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which “ not a sparrow falls to the ground," by which the hairs of our head are all numbered;" for as to a General Providence, (vulgarly so called,) contradistinguished from a Particular, it is only a decent, well-sounding word, which means just nothing.
2. Again : All thoughts which spring from sinful tempers, are undoubtedly sinful. Such, for instance, are those that spring from a revengeful teniper, from pride, or lust, or vanity. “ An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit:" Therefore if the trec be evil, so must the fruit be also.
3. And so must those be, which either produce or feed any sinful temper; those which either give rise to pride or vanity, to anger or love of the world, or confirm and increase these or any other unholy temper, passion, or affection. For not only whatever flows from evil is evil; but also whatever leads to it; whatever tends to alienate the soul from God, and to make or keep it earthly, sensual, and devilish.
4. Hence, even those thoughts which are occasioned by weakness or diseasc, by the uatural mechanism of the body, or by the laws of vital union, however innocent they may be in themselves, do nevertheless become sinful, when they either produce or cherish and increase in us any sinful teinper; suppose the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. Iu like manner, the wandering thoughts which are occasioned by the words or actions of other men, if they cause or feed any wrong disposition, then commence sinful. And the same we may observe of those which are suggested or injected by the Devil. When they minister to any earthly or devilishi temper, (which they do, whenever we give place to them, and thereby make them our own,) then they are equally sinful with the tempers to which they minister.
5. But, abstracting from these cases, Wandering Thoughts, in the latter sense of the word, that is, thoughts, wherein our understanding wanders from the point it has in view, are no more sinful than the motion of the blood in our veins, or of the spirits in our brain. If they arise from an infirm constitution, or from some accidental weakness or distemper, they are as innocent as it is to have a weak constitution, or a distempered body. And surely no one doubts but a bad state of nerves, a fever of any kind, and either a transient or a lasting delirium, may consist with perfect innocence. And if they should arise in a soul which is united to an healthful body, either from the natural union between the body and soul, or from any of ten thousand changes which may occur in those organs of the body
that minister to thought;-in any of these cases they are as perfectly innocent as the causes from which they spring. And so they are when they spring from the casual, involuntary associations of our ideas.
6. If our thoughts wander from the point we had in view, by means of other men variously affecting our senses, they are equally innocent still : For it is no more a sin, to understand what I see and hear, and in many cases cannot help seeing, hearing, and understanding, than it is to have eyes and ears. ‘But if the Devil injects wandering thoughts, are not those thoughts evil ?' They are troublesome, and in that sense evil; but they are not sinful.. I do not know that he spoke to our Lord with an audible voice : perhaps he spoke to his heart only, when he said, “ All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." But whether he spoke inwardly or outwardly, our Lord doubtless understood what he said. He had therefore a thought correspondent to those words. But was it a sinful thought ? We know it was not. In him was no sin, either in action, or word, or thought. Nor is there any sin in a thousand thoughts of the same kind, which Satan may inject into any of our Lord's followers.
7. It follows, that none of these wandering thoughts (what-. ever unwary persons have affirmed, thereby grieving whom the Lord had not grieved) are inconsistent with perfect love. Indeed if they were, then not only sharp pain, but sleep itself, would be inconsistent with it :-Sharp Pain; for whenever this supervenes, whatever we were before thinking of, it will interrupt our thinking, and of course draw our thoughts into another channel ;-yea, and Sleep itself; as it is a state of insensibility and stupidity; and such as is generally mixed with thoughts wandering over the earth, loose, wild, and incoherent. Yet certainly these are consistent with perfect love: so then are all wandering thoughts of this kind.
IV. I. From what has been observed, it is easy to give a clear answer to the last question, What kind of Wandering Thoughts we may expect and pray to be Delivered from ? .
From the former sort of wandering thoughts, those wherein the heart wanders from God; from all that are contrary to his will, or that leave us without God in the world; every one that is perfected in love, is unquestionably delivered. This deliverance, therefore, we may expect; this we may, we ought to pray for. Wandering thoughts of this kind imply unbelief, if not enmity against God; but both of these he will destroy, Vol. I. No. 12.
will bring utterly to an end. And indeed, from all sinful wandering thoughts we shall be absolutely delivered. All that are perfecied in love are delivered from these; else they were not saved from sin. Men and Devils will tempt them all manner of ways; but they cannot prevail over them.
2. With regard to the latter sort of wandering thoughts, the case is widely different. Till the cause is removed, we cannot in reason expect the effect should cease. But the causes or occasions of these will remain, as long as we remain in the body. So long therefore we have all reason to believe the effects will remain also.
3. To be more particular : Suppose a soul, however holy, to dwell in a distempered body; suppose the brain be so thoroughly disordered, as that raging madness follows; will not all the thoughts be wild and unconnected, as long as that disorder continues ? Suppose a fever occasions that temporary madness, which we term a delirium, can there be any just connection of thought till that delirium is removed ? Yea, suppose what is called a nervous disorder to rise to so high a degrec, as to occasion at least a partial madness; will there not be a thousand wandering thoughts? And must not these irregular thoughts continue as long as the disorder which occasions them ?
4. Will not the case be the same, with regard to those thoughts that necessarily arise from violent pain? They will more or less continue, while that pain continues, by the inviolable order of nature. This order likewise will obtain, where the thoughts are disturbed, broken, or interrupted, by any defect of the apprehension, judgment, or imagination, flowing from the natural constitution of the body. And how many interruptions may spring from the unaccountable and involuntary association of our ideas ? Now all these are directly or indirectly caused by the corruptible body pressing down the mind. Nor therefore can we expect them to be removed, till “ this corruptible shall pat on incorruption."
5. And then only, when we lie down in the dust, shall we be delivered from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by what we see and hear, among those by whom we are now surrounded. To avoid these, we must go out of the Torld. For as long as we remain therein, as long as there are men and women round about us, and we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the things which we daily see and hear will certainly affect our mind, and will more or less break in upon and interrupt our preceding thoughts,
6. And as long as Evil Spirits roam to and fro in a miserable, disordered world, so long they will assault (whether they can prevail or no) every inhabitant of flesh and blood. They will trouble even those whom they cannot destroy: they will attack, if they cannot conquer. And from these attacks of our restless, unwearied enemies, we must not look for an entire deliverance, till we are lodged “where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.”
7. To sum up the whole: To expect deliverance from those wandering thoughts which are occasioned by Evil Spirits, is to expect that the Devil should die or fall asleep, or, at least, should no more go about as a roaring lion. To expect deliverance from those which are occasioned by other men, is to expect either that men should cease from the earth; or that we should be absolutely secluded from them, and have no intercourse with them ; or that having eyes we should not see, neither hear with our ears, but be as senseless as stocks or stones. And to pray for deliverance from those which are occasioned by the body, is, in effect, to pray that we may leave the body: Otherwise it is praying for impossibilities and absurdities; praying that God would reconcile contradictions, by continuing our union with a corruptible body, without the natural, necessary consequences of that union. It is as if we should pray to be angels and men, mortal and immortal, at the same time. Nay!—but when that which is immortal is come, mortality is done away.
8. Rather let us pray both with the spirit and with the understanding, that all these things may work together for our good; that we may suffer all the infirmities of our nature, all the interruptions of men, all the assaults and suggestions of Evil Spirits, and in all be “ more than conquerors.” Let us pray, that we may be delivered from all sin ; that both root and branch may be destroyed; that we may be “ cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit," from every evil temper, and word, and work; that we may “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength ; " that all the fruit of the Spirit may be found in us, not only love, joy, peace, but also " longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, tidelity, meekness, temperance." Pray that all these things may flourish and abound, may increase in you more and more, till an abundant entrance be ministered unto you, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ !
SATA N’S DEVICES.
"Neure not ignorant of his devices.”
2 Cor. ii. ll.
1. The devices whereby the subtle god of this world labours to destroy the children of God,-or at least to torment whom he cannot destroy, to perplex and hinder them in running the race which is set before them,-are numberless as the stars of heaven, or the sand upon the sea-shore. But it is of one of them only that I now propose to speak, (although exerted in various ways,) whereby he endeavours to divide the Gospel against itself, and by one part of it to overthrow the other.
2. The inward kingdom of heaven, which is set up in the hearts of all that repent and believe the Gospel, is no other than "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Every babe in Christ knows we are made partakers of these, the very hour that we believe in Jesus. But these are only the first-fruits of his Spirit; the harvest is not yet. Although these blessings are inconceivably great, yet we trust to see greater than these. We trust to love the Lord our God, not only as we do now, with a weak though sincere affection, but “with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength.” We look for power to “rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in every thing to give thanks ;” knowing, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.”
3. We expect to be “ made perfect in love ;” in that which casts out all painful fear, and all desire but that of glorifying him we love, and of loving and serving him more and more. We look for such an increase in the experimental knowledge and love of God our Saviour, as will enable us always “to walk in the light as he is in the light.” We believe the whole mind will be in us, “which was also in Christ Jesus;" that