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and cried that he was afraid. There is a way for men to think of God with the guilt of sin upon them, which they intend to forsake; but none for any to do it with the guilt of sin which they resolve to continue in. Wherefore of all these sorts of persons it may be said, that God is not in all their thoughts, and therefore are they far enough from being spiritually minded. For unless we have many thoughts of God, we cannot be so. Yea, moreover, there are two things required unto those thoughts which we have of God, that there be an evidence of our being so.
1. That we take delight in them, Psal. xxx. 4. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. The remembrance of God delighteth and refresheth the hearts of his saints, and stirs them up unto thankfulness.
1. They rejoice in what God is in himself. Whatever is good, amiable, or desirable; whatever is holy, just, and powerful; whatever is gracious, wise, and merciful, and all that is so, they see and apprehend in God. That God is what he is,' is the matter of their chiefest joy. Whatever befalls them in this world, whatever troubles and disquietment they are exercised withal, the remembrance of God is a satisfactory refreshment unto them: for therein they behold all that is good and excellent, the infinite centre of all perfections. Wicked men would have God to be in any thing but what he is : nothing that God is really and truly pleaseth them. Wherefore, they either frame false notions of him in their minds, as Psal. 1. 21. or they think not of him at all, at least as they ought, unless sometimes they tremble at his anger and power. Some benefit they suppose may be had, by what he can do, but how there can be any delight in what he is, they know not: yea, all their trouble ariseth from hence, that he is what he is. It would be a relief unto them, if they could make any abatement of his power, his holiness, his righteousness, his omnipresence; but his saints, as the psalmist speaks, ‘give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.'
And when we can delight in the thoughts of what God is in himself, of his infinite excellencies and perfections, it gives us a threefold evidence of our being spiritually minded. 1. In that it is such an evidence that we have a gracious interest in those excellencies and perfections, whereon we can say, with rejoicing in ourselves, 'This God,'thus holy, thus powerful, thus just, good, and gracious,ʻis our God, and he will be our guide unto death.' So the psalmist, under the consideration of his own frailty, and apprehensions of death in the midst of his years, comforts and refresheth himself with thoughts of God's eternity and immutability, with his interest in them; Psal. cii. 23-28. And God himself proposeth unto us, his infinite immutability as the ground whereon we may expect safety and deliverance; Mal. iii. 6. When we can thus think of God, and what he is with delight, it is, I say, an evidence that we have a gracious covenant interest, even in what God is in himself; which none have but those who are spiritually minded.
2. It is an evidence that the image of God is begun to be wrought in our own souls; and we approve of and rejoice in it more than in all other things whatever. Whatever notions men may have of the divine goodness, holiness, righteousness, and purity, they are all but barren, jejune, and fruitless, unless there be a similitude and conformity unto them wrought in their minds and souls. Without this they cannot rejoice in the thoughts and remembrance of the divine excellencies. Wherefore, when we can do so, when such meditations of God are sweet unto us, it is an evidence that we have some experience in ourselves of the excellency of the image of those perfections, and that we rejoice in them above all things in this world.
3. They are so also, in that they are manifest, that we do discern and judge that our eternal blessedness doth consist in the full manifestation, and our enjoyment, of God in what he is, and of all his divine excellencies. This men for the most part take for granted, but how it should be so, they know not. They understand it, in some measure, whose hearts are here deeply affected with delight in them; they are able to believe that the manifestation and enjoyment of the divine excellencies will give eternal rest, satisfaction, and complacency unto their souls. No wicked man can look upon it otherwise than a torment, to abide for ever *with eternal holiness;' Isa. xxxii, 14. And we ourselves can have no present prospect into the fulness of future
glory, when God shall be all in all, but through the delight and satisfaction which we have here in the contemplation of what God is in himself, as the centre of all divine perfections.
I would therefore press this unknown, this neglected duty on the minds of those of us in an especial manner, who are visibly drawing nigh unto eternity. The days are coming, wherein what God is in himself, that is as manifest and exerted in Christ, shall alone be (as we hope) the eternal blessedness and reward of our souls. Is it possible that any thing should be more necessary for us, more useful unto us, than to be exercised in such thoughts and contemplations. The benefits we may have hereby are not to be reckoned, some of them only may be named. As, 1. We shall have the best trial of ourselves, how our hearts really stand affected towards God. For if upon examination we find ourselves not really to delight and rejoice in God, for what he is in himself, and that all perfections are eternally resident in him, how dwelleth the love of God in
But if we can truly rejoice at the remembrance of his holiness,' in the thoughts of what he is, our hearts are upright with him. 2. This is that which will effectually take off our thoughts and affections from things here below. One spiritual view of the divine goodness, beauty, and holiness, will have more efficacy to raise the heart unto a contempt of all earthly things, than any other evidences what
3. It will increase the grace of being heavenlyminded in us, on the ground sbefore declared. 4. It is the best, I had almost said, it is the only preparation for the future full enjoyment of God. This will gradually lead us into his presence, take away all fears of death, increase our longing after eternal rest, and ever make us groan to be unclothed. Let us not then cease labouring with our hearts, until, through grace, we have a spiritually sensible delight and joy in the remembrances and thoughts of what God is in himself.
2. In thoughts of God, his saints rejoice at the remembrance of what he is, and what he will be unto them. Herein have they regard unto all the holy relations that he hath taken on himself towards them, with all the effects of his covenant in Christ Jesus. To that purpose were some of
the last words of David, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure ; this is all my salvation and all my desire. In the prospect he had of all the distresses that were to befall his family, he triumphantly rejoiceth in the everlasting covenant that God had made with him. In these thoughts his saints take delight; they are sweet unto them, and full of refreshment. • Their meditations of him are sweet, and they are glad in the Lord,' Psal. civ. 34. Thus is it with them that are truly spiritually minded : they not only think much of God, but they take delight in these thoughts; they are sweet unto them; and not only so, but they have no solid joy nor delight, but in their thoughts of God, which therefore they retreat unto continually. They do so especially on great occasions, which of themselves are apt to divert them from them. As suppose a man hath received a signal mercy, with the matter whereof he is exceedingly affected and delighted; the minds of some men are apt on such occasions to be filled with thoughts of what they have received, and their affections to be wholly taken up with it. But he who is spiritually minded, will immediately retreat unto thoughts of God, placing his delight and taking up his satisfaction in him. And so, on the other side, great distresses, prevalent sorrows, strong pains, violent distempers, are apt of themselves to take up and exercise all the thoughts of men about them. But those who are spiritually minded, will in and under them all continually betake themselves unto thoughts of God, wherein they find relief and refreshment against all that they feel or fear. In every state, their principal joy is in the remembrance of his holiness.
2. That they be accompanied with godly fear and reverence. These are required of us in all wherein we have to do with God, Heb. xii. 28, 29. And as the Scripture doth not more abound with precepts unto any duty, so the nature of God and our own, with the infinite distance between them, make it indispensably necessary even in the light of the natural conscience. Infinite greatness, infinite holiness, infinite power, all which God is, command the utmost reverential fear that our natures are capable of. The want hereof is the spring of innumerable evils; yea, indeed, of all that is so. Hence are blasphemous abuses of the holy name of God in cursed oaths and execrations; hence it is taken in vain, in ordinary exclamations ; hence is all formality in religion.
It is the spiritual mind alone that can reconcile those things which are prescribed us as our duty towards God. To delight and rejoice in him always, to triumph in the remembrance of him, to draw nigh unto him with boldness and confidence, are, on the one hand, prescribed unto us : and on the other it is so, that we fear and tremble before him, that we fear that great and dreadful name the Lord our God, that we have grace to serve him with reverence and godly fear, because he is a consuming fire. These things carnal reason can comprehend no consistency in; what it is afraid of, it cannot delight in; and what it delights in, it will not long fear. But the consideration of faith (concerning what God is in himself, and what he will be unto us) gives these different graces their distinct operations, and a blessed reconciliation in our souls. Wherefore all our thoughts of God ought to be accompanied with a holy awe and reverence, from a due sense of his greatness, holiness, and power. Two things will utterly vitiate all thoughts of God, and render them useless unto us.
1. Vain curiosity. 2. Carnal boldness. 1. It is inimaginable how the subtle disquisitions and disputes of men, about the nature, properties, and counsels of God, have been corrupted, rendered sapless and useless, by vain curiosity, and striving for an artificial accuracy in the expression of men's apprehensions. When the wits and minds of men are engaged in such thoughts, God is not in all their thoughts, even when all their thoughts are concerning him. When once men are got into their metaphysical curiosities and logical niceties, in their contemplations about God and his divine properties, they bid farewell, for the most part, unto all godly fear and reverence. 2. Others are under the of carnal boldness, that they think of God with no other respect than if they thought of worms of the earth like themselves. There is no holy awfulness upon their minds and souls in the mention of his name. By these things may our thoughts of God be so vitiated, that the heart shall not in them be affected with a reverence of him, nor any evidence be given that we are spiritually minded.