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spirits in heavenly services, and taken off, at least for a time, many precious souls from religious performances. 'I have no heart to hear, no heart to pray, no delight in reading, nor in the society of the saints. Satan does so dodge and follow my soul, and is still casting in such a multitude of vain thoughts concerning God, the world, and my own soul, that I even tremble to think of waiting upon God in any religious service. O the vain thoughts that Satan casts in, do so distaste my soul, and so grieve, vex, perplex, and distract my soul, that they even make me weary of holy duties, yea, of my very life. O I cannot be so raised and ravished, so heated and melted, so quickened and enlarged, so comforted and refreshed, as I should be, as I might be, and as I would be, in religious services, by reason of that multitude of vain thoughts, which Satan is injecting or casting into my soul.'
Now the remedies against this device of Satan, are these—
Rem. 1. The first remedy is to have your hearts strongly affected with the greatness, holiness, majesty, and glory of that God before whom you stand, and with whom your souls do converse in religious services. O let your souls be greatly affected with the presence, purity, and majesty of that God before whom you stand. A man is afraid of playing with a feather when he is speaking with a king. When men have poor, low, light, slight thoughts of God in their drawing near to God, they tempt the devil to bestir himself, and to cast in a multitude of vain thoughts to disturb and distract the soul in its waiting on God. There is nothing that will contribute so much to the keeping out of vain thoughts as to look upon God as an omniscient God, an omnipresent God, an omnipotent God, a God full of all glorious perfections, a God whose majesty, purity, and glory will not suffer him to behold the least iniquity. The reason why the blessed saints and glorious angels in heaven have not so much as one vain thought, is because they are greatly affected with the greatness, holiness, majesty, purity, and glory of God.
Rem. 2. The second remedy is to be peremptory in religious services, notwithstanding all those wandering thoughts the soul is troubled with. This will be a sweet help against them, for the soul to be resolute in waiting on God, whether it be troubled with vain thoughts or not; to say, ' Well, I will pray still, and hear still, and meditate still, and keep fellowship with the saints still.' Many precious souls can say from experience, that when their souls have been peremptory in waiting on God, that Satan has left them, and has not been so busy in vexing their souls with vain thoughts. When Satan perceives that all those trifling vain thoughts that he casts into the soul, do but vex the soul into greater diligence, carefulness, watchfulness, and peremptoriness in holy and heavenly services, and that the soul loses nothing of its zeal, piety, and devotion, but redoubles its care, diligence, and earnestness; he often ceases to interpose his trifles and vain thoughts, as he ceased to tempt Christ, when Christ was peremptory in resisting his temptations.
No. XLll. 2 M
Rem. 3. Consider this, that those vain and trifling thoughts which are cast into our souls when we are waiting upon God in this or that religious service, if they be not cherished and indulged, but abhorred, resisted, and disclaimed, are not sins upon our souls, though they may be troubles to our mind; they shall not be put upon our accounts, nor keep mercies and blessings from being enjoyed by us. When a soul in uprightness can look God in the face and say, 'Lord, when I approach near unto thee, there a world of vain thoughts crowd in upon me, that disturb my soul and weaken my faith, and lessen my comfort and spiritual strength. O these are my clog, my burden, my torments, my hell! 0 do justice upon these, free me from these; that I may serve thee with more freeness, singleness, spiritualness, and sweetness of spirit! —these thoughts may vex that soul, but they shall not harm that soul, nor keep a blessing from that soul. If vain thoughts resisted and lamented could stop the current of mercy and render a soul unhappy, there would be none on earth that would ever taste of mercy or be everlastingly happy.'
Rem. 4. Solemnly consider that watching against sinful thoughts, resisting sinful thoughts, lamenting and weeping over sinful thoughts, carries with it the sweetest and strongest evidence of the truth and power of grace, and of the sincerity of your hearts; and is the readiest and the surest way to be rid of them. Many low and carnal considerations may work men to watch their words, their lives, their actions; as hope of gain, or to please friends, or to get a name in the world, and many other such like considerations. But to watch our thoughts, to weep and lament over them, this must needs be from some noble, spiritual, and internal principle, as love to God, a holy fear of God, a holy care and delight to please the Lord. The schools do well observe that outward sins are of greater infamy; but inward, heart sins are of greater guilt; as we see in the devils. Thoughts are the firstborn, the blossoms of the soul, the beginning of our strength, whether for good or evil; and they are the greatest evidences for or against a man that can . be. There is nothing that so speaks out a man to be thoroughly and kindly wrought upon, as having his thoughts brought into obedience, as the apostle speaks, 2 Cor. x. .4, 5. Grace is grown up to a very great height in that soul, where it prevails to the subduing of those vain thoughts which walk up and down in the soul. Well, though you cannot be rid of them, yet make resistance and opposition against the first risings of them. When sinful thoughts arise, then think thus, ' The Lord takes notice of these thoughts; he knows them afar off, as the psalmist speaks. He knew Herod's bloody thoughts, and Judas's betraying thoughts, and the Pharisees' cruel and blasphemous thoughts afar off.' O think thus, ' All these sinful thoughts defile and pollute the soul; they deface and spoil much of the inward beauty and glory of the soul. If I commit this or that sin to which my thoughts incline me, then either I must repent or not repent. If I repent, it will cost me more grief, sorrow, shame, heartbreaking, and soul-bleeding, before my conscience will be quieted, divine justice pacified, my comfort and joy restored, my evidences cleared, and my pardon in the court of conscience sealed; than the imagined profit or seeming sensual pleasure can be worth. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? If I never repent, O then my sinful thoughts will be scorpions that will eternally vex me; the rods that will eternally lash me; the thorns that will everlastingly prick me; the dagger that will be eternally stabbing me; the worm that will be for ever gnawing me.' O therefore watch against them, be constant in resisting them, and in lamenting and weeping over them, and then they shall not hurt thee, though they may for a time trouble thee: and remember this—he that does this, does more than the most glistering and blustering hypocrite in the world does.
Rem. 5. Labour more and more to be filled with the fulness of God, and to be enriched with all spiritual and heavenly things. What is the reason that the angels in heaven have not so much as an idle thought? It is because they are filled with the fulness of God. Take it for an experienced truth—the more the soul is filled with the fulness of God and enriched with spiritual and heavenly things, the less room there is in that soul for vain thoughts. The fuller the vessel is of wine, the less room there is for water. O then lay up much of God, of Christ, of precious promises and choice experiences in your hearts, and then you will be less troubled with vain thoughts. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things, Matt. xii. 35.
Rem. 6. Keep up holy and spiritual affections; for such as your affections are, such will be your thoughts. O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day, Psalm cxix. 97. What we love most, we most muse upon. When I awake I am still with thee, Psalm cxxxix. 18. That which we much like, we shall much mind. They who are frequent in their love to God and his law, will be frequent in thinking of God and his law. A child will not forget his mother.
Rem. 7. Avoid multiplicity of worldly business. O let not the world take up your hearts and thoughts at other times. Souls that are torn in pieces with the cares of the world, will be always vexed and tormented with vain thoughts in all their approaches to God. Vain thoughts will be still crowding in upon him that lives in a crowd of business. The stars which have least circuit are nearest the pole; and men who are least perplexed with business, are commonly nearest to God.
Dev. 8. The eighth device that Satan has to hinder goals from religious services, is by working them to rest in their performances; to rest in prayer, and to rest in hearing, reading, and the communion of saints. And when Satan has drawn the soul to rest upon the service done, then he will help the soul to reason thus; 'Why, thou wert as good never pray, as to pray and rest in prayer; as good never hear, as to hear and rest in hearing; as good never be in the communion of saints, as to rest in the communion of saints.' And by this device he stops many souls in their heavenly race, and takes off poor souls from those services that should be their joy and crown.
Now the remedies against this device, are these,—
Rem. 1. Dwell much upon the imperfections and weaknesses that attend your choicest services. O the spots, the blots, the blemishes, that are to be seen upon the face of our fairest duties! When thou hast done all thou canst, thou hast need to close up all with this—Enter not into judgment with thy servant 0 Lord, for the weaknesses that cleave to my best services. We may all say with the church, All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. If God should be strict to mark what is done amiss in our best actions, we were undone. O the water that is mingled with our wine, the dross that cleaves unto our gold!
Rem. 2. Consider the impotency and inability of any of your best services divinely to comfort, refresh, and bear your souls up from fainting and sinking in the days of trouble, when darkness is round about you, when God shall say to you, as he did once to the Israelites, Go and cry unto the gods that you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation, Judges x. 14. So when God shall say in the day of your trouble, 'Go to your prayers, to your hearing, and to your fasting; and see if they can help you, if they can support you, if they can deliver you,'—if God in that day does but withhold the influence of his grace from thee, thy former services will be but poor cordials to comfort thee; and then thou must and will cry out, 'O none but Christ, none but Christ! My prayers are not Christ, my hearing is not