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the exercise of true grace in all their fervour and commotion of affections. But when the genuine actings of faith, love, holy reverence, and gracious desires, do stir up the gift unto its exercise, calling in its assistance unto the expression of themselves, then are the heart and mind in their proper order.
5. It is so when other duties of religion are equally regarded and attended unto with prayer itself. He, all whose religion lies in prayer and hearing, hath none at all. God hath an equal respect unto all other duties, and so must we have also. So is it expressed as unto the instance of alms, Acts x. 31. And James placeth all religion herein, because there is none without it, chap. i. 27. I shall not value his prayers at all, be he never so earnest and frequent in them, who gives not alms according to his ability. And this in an especial manner is required of us who are ministers; that we be not like a hand set up in cross ways, directing others which way to go, but staying behind itself.
This digression about the rise and spring of spiritual thoughts in prayer, I judged not unnecessary in such a time and season wherein we ought to be very jealous, lest gifts impose themselves in the room of grace, and be careful that they are employed only unto their proper end, which is to be serviceable unto grace in its exercise, and not otherwise.
3. There is another occasion of thoughts of spiritual things, when they do not spring from a living principle within, and so are no evidence of being spiritually minded. And this is the discourse of others. They that fear the Lord will be speaking one to another' of the things wherein his glory is concerned, Mal. iii. 16. To declare the righteousness, the glory of God, is the delight of his saints. Psal. cxlv. 38. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty works. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts; and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and
of great mercy.' And accordingly, there are some who are ready on all occasions to be speaking or making mention of things divine, spiritual, and holy, and it is to be wished that there were more of them. All the flagitious sins that the world is filled withal, are not a greater evidence of the degeneracy of the Christian religion than this is, that it is grown unusual, yea, a shame or scorn, for men to speak together of the things of God. It was not so when religion was in its primitive power and glory; nor is it so with them who really fear God, and are sensible of their duty. Some, I say, there are, who embrace all occasions of spiritual communication. Those with whom they do converse, if they are not profligate, if they have any spiritual light, cannot but so far comply with what they say, as to think of the things, spoken which are spiritual. Ofttimes the track and course of men's thoughts lie so out of the way, are so contrary unto such things, that they seem strange unto them, they give them no entertainment. You do but cross their way
with such discourses, whereon they stand still a little and so pass on. Even the countenances of some men will change hereon, and they betake themselves unto an unsatisfied silence, until they can divert unto other things. Some will make such replies of empty words, as shall evidence their hearts to be far enough estranged from the things proposed unto them.. But with others, such occasional discourses will make such impressions on their minds as to stir up present thoughts of spiritual things. But though frequent occasions hereof may be renewed, yet will such thoughts give no evidence that any man is spiritually minded. For they are not genuine, from an internal spring of grace.
From these causes it is, that the thoughts of spiritual things are with many as guests that come into an inn, and not like children that dwell in the house. They enter occasionally, and then there is a great stir about them, to provide meet entertainment for them. Within awhile they are disposed of, and so depart unto their own occasions, being neither looked nor inquired after any more. Things of another nature are attended unto; new occasions bring in new guests for a season. Children are owned in the house, are missed if they are out of the way, and have their daily provision constantly made for them. So is it with these occa.
sional thoughts about spiritual things. By one means or other they enter into the mind, and there are entertained for a season. On a sudden they depart, and men hear of them
But those that are natural and genuine, arising from a living spring of grace in the heart disposing the mind unto them, are as the children of the house. They are expected in their places and at their seasons.
If they are missing, they are inquired after. The heart calls itself unto an account whence it is that it hath been so long without them, and calls them over into its wonted conyerse with them.
Other evidences of thoughts about spiritual things, arising from an internal principle of grace, whereby they are an evidence of our being spiritually minded. The abounding of these thoughts, how far, and wherein, such an evidence.
The second evidence that our thoughts of spiritual things do proceed from an internal fountain of sanctified light and affections, or that they are acts or fruits of our being spiritually minded, is, that they abound in us, that our minds are filled with them. We may say of them as the apostle doth of other graces; ' If these things are in you and abound, you
shall not be barren.' It is well indeed, when our minds are like the land of Egypt in the years of plenty, when it brought forth by handfulls; when they flow from the well of living water in us with a full stream and current. But there is a measure of abounding, which is necessary to evidence our being spiritually minded in them.
There is a double effect ascribed here unto this frame of spirit: first life, and then peace. The nature and being of this grace depends on the former consideration of it, namely, its procedure from an internal principle of grace, the effect and consequence whereof is life. But that it is peace also, depends on this degree and measure of the actings of this part of it in our spiritual thoughts. And this we must consider.
It is the character of all men in the state of depraved nature and apostacy from God, that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts, is only evil continually ;' Gen. vi. 5. All persons in that condition are not swearers, blasphemers, drunkards, adulterers, idolaters, or the like. These are the vices of particular persons, the effects of particular constitutions and temptations. But thus it is with them, all and every one of them, all the imaginations of the thoughts of their hearts are evil, and that continually. Some as unto the matter of them, some as unto their end, all as unto their principle; for out of the evil treasure of the heart can proceed nothing but what is evil. That infinite multitude of open sins which is in the world, doth give a clear prospect or representation of the nature and effects of our apostacy from God. But he that can consider the numberless number of thoughts which pass through the minds of every individual person every day, all evil, and that continually, he will have a farther comprehension of it.
We can therefore have no greater evidence of a change in us from this state and condition, than a change wrought in the course of our thoughts. A relinquishment of this or that particular sin, is not an evidence of a translation from this state. For as was said, such particular sins proceed from particular lusts and temptations, and are not the immediate universal consequence of that depravation of nature which is equal in all. Such alone is the vanity and wickedness of the thoughts and imaginations of the heart. A change herein is a blessed evidence of a change of state. He who is cured of a dropsy is not immediately healthy, because he may have the prevailing seeds and matter of other diseases in him, and the next day die of a lethargy. But he who, from a state of sickness, is restored in the temperature of the mass of blood and the animal spirits, and all the principles of life and health, unto a good crisis and temperature, his state of body is changed. The cure of a particular sin may leave behind it the seeds of eternal death, which they may quickly effect. But he who hath obtained a change in this character which belongs essentially unto the state of depraved nature, is spiritually recovered. And the more the stream of our thoughts is turned, the more our
minds are filled by those of a contrary nature, the greater and more firm is our evidence of a translation out of that depraved state and condition.
There is nothing so unaccountable as the multiplicity of thoughts of the minds of men. They fall from them like the leaves of trees when they are shaken with the wind in autumn. To have all these thoughts, all the several figments of the heart, all the conceptions that are framed and agitated in the mind, to be evil and that continually, what a hell of horror and confusion must it needs be? A deliverance from this loathsome hateful state is more to be valued than the whole world. Without it neither life, nor peace, nor immortality, or glory, can ever be attained.
The design of conviction is to put a stop unto these thoughts, to take off from their number, and thereby to lessen their guilt. It deserves not the name of conviction of sin, which respects only outward actions, and regards not the inward actings of the mind. And this alone will for a season make a great change in the thoughts, especially it will do so when assisted by superstition directing them unto other objects. These two in conjunction are the rise of all that devotional religion which is in the papacy. Conviction labours to put some stop and bounds unto thoughts absolutely evil and corrupt; and superstition suggests other objects for them which they readily embrace; but it is a vain attempt. The-minds and hearts of men are continually minting and coining new thoughts and imaginations. The cogitative faculty is always at work. As the streams of a mighty river running into the ocean, so are the thoughts of a natural man, and through self they run into hell. It is a fond thing to set a dam before such a river, to curb its streams. For a little space there may be a stop made, but it will quickly break down all obstacles or overflow all its bounds. There is no way to divert its course but only by providing other channels for its waters, and turning them thereinto. The mighty stream of the evil thoughts of men will admit of no bounds or dams to put a stop unto them. There are but two ways of relief from them; the one respecting their moral evil, the other their natural abundance. The first by throwing salt into the spring, as Elisha cured the waters of Jericho; that is, to get the heart and mind seasoned with grace; for the