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gaged. O wretched man that I am, what a cursed enemy have I within me! I am ashamed of myself, weary of myself, loath myself; who shall deliver me from this body of death?' Such thoughts may be as useful unto him as those which he first designed.
True it is we can never be freed absolutely from all the effects of this vanity and instability of mind in this world. Unchangeable cleaving unto God, always, in all the powers and affections of our minds, is reserved for heaven. But yet great degrees may be attained in the conquest and expulsion of it, such as I fear few have experience of; yet ought all to labour after. If we apply ourselves as we ought to the increase of spiritual light and grace; if we labour diligently to abide and abound in thoughts of spiritual things, and that in love to them, and delight in them; if we watch against the entertainment and approbation of such thoughts and things in our minds, as whereby this vain frame is pleased and confirmed; there is, though not an absolute perfection, yet a blessed degree of heavenly mindedness to be attained, and therein the nearest approach unto glory, that in this world we are capable of. If a man cannot attain an athletic constitution of health, or a strength like that of Samson; yet, if he be wise, he will not omit the use of such means as may make him to be useful in the ordinary duties of life. And although we cannot attain perfection in this matter, which yet is our duty to be continually pressing after; yet, if we are wise, we will be endeavouring such a cure of this spiritual distemper, as we may be able to discharge all the duties of the life of God. But if men, in all other things, feed the vanity of their own minds, if they permit them to rove continually after things foolish, sensual, and earthly; if they wilfully supply them with objects unto that end, and labour not by all means for the mortification of this evil frame; in vain shall they desire or expect to bring them at any time, on any occasion, to be steady in the thoughts of heavenly things. If it be thus with any, as it is to be feared it is with many, it is their duty to mind the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the first place, make the tree good, and the fruit will be good,' and not before. When the power of sanctifying grace hath made the mind habitually spiritual and heavenly,
thoughts of such things will be natural unto it, and accompanied with delight. But they will not be so until the God of peace have sanctified us in our whole spirits, souls, and bodies, whereby we may be preserved blameless unto the coming of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Be always sensible of your own insufficiency to raise in your minds or to manage spiritual thoughts, or thoughts of things spiritual and heavenly in a due manner. But in this case men are apt to suppose, that as they may, so they can, think of what they please. Thoughts are their own, and therefore be they of what sort they will, they need no assistance for them. They cannot think as they ought, they can do nothing at all. And nothing will convince them of their folly, until they are burdened with an experience of the contrary, as unto spiritual things. But the advice given is expressly laid down by the apostle, in the instance of himself, 2 Cor. iii. 5. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.' He speaks principally of ministers of the gospel, and that of such as were most eminently furnished with spiritual gifts and graces, as he declares, ver. 6. And if it be so with them, and that with respect unto the work and duties of their calling; how much more is it so with others, who have not their graces nor their offices? Wherefore if men, without regard unto the present actual grace of God, and the supplies of his Spirit, do suppose that they can of themselves, exercise their minds in spiritual thoughts, and so only fret at themselves when they fall into disappointment, not knowing what is the matter with them, they will live in a lifeless barren frame all their days.
By the strength of their natural abilities, men may frame thoughts of God, and heavenly things in their minds, according unto the knowledge they have of them. They may methodize them by rules of art, and express them elegantly unto others. But even while they do so, they may be far enough from being spiritually minded. For there may be in their thoughts no actings of faith, love, or holy delight in God, or any grace at all. But such alone are things which we inquire after, they are such only as wherein the graces of the Spirit are in their proper exercise. With respect unto them we have no sufficiency in ourselves, all our
sufficiency must be of God. There is no truth among persons of light and knowledge more generally granted in the notion of it than this, that of ourselves we can do nothing; and none more neglected in daily practice. Men profess they can do nothing of themselves, and yet go about their duties as if they could do all things.
Thirdly, Remember that I have not at present treated of solemn stated meditation; concerning which, other rules and instructions ought to be given. By solemn or stated meditation, I intend the thoughts of some subject spiritual and divine, with the fixing, forcing, and ordering our thoughts about it, with a design to affect our own hearts and souls with the matter of it, or the things contained in it. By this design it is distinguished from the study of the word, wherein our principal aim is to learn the truth, or to declare it unto others. And so also from prayer, whereof God himself is the immediate object. But in meditation it is the affecting of our own hearts and minds with love, delight, and humiliation. At present I have only shewed what it is to be spiritually minded, and that in this instance of our thoughts as they proceed from the habitual frame of our hearts and affections; or of what sort the constant course of our thoughts ought to be, with respect unto all the occasions of the life of God. This persons may be in a readiness for, who are yet unskilful in, and unable for, stated meditation. For there is required thereunto such an exercise of our natural faculties and abilities, as some through their weakness and ignorance are incapable of. But as unto what we have hitherto insisted on, it is not unattainable by any in whom is the spirit of faith and love; for it is but the frequent actings of them that I intend. Wherefore, do your hearts and affections lead you unto many thoughts of God and spiritual things? Do they spring up in you, as water in a well of living waters? Are you ready on all occasions to entertain such thoughts, and to be conversant with them, as opportunity doth offer itself? Do you labour to have in a readiness what is useful for you with respect unto temptations and duties? Is God in Christ, and the things of the gospel, the ordinary retreat of your souls? Though you should not be able to carry on an orderly stated meditation in your minds, yet you may be spiritually minded.
A man may not have a capacity and ability to carry on a great trade of merchandise in the world. The knowledge of all sorts of commodities, and seasons, of the world and nations of it, with those contrivances and accounts which belong unto such trade, may be above his comprehension, and he may quickly ruin himself in undertaking such an employment. Yet may the abilities of this man serve him well enough to carry on a retail trade in a private shop, wherein perhaps he may thrive as well, and get as good an estate, as any of those whose greater capacities lead them forth unto more large and hazardous employments. So it may be with some in this case: the natural faculties of their minds are not sufficient to enable them unto stated meditation; they cannot cast things into that method and order which is required thereunto; nor frame the conceptions of their minds into words significant and expressive; yet, as unto frequency of thoughts of God, and a disposition of mind thereunto, they may thrive and be skilful beyond most others of greater natural abilities. Howbeit, because even stated meditation is a necessary duty, yea, the principal way whereby our spiritual thoughts do profitably act themselves, I shall have regard thereunto in the following direction. Wherefore,
Fourthly, Whatever principle of grace we have in our minds, we cannot attain unto a ready exercise of it in a way of spiritual meditation or otherwise, without great diligence, nor without great difficulty.
It was shewed at the entrance of this discourse, that there is a difference in this grace, between the essence, substance, or reality of it, which we would not exclude men from, under many failings or infirmities; and the useful degrees of it, wherein it hath its principal exercise. As there is a difference in life natural, and its actings, in a weak diseased sickly body, and in that which is of a good constitution and in a vigorous health. Supposing the first, the reality of this grace, be wrought in us, or implanted in our minds by the Holy Ghost, as a principal part of that new nature which is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works; yet, unto the growth and improvement of it, as of all other graces, our own diligent care, watchfulness, and spiritual striving in all holy duties, are required. Unless the most fruitful ground be manured, it
it will not bring forth a useful crop. Let not any think that this frame of a spiritual mind, wherein there is a disposition unto, and a readiness for, all holy thoughts of God, of Christ, of spiritual and heavenly things, at all times and on all occasions, will befall him and continue with him he knows not how. As good it is for a poor man to expect to be rich in this world without industry, or a weak man to be strong and healthy without food and exercise; as to be spiritually minded without an earnest endeavour after it. It may be inquired, what is requisite thereunto? and we may name some of those things without which such a holy frame will not be attained. As
1. A continual watch is to be kept in and on the soul, against the incursions of vain thoughts and imaginations, especially in such seasons wherein they are apt to obtain advantage. If they are suffered to make an inroad into the mind, if we accustom ourselves to give them entertainment, if they are wont to lodge within, in vain shall we hope or desire to be spiritually minded. Herein consists a principal part of that duty which our Saviour so frequently, so emphatically chargeth on us all; namely, to watch, Mark iii. 37. Unless we keep a strict watch herein, we shall be betrayed into the hands of our spiritual enemies; for all such thoughts are but making provision for the flesh to fulfil its desires in the lusts thereof, however they may be disappointed as unto actual sin. This is the substance of the advice given us in charge, Prov. iv. 23. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.' 2. Careful avoidance of all societies and businesses of this life, which are apt, under various pretences, to draw and seduce the mind unto an earthly or sensual frame. If men will venture on those things which they have found by experience, or may find by their observation, that they seduce and draw off their minds from a heavenly frame unto that which is contrary thereunto, and will not watch unto their avoidance, they will be filled with the fruit of their own ways. Indeed, the common converses of professors among themselves and others, walking, talking, and behaving themselves like other men, being as full of the world as the world is of itself, hath lost the grace of being spiritually minded within, and stained the glory of profes