Page images

this fool's expressions and thy affections. I doubt not but thou hast more sense than to speak thy mind just in his language, but remember thou hast to do with the searcher of hearts. It may be thou holdest on in thy course of duty, and prayest as oft as thou didst before, and keepest in with good ministers, and with godly men, and seemest as forward in religion as ever. But what is all this to the purpose? Mock not thy soul, for God will not be so mocked. What good may yet remain in thee. I know not; but sure I am, thy course is dangerous, and, if thou follow it on, will end in sorrow. O Christian, who hast tasted of the pleasures of a heavenly life, I advise thee, as thou valuest their enjoyment, as ever thou wouldst taste of them any more, take heed of this gulf of an earthly mind; for if once thou come to this, that thou wilt be rich, thou wilt "fall into temptation and a snare, and into divers foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition." Keep the things of the world as thy upper garments, loose about thee, that thou mayest lay them aside, whenever there is cause; but let God and glory be next thy heart, yea, as the very blood and spirit by which thou livest. Let these solemn warnings be engraven on thy heart: "The friendship of the world is enmity with God; Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

III. Beware of the company of ungodly men. Not that I would dissuade thee from necessary intercourse with them, or from doing them any office of love; especially not from endeavouring the good of their souls, as long as thou hast any opportunity or hope; but it is the unnecessary society of ungodly men, and too much familiarity with unprofitable companions, though they be not so apparently ungodly, that I dissuade you from. There are many persons whom we may not avoid, or excommunicate out of the church, nor out of our private society, whom yet we must exclude from too much familiarity with us, by way of pru

dence, for the preservation of ourselves. It is not only the openly profane, the swearer, the drunkard, and the enemies of godliness, that will prove hurtful companions to us, though these indeed are to be particularly avoided; but too frequent society with deadhearted formalists, or persons merely civil and moral, may much divert our thoughts from heaven, and do ourselves a great deal of harm. As mere idleness and forgetfulness of God, will keep a soul as certainly from heaven, as a profane, licentious, fleshly life; so also will the useless company of such negligent forgetful persons as surely keep our hearts from heaven, as the company of men more dissolute and profane. Nay, if thou hadst newly been warming thy heart in the contemplation of the blessed joys above, would not their discourse benumb thine affections, and quickly freeze thy heart again? I appeal to the judgment of any man that has tried it, and made observations on the frame of his spirit. Men cannot well talk of one thing, and mind another, especially things of such different natures. In a word, our company will be part of our happiness in heaven, and it is a singular part of our furtherance to it, or hinderance from it. We are usually like the society with which we most converse. He that never found it hard to have a heavenly mind in earthly company, must certainly never have tried the experiment.

IV. As you value the comforts of a heavenly life, beware of a proud and lofty spirit. There is such an antipathy between this sin and God, that thou wilt never get thy heart near him, nor get him near thy heart, as long as this prevails in it. If pride cast the angels out of heaven that were in it, it must needs keep thy heart estranged from it. If it cast our first parents out of paradise, and brought the curse of God on all the creatures here below, it must needs keep our hearts from paradise, and increase our separation from God. Believe it, brethren, a proud heart and a heavenly heart are exceedingly contrary to each other. Intercourse with God will keep men low; and that lowliness will further their intercourse. When a man

is accustomed to be much with God, and is taken up in the study of his glorious attributes, he abhors himself in dust and ashes; and that self-abhorrence is his best preparative to obtain admittance to God again. The delight of God is an humble soul, even he that is contrite, and that trembles at his word; and the delight of an humble soul is in God: and surely, where there is this mutual delight, there will be the freest access, and heartiest welcome, and most frequent converse. Heaven could not hold God and the proud angels together, but an humble soul he makes his dwelling and surely if our dwelling be with him, and his dwelling also be with us, there must needs be a most near and sweet familiarity. But the soul that is proud cannot plead this privilege. God is so far from dwelling with it, that he will not admit it to any near access, but looks upon it afar off. "He resisteth the proud; but he giveth grace to the humble." Well, then, art thou a man of worth in thine own eyes, and very tender of thine esteem with others? Art thou one that much valuest the applause of the people, and feelest elated when thou hearest of thy great esteem with men, and much dejected when thou findest that they slight thee? Dost thou love those best who highly honour thee; and does thy heart bear a grudge at those that thou thinkest do undervalue thee, though they be otherwise men of godliness and honesty? Art thou one that must needs have thy humours fulfilled, and thy judgments a rule to the judgments of others, and thy word a law to all about thee? Art thou ready to quarrel with every man that lets fall a word derogatory to thy honour? Art thou one that honourest the godly that are rich, and thinkest thyself somebody if they value and own thee, but lookest strangely at the godly poor, and art almost ashamed to be their companion? Art thou one that canst not serve God in a low place as well as in a high; and thinkest thyself the fittest for offices and honours; and lovest God's service when it con sists with preferment? Hast thou thine eye and thy speech much on thy own deservings? And are thy

boastings restrained more by prudence than by humi lity? Dost thou delight in opportunities of exhibiting thy talents, and lovest to have thy name made public to the world, and wouldst fain leave behind thee some monument of thy worth, that posterity may admire thee when thou art dead and gone ? Dost thou employ artful circumlocutions to commend thyself, while thou seemest to abase thyself, and deny thy worth? Art thou readier to defend thyself and maintain thine innocency, than to accuse thyself, or confess thy fault? Canst thou hardly bear a close reproof, and dost thou digest plain dealing with difficulty and distaste? Art thou readier in thy discourse to teach than to learn; to dictate to others, than to hearken to their instructions? Art thou bold and confident in thy own opinions, and little suspicious of the weakness of thy understanding, but a slighter of the judgment of all that are against thee? Is thy spirit more disposed to command and govern, than it is to obey and be ruled by others? Art thou ready to censure the doctrine of thy teachers, and to think, if thou wert a minister, thou wouldst be more abundant and more faithful in thy labours? If these symptoms be undeniably in thy heart, beyond doubt thou art a proud person. And can this man possibly have his heart in heaven? It is possible his invention and memory may furnish his tongue both with humble and heavenly expressions, but in his spirit there is no more of heaven than there is of humility.

Brethren, I intreat you to be very jealous of your souls in this point. There is nothing in the world which will more estrange you from God. O Christian, if thou wouldst live continually in the presence of thy Lord, lie in the dust, and he will thence raise thee up. Learn of him to be meek and lowly, and then thou shalt taste of this rest to thy soul. Thy soul else will be "as the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." Instead of sweet delight in God, thy pride will fill thee with perpetual disquietness. As he that "humbleth himself as a little child," shall hereafter "be greatest in the king

dom of heaven," so shall he now be greatest in the foretastes of that kingdom; for as "whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased," so "he that humbleth himself shall," in both these respects, "be exalted."

VI. Beware of slothfulness of spirit. Oh! if it were only the exercise of the body, the moving of the lips the bending of the knee; then it were an easy work indeed, and men would as commonly step to heaven, as they go a few miles to visit a friend. Yea, if it were to spend most of our days in numbering beads, and repeating certain words and prayers, " in a voluntary humility, and neglecting of the body, after the commandments and doctrines of men," it were comparatively easy. Or if it consisted in the outward performance of duties commanded by God, or in the exercise of talents and gifts, though we made such performance our daily trade, it were easy to be heavenly-minded. But it is a work more difficult than any or all of these. To separate our thoughts and affections from the world, to force them to a work of so high a nature, to draw forth all our graces in their order, and to exercise each on its proper object, to hold them to this, till they perceive success, and till the work thrives and prospers in their hands,-this, this is a difficult task. Christian, heaven is above thee, and the way is upward. Dost thou, who art a feeble, unholy creature, think to travel daily this steep ascent, without much labour and resolution? Canst thou get that earthly heart to heaven, and bring that backward mind to God, while thou liest still, and takest thine ease? If lying down at the foot of the hill, and looking toward the top, and wishing we were there, would serve the turn, then we would have daily travellers to heaven. But "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." There must be violence used to get the first-fruits, as well as to get the full possession. Dost thou not feel it so, though I should not tell thee? Dost thou find it easy to dwell on the delights above? It is true, the work is exceedingly sweet; there is no condition on earth so desirable; but therefore it is

« PreviousContinue »