Page images

sleep? remember the inconceivable refreshment praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our with Christ. Dost thou hear any good news ? lips, giving thanks to his name.' Had not David remember what glad tidings it will be, to hear a most heavenly spirit, who was so much in this the trump of God, and the applauding sentence heavenly work ? Doth it not sometimes raise our of Christ. Art thou delighted with the society hearts, when we only read the song of Moses, of the saints ? remember what the perfect society and the psalms of David ? How much more in heaven will be. Is God communicating him would it raise and refresh us, to be skilful and self to thy spirit? remember the time of thy frequent in the work ourselves! O the madness highest advancement, when both thy communion of youth, that lay out their vigour of body and and joy shall be full. Dost thou hear the raging mind upon vain delights and fleshly lusts, which noise of the wicked, and the confusions of the is so unfit for the noblest work of man! And O world ? think of the blessed harmony in heaven. the sinful felly of many of the saints, who drench Dost thou hear the tempest of war? remember their spirits in continual sadness, and waste their the day, when thou shalt be in perfect peace, days in complaints and groans, and so make under the wings of the Prince of peace for ever. themselves, both in body and mind, unfit for this Thus, every condition, and creature, affords us sweet and heavenly work! Instead of joining advantages for a heavenly life, if we had but with the people of God in his praises, they are hearts to improve them.

questioning their worthiness, and studying their 17. (7.) Be much in the angelical work of miseries, and so rob God of his glory, and thempraise. The more heavenly the employment, the selves of their consolation. But the greatest demore it will make the Spirit heavenly. Praising stroyer of our comfort in this duty, is our taking God is the work of angels and saints in heaven, up with the tune and melody, and suffering the and will be our own everlasting work ; and if heart to be idle, which ought to perform the we were more in it now, we should be liker to principal part of the work, and use the melody what we shall be then. As desire, faith, and to revive and exhilarate itself. hope, are of shorter continuance than love and 19. (8.) Ever keep thy soul possessed with joy; so also preaching, prayer, and sacraments, believing thoughts of the infinite love of God. and all means for expressing and confirming our Love is the attractive of love. Few so vile, but faith and hope, shall cease, when our triumphant will love those that love them. No doubt it is the expressions of love and joy shall abide for ever. death of our heavenly life to have hard thoughts The liveliest emblem of heaven that I know upon of God, to conceive of him as one that would earth is, when the people of God, in the deep rather condemn than save us. This is to put the sense of his excellency and bounty, from hearts blessed God into the similitude of Satan. When abounding with love and joy, join together both our ignorance and unbelief have drawn the most in heart and voice, in the cheerful and melodious deformed picture of God in our imaginations, singing of his praises. These delights, like the then we complain that we cannot love him, nor testimony of the Spirit, witness themselves to be delight in him. This is the case of many thouof God, and bring the evidence of their heavenly sand Christians. Alas, that we should thus blasparentage along with them.

pheme God, and blast our own joys! Scripture 18. Little do we know how we wrong ourselves assures us, that . God is love ; that fury is not by shutting out of our prayers the praises of in him ; that he hath no pleasure in the death God, or allowing them so narrow a room as we of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his usually do, while we are copious enough in our way and live. Much more hath he testified his confessions and petitions. Reader, i entreat love to his chosen, and his full resolution effecthee, remember this, let praises have a larger tually to save them. O that we could always room in thy duties ; keep matter ready at hand think of God as we do of a friend; as of one to feed thy praise, as well as matter for confession that unfeignedly loves us, even more than we do and petition. To this end, study the excellencies ourselves ; whose very heart is set upon us to and goodness of the Lord, as frequently as thy do us good, and hath therefore provided for us own wants and unworthiness; the mercies thou an everlasting dwelling with himself ! it would hast received, and those which are promised, as not then be so hard to have our hearts ever with often as the sins thou hast committed. •Praise him! Where we love most heartily, we shall is comely for the upright. Whoso offereth think most sweetly and most freely. I fear praise, glorifieth God. Praise ye the Lord, for most Christians think higher of the love of a the Lord is good; sing praises unto his name, hearty friend, than of the love of God; and for it is pleasant. Let us offer the sacrifice of what wonder then if they love their friends bet1097

6 z

ter than God, and trust them more confidently enmity against God, for it is not subject to the than God, and had rather live with them than law of God, neither indeed can be. So then with God.

they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 20. (9.) Carefully observe and cherish the Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the motions of the Spirit of God. If ever thy soul flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after zet above this earth, and get acquainted with the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the this heavenly life, the Spirit of God must be to Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall thee as the chariot to Elijah ; yea, the very liv- live.' There are a few, who much hinder their ing principle by which thou must move and heavenly joy, by denying the body its necessarascend. O then, grieve not thy guide, quench ies, and so making it unable to serve them : if not thy life, knock not off thy chariot wheels ! such wronged their flesh only, it would be no You little think how much the life of all your great matter ; but they wrong their souls also ; graces, and the happiness of your souls, depend as he that spoils the house, injures the inhabiupon your ready and cordial obedience to the tants. When the body is sick, and the spirits Spirit. When the Spirit urges thee to secret languish, how heavily do we move in the thoughts prayer, or forbids thee thy known transgressions; and joys of heaven! or points out to thee the way in which thou shouldst go; and thou wilt not regard, no wonder if heaven and thy soul be strange. If thou wilt

CHAPTER XIII. not follow the Spirit, while it would draw thee to Christ and thy duty; how should it lead thee THE NATURE OF HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION, WITH

THE TIME, PLACE, AND TEMPER, FITTEST FOR IT. to heaven, and bring thy heart into the presence of God? What supernatural help, what bold Sect. 1. The duty of heavenly contemplation is recommended to the

Reader, 2. and defined. 3--6. (I.) The definition is illustrated. 7. access, shall the soul find in its approaches to (II.) The time fittest for it is represented, as, 8. (1.) stated ; 9—12 the Almighty, that constantly obeys the Spirit ?

(2.) frequent ; 13. and (3.) seasonable every day, particularly every

Lord's day, 14-17. but more especially, when our hearts are And how backward, how dull, how ashamed, warmed with a sense of divine things; or when we are afflicted or

tempted; or when we are near death : 18. (111.) The fittest place will he be in these addresses, who hath often

for it, is the most retired: 19. (IV.) And the temper fittest for it, broken away from the Spirit that would have

is, 20. (1.) when our minds are most clear of the world, 21. (2.) and

most solemn and serious. guided him ? Christian Reader, dost thou not feel sometimes a strong impression to retire from 1. Once more I entreat thee, Reader, as thou the world, and draw near to God? Do not dis- makest conscience of a revealed duty, and darest obey, but take the offer, and hoist up thy sails not wilfully resist the Spirit; as thou valuest the while this blessed gale may be had. The more high delights of a saint, and the soul-ravishing of the Spirit we resist, the deeper will it wound; exercise of heavenly contemplation ; that thou and the more we obey, the speedier will be our diligently study, and speedily and faithfully pace.

practise, the following directions. If, by this 21. (10.) I advise thee, as a further help to means, thou dost not find an increase of all thy this heavenly life, not to neglect the due care graces, and dost not grow beyond the stature of of thy bodily health. Thy body is a useful sera common Christians, and art not made more servant, if thou give it its due, and no more than viceable in thy place, and more precious in the


eyes of all discerning persons ; if thy soul enjoy thou suffer it to have what it unreasonably desires; and it is as a blunted knife, if thou un- not fuller of comfort, and hast it not readier by justly deny it what is necessary to its support. thee at a dying hour; then cast away these diWhen we consider, how frequently men offend rections, and exclaim against me for ever as a in both extremes, and how few use their bodies deceiver. aright, we cannot wonder if they be much hin- 2. The duty which I press upon thee so eardered in their converse with heaven. Most men nestly, and in the practice of which I am now are slaves to their appetites, and can scarcely to direct thee, is, · The set and solemn acting of deny any thing to the flesh, and are therefore all the powers of thy soul in meditation upon thy willingly carried by it to their sports, or profits, everlasting rest. More fully to explain the naor vain companions, when they should raise their ture of this duty, I will here illustrate a little minds to God and heaven. As you love your the description itself—then point out the fittest souls,“ make not provisions for the flesh, to fulfil time, place, and temper of mind, for it. the lusts thereof;' but remember,' to be carnally 3. (I.) It is not improper to illustrate a little minded, is death ; because the carnal mind is the manner in which we have described this duty of meditation, or the considering and contem- , thou possibly receive by thy meditations on eterplating of spiritual things. It is confessed to be nity, while thou dost not exercise those affections a duty by all, but practically denied by most of the soul, by which thou must be sensible of Many that make conscience of other duties, this sweetness and strength? It is the mistake easily neglect this. They are troubled, if they of Christians to think that meditation is only the omit a sermon, a fast, or a prayer, in public or work of the understanding and memory; when private ; yet were never troubled that they have every school-boy can do this, or persons that omitted meditation, perhaps all their lifetime to hate the things which they think on. So that this very day; though it be that duty by which you see there is more to be done than barely to all other duties are improved, and by which the remember and think on heaven : as some labours soul digesteth truths for its nourishment and not only stir a hand, or a foot, but exercise the comfort. It was God's command to Joshua, whole body; so doth meditation the whole soul. * This book of the law shall not depart out of As the affections of sinners are set on the world, thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day are turned to idols, and fallen from God, as well and night, that thou mayest observe to do ac- as their understanding ; so must their affections cording to all that is written therein.' As diges- be reduced to God, as well as the understandtion turns food into chyle and blood, for vigor- ing; and as their whole soul was filled with sin ous health ; so meditation turns the truths re- before, so the whole must be filled with God ceived and remembered into warm affection, firm now. See David's description of the blessed resolution, and holy conversation.

man, · His delight is in the law of the Lord, and 4. This meditation is the acting of all the in his law doth he meditate day and night.' powers of the soul. It is the work of the living, 5. This meditation is set and solemn. As and not of the dead. It is a work, of all others there is solemn prayer, when we set ourselves the most spiritual and sublime, and therefore not wholly to that duty; and ejaculatory prayer, to be well performed by a heart that is merely when, in the midst of other business we send carnal and earthly. They must necessarily have up some short request to God : so also there is some relation to heaven, before they can fami- solemn meditation, when we apply ourselves liarly converse there. I suppose them to be such wholly to that work; and transient meditation, as have a title to rest, when I persuade them to when, in the midst of other business, we have rejoice in the meditations of rest. And supposing some good thoughts of God in our minds. And, thee to be a Christian, I am now exhorting thee as solemn prayer is either set, in a constant to be an active Christian. And it is the work of course of duty, or occasional, at an extraordinary the soul I am setting thee to, for bodily exercise season ; so also is meditation. Now, though I doth here profit but little. And it must have all would persuade you to that meditation which the

powers of the soul to distinguish it from the is mixed with your common labours, and also common meditation of students ; for the under that which special occasions direct you to; yet standing is not the whole soul ; and therefore I would have you likewise make it a constant cannot do the whole work. As in the body, the standing duty, as you do by hearing, praying, and stomach must turn the food into chyle, and pre- reading the scriptures; and no more intermix pare for the liver, the liver and spleen turn it into other matters with it, than you

would with prayer, blood, and prepare for the heart and brain; so or other stated solemnities.

in the soul, the understanding must take in 6. This meditation is upon thy everlasting

truths, and prepare them for the will, and that rest. I would not have you cast off your for the affections. Christ and heaven have var- other meditations; but surely as heaven hath ious excellencies, and therefore God hath formed the pre-eminence in perfection, it should have it the soul with different powers for apprehending also in our meditation. That which will make us those excellencies. What the better had we been most happy when we possess it, will make us for odoriferous flowers, if we had no smell? or most joyful when we meditate upon it. Other what good would language or music have done meditations are as numerous as there are lines us, if we could not hear ? or what pleasure should in the scripture, or creatures in the universe, we have found in meats and drinks, without the or particular providences in the government sense of taste ? So, what good could all the of the world. But this is a walk to Mount glory of heaven have done us, or what pleasure Zion; from the kingdoms of this world to the should we have had in the perfection of God him- kingdom of saints; from earth to heaven ; from self, if we had been without the affections of love time to eternity ; it is walking upon sun, moon, and joy? And what strength or sweetness canst and stars, in the garden and paradise of God. It



may seem far off; but spirits are quick; whether | at least. Frequency in heavenly contemplation in the body, or out of the body, their motion is is particularly important. swift. You need not fear, like the men of the 10. Frequent society breeds familiarity, and world, lest these thoughts should make you mad. familiarity increases love and delight, and makes It is heaven, and not hell, that I persuade you us bold in our addresses. The chief end of to walk in. It is joy, and not sorrow, that I per: this duty is, to have acquaintance and fellowsuade you to exercise. I urge you to look on ship with God; and, therefore, if thou come but no deformed objects, but only upon the ravishing seldom to it, thou wilt keep thyself a stranger glory of saints, and the unspeakable excellencies still; for seldom conversing with God will of the God of glory, and the beams that stream breed a strangeness between thy soul and him. from the face of his Son. Will it distract a man When a man feels his need of God, and must to think of his only happiness? Will it distract seek his help in a time of necessity, then it the miserable to think of mercy, or the prisoner is great encouragement to go to a God we to foresee deliverance, or the poor to think of know and are acquainted with. 0!' saith the approacning riches and honour? Methinks it heavenly Christian, • I know both whither I go, should rather make a man mad, to think of living and to whom. I have gone this way many a in a world of woe, and abiding in poverty and time before now. It is the same God that I sickness, among the rage of wicked men, than daily converse with, and the way has been my to think of living with Christ in bliss. But daily walk. God knows me well enough, and I wisdom is justified of all her children. Know- have some knowledge of him.”

On the other ledge hath no enemy but the ignorant. This side, what a horror and discouragement will it heavenly course was never spoken against by any be to the soul, when it is forced to fly to God but those that never knew it, or never used it. in straits, to think, · Alas! I know not whither I fear more the neglect of men that approve to go. I never went the way before. I have it, than the opposition or arguments of any no acquaintance at the court of heaven. My against it.

soul knows not that God that I must speak to, 7. (II.) As to the fittest time for this heavenly and I fear he will not know my soul. But escontemplation, let me only advise, that it be- pecially when we come to die, and must immestated-frequent--and seasonable.

diately appear before this God, and expect to 8. (1.) Give it a stated time. If thou suit thy enter into his eternal rest, then the difference time to the advantage of the work, without plac- will plainly appear ; then what a joy will it be to ing any religion in the time itself, thou hast no think, ' I am going to the place that I daily conneed to fear superstition. Stated time is a versed in ; to the place from whence I tasted hedge to duty, and defends it against many such frequent delights; to that God whom I temptations to omission. Some have not their have met in my meditation só often. My heart time at command, and therefore cannot see their hath been at heaven before now, and hath often hours; and many are so poor, that the necessities tasted its reviving sweetness ; and if my eyes of their families deny them this freedom : such were so enlightened, ånd my spirits so refreshed, persons should be watchful to redeem time as when I had but å tåste, what will it be when I much as they can, and take their vacant oppor- shall feed on it freely ?' On the contrary, what tunities as they fall, and especially join medita- a terror will it be to think, “I must die, and go tion and prayer, as much as they can, with the I know not whither ; from a place where I am labours of their callings. Yet those that have acquainted, to a place where I have no familiarity more time to spare from their worldly necessi- or knowledge! It is inexpressible horror to a ties, and are masters of their time, I still advise dying man, to have strange thoughts of God to keep this duty to a stated time. And indeed, and heaven. I am persuaded the neglect of if every work of the day had its appointed time, this duty so commonly makes death, even to godly we should be better skilled, both in redeeming men, unwelcome and uncomfortable. Therefore time, and in performing duty.

I persuade to frequency in this duty. And as 9. (2.) Let it be frequent, as well as stated. it will prevent strangeness between thee and How often it should be, I cannot determine, be- God, so also, cause men's circumstances differ. But, in gen- 11. It will prevent unskilfulness in the duty eral, scripture requires it to be frequent, when itself. How awkwardly do men set their hands it mentions meditating day and night. For to a work they are seldom employed in! Wherethose, therefore, who can conveniently omit as, frequency will habituate thy heart to the other business, I advise, that it be once a day I work, and make it more easy and delightful.



The hill which made thee pant and blow at first | also that have time on the Lord's day for idle going up, thou mayest easily run up, when thou ness and vain discourse, were you but acquainted art once accustomed to it.

with this duty of contemplation, you would need 12. Thou wilt also prevent the loss of that no other pastime ; you would think the longest heat and life thou hast obtained. If thou eat day short enough, and be sorry that the night but once in two or three days, thou wilt lose thy had shortened your pleasure. Christians, let strength as fast as it comes. If in holy medita- heaven have more share in your sabbaths, where tion thou get near to Christ, and warm thy heart you must shortly keep your everlasting sabbath. with the fire of love, and then come but seldom, Use your sabbaths as steps to glory, till you thy former coldness will soon return; especially have passed them all, and are there arrived. as the work is so spiritual, and against the bent Especially you that are poor, and cannot take of depraved nature. It is true, the intermixing time in the week as you desire, see that you well of other duties, especially secret prayer, may do improve this day : as your bodies rest from their much to the keeping thy heart above ; but medi- labours, let your spirits seek after rest from tation is the life of most other duties, and the God. view of heaven is the life of meditation.

14. Besides the constant seasonableness of 13. (3.) Choose also the most seasonable time. every day, and particularly every Lord's day, All things are beautiful and excellent in their there are also more peculiar seasons for heavenly

Unseasonableness may lose the fruit of contemplation. As for instance : thy labour, may raise difficulties in the work, 15. When God hath more abundantly warmed and may turn a duty to a sin. The same hour thy spirit with fire from above, then thou maymay be seasonable to one, and unseasonable to est soar with greater freedom. A little labour another. Servants and labourers must take that will set thy heart a-going at such a time as this ; season which their business can best afford; whereas, at another time, thou mayest take pains either while at work, or in travelling, or when to little purpose. Observe the gales of the Spirit, they lie awake in the night. Such as can choose and how the Spirit of Christ doth move thy what time of the day they will, should observe spirit. · Without Christ, we can do nothing ;' when they find their spirits most active and fit and therefore let us be doing while he is doing ; for contemplation, and fix upon that as the stated and be sure not to be out of the way, nor asleep, time. I have always found that the fittest time when he comes. When the Spirit finds thy for myself is the evening, from sunsetting to the heart, like Peter in prison, and in irons, ana twilight. I the rather mention this, because it smites thee, and says, ' Arise up quickly, and was the experience of a better and wiser man ; follow me,' be sure thou then arise, and follow, for it is expressly said, “ Isaac went out to me and thou shalt find thy chains fall off, and all ditate in the field at the eventide.' The Lord's doors will open, and thou wilt be at heaven beday is exceeding seasonable for this exercise. fore thou art aware. When should we more seasonably contemplate 16. Another peculiar season for this duty is, our rest, than on that day of rest which typifies when thou art in a suffering, distressed, or tempit to us? It being a day appropriated to spiri- ted state. When should we take our cordials, tual duties, methinks we should never exclude but in time of fainting? When is it more seathis duty, which is so eminently spiritual. I sonable to walk to heaven, than when we know verily think this is the chief work of a Christian not in what corner of earth to live with comsabbath, and most agreeable to the design of its fort? Or when should our thoughts converse positive institution. What fitter time to converse more above, than when they have nothing but with our Lord, than on the Lord's day? What grief below? Where should Noah's dove be fitter day to ascend to heaven, than that on which but in the ark, when the waters cover all the he arose from earth, and fully triumphed over earth, and she cannot find rest for the sole of death and hell ? The fittest temper for a true her foot ? What should we think on, but our Christian, is, like John, to be in the Spirit on Father's house, when we have not even the the Lord's day.' And what can bring us to this husks of the world to feed upon ? Surely God joy in the Spirit, but the spiritual beholding of sends thy afflictions to this very purpose. Happy our approaching glory ? Take notice of this, art thou, poor man, if thou make this use you that spend the Lord's day only in public of thy poverty; and thou that art sick, if thou worship ; your allowing no time to private duty, so improve thy sickness! It is seasonable to go and therefore neglecting this spiritual duty of to the promised land, when our burdens are inmeditation, is very hurtful to your souls. You creased in Egypt, and our straits in the wilderness.

« PreviousContinue »