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sion of the nature of the evils to be undergone, and of our own frailty, with continual prayers to be delivered from. them, or supported under them, and prudent care to avoid them without an inroad on conscience, or neglect of duty, are much better preparations for an entrance into a state of suffering. Many things belong unto our learning aright this first and last lesson of the gospel, namely, of bearing the cross, or undergoing all sorts of sufferings for the profession of it. But they belong not unto our present occasion. This only is that which we now press, as an evidence of our sincerity in our sufferings, and an effectual means to enable us cheerfully to undergo them, which is to have such a continual prospect of the future state of glory, so as to lay it in the balance against all that we may undergo. For,
1. To have our minds filled and possessed with thoughts thereof, will give us an alacrity in our entrance into sufferings in a way of duty. Other considerations will offer themselves unto our relief, which will quickly fade and disappear. They are like a cordial water which gives a little relief for a sea son, and then leaves the spirits to sink beneath what they were before it was taken. Some relieve themselves from the consideration of the nature of their sufferings; they are not so great, but that they may conflict with them and come off with safety. But there is nothing of that kind so small, which will not prove too hard and strong for us, unless we have especial assistance. Some do the same from their duration ; they are but for ten days or six months, and then they shall be free.. Some from the compassion and esteem of men. These and the like considerations are apt to occur unto the minds of all sorts of persons, whether they are spiritually minded or no. But when our minds are accustomed unto thoughts of the glory that shall be revealed, we shall cheerfully entertain every way and path that leads thereunto; as suffering for the truth doth in a peculiar manner. Through this medium we may look cheerfully and comfortably, on the loss of name, reputation, goods, liberty, life itself; as knowing in ourselves that we have better and more abiding comforts to betake ourselves unto. And we can no other way glorify God by our alacrity in the entrance of sufferings, than when it ariseth from a prospect into and
valuation of those invisible things which he hath promised as an abundant
recompense for all we can lose in this world. 2. The great aggravation of sufferings is their long continuance, without any rational appearance or hopes of relief. Many who have entered into sufferings with much courage and resolution, have been wearied and worn out with their continuance. Elijah himself was hereby reduced to pray that God would take away his life, to put an end unto his ministry and calamities. And not a few in all ages
have been hereby so broken in their natural spirits, and so shaken in the exercise of faith, as that they have lost the glory of their confession, in seeking deliverance by sinful compliances in the denial of truth. And although this may be done out of mere weariness (as it is the design of Satan to wear out the saints of the Most High) with reluctance of mind, and a love yet remaining unto the truth in their hearts, yet hath it constantly one of these two effects. Some, by the overwhelming sorrow that befalls them on the account of their failure in profession, and out of a deep. sepse of their unkindness unto the Lord Jesus, are stirred up immediately unto higher acts of confession than ever they were before engaged in, and unto a higher provocation of their adversaries, until their former troubles are doubled upon them, which they frequently undergo with great satisfaction. Instances of this nature occur in all stories of great persecutions. Others being cowed and disa couraged in their profession, and perhaps neglected by them whose duty it was rather to restore them, have by the craft of Satan given place to their declensions, and become vile. apostates. To prevent these evils arising from the duration of sufferings without a prospect of deliverance, nothing is more prevalent than a constant contemplation on the future reward and glory. So the apostle declares it, Heb. xi. 35. When the mind is filled with the thoughts of the unseen glories of eternity, it hath in readiness what to lay in the balance against the longest continuance and duration of sufferings, which in comparison thereunto at their utmost extent are but for a moment.
I have insisted the longer on these things, because they are the peculiar object of the thoughts of them that are indeed spiritually minded.
Spiritual thoughts of God himself. The opposition unto them and neglect
of them, with their causes and the way of their prevalency. Predominant corruptions expelling duc thoughts of God, how to be discovered, &c. Thoughts of God, of what nature, and what they are to be accompanied withal, &c.
I HAVE spoken very briefly unto the first particular instance of the heavenly things, that we are to fix our thoughts upon, namely, the person of Christ. And I have done it on the reason before mentioned, namely, that I intend a peculiar treatise on that subject, or an inquiry how we may behold the glory of Christ in this life, and how we shall do so unto eternity. That which I have reserved unto the last place as unto the exercise of their thoughts about, who are spiritually minded, is that which is the absolute foundation and spring of all spiritual things; namely, God himself. He is the fountain whence all these things proceed, and the ocean wherein they issue; he is their centre and circumference wherein they all begin, meet, and end. So the apostle issues his profound discourse of the councils of the divine will and mysteries of the gospel, Rom. xi. 36. Of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever.' All things arise from his power, are all disposed by his wisdom into a tendency unto his glory; 'of him, and through him, and to him are all things. Under that consideration alone are they to be the objects of our spiritual meditations, namely, as they come from him, and tend unto him. All other things are finite and limited; but they begin and end in that which is immense and infinite. So God is all in all. He therefore is, or ought to be, the only supreme absolute object of our thoughts and desires; other things are from and for him only. Where our thoughts do not either immediately and directly, or mediately and by just consequence tend unto and end in him, they are not spiritual, 1 Pet. i. 21.
To make way for directions how to exercise our thoughts on God himself, some thing must be premised concerning a sinful defect herein, with the causes of it.
First, It is the great character of a man presumptuously
and flagitiously wicked, 'that God is not in all his thoughts;' Psal. x. 4. That is, he is in none of them. And of this want of thoughts of God there are many degrees; for all wicked men are not equally so forgetful of him.
1. Some are under the power of atheistical thoughts: they deny, or question, or do not avowedly acknowledge the very being of God. This is the height of what the enmity of the carnal mind can rise unto. To acknowledge God, and yet to refuse to be subject to his law or will, a man would think were as bad, if not worse, than to deny the being of God. But it is not so. That is a rebellion against his authority, this an hatred unto the only fountain of all goodness, truth, and being; and that because they cannot own it, but withal they must acknowledge it to be infinitely righteous, holy, and powerful, which would destroy all their desires and security. Such may be the person in the psalm; for the words may be read, “All his thoughts are that there is no God.' Howbeit the context describes him as one who rather despiseth his providence, than denieth his being. But such there are whom the same psalmist elsewhere brands for fools, though themselves seem to suppose that wisdom was born and will die with them, Psal. xiv. 1. liii. 1.
It may be, never any age since the flood, did more abound with open atheism, among such as pretended unto the use and improvement of reason, than that wherein we live. Among the ancient civilized heathen, we hear ever and anon of a person branded for an atheist; yet are not certain whether it was done justly or no. But in all nations of Europe at this day, cities, courts, towns, fields, armies, abound with persons, who, if any credit may be given unto what they say or do, believe not that there is a God. And the reason hereof may be a little enquired into.
Now this is no other in general, but that men have decocted and wasted the light and power of Christian religion. It is the fullest' revelation of God, that ever he made, it is the last that ever he will make in this world. If this be despised, if men rebel against the light of it, if they break the cords of it, and are senseless of its power, nothing can preserve them from the highest atheism that the nature of man is capable of. It is in vain to expect relief or preservation from inferior means, where the highest and most noble is rejected. Reason or the light ofnature gives evidences unto the being of God; and arguments are still well pleaded from them to the confusion of atheists. And they were sufficient to retain men in an acknowledgment of the divine power and Godhead, who had no other, no higher evidences of them. But where men have had the benefit of divine revelation, where they have been educated in the principles of Christian religion, have had some knowledge, and made some profession of them ; and have through the love of sin, and hatred of every thing that is truly good, rejected all convictions from them concerning the being, power and rule of God, they will not be kept unto a confession of them by any .considerations that the light of nature can suggest.
There are therefore among others, three reasons why there are more atheists among them who live where the Christian religion is professed, and the power of it rejected, than
among any other sort of men, even than there were among the heathens themselves.
1. God hath designed to magnify his word above all his name, or all other ways of the revelation of himself unto the children of men, Psal. cxxxviii. 2. Where therefore this is rejected and despised, he will not give the honour unto reason or the light of nature, that they shall preserve the minds of men from any evil whatever. Reason shall not have the same power and efficacy on the minds of men, who reject the light and power of divine revelation by the word, as it hath, or may have, on them whose best guide it is, who never enjoyed the light of the gospel. And therefore there is ofttimes more common honesty among civilized heathens and Mahometans than amongst degenerate Christians. And from the same reason the children of professors are sometimes irrecoverably profligate. It will be said, many are recovered unto God by afflictions, who have despised the word. But it is otherwise; never any were converted unto God by afflictions who had rejected the word. Men may by afflictions be recalled unto the light of the word, but none are immediately turned unto God by them. As a good shepherd, when a sheep wanders from the flock, and will not hear his call, sends out his dog,