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nature of eternal things, will be of no use unto us.
And unto your encouragement and direction, take these few short rules relating unto this duty. 1. Here lies the great trial whether we are spiritually minded or no, by virtue of this rule ; ‘If we are risen with Christ, we will mind the things that are above;' Col. iii. 3. 2. Here lies the great means whereby we may attain farther degrees in that blessed frame of mind, if it be already formed in us, by virtue of that rule; • Beholding the glory of God as in a glass, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory;' 2 Cor. iii. 18. (3.) Here lies the great evidence whether we have a real interest in the things above or no : whether we place our portion and blessedness in them by virtue of that rule; "Where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.' Are they our treasure, our portion, our reward, in comparison whereof all other things are but loss and dung ? we shall assuredly be conversant in our minds about them. (4.) It cannot be imagined, that a man should have in him a principle cognate and suited unto things above, of the same kind and nature with them, that his soul should be under the conduct of those habits of grace, which strive and naturally tend unto perfection, labouring greatly here under the weight of their own weaknesses, as it is with all who are truly spiritually minded, and yet not have his thoughts greatly exercised about these things; 1 John iii. 3.
It were well if we would try ourselves by things of so uncontrollable evidence. What can any object unto the truth of these things, or the necessity of this duty ? If it be otherwise with us, it is from one of these two causes ; either we are not convinced of the truth and reality of them, or we have no delight in them, because we are not spiritually minded. Do we think that men may turmoil themselves in earthly thoughts all the day long, and when they are freed of their affairs, betake themselves unto those that are vain and useless, without any státed converse with things above, and yet enjoy life and peace? We must take other measures of things, if we intend to live unto God, to be like him, and to come unto the enjoyment of him.
What is the matter with men that are so stupid? They all generally desire to go to heaven, at least when they can live here no longer. Some indeed have no other regard unto
it, but only that they would not go to hell. But most would 'die the death of the righteous,'and have their latter end like his; yet few there are who endeavour to attain a right notion ofit, to try how it is suited unto their principles and desires ; but content themselves with such general notions of it as please their imaginations. It is no wonder if such persons seldom exercise their minds or thoughts about it, nor do they so much as pretend to be spiritually minded. But as for those who are instructed in these things, who profess their chiefest interest to lie in them, not to abound in meditation concerning them, it argues indeed that whatever they profess, they are earthly and carnal.
Again; meditate and think of the glory of heaven, so as to compare it with the opposite state of death and eternal misery. Few men care to think much of hell, and the everlasting torments of the wicked therein. Those do so least, who are in the most danger of falling thereinto. They put far from them the evil day, and suppose their covenant with death and hell to be sure. Some begin to advance an opinion that there is no such place, because it is their interest and desire that there should be none. Some out of profaneness make a scoff at it, as though a future judgment were but a fable. Most seem to think that there is a severity in thoughts about it, which it is not fit we should be too much terrified withal. Some transient thoughts they will have of it, but not suffer them to abide in their minds, lest they should be too much discomposed. Or they think it not consistent with the goodness of Christ to leave any men in that condition; whereas there is more spoken directly of hell, its torments and their eternity, by himself, than in all the Scripture besides. These thoughts in most proceed from an unwillingness to be troubled in their sins, and are useful unto none. It is the height of folly for men to endeavour the hiding of themselves for a few moments from that which is unavoidably coming upon them unto eternity; and the due consideration whereof, is a means for an escape from it. But I speak only of true believers. And the more they are conversant in their thoughts about the future estate of eternal misery, the greater evidence they have of the life and confidence of faith. It is a necessary duty to consider sins, as
it, as what we were by nature obnoxious unto, as being children of wrath ; what we have deserved by our personal
wages of sin is death ;' what we are delivered from through Jesus the Deliverer, who saves us from the wrath to come; what expression it is of the indignation of God against sin, who hath prepared this Tophet of old; that we may be delivered from sin, kept up to an abhorrency of it, walking in humility, self-abasement, and the admiration of divine grace. This therefore is required of us, that in our thoughts and meditations, we compare the state of blessedness and eternal glory, as a free and absolute effect of the grace of God in and through Christ Jesus, with that state of eternal misery, which we had deserved. And if there be any spark of grace or of holy thankfulness in our hearts, it will be stirred up unto its due exercise.
Some it may be will say, that they complained before that they cannot get their minds fixed on these things. Weakness, weariness, darkness, diversions, occasions, do prevalently obstruct their abiding in such thoughts. I shall speak farther unto this afterward. At present I shall only suggest two things. 1. If you cannot attain, yet continue to follow after; get your minds in a perpetual endeavour after an abode in spiritual thoughts. Let your minds be rising towards them every hour; yea, a hundred times a day, on all occasions, on a continual sense of duty; and sigh within yourselves for deliverance, when you find disappointments, or not a continuance in them. It is the sense of that place, Rom. viii. 23—26. 2. Take care you go not backwards and lose what you have wrought. If you neglect these things for a season, you will quickly find yourselves neglected by them. So I observe it every day in the hearing of the word. Whilst persons keep up themselves to a diligent attendance on it where they find it preached unto their edification, they find great delight-in it, and will undergo great difficulties for the enjoyment of it: let them be diverted from it for a season, after a while it grows indifferent unto them, any thing will satisfy them that pretends unto. the same duty.
Especial objects of spiritual thoughts on the glorious state of heaven, and
what belongs thereunto. First, of Christ himself. Thoughts of heavenly glory; in opposition unto thoughts of eternal misery. The use of such thoughts. Advantage in sufferings.
It will be unto our advantage, having stated right notions of the glory of the blessed state above in our minds, to fix on some particulars belonging unto it, as the especial object of our thoughts and meditations. A's, 1. Think much of him who unto us is the life and centre of all the glory of heaven, that is, Christ himself. I shall be very brief in treating hereof, because I have designed a peculiar treatise on this subject, of beholding the glory of Christ, both here and unto eternity. At present, therefore, a few things only shall be mentioned, because on this occasion they are not to be omitted. The whole of the glory of the state above is expressed by being ever with the Lord; where he is, to be. hold his glory." For in and through him is the beatifical manifestation of God and his glory made for evermore. And through him are all communications of inward glory unto us. The present resplendency of heavenly glory, consists in his mediatory ministry, as I have at large elsewhere declared. And he will be the means of all glorious communications between God and the church unto eternity. Wherefore, if we are spiritually minded, we should fix our thoughts on Christ above, as the centre of all heavenly glory. To help us herein we may consider the things that follow.
1. Faith-hath continual recourse unto him on the account of what he did and suffered for us in this world. For thereon, pardon of sin, justification, and peace with God do depend. This ariseth in the first place from a sense of our own wants. But love of him is no less necessary unto uś than faith in him. And although we have powerful motives unto love, from what he did and was in this world, yet the formal reason of our adherence unto him thereby is what he is in himself, as he is now exalted in heaven. If we rejoice not at the remembrance of his present glory, if the thoughts of it be not frequent with us and refreshing unto us, how dwelleth his love in us?
2. Our hope is that ere long we shall be ever with him. And if so, it is certainly our wisdom and duty to be here with him as much as we can. It is a vain thing for any to suppose that they place their chiefest happiness in being for ever in the presence of Christ, who care not at all to be with him here as they may. And the only way of our being present with him here, is by faith and love, acting themselves in spiritual thoughts and affections. And it is an absurd thing for men to esteem themselves Christians, who scarce think of Christ all the day long. Yet some, as one complained of old, scarce ever think or speak of him but when they swear by his name. I have read of them who have lived and died in continual contemplation on him, so far as the imperfection of our present state will admit. I have known them, I do know them, who call themselves unto a reproof if at any time he hath been many minutes out of their thoughts. And it is strange that it should be otherwise with them who love him in sincerity; yet I wish I did not know more, who give evidences that it is a rare thing for them to be exercised in serious thoughts and meditations about him. Yea, there are some who are not averse upon occasions to speak of God, of mercy, of pardon, of his power and goodness, who, if you mention Christ unto them, with any thing of faith, love, trust in him, they seem unto them as a strange thing. Few there are who are sensible of any religion beyond what is natural. The things of the wisdom and power of God in Christ, are foolishness unto them. Take some directions for the discharge of this duty. 1. In your thoughts of Christ be very careful that they are conceived and directed according to the rule of the word, lest you deceive your own souls, and give up the conduct of your affections unto vain imaginations. Spiritual notions befalling carnal minds, did once by the means of superstition ruin the power of religion. A conviction men had that they must think much of Jesus Christ, and that this would make them conformable unto him; but having no real evangelical faith, nor the wisdom of faith to exercise it in their thoughts and affections in a due manner, nor understanding what it was to be truly like unto him, they gave up themselves unto