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§ 17. (7) Be much in the evangelical work of praise. The more heavenly the employment, the more it will make the spirit heavenly. Praising God is the work of angels and saints in heaven, and will be our own everlasting work; and if we were more in it now, we should be liker to what we shall be then. As desire, faith, and hope, are of shorter continuance than love and joy; so also preaching, prayer, and sacraments, and all means for expressing and confirming our faith and hope, shall cease, when our triumphant expressions of love and joy shall abide for ever. The liveliest emhlem of heaven that I know upon earth, is, when the people of God, in the deep sense of his excellency and bounty, from hearts abounding with love and joy, join together both in heart and voice, in the cheerful and melodious singing of his praises. These delights, like the testimony of the Spirit, witness themselves to he of God, and bring the evidences of their heavenly parentage along with them.
§ 18. Little do we know how we wrong ourselves, hy shutting out of our prayers the praises of God, or allowing them so narrow a room as we usually do, while we are copious enough in our confessions and aetitions. Reader, I entreat thee remember this; let raises have a larger room in thy duties: keep matter "eady at hand to feed thy praise, as well as matter for confession and petition. To this end, study the excellencies and goodness of the Lord, as frequently as ,hy own wants and unworthiness; the mercies thou last received, and those which are promised, as often is the sins thou hast committed. Praise is comely for he upright. Whoso offereihpraiseglorifieth God. Praise «the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praises unto his aim, for it is pleasant.(p) Let us offer the sacrifice of 'raise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, 'iving thanks to his name.(g) Had not David a most heavenly spirit, who was so much in this heavenly vork? Doth it not sometimes raise our hearts, when ve only read the song of Moses, and the psalms of
David? How much more would it raise and refresh us, to be skilful and frequent in the work ourselves! O the madness of youth, that lay out their vigour ot body and mind upon vain delights and fleshly lusts, which is so unfit for the noblest work of man! And, O the sinful folly of many of the saints, who drench their spirits in continual sadness, and waste their days in complaints and groans, and so make themselves both in body and mind unfit for this sweet and heavenly work! Instead of joining with the people of God in his praises, they are questionmg their worthiness, and studying their miseries, and so rob God of his glory, and themselves of their consolation. But the greatest destroyer of our comfort in this duty, is our taking np with the tune and melody, and suffering the heart to he idle, which ought to perform the principal part of the work, and use the melody to revive and exhilarate itself.
§ 19. (8) Ever keep thy soul possessed with helieving thoughts of the infinite love of God. Lo« is the attractive of love. Few so vile, but will lore those that love them. No doubt it is the death of our heavenly life, to have hard thoughts of God, to conceive of him as one that would rather damn than save us. This is to put the blessed God into the similitude of Satan. When our ignorance and unbelief have drawn the most deformed picture of God in onf imaginations, then we complain that we cannot lo« him, nor delight in him. This is the case of many thousand Christians. Alas, that we should thus blaspheme God, and blast our own joys! Scripture fl#*rei nsthat God is love;(r) that fury is not in him;(s) thatk hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that wicked turn from his way and live.(t) Much more bath he testified his love to his chosen, and his full resolntion to save them. O that we could always think 9 God, as we do of a friend! as of one that unfeigned!y loves us, even more than we do ourselves; who* very heart is set upon us to do us good, and hatJ therefore provided for us an everlasting dwelling wits
himself! it would not then be so hard to have our hearts ever with him! Where we love moat heartily, we shall think most sweetly, and most freely. I fear most Christians think higher of the love of a hearty friend than of the love of God; and what wouder then if they love their friends better than God, and trust them more confidently than God, and had rather live with them than with God.
§ 20. (9) Carefully observe and cherish the motions of the Spirit of God. If ever thy soul get above this earth, and get acquainted with this heavenly life, the Spirit of God must be to thee, as the chariot to Elijah; jea, the very living principle by which thou must move and ascend. O then grieve not thy guide, quench not thy life, knock not oft' thy chariot wheels! You little think how much the life of all your graces, and the happiness of your souls, depend upon your ready aud cordial obedience to the Spirit. When the Spirit urges thee to secret prayer, or forbids thee thy known transgressions, or points out to thee the way in which thou shouldst go, and thou wilt not regard; no wonder if heaven and thy soul be strange. If thou wil t not fellow the Spirit, while it would draw thee to Christ ind thy duty; how should it lead thee to heaven, and wing thy heart into the presence of God? What su>ernatural help, what bold access, shall the soul find a its approaches to the Almighty, that constantly >beys the Spirit! And how backward, how dull, how whamed, will he be in these addresses, who hath often >roke away from the Spirit that would have guided lira!—Christian Reader, dost thou not feel sometimes I strong impression to retire from the world, and Iraw near to God? Do not disobey, but take the ffer, and hoist up thy sails while this blessed gale may e had. The more of the Spirit we resist, the deeper rill it wound; and the more we obey, the speedier rill be our pace.
§ 21. (10) I advise thee, as a farther help to this eavenly life, not to neglect the due care of thy boily health. Thy body is a useful servant, if thou ive it its due, and no more than its due; but it is a most devouring tyrant, if thou suffer it to have what it unreasonably desires; and it is as a blunted knife, if thou unjustly deny it what is necessary to its snpport. When we consider how frequently men offend on both extremes, and how few use their bodies aright, we cannot wonder if they be much hindered in theii converse with heaven. Most men are slaves to theii appetite, and can scarce deny any thing to the flesh, and are therefore willingly carried by it to their sports or profits, or vain companions, when they should raise their minds to God and heaven. As you love yoni souls, make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the bsti thereof ;(u) but remember, to be carnally minded ii death; because the carnal mind is enmity against Gol for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeti can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot pkan God. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to lk flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after ik flesh ye shall die; but if'ye through the Snirit do nwrtijt the deeds of the body, ye shall live.(w) There are a fe». who much hinder their heavenly joy, by denying tlx body its necessaries, and so making it unable tt serve them: if such wronged their flesh only, it would be no great matter; but they wrong their souls also; as he that spoils the house injures nV inhabitants. When the body is sick, and the spirit* languish, how heavily do we move in the though'* and joys of heaven!
The Nature of heavenly Contemplation; with the Time, Place, and Temper, fittest for it.
\ L The duty of heavenly contemplation is recommended to die reader, § 2. and defined. § S—6. (l.)The definition is illustrated. § 7. (II.) The time fittest for it is represented, as, § 8.(1) stated; § 9—12. (2) frequent; § 13. and (3) seasonable every day, particularly every Lord's day; $ 14—17. but more especially when onr hearts are warmed with a sense of divine things; or when we are afflicted, or tempted; or when we are near death. § 18. (III.) The fittest place for it, iB the most retired: $ 19. (IV.) And die fittest temper for it is, § 23.(1) when our minds are most clear of the world, § 21. (2) and most solemn and serious.
% I. Once more I entreat thee, Reader, as thou nakest conscience of a revealed duty, and darest iot wilfully resist the Spirit; as thou valuest the ligh delights of a saint, and the soul-ravishing exercise »f heavenly contemplation; that thou diligently stuty, and speedily and faithfully practise the followng directions. If, by this means, thou dost not find h increase of all thy graces, and dost not grow beyond he stature of Common Christians, and art not made note serviceable in thy place, and more precious in the yes of alt discerning persons, if thy soul enjoy not sore communion \vith God, and thy life be not fuller f comfort, and hast it not readier by thee at a dying our; then cast away these directions, and exclaim gainst me for ever as a deceiver.
§ 2. The duty which I press upon thee so earnestly, nd in the practice of which I am now to direct thee, t, The set and solemn acting of all the powers of thy soul i meditation upon thy everlasting rest. More fully to xplain the nature of this duty, I will here illustrate a ttle the description itself,—then point out the fittest me, place, and temper of mind, for it.