect. This way of reasoning is evidently founded on a general princi. ple, on which the most satisfying arguments are founded in other cases ; namely, that if the natural causes which have a direct tendency to produce any effect are good and useful, the effect itself must be so likewise. This shews, that instead of its being a just objection against devout affections, that they are naturally excited by attentive considera. tion, it would rather be a more plausible objection against them, if they were excited ordinarily any
It was observed before, that men's natural power of exciting several common good affections, does not disprove their need of divine grace, to produce and excite divine love. But though men's power of attentive consideration, in order to excite some good affections, does not take away their need of that superior power; yet the use of such serious consideration, with application to God for his blessing, is of such importance, and of so good tendency, that it is necessary to vindicate it from objections founded on the bad use of it and artificial imitations of it. The interest of true piety requires the vindication, not only of divine love, but
also of earnest desires and other devout affections that quicken men's endeavours after it. And whatever be said of men's power of exciting some such-affections by strong attention, it is certain that the use of that power is a thing to which too many have a strong backwardness, that does not need to be fortified by arguments.
It is incontested that men's power of exciting their, affections, by attention to motives, is ofttimes abused to very bad or very useless purposes. By strong attention to those things that are inducements to irregular affections, these corruptions are more and more strengthened. Sometimes men may employ all the force of attention they are masters of, for exciting fictitious and artificial emotions, either about religious subjects, or other things, merely to amuse and deceive others, and to procure their applause. Sometimes people may be very deeply affected with things they know to be fabulous, and desire to be so affected, not out of any love to the objects which occupy their thoughts, which they know to have no being, but out of love to the amusement produced by raising the passions. There are methods by which some people, no doubt, acquire a peculiar dexterity in raising such fictitious passions in themselves and others. There is no ground to doubt but such dexterity may extend to all sorts of objects that are fit to excite the affections. It is a just commendation of the objects of Christian faith, that there are no objects in the world, which, considered in themselves, are so ca. pable of exciting the most delightful affections of the soul. There is the less ground to wonder if men who are intent upon such fictitious and artifi. cial affections, about objects of so elevating a tendency, for the unworthy purposes above mentioned, may acquire some faculty that way. But if such intention in devout exercises, be a heinous con. tempt of the Deity, the more enormous this evil is