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shall lay aside my glass, and be admitted to a nearer vision and fruition of God, and see him face to face.
By this means, I shall always live, as if I was daily to die; always speak, as if my tongue, the next moment, were to cleave to the roof of my mouth; and continually order my thoughts and affections in such a manner, as if my soul were just ready to depart, and take its flight into the other world. By this means, whatsoever place I am in, or whatsoever work I am about, I shall still be with my God, and demean myself so, as if, with St. Jerome, I heard the voice of the trumpet crying out, Awake, ye dead, and come to judgment.
And thus, though I am at present here in the flesh, yet I shall look upon myself as more really an inhabitant of heaven, than I am upon earth. Here I am but as a pilgrim or sojourner, that has no abiding city; but there I have a sure and everlasting inheritance, which Christ has purchased and prepared for me, and which faith has given me the possession of. And, therefore, as it is my duty, so will I constantly make it my endeavour, to live up to the character of a true Christian, whose portion and conversation is in heaven, and think it a disgrace and disparagement to my profession, to stoop to, or entangle myself with, such toys and trifles, as the men of the world busy themselves about; or to feed upon husks, with swine, here below, when it is in my power, by faith, to be continually supplied with spiritual manna from heaven, till at last I am admitted to it. And that I may awe my spirit into the performance of these, and all other my resolutions,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, always to be looking upon God, as always looking upon me. WHERESOEVER I am, or whatsoever I am a doing, I must still consider the eye of the great God as di
rectly intent upon me, viewing and observing all my thoughts, words, and actions, and writing them down in the book of his remembrance; and that all these, unless they be washed out with the tears of repentance, and crossed with the blood of my crucified Saviour, must still remain on record, and be brought in judgment against me at the great day. That, therefore, I may always behave myself as in his presence, it behoves me throughly to consider, and be persuaded, not only that my outward man, but even all the secret thoughts, the inward motions and retirements of my soul, all the several windings and turnings of my heart, are exactly known and manifest, as anatomized before him. He knows what I am now a thinking, doing, and writing, as well as I do myself; yea, he sees every word whilst it is in my heart, before it be brought forth and set down. He knows all the resolutions I have inade, and how often, poor oreature! I have broken them already, since I made them.
Upon this consideration, I resolve to stand my ground against all temptations; and whenever I find myself in danger to be drawn aside by them, to oppose the bent of my corrupt affections by these or the like questions: Am I really in the presence of the Almighty, the great Lord of heaven and earth, and shall I presume to affront him to his face, by doing such things as I know are odious and displeasing to him? I would not commit adultery in the presence of my fellow-creatures, and shall I do it in the presence of the glorious Jehovah? I would not steal in the sight of an earthly judge, and shall I do it before the Judge of all the world? If fear and shame from men have such an influence upon me, as to deter me from the commission of sin, how ought I to be moved with the apprehension of God's inspection, who does not only know my transgressions, but will eternally punish me for them?
May these thoughts and considerations always take place in my heart, and be accompanied with such happy
effects in my conversation, that I may live with God upon earth, and so love and fear his presence in this world, that I may for ever enjoy his glory in the next!
CONCERNING MY THOUGHTS.
BUT who am I, poor, proud sinful dust and ashes, that I should expect ever to live so holy, so heavenly, as is here supposed! Can grapes be gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? Can the fruit be sweet, when the root is bitter? or the streams healthful, when the fountain is poisoned? No; I must either get me a new and better heart, or else it will be impossible for me ever to lead a new and better life. But how must I come by this pearl of inestimable value, a new heart? Can I purchase it with my own riches? or find it in my own field? Can I raise it from sin to holiness? from earth to heaven? or from myself to God? Alas! I have endeavoured it, but I find, by woeful experience, I cannot attain to it: I have been lifting and heaving again and again, to raise it out of the mire and clay of sin and corruption; but, alas! it will not stir: I have rubbed and chafed it with one threatening after another, and all to get heat and life into it; but still it is as cold and dead as ever: I have brought it to the promises, and set it under the droppings of the sanctuary; I have shewn it the beauty of Christ, and the deformity of sin; but yet it is a hard and sinful, an earthly and sensual heart still. What, therefore, shall I do with it? O my God, I bring it unto thee! Thou that madest it a heart at first, canst only make it a new heart now! O do thou purify and refine it, and renew a right spirit within me! Do thou take it into thy hands, and, out of thine infinite goodness, new mould it up, by thine own grace, into an exact conformity to thine own will! Do thou but give me a new
heart, and I shall promise thee, by thy grace, to lead a new life, and become a new creature! Do thou but clear the fountain, and I shall endeavour to look to the streams that flow from it! which that I may be able to do, with the better success,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to watch as much over the inward motions of my heart, as the outward actions of my life.
FOR my heart, I perceive, is the womb, in which all sin is first conceived, and from which, my Saviour tells me, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness, Mark vii. 21, 22. So that, as ever I would prevent the commission of these sins in my life, I must endeavour to hinder their conception in my heart, following the wise man's counsel, to keep my heart with all diligence, because out of it are the issues of life, Prov. iv. 23. Neither is this the only reason, why I should set so strict a watch over my heart, because sinful thoughts lead to sinful acts; but because the thoughts themselves are sinful, yea, the very first-born of iniquity; which though men cannot pry into or discover, yet the all-seeing God knows and observes, and remembers them, as well as the greatest actions of all my life. And oh what wicked and profane thoughts have I formerly entertained, not only against God, but against Christ, by questioning the justice of his laws, and doubting of the truth of his revelation, so as to make both his life and death of none effect to me! Which that they may never be laid to my charge hereafter, I humbly beseech God to pardon and absolve me from them, and to give me grace, for the remainder of my life, to be as careful of
thinking, as of doing well, and as fearful of offending him in my heart, as of transgressing his laws in my life and conversation. To this end,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to stop every thought at its first entering into my heart, and to examine it whence it comes, and whither it tends. SO soon as ever any new thought begins to bubble in my soul, I am resolved to examine, what stamp it is of, whether it spring from the pure fountain of living waters, or the polluted streams of my own affections; as also, which way it tends, or takes its course, towards the ocean of happiness, or the pit of destruction. And the reason of this my resolution, I draw from the experience I have had of the devil's temptations, and the working of my own corruptions; by which I find, that there is no sin I am betrayed into, but what takes its rise from my inward thoughts. These are the tempters that first present some pleasing object to my view, and then bias my understanding, and pervert my will, to comply with the suggestions. So that, though the Spirit of God is pleased to dart a beam into my heart at the same time, and shew me the odious and dangerous effects of such thoughts; yet, I know not how or why, I find a prevailing suggestion within, that tells me, it is but a thought, and that so long as it goes no farther, it cannot do me much hurt. Under this specious colour and pretence, I secretly persuade myself to dwell a little longer upon it; and finding my heart pleased and delighted with its natural issue, I give it a little farther indulgence, till, at last, my desire breaks out into a flame, and will be satisfied with nothing less than the enjoyment of the object it is exercised upon. And what water can quench such a raging fire, as is thus kindled by the devil, and blown up by the bellows of my own