My thoughts (and quotes) from the eleventh point of Part III
[xi] Another great and very distinguishing difference between gracious affections and others 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.
[In other words, true affections differ from false in the following ways:
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 (lack) 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 for sin;
the more his heart is broke,
the more he desires it should be broke:
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 to burn.
Yes, a true saint cannot be satisfied with his spiritual progress and attainments. He is but a child when compared to what he will become in heaven. He is eager to progress towards that perfection.
“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press on towards the mark”
This is because:
- . . . the more persons have of holy affections, the more . . . they perceive the excellency, and relish the sweetness of holiness, . . . the more they see their imperfection . . . and distance from what ought to be . . .
- Besides grace, as long as it is imperfect, is of a growing nature . . . and so much the more as they are spiritually more healthy and prosperous.
- Those with true faith cry out “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief.”
- The more one truly grows in grace the more he becomes an earnest beggar for grace and spiritual food, that he may grow
- The more earnestly does he pursue and desire after . . . true and gracious longings after holiness
But should a Christian not be content and satisfied in their souls?
True spiritual enjoyments are indeed soul-satisfying because:
1. They are so suited for man’s needs that those who find them desire no other kind of enjoyments.
2. They answer the expectation of the appetite. When the appetite is high to anything, the expectation is consequently so . . . If a man has an appetite for worldly pleasure then his expectations of worldly pleasure is also high. But worldly pleasures never meet those high expectations.
3. The gratification and pleasure of spiritual enjoyments is permanent.
But as for worldy pleasures: the appetite, in being satisfied, is glutted, and then the pleasure is over: and then the soul is filled with emptiness again.
4. There is enough in it to satisfy the soul . . . here is an infinite ocean.
And the more a man 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.
As for counterfeit affections: that desire ceases or is abated . . . At one time, under legal convictions and much afraid of hell, he earnestly longed . . . but now when these false affections are risen . . . and make him confident that he is converted and eternally safe, there are no earnest longings after light and grace . . . he is confident that his sins are forgiven him, and that he shall go to heaven, and so he is satisfied. The desires that well up within the true Christian for God and holiness stem from principles that are far more potent than such ‘servile fear‘.
The scriptures everywhere 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.
Some hypocrites persist and claim to have the holy desire of genuine Christians and will readily say that they desire not to rest satisfied with past attainments, but to be pressing forward . . .
But in reality they only desire for clearer understanding of their spiritual safety. They long to taste the love of God . . . more than to have more love to God. It may seem to some of them to be the done thing to say, ” I am growing in my spiritual life.”
There is an inward burning desire that a saint has after holiness . . . and panting after the Spirit of God. They do not wait to see the Lord give a sign or do anything special. They have far too much work to do for that as the great Example said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.”
The saints desire the sincere milk of the Word . . .
A longing after great discoveries or after great tastes of the love of God, nor a longing to be in heaven, nor a longing to die, are not distinguishing marks of true saints. But longing after a more holy heart, and after living a more holy life distinguish true Christians from others.
[Tim Challies has a blog feature called Reading Classics, where he and many other online friends read a selected Christian classic in a synchronized way and share their views. The classic being studied currently is The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.]