« PreviousContinue »
contemptible: if its essence be noble, its opera- ward deeds. Therefore they show more what tions are considerable. If the soul be more ex- the man is, and what is in his heart. For as Sucellent than the body, its operations must be lomon saith, as he thinketh in his heart, so is more excellent. To neglect our thoughts and he.' not employ them upon God, and for God, is to 8. Our thoughts may exercise the highest vilify our noblest faculties, and deny God, who graces of God in man ; and also show those is a spirit, that spiritual service which he re- graces, as being their effects. How is our faith, quires.
love, desire, trust, joy, and hope to be exercised, 3. Our thoughts are commonly our most cor- but by our thoughts ? If grace were not necesdial, voluntary acts, and show the temper and in- sary and excellent, it would not be wrought by clination of the heart : and therefore are regard the Spirit of God, called the divine nature, and able to God that searches the heart, and calls the image of God. If grace be excellent, the use first for the service of the heart.
and exercise of it is excellent: therefore our 4. Our thoughts are radical and instrumental thoughts by which it is exercised must needs acts : such as they are, such are the actions of have their excellency too. our lives. Christ tells us that out of the heart 9. Our thoughts must be the instruments of proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, for- our improving all holy truth in scripture, and all nications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, which the mercies which we receive, and all the afflicdefile the man.
tions which we undergo. What good will read5. Our thoughts are under a law, as well as ing a chapter in the Bible do to any one that words and deeds; "the thought of foolishness is never thinks on it? Our delight in the law of sin :' and Christ extends the law even to the God must engage us to meditate in it day and thoughts and desires of the heart. And under night.' What good shall be get by hearing a the law it is said, “beware that there be not a sermon that exercises not his thoughts for the thought in thy wicked heart,' &c., namely, of receiving and digesting it? Our considering unmercifulness towards thy brother.
what is said, is the way in which we may expect 6. Thoughts can reach much higher than sense, that God should give us understanding in all and may be employed upon the most excellent things.' What the better will he be for any of and invisible objects ; and therefore are fit instru- the merciful providences of God, who never bements to elevate the soul that would converse thinks him whence they come, or what is the use with God. Though God be infinitely above us, and end that they are given for? What good our thoughts may be exercised on him ; our per- will he get by any afflictions, that never bethinks sons never were in heaven, and yet our conver-him who it is that chastises him, and for what, sation must be in heaven. How is that but by and how he must get them rer ved, and sancti our thoughts ? Though we see not Christ, yet fied to his good ? A man is but like one of the by the exercise of believing thoughts on him, pillars in the church, or like the corpse which he * we love him, and rejoice with joy unspeakable treads on, or at best but like the dog that foland full of glory. Though God be invisible, lows him thither for company, if he use not his yet our meditations of him may be sweet, and thoughts about the work which he hath in hand, we may delight in the Lord.' Say not that all and cannot say, 'we have thought of thy lovingthis is but fanciful and delusory, as long as kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.? thoughts of things unseen are fitter to actuate and He that bids you hear, doth also bid you elevate the love, desires and delights of the soul, take heed how you hear.' You are commanded and to move and guide us in a regular and holy to · lay up the word in your heart and soul, and life, than the sense of lesser present good. The to set your hearts to all the words which are thoughts are not vain or delusory, unless the ob- testified among you: for it is not a vain thing ject of them be false, vain, and delusory. Where for you, because it is your life.' the object is great, sure, and excellent, the 10. Our thoughts are so considerable a part thoughts of such things are excellent operations of God's service, that they are often put for the of the soul. If the thoughts of vain glory, whole. “A book of remembrance was written for wealth and pleasure, can delight the ambitious, them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon covetous and sensual ; no wonder if the thoughts his name.' Our believing and loving God, trustof God and life eternal afford us solid high de- ing in him, and desiring him and his grace, are lights.
the principal parts of his service, which are ex7. The thoughts are not so liable to be counter. ercised immediately by our thoughts : in praise feit and hypocritical as are the words and out- and prayer it is this inward part that is the soul
and life of all. He is a foolish hypocrite that and run in the right channel. Well therefore did thinks to be heard for his much speaking. David make this his request, - Search me, O God,
On the contrary the thoughts are named as and know my heart: try me, and know my the sum of all iniquity. “Their thoughts are thoughts : and see if there be any wicked way thoughts of iniquity.'— I have spread out my in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.' I hands all the day long unto a rebellious people, say therefore to those that insist on this irrational which walketh in a way that was not good, after objection, that these very thoughts of theirs, their own thoughts:-- 0 Jerusalem, wash thy concerning the inconsiderableness of thoughts, heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be are so foolish and ungodly, that when they unsaved : how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge derstand the evil even of these, they will know within thee.'— The fool hath said in his heart, that thoughts were more to be regarded. •If There is no God.'
therefore thou hast done foolishly in lifting up 11. A man's thoughts are the appointed orderly thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thy hand way for the conversion of a sinner, and the pre- upon thy mouth.' venting of his sin and misery. David saith, “I Though, after all this, I still confess that it is thought on mine ways, and turned my feet unto so exceeding hard a matter to keep the thoughts thy testimonies. The prodigal came to himself, in holy exercise and order, that even the best and returned to his father, by the success of his daily and hourly sin, in the omissions, the disorown consideration. Thus saith the Lord of der or vanity of their thoughts; yet for all that, we hosts, consider your ways,' is a voice that every must needs conclude that the inclination and desinner should hear. “It is he that considereth and sign of our thoughts must be principally for doth not according to his father's sins, that shall God, and that the thoughts are principal instrunot die. Therefore it is God's desire, O that ments of the soul, in acting in his service, and they were wise and understood this, and that they moving it towards him, and in all this holy work would consider their latter end. It is either of our walking with God : therefore to imagine men's inconsiderateness, or the error of their that thoughts are inconsiderable and of little use, thoughts, that is the cause of all their wicked- is to unman us, and unchristen us. The labour ness : “my people doth not consider.' Paul • verily of the mind is necessary for the attaining of the thought, that he ought to do many things against felicity of the inind: as the labour of the body the name of Jesus.' Many deceive themselves is necessary for the things that belong unto by thinking themselves something when they are the body. As bodily idleness brings unto begnothing.'—• They think it strange that we run gary, when the diligent hand makes rich : so the not with them to excess of riot:' therefore they idleness of the soul doth impoverish the soul, speak evil of us. Disobedient formalists con- when the laborious Christian lives plentifully sider not that they do evil when they think they and comfortably, through the blessing of God are offering acceptable sacrifices to God. The upon his industry and labour. You cannot exvery murder of God's holy ones hath proceeded pect that God should appear to you in a bodily from these erroneous thoughts ; "they that kill shape, that you may have immediate converse you shall think they do God service. All the with him in the body.
All the with him in the body. It is in the Spirit that ambition, covetousness, injustice, and cruelty thou must converse with God who is a Spirit. following thereupon, which troubles the world, The mind sees him by faith, who is invisible to and ruins men's souls, is from their erroneous the bodily eyes. Nay, if you will have a true thoughts, overvaluing these deceitful things. and saving knowledge of God, you must not • Their inward thought is that their houses shall liken him to any thing that is visible, nor have continue for ever, and their dwelling places to any corporal conceivings of him : earthly things all generations. The presumptuous and impeni- may be the glass in which we may behold him, tent are surprised by destruction, for want of while we are here in the flesh. But our conceivthinking of it to prevent it: 'in such an hour as ings of him must be spiritual, and minds that you think not, the Son of man cometh.'
are immersed in flesh and earth, are unmeet to 12. Lastly, The thoughts are the most constant hold communion with him : the natural man actions of a man, and therefore most of the man knows him not, and the carnal mind is enmity is in them. We are not always reading, or to hiin, and they that are in the flesh cannot hearing, or praying, or working : but we are al- please him. It is the pure, abstracted, elevated ways thinking. Therefore it doth especially con- soul, that understands by experience what it is cern us to see that this constant breath of the soul to walk with God. be sweet, and that this constant stream be pure
to live in the purest exercise of reason ? CerCHAP. VI.
tainly there is nothing more rational than that
we should live to God, and gladly accept of all OBLIGATIONS AND ADVANTAGES OF WALKING that communion with him of which our natures
on earth are capable. Nothing can be more rea
sonable than for the reasonable soul to be enHaving in the foregoing uses, reproved the tirely addicted to him that did create it, that atheism and contempt of God which ungodly doth preserve it, and by whom it doth subsist men are continually guilty of, and endeavoured and act. Nothing is more reasonable than that to convince them of the necessity and desirable- the absolute Lord of nature be honoured, and ness of walking with God, and in particular of served wholly by his own: nothing is more reaimproving our thoughts for holy converse with sonable than that the reasonable creature live him, and answered the objections of the impious in the truest dependence upon, and subordination and atheistical; I shall next endeavour to cure the to the highest reason ; and that derived, imperremnants of this disease, in those that are sin- fect wisdom, be subservient to, and guided by cerely holy, who live too strangely to God their the primitive, perfect wisdom : it is most reasonFather in the world. In the performance of this, able that the children depend upon the father, I shall first show you what are the benefits of and the foolish be ruled by the most wise, and this holy life, which should make it appear desir- that the subjects be governed by the universal able and delightful; and then I shall show you why king, that they honour him and obey him, and believers should addict themselves to it as doubly that the indigent apply themselves to him that obliged, and that their neglect of it is a sin at is all-sufficient, and is most able and ready to tended with special aggravations. This is the supply their wants; and that the impotent rest remainder of my task.
upon him that is omnipotent. To walk with God in a holy and heavenly 2. Nothing can be more reasonable than that conversation, is the employment most suitable to the reasonable nature should intend its end, and human nature; not to its corrupt disposition, nor seek after its true and chief felicity: that it to the carnal interest and appetite; but to should love good as good, and therefore prefer nature as nature, to man as man: it is the very the chief good before that which is transitory work that he was made for: the faculties and and insufficient. Reason commands the reasonframe of the soul and body were composed for able creature to avoid its own delusion and deit by the wise Creator : they are restored for it struction, and to rest upon him that can continuby the gracious Redeemer. Though in corrupt- ally support us, and not upon the creature, that ed nature where sensuality is predominant, there will deceive us and undo us: to prefer the is au estrangement from God, and an enmity highest and noblest converse before that which and hatred of him, so that the wicked are more is inferior, unprofitable and base, and that we averse to all serious, holy converse with him in rejoice more in the highest, purest, and most prayer, contemplation, and a heavenly life, than durable delights, than in those that are sordid and they are to a worldly, sinful life ; yet all this is of short continuance. Who knows not that but the disease of nature, corrupting its appetite, God is the chief good, and true felicity of man, and turning it against that proper food which is the everlasting rock, the durable delight, and to most suitable to its sound desires, and necessary be preferred before his creatures ? Who might to its health and happiness. Though sinful not find, that would use his reason, that all things habits are become as it were a second nature to below are vanity and vexation ? the ungodly, so depraving their judgments and 3. Nothing can be more rational and agreeable desires that they verily think the business and to man's nature, than that the superior faculties pleasures of the flesh are inost suitable to them ; should govern the inferior, that the brutish part yet these are as contrary to nature as nature, be subject to the rational ; and that the ends and that is, to the primitive tendencies of all our fa-objects of this higher faculty be preferred before culties, and the proper use to which they were the objects of the lower: that the objects of fitted by our Creator, and to that true felicity sense be made subservient to the objects of reawhich is the end of all our parts and powers, son.
If this be not natural and rational, then it even as madness is contrary to the rational na- is natural to man to be no man, but a beast, and ture, though it were hereditary.
reasonable to be unreasonable. Now it is eviSect. 1. What can be more agreeable to the dent that a holy living unto God, is but the imDature of man, than to be rational and wise, and proveinent of true reason, and its employment for and upon its noblest object, and its ultimate other than a sensual life: as an old dog that hath end : and that a sensual life is the exercise of the no pleasure in hunting or playfulness, as he had inferior brutish faculties, in predominancy above when he was a whelp. Only he is less deluded, and before the rational : therefore to question and less vain, than other sensualists that find whether God or the Creator should be first more pleasure in their course. sought, loved, principally desired, delighted in, Object. All the doubt is concerning those that and served, is but to question whether we should place their felicity in knowledge, and those that live like men or like beasts, and whether dogs or delight in moral virtues, or that delight in studywise men be fitter companions for us? Whether ing of God, though they are no Christians. the rider or the horse should have the rule ? Answ. The point is weighty, and hath often unWhether the rational or sensitive powers be su- happily fallen into injudicious hands. I shall enperior and proper to the nature of a man? deavour to resolve it as truly, clearly and impar
Object. But there is a middle state of life, tially as I can. It is a great error against the nabetwixt the sensual and the divine or holy life, ture of man, to say, that knowledge, as such, is fit which sober philosophers did live, and this is the to be any man's chief and ultimate end. It may most natural life, and most properly so called. be that act which is next the enjoying act of the
Answ. I deny this ; there is no middle state will, which is it that indeed is next the end, obof life, if you denominate the several states of jectively considered : but it is not that act which life, from the several ends, or the several powers. we call the last end. This is plain, (1.) Because I grant that the very sensitive powers in man, the object of the understanding, which is truth, especially the imagination, is much advanced by is not formally the nearest object or matter of the conjunction of reason, above that of a brute : full felicity or delight: it is goodness that is the I grant that the delights of the imagination may nearest object. (2.) Therefore the office of the be preferred before the immediate pleasure of intellect is but introductive and subservient to the the senses : and I grant that some little distant office of the will, to apprehend the verity of knowledge of God, things divine, and hopes of good, and present it to the will to be prosecuted, attaining them, may affect an unsanctified man or embraced, or delighted in. There are many with an answerable pleasure. But all this is no- truths that are ungrateful and vexatious, and thing to prove that there is a third sort of end, which men would wish to be no truths: there is or of powers, and so a third or middle state of a knowledge which is troublesome, useless, unlife, specially distinct from the sensitive and the desirable and tormenting, which even a wise holy life. Besides, the vegetative man hath no man would willingly avoid, if he knew how. other life or faculties, than the sensitive and the Morality is but preparatively in the intellect: rational : therefore one of these must be in pre- and therefore intellectual acts, as such, are not dominancy or rule. Therefore he can have no morally good, or evil, but only participatively, as iniddle sort or end; and therefore no middle subject to the will. Therefore knowledge, as state of life, that can be said to be agreeable to such, being not a moral good, can be no other his nature. Those that seek and take up their than such a natural good only so far as it tends chief felicity in riches and plenty, and provisions to some welfare or happiness, or pleasure of the for the flesh, though not in present pleasing of possessor or some other : and this welfare or the sense, live but the life of sensuality. A pleasure is either that which is suited to the senfox or dog takes pleasure when he hath eaten his sitive powers, or to the rational, which is to be belly fall, to hide and lay up the rest : and so found in the love of God alone. doth the bee to fill the hive, and make provision I add therefore, that even those men that for the winter. The proud that delight in hon- seem to take up their felicity in common knowour and applause, and making others subject to ledge, indeed do but make their knowledge subtheir lusts, live but the life of sensuality: a servient to something else which they take for dog, a horse, and other brutes, have something their felicity. For knowledge of evil may torment of the same. They that are grave through me- them. It is only to know something which they lancholy, or 'because they can reach no great take to be good, that is their delight. It is the matter in the world, and because their old or complacency or love of that good at the heart
, duller spirits are not much pleased with juvenile which sets them on work, and causes the dedelights, and so live retiredly, and seek no higher light of knowing. If you will say that common pleasure or felicity, but only sit down with the knowledge, as knowledge, doth immediately weeping or the laughing philosopher, lamenting or delight, yet will it be found but such a pleasing deriding the vanity of the world, do yet live no l of the imagination as an ape hath in spying
marvels, which if it have no end that is higher, is found in any ungodly person. Materially they still but a sensitive delight; but if it be referred may have them in an eminent degree; but not to a higher delight in God, it doth participate as they are informed by the end which moralizes of the nature of it. Delight in general is the them. Jezebel's fast was not formally a virtue, common end of men and brutes : but in their na- but an odious way of hypocrisy to oppress the ture they are distinguished as sensual or rational. innocent: he that doth works of justice and
If you suppose a philosopher to be delighted mercy, to evil ends only, as for applause, or to in studying mathematics, or any of the works deceive, &c. and not from the true principles of of God, either he hath herein an end, or no end justice and mercy, doth not thereby exercise mobeyond the knowledge of the creature : either he ral virtue, but hypocrisy and other vice. He that terminates his desires and delights in the crea- doth works of justice and mercy, out of mere ture, or else uses it as a means to raise him to natural compassion to others, and desire of their the Creator. If he study and delight in the crea- good, without respect to God, as obliging, or ture ultimately, this is indeed the act of a rational rewarding, or desiring it, doth perform such a creature, and an act of reason, as to the faculty natural good work, as a lamb or a gentle beast it proceeds from, and so is a rational contrivance doth to his fellows, which hath not the true form for sensual ends and pleasures : but it is but of moral virtue, but the matter only. He that the error of reason, and is no more agreeable to in such works hath some little respect to God, the rational nature, than the deceit of the senses
but more to his carnal interest among men, doth is to the sensitive. Nor is it finally to be num. that which on the by participates of moral bered with the operations soliciting human nature, good, or is such, being to be denominated fronı any more than an erroneous dream of pleasure, the part predominant. He that doth works of jusor than that man is to be numbered with the tice or charity principally to please God, and in lovers of learning, who takes pleasure in the true obedience to his will, and a desire to be conbinding, leaves, or letters of the book, while he formed thereto, doth that which is formally a understands nothing of the sense. But if this moral good, and holy, though there may be abphilosopher seek to know the Creator in and by horred mixtures of worse respects. the creatures, and take delight in the Maker's So that there are but two states of life here: power, wisdom and goodness, which appears in
one of those that walk after the flesh, and the them, then this is truly a rational delight, in it- other of those that walk after the Spirit : howself considered, and beseeming a man. If he ever the flesh have several materials and ways reach so far in it, as to make God his highest of pleasure : even the rational actings have a desire and delight, overpowering the desires and carnal end, are carpal finally and morally, though delights of sensuality, he shall be happy, as being they are acts of reason; for they are but the led by the Son unto the Father : but if he make errors of reason, and defectiveness of true rationbut some little approaches towards it, and drown ality; and being but the acts of erroneous reaall such desires in the sensual desires and delights, son as captivated by the flesh, and subservient he is then but an unhappy sensualist, and lives to the carnal interest, they are themselves to be brutishly in the tenor of his life, though in some denominated carnal : even the reasonable acts in part he operate rationally as a man. soul as biassed by sensuality, and captivated
The like I may say of them that are said to thereto, is included in the name of flesh in scripplace their delight in moral virtues.
Indeed no- ture. thing is properly a moral good, or virtue, but How much moral good is in that course of that which is exercised upon God as our end, or piety or obedience to God, which proceeds only upon the creature as a means to this end. To from the fear of God's judgments, without any study and know mere notions of God, or what is love to him, I shall not now discuss, because I to be held and said of him in discourse, is not have too far digressed already. to study to know God, no more than to love the All that I have last said, is to show you the language and phrase of holy writing, is to love reasonableness of living unto God, as being inGod To study God, as one that is less desi- deed the proper and just employment of the surable than our sensual delights, is but to blas- perior faculties of the soul, and the government pheme him. To study, seek and serve him as of the lower faculties. For if any other, called one that can promote or hinder our sensual fe- moralists, seem to subject the sensual life to licity, is but to abuse him as a means to your the rational, either they do but seem to do so ; sensuality. For the virtues of temperance, jus- the sensual interest being indeed predominant, tice or charity, they are but analogically to be and their rational operations subjected thereto: