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"Praise the Lord, for He is good; sing praises unto his name, for it is pleasant."
VIII. If thou wouldst have thy heart in heaven, keep thy soul possessed with believing thoughts of the infinite love of God. The Scripture tells us, that "God is love," "that he delighteth not in the death of him that dieth, but rather that he repent and live.” He testifieth his love in an especial manner to his chosen, and his full resolution to save them. Oh! if we could always think of God, as we do of a friend, -as of one that unfeignedly loves us, even more than we love ourselves; whose very heart is set upon us to do us good, and who has therefore provided us an everlasting dwelling with himself, it would not then be so hard to have our heart ever with him. Nothing will more quicken our love to God, than the belief of his love to us. Get therefore exalted ideas of the love of God, and lay up all the experiences and discoveries of his love to thee; and then see if it will not further thy heavenly mindedness.
IX. Carefully observe the drawings of the Spirit, and fear to quench his motions, or to resist his workings. If ever thy soul get above this earth, and learn to live in heaven, the Spirit of God must be to thee as the chariot to Elijah, the living principle by which thou must move and ascend. O then grieve not thy guide, quench not thy life, knock not off thy chariotwheels. If thou do, no wonder if thy soul be at a loss, and all stand still, or fall to the earth. You little think how much the life of all your graces, and the happiness of your souls, depend upon your ready and cordial obedience to the Spirit. When he urges thee to secret prayer, and thou refusest obedience; when he forbids thee any sin, and yet thou wilt practise it; when he tells thee the way in which thou shouldst go, and thou wilt not walk therein, no wonder if heaven and thy soul be strangers. If thou wilt not follow the Spirit while he would draw thee to Christ, and to thy duty, how should he lead thee to heaven, and bring thy heart into the presence of God? O what supernatural help,-what bold access shall that
soul find in its approaches to God, that is accustomed to obey the Spirit! But how backward, how dull, how strange will he be in these approaches, who has been accustomed to resist the Spirit that would have guided him! I beseech thee, Christian, learn well this lesson, and try this course; let the very thoughts of thy heart be at the Spirit's direction. Dost thou not sometimes feel a strong impulse to retire from the world, and to draw near to God? O do not thou disobey, but hoist up sail while thou mayest have this blessed gale. When the wind blows strongest, thou goest fastest, either backward or forward. The more we resist the Spirit, the deeper will it wound; the more we obey, the speedier will be our pace.
Lastly, Neglect not due care for the health of thy body, and for maintaining cheerfulness in thy spirits; but yet do not over pamper and please thy flesh. Learn how to carry thyself with prudence to thy body. It is a useful servant, if thou give it but its due. It is a cruel tyrant, if thou give it the mastery. When we consider how frequently men run into each of these extremes, and how few use their bodies aright, we cannot wonder if they be much hindered in their heavenly course. Most men are slaves to their sensual appetites, and can scarcely deny any thing to the flesh. Look to this specially, ye that are young and healthful. As you love your souls, remember that declaration of Paul, which was the means of Augustine's conversion," Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the desires thereof." Some few hinder their heavenly joy, by over-rigorously denying the body what is necessary, and so making it unable to serve them. If they who abuse their bodies, and neglect their health, wronged the flesh only, the matter were small; but they wrong the soul also, as he that spoils the house wrongs the inhabitant. When the body is sick, the spirits will languish, and will move heavily in these heavenly meditations and joys. Yet where God denies this mercy, we may the better bear it, because he oft occasions our benefit by the denial.
THE NATURE OF HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION.
THOUGH I hope what I have already said will be found useful, yet I have observed the maxim, that my principal end be last in execution, though it was first in my intention. All I have said is but a preparation to this.
The duty which I press so earnestly, I shall now describe more particularly; for I suppose by this time the reader is ready to inquire, What is this work which is so highly extolled? Why, it is the set and solemn acting of all the powers of the soul by meditation on the everlasting rest. I will explain a little more fully the meaning of this description, that so the duty may appear plain.
I. The general title that I give this duty is meditation, taken in the larger and usual sense for cogitation on things spiritual, and so comprehending consideration and contemplation.
That meditation is a duty of God's appointment, not only in his written law, but also in nature itself, I never met with the man that would deny; but that it is a duty constantly and conscientiously practised even by the godly, so far as my acquaintance extends, I must, with sorrow, deny. It is in words confessed to be a duty by all, but in their practice, it is denied by most. And I know not by what fatality it happens, that men who are very conscientious, as to most other duties, do as easily overslip this, as if they knew it not to be a duty at all. They that are troubled, if they omit but a sermon, a fast, a prayer in public or private, were yet never troubled that they have omitted meditation, perhaps all their life time to this very day; though it be that auty by which all other duties are
improved, and by which the soul digests truths, and draws forth their strength for its nourishment and refreshing. What good therefore, these men are like to get by sermons or providences, who are unacquainted with, and unaccustomed to, this work of meditation, you may easily judge: and why so much preaching is lost among us, and professors can run from sermon to sermon, and are never weary of hearing or reading, and yet have such languishing starved souls, I know no greater cause than their neglect of meditation.
II. I call this exercise the acting of "all" the powers of the soul, to distinguish it from the ordinary medita tion of students, which is usually the mere employment of the intellect. It is not a bare thinking that I mean, nor the mere exercise of invention or memory, but a business of a higher and more excellent nature. When truth is apprehended only as truth, this is but a tasteless apprehension; but when it is apprehended as good, as well as true, this is a delightful apprehension. As a man is not apt to live according to the truth he knows, unless it deeply affect him; so neither does he enjoy its sweetness, except speculation pass into affection. The understanding is not the whole soul, and therefore, cannot do the whole work. As God has made the different organs of the body to perform their several offices for the nourishment of his corporeal frame; so has he ordained the faculties of the soul to perform their several offices for the maintenance of his spiritual life. The understanding must take in truths, and prepare them for the will, and the will must receive them, and commend them to the affections. While truth is but a speculation swimming in the brain, the soul has not half received it, nor taken fast hold of it. Christ and heaven have various excellencies, and therefore, God has formed the soul with powers of various kinds for apprehending them, that so we may be capable of enjoying these various excellencies of Christ.
This is, therefore, the great task that I would set thee on, to get these truths from thy head into thy heart
that all the sermons which thou hast heard of heaven and all the views thou hast formed of the heavenly rest, may be turned into animated affection, and thou mayest feel them revive thee, and warm thee at thy heart, and mayest so think of heaven, as heaven should be thought of.
As the affections of sinners are set on the world, and fallen from God, as well as the understanding, so must the affections of men be reduced to God, and taken up with him, as well as the understanding: and as the whole soul was filled with sin before, so the whole must now be filled with God. As Paul said of knowledge, and gifts, and faith to remove mountains, If thou have all these but have not love, thou art but "as sounding brass, or as a tinkling cymbal;" so I may say of the exercise of these, If in this work of meditation thou exercise knowledge, and gifts, and faith of miracles, but not love, and hope, and joy, thou doest nothing, thou playest the child, not the man, the part of sinners, not of saints: for unconverted persons may do so also. If thy meditations only fill thy note-book with notions and good sayings concerning God, but not thy heart with longings after him and delight in him, for ought I know, thy book is as much a Christian as thou.
III. I call this meditation "set and solemn," to distinguish it from that which is occasional and cursory. As there is prayer which is solemn when we set ourselves wholly to the duty, and prayer which is sudden and short, commonly called ejaculatory, when, in the midst of other business, we send up some brief request to God; so also there is meditation which is solemn, i. e. when we apply ourselves only to that work; and there is a meditation which is short and cursory, i. e. when in the midst of business we have some good thoughts of God and heavenly things. Now, though I would persuade you to that meditation which is mixed with your ordinary labours, and to that which special occasions direct you to, yet these are not the chief things which I here intend; but that you would make it a constant standing duty, as you