The Nature and Corruption of the Affections

Nature and Corruption of the Affections

Anthony Burgess
Treatise on Original Sin
Part 3, Chapter 5, Sections 1-8.

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2).

This Text opened.

The exceeding great pollution of the will by Original Sin being largely discovered, both in the acts of it, as also in its state. We now proceed to the affections which are seated in the sensitive appetite of a man. For as sense is a kind of imperfect understanding, so the affections are a kind of an imperfect will, and the defilement of these is so palpably and experimentally discerned, that Heathens have complained of God the Author of Nature, for implanting such things in us, which are for the most part the cause of all our ruin and calamity.

Now it is not my intent to declare the depravation of every affection in a man, for that would make the work to swell too big, but I shall speak in the general of them, instancing in particulars as occasion offereth.

The Scripture doth not speak of the several parts of the soul, according to that Philosophical division as is generally received; and therefore that which Philosophers call affections, or passions, as distinguished from the understanding and will, that is most commonly called the heart and the soul. Thus love, fear, hope, and anger are attributed to the heart of a man. It is true, the word πάθος, is used in the New Testament three times, where the word affection is not barely intended, but an horrible depravation of it, even to unnatural uncleanness, as Rom. 1:26, “God gave them up unto vile affections,” and how unnatural they were is immediately subjoined. Colossians 3:5, the Apostle there reckoning up several sins to be mortified, “fornication, uncleanness,” addeth “inordinate affection“, which some understand the same kind of uncleanness the Apostle mentioneth to the Romans. So doing, or that mutum peccatum [unspeakable sin], a sin that they say Socrates was guilty of, though so admired for his wisdom and morality. Hence those that have given themselves up to this dreadful pollution are called Pathici from παθικός, we render it “inordinate affection” in the general; and therefore some do understand πάθος here for those sins which arise from the irascible appetite, and so take the word, though generally spoken in an ill sense. Even as the Stoics held all passions and affections to be sin. And the affections which are placed in the concupiscible appetite the Apostle meaneth (say they) by the next expression ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν, evil concupiscence. If this be so (as Grotius expounds it) then we have here the Apostle speaking of affections according to philosophical notions, but I will not determine this to be the meaning.

The last place is 1 Thess. 4:5, where the Apostle shewing, God hath called us to holiness, he addeth μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας, “not in the lust,” or affection “of concupiscence.” Here it seemeth to be taken strictly for those lustful affections which flow from the sinful concupiscence in a man. But if the Scripture doth use the word differently to Philosophers, to be sure the thing itself is acknowledged, as appeareth by my Text where we have a command directing of us about the object we are to place them upon, and that is set down: First, affirmatively, and then negatively. The directive duty is in that expression, “Set not your affections.” We render it in the margin, “or mind,” so that the Greek word doth signify the acts of the mind, but not them only, it comprehendeth also the affectionate part of a man. It includeth the mind and affections also, because commonly the intense actings of the mind excite and stir up proportionably the intense actions of the affections. Therefore it’s sometimes translated “savoring” (Mat. 16:23). So Romans 8, the [carnal mind?] doth not only comprehend the mind, but chiefly the affectionate workings of the flesh against the Spirit of God.

We shall treat of it, as relating to the affections, therefore we have the object prescribed them, they are to be “upon things above,” heavenly things. This implieth naturally they are placed other than where they should be, upon earthly and fading objects. The serpent’s seed (and so we are all by nature) cannot but lick up the dust of the earth, and live upon that; So that there is (for more emphasis) added the negative also, “not on things on the earth.” By these some mean those human and superstitious ordinances that the Apostle mentioned before, for these were not of the Father’s heavenly planting. Indeed it is true, the more a man is made spiritual, and hath had the experience of that wonderful resurrection of his soul from the state of sin, in which it was dead, the more doth he nauseate and reject all superstition and human ways of devotion, rejoicing in the purity and simplicity of Christ’s institutions, as those alone by which he can obtain any spiritual proficiency. But the context seemeth to extend this object further to all sinful objects, yea and to lawful objects, that we are not in an immoderate and inordinate manner to let our hearts run out upon them.

So then we have in the Text a most divine injunction imposed on us, to set our affections upon things above, always to put in practice that exhortation, Sursum Corda [lift up your hearts], but such is the horrible corruption of these affections by nature, that they can no more ascend up to them than a worm can fly upwards like a lark. Therefore the Apostle supposeth that ere this be done, there must be the foundation laid of a spiritual resurrection, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above” (Col. 3:1). Our spiritual regeneration and resurrection is both a cause of our heavenly affections, and also it is a motive and obligation, it being contrary to the nature of such things that ascend upwards that they should descend downwards. How can fire fall like a stone to the center? From the Text then we may observe:

That such is the corruption of the affections of man by nature, that till the grace of regeneration come, they are placed only on earthly objects, and cannot move towards heavenly.


Of the Nature of the Affections.

Before we come to anatomize their evil and sinfulness, let us take notice a little of the nature of these affections.

Rational or Sensitive Faculty?

First, you must know that in man (besides his understanding and will, which are either the same with the rational soul, or powers seated in it) there is also a sensitive appetite placed in the body, from whence arise those motions of the soul, which we call affections and passions, such as anger, love, joy, fear, and sorrow, etc. It is true indeed, many learned men place affections in the will also, they say the will hath these affections of joy and sorrow, and so Angels also have, only (they say) these are spiritual and incorporeal, and this must necessarily be acknowledged. But then in men (besides those affections in the will) there are also material ones seated in the sensitive appetite. For man being compounded of soul and body, hereupon it is, that as in his rational part he doth agree with Angels, so in his sensitive part with the brutes. Therefore in man there are three principles of actions that are internal, his understanding, will, and affections, these later are implanted in us only to be servants and helps, but through our corruption they are become tyrants and usurpers over the more noble powers of the soul; so that man is not now as reason, much less as grace, but as affections do predominate.

The Scripture calleth these affections by the name of the heart, though sometimes that comprehendeth the mind and will also. The common Greek word is [πάσχω?], which is rendered passions, and they are so called because of the effect of them, for when put forth they make a corporeal transmutation and change in a man. Some make this difference between […] (a word that Quintilian saith, there is no proper Latin expression for, Vide Voss de institut. Orat.) and […], they make passions to be, when in a mild and moderate motion of the soul without any violence or excess, and […], when they are turbulent and troublesome, but […] doth rather signify the manners of men, than their affections. These passions have several names, sometimes they are called perturbations, but that is most properly when they have cast off the dominion of reason. Sometimes the motions and commotions of the soul; sometimes passions, which expression is disliked by some. That which seemeth to be most proper and full, is to call them affections, because the soul of a man is affected in the exercise of them. So that by these we mean no more than that whereby a man about good or evil is carried out with some affection and commotion of his soul. Only you must know that when we call them passions, it is not to be understood formally, but causally. In their nature they are not passions, but motions and actings of the soul, only they cause a passion and suffering by some alteration in the body.

Two Kinds of Affections.

Secondly, these affections in the soul are of a various nature, yet by Philosophers they are reduced into two heads, according to the subject they are seated, namely, the appetite concupiscible, and the appetite irascible. Not that this is a two-fold distinct appetite, only the same appetite is distinguished according to its diversity of objects.

The appetite concupiscible doth contain those affections that relate to good or evil absolutely considered. For if it be good that is propounded, then there is first the affection of love, if this good be not enjoyed, then there is the affection of desire; if it be obtained and enjoyed, then it is the affection of joy. If it be evil that is presented, then there is the affection of hatred, whereby we distaste it, and hereupon we fly from it. This is called Fuga, or abomination; but if we cannot escape it, then there is the affection of sorrow. Thus there are six affections in the concupiscible part.

The object of the irascible appetite is good, as difficult or evil, as hardly to be avoided. Good, if it be possible to be obtained, then there followeth the affection of hope, if it be not possible, then of despair. As for the evil, that is difficulty overcome, if we can master it, then there ariseth the affection of boldness or confidence, if we cannot, then of fear. If the evil press us hard that we cannot obtain what we would have, then ariseth the affection of anger. Thus there are five affections in the irascible appetite.

In all there are eleven passions, although from these come many other affections of the soul that we may call mixed ones, as errour, zeal, pity, etc. in which many and several affections are ingredient. If then there be so great a number of these in man, and they all corrupted, yea predominating over a man, what sea is more troubled and tossed up and down with storms and tempests than the heart of a man? What a miserable wretched creature is man, who hath every one of these passions tyrannizing over him, if God leave thee to an inordinate love of anything? What unspeakable bondage doth it put thee into, if to excessive anger? What torments and vexations doth it work, making thy soul like an Hell for the present, if to excessive fear and sorrow? Will not these be like rottenness in thy bones immediately? In how many particulars may thy condemnation arise? Thy love may damn thee, thy fear may damn thee, thy anger may damn thee, or any other affection, which yet do continually work in thy soul.


How the Affections are treated of severally by the Philosopher, the Physician, the Orator, and the Divine.

Thirdly, these affections may be treated of in several respects, but what is most advantageous to the soul is to handle them as a Divine, enlightened and directed by the Word of God.

1. The Natural Philosopher is to treat of them while he writeth De animâ, of the soul; and certainly the nature of them is as necessary to be known as any other part of men. Hence it is said, Aristotle did write a book of these nature affections (but it is lost). The Philosopher discourseth of them, but as to their natural being, not at all regarding the holy mortifying of them. Therefore a man may be an excellent Philosopher, but yet a slave to his corrupt affections.

2. The Physician also treateth of the affections. Galen wrote a book concerning the curing of them, but he also considers them only as they make for or against the health of the body, they attend not to the soul’s hurt, how much the salvation of that is damaged thereby, only they treat of them as they are hurtful in the body. Erasistratus discovered the inordinate love of a great man by his pulse. Amnon did pine and consume away by his inordinate affection to Tamar. Therefore the Physician considers them no further than how they may be cured, that the health of the body may be preserved. And indeed this is also a good argument in Divinity, to urge that you must take heed of the sins of the passions, for they torment the body, indispose the body, they kill they body. Worldly sorrow worketh death (2 Cor. 7:10), so doth worldly anger and worldly fear; but of this hereafter.

3. The Rhetorician and Orator also writeth of the affections, as Aristotle in his Rhetorics. Now the Orator discourses of them no further than as they may be stirred up or composed by rhetorical speeches, how to put his auditors into love, anger, fear, and grief as he pleaseth. For it is a special part in Oratory to bow the affections. This was represented in orphan’s harp, which is said to make beasts follow him, yea very trees and stones, that is, oratory doth civilize and persuade the most rude and savage. Now although those who write of the method of preaching do much commend this gift in a Minister of the Gospel to be able to stir up, and quicken the affectionate part, yet the grace of God is required to go along herein. For it is easy for a Tully or Demosthenes to stir up the affections of their auditors when they declaimed about such civil and temporal matters that they saw themselves deeply concerned in. The very principles of nature did instigate them to this. But we preach of supernatural things, and the matters we press are distasteful and contrary to flesh and blood, therefore no wonder if men hear without affection, and go away without any raised affection at all.

4. There is the Moral Philosopher, and he looketh upon it as his most proper work to handle the affections. For what hath moral virtue to do, but to moderate the affections, that we do not over-love, or over-fear? This is the proper work of the Moral Philosopher, but neither is this handling of them high enough for a Divine. The curing and ordering of them, which Moralists do prescribe, is but to drive out one sin with another, so that their virtues were but vices, if you regard the principles and ends of their actions.

5. In the last place, the Divine or Minister of God is to preach of them, and he only can do it satisfactorily having God’s Word to direct him, for by that we find they are out of all order, by that we find they are to be mortified, by that we find only the Spirit of Christ, not the power of nature is able to subdue them. The true knowledge therefore about the pollution of them will greatly conduce to our humiliation and sanctification.


The Natural Pollution of the Affections is manifest in the Dominion and Tyranny they have over the Understanding and Will.

Something being already premised about the nature of the affections, we shall in the next place consider the horrible and general depravation of them, and that originally.

¶. 1.

First, the great pollution of them is evidently and palpably manifested in the dominion and tyranny they have over the understanding and will, which are the superior magistrates (as it were) in the soul. Thus the Sun and stars in the soul’s orbs are obscured and obnubilated by the misty vapors and fogs which arise from this dung-hill. A man doth now for the most part reason, believe, and will according to his affections and passions. Aristotle observed this, that prout quisque affectus est it a judicat, “As every man is affected, so he judgeth.” They are sinful affections which make the erroneous and heretical judgments that are, they are sinful affections, which make the rash, corrupt, and uncharitable judgments that are. Thus the vanity may be observed in the soul, which Solomon took notice of to be sometimes in the world, princes go on foot, and servants ride on horseback (Ecc. 10:7).

God did at first implant affections in us for great usefulness and serviceability, that thereby we might be more inflamed and quickened up in the service of God. They were appointed to be handmaidens to the rational powers of the soul, but now they are become Hagars to this Sarah. Yea they are become like Antichrist, for they lift themselves up above all that is called God in the soul. The understanding and conscience is made to us as God appointed Moses to Pharaoh, it is ordained as a god to us; but these passions will be exalted above it, and so man is led, not by reason, not by conscience, but by affections. This is the very reason why either in matters of faith towards God, or in matters of transactions with men, our judgments are seldom partly and sincerely carried out to the truth, but some affection or other doth turn the balance in all things. Therefore as Abraham was to go out of his own country, and so to worship God in a right manner, thus if we would ever have a sound faith, a right judgment, we must come out of all affections that may prepossess us.

What a woeful aggravation of our sinful misery is this, that our affections should come thus boldly and set themselves in the throne of the soul, that they should bid us judge, and we judge, that they should bid us believe, and we believe? So that we most justly in a spiritual sense complain, as the Jews in a temporal one, “Servants have ruled over us” (Lam. 5:8). Is not this a more troublesome judgment than that of the Egyptians, when frogs came croaking into their very chambers, or when vermin and lice assaulted them everywhere? But who is it there by nature, that though he be tossed up and down by these storms and tempests and ready to sink into Hell, yet doth not lie fast asleep, not thinking he is ready to perish?

¶. 2.

2. In regard of the first Motions and Risings of them.

Secondly, the sinfulness of these passions is seen in regard of the first motions and risings of them. Whereas God made them at first to serve the more noble parts of the soul, and to stir at their command, now upon every temptation presented, they fly about us as so many hornets, and we cannot keep them down. Adam being made in integrity, as he had a command over all the beasts of the field, and birds of the air, so also much more over his affections and passions, which were the brutish part in him. He was, as the Poets sign of their Aeolus who had all the winds in a bladder, and so could make them blow when he pleased and no longer. Thus Adam could love, desire, as he pleased. These did not move in him till he commanded. But now woe and again, woe to us who are brought into such vassalage, that we are indeed servi servorum, slaves to slaves. Now our love riseth whether we will or no; now our fear, our anger breaketh into the soul, and it cannot resist it. Now that which Aristotle said of anger is true of the other passions, that they are like an unnurtured dog, which runneth and fastens upon an object before his master setteth him on; or like an over-hasty servant that runneth upon his errand before he doth understand it. This then is greatly to be bewailed, that our affections rise first in us, they move before our understanding moveth. These swarms fly out before the king bee leadeth them the way.

That expression concerning Christ, where it is said he was troubled (John 11:33), is noted to be in the active sense, in the original καὶ ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτόν. He troubled or moved himself. For it was not with the holy human nature of Christ, as it is with ours, he being without sin had the sovereign power over every affection that was in him, he loved and grieved as he pleased, they were under the free exercise of his will. But we are sold under these affections, they bind us and lead us whether we would not. Oh what an unspeakable glorious privilege are we deprived of! What an admirable honor is it to have a command and power over our own selves, our own affections? Doth not Solomon say, he that ruleth his spirit, is better than he that winneth a city (Prov. 16:32), he is more than the mighty ones of the world that can master his affections? How many that have conquered others in the world, have yet themselves been conquered by their inordinate affections? The very Heathens did give testimony to this, that it was melius imperat re sibi quam aliis, better to have command over himself, than over all the world. Luther that great Reformer, who removed the Mass, indulgences, and many other soul abominations out of the Church, yet could not sometimes remove sinful passions, especially anger from his own breast, which made Melancthon of a more moderate spirit, speak in an extemporary verse to him when he was once in a great passion, “Vince Animos irasque tuas qui caetera vincis.” This Pope in Luther’s belly (as he would call it) was more difficultly overcome than the Pope of Rome.

¶. 3.

3. In respect of their Progress and Degrees.

Thirdly, as these affections are not in subjection to the noble power of the soul in respect of their rise, so neither in respect of their progress or degrees. But they grow hotter and more vehement, sometimes even like Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, and we cannot repress them, so that in all things wherein they put forth themselves there is an excess, we over-love, we over-fear, we are over-angry. Indeed the having of affections is not a sin, no nor the workings of them, but the immoderate excess of them.

It was a great dispute between the Stoics and the Peripatetics about these passions. The Stoics said they were to be wholly eradicated, they were not to be moderated, but to be extirpated, therefore they pressed their wise and good men to an ἀστόργους, to be without affection, which yet the Apostle reckoneth amongst the notorious sins. And we know Christ himself wept. These held all affections to be sins. The Peripatetics held the excess only to be a sin, when they did go beyond the bounds of reason. But some learned men think there was but a mere logomachy between those two great Sects, that they did agree in the same thing, only quarreled about words. Howsoever all agree in this, that when the affections do overflow the banks, when they swell higher than they ought to do, then sin lieth at the door.

But who can command these winds and waves to be still? Do not these passions like armed men prevail over us, that as it is with paralyzed bodies, the members do continually shake and trepidate, because of some corporeal infirmity that they cannot keep them in uniform and equal motions? Thus it is with us in regard of these commotions of the soul, as they begin not at the command, so neither do they stop at the guidance of reason, but from a natural, they turn into a preternatural and feverish heat immediately.

¶. 4.

Those Affections are not subject to the more noble guiding parts of the Soul, in respect of the Continuance or Duration of them.

Fourthly, these affections are not subject to the more noble guiding parts of the soul, in respect of the continuance or duration of them. We are commanded not to let the Sun go down upon our wrath, and this holdeth true also in any other affection when immoderate, we are not to let it continue burning, lest at last it consume. The Church indeed doth often complain of the continuance of Gods anger. Will the Lord be angry for ever? and will he shew mercy no more? But God’s anger, though never so continuing, though lasting to eternity itself, yet it is just and holy, but we have a time prefixed to our affections, hitherto, and thus far they must go and no further.

Thus you see how unspeakable our thralldom is by reason of pollution in our affections, that we can neither command them in the rise, degree, or duration of them. We have power over the members of our body, we bid them move, and they move; we command them to cease from motion, and they cease; but now when we speak to these affections to lie still and be quiet, it is as ridiculous as when Xerxes threatened the sea to come no higher, or commanded Mount Athos to remove.


They are wholly displaced from their right Objects.

Thirdly, the great sinfulness of the affections is seen in that they are wholly displaced from their right objects. The objects for which they were made, and on which they were to settle, is God himself, and all other things in reference to him. Our love, God only challengeth in that command, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5). Our hatred is properly to be against sin, because it dishonors God. Our sorrow is principally to be because of our offenses to him. So that there is not any affection we have, but it doth either primarily or secondarily relate to God. But who can bewail the great desolation that is now fallen upon us?

Every affection is now taken off its proper center. Instead of loving of God, we love the world, we love our pleasures rather then God. Instead of hating of sin we hate God, and cannot abide his pure and holy Law and nature. Thus we fear not whom we ought to fear, viz. God, that can destroy both soul and body in Hell. And what we ought not to fear, there we are afraid, as the frowns and displeasure of men, when we are to do our duties. Our sorrow likewise is not that also corrupted? How melting and grieved are we in any temporal loss, in any worldly evil, but then for the loss of God and his favor by our iniquities, there our bowels never move within us. Thus our affections, out of all order to their proper objects, ought to be groaned under more than if all our bones were out of joint. For that is only a bodily evil, hindering a natural motion, this is a spiritual one, depriving us of our enjoyment of God.

This particular pollution it is what the Text [Col. 3:2] doth immediately drive at when it commands us to set our affections above, it plainly sheweth, where they are naturally, viz. upon things of the earth. And therefore as it was Christ’s divine power that made the woman bowed down with her infirmity for so many years to be strait, thus it must also be the mighty and gracious power of God to raise up these affections that are crawling on the ground to heavenly things. Possess then thy soul thoroughly with this great evil, that thou hast not one affection within thee that can go to its proper object, but something moveth it from God to the vain and fading creatures. If these affections be the pedes animae, the feet of the soul, then with Asa, thou hast a sad disease in thy feet, and if thy whole body else were clean, these feet would need a daily purifying.


The sinfulness of the Affections is discovered in respect of the End and Use for which God ingrafted them in our Natures.

Fourthly, their sinfulness is discovered in respect of the object about which, so also in respect of the end and use for which God first ingrafted them into our natures. They were given at first to be like the wheels to the chariots, like wings to the bird. To facilitate and make easy our approaches to God. The soul had these to be like Elijah’s fiery chariot to mount to Heaven. Therefore we see where the affections of men are vehement and hot, they conquer all difficulties, that Adam might in body and soul draw nigh to God, that God might be glorified in both, therefore had he these bodily affections. And we see David, though restored to this holy image but in part, yet he could say his soul and his flesh did rejoice in the Lord, his flesh desired God, as well as his soul, that is, his affections were exceedingly moved after God, as Ps. 84:2. For the soul being the form of the body, whatsoever that doth intensely desire by way of a sympathy or subordination there is a proportionable effect wrought in the inferior sensitive part. As Aaron’s oil poured on his head, did descend to his skirts, thus by way of redundancy, what the superior part of the soul is affected with, the inferior also doth receive, and by this means the work of grace in the superior part is more confirmed and strengthened, and the heat below doth increase the heat above.

Thus you see that these affections had by their primitive nature a great serviceability to promote the glory of God, to prepare and raise up men to that duty. But now these affections are the great impediments and clogs to the soul. If at any time it would soar up to Heaven, if light within doth instigate to draw nigh to God, these affections do immediately contradict and interpose. And the reason is because they are engaged to contrary objects, so that when we would love God, love to the world presently stoppeth and hinders it. When we should delight and rejoice in holy things, worldly and earthly delights do immediately like the string to the birds feet, pull down to the ground again.

Hence it is that you many times see men have great light in their minds, great convictions upon their consciences, they know they live in sinful ways, they know they do what they ought not to do, yea they will sometimes complain and grieve bitterly, because they are thus captivated to those lusts which they are convinced will damn them at last, but what is the snare that holdeth them so fast? What are the chains upon them, that bind them thus hand and foot, even their sinful and inordinate affections, their carnal love, their carnal delight keepeth conscience prisoner, and will not let it do its duty? Oh that we could humble ourselves under this, that what was wine is now become poison, that what we had to further us to Heaven, doth hurry us to Hell, that our affections should carry us to sin that were for God, that they should drive us to Hell, which were to further us to Heaven!

Oh think of this, consider it and bewail it! Many things lose their use, and they only become unprofitable, they do not hurt by that degeneration, as salt when it hath lost its seasoning; but now these affections are not only unprofitable, they will not help to what is good, but are pernicious and damnable. We that were of ourselves falling into Hell, they thrust us, and move us headlong to it, so that they seem to be in us what the Devil’s were in the herd of swine. These are the wild horses that tear thy soul in so many pieces. Thus our gold is become dross.


When the Affections are set upon inferior objects that are lawful, yet they are greatly corrupted in their Motion and Tendency thereunto.

In the next place, if the inferior objects they are placed upon be lawful and allowable, yet they are greatly corrupted in their motion and tendency thereunto. For they are carried out excessively and immoderately. They do unlawfully move to lawful things.

As man stands corrupted by nature, his affections are defiled two ways in respect of the objects. For sometimes they are carried out to those things that are absolutely prohibited, that are no more to be embraced than absolute poison is to be eaten, such are the pleasures of sin, and the lusts of the flesh. When the affections doth entertain these, they embrace present destruction. There is no moderation or stint allowed in these, but there is an absolute prohibition to give these any entertainment, yet poor wretched and corrupt man is hurried to these things, and drinketh down iniquity as a thirsty man water. So that it can never enough be bewailed to see what a grievous change sin hath made in the affections, that they are now most propense and inclining to those things which are to be most abhorred by them. Even as the corrupt appetite in some persons delighteth to feed on trash and most offensive matter to a found stomach.

In the second place, there are other objects which the Scripture doth allow us to let our affections run out about, and these are not evil in themselves, no more than to have affections is a sin. Love in itself is not a sin, neither is love of husband, health, and such comforts, but when we go beyond our bounds, when these are loved more than God, or the love to them doth hinder and deaden the heart to holy things, then doth love become sinful and damnable. Now such is the original depravation of all the affections that they cannot in a moderate and well regulated way, with subordination to God, move to any lawful object, but they do exceedingly transgress, and that many ways:

1. Lawful things loved for their own sakes, rather than for God’s sake.

1. Whereas they should be carried out to these lawful things only with reference to God, as the chiefest end, to love them, to desire them, no otherwise than thereby to be brought nearer to the end. We are apt to make them the end, to stay there, to make a full stop at a colon or comma. Even as the children of Reuben, who desired to take up their rest in a country on this side Canaan, because it was a fruitful place, and fit for cattle: Thus we who should let our affections stir to these things only as a way to Heaven, or means to bring us nearer to God, we center in them, desiring them for their own sakes.

It is a rule that, the desire of the end is a rule to the desire of means. We desire drink to satisfy thirst, we desire garments to clothe us, and we desire no more than is commensurate to such an end. And indeed thus it ought to be with us in our affections to all things upon the earth, not to be affected with wealth, health, learning, or any advantage any otherwise than to be more enabled to do God service, and thereby to enjoy him. But as the dark night cannot be dispelled till the Sun doth arise, so neither can the regulating and ordering of the affections (with subordination to God in lawful things) ever be accomplished till sanctifying grace doth interpose.

2. We find more delight in lawful things than in God.

2. We are apt in the affecting of these things to find more sweetness and delight in a sensible manner, than when our heart is turned unto God. The objects of sense do more affect us sensibly than Christ laid hold on by faith, and the Apostle John supposeth such a proneness in us when he saith, “he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).

Hence it is that the Schools have a distinction about the love of God appreciative and attentive. The former is when in our judgment we do more highly esteem of God than all the things of the world, and therefore are ready to part with all (even life itself) to please him. But the other they make to be a sensible passionate moving of the sensitive part, which is (they say) very variable, according to the complexion and constitution of the body. And therefore such do advise that believers should not be discouraged if they cannot find such sensible affections of love to God as they do to their friends, or such sensible sorrow about sin, as they do about the loss of a dear friend. This distinction may be received (in some sense), yet there are learned men that do greatly dislike it, and do positively affirm that appreciatively and attentively, both intellectually, and affectionately, we are to love God and to delight in him.

Certainly we find David acknowledging that God had put more joy and gladness in his heart, than they had, whose wine and oil increased (Ps. 4). And when God doth require us to love him with all our heart, mind, and strength, there is both the intellectual and sensitive part of a man understood. No doubt but Adam in the state of integrity would have found his very affectionate part carried out to God, preeminently to all creatures, seeing the affections were implanted only as handmaids to wait on those noble parts of the soul. Yea David, professing that his flesh as well as his soul did long for the living God (Ps. 63:1; 84:2). Besides, seeing the soul is the form of a man, thereby becometh such a natural and essential union between the soul and body that what the spiritual part doth strongly and ardently close with, the sensitive part by its essential subordination doth find a proportionable intensiveness in the affections thereof, even as the waters from the hills do overflow the valleys. Though therefore the sensible part of a man be not absolutely subject to his will (hence those who have desired sensible sweetness, or melting tears in a bodily manner could not enjoy them, though they would give a world for them) yet this we may conclude of:

That whensoever thy want of sensitive affections doth arise from the want of powerful impressions upon thy spiritual part, and therefore thou canst not find such joy or sorrow because the mind and will are not powerfully quickened by grace, this is always a sin. If thy mind were more enlightened, thy will more sanctified, thy affections would be more inflamed.

3. Our affections for lawful things distract from our affections for Heavenly things.

3. (Not to enlarge in this more) The affections are sinful when carried out even to lawful things because thereby is retarded or stopped the current of them after heavenly things. We see the Apostle (1 Cor. 7) admirably prescribing a diet to our affections. Those that marry must be as if they married not, those that weep as if they wept not, and so those that rejoice as if they rejoiced not. Thus whatsoever affections we are allowed to have must not in the least manner distract or dull the motions of our souls to heavenly things, but such is our corruption that our affections though to lawful things put quite out, or (at least) exceedingly hinder, our affections to heavenly things.


Our Affections are corrupted, in respect of the Contrariety and Opposition of them one to another.

Again, our affections are greatly corrupted in respect of the contrariety and opposition of them one to another. They hinder one another operation so that the irascible part was given us to make effectual the concupiscible part, now this kingdom is divided against itself. Our fear doth put out our joy. We do not take that quiet delight which might be in having any temporal good, because we are so molested with fears lest we should loose it. How often are we distracted inter spem et metum, between hope and fear? Thus these affections, that by their primitive institution were all of one accord, they all mutually assisted one another, now they are become like contrary winds. Hope driveth one way, fear another; love one way, anger another; so that by this means every man is miserably tormented within himself. There is an heart-quake as well as an earthquake. As this latter is produced by winds got into the bowels of the earth which cannot find any vent, thus it is with these passions of man, they are all pent up (as it were) close in his heart, one is ready violently to break out one way, another, another way. So that no sea is more tossed up and down when contrary Euroclydons fall upon it than the heart of man while moved with different passions.

It’s the contrariety of thy passions maketh all thy discontents, and all the turmoils that are in thy soul. Thy love that hauleth thee one way, thy anger draggeth another way. Thus thou art like one that is to be torn in pieces by wild horses, one draweth one limb asunder, another teareth another part asunder. So that thy soul is become like the Levite’s wife’s body that was cut into so many pieces. Adam, in respect of his affectionate part, was like the upper region where there is no molestation or confusion, but now that part in us is like the middle region, where tempests and storms, thundering and lightning are daily produced.

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