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On the nature and regulation of the Affections.

THERE are a number of other principles, besides those that have been mentioned, which come under the general head of the Propensities; which are important in their place; and all of which require to be restored from the vicious action, with which a fallen nature has inspired them. This may be said, for instance, of the
desire of Esteem; obviously a distinct and implanted principle of nature, which leads us to consult the opinions and to value highly the favorable sentiments of our fellowmen. A principle, which is often irregular and morally perverse in its action; and which can never be made what it ought to be, except under the restrictions and with the aids of sanctifying grace. But the doctrines and illustrations, which have been laid down in relation to other propensities, will easily apply to this and to other cases, which have not been remarked upon. It is not consistent with our limits, and probably it is not necessary to delay further upon them.

(1.) — The Affections also, a still higher class of principles than the Appetites and Propensities, require to be sanctified. As they exist in the natural man, with whatever titles of amiableness and excellence we may dignify them, it is still true, that they are impregnated with the vicious element of the natural life, and are not holy. It cannot be doubted, that it is right for a man to love the members of his family, and that it is his duty to do so; but if his domestic attachments become from any cause so strong as to annul or to vitiate his love to men generally or to God, or on the other hand if they become so weakened as to fall short of the divine requirements, they are wrong.

Immutable right has a claim and a power, which entitle it to regulate every thing else. Even LOVE itself, an element so essential to all moral goodness that it gives a character and name to God himself, ceases to be love, the moment it ceases to be in conformity with justice. Love, that is not just, is not holy; and love, that is not holy, is selfishness under the name of love. Every affection, therefore, however amiable and honorable it may be when it is in a right position, is wrong and is at variance with inward holiness of life, which is not in conformity with the rule of right. And in hearts unsanctified, just so far as there is a defect or want of sanctification, in other words just so far as the love of God fails to regulate such affections, this is always the case.

(2.) — The affections are generally divided into the Benevolent and the Malevolent Affections. The basis of the benevolent affections is Love; the basis of the other class is the principle of Resentment. The doctrines of holiness apply to the principle of RESENTMENT, as well as to other parts of the mind. It is impossible for a holy person not to be displeased, and sometimes greatly displeased, at acts of iniquity. The injunction of the Apostle, "be ye angry and sin not," seems to imply, that there may be cases, in which a person may be displeased and may be angry without necessarily incurring sin. It is said of the blessed Savior himself, that he looked upon the Pharisees "with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." But here again the evil hand of nature, (not nature as it was, but nature as it has become,) has been at work. Selfishness, which is but another name for the life of nature, infuses into the displeasure of the unsanctified man, even when there is a foundation for it within proper limits, a degree of severity and unforgivingness, which is inconsistent with holiness, and is fatal to true inward peace.

How often, and how sadly this has been the case; how often and how deeply individuals and churches have been injured from this cause, no one is ignorant. Families and nations, as well as individuals, have experienced the dreadful effects of the displeased and angry feelings, when they are not overruled and kept in check by true piety. The history of the world, from its earliest periods, is a solemn and monitory lesson on this subject. "He, that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." There seems to be need of greater effort and of more faith and prayer, to regulate entirely this department of the Affections, (usually denominated the Malevolent Affections,) than is required in the regulation of the other. But the grace of God is sufficient even here.

(3.) — When the Desires, including the various Appetites, Propensities, and Affections, are reduced to their proper position by being brought under the controlling influence of divine love, and are truly sanctified to the Lord, there is a foundation laid for the right action of the Will. It is well understood, I suppose, that the Will acts, if it acts at all, in accordance either with natural and interested motives on the one hand, or of moral motives on the other. In a mind, that is not the subject of any degree of alienated action, and which, therefore, in the ordinary sense of the terms, may properly be called a sound mind, the moral sense will always act right and act effectively, and will always furnish a powerful motive to the Will, unless it is perplexed and weakened in its action, (which, however, is very likely to be the case in the natural man,) by the influence of unsanctified desires. If, therefore, the desires are sanctified, and the perplexing and disordering influence from that source is taken away, the feelings of desire and the sentiment of justice will combine their action in the same direction, and the action of the Will cannot be otherwise than holy. To possess holy desires, therefore, in their various modifications, or what is the same thing, to possess, as we sometimes express it, a holy HEART, is necessarily to possess a holy WILL. There is no reason, under such circumstances, why the will should not act right. And a right will is a holy will. To secure such a consummation — the appetites subdued, the propensities regulated, the affections sanctified, the will just in its action, and consequently united with the will of God — to secure a result so immensely important in itself and its relations, how devoutly should we pray! How constantly and ardently should we labor!

"Create, O God, my powers anew,
Make my whole heart sincere and true;
Oh, cast me not in wrath away,
Nor let thy soul-enlivening ray
Still cease to shine."