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that our hearts are so backward, especially in the beginning, till we are acquainted with it. O how many hundred professors of religion are there, who can easily bring their hearts to ordinary duties, as reading, hearing, praying, who could never yet, in all their lives, bring them and keep them to a heavenly contemplation one half hour together! Consider here, reader, as before the Lord, whether this be not thine own case. Thou knowest that heaven is thy only hope; thou knowest, that a heart seldom thinking of heaven, can fetch but little comfort thence; and dost thou yet, notwithstanding all this, let slip thy opportunities, and grovel below in mere duties, when thou shouldst walk above, and live with God ? Dost thou commend the sweetness of a heavenly life, and judge those the most excellent Christians that use it, and yet dost thou never once try it thyself? How many hundreds read books, and hear sermons, in expectation of hearing of some easy course, or of meeting with a shorter way to comfort than they are ever likely to find in this world! And if they can hear of none from the preachers of truth, they will snatch it with rejoicing from the teachers of falsehood.
There are also a multitude of professors who come and inquire for marks and signs,—“How shall I know whether my heart be sincere ?” and they think the bare naming of some marks is enough to discover them; but they never employ one hour in trying themselves by the marks they hear. So here they ask for directions for a heavenly life; and if the hearing and knowing of these directions would serve, they would be heavenly Christians. But if we set them to task, and show them their work, and tell them they cannot have these delights on easier terms, then they leave us, as the young man left Christ with sorrow. My advice to such a lazy professor is this: As you are convinced that this work is necessary to thy comfortable living, set about it resolvedly. If thy heart draw back, and be indisposed, force it on with the command of reason; and if thy reason begin to dispute the duty, produce the command of God; and urge it forward by the consideration of thy necessity, and the other motives before propounded. Let not such an incomparable treasure lie before thee, while thou liest still with thy hand in thy bosom. Let not thy life be a continual vexation, while it might be a continual feast. When thou hast once tasted of the sweetness of the duty, and a little accustomed thy heart to it, thou wilt find the pains thou takest with thy backward flesh abundantly recompensed in the pleasures of thy spirit.
As I have seldom known Christians perplexed with doubts about their state, for want of knowing right evidences by which to try themselves, so much as for want of skill and diligence in using them, so have I seldom known a Christian that wants the joys of this heavenly life, for want of knowing the means to get it, but for want of a heart to set about the work, and painfully to use the means they know. It is the field of the slothful” that is overgrown with thorns;" and the desire of the slothful killeth” his joys, because “ his hands refuse to labour." While he lies wishing, his soul lies starving. He says " There is a lion in the way, there is a lion in the streets, and turneth himself on his bed as a door turneth on the hinges : He hideth his hand in his bosom, and it grieveth him to bring it to his mouth," though it be to feed himself with the bread of life. What is this but despising the feast prepared, and setting light by the dear bought pleasures, and consequently, by the precious blood that purchased them, and throwing away our own consolations ? The Holy Spirit has told us, that “he that is slothfui in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” Apply this to thy spiritual work, and study weli the meaning of it.
VII. Beware of contenting yourselves with the mere preparatives to this heavenly life, while you are utter strangers to the life itself. It is a most dangerous thing to take up with the mere study of heavenly things, and the notions and thoughts of them in our understanding, or the talking of them with one another, as if this were all that is necessary to make us heavenly people. There are none in more danger of this snare, than those who are much in public duty, especially ministers of the Gospel. O how easily may they be deceived, while they do nothing more than read of heaven, and study of heaven, and preach of heaven, and pray and talk of heaven! What, is not this a heavenly life! O that God would reveal to our hearts the danger of this snare. Alas! all this is but mere preparation. This is not the life we speak of, though it is indeed, a very useful help thereto. I entreat every one of my brethren in the ministry, that they search and watch against this temptation. Alas! this is but gathering the materials, not erecting the building; this is but gathering the manna for others, not eating and digesting it ourselves. As he that sits at home may study geography, and give very exact descriptions of countries, which yet he never saw nor travelled to; so may you describe to others the joys of heaven, and yet never partake of them yourselves. As a blind man may dispute of light and colours, so may you set forth to others that heavenly light, wherewith your own souls were never enlightened, and bring that fire for the hearts of your people, that never once warmed your own hearts. If you
should study of nothing but heaven while you lived, and preach of nothing but heaven to your people, yet might your own hearts be strangers to it. What heavenly passages had Balaam in his prophecies, yet was there little of it in his spirit. Nay, we are under a more subtle temptation than any other men, to draw us from this heavenly life. If our employments were at a greater distance from heaven, and took up our thoughts about worldly things, we should not be so apt to be contented and deluded; but when we find ourselves employed upon nothing else, we are more easily drawn to take up with it. Studying and preaching of heaven more resembles an heavenly life, than thinking and talking of the world, and the resemblance is apt to deceive us. This is to die a most miserable death, even to famish ourselves, because we have bread on our tables, which is worse than to famish when we cannot get it: it is to die of thirst while we
draw water for others, thinking it enough that we have daily to do with it, though we never drink to the refreshment of our own souls.
HELPS TO HEAVENLY MINDEDNESS.
I[Aving thus shown thee the hinderances in thy way, I shall now lay before thee some general helps to a heavenly life. But first, I expect that thou wilt resolve against the hinderances now mentioned, and avoid them faithfully, or else thy labour will be all in vain. Thou dost but go about to reconcile light and darkness, Christ and Belial, heaven and hell in thy spirit, if thou do not this. I must tell thee also, that I expect thy promise, faithfully to use the helps which I shall offer to thee; and that the reading of them will not bring heaven into thy heart, but the constant practice of them will do it. It were better for thee I had never written them, and thou hadst never read them, if thou do not buckle on thy armour for this exercise. As then thou valuest the delights of these foretastes of heaven, make conscience of performing the following duties :
I. Impress thy heart with the consideration that heaven is the only treasure, and labour to know also what a treasure it is. If thou do not truly believe it to be the chief good, thou wilt never set thy heart upon it. This must not only be the conviction of thy understanding, but it must sink deep into thy affections; for if it be only a notion in thy head, it will never much influence thy heart. As long as your judgments undervalue it, your affections must needs be cold towards it. If your judgment prefer the delights of the flesh before the delights in the presence of God, it is impossible that your hearts should be in heaven. As it is ignorance of the emptiness of things
below that makes men so overvalue them; so it is ignorance of the high delights above, which is the cause that men so little mind them.
II. Labour to know heaven not merely as the only happiness, but as thy own happiness. Though the knowledge of excellency and suitableness may excite that love which works by desire; yet there must be the knowledge of our interest in it, to produce our love of complacency. We may confess heaven to be the best condition, though we despair of enjoying it; and we may desire and seek it, if we see the acquisition of it to be but probable and hopeful : but we can never delightfully rejoice in it, till we are somewhat persuaded
of our title to it. What comfort is it to a man that is naked, to see the rich attire of others; or to a man that is hungry, to see a feast of which he must not taste ? Would not all this rather increase his anguish, and make him more sensible of his own misery ? So, for a man to know the excellencies of heaven, and not to know whether he shall ever enjoy them, may well excite desire, but it will raise but little joy in his bosom. Otherefore, Christians, rest not till you can call this rest your own. Sit not down without assurance. Get alone, and bring thy heart to the bar of trial; force it to answer the interrogatories put to it; set the qualifications of the saints on one side, and the qualifications of thy soul on the other side, and then judge what resemblance there is between them. Thou hast the same word before thee, by which to judge thyself now, as thou shalt be judged by at the great day. Thou mayest
, there read the very articles upon which thou shalt be tried; try thyself by these articles now. . Thou mayest there know beforehand on what terms men shall then be acquitted or condemned. Try now whether thou art possessed of that which will acquit thee, or whether thou be in the condition of those that will be condemned; and accordingly acquit or condemn thyself. Yet be sure thou judge by a true touchstone, and mistake not the Scripture description of a saint, that thou neither acquit nor condemn thyself by mistake;