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do hearing, and praying, and reading the Scripture ;that you would solemnly set yourselves about it, and make it for the time your whole work, and intermix other matters no more with it than you would do with prayer or other duties.
IV. This meditation has for its object " everlasting rest," or the blessed state of man in the enjoyment of God in heaven. Meditation has as many objects to work upon, as there are matters in the Scriptures,as there are creatures in the whole creation,—and as there are particular events of Providence in the government of the world; but the meditation that I now direct you to, is only of the end of all these, and of these as they refer to that end. I would not have you lay aside your other meditations; but surely as heaven has the pre-eminence in perfection, so should it have the pre-eminence in our meditation. That which will make us most happy when we possess it, will make us most joyful when we meditate upon it; especially when that meditation is a degree of possession, if it be such affecting meditation as I have now described.
You need not be troubled with the fears of the world, lest studying so much these high matters, should make you mad. If I had set you to meditate as much on sin and wrath, to study nothing but judgment and damnation, then you might justly fear such an issue. But it is heaven, not hell, that I would persuade you to walk in: it is joy, not sorrow that I would persuade you to exercise. It is no deformed object on which I urge you to look, but the ravishing glory of the saints, on the unspeakable excellencies of the God of glory, on the beams which stream from the face of him "who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.' And are these saddening and maddening thoughts? Will it distract a man to think of his only happiness? Will it distract the miserable to think of mercy, or the captive to foresee deliverance, or the poor to think of approaching riches and honours? Methinks it should be likelier to make a man mad, to think of living in a world of woe, to think of abiding in poverty and sickness, to think of
dwelling amidst the rage of wicked men, than to think of being with Christ in glory. Methinks, if we be not mad already, it should soon distract us, to hear the tempests and roaring waves, to see the billows, and rocks, and gulfs, and sands, than to think of arriving safe into the haven of rest. But "wisdom is justified of all her children." Knowledge has no enemy but the ignorant. This heavenly course was never spoken against by any, but those that either never knew it, or never used it. I fear more the neglect of men who profess to approve it, than the opposition or arguments of those who are against it. Truth loses more by loose friends, than by its sharpest enemies.
Having thus explained to you my definition of heavenly contemplation, I shall now briefly notice those acts of the soul in which it consists. These are chiefly three, Consideration,-Soliloquy,-Prayer.
I. CONSIDERATION.-The great instrument of this work is reasoning the case with yourselves, or, as I have just styled it, consideration or meditation. I here suppose you to know the things to be considered, and therefore, shall wholly pass over that meditation of students which tends only to speculation or knowing. They are known truths that I persuade you to consider; for the grossly ignorant that know not the doctrine of everlasting life, are, for the present, incapable of this duty.
Let me here briefly notice the uses of Consideration, or what force it has for moving the affections, and for impressing things on the heart.
1. Consideration opens as it were the door between the head and the heart. The understanding having received truths, lays them up in the memory ; and consideration conveys them from thence to the affections. There are few men of so weak understanding or memory, but they know and can remember that which would strangely work upon them, and make great alterations in their spirits, if they were not locked up in their brain, and if they could but convey them to the heart. Now, this is the great work of consideration.
2. Consideration presents to the affections those objects which are of most weight and interest. The most delectable object does not please him that sees it not; nor does the most joyful news affect him that never hears it. Now, consideration presents before us those objects that were absent, and brings them to the eye and ear of the soul. Are not Christ, and glory, think you, affecting objects? Would they not work wonders upon the soul, if they were but clearly discovered, and powerfully transport us, if our apprehension of them were in any degree correspondent to their worth? Now, it is by consideration that they are presented to us: this is the perspective glass of the Christian, by which he can see from earth to heaven.
3. Consideration presents things in the most affecting way, and presses them home with the most powerful arguments. Man is a rational creature, and apt to be moved by reasoning; especially when the reasons are evident and strong. Now, consideration is just reasoning the case with a man's own heart; and what a multitude of reasons, both clear and weighty, are always at hand to work upon the heart! When a believer would reason his heart to this heavenly work how many arguments offer themselves, from God, from Christ, from our former estate, from our present state, from promises, from earnests, from the evil we now suffer, from the good we enjoy, from heaven, from hell! Every thing offers itself to promote our joy. Now, meditation is but the reading over and repeating God's reasons to our hearts, and so disputing with ourselves by his arguments. And is not this likely to be a prevailing way? What powerful reasons does the prodigal plead with himself, why he should return to his father's house! Now, we surely have as many and strong reasons to plead with our affections, to persuade them to our Father's everlasting habitations. And by consideration it is that they must all be set to work.
4. Consideration invests reason with its just authority and prerogative. It helps to deliver it from its
captivity to the senses and sets it again upon the throne of the soul. When reason is silent, it is usually subject. When it is asleep, the senses or imagination domineer. Now consideration awakens our reason from its sleep, till it rouse up itself as Sampson, and break the bonds of sensuality wherewith it is fettered. It is easy and ordinary to sin against knowledge; but against serious, strong, continued consideration, men do more seldom offend.
Lastly, Consideration can continue the employment as long as it is necessary. That may be accomplished by a weaker motion continued, which will not by a stronger at the first attempt. To run a few steps will not get a man heat, but walking an hour together may; so, though a sudden occasional thought of heaven will not raise our affections to any spiritual heat, yet meditation can continue our thoughts, and lengthen our walk till our hearts grow warm.
Thus, you see, what force consideration or meditation has for effecting this great elevation of the soul, of which it is a primary instrument.
II. SOLILOQUY.-Though the first and chief instrument of this work is, that cogitation, or consideration, which I have just explained, and which is to go along with us through the whole, yet, because mere cogitation, if it be not pressed home, will not pierce and affect the heart, we must proceed to the next step, which is called Soliloquy, and which is nothing but a pleading the case with our own souls. As in preaching to others, the simple propounding and explaining of doctrines and duties seldom finds so much success as the lively application, so it is also in meditating and propounding truths to ourselves. The moving, pathetical pleadings with a sinner, will make him deeply affected with a common truth, which though he knew it, yet never before stirred him. Now, thus must thou do in thy meditations, to quicken thy own heart. Enter into serious debate with it; plead with it in the most moving and affecting language; urge it with the most weighty and powerful arguments. This soliloquy, or self-conference, has been the practice of 24*
holy men of God in all times. How David pleads with his soul against its dejections, and argues it into holy confidence and comfort, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." The like you may see in the meditations of holy men of later times, as Augustine, Bernard, and others, so that this is no new path which I persuade you to tread, but that which saints have ever used in their meditations.
This soliloquy has its several parts, and its due method wherein it should be managed. The parts of it are according to the several affections of the soul, to the several necessities thereof, to the various arguments to be used, and to the different ways of arguing. As every good master and father of a family is a good preacher to his own family, so every good Christian is a good preacher to his own soul. Soliloquy is preaching to ourselves. Mark the most affecting heart-melting minister; observe his course both for matter and manner; set him as a pattern before thee for thy imitation; and the same way that he takes with the hearts of his people, do thou also take with thy own heart.
III. PRAYER.-In heavenly contemplation we must rise, from speaking to ourselves, to speak to God. Prayer is not such a stranger to this exercise but that ejaculatory requests may be intermixed with it, and that as a part of the duty. How often does David intermix these in his Psalms, sometimes pleading with his soul, and sometimes with God. This keeps the soul sensible of the divine presence; it tends also exceedingly to quicken and raise it: so that as God is the highest object of our thoughts, so our contemplation of him, and our speaking to him, and pleading with him, more elevate the soul, and excite the