Spiritual Taste Buds

Spiritual Taste Buds

by Thomas Manton

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.- Psalm 119:103

In this verse, you have another evidence of David's affection for the word, and that is the incomparable delight which he found therein, as being suitable to his taste and spiritual appetite. This pleasure and delight he found in the word is presented—(1.) By way of interrogation or admiration, 'How sweet are thy words unto my taste!' As if he said, So sweet that I am not able to express it. (2.) By way of comparison, 'Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.' To external sense, nothing is sweeter than honey; honey is not so sweet to the mouth and palate as the word of God is to the soul.

It is usual to express the affections of the mind by words proper to the bodily senses, as taste is put here for delight, and elsewhere eating is put for believing and digesting the truth: 'Thy word was sweet, and I did eat it,' Jer. 15:16. Again, in all kinds of writers, both profane and sacred, it is usual to compare the excellence of speech to honey. The poet describes an eloquent man, saying that his speech flowed from him sweeter than honey. We may observe the same in scripture: Prov. 16:24, 'Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.' He means words of wisdom, such words as come from a pure heart; now these are sweeter than honey.

So the spouse; because of her gracious doctrine, it is said, Cant. 4:11, 'Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb;' and Ps. 19:10, 'More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb.' For profit, he esteemed them more than gold; for pleasure, more than honey or the honeycomb. And David saith here, 'Thy words are sweet unto my taste.' He does not say in general, They are sweet unto the taste, but sweet unto my taste. Holy men, who have much communion with God, such as David was, and who have His Spirit, find this delight in the word of God; nothing is so sweet or so full of pleasure to the soul.

Two points:—

  1. That there is such a thing as spiritual taste.
  2. That to a spiritual taste the word of God is sweeter than all pleasures and delights whatsoever.

Doctrine 1: That there is such a thing as spiritual taste.

I shall show that it exists, what it is, its use, and what is required for it.

First, it appears that there is such a thing; the soul has its senses as well as the body. We do not only know, but feel things to be either harmful or comforting to us. Similarly, the new nature does not only know it but seems to feel it, that some things are harmful, and others are comforting to it. Hence the apostle's expression, Heb. 5:14, 'Such have their senses exercised, to discern both good and evil.' Christians, if there is such a thing as spiritual life, certainly there must be spiritual sense; for all life is accompanied by a sense of what is good or evil for that life. The higher the life, the greater the sense. Beasts feel more than a plant when hurt is done to them because they have a nobler life, and a man more than a beast. The life of grace being above the life of reason, there is a higher sense joined with it. Therefore, the pain and pleasure of that life are greater than the pain or pleasure of any other life. For spiritual things, as they are greater in themselves, do more affect us than bodily: 'A wounded conscience, who can bear it?' Prov. 18:14. What a sense does the evil of the spiritual life leave upon the soul! And then for the comforts of the spiritual life, the joys and pleasures of it are unspeakable and glorious, 1 Peter 1:8, such joy as no tongue or words can sufficiently express. A taste of the first-fruits of glory, how sweet it is!

Briefly, let me tell you there are three internal senses spoken of in scripture—seeing, tasting, and feeling. Sight implies faith: John 8:56, 'Abraham rejoiced to see my day;' and Heb. 11:27, 'By faith Moses saw him who is invisible.' There is a seeing not only with the eyes of the body but with the eyes of the mind, things that cannot be seen with the outward sense: 'Abraham saw my day,' at so great a distance. As there is sight, so also taste; which, if we refer it to good, is nothing else but spiritual experience of the sweetness of God in Christ, and the benefits that flow from communion with him: Ps. 34:8, 'Oh, come, taste and see that the Lord is gracious.' Do not only come and see, but come and taste.

The third sense is feeling or touch, which relates to the power of grace: Phil. 3:10, 'That I might know him, and the power of his resurrection,' etc. There is a sense that a Christian has of the power of grace and of Christ upon his soul; so 2 Tim. 3:5, 'Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.' When men resist the force and virtue of that religion which they profess, then they are said to deny the power of those principles. Well, then, there are spiritual senses.

Now, that we might know what they are, let me show—

  1. How these spiritual senses differ from the external.

  2. That in some sense they differ from understanding.

  3. These spiritual senses differ from the external sense; that I shall prove by three arguments:—

[1.] Because in those things that are liable to external sense, a man may have an outward sense of them when he does not have an inward.

[2.] There are certain things that cannot be discerned by external senses, yet a Christian may have a feeling of them by internal sense.

[3.] The outward senses sometimes set the inward senses to work.

[1.] Because in those things that are liable to external sense, a man may have an outward sense of them when he does not have an inward, as in seeing, tasting, touching.

In seeing: Deut. 29:2, compared with verse 4, 'You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt; and yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear to this day.' They saw, yet did not have a heart to see; they saw those wonders with the eyes of their body; they had an outward and natural sense, but not an inward and spiritual sense.

So for taste; there is a taste of God's goodness in the creature; all taste it by their outward senses: Ps. 145:9, 'The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.' The wicked are not excepted from this taste; for the creatures are as useful for the preservation of their lives as for the lives of others. They do not mind God's love in it, and so do rather taste the creature than God's goodness in the creature; but the child of God tastes His love therein. The fly finds no honey in the flower, but the bee does. A fleshly palate relishes only the gross pleasure of the creature, not that refined delight which a spiritual palate has, which has a double sweetness; it does not only receive the creature for its natural use, 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: Jer. 3:25, 'We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covers us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God.' Men may feel the blows of His providence and be sensible of the natural inconvenience, yet they do not have 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.

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, Heb. 11:27, 'By faith Moses saw him who was invisible;' 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 a matter of internal sense. So for taste; they have meat which the world knows not of, invisible comforts, John 4:32. 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, heartbreakings: when all is well and sound without, a man would wonder what they should be troubled about, who abound in wealth and all worldly comforts and accommodations. They have an inward feeling, they feel that which worldly men do 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 soul comforts, 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 has internal sense as well as external. We know we live naturally by natural sense, and we know we live spiritually by spiritual sense: Gal. 2:20, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me;' 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 impulses to duty, its abhorrence 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 senses cannot discover.

[3.] The outward senses sometimes set the inward senses to work. The sweetness of those good things which are liable to sense puts us in mind of the sweetness of better things; as the prodigal's husks put 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, 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 to work, and they have a more lively feeling of spiritual comforts; as David said, honey is sweet, but the word of God was "sweeter than honey to him, or the honeycomb." Thus Christ, when he was eating bread, said, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God," Luke 14:15; and they that have Christ's spirit act suitably.

2. This sense differs from a bare and simple act of the understanding. Why? Because a man may know things that he does not feel. Simple apprehension is one thing, and an impression is 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 did not feel them until his agonies. Therefore he said, John 12:27, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say?" 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 excellence of Christ's love, and to taste the sweetness of it. This does not only constitute a difference between a renewed and carnal man, but sometimes between a renewed man and himself.

[1.] Between renewed men and carnal men; they know the same truths, yet do not have the same affections. A carnal man may talk of truths according to godliness, and may dispute them, and hold opinions about them, but does not taste them; so he does but know the grace of God in conceit, not in truth and reality, as the expression is, Col. 1:6. As a man who has only 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 tastes it: "If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious," 1 Peter 2:3. 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 love 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 costs them. They have such a taste of this sweetness, as engages their hearts to a close and constant adherence to Christ. Carnal men have only a naked knowledge of these things, weak and ineffectual notions and apprehensions about them; and if the sublimity, reasonableness, and suitability 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. 6:4. 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; they do not have such experience and sweetness of God in Christ, as that their souls should constantly cleave to him. 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 enforces 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 in certain matters. His inward senses are not always equally quick and lively; he is still like-minded as he was, but not equally affected. His sight is not so clear, nor his taste so acute, nor his feeling so tender. Though he has the same thoughts of things he had before, yet his spiritual sense is benumbed and is not at all times equally affected. When he keeps his spiritual eye clear from the clouds of lust and passion, he is otherwise affected with things to come than when his eye is blinded with inordinate passion and love for present things. While he keeps his taste, how sweet and welcome is the remembrance of Christ and salvation by Him to his soul! Similarly, while he keeps his heart tender, he is sensitive to the slightest stirring of sin and is humbled by it, and the slightest impulse of grace makes him thankful for it. Those instructions, reproofs, and consolations, which 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. Thus, in 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 the ability to relish and savour spiritual things; but it cannot be known by description as much as by these two questions:—

  1. What is the use of it? What does this taste serve for?

  2. What are the requisites for having such a taste and relish of divine and spiritual things?

1. What does this taste serve for? There is a threefold use of it:—

[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. 5:14; Job 6:30, 'Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things?' God has given all sensitive creatures a taste, whereby they may distinguish between things pleasant or bitter, sweet or sour, wholesome or unwholesome, savoury or unsavoury, so that they may choose what is convenient to nature. Similarly, the new creature has a taste to know things contrary to the new nature and things that will keep it in life: Job 12:11, 'Does not the ear test words, and the mouth taste its food?' Or, as it is more plainly stated, Job 34:3, 'For the ear tests words, as the mouth tastes food.' Spiritual taste distinguishes between what is wholesome and profitable to us, that which is the pure word, milk agreeable to the new nature; and what is frothy, garnished with the pomp of eloquence, is tasteless to a gracious soul if it does not suit 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, comes to a doctrine and often senses the human influence, saying, "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 acknowledges 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: Cant. 2:3, 'I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste;' 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 ravishes and transports the soul with sweet delight and content, which 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 has its food, and the food must be tasted. This grace quickens us to look after that food; it keeps the new creature free for its operations, helping it to grow: 1 Peter 2:3, 'As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.' The truths of the gospel are as necessary and natural for cherishing and strengthening the spiritual life as the milk of the mother 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 do not grow up to any strength; they do not thrive.

2. 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, is necessary before tasting; for the tongue is the instrument of taste: the outward part of the tongue 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: Jer. 15:16, 'Thy word was sweet, and I did eat it;' and Ezek. 3:3, we read of eating the roll; it is interpreted spiritually, 'I did eat it;' then follows his taste, 'it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.' So Rev. 10:10, 'I took the little book and ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.' There was something of prophetic vision in these things, but generally it is carried not as 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 needs these three things.

(1.) There must be a sound belief in it. Men have no taste because they have no faith; we cannot be affected by what we do not believe: Heb. 4:2, 'The word profited not, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.' 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 lacks one necessary ingredient for this taste. So 1 Thes. 2:13, 'Ye received the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.' 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 fictional stories of enchanted castles and golden mountains, they do not affect us because we know they are but witty fictions, pleasant fables, or idle dreams. Such atheism and unbelief lie in the hearts of men against the very scriptures, and therefore the apostle seeks to obviate and take off this: 2 Peter 1:16, 'We have not followed cunningly devised fables,' intimating there is such a thought in man's heart. Certainly, if men did believe the mystery, that is without controversy great, that God has 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 is serious consideration, by which we digest truths, chew them, and work them upon the heart, causing this sweetness. By striking 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, it is 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, we come to see truth with our own eyes in its full nature, order, and dependence. This is what brings this taste: Prov. 24:13, 14, '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.' When men are serious, look into the nature, and see all truths in their order and dependence, they will be like honey and the honeycomb; this makes way for this sweet taste.

(3.) There is a necessary close application for this taste; for the nearer and closer things touch one another, the greater their efficacy; so the more closely you set the word upon your own hearts, the more it works: Job 5:27, 'Know it for thy good;' break out thy portion of the bread of life, look upon these promises and offers of grace as including thee, these commands 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: Jer. 15:16, 'It was unto me the rejoicing of my heart.' 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, and close application.

[2.] As to this taste, something is necessary regarding the soul or faculty; we must have a palate qualified for these delicacies. Now there is a double qualification necessary to this taste—a hungry conscience and mortified affections.

(1.) A hungry conscience. Without this, a man has a secret loathing of this spiritual food, his taste is benumbed; but to a hungry conscience, the word is sweet, when he is kept in a constant hunger for Christ and his grace: Prov. 27:7, 'The full soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.' Cordials are nauseous things to a full stomach; but oh, how reviving, comfortable, and sweet are they to a poor broken heart! The first time we got this taste 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 had found a ransom, and that we would be delivered from going down into the pit; that he would spare us, and do us good in Christ Jesus. Then the man's flesh recovers again like a child's, Job 33:25. 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 do not always have a wounded conscience, we must always have a tender conscience, always sensible of the need for 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: Rom. 8:5, 'They that are after the flesh, do savour the things of the flesh;' the word may be translated so. A carnal heart relishes nothing but carnal things, worldly pleasures, and worldly delights; now this exceedingly deadens 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 you relish the garlic and onions and fleshpots of Egypt, your affections will carry you elsewhere, to the vanities of the world, and the contentments of the flesh. Just as sick men have lost their taste, and that which is sweet seems sour and ungrateful to a distempered appetite, so a carnal appetite does not have this taste from the word of God; to a carnal heart, it is no more savoury than the white of an egg; indeed, it is as gall to them, but now to others it is exceedingly sweet, it is their joy, the life of their souls. Well, then, you see what this spiritual taste is, that relish which a renewed soul has for spiritual comforts.

Use. To persuade you to get this taste; and when once you have got it, take heed you do not lose it.

1. It concerns you very much to get this taste; consider these arguments:

[1.] It is a good evidence of the new nature; it is a sign you have gotten that other heart, that new spirit, which must have new comfort and new supports: 1 Peter 2:3, 4, 'As newborn babes, you desire the sincere milk of the word, if so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.' Hereby we may know the new man, by his appetite and savour. Life is known by this, as much as by any one thing else.

[2.] This will give you a more assured knowledge of the truth and worth of spiritual and heavenly things. Otherwise, we shall but talk of them by rote until we experience the comfort and sweetness of them in our own souls. Then we will see there is more than notions in promises, the word of God is not a well-devised fable and golden dream, for our taste will be our confirmation. The greatest demonstration is from the senses, 1 John 5:10, the believer has a testimony of the truth of religion within himself, in his own heart. Oh! it is a great advantage to have our remedy where our danger lies, in the heart; where atheism and disbelief lurk, to have spiritual sense there. When you have a real experience of them, then Satan cannot have such advantage, and atheistical and unbelieving thoughts will not prevail, for you have felt the benefit of spiritual things. It is a great advantage against temptation when you have had a sense; when you do not only know by hearsay and guess that the word is sweet, but you have had a taste, like a man who has been near the fire knows it warms. When we can not only say with him, 'We have heard the kings of Israel are merciful kings,' but, with the men of Samaria, 'We have seen him ourselves.'

[3.] The life of grace mightily depends upon it; all your liveliness in grace depends upon this taste, therefore get it. When you have no taste, you lose your appetite; and when you lose your appetite, you lose your strength; and when you lose your strength, all goes to ruin in the soul; sin prevails, and deadness increases upon the soul. All the strength, comfort, and vitality of your lives depend upon your taste.

[4.] It is this taste that will make you more useful to others. That which we have seen, heard, and tasted, we commend to others. A report of a report and tradition may or may not be true; that is a cold thing, not a valid testimony. But when you can speak of that which you 'have felt and tasted, your eyes have seen, and hands handled of the word of life,' 1 John 1:1, when it is a matter of sense, then we can speak boldly and affectionately, as the apostle, 2 Cor. 1:4, 'That we might comfort them which are in trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.' When we ourselves are comforted by God, and that which we speak is the result of our own experience, it makes us more useful in our Christian converse. The prophet Ezekiel was to eat his own prophecies, and St John to eat the book; the meaning is, they must digest it. What we communicate to others, we must digest ourselves, so that, finding it sweet, we may speak the more effectually for God.

2. Do not lose this taste. Oh! it is a sad thing to lose these spiritual senses. Hypocrites, their taste comes lightly and goes lightly; they have a little vanishing sweetness now and then, but it is soon gone. It is a sad thing to lose our spiritual taste. It may be lost in a great measure; sometimes a Christian has it, and sometimes he does not, at least not to the same degree as formerly. Experience shows it may be lost too often; all the business will be to discern the first tendencies of this evil when we begin to lose our taste and spiritual senses. This may be discerned with respect to the threefold object of this taste—heavenly gift, the good word of God, and powers of the world to come.

[1.] The heavenly gift, that is Christ Jesus. When we do not highly value the love of God in Christ, and prize His blood and its precious effects; when we do not earnestly beg for the pardon of sin and hunger and thirst after His righteousness; when we lack the former earnestness and strength of desire to enjoy Christ. There was a time when you thought no terms too dear for Him, when your heart made a hard pursuit after Him; but now you have grown cold and careless, and so pass Him by lightly, like a full stomach with meat, with which it is cloyed. When you are not so earnest and zealous for Christ, it is a sign you have lost your taste.

[2.] Your tasting of the good word of God. When you slight the word, either by not reading, hearing, or meditating on it as frequently as you used to do. Oh, there was a time when you could say, 'No honey or honeycomb is so sweet as this to my poor soul!' (Ps. 19:10). When you could hardly call off your thoughts from it. Now you are more infrequent in these godly exercises, or if conversant with it, not with that life and affection. In a more customary manner, you can read of the love of God and the sufferings of Christ Jesus without any love for Him in return. You can read the promises, and they seem like dry chips and withered flowers, not yielding that marrow and fatness to you. You can read the promises of eternal life without that joy, thankfulness, and blessing of God. You could hardly contain yourselves before, but would cry out, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed be God who has visited and redeemed His people.' Now your affections are more flat and cold, and you do not have that relish in holy conversation, sweetness in hearing, and contentment of soul in meditating.

[3.] You may lose your taste in the powers of the world to come, when you grow more mindless of God and eternal blessedness. When you do not have such fresh and warm thoughts as you used to have; when your desires, hopes, and expectations of the life to come are abated, you do not have that lively hope (1 Peter 1:3) to quicken you for the attainment of eternal blessedness. While this taste is fresh upon the hearts of Christians, they strive for heaven, for God, carried on with vigour and strength in the way of holiness. But when your hearts are carried out to worldly vanity, and you relish more the honour, applause, fullness of estate, and worldly increase, and you have grown more cold in heavenly things, you have lost this taste of the powers of the world to come (Heb. 6:4).

The causes of this are numerous. One is the lack of a due esteem, not just an intellectual or abstract notion of esteem, but a practical one. No reasonable person, if he is even slightly enlightened with Christianity, will deny that the favour of God is better than all things. However, the lack of practical esteem is evident when people can forfeit this taste for every trivial and flesh-pleasing vanity, or when they carelessly seek after Him, are indifferent to communion with God, and think it of little importance whether they are accepted by God or not. When the comforts of the Spirit are things you can spare, and the consolations of God seem insignificant, it is all the same to you whether you have experiences from God in duty or not, and your souls are satisfied. This is a cause of spiritual decay.

Then there is negligence in duties; praying lazily, hearing carelessly, and not meditating often. An inordinate taste for carnal pleasure is another cause. What is the reason the temporary believer seems so affected? He loses his taste altogether. Carnal things take first possession of his heart, and being confirmed there by long use and custom, being so suitable to us, and so long rooted in us, and with such a vanishing glance of things to come, this will work out that taste, the love, the sense we have of better things. Godly men, when they turn to the contentments of the flesh, lose their taste; it becomes dead. This is a considerable loss concerning the vitality of your graces; for without a taste of good or evil, we shall neither eschew the evil nor follow that which is good with the serious constancy and diligence that is necessary.

A man who has tasted the poison of asps and the bitterness of the gall and wormwood that is in sin will be afraid of it (Rom. 6:21). Similarly, a man who has tasted the sweetness of communion with God in Christ is quickened and carried on with life, courage, and constancy. That is a dreadful place, Heb. 6:4-5; the loss of their taste is a step towards final apostasy. Oh, how many lose their taste, their relish of Christ, the good word of God, the powers of the life to come, and have fallen grievously, some forward into error, some backward into a licentious course, so that it is impossible to recover themselves by repentance!