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SERM. be your great and only care and study in this world, to CXXXVI.
square and order your thoughts and affections, your words and actions, all according to the laws and commands of the Most High God. Love God above all things; trust on His promises ; fear His threatenings; obey His precepts; believe in His Son; reverence His Name and Word ; and for His sake do nothing that you know to be a sin; omit nothing that you know to be your duty, either to God or men, to the utmost of your power. Do thus, and you need not fear but your souls shall live, not only with Saints and Angels, but with Christ and God Himself, for evermore,
OF SETTING OUR AFFECTIONS ON THINGS ABOVE.
Colossians, iii. 2.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the
Man being a perfect microcosm, composed of two essential parts, a soul and a body, whereof the one was taken from the superior, and the other from this inferior world : hence it necessarily follows, that although both these parts do equally concur unto the constitution of a man, yet that which is of the purest nature, and most noble extract, must needs be designed at first to govern and rule the whole, and by consequence that man, according to his constitution, was always to live and act according to the dictates and commands of his rational soul, and not according to the inclinations of his sensitive part: but by the degeneracy of our first parents, in hearkening to their senses rather than to their reason, our souls have ever since been subject to the tyranny of our rebellious senses : and that part which at first was placed at the stern, to sway and order the whole man, according to those principles of reason which were infused into it upon that account, is now debased so low as to become a slave to every one of these senses which it was made to govern. And therefore, our great care in this world should be to restore our souls to their throne and kingdom again; so that our Alesh may not any longer usurp any SERM. power and dominion over them, as heretofore it hath done, CXXXVII.
and still will do, unless we keep a strict eye upon it.
Now, as it was in the first Adam that our souls lost their power, though not their right, to govern, so it is only by the second that they can ever recover it again. But our comfort is, that as in Adam we fell from Heaven to earth, so in Christ we rose again from earth to Heaven ; as the Apostle intimates in the foregoing verse, “ If ye then be risen with Christ.” For when Christ rose, all those that by a true faith were united to Him, could not but rise with Him; yea, so rise with Him in our souls, as to live with Him in Heaven, even whilst our bodies are upon the earth. For this the Apostle makes the necessary consequent of our being risen with Christ : “If ye then be risen with Christ,” saith he, “seek those things which are above;" that is, your souls being now sanctified by Christ, and risen with Him, have by that means got above your flesh and senses, and therefore you should not mind them any longer, nor suffer them any more to get the upper hand, but your souls should still be soaring aloft, looking after their eternal concerns in Heaven, “where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” Which that we may do, we must be sure to call in for all our affections from all things here below, and fix them only upon those things which are above, where our Saviour now is, and where we hope to be for ever: and therefore he adds, “ Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Having thus brought you to the words, I shall endeavour to carry you through them, by explaining unto you the true meaning and purport of them; which it must needs behove you all rightly to understand, forasmuch as you all desire, I hope, to live like Christians, and as becometh those who expect to be saved by Christ. But you can never live as they must do, whom Christ will save, nor by consequence be saved by Him, unless you repent and believe in Him. Neither have you any ground in the world to think you repent and believe in Him, unless your affections be where He is; which notwithstanding they can never be, so long as they are entangled amongst the sensual and earthly objects here below.
Now for the better understanding what is here commanded, I shall first explain the words themselves, and then the duties enjoined in them.
I. For the things which are here called od čva, “ Things above.” Some things may be said to be above, in respect of nature; other things in respect of the earth. But here by “ the things above,” we are plainly to understand things above earth, in that they are here opposed to things upon the earth: and therefore the “ things above” here, are such things as are of an higher nature, and more noble principles, than to derive their descent from any thing here below. And so we are commanded here to set our affections only upon those pleasures that are above, those honours that are above, those riches that are above, those friends and relations that are above, that God, that Christ, that All that is above.
Then, by the things upon the earth, we are here to understand such things as are conceived in the womb of the earth, and know no higher extract than dust and ashes; of this sort are all your carnal pleasures, your earthly riches, your popular applause; all which the Apostle comprehends under “the 1 John 2.16. lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” “The lust of the flesh,” that is, only luxury or carnal pleasures, which only tickle and delight the flesh. “The lust of the eye,” that is, earthly riches which can only flatter and please the eye. And “the pride of life,” that is, vain glory, which indeed is but a mere vapour, a shadow, a little froth, a very nothing; yet it is that which puffs up poor vain and silly mortals, and therefore it is called “the pride of life." And it is very observable, that these were the three baits wherewith Satan caught our first parents, and plucked them out of that ocean of happiness wherein they were created. Gen. 3. 6. First, he proposed the fruit as good for food; there was the lust of the flesh: then as pleasant to the eye; there was the lust of the eye: and then as a fruit to be desired, to make men wise ; there was the pride of life. These, therefore, being the weapons wherewith the Devil prevailed over our first parents, it is no wonder that he useth them so frequently and effectually against us: but we need not fear, if we can but perform this one duty, even not to set our affection upon them.
SERM. The word in the original is coveits, which, as to its notation CXXXVII
and common use, hath respect both to the understanding and will: as it respects the understanding, it denotes that our thoughts should not run upon the things upon earth, but that our meditations be always fixed upon those things that are in Heaven. But, as the word hath reference to the will, it implies the several motions of the will, which we call affections; and so we are here commanded not only not to mind, but also not to love, not to desire, not to hope on, not to rejoice in the things which are here below, but only in those things which are above. So as although we are in the world, and converse with the things of it, yet we are not to concern ourselves about them, any further than to do our duty in the station wherein God hath set us, and prepare ourselves as well as we can for our going into the other world, our hearts hanging loose and indifferent as to all things here below, being fixed only upon God, and those glories that are above.
II. This being the proper meaning of the words, our next work must be to shew the reasonableness of the duties here enjoined. But seeing it is in vain to speak of setting your affections on things above, until they are first taken off from the things upon the earth, I shall first endeavour to shew what little reason you have to trouble your heads so much about the things which are here below, or to set your affections upon them. And speaking not only to rational creatures, but, as I hope, to believing Christians, I hope you will so seriously weigh and consider the force of the arguments which I shall produce, as to resolve, by the blessing of God, for the future, not to suffer your affections to lie grovelling amongst such low and pitiful things as all things upon earth are in themselves, but much more in comparison of what you all expect in Heaven.
1. Therefore, let me desire you to bethink yourselves of whatsoever it is that you have or desire upon earth, and consider whether it be not altogether below you, and unsuitable to you, both as men and Christians; for so at present I will suppose you all to be. But are you Christians ? then let me tell you, you are sons and daughters of the eternal God, the only Monarch of the whole world, and so are heirs apparent to the Crown of Glory. Tell me, then, what an unseemly