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ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The masters are irreconcileable, and their commands are directly opposite. It was as possible to place upon the same altar the ark of God, and the idol of the Philistines, as that heaven and the world should compound and take equal shares in our affections. Indeed, if the conceptions in the mind are but faint and floating of the universal satisfying goodness of the object proposed to make us happy, the will remains in suspense; but when it is clearly and strongly represented, the heart is drawn entirely to embrace it. Divine grace by the illumination of the understanding, purifies and changes the depraved will, and heals the distempered affections. The wise merchant, that had a discerning eye, saw reason enough to part with all, that he might gain the “ pearl of price," the grace and glory of the kingdom of heaven. The apostle declares his resolute contempt of the concurrence of all the prerogatives either the law or the world could afford him, that he might have an interest in Christ, the Reconciler and Restorer of man to the favour and fellowship of God. “ But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yea doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I might win Christ.” The glorious gospel is the brightest and most pleasant light that ever shone upon the world, a revelation of the deepest wisdom and most admirable love, wherein the combination of God's holy and wonderful counsels for our salvation is unfolded; and accordingly St. Paul, with the greatest life of affection, sets forth his value of it, and by full and most vilifying expressions, rejects all things in comparison of it.
2. The sincerity of the heavenly choice, is discovered by a zealous observance of the means requisite in order to it. Inanimate things incline to rest in their centre, the rational intend and pursue it. The blessed end, when valued and respected according to its worth, excites and directs the affections and endeavours in that order and measure as is proportionable to its excellency, and the difficulties of obtaining it. There may be a naked estimation, and some desires of eternal happiness simply considered, yet the will remains incomplete and undetermined in its choice : for the end in conjunction with the means is propounded to us, and the carnal man will not consent to the means. He dislikes the holiness of religion, and will rather forfeit heaven than submit to such strict terms. Though with Balaam, in a fit of devotion, he says, “O that I might die the
“ death of the righteous, and that my last end might be like his ;" yet from indulgence to his sensual inclinations, he will not live as the righteous. · All his wishes of true happiness are soon strangled by the predominant love of some vanity. It is said of the Israelites, “they despised the pleasant land,” Psal. 106. 14. not absolutely in itself, for it was “the glory of all lands” abounding with things for the support and delight of man; but considering its distance, a wilderness waste and wild interposing, and the enemies to be encountered, they did not think it worthy of undergoing such hazards and difficulties. The land of Canaan was a type of heaven, both with respect to its pleasantness, and the manner of the Israelites obtaining it. Their title to it was from the rich bounty of God, therefore it is called the “Land of Promise;" but it was to be possessed by conquest. Thus the celestial Canaan is the pure gift of God, but the actual enjoyment of it is obtained by victorious resistance against the enemies of our salvation. And carnal men despise this pleasant land, the promise being inseparably joined with precepts of duty and obedience, from which they are averse. But he that chooses sincerely, is joyful and vigorous in the use of means for acquiring his most desired good. Ardent affections, like Elijah's chariot of fire, ravish the soul above this sensible world, to the place where God dwells in glory. Zeal animates his endeavours, as the motion of the heart diffuses the spirits into the arteries, to convey life to all parts of the body. “One thing (saith the inflamed psalmist) have 1 desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” The sensual man is ranging abroad for satisfaction, and shoots all the game that crosses his
but the soul that has a discovering light, and feeling heat of the divine beauty, unites all its desires in God, and with affection to an ecstacy, longs for the enjoyment of him; and the endeavours are in some proportion to the desires. Our Saviour tells us, “ That from the days of John the baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Some previous rays of the Sun of Righteousness appeared in his ministry, and produced such a holy ardency in those converts, that with all resolution, diligence and earnestness, they sought to be partakers of the blessedness Tevealed. Lazy desires, easy prosecutions, sluggish attempts, discover that the heart is not throughly engaged for the spiritual eternal good. When the end is truly designed, it will give law
to the actions. This is visible in carnal worldly men, how saga. cious, how solicitous are they to accomplish their ends and base
designs? They try all ways, either by fine dissimulation, or toilsome industry, to obtain their desires. No time is too much in their gainful affairs, or voluptuous enjoyments. They transform the night to lengthen out the day for their profit, they veil the day to lengthen out the night for their ease and pleasure, But, alas, heaven is only regarded by the bye; as if the intellectual soul were only given to dwell with the body on earth, the place of its banishment, and direct affairs here below, and not to lead in the way to heaven, the place of its nativity, and prepare for another world. The work of salvation is followed with that remiss degree of affection, as if it were a slight matter whether performed or neglected. These persons carry their conviction in their bosoms; for they are ardent and active to obtain inferior and infinitely less concerning ends, but with that cold application mind the superior nobler end of man, that it is wholly frustrate, which plainly shows it was never seriously intended by them.
The sight of worldly men so active and vigilant to prosecute their low designs, should quicken us to seek with greater diligence and alacrity the kingdom of heaven, and the righteousness thereof. A carnal wretch, urged by the sting of a brutish desire, with what impatience doth he pursue “the pleasures of sin that are but for a season ?” An ambitious person, with what an intemperate height of passion does he chase a feather? A covetous man, how greedily does he pursue the advantages of “the present world that passes away, and the lusts thereof.” Ah! how do they upbraid our indifferent desires, our dull delays and cold endeavours, when such a high prize is set before us? Who is able to conceive the ravishing pleasures of the soul when it first enters through “the beautiful gate" of the celestial temple, and sees the glory of the place, and “hears a voice from the throne, enter into thy master's joy,” to be happy with him for ever? The serious belief of this will draw forth all our active powers in the service of God.
3. The sincerity of our heavenly choice declares itself in the temper and frame of our hearts, with respect to all temporal things in this world. For our main and happy end being established, that it consists not in secular riches and honours, and the pleasures of sense, but in the clear vision of God, the blessedness of the Spirit; it follows that all present things are in our use so far good or evil, and to be desired or not, as they are profitable or prejudicial to our obtaining salvation, as they conduct or divert us from heaven. A wise christian looks on temporal things not through the glass of disordered passions, that are impetuous and impatient for what is grateful to them, but with reference to his future happiness. He considers the train of temptations that attend an exalted condition, and desires such a portion of these things, as may redound to the glory of the giver, and be improved for his own salvation. This purity of affections our Saviour teaches us : for in his divine form of prayer, the true directory of our desires, are set down in an admirable order all things we are to pray for. And they respect the end, or the means. The end is the primary object of our desires ; accordingly the two first petitions concern our blessed end, as it respects God and ourselves. We pray, “ Hallowed be thy name," that is, by the reverence and adoration of all his subjects: and, “Thy kingdom come," that is, for the manifestation of his eternal glory in the next world, that we may reign with him. The means in order to this end are of two sorts. Some conduct to it by themselves, those are the good things desired in the third and fourth petitions; and some lead to it by accident, and those are the freedom from evils expressed in the last petition. The good things desired, either have a direct influence upon our obtaining happiness; and they are summed up in our universal obedience to God's wil, expressed in the third petition, “Let thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven :” or they are such as by way of subserviency promote our happiness, and those we pray for in the fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And it is observable there is but one petition for temporal blessings, and it is the last in the order of those that concern good things. And that single petition is so restrained, that it is evident by its
tenour, that earthly things are not absolutely good to be desired for themselves, but relatively and subordinately to our eternal good. Daily bread we must ask of our heavenly Father, the necessary support of the present life, without which we cannot exercise our
internal or external powers and faculties in his service; but not delicacies and abundance for the luxurious appetite.
The difference of conditions in the present world is very great: as in Pharaoh's dream, some ears of corn were so full and weighty, that they bended with their weight; others so thin and blasted, that they were as stubble for the fire. Thus some abound in all felicities possible in this life, others are " chastened every morning" under various and continual afflictions. Now this infallible principle being planted in the heart, that all present things are to be improved with respect to our future happiness, will moderate the affections in prosperity, so to use the world that we may enjoy God, and make us not only patient, but pleased in adversities, as they are preparatory for heaven.
The original of all the sins and misery of men, * is their perverse abuse of things, by turning the means into the end, setting their affections of love, desire, and joy upon sensible things, as their proper happiness, with inconsiderate neglect of the spiritual eternal state, to which all other things should be subservient. As if one diseased and sickly in a foreign country, that could not possibly recover health but in his native air, in his return thither, invited by the pleasantness of the way, should take up his residence in it, and never arrive to his own country. Among the West Indians some are 7 reported to be swift in running, that no horse can keep pace with them; and they have a constant rule in their diet, to eat of no beast, or bird or fish that is slow in motion, fancying it would transfuse a sluggishness in them. The christian life is by the apostle compared to a race, and earthly things by an inseparable property of nature load and depress the soul, that it cannot with vigour run the “Race set before it.” The believer therefore who intends “for the high prize of his calling," and is true to his end, will “ be temperate
* Frui est amore alicujus rei inhærere propter seipsam, uti autem, quod in usum venerit, ad id quod amas obtinendum referre. Aug. de Doct. Christ.