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than the impression of the force by which it was thrown continues; but if it falls on the earth, it rests there by nature. When the soul is raised in contemplation to heaven, how apt is it to fall from that height, and lose the esteem, the lively remembrance and affections of eternal things ? But when the thoughts are excited by the presence of what is pleasing to sense, the withdrawing the object does not deface the idea of it in the memory, nor lessen the conceit, nor cool the desires of it, because the heart is naturally inclined to it. Therefore it is necessary every day to refresh and renew the conceptions of eternal things, that although they are not always in act, yet the efficacy may be always felt in the heart and life. The soul habituated to such thoughts, will not easily yield to temptations, that surprise and overcome others that are strangers in their minds to the other world : nay, the presence of temptations, as by Antiperistasis, will reinforce the resolutions for heaven; like the pouring water upon lime, that revives a hidden fire in it, which seems a natural miracle. It is therefore of great advantage frequently to sequester ourselves from the world, to redeem time from secular affairs, for the recollecting our thoughts, and their solemn exercise upon the eternal world. Sense, that reveals natural things, darkens spiritual. How can the thoughts be fixed on invisible things so distant from sense, if always conversant with secular objects that draw them down? In the silence of the night, a small voice is more distinctly heard, and a little distant light more clearly seen : so when the soul is withdrawn from the noisy throng of the world, and outward things are darkened, the voice of conscience is better heard, and the light of heaven more perfectly received.
3. Consideration of eternal things must be with present application to the soul. It is not the mere conviction of the mind, but the decree of the will that turns men from sin to holiness, from the creatures to God. The heart is very deceitful, and by variety of shifts and palliations is disposed to irresolutions and delays in spiritual concernments. How often does the miserable sinner contend with himself, and while conscience urges him to seek the kingdom of heaven, and the affections draw down to the earth, the carnal part prevailing over the rational, he overcomes, and is overcome, he is convinced and condemned by his own mind. Till consideration issues in this, that with settled judgment and affections the soul determines for God and heaven, it is without profit. Therefore in the managing this duty, it is our wisdom not to be curious and inquisitive after subtile conceptions, and exalted notions of the future state, that little confer to the making the heart better ; but to think seriously on what is plain and evident, and most useful to produce a present lasting change. It were egregious folly in a man, that for the use of his garden, should with great labor fetch water
from distant fountains, and neglect that which springs up in his own ground. That meditation is profitable which produces not new thoughts, but holy and firm resolutions of obeying God, in order to the full enjoying of him forever.
To persuade us to the serious practice of this duty, there are many enforcements.
Is any man so foolish, so regardless of his convenience, to purchase a house wherein he must live all his days, and will not first see whether it will be convenient, and secure for his habitation? Shall we not then consider heaven, the mansion of blessedness, and hell the seat of misery and horror ? For according as we choose here, we shall be in the one or other place forever. I shall in the fourth part of this treatise, endeavor to represent something of the inexpressible misery of the wicked hereafter, and shew how congruous and powerful the thoughts of it are to restrain men from sin; but at present shall briefly excite to the meditation of the heavenly glory, as the most noble, delightful and fruitful work of the soul, whilst confined to the body of flesh. It is the most exalted exercise of the mind, the purest converse with God, the flower of consecrated reason. It is most like the life of glorified spirits above, who are in continual contemplation of the divine excellencies; and it is most raised above the life of carnal men, that are sunk into sensuality and brutishness. It is the most joyful life, in that it sheds abroad in the soul delights that neither satiate, nor corrupt, nor weaken the faculties, as the delights of sense do, but afford perfection as well as pleasure. It is the most protitable life. As in those parts of the earth where the beams of the sun are strongly reflected, precious metals and jewels are produced, wherein the refulgent resemblance of that bright planet appears : so the lively and vigorous exercise of the thoughts upon the heavenly glory, will produce heavenly affections, heavenly discourses, and a heavenly shining conversation. This will make us live like the blessed society above, imitating their innocence and purity, their joyful, entire and constant obedience to God. This confirms the holy soul in its choice, with an invincible efficacy against the temptations and lusts of the world. The serious considering believer is filled with ravishing wonder of the glory that shall be revealed, and looks down with contempt upon the earth, and all that has the name of felicity here. All the invitations, nay, terrors of the world, are as unable to check his pursuit of his blessed end, as the breath of an infant to stop the high flight of an eagle.
But how rare and diffused a duty is this? How hardly are men induced to set about it? Business and pleasures are powerful diversions. Some pretend business as a just cause, but in vain ; for the one thing necessary challenges our principal thoughts and care. Besides there are intervals of leisure, and the thoughts are always streaming, and often run waste, which directed aright
would be very fruitsul to the soul. The true cause of this neglect is from the inward temper of men. Carnal pleasures alienate the mind, and make it unfit for the deep, serious actings of the thoughts upon eternal things. “I have said of laughter, thou art mad.” It makes the mind light, and vain, and desultory. As a distracted person by every motion of fancy flies from one thing to another without coherence. The heart is filled with cloudy and smoky fires, with thoughts and desires about worldy things, is unprepared for such a clear, calm, and sedate work.
A carnal per son can taste no sweetness, feel no relish in the meditation of heaven, nor any spiritual duty. It is as if one should take some delicious fruit into his mouth, a peach, or the like, without breaking the skin; it would be rather a trouble, than pleasant. Nay, the gospel expressly declaring, “That without holiness no man shall see God:” those who by vicious affections are engaged in any sinful way, being conscious of their guilt and unpreparedness, and that while such, they are under a peremptory exclusion from celestial glory, cannot endure the thoughts of heaven. The divine presence is their torment, and the serious consideration of it is to bring them before God's holy and just tribunal, to accuse and condemn them.
The objects froin whence consideration derives its power to direct our choice.
The end for which man was designed in his creation. We must make a judicious comparison between the objects that stand in competition for our choice, the present world, and heaven. The vast difference between them in their quality and duration.
I shall now take a particular view of those objects, from whence consideration derives vigor, for the inclining of the will to a right choice, and for regulating the life.
1. Consider the end for which man was designed in his creation, why endued with rational and noble powers of soul, and placed by the sovereign maker in the highest rank of so numerous and various natures that fill the universe. Is it to raise an estate, to shine in pomp, to enjoy sensual pleasures for a little while, and after the fatal term to be no more forever? Was he sent into the world upon as mean a business as that of the foolish emperor, who employed an army, furnished with all military preparations, to gather shells upon the sea-shore ? according to the passionate expostulation of the Psalmist, to
charge God that “he had made all men in vain.” Reason and scripture tell us, the end of man is to glorify and enjoy God; the obtaining whereof makes him perfectly happy, and the missing or it perfectly miserable. This is a fundamental truth, upon which the whole fabric of man's duty and felicity is built; without this foundation, our faith presently sinks. If the clearness of this principle be obscured, we shall wander from the way of eternal life, and not only lose the way, but the remembrance and desire of it. Thinking is the property of the reasonable soul ; and the just order of consideration is, that the mind primarily regards this supreme directive truth, that is to govern all our actions. It was prudent counsel, that one of the * ancients gave for composing a book; that the author frequently reflect upon the title, that it may correspond in all its parts with his original design. Thus it becomes a man often to consider the end of his being, that the course of his life may have a direct tendency to it; and the more excellent our end is, the more constraining is the necessity to prosecute it. It is of great efficacy to reflect upon ourselves, whither do my thoughts and desires tend ? For what do I spend my strength, and consume my days ? Will it be my last account, how much (by my prudence and diligence) I have exceeded others in temporal acquisitions? If a General were at play while the armies are engaging, would it be a noble exploit for him to win the game, while his army, for want of conduct, loses the victory! Will it be profitable for a man to gain the world, and lose his soul? Let conscience answer in truth.
It is observable, what is reported of a f noble foreigner; that on his birth-day reflecting upon the age of his life, he was surprised with grief, and struck with astonishment, that, without a due sense of the proper business and end of life, he was arrived to that age, when our days begin to decline. In an instant, all things seemed to change appearance in his view. Then first (says he) I perceived I was a man, for before I had not resolved for what I should employ my life. The issue was, his serious resolution unfeignedly to honor God, sincerely to confess Christ, to place his felicity in holiness of life, and most zealously to follow it. Let any one, that is not of a reprobate mind, and an incorrigibly depraved heart, duly consider the sublime and supernatural end of man: 0 what a marvellous change will it make in him, of carnal into spiritual ? Nay, it would be a kind of miracle if he continu
* Primum ego scriptoris officium existimo, ut titulum suum legat, atque identidem interrogat se, quid cæperit scribere.
+ Cum natalis dies Februarij admonuisset ætatis numerandæ, et tricessimo reperissem, invasit me subita mæstitia, et perculsit admirantem, quomodo sine sensu vitæ ad ejus culmen pervenissem, à quo lux quælibet fit obscurior, et dies nostri ad occasum inclinare incipiunt. Visa est mihi, rerum facies momento mutata, et tunc primum me hominem agnovi.—Memoires Chanut,
ed in his sinful state. How will it transform him into another man, with new valuations, new affections and resolutions, as if he were “born again” with a new soul ? How will it amaze him, that his whole course has been a contradiction to the wise and gracious design of God, that all his industry has been a race out of the way, a perpetual diversion from his main business, that his life has been fruitless and dead to the true end of it? How will he be confounded at his former folly ? Then alone we act with understanding, when moved by our blessed end, and our actions by a strict tendency, without variation, issue into it.
[2.] Consider attentively the objects that stand in competition for our choice, the present world and heaven, to make a judicious comparison between them in their quality and duration
(1.) In their quality. The things of the world, according to the judgment of God himself, who is only wise and good, and has the highest authority to decide in the case, are but
fallacious appearances of happiness, mere vanity : and certainly the Creator knows the true worth of all things, and would not disparage his own works, but would undeceive men, that are apt to judge and choose by the eye of sense. The Apostle tells us, “ That an idol is nothing in the world :" although the matter of it may be of gold, or marble, or wood, yet it has no divine perfection, which the idolater attributes to it: so all worldly things, in which men place their chief care, and confidence, and joy, though they have some degrees of goodness, and are a transient relief to us in our passage to eternity, yet they are nothing as to perfect felicity. It is merely opinion and conceit that makes them so valued and pleasing ; like a rich dye to a slight stuff, from whence its price arises. Reason is either obscured, or not obeyed, when the world is the object of our choice. Now what are these appearances of beauty and pleasure, compared with a blessedness that is truly infinite? Carnal joy smiles in the countenance, flatters the fancy, touches the sense, but cannot fill the heart; but the favor of God satisfies the soul: “Thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than when their corn and wine incrcased.” Carnal joy, in its highest elevation, in the time of the harvest and vintage, is incomparably less than spiritual joy, that springs from the light of God's countenance. The world cannot fill the narrow capacity of our senses, but divine joys exceed our most enlarged comprehensive faculties : “ The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing; but the peace of God passes all understanding.” The things of the world are of a limited goodness; wisdom is not strength, nor learning riches, nor beauty fruitfulness : but God is a universal good, in whom are all attractives to raise and satisfy our desires. If men did consider, they would distinguish and despise, in comparison, all that is named felicity here, with the favor of God: to seek for satisfaction in the creature, and forsake him, is as if one desirous to see