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OF THE MANAGEMENT OF THE HEART IN HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION.
LASTLY, I proceed to guide you in managing your hearts through this work, and to show you wherein you have need to be exceedingly watchful. I have shown before, what must be done with your hearts in your preparation for the work, and in your setting about it; I shall now show what is to be done with your hearts in the performance of the duty. Our chief work will here be, to discover to you the danger, and that will direct you to the fittest remedy. Let me, therefore, here tell you, that whenever you set about this heavenly employment, you will find your own hearts your greatest hinderance, and they will prove false to you in one or all of these four degrees: first, they will be so backward, that you will hardly get them to engage in the work; or, secondly,— they will betray you by their idleness in the work, pretending to do it when they do it not; or, thirdly,— they will interrupt the work by their frequent excursions, and turning aside to every object which presents itself; or, fourthly, they will spoil the work by cutting it short, and be gone before you have done any good in it. I, therefore, forewarn you, as you value the inestimable comfort of this work, that you faithfully resist these four dangerous evils, or else all I have said hitherto will be in vain.
I. Guard against the backwardness of thy heart to this work. Thou wilt find it as backward to this, I think, as to any duty in the world. O what excuses
it will make! what evasions it will find out! Either it will question, whether it be a duty or not; be so to others, yet whether it be so to thee.
or if it
take up any thing like reason to plead against it; it will tell thee, that this is a work for ministers that have nothing else to study; or for persons that have more leisure than thou hast. If thou be a minister, it will tell thee, this is the duty of the people; that thou hast this company to wait upon, or that business must be done. It may be, it will set thee upon some other duty, and so make one duty jostle out another; for it had rather go to any duty than to this. Perhaps it will tell thee that other duties are greater, and therefore this must give place to them, because thou hast not time for both. Public business is of more concernment; to study and to preach for the saving of souls must be preferred before these private contemplations; as if thou hadst no time to see to the saving of thy own soul, for looking after the souls of others! Or if thy heart has nothing to say against the work, then it will trifle away the time in delays, and promise this day and the next, and still keep off from doing the business. Or, lastly, if thou wilt not be so baffled with excuses and delays, thy heart will give thee an express denial, and draw back with all the strength it has.
Well, then, what is to be done in this case? Wilt thou do it if I tell thee? Why, what wouldst thou do with a servant that was thus backward to his work; or to thy beast that should draw back, when thou wouldst have him go forward? Wouldst thou not first persuade, and then chide, and then spur him, and then force him on, and take no denial, nor let him alone, till thou hadst got him closely to fall to his work? Deal thus faithfully with thy heart; persuade it to the work; take no denial; chide it for its backwardness; use violence with it; bring it to the service, willing, or not willing. Art thou the master of thy flesh, or art thou a servant to it? Take up the authority again which God has given thee; command thy heart. If it rebel, use violence with it. If thou be too weak, call in the Spirit of Christ to thy assistance. He is never backward to so good á work, nor will deny thee his help in so just a cause. God will
be ready to help thee, if thou be not unwilling to help thyself.
II. Guard against the idleness of thy heart, lest it trifle when it should be effectually meditating. Certainly, thy heart is as likely to betray thee in this, as in any one particular about the duty. When thou hast perhaps but an hour for meditation, the time will be spent before thy heart will be serious. This doing of duty as if we did it not, undoes as many as the positive omission of it. To spend the hour in a lazy thinking of heaven, is but to lose that hour, and delude thyself. Well, what is to be done in this case? Keep thine eye always upon thy heart; look not so much to the time thou spendest in the duty, as to the quantity and quality of the work that is done.
I would not have thee of the judgment of those who think that while they are so backward to the duty, it is better to let it alone; and if mere love will not bring them to it, but there must be all this violence used to compel it, that then the service is worse than the omission. These men understand not, that this argument would cashier all spiritual obedience, because the hearts of the best being but partly sanctified, will ever be resisting so far as they are carnal. Neither do they understand well the corruption of their own natures; nor, that their sinful indisposedness will not baffle or suspend the commands of God; nor one sin excuse another. Love, I know, is a most precious grace, and should have the chief interest in all our duties: but there are means appointed by God to procure this love and shall I not use those means, till I can use them from love? That were to neglect the means till I have the end. Must I not seek to procure love, till I have it already? There are means also for the increasing of love where it is begun; and means for the exciting of it where it is cold and dull. And must I not use these means, till it is increased and excited? Why, this duty which I am recommending is the most powerful means both to stir up thy love, and to increase it; and therefore, stay not from the duty, till thou feel thy love constrain
thee. That were to stay from the fire, till thou feel thyself warm; but fall to the work, till thou art constrained to love: and then love will constrain thee to further duty.
Let nothing, therefore, hinder thee while thou art upon the work, from plying thy heart with constant watchfulness and constraint, seeing thou hast such experience of its dulness and backwardness: let the spur be never out of its side; and whenever it slacks pace, be sure to give it new remembrances of its duty.
III. Guard against the wandering of thy heart in this duty. It will ever be ready to make excursions when you are engaged in the work. It will be turning aside like a careless servant, to talk with every one that passes by. When there should be nothing in thy mind, but the work in hand, it will be thinking of thy calling, or of thy afflictions, of every bird, or tree, or place thou seest, or of any impertinency, rather than of heaven. The cure here is the same as before, to use watchfulness and violence with your own imaginations, and as soon as they step aside to chide them in. Say to thy heart, "What! did I come hither to think of my business, or of my afflictions,of places, and persons, and news, aye, of any thing but heaven? What! canst thou not watch one hour? Wouldst thou leave this world, and dwell in heaven with Christ for ever; and canst thou not leave it one hour out of thy thoughts, nor dwell with Christ in one hour's close meditation ?" Ask thy heart, Is this thy love to thy friend? Dost thou love Christ, and the place of thy eternal abode no more than this?
Lastly, beware lest thy heart cut short the work before the time, and run away through weariness, before you have done any good in it. Thou wilt find it will be exceedingly prone to this. Thou mayest easily perceive this in other duties. If thou set thyself to pray in secret, is not thy heart ever urging thee to cut it short? Dost thou not frequently find a motion to have done? Art thou not ready to be up as soon almost as thou art down on thy knees? Why, so it will be also in thy contemplations of heaven. As fast
as thou gettest up thy heart, it will be down again: it will be weary of the work; it will be reminding thee of other business to be executed, and stop thy heavenly walk, before thou hast well begun it. Well, what is to be done in this case? Why the same authority and resolution, which brought it to the work, and watched it in the work, must also hold it to the work till it be done. Charge it in the name of God to stay: Say to it, If thou beg a while, and go away before thou receivest thy alms, dost thou not lose thy labour? If thou stop before thou art at the end of thy journey, is not every step of thy travel lost? Thou comest hither to take a walk to heaven, in the hope of having a sight of the glory which thou must inherit; and wilt thou stop when thou art almost at the top of the hill; and turn again before thou hast taken thy survey? Thou camest hither in the hope of speaking with God, and wilt thou go before thou hast seen him? Stand to the work, till something be done, till thy graces be called into action, thy affections raised, and thy soul refreshed with heavenly delights; or if thou canst not obtain these ends at once, ply it the closer the next time, and let it not go till thou feel the blessing. "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he comes, shall find so doing."
The sum of all, then, is this; as thou makest conscience of praying daily, so do thou of exercising thy graces in meditation; and especially in meditating on the joys of heaven. To this end, set apart one hour or half an hour every day, wherein thou mayest lay aside all worldly thoughts, and with all possible seriousness and reverence, as if thou wast going to speak with God himself, or to have a sight of Christ, or of that blessed place. Do thou withdraw thyself into some secret place, and set thyself wholly to the work. If thou canst, choose Isaac's time and place, who went forth into the field in the evening to meditate: take the fittest time and place thou canst, though it be when thou art employed about thy ordinary labours.
When thou settest about the work, look up toward heaven; let thine eye lead thee as near as it can;