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them to weep for him under.such unparalleled sufferings and miseries. If ever there was a heart-melting sight, it was here. Oh who could refrain from weeping?
Those that look upon their sorrow as merely natural, take Christ's reply in a negative sense, prohibiting such tears as those. They that expound their sorrow as the fruit of faith, tell us, though the form of Christ's expression be negative, yet the sense is comparative. Weep rather upon your own account than mine ; reserve your sorrows for the calamities coming upon yourselves and your children. You are greatly affected, I see, with the misery that is upon me; but mine will be quickly over, yours will lie long. In which he shows · his merciful and compassionate disposition, who was still more mindful of the troubles and burdens of others than of his own. And indeed, the days of calamity coming upon them and their children were doleful days. What direful and unprecedented miseries befel them at the breaking up and devastation of the city, who hath not read or heard? And who can refrain from tears that hears or reads it?
Now, if we take the words in the first sense, as a prohibition of their merely natural grief, expressed in tears and lamentations for him, just as they would have been upon any other like tragical event; then the observation from it will be, 1. That melting affections and sorrows, even from the sense and consideration of the sufferings of Christ, are no infallible signs of grace.
If you take it in the latter sense, as the fruit of their faith, as tears flowing from a gracious principle; then the observation will be, 2. That the believing meditation of what Christ suffered for us, is of great force and efficacy to melt and break the heart.
I rather choose to prosecute both these branches than to decide which is the true interpretation, especially as each of them may be useful to us. I begin with the first,
Melting affections and sorrows, even from the sense of
The truth of this proposition will appear from the following reasons :
1. Because we find all sorts of affections manifested by those who have been but temporary believers. The stony-ground hearers, Matt. 13:20, "received the word with joy ;' and so did John's hearers, who for " son rejoiced in his light." John, 5:35. Now, if the affections of joy under the word may be exercised, why not of sorrow also ? If the comfortable things revealed in the Gospel may excite the one, by a parity of reasoning, the sad things it reveals may awaken the other. Even those Israelites whom Moses told they should fall by the sword, and not prosper, for the Lord would not be with them, because they were turned away from
when Moses rehearsed the message of the Lord in their ears, mourned greatly. Numb. 14:39. I know the Lord pardoned many of them their iniquities, though he took vengeance on their inventions; and yet it is as true, that with many of them God was not well-pleased. 1 Cor. 10:5. Many instances of their weeping and mourning before the Lord we find in the sacred history; and yet their hearts were not stedfast with God.
2. Because though the object about which our affections and passions are moved may be spiritual; yet the motives and principles brought into exercise may be but carnal and natural. When I see a person affected in the hearing of the word, or prayer, even unto tears, I not at once conclude that this is the effect of grace ; for it is possible the pathetical nature of the subject, the eloquence of the speaker, the affecting tone and modulation of the voice may draw tears as well as faith.
Whilst Augustin was a manichee, he sometimes heard Ambrose ; and, saith he, "I was greatly affected in hearing him, even unto tears many times :" howbeit, it was
THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE.
not the heavenly nature of the subject, but the abilities of the speaker that so affected him. And this was the case of Ezekiel's hearers. Chap. 33:32.
3. These motions of the affections may rather be a fit and mood, than the very frame and temper of the soul. There are seasons when the roughest and most obdurate heart may be pensive and tender: but that is not its temper and frame, but rather a fit, a pang, a transient passion. So the Lord complains of them, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it goeth away." Hos. 6:4. And so he complains, "When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the most high God their Redeemer ; nevertheless they did flatter him with their lips, and lied unto him with their tongues.” Psalm 78: 34–36. Had this remembrance of God been the gracious temper of their souls, it would have continued with them; they would not have been thus wavering and lukewarm.
INFERENCE 1. If such as sometimes feel their hearts melted with the consideration of the sufferings of Christ, may yet be deceived; what cause have they to fear and tremble, whose hearts are unrelenting as the rocks, yielding to nothing that is proposed, or urged upon them! How many such are there, of whom we may say, as Christ said of the Jews, "We have piped unto you, but ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you,
have not lamented!” Matt. 11 : 17. If those perish that have rejoiced under the promises, and mourned under the threats of the word ; what shall become of them that are totally unconcerned and unmoved by what they hear ? who are given up to such hardness of heart, that nothing can affect them? One would think, the consideration of the sixth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews
should startle such individuals, and make them cry out, Lord, what will become of such a senseless, stupid, dead creature as
I 1 ? If they that have been enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, may, notwithstanding, so fall away, that it shall be impossible to renew them again by repentance, what shall we then say, or think, of the state of those to whom the most penetrating and awakening truths are no more than a tale that is told ?
2. If such as these may eternally miscarry; then let all look carefully to their foundation. It is manifest from 1 Cor. 10:12, that many souls stand exceeding dangerously, who are yet satisfied of their own safety. And if you consult the following scriptures, you shall find vain confidence to be a ruling passion among men, and one which is the utter overthrow and undoing of multitudes of professors. Gal. 6:3, 4; John, 8:54 ; Rom. 2: 18, 19, 21; Matt. 25: 11, 12; Matt. 7:22.
Now there is nothing more apt to beget this vain soul-undoing confidence, than the stirrings and meltings of our affections about spiritual things, whilst the heart remains unrenewed. For such a man seems to have all that is required of a christian, and herein to have attained the very end of all knowledge—its influence upon the heart and affections. Indeed (thinks such a poor deluded soul) if I heard, read, or prayed, without any inward affections, with a dead, cold, and unconcerned heart; or if I made a show of zeal and affection in duties, and had it not; well might I suspect myself to be a hypocrite : but it is not so with me, I feel my heart really melted many times when I read the sufferings of Christ; I feel my heart raised and ravished with strange joys and comforts when I hear the glory of heaven in the Gospel : indeed if it were not so with me, I might fear that the root of the matter is wanting ; but if to my knowledge affections be added, a melting heart joined with a knowing head, then I may be confident all is well. I have often heard ministers cautioning and warning their people not to rest satisfied with idle and speculative notions in their understandings, but to labor for imprersions upon their hearts. This I have attained. I have often heard it given as a mark of a hypocrite, that he has light in his head, but it sheds not down its influence upon the heart; whereas in those that are sincere, it works on their heart and affections : so I find it with me, therefore I am in a most safe estate.
O soul! of all the false signs of grace, none are more dangerous than those that most resemble true ones; and never doth the devil more surely and incurably destroy, than when transformed into an angel of light. What if these meltings of thy heart be but a flower of nature ? What if thou art more indebted to a good temper of body than a gracious change of spirit for these things ? Yet so it may be. Be not secure, but fear, and watch. Possibly, if thou wouldest but search thine own heart in this matter, thou mayest find that any other moving story will have like effects upon thee. Possibly, too, thou mayest find that, notwithstanding all thy raptures and joys at the hearing of heaven and its glory, thy heart is habitually earthly, and thy conversation is not there. For all thou canst mourn at the relation of Christ's sufferings, thou art not so affected with sin, which was the cause of them, as to crucify one corruption, or deny the next temptation, or part with any way of sin that is gainful or pleasurable to thee, for his sake.
Now, reader, if it be so with thee, what art thou the better for the glow of thy affections ? Dost thou think in earnest that Christ hath the better thoughts of thee, because thou canst shed tears for him, when notwith. standing thou every day piercest and woundest him?