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sion without. The rule observed by David will manifest how careful we ought to be herein, Psal. xxxix. 143. 'I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned; then spake I with my tongue.' Which place was spoken unto before.
3. A holy constraint put on the mind to abide in the duty of spiritual thoughts and meditations, pressing it continually with the consideration of their necessity and useful
The mind will be apt of itself to start aside from duties purely spiritual, through the mixture of the flesh abiding in it. The more inward and purely spiritual any duty is, which hath no outward advantages; the more prone will the mind be to decline from it. It will be so; more from private prayer than public, more from meditation than prayer. And other things will be apt to draw it aside by objects without, and various stirrings of the affections within. A holy constraint is to be put upon it, with a sudden rejection of what rises up to its diversion or disturbance. Wherefore, we are to call in all constraining motives, such as the consideration of the love of Christ, 2 Cor. v. 14. to keep the mind steady unto its duty.
4. Diligent use of means to furnish the soul with that light and knowledge of heavenly things, which may administer continual matter of holy thoughts and meditations from within ourselves. This hath been spoken unto at large before. And the want hereof is that which keeps many from the least proficiency in these duties. As a man may have some skill or ability for a trade, yet if he have no materials to work upon, he must sit still and let his trade alone. And so must men do as unto the work of holy meditation : whatever be the ability of the natural faculties, their inventions, or memories, if they are not furnished with knowledge of things spiritual and heavenly, which are the subject matter of such meditations, they must let their work alone. Hence the apostle prays for the Colossians, that the word of God might .dwell in them richly in all wisdom;' chap. v. 16. that is, that they might abound in the knowledge of the mind of Christ, without which we shall be unfit for this duty.
5. Unweariedness in our conflict with Satan, who by various artifices, and the injection of fiery darts, labours continually to divert us from these duties. He is seldom or never wanting unto this occasion. He who is furnished in any ineasure with spiritual wisdom and understanding, may find him more sensibly at work in his craft and opposition with respect unto this duty, than any other way. When we stand thus before the Lord, he is always at our right hand to resist us; and ofttimes his strength is great. Hence, as was observed, ofttimes men design really to exercise themselves in holy thoughts, but end in vain imaginations, and rather take up with triftes than continue in this duty. Steadiness in the resistance of him on these occasions, is one great part of our spiritual warfare. And we may know that he is at work by his engines and methods. For they consist in his suggestions of vain, foolish, or corrupt imaginations. When they begin to rise in our minds, at such times as we would engage them in spiritual meditation, we may know assuredly from whence they are.
6. Continual watchful care, that no root of bitterness spring up and defile us; that no lust or corruption be predominant in us. When it is so, if persons in compliance with their convictions do endeavour sometimes to be exercised in these duties, they shall labour in the very fire, where all their endeavours will be immediately consumed.
7. Mortifications unto the world in our affections and desires, with moderation in our endeavours after the needful things of it, are also necessary hereunto; yea, to that degree, that without them no man can in any sense be said to be spiritually minded. For otherwise our affections cannot be so preserved under the power of grace, as that spiritual things may be always savoury unto us.
Some it may be will say, that if all these things are required thereunto, it will take up a man's whole life and time to be spiritually minded. They hope they may attain it at an easier rate, and not forego all other advantages and sweetnesses of life, which a strict observation of these things would cast them upon.
I answer; that however it may prove a hard saying unto some, yet I must say it, and my heart would reproach me if I should not say, that if the principal part of our time be not spent about these things, whatever we suppose, we have indeed neither life nor peace. The first-fruits of all were to be offered unto God, and in sacrifices he required the blood, and the fat of the inwards. If the best be not his, he will have nothing. It is so as to our time. Tell me, I pray you, how you can spend your time and your lives better, or to better purpose ; and I shall say, Go on and prosper. I am sure some spend so much of their time so much worse, as it is a shame to see it. Do you think you came into this world, to spend your whole time and strength in your employments, your trades, your pleasures, unto the satisfaction of the will of the flesh and of the mind? Have you time enough to eat, to drink, to sleep, to talk unprofitably, it may be corruptly, in all sorts of unnecessary societies, but have not enough to live unto God, in the very essentials of that life which consists in these things ? Alas! you came into the world under this law ; “it is appointed to all men once to die, and after that is the judgment; and the end why your life is here granted unto you, is that you may be prepared for that judgment. If this be neglected, if the principal part of your time be not improved with respect unto this end, you will fall under the sentence of it unto eternity.
Bưt men are apt to mistake in this matter. They may think that these things tend to take them off from their lawful employments and recreations, which they are generally afraid of, and unwilling to purchase any frame of mind at so dear a rate. They may suppose that to have men spiritually minded, we would make them mopes, and to disregard all the lawful occasions of life. But let not any be mistaken ; I am not upon a design that will be easily, or, it may be, honestly, defeated. Men are able to defend themselves in their callings and enjoyments, and to satisfy their consciences against any persuasions to the contrary. Yet there is a season wherein we are obliged to part with all we have, and to give up ourselves wholly to follow Christ in all things; Matt. xix. 21. And if we neglect or refuse it in that season, it is an evidence that we are hypocrites. And there was a time when superstition had so much power on the minds of men, that multitudes were persuaded to forsake, to give up, all their interest in relations, callings, goods, possessions, and betake themselves unto tedious pilgrimages, yea, hard services in war, to comply with that superstition; and it is not the glory of our profession, that we have so few instances of men parting with all, and giving up themselves unto heavenly retirement. But I am at present on no such design; I aim not to take men out of their lawful earthly occasions, but to bring spiritual affections and thoughts into the management of them all. The things mentioned will deprive you of no time you can lay a claim unto; but sanctify it all.
I confess he must be a great proficient in spirituality, who dares venture on an absolute retirement; and he must be well satisfied that he is not called 'unto a usefulness among men inconsistent therewith: unto them it may prove a disadvantage. Yet this also is attainable if other circumstances do concur. Men under the due exercise of grace, and the improvement of it, may attain unto that fixedness in heavenly mindedness, that unconcernment in all things here below, as to give themselves up entirely and continually unto heavenly meditation, unto a blessed advancement of all grace, and a near approach unto glory. And I would hope it was so with
many of them in ancient times, who renounced the world with all circumstances of relations, state, inheritances, and betook themselves unto retirement in wildernesses, to abide always in divine contemplation. But afterward, when multitudes whose minds were not so prepared by a real growth in all grace and mortification unto the world, as they were, betook themselves under the same pretences unto a monastical retirement, the devil, the world, sensual lusts, superstition, and all manner of evils pursued them, found them out, possessed them, unto the unspeakable damage and scandal of religion.
This, therefore, is not that which I invite the common sort of believers unto. Let them that are able and free receive it. The generality of Christians have lawful callings, employments, and businesses, which ordinarily they ought to abide in.' That they also may live unto God in their occasions, they may do well to consider two things.
1. Industry in men's callings is a thing in itself very commendable. If in nothing else, it hath an advantage herein, that it is a means to preserve men from those excesses in lust and riot, which otherwise they are apt to run into. And if you consider the two sorts of men whereinto the generality of mankind are distributed, namely, of them who are industrious in their affairs, and those who spend their time, so far as they are able, in idleness and pleasure, the former sort are far more amiable and desirable. Howbeit it is capable of being greatly abused. Earthly mindedness, covetousness, devouring things holy as to times and seasons of duty, usefulness, and the like pernicious vices do invade and possess the minds of men. There is no lawful calling that doth absolutely exclude this grace of being spiritually minded in them that are engaged in it, nor any that doth include it. Men may be in the meanest of lawful callings and be so, and men may be in the best and highest and not be so. Consider the calling of the ministry: the work and duty of it calls on those that are employed in it, to have their minds and thoughts conversant about spiritual and heavenly things. They are to study about them, to meditate on them, to commit them to memory, to speak them out unto others. It will be said, Surely such men must needs be spiritually minded. If they go no farther than what is mentioned, I say they must needs be so, as printers must needs be learned, who are continually conversant about letters. A man may with great industry engage himself in these things, and yet his mind be most remote from being spiritual. The event doth declare that it may be so, and the reasons of it are manifest. It requires as much, if not more watchfulness, more care, more humility, for a minister to be spiritually minded in the discharge of his calling, than to any sort of men in theirs. And that, as for other reasons, so because the commonness of the exercise of such thoughts, with their design upon others in their expression, will take off their power and efficacy. And he will have little benefit by his own ministry, who endeavours not in the first place, an experience in his own heart of the power of the truths which he doth teach unto others. And there is evidently as great a failing herein among us as among any