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but it tastes God, and feels the love of God in the conscience, as well as the warmth of the creature in his bowels.
So for feeling: “We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God” (Jer. iii. 2). Men may feel the blows of his providence, and be sensible of the natural inconvenience; yet they have not a spiritual feeling, so as to be affected with God's displeasure, and have a kindly impression left upon the soul, that may make them return to God.
(2.) It differs from the outward senses, because they can, by a spiritual sense, discern that which cannot be discerned by the outward sense ; as in that place, by faith Moses saw himn that was invisible (Heb. xi. 27). See the invisible God, and are as much affected with his eye and presence, as if he were before the eyes of the body, as others are awed by the presence of a worldly potentate; this is matter of internal sense. So for taste; they have meat which the world knows not of, invisible comforts (John iv. 32). They have hidden manna to feed upon, and are as deeply affected with a sense of God's love and hopes of eternal life, as others are with all outward dainties. Then as to feeling; many things the outward sense cannot discern; sometimes they feel spiritual agonies, heart-breakings. When all is well and sound without, a man would wonder what they should be troubled about, that abound in wealth and all worldly comforts and accommodations. They have an inward feeling, they feel that which worldly men feel not; when they are afflicted in their spirits, carnal comforts can work nothing upon them; when they are afflicted outwardly, spiritual comforts ease their heart. And as they feel soul-agonies and soulcomforts, so they feel the operations of the spiritual life, they have a feeling of the power of the Spirit working in them; they live, and know that they live. Now, no man knows that he lives, but by sense; therefore, if a child of God knows he lives, he hath internal sense as well as external. We know we live naturally by natural sense, and we know we live spiritually by spiritual sense : “ I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. ii. 20). He lived, and knew that he lived; they have a life which they feel within themselves, the operations and motions of the spiritual life ; they feel its impulsions to duty, its abhorrences from sin, tendency of soul to God and spiritual supports ; and they feel the stirrings of the old nature, workings of heart towards sin and vanity, which the outward scnscs cannot discover.
(3.) The outward senses sometimes set the inward senses awork. The sweetness of those good things which are liable to sense, put us inmin d of the sweetness of better things ; as the prodigal's husks puts him in mind of the bread in his father's house; or as the priests of Mercury among the Heathen, when they were eating figs, they were to cry, 'Truth is sweet,' because the god whom they worshipped was supposed to be the inventor of arts and the discoverer of truth. So Christians, when by the outward taste they find anything sweet, the inward sense is set awork, and they have a more lively feeling of spiritual comforts: as David ; honey is sweet; but the word of God was sweeter than honey to him, or the honeycomb. Thus Christ, when he was eating bread, “ Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke xiv. 15); and they that have Christ's Spirit, they act suitably.
2. This sense differs from a bare and simple act of the understanding ; why? For a man may know things that he doth not feel. Simple apprehension is one thing, and an impression another. An apprehension of the sharpness of pain, is not a feeling of the sharpness of pain. Jesus Christ had a full apprehension of his sufferings all his life-long, but felt them not until his agonies; therefore he said, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say?" (John xii. 27.) We have notions of good and evil, when we neither taste the one nor the other. It is one thing to know sin to be the greatest evil, and another thing to feel it to be so ; to know the excellency of Christ's love, and to taste the sweetness of it, this doth not only constitute a difference between a renewed and carnal man, but sometimes between a renewed man and bimself.
(1.) Between renewed men and carnal men'; they know the same truths, yet have not the same affections. A carnal man may talk of truths according to godliness, and may dispute of them, and hold opinions about them, but doth not taste them; so he does but know the grace of God in conceit, not in truth and reality, as the expression is (Col. i. 6). As a man only that hath read of honey, may have a fancy and imagination of the sweetness of it, but he that tastes it knows it in truth and in effect; they know the grace of God, and the happiness of being in communion with God, by the light of nature, in conceit, but not in reality ; but the other they taste it: “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter ii. 3). There is an impression of sweetness left upon the soul, and real experience of the goodness of God in Christ, so as to make them affect him with all their hearts, to choose him for their portion, and to make his will their only rule, and obey and serve him, whatever it cost them. They have such a taste of this sweetness as doth engage their hearts to a close and constant adherence to Christ. Carnal men have only a naked knowledge of these things, weak and uneffectual notions and apprehensions about them; and, if the sublimity, reasonableness, and suitableness of these truths to soul-necessities cause any taste, it is but slight, slender, and insufficient. So, indeed, temporaries and hypocrites are said to taste the heavenly gift, the good word of God, and powers of the world to come (Heb. vi. 4,5). They have some languishing apprehensions ; but they do not so taste them as to relish and feed upon them. They do not relish Christ himself, but only some benefit which they hope to get by him upon slight and easy terms; have not such experience and sweetness of God in Christ, as that their souls should constantly cleave to him. It may be their fancy may be pleased a little in a supposition and possibility of salvation by Christ, or in some general thought of those large promises and great offers which God makes in the Gospel, not as it enforceth duty and subjection to God. Well then, it differs from a bare understanding of the goodness of God's ways.
(2.) This constitutes a difference sometimes between a renewed man and himself; as to some things, his inward senses are not always alike quick and lively; he is still like-minded as he was, but yet not alike affected : his sight is not so clear, nor taste so acute, nor his feeling so tender ; though he hath the same thoughts of things he had before, vet his spiritual sense is benumbed, and is not at all times affected alike. While he keeps his spiritual eye clear from the clouds of lust and passion, he is otherwise affected with things to come, than he is when his eye is blinded with inordinate passion and love to present things; and, while he keeps his taste, how sweet and welcome is this to his soul, the remembrance of Christ and salvation by him! And
so, while he keeps his heart tender, he is sensible of the least stirring of sin, and is humbled for it; and the least impulsion of grace, to be thankful for it. Those instructions, reproofs, consolations, which at sometimes either wound, or revive their spirits at other times, do not move them at all; their senses are benumbed, not kept fresh and lively. And thus, in the general, I have proved that there is such a thing as spiritual taste.
Secondly, What is this spiritual sense? It is an impression left upon our hearts, which gives us an ability to relish and savour spiritual things; but it cannot be known by description so much, as by these two questions:
Ist, The use of it; what doth this taste serve for?
2ndly, What are the requisites, that we may have such a taste and relish of Divine and spiritual things?
Ist, What doth this taste serve for: There is a threefold use of them :
1. To discern things good and wholesome, from things noxious and hurtful to the soul; that is the use of spiritual sense in general, to discern things good and evil (Heb. v. 14): “Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things?” (Job vi. 30.) God hath given all sensitive creatures a taste, whereby they may distinguish between things pleasant or bitter, sweet or sour, wholesome or unwholesome, savoury or unsavoury, that they may choose what is convenient to nature; so the new creature hath a taste to know things, things contrary to the new nature and things that will keep it in life: “ Doth not the ear try words, and the mouth taste his meat?" (Job xii. 11 ;) or, as it is more plain, “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat” (Job xxxiv. 3). Spiritual taste distinguisheth between what is salubrious and profitable to us, that which is the pure word, milk agreeable to the new nature, and what is frothy, garnished out with the pomp of eloquence; it is tasteless to a gracious soul, if it suiteth not with the interests of the new nature: they have a faculty within them, whereby they distinguish between men's inventions and God's message. A man of spiritual taste, when reason is restored to its use, he comes to a doctrine, and many times smells the man; saith he, - This is not the breast-milk that must nourish me, the pure milk of the word by which I must grow in strength and stature;' and, if he finds anything of God, he owns God: he discerns what is human and what is Divine.
2. The use of this taste is also to refresh and comfort the soul in the sweetness of spiritual things : “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste" (Cant. ii. 3). The taste of Christ's fruit in the comforts of redemption, the fruit that grows there, is sweet and pleasant to the new nature: when the love of God to sinners in Christ is not only heard but believed, not only believed but tasted, it ravisheth and transports the soul with sweet delight and content, that excels all the pleasures of the world.
3. It serves for this use, to preserve the vitality of grace; that is, to keep it alive and in action. Omnis vita gustu ducitur, every life hath its food, and the food must be tasted; this grace quickeneth us to look after that food, it keeps the new creature free for its operations, helps it to grow: “ As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter ii. 3). The truths of the Gospel are as necessary and natural for
the cherishing and strengthening the spiritual life, as the milk of the inother is to the newborn babe; and taste is necessary that we may relish it. They that have a taste have an appetite, and they delight in the word more than in any other thing; whereas, those that have no taste or appetite, grow not up to any strength, they thrive not.
2ndly, What is requisite to cause this taste? 1. Something about the object. 2. Something about the faculty.
1. Something about the object, which is the word of God: eating, or taking into the mouth, that is necessary, before tasting; for the tongue is the instrument of taste; the outward part of the tongue, that serves for meats; the inward part, towards the root, for drink. So, for this spiritual taste, there is required eating, or taking in the object; therefore we read often of eating the word of God : “ Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (Jer. xv. 16); and we read of eating the roll, it is interpreted spiritually, “ Then did I eat it;" then follows his taste, “it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness" (Ezek. iii. 3). So, “ I took the little book, &c., and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey” (Rev. x. 10). There was somewhat of prophetical vision in these things; but generally it is carried, not an outward and literal eating, but a spiritual taste, relishing the sweetness of it. Well then, the word must not only be read and heard, but eaten. What is this spiritual eating of the word? Three things are in it, and all make way for this taste :-(1.) Sound belief. (2.) Serious consideration. (3.) Close application. He that would have a taste of spiritual things, these three things are necessary.
(1.) That there be a sound belief of it. Men have not taste, because they have not faith; we cannot be affected with what we do not believe : “ The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. iv. 2). What is the reason men have no taste in the doctrine of God, and in the free offers of his grace. It is not mingled with faith, and then it wants one necessary ingredient towards this taste. So, “ Ye received, &c., the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thes. ii. 13). If you would have spiritual sense, faith makes way for it: we must take the word as the word of God. When we read in feigned stories of enchanted castles and golden mountains, they affect us not, because we know they are but witty fictions, pleasant fables, or idle dreams; and such atheism and unbelief lies in the hearts of men against the very Scriptures, and therefore the Apostle seeks to obviate and take off this: “ We have not followed cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter i. 16); intimating there is such a thought in man's heart.
Certainly, if men did believe the mystery, that is without controversy great, that God hath indeed sent his Son to redeem the world, and would indeed bestow Heaven and eternal happiness upon them, they would have a greater taste; but they hear of these things as a dream of mountains of gold, or rubies falling from the clouds. If they did believe these glorious things of eternity, their hearts would be ravished with them.
(2.) As faith is necessary, so serious consideration, by which we concoct truths, and chew them, and work them upon the heart: that causeth this sweetness. By knocking on the flint, the sparks fly out: those ponderous and deep inculcative thoughts of Divine and heavenly things, make us taste a sweetness in them. When we look slightly and superficially into the word, no wonder we do not find this comfort and sweetness; but, when we dig deeply into the mines of the word, and work out truths
by serious thoughts, and search for wisdom; when we come to see truth with our own eyes in its full nature, order, and dependence, this is that which gets this taste. “My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul, when thou hast found it” (Prov. xxiv. 13, 14). When men are serious, look into the nature, and see all truths in their order and dependence, then they will be like honey and the honeycomb : this makes way for this sweet taste.
(3.) There is necessary to this taste close application; for the nearer and closer things touch one another, the greater their efficacy; so the more close you set the word home upon your own hearts, the more it works. “Know thou it for thy good” (Job v. 27); break out thy portion of the bread of life, look upon these promises and offers of grace as including thee, these commands as speaking to thee, and these threatenings as concerning thee; look upon it, not only as God's message in common, but urge it upon thy soul: “ Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jer. xv. 16). There must be a particular application of these things. These things are necessary to this taste, with respect to the object: as there must be eating, a taking into the mouth, if we would taste, so there must be a digesting or working upon the word, by sound belief, serious consideration, close application.
2. As to this taste, there is somewhat necessary as to the soul or faculty; we must have a palate qualified for these delicates. Now, there is a double qualification necessary to this taste, a hungry conscience and mortified affections.
(1.) A hungry conscience. Without this, a man hath a secret loathing of this spiritual food, his taste is benumbed; but to a hungry couscience the word is sweet, when he is kept in a constant hungering after Christ and his grace: “ The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Prov. xxvii. 7). Cordials, they are nauseous things to a full stomach; oh! but how reviving, comfortable, and sweet are they to a poor, broken heart! The first time that we got this taste, it was when we were under the stings of a guilty conscience: then God came and tendered his grace to us in Christ; he sent a messenger, one of a thousand, to tell us he hath found a ransom, and that we shall be delivered from going down into the pit; that he will spare us, and do us good in Christ Jesus; then the man's flesh recovers again like a child's (Job xxxiii. 25). When men have felt the stings of the second death, and God comes with a sentence of life and peace by Christ, how sweet is it then! Now, though we have not always a wounded conscience, yet we must always have a tender conscience, always sensible of the need of Gospel support; we came to this first relish of the doctrine of eternal life and salvation by Christ, when we lay under the sentence of eternal death.
(2.) The heart must be purged from carnal affections; for, until we lose our fleshly savour, we cannot have this spiritual taste: “ They that are after the flesh, do [sarour] the things of the flesh” (Rom. viii. 5), the word may be translated so. A carnal heart relishes nothing but carnal things, worldly pleasures, worldly delighits. Now, this doth exceedingly deaden your spiritual taste. Spiritual taste is a delicate thing; therefore the heart must be purged from fleshly lusts; for, when fleshly lusts bear sway, and one doth relish the garlic, and onions, and flesh-pots of Egypt, your affections will carry you elsewhere, to the vanities of the world and