IN regeneration, there is a happy change made on that persons affections [that is, the desires and inclinations, and their associated emotions]; they are both rectified and regulated.
Regeneration rectifies the affections, placing them on suitable objects. “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God” (2 Thess. 3:5). The regenerate mans desires are rectified; they are set on God Himself, and the things above. . . The main stream of his desires is turned towards God. . .
Regeneration regulates the affections placed on suitable objects. Our affections, when placed on the creature, are naturally excessive; when we joy in it we are apt to overjoy, and when we sorrow, we are ready to sorrow overmuch: but grace bridles these affections, clips their wings, and keeps them within bounds, that they overflow not all their banks. It makes man “hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children; yea, and his own life also”, comparatively; that is, to love them less than he loves God (Luke 14:26).
Regeneration also sanctifies lawful affections, bringing them forth from right principles, and directing them to right ends. There may be unholy desires after Christ and His grace, as when men desire Christ, not from any love to Him, but merely out of love to themselves. “Give us of your oil,” said the foolish virgins, “for our lamps are gone out” (Matt 25:8). There may be an unsanctified sorrow for sin; as when one sorrows for it, not because it is displeasing to God, but only because of the wrath annexed to it, as did Pharaoh, Judas, and others. So a man may love his father and mother from mere natural principles, without any respect to the command of God binding him thereto. But grace sanctifies the affections in such cases, making them to run in a new channel of love to God, respect to His commands, and regard to His glory. Again, grace raises the affections where they are too low. It gives the chief seat in them to God, and pulls down all other rivals, whether persons or things, making them lie at His feet. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psl 73:25). He is loved for Himself, and other persons or things for His sake. What is lovely in them, to the renewed heart, is some ray of the divine goodness appearing in them: for unto gracious souls they shine only by borrowed light. This accounts for the saints loving all men; and yet hating those that hate God, and contemning the wicked as vile persons. They hate and contemn them for their wickedness; there is nothing of God in their wickedness, and therefore nothing lovely nor honourable in it: but they love them for their commendable qualities, whether natural or moral; because, in whomsoever these are, they are from God, and can be traced to Him as their fountain.
Extracted and abridged from Bostons Fourfold State