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whereby men fancy themselves to be what they are not, to do what they do not, to enjoy what they enjoy not, to dispose of themselves and others, at their pleasure. That our nature is liable unto such a pernicious folly, which some of tenacious fancies have turned into madness, we are beholding alone to our cursed apostacy from God, and the vanity that possessed our minds thereon. Hence the prince of Tyrus thought he was a god, and 'sat in the seat of God;'. Ezek. xxviii. 2. So it hath been with others. And in those, in whom such imaginations are kept unto some better order and bounds, yet being traced unto their original, they will be found to spring some of them immediately from pride, some from sensual lusts, some from the love of the world, all from self, and the old ambition to be as God, to dispose of all things as we think meet. I know no greater misery or punishment in this world, than the debasing of our nature to such vain imaginations; and a perfect freedom from them is a part of the blessedness of heaven. It is not my present work to shew how sinful they are; let them be esteemed only fruitless, foolish, vain, and ludicrous. But let men examine themselves, what number of these vain useless thoughts night and day, do rove up and down in their minds. If now it be apprehended too severe, that men's thoughts of spiritual things should exceed them that are employed about their lawful callings, let them consider what proportion they bear unto those that are vain and useless. Do not many give more time unto them than they do unto holy meditations, without an endeavour to mortify the one, or to stir up and enliven the other? Are they not more wonted to their seasons than holy thoughts are ? And shall we suppose that those with whom it is so are spiritually minded?
3. There are thoughts that are formally evil; they are so in their own nature, being corrupt contrivances to fulfil the desires of the flesh in the lusts thereof. These also will attempt the minds of believers. But they are always looked on as professed enemies to the soul, and are watched against. I shall not therefore make any comparison between them and spiritual thoughts, for they abound only in them that are carnally minded.
2. The second rule to this purpose is, that we would consider, whether thoughts of spiritual things do constantly take possession of their proper seasons.
There are some times and seasons in the course of men's lives, wherein they retire themselves unto their own thoughts. The most basied men in the world have some times of thinking unto themselves. And those who design no such thing, as being afraid of coming to be wiser and better than they are, do yet spend time therein whether they will or no.
But they who are wise will be at home as much as they can, and have as many seasons for such their retirements as is possible for them to attain. If that man be foolish who busieth himself so much abroad in the concerns of others, that he hath no time to consider the state of his own house and family, much more is he so, who spendeth all his thoughts about other things, and never makes use of them in an inquiry, how it is with himself and his own soul. However, men can hardly avoid, but that they must have some seasons, partly stated, partly occasional, wherein they entertain themselves with their own thoughts. The evening and the morning, the times of waking on the bed, those of the necessary cessation of all ordinary affairs, of walking, journeying, and the like, are such seasons.
If we are spiritually minded, if thoughts of spiritual things do abound in us, they will ordinarily, and that with constancy, possess these seasons, look upon them as those which are their due, which belong unto them. For they are expressly assigned unto them in the way of rule, expressed in examples and commands. See Psal. xvi. 7,8. xcii. 2. Deut. vi. 7. If they are usually given up unto other ends and occasions, are possessed with thoughts of another nature, it is an open evidence that spiritual thoughts have but little interest in our minds, little prevalency in the conduct of our souls. It is our duty to afford unto them stated times, taken away from other affairs that call for them. But if instead thereof we rob them of what is as it were their own, which no other things or business can lay any just claim unto, how dwelleth the love of spiritual things in us? Most professors are convinced that it is their duty to pray morning and evening, and it is to be wished that they were all found in the practice of it. But if ordinarily they judge themselves in the performance of that duty, to be discharged from any farther exercise of spiritual thoughts, applying
them unto things worldly, useless, or vain, they can make no pretence to be spiritually minded.
And it must be observed, which will be found to be true, that if the seasons which are as it were due unto such meditations be taken from them, they will be the worst employed of all the minutes of our lives. Vain and foolish thoughts, corrupt imaginations, will make a common haunt unto the minds of men in them, and habituate themselves unto an expectation of entertainment; whence they will grow importunate for admission. Hence, with many, those precious moments of time which might greatly influence their souls unto life and peace, if they were indeed spiritually minded, make the greatest provision for their trouble, sorrow, and confusion. For the vain and evil thoughts which some persons do accustom themselves unto in such seasons, are, or ought to be, a burden upon their consciences more than they can bear. That which providence tenders unto their good is turned into a snare, and God doth righteously leave them unto the fruits of their own folly, who so despise his gracious provision for their good. If we cannot afford unto God our spare time, it is evident that indeed we can afford nothing at all. Micah ii. 1. •They devise iniquity upon their beds;' the seasons proper for holy contemplation, they make use of to fill their minds with wicked imaginations, ' and when the morning is light they practise it;' walking all day on all occasions, suitably unto their devices and imaginations of the night. Many will have cause to complain unto eternity, of those leisure times which might have been improved for their advantage unto eternal blessedness.
If we intend therefore to maintain a title unto this grace of being spiritually minded, if we would have any evidence of it in ourselves, without which we can have none of life or peace, and what we pretend thereof is but an effect of security, we must endeavour to preserve the claim and right of spiritual thoughts unto such seasons, and actually put them in possession of them.
3. Consider how we are affected with our disappointments about these seasons. Have we by negligence, by tėmptations ; have we by occasional diversions or affairs of life, been taken off from thoughts of God, of Christ, of heávenly things, when we ought to have been engaged in them; how are we affected with a view hereof? A carnal mind is well enough satisfied with the omission of any duty, so it have the pretence of a necessary occasion. If it hath lost a temporal advantage, through attendance unto a spiritual duty, it will deeply reflect upon itself, and it may be like the duty the worse afterward. But a gracious soul, one that is truly spiritually minded, will mourn under a review of such omissions, and by every one of them is stirred up unto more watchfulness for the future. Alas, will it say, how little have I been with Christ this day! How much time hath passed me without a thought of him! How foolish was I, to be wanting to such or such an opportunity! I am in arrears unto myself, and have no rest until I be satisfied.
I say, if indeed we are spiritually minded, we will duly and carefully call over the consideration of those times and seasons, wherein we ought to have exercised ourselves in spiritual thoughts; and if we have lost them, or any of them, mourn over our own negligence. But if we can omit and lose such seasons or opportunities from time to time, without regret or self-reflections, it is to be feared that we wax worse and worse. Way will be made hereby for farther omissions, until we grow wholly cold about them.
And indeed that woful loss of time that is found amongst many professors, is greatly to be bewailed. Some lose it on themselves, by a continual track of fruitless impertinent thoughts about their own concerns; some in vain converse with others, wherein for the most part they edify one another unto vanity. How much of this time might, nay ought to be redeemed for holy meditations ? The good Lord make all professors sensible of their loss of former seasons, that they may be the more watchful for the future, in this great con. cernment of their souls. Little do some think what light, what assurance, what joy, what readiness for the cross, or for heaven, they might have attained, had they laid hold on all just seasons of exercising their thoughts about spiritual things which they have enjoyed, who now are at a loss in all, and surprised with every fear or difficulty that doth befall them.
This is the first thing that belongs unto our being spirit.ually 'minded; for, although it doth not absolutely or essentially consist therein, yet is it inseparable from it, and the most undeceiving indication of it. And thus of abounding and abiding in thoughts about spiritual things, such as arise and spring naturally from a living principle, a spiritual frame and disposition of heart within.
The objects of spiritual thoughts, or what they are conversant about, evidencing them in whom they are to be spiritually minded. Rules directing unto steadiness in the contemplation of heavenly things. Motives to fix our thoughts with steadiness in them.
BEFORE I proceed unto the next general head, and which is the principal thing, the foundation of the grace and duty inquired after, some things must be spoken to render what hath been already insisted on, yet more particularly useful. And this is, to inquire what are, or what ought to be, the special objects of those thoughts, which under the qualifications laid down, are the evidences of our being spiritually minded. And it may be, we may be useful unto many herein, by helping of them to fix their minds, which are apt to rove into all uncertainty. For this is befallen us through the disorder and weakness of the faculties of our souls, that sometimes what the mind guides, leads, and directs unto, in things spiritual and heavenly,our wills and affections, through their depravation and corruption, will not comply withal, and so the good designings of the mind are lost. Sometimes what the will and affections are inclined unto and ready for, the mind, through its weakness and inconstancy, cannot lead them to the accomplishment of; so to will is present with us, but how to perform that will we know not. So many are barren in this duty, because they know not what to fix upon, nor how to exercise their thoughts when they have chosen a subject for their meditations. Hence they spend their time in fruitless desires that they could use their thoughts unto more purpose, rather than make any progress in the duty itself. They tire themselves, not because they are not willing to go, but because they cannot find their way. Wherefore, both these things shall be spoken unto; both what are the proper objects of our spiritual thoughts, and how we may