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nor lessen the conceit, nor cool the desires of it, because the heart is naturally inclined to it. Therefore it is necessary every day to refresh and renew the conceptions of eternal things, that although they are not always in act, yet the efficacy may be always felt in the heart and life. The soul habituated to such thoughts will not easily yield to temptations, that surprise and overcome others that are strangers in their minds to the other world : nay the presence of temptations, as by antiperistasis, will reinforce the resolutions for heaven; like the pouring water upon lime, that revives a hidden fire in it, which seems a natural
a miracle. It is therefore of great advantage frequently to sequester ourselves from the world, to redeem time from secular affairs, for the recollecting of our thoughts, and their solemn exercise upon the eternal world. Sense, that reveals natural things, darkens spiritual. How can the thoughts be fixed on invisible things so distant from sense, if always conversant with secular objects that draw them down? In the silence of the night a small voice is more distinctly heard, and a little distant light more clearly seen : so when the soul is withdrawn from the noisy throng of the world, and outward things are darkened, the voice of conscience is better heard, and the light of heaven more perfectly received.
(3.) Consideration of eternal things must be with present application to the soul. It is not the mere conviction of the mind, but the decree of the will that turns men from sin to holiness, from the creatures to God. The heart is very deceitful, and by variety of shifts and palliations is disposed to irresolutions and delays in spiritual concernments. How often does the miserable sinner contend with himself, and while conscience urges him to seek the kingdom of heaven, and the affections draw down to the earth, the carnal part prevailing over the rational, he overcomes, and is overcome; he is convinced and condemned by his own mind. Till consideration issues in this, that with settled judgment and affections the soul determines for God and heaven, it is without profit. Therefore in the managing this duty, it is our wisdom not to be curious and inquisitive after subtile conceptions, and exalted notions of the future state, that little confer to the making the heart better; but to think seriously on what is plain and evident, and most useful to produce a present lasting change. It were egregious folly in a man, that for the use of his garden, should with great labour fetch water from distant fountains, and neglect that which springs up in his own ground. That meditation is profitable which produces not new thoughts, but holy and firm resolutions of obeying God in order to the full enjoying of him for ever.
To persuade us to the serious practice of this duty, there are many enforcements.
Is any man so foolish, so regardless of his convenience, to purchase a house wherein he must live all his days, and will not first see whether it will be convenient, and secure for his habitation? Shall we not then consider heaven the mansion of blessedness, and hell the seat of misery and horror? for according as we choose here, we shall be in the one or other place for
I shall in the fourth part of this treatise, endeavour to represent something of the inexpressible misery of the wicked hereafter, and show how congruous and powerful the thoughts of it are to restrain men from sin; but at present shall briefly excite to the meditation of the heavenly glory, as the most noble, delightful and fruitful work of the soul, whilst confined to the body of flesh. It is the most exalted exercise of the mind, the purest converse with God, the flower of consecrated reason. It is most like the life of glorified spirits above, who are in continual contemplation of the divine excellencies; and it is most raised above the life of carnal men, that are sunk into sensuality and brutishness. It is the most joyful life, in that it sheds abroad in the soul delights that neither satiate, nor corrupt, nor weaken the faculties, as the delights of sense do, but afford perfection as well as pleasure. It is the most profitable life. As in those parts of the earth where the beams of the sun are strongly reflected, precious metals and jewels are produced wherein the refulgent resemblance of that bright planet appears : so the lively and vigorous exercise of the thoughts upon the heavenly glory, will produce heavenly affections, heavenly discourses, and a heavenly shining conversation. This will make us live like the blessed society above, imitating their innocence and purity, their joyful, entire and constant obedience to God. This confirms the holy soul in its choice, with an invincible efficacy against the temptations and lusts of the world. The serious considering believer is filled with ravishing wonder of the glory that shall be revealed, and looks down with contempt upon the earth, and all that has the name of felicity here. All the invitations, nay terrors of the world, are as unable to check his pursuit of his blessed end, as the breath of an infant to stop the high flight of an eagle.
But how rare and disused a duty is this? How hardly are men induced to set about it? Business and pleasures are powerful diversions. Some pretend business as a just cause, but in vain ;
“ for the one thing necessary" challenges our principal thoughts and care. Besides, there are intervals of leisure, and the thoughts are always streaming, and often run waste, which directed aright, would be very fruitful to the soul. The true cause of this neglect is from the inward temper of men. Carnal pleasures alienate the mind, and make it unfit for the deep serious actings of the thoughts upon eternal things. “I have said of laughter, thou art mad.” It makes the mind light, and vain, and desultory. As a distracted person by every motion of fancy fies from one thing to another without coherence. The heart filled with cloudy and smoky fires, with thoughts and desires about worldly things, is unprepared for such a clear, calm, and sedate work. A carnal person can taste no sweetness, feel no relish in the meditation of heaven, nor any spiritual duty. It is as if one should take some delicious fruit into his mouth, a peach, or the like, without breaking the skin; it would be rather a troublé, than pleasant. Nay, the gospel expressly declaring, " that without holiness no man shall see God :" those who by vicious affections are engaged in any sinful way, being conscious of their guilt and unpreparedness, and that while such, they are under a peremptory exclusion from celestial glory, cannot endute the thoughts of heaven. The divine presence is their torment, and the serious consideration of it is to bring them before God's boly and just tribunal, to accuse and condemu them.
The objects from whence consideration derives its power to direct our choice,
The end for which man was designed in his creation. We must make a judicious comparison between the objects that stand in competition for our choice, the present world, and heaven. The vast difference between them in their quality and duration,
I shall now take a particular view of those objects, from whence consideration derives vigour, for the inclining of the will to a right choice, and for regulating the life.
1. Consider the end for which man was designed in his creation, why endued with rational and noble powers of soul, and placed by the Sovereign Maker in the highest rank of so numerous and various natures that fill the universe. Is it to raise an estate, to shine in pomp, to enjoy sensual pleasures for a little while, and after the fatal term to be no more for ever? Was he sent into the world upon as mean a business as that of the foolish emperor, who employed an army, furnished with all military preparations, to gather shells upon the sea shore? This were, according to the passionate expostulation of the psalmist, to charge God " that he had made all men in vain.” Reason and scripture tell us the end of man is to glorify and enjoy God, the obtaining whereof makes him perfectly happy, and the missing of it perfectly miserable. This is a fundamental truth upon which the whole fabric of man's duty and felicity is built. Without this foundation, our faith presently sinks. If the clearness of this principle be obscured, we shall wander from the way of eternal life, and not only lose the way, but the remembrance and desire of it. Thinking is the property of the reasonable soul, and the just order of consideration is, that the mind primarily regards the supreme directive truth that is to govern all our actions. It was prudent counsel that * one of the ancients gave for composing a book, that the author frequently reflect upon the title, that it may correspond in all the parts with his original design. Thus it becomes a man often to consider the end of his being, that the course of his life may have a direct tendency to it; and the more excellent our end is, the more constraining is the necessity to prosecute it. It is of great efficacy to reflect upon ourselves, whither do my thoughts and desires tend? For what do I spend my strength, and consume my days? Will it be my last account, how much by my prudence and diligence I have exceeded others in temporal acquisitions ? If a general were at play while the armies are engaging, would it be a noble exploit for him to win the game, whilst his army for want of conduct loses the victory? Will it be profitable for a man to gain the world, and lose his soul ? Let conscience answer in truth.
* Primum ego scriptoris officium identidem interrogat se, quid cæperit scribere.
titulum suum legat, atq;
It is observable what is reported of a * noble foreigner, that on his birth-day reflecting upon the age of his life, he was surprised with grief, and struck with astonishment, that without a due sense of the proper business and end of life, he was arrived to that age, when our days begin to decline. In an instant all things seemed to change appearance in his view. Then first (says he) I perceived I was a man, for before I had not resolved for what I should employ my life. The issue was, his serious resolution unfeignedly to honour God, sincerely to confess Christ, to place his felicity in holiness of life, and most zealously to follow it. Let any one that is not of a reprobate mind, and an incorrigibly depraved heart, duly consider the sublime and supernatural end of man. O what a marvellous change will it make in him, of carnal into spiritual ? Nay, it would be a kind of miracle if he continued in his sinful state. How will it transform him into another man, with new valuations, new affections and resolutions, as if he were “ born again" with a new soul? How will it amaze him that his whole course has been a contradiction to the wise and gracious design of God, that all his industry has
Cum natalis dies Februarii admonuisset ætatis numerandæ; & tricessimo reperissem, invasit me subita mestitia, & perculsit admirantem, quomodo sine sensu vitæ ad ejus culmen pervenissem, a quo lux quælibet fit obscurior, & dies nostri ad occasum inclinare incipiunt. Visa est mibi rerum facies momento mutata, & tunc primum me hominem agnovi. Memoires Chanut.