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ON SPIRITUAL TASTE.
From the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine. Of the term taste, which, under a qualifying limit, denotes the subject of this essay, it would be useless to attempt any definition beyond the simple statement that, in ordinary speech, it is the name which designates one of the corporeal senses. This term, is not, however, used exclusively in reference to bodily sensation; but, like the terms denoting others of our senses, it is very frequently employed in order to describe perceptions belonging altogether to the mind. On the whole, it would appear that taste is of three kinds. First, there is animal or corporeal taste, a sense or faculty common, as there is reason to suppose, to animated bodies in general. Secondly, there is intellectual or critical taste, a faculty which has its seat in the intellect and judgment, and which, as Dr. Beattie says, “fits us for receiving pleasure from what is beautiful, elegant, or excellent, in the works of nature or art.' And thirdly, by the adoption of another and still higher application of the term, there is spiritual taste, a faculty entirely distinct from the two former, and which may be considered as having its operation on the heart rather than the understanding ; the term heart being understood as designating that department of our nature which is the seat of all spiritual feeling and affection.
It may appear superfluous to remark, and yet is important to remember, that, as there can no corporeal or animal taste, where there is not animal life, so, in order to the existence of spiritual taste in any individual, there must be spiritual life. If the heart be dead in sins,'. there is, of course, a want of all spiritual sense. And, as in such a case, the mind is blinded by the god of this world,' and the heart is hardened,' or rendered callous and unfeeling, through the deceitfulness of sin, and there is no listening to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely,' there is also in the same case a total destitution of spiritual taste. It is true that in the animal or corporeal man, the want of one sense does not necessarily argue the want of any other, On the contrary, it very frequently occurs that some of the senses continue longer than others, and it is possible that one single sense may survive the extinction of all the rest. Thus, for example, one who has lost the senses of hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting, may still retain the sense of feeling, and that in a much greater degree than when all his senses existed in full vigor. But in the spiritual man the VOL. IV.-July, 1833.
spiritual senses all exist, or all become extinct, together. In this respect
the man of God' is perfect, and throughly furnished,' as there is in him the presence and operation, in an equal degree, of all the senses which pertain to spiritual life. The loss of one spiritual sense necessarily argues the loss of all the rest; and any deterioration or improvement which takes place in one, involves a correspondent alteration in them all.
As spiritual taste is a faculty pertaining to spiritual life, so, in strictness of speech, the objects on which that taste is exercised must be spiritual also. For as it would be absurd to suppose that the palate can exercise its faculty of taste on intellectual objects, or that the understanding and judgment can perform the office of the palate, so it would be equally absurd to suppose that any thing can be an object of spiritual taste that is either purely material or purely intellectual. And from the essential distinction which exists between the three kinds of taste, and the correspondent distinction existing also between the ob jects on which they are respectively employed, it follows that the same individual may possess all the three faculties at the same time, or that he may possess two or one only of the three. Of animal taste we need say nothing: but it is remarkable that there may be intellectual taste where there is no spiritual taste; and, on the other hand, there may be spiritual taste in cases where intellectual taste is almost or entirely wanting. Thus persons have been known to rise to very considerable eminence as men of intellectual taste, who have nevertheless been dead to spiritual objects. And, on the other hand, persons who have little or no critical taste have been gifted with the faculty of spiritual taste in a very eminent degree. It may, however, be observed that, although there is no necessary connection between intellectual and spiritual taste, yet the introduction and exercise of spiritual taste never fails to improve the intellectual taste which may previously have existed; and that the latter exists and operates in its best and highest state then only when it exists and operates under the sanctifying and elevating influence of the former.
Considering spiritual taste as a faculty of discernment, we may remark, that they who are endowed with it have, with regard to spiritual truth in general, a species of perception which is peculiar to themselves; and that between the manner in which any proposition on the subject of such truth is apprehended by a man who is devoid of spiritual taste, and the manner in which the same proposition is apprehended by the man who is endowed with it, there is, in fact, as great a difference as that which exists between the belief of any fact without the evidence of the senses, and the actual perception of the same fact by personal experience and observation. For instance, it is an important truth that the Lord is gracious ;' and this truth, when it is presented to his notice, the merely natural man' may readily believe, on the authority of others, or by a process of reasoning conducting him to that conclusion. But the spiritual man proceeds beyond a merely intellectual perception of that truth: he • tastes and sees.' And certain it is, that * the natural man receiveth not in this way the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he' thus know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' There is a farther illustration of this point given by Dr. Chalmers so appropriate that I must beg permission to insert it.
* That God is every where present,' says Dr. C., 'is a truth which meets the observation of the natural man in his reading of the Bible; and he understands, or thinks he understands, the terms in which it is delivered ; and he can speak of it with consistency, and he ranks it with the other attributes of God; and he gives it an avowed and a formal admission among the articles of his creed ; and yet with all this parade of light and of knowledge, he, upon the subject of the allseeing and the ever-present Deity, labours under all the obstinacy of an habitual blindness. Carry him abroad, and you will find that the light which beams upon his senses from the objects of sight, com. pletely overpowers that light which ought to beam upon his spirit from this object of faith. The spiritual man is the reverse of all this, and that without carrying his conceptions a single hair's breadth beyond the communications of the written message. He makes no pretension to wisdom, by one jot or tittle, beyond the testimony; and yet, after all, he lives under a revelation to which the other is a stranger. It does not carry him, by a single footstep, without the field of the written revelation, but it throws a radiance over every object within it. And there rests upon him a peculiar manifestation, by which the truth is made visible to the eye of his mind, and a peculiar energy by which it comes home upon his conscience.'*
But, important as it is to consider spiritual taste abstractedly as a faculty of discernment, it is still more important that we should view it under the notion of relish. And, understanding it in this sense, instead of stating the object of spiritual taste to be spiritual things in general, we might rather sey that its great object is the grace of God. For this object especially the truly spiritual man indulges a keen appetite, and he partakes of it with a correspondent relish, as a man who is hungry eats agreeable and nourishing food, or swallows a refreshing draught when he is thirsty. And hence it is that the blessings of Divine grace are frequently referred to by the sacred writers, in metaphors borrowed from the sense of taste. Thus, when intending to describe the rich and general provision to be made for the spiritual wants of man, by the grace which is in Jesus Christ, the Prophet Isaiah says, “The Lord of hosts shall make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.' And, with regard to the enjoyment of that grace by individuals, we are told that they are blessed who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, because they shall be filled.
Moreover, since the great and leading object of spiritual taste (considered under the notion of relish) is the grace of God, so, by a wellknown law of association, this taste or relish extends itself, though in a subordinate degree, to every thing with which that grace is known or supposed to be connected. Thus the Holy Scriptures are an object of spiritual taste or relish, because they contain the word of grace ;' and they are accordingly commended by the psalmist as being sweeter than honey, or the honey-comb.' The society and conversation of the saints constitute an object of spiritual taste, because they are “men of grace,' their lovely tempers are · fruits of grace, and their
words are seasoned with grace, and fit to minister grace unto the hearers.' And, farther, the exercises of private devotion and public worship, and religious occupations and services in general, are also objects of spiritual taste, because they are means of grace. And
' hence the psalmist expresses his attachment to such services by say. ing, . My soul thirsteth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord's house; and he speaks also of being abundantly satisfied with the goodness of his house, even of his holy temple.'
To specify at length the various advantages arising from the possession and exercise of spiritual taste as a faculty of discernment and relish, would be to enumerate all the blessings of that spiritual life with which it has already been asserted to be co-existent.
But we may notice, in general, that it yields important advantages in the two following particulars, viz. first, as it conduces to our safety, and, secondly, as it ministers to our enjoyment.
In order to illustrate the manner in which spiritual taste, as a faculty of discernment, conduces to our safety, let us imagine the case of a man suddenly deprived of the corporeal senses of taste and smell. It is obvious that he would, in consequence of this defect, be exposed to the hazard of taking things exceedingly injurious with no suspicion of their being otherwise than nourishing and salutary. Even with the perfect use of his eye sight and in open day, he might, through some mistake on his own part, or by the treacherous contrivance of another, be induced to swallow any poisonous liquid that was colorless instead of water. And only set him in the dark, or suppose him to have lost the sense of sight, as well as the senses of taste and smell, he is then left to the hazard of accidents innumerable. And does not such a case present an emblem of the dangerous and unprotected condition of those persons who are almost devoid of spiritual taste, such persons being, in consequence of that defect, exposed to constant hazard from the spiritual poison of sinful allurements, sinful thoughts, and sinful company? In their case, not only do these various forms of spiritual poison effect their mischief before their dangerous tendency is well detected, but they are not always perceived to be injurious even when the mischief is accomplished. Our writers on the subject of animal biography have often with great propriety called upon us to admire the wise and benevolent provision, which has been made for the safety of the brute creation, in their being endowed, in general, with an exquisite delicacy of taste, which in most cases teaches them to distinguish with great nicety that which is salutary from that which is injurious, and which, without the employment of a tedious process of experiment or comparison, almost invariably directs them to accept the former, and to reject the latter. And, in like manner, the spiritual man possesses, in the faculty of spiritual taste, a sort of test
, by which, when he is conversant with objects promiscuously good and evil, he is directed, as if instinctively, to choose the one and refuse the other. Let him, for instance, be thrown by any necessity or accident into the midst of sinful company and sinful occupation, and the sure effect of the near presence of objects so dangerous will be the creation of a kind of spiritual nausea, which will immediately remind him of the peril to which he is exposed; his spiritual taste being, like his other spiritual senses, exercised to
discern good and evil."* And, on the other hand, as often as the same faculty of spiritual taste comes into contact with any thing which savours of the spirit of grace, it will with the same certainty instruct him to lay hold of it, as that by which the vigor of his spiritual life will be nourished and sustained.
The advantages arising from this taste as a faculty of discernment are, after all, for the most part, only negative advantages. The posis tive advantages appear more fully when we notice in how many ways and to what an extent this spiritual sense, as a faculty of relish, ministers to our enjoyment. That there is a genuine pleasure, and pleasure in a very eminent degree, connected with the spiritual man's apprehension of the various objects above enumerated, is made to appear at once by the consideration that every such act of apprehension is in fact the gratification of a spiritual appetite, and that such gratification must of necessity as far exceed all gratification of an animal, or even of an intellectual nature, as the sensibilities and capacity of the soul exceed those of the body, or as the things which are spiritual and eternal exceed the things which are seen and temporal. It is indeed a gratification so pure and so exalted, that he who enjoys it in any considerable degree can hardly be said to acquire any addition to the sum of his real happiness, by the addition of any supposable quantity of other gratification, whether animal or intellectual. And as to taste that the Lord is gracious' is a feast, the relish of which no earthly good can heighten, it is also a feast, the relish of which no earthly bitterness is able to destroy. In the midst of the most excruciating anguish which can be inflicted by bodily disease, and in the lowest state of intellectual weakness, the spiritual man still apprehends his favourite object as a satisfying portion, and feasts thereon as on marrow and fatness. Nay, more ; excepting only objects positively sinful, the spiritual man extracts this pleasure from every object and every circumstance around him, tasting the goodness of God in all the works of his creating hand, and in all the dispensations of his directing and overruling providence, as well as in the direct operations of the Spirit of his grace. Just as the bee extracts her honey from every flower to which she comes, the man of spiritual taste extracts a spiritual honey from almost every thing around him; and he obtains it, sometimes, of the richest flavour, and in the greatest quantity, from circumstances apparently the most painful and afflictive; as the bee often finds the best honey in the vicinity of thorns and poison.
It is a peculiar advantage connected with spiritual taste, that the objects which it apprehends with so much pleasure do not, like the objects of animal taste, perish in enjoyment; nor, like many of the objects of intellectual taste, will they ever vanish away.' On the contrary, the enjoyments of the spiritual man are only a foretaste of what, in an unspeakably larger measure, he will enjoy eternally: a foretaste which may serve to give him some idea of the quality of those pleasures which are at God's right hand; but not of their intensity;
* Heb. v. 14. Stuart (in loc.) says, drooninpia (senses) here means the internal senses of Christians; their moral powers or faculties of distinguishing and judging, although the term itself, in its literal acceptation, designates the external organs of sense,