I have here reprinted chapters thirteen, fourteen and fifteen of Richard Baxter's book The Saints Everlasting Rest; the subject is Meditation. I have found these thoughts to be of great assistance to me in my personal contemplations of God.
THE NATURE OF HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION; WITH THE TIME, PLACE, AND TEMPER FITTEST FOR IT.
The duty of heavenly contemplation is recommended and defined. The definition is illustrated. I. The times fittest for it are represented as, 1. Stated; 2. Frequent; 3. Seasonable every day, particularly every Lord's day, but more especially when our hearts are warmed with a sense of divine things; or when we are afflicted or tempted; or when we are near death. II. The fittest place for it. III. The fittest temper for it, 1. When our minds are most clear of the world, 2. And most solemn and serious.
Once more I entreat thee, reader, as thou makest conscience of a revealed duty, and darest not wilfully resist the Spirit; as thou valuest the high delights of a saint, and the soul-ravishing exercise of heavenly contemplation; that thou diligently study, and speedily and faithfully practice the following directions. If, by this means, thou dost not find an increase of all thy graces, and dost not grow beyond the stature of a common Christian, and art not made more serviceable in thy place, and more precious in the eyes of all discerning persons; if thy soul enjoy not more communion with God, and thy life be not fuller of comfort, and thou has not more support in a dying hour; then cast away these directions, and exclaim against me for ever as a deceiver.
The duty which I press upon thee so earnestly, and in the practice of which I am now to direct thee, is, "The set and solemn acting of all the powers of thy soul in meditation upon thy everlasting rest." More fully to explain the nature of this duty, I will here illustrate a little the description itself; and then point out the fittest time, place, and temper of mind for it.
It is not improper to illustrate a little the manner in which we have described this duty of meditation, or the considering and contemplating of spiritual things. It is confessed to be a duty by all, but practically denied by most. Many, that make conscience of other duties, easily neglect this. They are troubled if they omit a sermon, a fast, or a prayer, in public or private; yet were never troubled that they have omitted meditation perhaps all their lifetime to this very day; though it be that duty by which all other duties are improved, and by which the soul digests truth for its nourishment and comfort. it was God's command to Joshua, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein." As digestion turns food into chyle and blood for vigorous health, so meditation turns the truths received and remembered into warm affection, firm resolution, and holy conversation.
This meditation is the acting of all the powers of the soul. It is the work of the living, and not of the dead. It is a work the most spiritual and sublime, and therefore not to be well performed by a heart that is merely carnal and earthly. Men must necessarily have some relation to heaven before they can familiarly converse there. I suppose them to be such as have a title to rest, when I persuade them to rejoice in the meditations of rest. And supposing thee to be a Christian, I am now exhorting thee to be an active Christian. And it is the work of the soul I am setting thee to, for bodily exercise here profiteth little. And it must have all the powers of the soul to distinguish it from the common meditation of students; for the understanding is not the whole soul, and therefore cannot do the whole work. As in the body, the stomach must turn the food into chyle and prepare for the liver, the liver and spleen turn it into blood and prepare for the heart and brain; so in the soul, the understanding must take in truths, and prepare them for the will, and that for the affections. Christ and heaven have various excellencies, and therefore God hath formed the soul with different powers for apprehending these excellencies. What the better had we been for odoriferous flowers, if we had no smell' or what good would language or music have done us, if we could not hear' or what pleasure should we have found in meats and drinks, without the sense of taste' So what good could all the glory of heaven have done us, or what pleasure should we have had in the perfection of God himself, if we had been without the affections of love and joy' And what strength or sweetness canst thou possibly receive by thy meditations on eternity, while thou dost not exercise those affections of the soul by which thou must be sensible of this sweetness and strength' It is the mistake of Christians to think that meditation is only the work of the understanding and memory; when every school-boy can do this, or persons that hate the things which they think on. So that you see there is more to be done than barely to remember and think of heaven. As some labors not only stir a hand or a foot, but exercise the whole body; so doth meditation the whole soul. As the affections of sinners are set on the world, are turned to idols and fallen from God as well as their understanding; so must their affections be reduced to God as well as the understanding; and as their whole soul was filled with sin before, so the whole must be filled with God now. See David's description of the blessed man: "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
This meditation is set and solemn. As there is solemn prayer, when we set ourselves wholly to that duty; and ejaculatory prayer, when, in the midst of other business, we send up some short request to God; so also there is solemn meditation, when we apply ourselves wholly to that work; and transient meditation, when, in the midst of other business, we have some good thoughts of God in our minds. And as solemn prayer is either set in a constant course of duty, or occasional, at an extraordinary season; so also is meditation. Now, though I would persuade you to that meditation which is mixed with your common labors, and also that to which special occasions direct you; yet I would have you likewise make it a constant standing duty, as you do hearing, praying, and reading the Scriptures; and no more intermix other matters with it, than you would with prayer, or other stated solemnities.
This meditation is upon thy everlasting rest. I would not have you cast off your other meditations; but surely, as heaven hath the preeminence in perfection, it should have it also in our meditation. That which will make us most happy when we possess it, will make us most joyful when we meditate upon it. Other meditations are as numerous as there are lines in the scripture, or creatures in the universe, or particular providences in the government of the world. But this is a walk to Mount Sion; from the kingdoms of the world to the kingdom of saints; from earth to heaven; from time to eternity: it is walking upon sun, moon and stars, in the garden and paradise of God. It may seem far off; but spirits are quick: whether in the body or out of the body, their motion is swift. You need not fear, like the men of the world, lest these thoughts should make you mad. It is in heaven, and not hell, that I persuade you to walk. It is joy, and not sorrow, that I persuade you to exercise. I urge you to look on no deformed objects, but only upon the ravishing glory of saints, and the unspeakable excellencies of the God of glory, and the beams that stream from the face of his Son. Will it distract a man to think of his only happiness' Will it distract the miserable to think of mercy, or the prisoner to foresee deliverance, or the poor to think of approaching riches and honor' Methinks it should rather make a man mad to think of living in a world of woe, and abiding in poverty and sickness, among the rage of wicked men, than to think of living with Christ in bliss. "But wisdom is justified of all her children." Knowledge hath no enemy but the ignorant. This heavenly course was never spoken against by any but those that never knew it, or never used it. I fear more the neglect of men that approve it, than the opposition or arguments of any against it.
First. As to THE FITTEST TIME for this heavenly contemplation, let me only advise that it be stated-frequent-and seasonable.
1. Give it a stated time. If thou suit thy time to the advantage of the work, without placing any religion in the time itself, thou hast no need to fear superstition. Stated time is a hedge to duty, and defends it against many temptations to omissions. Some have not their time at command, and therefore cannot set their hours; and many are so poor, that the necessities of their families deny them this freedom; such persons should be watchful to redeem time as much as they can, and take their vacant opportunities as they fall, and especially join meditation and prayer as much as they can with the labors of their calling. Yet those who have more time to spare from their worldly necessities, and are masters of their time, I still advise to keep this duty to a stated time. And indeed, if every work of the day had its appointed time, we should be better skilled both in redeeming time and performing duty.
2. Let it be frequent as well as stated. How oft it should be I cannot determine, because men's circumstances differ; but in general, Scripture requires it to be frequent, when it mentions meditating day and night. For those, therefore, who can conveniently omit other business, I advise that it be once a day at least.
Frequency in heavenly contemplation is particularly important, to prevent a shyness between God and thy soul. Frequent society breeds familiarity, and familiarity increases love and delight, and makes us bold in our addresses. The chief end of this duty is, to have acquaintance and fellowship with God; and therefore, if thou come but seldom to it, thou wilt still keep thyself a stranger. When a man feels his need of God, and must seek his help in a time of necessity, then it is great encouragement to go to a God we know and are acquainted with. "O," saith the heavenly Christian, "I know both wither I go, and to whom. I have gone this way many a time before now. It is the same God that I daily converse with, and the way has been my daily walk. God knows me well enough, and I have some knowledge of him." On the other hand, what a horror and discouragement will it be to the soul, when it is forced to fly to God in straits, to think, "Alas! I know not whither to go. I never went the way before. I have no acquaintance at the court of heaven. My soul knows not that God that I must speak to, and I fear he will not know my soul." But especially when we come to die, and must immediately appear before this God, and expect to enter into his eternal rest, then the difference will plainly appear; then what a joy will it be to think, "I am going to the place from whence I tasted such frequent delights; to that God whom I have met in my meditation so often! My heart hath been in heaven before now, and hath often tasted its reviving sweetness; and if my eyes were so enlightened and my spirits so refreshed when I had but a taste, what will it be when I shall feed on it freely'" On the contrary, what a terror will it be to think, "I must die and go I know not whither; from a place where I am acquainted, to a place where I have no familiarity or knowledge!" It is an inexpressible horror to a dying man to have strange thoughts of God and heaven. I am persuaded that it is the neglect of this duty which so commonly makes death, even to godly men, unwelcome and uncomfortable. Therefore I persuade to frequency in this duty.
And as it will prevent shyness between thee and God, so also it will prevent unskilfulness in the duty itself. How awkwardly do men set their hands to a work in which they are seldom employed! Whereas frequency will habituate thy heart to the work, and make it more easy and delightful. The hill which made thee pant and blow at first going up, thou may easily run up when thou are once accustomed to it.
Thou wilt also prevent the loss of the heat and life thou hast obtained. If thou eat but once in two or three days, thou wilt lose thy strength as fast as it comes. If in holy meditation thou get near to Christ and warm thy heart with the fire of love, and then come but seldom, thy former coldness will soon return; especially as the work is so spiritual and against the bent of depraved nature. It is true, the intermixing of other duties, especially secret prayer, may do much to the keeping of thy heart above; but meditation is the life of most other duties, and the view of heaven is the life of meditation.
3. Choose also the most seasonable time. All things are beautiful and excellent in their season. Unseasonableness may lose the fruit of thy labor, may raise difficulties in the work, and may turn a duty to a sin. The same hour may be seasonable to one and unseasonable to another. Servants and laborers must take that season which their business can best afford; either while at work, or in travelling, or when they lie awake in the night. Such as can choose what time of the day they will, should observe when they find their spirits most active and fit for contemplation, and fix upon that as the stated time. I have always found that the fittest time for myself is the evening, from sun-setting to the twilight. I the rather mention this, because it was the experience of a better and wiser man; for it is expressly said, "Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the even-tide."
The Lord's day is exceedingly seasonable for this exercise. When should we more seasonably contemplate our rest than on that day of rest which typifies it to us' It being a day appropriated to spiritual duties, methinks we should never exclude this duty, which is so eminently spiritual. I verily think this is the chief work of a Christian Sabbath, and most agreeable to the design of its positive institution. What fitter time to converse with our Lord than on the Lord's day' What fitter day to ascend to heaven than that on which he arose from earth, and fully triumphed over death and hell' The fittest temper for a true Christian is, like John, to "be in the Spirit on the Lord's day." And what can bring us to this joy in the Spirit, but the spiritual beholding of our approaching glory' Take notice of this, you that spend the Lord's day only in public worship; your allowing no time to private duty, and therefore neglecting this spiritual duty of meditation, is very hurtful to your souls. You, also, that have time on the Lord's day for idleness and vain discourse, were you but acquainted with this duty of contemplation, you would need no other pastime; you would think the longest day short enough, and be sorry that the night had shortened your pleasure. Christians, let heaven have more share in your Sabbaths, where you must shortly keep your everlasting Sabbaths. Use your Sabbaths as steps to glory, till you have passed them all, and are there arrived. Especially you that are poor, and cannot take time in the week as you desire, see that you well improve this day; as your bodies rest from their labors, let your spirits seek after rest from God.
Besides the constant seasonableness of every day, and particularly every Lord's day, there are also more peculiar seasons for heavenly contemplation. As for instance:
When God hath more abundantly warmed thy spirit with fire from above, then thou mayst soar with greater freedom. A little labor will set thy heart a going at such a time as this; whereas at another time thou mayst take pains to little purpose. Observe the gales of the Spirit, and how the Spirit of Christ doth move thy spirit. "Without Christ we can do nothing;" and therefore let us be doing while he is doing! and be sure not to be out of the way, nor asleep, when he comes. When the Spirit finds thy heart, like Peter, in prison and in irons, and smites thee, and says, "Arise up quickly, and follow me!" be sure thou then arise and follow; and thou shalt find thy chains fall off, and all doors will open, and thou wilt be at heaven before thou art aware.
Another peculiar season
for this duty is, when thou art in a suffering, distressed, or tempted
state. When should we take our cordials but in time of fainting' When is it
more seasonable to walk to heaven than when we know not in what corner of earth
to live with comfort' Or when should our thoughts converse more above than when
we have nothing but grief below' Where should Noah's dove be but in the ark,
when the waters cover all the earth, and she cannot find rest for the sole of her
foot' what should we think on but our Father's house, when we have not even the
husks of the world to feed upon' Surely God sends thy afflictions for this very
purpose. Happy art thou, poor man, if thou make this use of thy poverty! and
thou that art sick, if thou so improve thy sickness! It is seasonable to go to
the promised land, when our burdens are increased in
And another season
peculiarly fit for this heavenly duty is when the messengers of God summon us to
die. When should we more frequently sweeten our souls with the believing
thoughts of another life, than when we find that this is almost ended' No men
have greater need of supporting joys than dying men; and these joys must be
drawn from our eternal joy. As heavenly delights are sweetest when nothing
earthly is joined with them, so the delights of dying Christians are oftentimes
the sweetest they ever had. What a prophetic blessing had dying Isaac and Jacob
for their sons! With what a heavenly song and divine benediction did Moses
conclude his life' What heavenly advice and prayer had the disciples from their
Lord, when he was about to leave them! When Paul was "ready to be offered,"
what heavenly exhortation and advice did he give the Philippians, Timothy, and
the elders of
Secondly. Concerning the FITTEST PLACE for heavenly contemplation, it is sufficient that the most convenient is some private retirement. Our spirits need every help, and to be freed from every hinderance in the work. If, in private prayer, Christ directs us to "enter into our closet and shut the door, that our Father may see us in secret," so should we do this in meditation. How often did Christ himself retire to some mountain, or wilderness, or other solitary place! I give not this advice for occasional meditation, but for that which is set and solemn. Therefore withdraw thyself from all society, even that of godly men, that thou mayst awhile enjoy the society of thy Lord. If a student cannot study in a crowd, who exerciseth only his invention and memory, much less shouldst thou be in a crowd, who art to exercise all the powers of thy soul, and upon an object so far above nature. We are fled so far from superstitious solitude, that we have even cast off the solitude of contemplative devotion. We seldom read of God's appearing by himself, or by his angels, to any of his prophets or saints, in a crowd: but frequently when they were alone.
But observe for thyself what place best agrees with thy spirit, within doors or without. Isaac's example, in "going out to meditate in the field," will, I am persuaded, best suit with most. Our Lord so much used a solitary garden, that even Judas, when he came to betray him, knew where to find him: and though he took his disciples thither with him, yet he "was withdrawn from them" for more secret devotions; and though his meditation be not directly named, but only his praying, yet it is very clearly implied; for his soul is first made sorrowful with bitter meditations on his sufferings and death, and then he poureth it out in prayer. So that Christ had his accustomed place, and consequently accustomed duty; and so must we: he hath a place that is solitary, whither he retireth, even from his own disciples; and so must we: his meditations go further than his thoughts; they affect and pierce his heart and soul; and so must ours. Only there is a wide difference in the object: Christ meditates on the sufferings that our sins had deserved, so that the wrath of his Father passed through all his soul; but we are to meditate on the glory he hath purchased, that the love of the Father and the joy of the Spirit may enter our thoughts, and revive our affections, and overflow our souls.
Thirdly. I am next to advise thee concerning the PREPARATION OF THY HEART for this heavenly contemplation. The success of the work much depends on the frame of thy heart. When man's heart had nothing in it to grieve the Spirit, it was then the delightful habitation of his Maker. God did not quit his residence there till man expelled him by unworthy provocations. There was no shyness or reserve till the heart grew sinful, and too loathsome a dungeon for God to delight in. And were this soul reduced to its former innocency, God would quickly return to his former habitation; yea, so far as it is renewed and repaired by the Spirit, and purged from its lusts, and beautified with his image, the Lord will yet acknowledge it as his own: Christ will manifest himself unto it, and the Spirit will take it for his temple and residence. So far as the heart is qualified for conversing with God, so far it usually enjoys him. Therefore, "with all diligence keep thy heart, for out of it are the issues of life." More particularly,
1. Get thy heart as clear from the world as thou canst. Wholly lay by the thoughts of thy business, troubles, enjoyments, and every thing that may take up any room in thy soul. Get it as empty as thou possibly canst, that it may be the more capable of being filled with God. If thou couldst perform some outward duty with a part of thy heart while the remainder is absent, yet this duty, above all, I am sure thou canst not. When thou shalt go into the mount of contemplation, thou wilt be like the covetous man at the heap of gold, who, when he might take as much as he could, lamented that he was able to carry no more: thou wilt find as much of God and glory as thy narrow heart is able to contain, and almost nothing to hinder thy full possession but the incapacity of thy own spirit. Then thou wilt think, "O that this understanding and these affections could contain more! It is more my unfitness than any thing else that even this place is not my heaven. 'God is in this place, and I know it not.' This 'mount is full of chariots and fire;' but mine eyes are shut, and I cannot see them. O the words of love Christ hath to speak, and wonders of love he hath to show, but I cannot hear them yet! Heaven is ready for me, but my heart is unready for heaven." Therefore, reader, seeing thy enjoyment of God in this contemplation much depends on the capacity and disposition of thy heart, seek him here, if ever, with all thy soul. Thrust not Christ into the stable and the manger, as if thou hadst better guests for the chief rooms. Say to all thy worldly business and thoughts, as Christ to his disciples, "Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder;" or as Abraham to his servants, when he went to offer Isaac, "Abide ye here, and I will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." Even as "the priests thrust king Uzziah out of the temple," where he presumed to burn incense, when they saw the leprosy upon him; so do thou thrust those thoughts from the temple of thy heart, which have the badge of God's prohibition upon them.
2. Be sure to enter upon this work with the greatest solemnity of heart and mind. There is no trifling in holy things. "God will be sanctified in them that come nigh him." These spiritual, excellent, soul-raising duties, are, if well used, most profitable; but, when used unfaithfully, most dangerous. Labor, therefore, to have the deepest apprehensions of the presence of God and his incomprehensible greatness. If queen Esther must not draw near "till the king hold out the sceptre," think, then with what reverence thou shouldst approach Him who made the worlds with the word of his mouth, who upholds the earth as in the palm of his hand, who keeps the sun, moon and stars in their courses, and who sets bounds to the raging sea! Thou art going to converse with Him, before whom the earth will quake and devils do tremble, and at whose bar thou and all the world must shortly stand and be finally judged. O think! "I shall then have lively apprehensions of his majesty. My drowsy spirits will then be awakened, and my irreverence be laid aside: and why should I now now be roused with the sense of his greatness, and the dread of his name possess my soul'" Labor also to apprehend the greatness of the work which thou attemptest, and to be deeply sensible both of its importance and excellency. If thou wast pleading for thy life at the bar of an earthly judge, thou wouldst be serious, and yet that would be a trifle to this. If thou wast engaged in such a work as David against Goliath, on which the welfare of a kingdom depended; in itself considered, it were as nothing to this. Suppose thou wast going to such a wrestling as Jacob's, or to see the sign which the three disciples saw in the mount, how seriously, how reverently wouldst thou both approach and behold! If but an angel from heaven should appoint to meet thee at the same time and place of thy contemplations, with what dread wouldst thou be filled! Consider, then, with what a spirit thou shouldst meet the Lord, and with what seriousness and awe thou shouldst daily converse with him. Consider, also, the blessed issue of the work, if it succeed; it will be thy admission to the presence of God, and the beginning of thy eternal glory on earth; a means to make thee live above the rate of other men, and fix thee in the next room to the angels themselves, that thou mayest both live and die joyfully. The prize being so great, thy preparations should be answerable. None on earth live such a life of joy and blessedness as those who are acquainted with this heavenly conversation. The joys of all other men are but like a child's plaything, a fool's laughter, or a sick man's dream of health. He that trades for heaven is the only gainer, and he that neglects it is the only loser. How seriously, therefore, should this work be done!
WHAT USE HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION MAKES OF CONSIDERATION, THE AFFECTIONS, SOLILOQUY, AND PRAYER.
I. The use of consideration, and its great influence over the heart. II. Contemplation is promoted by the affections; particularly, 1. By love; 2. Desire; 3. Hope; 4. Courage, or boldness; 5. Joy. III. The usefulness of soliloquy and prayer in heavenly contemplation.
Having set thy heart in
tune, we now come to the music itself. Having got an appetite, now approach to
the feast, and delight thy soul as with marrow and fatness. Come, for all
things are now ready. Heaven and Christ, and the exceeding weight of glory, are
before you. Do not make light of this invitation, nor begin to make excuses;
whosoever thou art, rich or poor, though in an alms-house or hospital, though
in the high-ways or hedges, my commission is, if possible, to compel you to
come in; and blessed is he that shall eat bread in the
First. CONSIDERATION is the great instrument by which this heavenly work is carried on. This must be voluntary, and not forced. Some men consider unwillingly; so God will make the wicked consider their sins when he shall "set them in order before their eyes;" so shall the damned consider the excellency of Christ, whom they once despised, and the eternal joys which they have foolishly lost. Great is the power which consideration hath for moving the affections and impressing things on the heart; as will appear by the following particulars:
1. Consideration, as it were, opens the door between the head and the heart. The understanding having received truths, lays them up in the memory, and consideration conveys them from thence to the affections. What excellency would there be in much learning and knowledge, if the obstructions between the head and the heart were but opened, and the affections did but correspond to the understanding! He is usually the best scholar, whose apprehension is quick, clear and tenacious; but he is usually the best Christian, whose apprehension is the deepest and most affectionate, and who has the readiest passages, not so much from the ear to the brain, as from that to the heart. And though the Spirit be the principal cause, yet, on our part, this passage must be opened by consideration.
2. Consideration presents to the affections those things which are most important. The most delightful object does not entertain where it is not seen, nor the most joyful news affect him who does not hear it; but consideration presents to our view those things which were as absent, and brings them to the eye and ear of the soul. Are not Christ and glory affecting objects' Would they not work wonders upon the soul, if they were but clearly discovered, and our apprehensions of them in some measure corresponded to their worth' It is consideration that presents them to us: this is the Christian's perspective by which he can see from earth to heaven.
3. Consideration, also, presents the most important things in the most affecting way. It reasons the case with a man's own heart. When a believer would reason his heart to heavenly contemplation, how many arguments offer themselves from God and Christ, from each of the divine perfections, from our former and present state, from promises, from present sufferings and enjoyments, from hell and heaven! Every thing offers itself to promote our joy, and consideration is the hand to draw them all out; it adds one reason to another, till the scales turn: this it does when persuading to joy, till it has silenced all our distrusts and sorrows, and our cause for rejoicing lies plain before us. If another's reasoning is powerful with us, though we are not certain whether he intends to inform or deceive us, how much more should our own reasoning prevail with us, when we are so well acquainted with our own intentions! Nay, how much more should God's reasoning prevail with us, which we are sure cannot deceive, or be deceived! Now, consideration is but the reading over and repeating God's reasons to plead with himself why he should return to his father's house, so have we to plead with our affections, to persuade them to our Father's everlasting mansions.
4. Consideration exalts reason to its just authority. It helps to deliver it from its captivity to the senses, and sets it again on the throne of the soul. When reason is silent, it is usually subject; for when it is asleep, the senses domineer. But consideration awakens our reason, till, like Samson, it rouses up itself, and breaks the bonds of sensuality, and bears down the delusions of the flesh. What strength can the lion exert while asleep' What is a king, when dethroned, more than another man' Spiritual reason, excited by meditation, and not fancy or fleshly sense, must judge of heavenly joys. Consideration exalts the objects of faith, and comparatively disgraces the objects of sense. The most inconsiderate men are most sensual. It is too easy and common to sin against knowledge; but against sober, strong, persevering consideration, men seldom offend.
5. Consideration makes reason strong and active. Before, it was a standing water, but now as a stream, which violently bears down all before it. Before, it was as the stones in the brook, but now like that out of David's sling, which smites the Goliath of our unbelief in the forehead. As wicked men continue wicked, because they bring not reason into action and exercise; so godly men are uncomfortable, because they let their reason and faith lie asleep, and do not stir them up to action by this work of meditation. What fears, sorrows and joys will our very dreams excite! How much more, then, would serious meditation affect us!
6. Consideration can continue and persevere in this rational employment. Meditation holds reason and faith to their work, and blows the fire till it thoroughly burns. To run a few steps will not get a man heat, but walking an hour may; and though a sudden occasional thought of heaven will not raise our affections to any spiritual heat, yet meditation can continue our thoughts till our hearts grow warm. Thus you see the powerful tendency of consideration to produce this great elevation of the soul in heavenly contemplation.
Secondly. Let us next see how this heavenly work is promoted by the particular exercise of THE AFFECTIONS. It is by consideration that we first have recourse to the memory, and from thence take those heavenly doctrines which we intend to make the subject of our meditation; such as promises of eternal life, descriptions of the saints' glory, the resurrection, &c. We then present them to our judgment, that it may deliberately view them and take an exact survey, and determine uprightly concerning the perfection of our celestial happiness, against all the dictates of flesh and sense, and so as to magnify the Lord in our hearts, till we are filled with a holy admiration. But the principal thing is to exercise, not merely our judgment, but our faith in the truth of the promises, and of our own personal interest in them, and title to them. If we did really and firmly believe that there is such a glory, and that within a few days our eyes shall behold it, O what passion would it raise within us! What astonishing apprehensions of that life would it produce! What love, what longing would it excite within us! O how it would actuate every affection! how it would transport us with joy, upon the least assurance of our title! Never expect to have love and joy move, when faith stands still, which must lead the way. Therefore daily exercise faith, and set before it the freeness of the promise, God's urging all to accept it, Christ's gracious disposition, all the evidences of the love of Christ, his faithfulness to his engagement, and the evidences of his love in ourselves; lay all these together, and think whether they do not testify the good will of the Lord concerning our salvation, and may not properly be pleaded against our unbelief. Thus, when the judgment has determined, and faith has apprehended the truth of our happiness, then may our meditation proceed to raise our affections; and particularly love, desire, hope, courage or boldness, and joy.
1. Love is the first affection to be excited in heavenly contemplation; the object of it is goodness. Here, Christian, is the soul-reviving part of thy work. Go to thy memory, thy judgment and thy faith, and from them produce the excellencies of thy rest; present these to thy affection of love, and thou wilt find thyself, as it were, in another world. Speak out, and love can hear. Do but reveal these things, and love can see. It is the brutish love of the world that is blind; divine love is exceedingly quicksighted. Let thy faith take hold of thy heart, and show it the sumptuous buildings of thy eternal habitation, and the glorious ornaments of thy father's house, even the mansions Christ is preparing, and the honors of his kingdom; let thy faith lead thy heart into the presence of God, and as near as thou possibly canst, and say to it, "Behold the Ancient of Days, the Lord Jehovah, whose name is, I AM: this is he who made all the worlds with his word, who upholds the earth, who rules the nations, who disposes of all events, who subdues his foes, who controls the swelling waves of the sea, who governs the winds, and causes the sun to run its race, and the stars to know their courses. This is he who loved thee from everlasting, formed thee in the womb, gave thee this soul, brought thee forth, showed thee the light, and ranked thee with the chief of his earthly creatures; who endued thee with thy understanding, and beautified thee with his gifts; who maintains thy life and all its comforts, and distinguishes thee from the most miserable and vilest of men. O here is an object worthy of thy love! Here shouldst thou even pour out thy soul in love! Here it is impossible for thee to love too much! This is the Lord who hath blessed thee with his benefits, 'spread thy table in the sight of thine enemies, and made thy cup overflow!' This is he whom angels and saints praise, and the heavenly host for ever magnify!" Thus do thou expatiate on the praises of God, and open his excellencies to thine heart, till the holy fire of love begins to kindle in thy breast.
If thou dost not yet feel thy love burn, lead thy heart farther, and show it the Son of the living God, whose name is "Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace:" show it the King of saints on the throne of his glory, "the First and the Last; who is, and was, and is to come: who liveth, and was dead, and behold, he liveth for evermore; who hath made thy peace by the blood of his cross," and hath prepared thee with himself a habitation of peace: his office is that of the great peace-maker; his kingdom is the kingdom of peace; his Gospel is the tidings of peace; his voice to thee now is the voice of peace! Draw near, and behold him. Dost thou not hear his voice' He that bade Thomas come near, and see the print of the nails, and put his finger into his wounds; he it is that calls to thee, "Come near, and view the Lord thy Savior, and be not faithless, but believing; peace be unto thee, fear not, it is I." Look well upon him. Dost thou not know him' It is he that brought thee up from the pit of hell, reversed the sentence of thy damnation, bore the curse which thou shouldst have borne, restored thee to the blessing thou hadst forfeited, and purchased the advancement which thou must inherit for ever. And dost thou not yet know him' His hands were pierced, his head, his side, his heart were pierced, that by these marks thou mightest always know him. Dost thou not remember when he "found thee lying in thy blood and took pity on thee, and dressed thy wounds, and brought thee home, and said unto thee, Live!" Hast thou forgotten, since he wounded himself to cure thy wounds, and let out his own blood to stop thy bleeding' If thou knowest him not by the face, the voice, the hands, thou mayst know him by that heart: that soul-pitying heart is his; it can be none but his; love and compassion are its certain signatures: this is he who chose thy life before his own; who pleads his blood before his father, and makes continual intercession for thee. If he had not suffered, what hadst thou suffered' There was but a step between thee and hell when he interposed and bore the stroke. And is not here fuel enough for thy love to feed on' Doth not thy throbbing heart stop here to ease itself, and, like Joseph, "seek for a place to weep in'" or do not the tears of thy love bedew these lines' Go on, then, for the field of love is large; it will be thy eternal work to behold and love; nor needest thou want work for thy present meditation.
How often hath thy Lord found thee, like Hagar, sitting, and weeping, and giving up thy soul for lost, and he opened to thee a well of consolation, and also opened thine eyes to see it! How often, in the posture of Elijah, desiring to die out of thy misery, hath he spread thee a table of unexpected relief, and sent thee on his work refreshed and encouraged! How often, in the case of the prophet's servant, crying out, "Alas, what shall we do, for a host doth encompass us," hath he "opened thine eyes to see more for thee than against thee!" How often, like Jonah, peevish and weary of thy life, hath he mildly said, "Doest thou well to be angry" with me, or murmur against me' How often hath he set thee on "watching and praying," repenting and believing, "and, when he hath returned, hath found thee asleep;" and yet he hath covered thy neglect with a mantle of love, and gently pleaded for thee, that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!" Can thy heart be cold when thou thinkest of this' Can it contain, when thou rememberest these boundless compassions' Thus, reader, hold forth the goodness of Christ to thy heart; plead thus with thy frozen soul, till, with David, thou canst say, "My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned." If this will not rouse up thy love, thou has all Christ's personal excellencies to add, all his particular mercies to thyself, all his sweet and near relations to thee, and the happiness of thy everlasting abode with him. Only follow them close to thy heart. Deal with it as Christ did with Peter, when he thrice asked him, "Lovest thou me'" till he was grieved, and answered, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee!" So grieve and shame thy heart out of its stupidity, till thou canst truly say, "I know, and my Lord knows, that I love him."
2. The next affection to be excited in heavenly contemplation, is desire. The object of it is goodness, considered as absent, or not yet attained. If love be warm, desire will not be cold. think with thyself, "What have I seen! O the incomprehensible glory! O the transcendent beauty! O blessed souls that now enjoy it! who see a thousand times more clearly what I have seen at a distance, and through dark, interposing clouds. What a difference between my state and theirs! I am sighing, and they are singing; I am offending, and they are pleasing God. I am a spectacle of pity, like a Job or Lazarus; but they are perfect, and without blemish. I am here entangled in the love of the world, while they are swallowed up in the love of God. They have none of my cares and fears; they weep not in secret; they languish not in sorrows; these 'tears are wiped away from their eyes.' O happy, a thousand times happy souls! Alas, that I must dwell in sinful flesh, when my brethren and companions dwell with God! How far out of sight and reach of their high enjoyment do I here live! What poor feeble thoughts have I of God! What cold affections toward him! How little have I of that life, that love, that joy, in which they continually live! How soon doth that little depart, and leave me in thicker darkness! Now and then a spark falls upon my heart, and, while I gaze upon it, it dies, or rather, my cold heart quenches it. But they have their 'light in his light,' and drink continually at the spring of joy. Here we are vexing each other with quarrels, when they are of one heart and voice, and daily sound forth the hallelujahs of heaven with perfect harmony. O what a feast hath my faith beheld, and what a famine is yet in my spirit! O blessed souls! I may not, I dare not envy your happiness; I rather rejoice in my brethren's prosperity, and am glad to think of the day when I shall be admitted into your fellowship. I wish not to displace you, but to be so happy as to be with you. Why must I stay, and weep, and wait' My Lord is gone; He hath left this earth, and is entered into his glory: my brethren are gone; my friends are there; my house, my hope, my all is there. When I am so far distant from my God, wonder not what aileth me if I now complain: an ignorant Micah will do so for his idol, and shall not my soul do so for the living God' Had I no hope of enjoyment, I would go and hide myself in the deserts, and lie and howl in some obscure wilderness, and spend my days in fruitless wishes; but since it is the land of my promised rest, and the state I must myself be advanced to, and my soul draws near, and is almost there, I will love and long, I will look and desire, I will be breathing, 'How long, Lord! how long wilt thou suffer this soul to pant and groan, and not open to him who waits, and longs to be with thee!'" Thus, Christian reader, let thy thoughts aspire, till thy soul longs, as David, "O that one would give me to drink of the wells of salvation!" And till thou canst say, as he did, "I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord!" And as the mother and brethren of Christ, when they could not come at him because of the multitude, sent to him, saying, "Thy mother and brethren stand without, desiring to see thee;" so let thy message to him be, and he will own thee; for he hath said, "They that hear my word, and do it, are my mother and my brethren."
3. Another affection to be exercised in heavenly contemplation, is hope. This helps to support the soul under sufferings, animates it in the greatest difficulties, gives it firmness in the severest trials, enlivens it in duties, and is the very spring that sets all the wheels in motion. Who would believe or strive for heaven, if it were not for the hope he hath of obtaining it' Who would pray, but for the hope of prevailing with God' If your hope dies, your duties die, your endeavors die, your joys die, and your soul dies. And if your hope be not in exercise, but asleep, it is next to dead. Therefore, Christian reader, when thou art raising thy affections to heaven, forget not to give one lift to thy hope. Think thus, and reason thus with thy own heart:
"Why should I not confidently and comfortably hope, when my soul is in the hands of so compassionate a Savior, and when the kingdom is at the disposal of so bountiful a God' Did he ever discover the least backwardness to my good, or inclination to my ruin' Hath he not sworn, that "he delights not in the death of him that dieth, but rather that he should repent and live'" Have not all his dealings witnessed the same' Did he not warn me of my danger when I never feared it, because he would have me escape it' Did he not tell me of my happiness when I had no thoughts of it, because he would have me enjoy it' How often hath he drawn me to himself and his Christ, when I have drawn backward! How hath his Spirit incessantly solicited my heart! And would he have done all this, if he had been willing that I should perish' Should I not hope, if an honest man had promised me something in his power' And shall I not hope when I have the covenant and oath of God' It is true, the glory is out of sight; we have not beheld the mansions of the saints; but is not the promise of God more certain than our sight' We must not be saved by sight, but 'by hope; and hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for' But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.' I have been ashamed of my hope in an arm of flesh, but hope in the promise of God 'maketh not ashamed.' In my greatest sufferings I will say, 'the Lord is my portion; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord; for the Lord will not cast off for ever; but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies.' Though I languish and die, yet will I hope; for 'the righteous hath hope in his death.' Though I must lie down in dust and darkness, yet there 'my flesh shall rest in hope.' And when my flesh hath nothing to rejoice in, yet will I 'hold fast the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end;' for 'the hope of the righteous shall be gladness.' Indeed, if I must myself satisfy divine justice, then there had been no hope; but Christ hath 'brought in a better hope, by the which we draw nigh to God.' Or, if I had to do with a feeble creature, there were small hope; for how could he raise this body from the dust and lift me above the sun' But what is this to the Almighty Power which made the heavens and the earth out of nothing' Cannot that power which raised Christ from the dead, raise me' and that which hath glorified the Head, glorify also the members' 'Doubtless, by the blood of his covenant, God will send forth his prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water:' therefore will I 'turn to the strong hold, as a prisoner of hope.'"
4. Courage, or boldness, is another affection to be exercised in heavenly contemplation; it leads to resolution, and concludes in action. When you have raised your love, desire and hope, go on, and think thus with yourself: "Will God indeed dwell with men' And is there such a glory within the reach of hope' Why then do I not lay hold upon it' Where is the cheerful vigor of my spirit' Why do I not 'gird up the loins of my mind'' Why do I not set upon my enemies on every side, and valiantly break through all resistance' What should stop me, or intimidate me' Is God with me, or against me, in the work' Will Christ stand by me, or will he not' 'If God and Christ be for me, who can be against me'' In the work of sin, almost all things are ready to help us, and only God and his servants are against us; yet how ill does that work prosper in our hands! But in my course to heaven, almost all things are against me, but God is for me; and therefore how happily does the work succeed! Do I enter upon this work in my own strength, or rather in the strength of Christ my Lord' And 'cannot I do all things through him that strengthens me'' Was he ever foiled by an enemy' He has indeed been assaulted, but was he ever conquered' Why, then, does my flesh urge me with the difficulties of the work' Is any thing too hard for Omnipotence' May not Peter boldly walk on the sea if Christ give the word of command' If he begin to sink, is it from the weakness of Christ, or from the smallness of his faith' Do I not well deserve to be turned into hell, if mortal threats can drive me thither' Do I not well deserve to be shut out of heaven, if I will be frightened from thence with the reproach of tongues' What if it were father, or mother, or husband, or wife, or the nearest friend I have in the world, if they may be called friends who would draw me to damnation, should I not forsake all that would keep me from Christ' Will their friendship countervail the enmity of God, or be any comfort to my condemned soul' Shall I be yielding to the desires of men, and only harden myself against the Lord' Let them beseech me upon their knees, I will scorn to stop my course to behold them, I will shut my ears to their cries: let them flatter or frown, let them draw out tongues and swords against me; I am resolved, in the strength of Christ, to break through and look upon them as dust. If they would entice me with preferment, even with the kingdoms of the world, I will no more regard them than the dung of the earth. O blessed rest! O glorious state! Who would sell thee for dreams and shadows' Who would be enticed or affrighted from thee' Who would not strive, and fight, and watch, and run, and that with violence, even to the last breath, in order to obtain thee' Surely none but those that know thee not, and believe not thy glory."
5. The last affection to
be exercised in heavenly contemplation, is joy. Love, desire, hope and
courage, all tend to raise our joy. This is so desirable to every man by
nature, and so essentially necessary to constitute our happiness, that I hope I
need not say much to persuade you to any thing that would make your life
delightful. Supposing you, therefore, already convinced that the pleasures of
the flesh are brutish and perishing, that your solid and lasting joy must be
from heaven, instead of persuading, I shall proceed in directing. Reader, if
thou hast managed well the former work, thou art got within sight of thy rest;
thou believest the truth of it; thou art convinced of its excellencies; thou
hast fallen in love with it; thou longest after it; thou hopest for it; and
thou art resolved to venture courageously for obtaining it. But is here any
work for joy in this' We delight in the good we possess; it is present good
that is the object of joy; and thou wilt say, "Alas, I am yet without it!" But
think a little further with thyself. Is it nothing to have a deed of gift from
God' Are his infallible promises no ground of joy' Is it nothing to live in
daily expectation of entering into the
Here then, reader, take
thy heart once more and carry it to the top of the highest mount; show it the
kingdom of Christ, and the glory of it; and say to it, "All this will thy Lord
give thee, who hast believed in him, and been a worshipper of him. 'It is the Father's
good pleasure to give thee this kingdom.' Seest thou this astonishing glory
which is above thee' All this is thy own inheritance. This crown is thine,
these pleasures are thine; this company, this beautiful place, all are thine;
because thou art Christ's, and Christ is thine; when thou wast united to him,
thou hadst all these with him." Thus take thy heart into the land of promise;
show it the pleasant hills and fruitful valleys; show it the clusters of grapes
which thou hast gathered, to convince it that it is a blessed land, flowing
with better than milk and honey. Enter the gates of the holy city, walk through
the streets of the "New Jerusalem, walk about Sion, and go round about her;
tell the towers thereof; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that
thou mayst tell it to" thy soul. Has it not "the glory of God," and is not "her
light like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as
crystal'" See the "twelve foundations of her walls, and in them the names of
the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The walls of it are of jasper; and the city is
pure gold, like unto clear glass; and the foundations are garnished with all
manner of precious stones; and the twelve gates are twelve pearls, every
several gate is of one pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, as it
were transparent glass; there is no temple in it, for the Lord Almighty, and
the Lamb, are the temple of it. It hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon
in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof;
and the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it. These
sayings are faithful and true; and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his
angels," and his own Son, "to show unto his servants the things which must shortly
be done." Say now to all this, "This is thy rest, O my soul! and this must be
the place of thy everlasting habitation." Let all the sons of "Sion rejoice;
let the daughters of
Yet proceed on; the soul
that loves, ascends frequently, and runs familiarly through the streets of the
heavenly Jerusalem, visiting the patriarchs and prophets, saluting the
apostles, and admiring the armies of martyrs; so do thou lead on thy heart as
from street to street; bring it into the palace of the Great King; lead it, as
it were, from chamber to chamber. Say to it, "Here must I lodge; here must I
live; here must I praise, here must I love, and be beloved. I must shortly be
one of this heavenly choir, and be better skilled in the music. Among this
blessed company must I take up my place; my voice must join to make up the
melody. My tears will then be wiped away; my groans be turned to another tune;
my cottage of clay be changed to this palace; my prison rags to these splendid
robes; and my sordid flesh shall be put off, and such a sunlike, spiritual body
be put on; 'for the former things are here passed away.' 'Glorious things are
spoken of thee, O city of
Let me here observe, that there is no necessity to exercise these affections, either exactly in this order, or all at one time. Sometimes one of thy affections may need more exciting, or may be more lively than the rest; or, if thy time be short, one may be exercised one day and another the next; all which must be left to thy prudence to determine. Thou hast also an opportunity, if inclined to make use of it, to exercise opposite and more mixed affections, such as hatred of sin, which would deprive thy soul of these immortal joys; godly fear, lest thou shouldst abuse thy mercy; godly shame and grief, for having abused it; unfeigned repentance; self-indignation; jealously over thy heart; and pity for those who are in danger of losing these immortal joys.
Thirdly. We are also to take notice how heavenly contemplation is promoted by SOLILOQUY and PRAYER. Though consideration be the chief instrument in this work, yet, by itself, it is not so likely to affect the heart. In this respect contemplation is like preaching, where the mere explaining of truths and duties is seldom attended with much success as the lively application of them to the conscience; and especially when a divine blessing is earnestly sought to accompany such application.
1. By soliloquy, or a pleading the case with thyself, thou must in thy meditation quicken thy own heart. Enter into a serious debate with it. Plead with it in the most moving and affecting language, and urge it with the most powerful and weighty arguments. It is what holy men of God have practiced in all ages. Thus David: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul' and why art thou disquieted within me' Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." And again; "Bless the Lord, O my soul! and forget not all his benefits!" This soliloquy is to be made use of according to the several affections of the soul, and according to its several necessities. It is a preaching to one's self; for as every good master or father of a family is a good preacher to his own family, so every good Christian is a good preacher to his own soul. Therefore the very same method which a minister should use in his preaching to others, every Christian should endeavor after in speaking to himself. Observe the matter and manner of the most heart-affecting minister; let him be a pattern for your imitation; and the same way that he takes with the hearts of his people, do thou also take with thy own heart. Do this in thy heavenly contemplation; explain to thyself the things on which thou dost meditate; confirm thy faith in them by Scripture; and then apply them to thyself according to their nature and thy own necessity. There is no need to object against this, from a sense of thy own inability. Doth not God command thee to "teach the Scriptures diligently unto thy children, and talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up'" And if thou must have some ability to teach thy children, much more to teach thyself; and if thou canst talk of divine things to others, why not also to thy own heart'
2. Heavenly contemplation is also promoted by speaking to God in prayer, as well as by speaking to ourselves in soliloquy. Ejaculatory prayer may very properly be mixed with meditation, as a part of the duty. How often do we find David, in the same psalm, sometimes pleading with his soul and sometimes with God! The apostle bids us "speak to ourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs;" and no doubt we may also speak to God in them. This keeps the soul sensible of the divine presence, and tends greatly to quicken and raise it. As God is the highest object of our thoughts, so our viewing him, speaking to him and pleading with him, more elevates the soul and excites the affections than any other part of meditation. Though we remain unaffected while we plead the case with ourselves; yet, when we turn our speech to God, it may strike us with awe; and the holiness and majesty of him whom we speak to, may cause both the matter and words to pierce the deeper. When we read that "Isaac went out to meditate in the field," the margin says, "to pray;" for the Hebrew word signifies both. Thus, in our meditations, to intermix soliloquy and prayer, sometimes speaking to our own hearts, and sometimes to God, is, I apprehend, the highest step to which we can advance in this heavenly work. Nor should we imagine it will be as well to take up with prayer alone, and lay aside meditation; for they are distinct duties, and must both of them be performed. We need one as well as the other, and therefore shall wrong ourselves by neglecting either. Besides, the mixture of them, like music, will be more engaging; as the one serves to put life into the other. And our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer. For want of attending to this due order, men speak to God with far less reverence and affection than they would speak to an angel if he should appear to them; or to a judge, if they were speaking for their lives. Speaking to the God of heaven in prayer, is a weightier duty than most are aware of.
HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION ASSISTED BY SENSIBLE OBJECTS, AND GUARDED AGAINST A TREACHEROUS HEART.
is difficult to maintain a lively impression of heavenly things: therefore,
The most difficult part of heavenly contemplation is, to maintain a lively sense of heavenly things upon our hearts. It is easier merely to think of heaven a whole day, than to be lively and affectionate in those thoughts a quarter of an hour. Faith is imperfect-for we are renewed but in part-and goes against a world of resistance; and, being supernatural, is prone to decline and languish, unless it be continually excited. Sense is strong according to the strength of the flesh; and, being natural, continues while nature continues. The objects of faith are far off; but those of sense are nigh. We must go as far as heaven for our joys. To rejoice in what we never saw, nor ever knew the man that did see, and this upon a mere promise of the Bible, is not so easy as to rejoice in what we see and possess. It must, therefore, be a point of spiritual prudence, to call in sense to the assistance of faith. It will be a good work, if we can make friends of these usual enemies, and make them instruments for raising us to God, which are so often the means of drawing us from him. Why hath God given us either our senses or their common objects, if they might not be serviceable to his praise' Why doth the Holy Spirit describe the glory of the New Jerusalem in expressions that are even grateful to the flesh' Is it that we might think heaven to be made of gold and pearl' or that saints and angels eat and drink' No, but to help us to conceive of them as we are able, and to use these borrowed phrases as a glass, in which we must see the things themselves imperfectly represented, till we come to an immediate and perfect sight. Besides showing how heavenly contemplation may be assisted by sensible objects, this chapter will also show how it may be preserved from a wandering heart.
First. In order that heavenly contemplation may be ASSISTED BY SENSIBLE OBJECTS, let me only advise to draw strong suppositions from sense, and to compare the objects of sense with the objects of faith.
1. For the helping of thy affections in heavenly contemplation, draw as strong suppositions as possible from thy senses. Think on the joys above, as boldly as Scripture hath expressed them. Bring down thy conceptions to the reach of sense. Both love and joy are promoted by familiar acquaintance. When we attempt to think of God and glory, without the Scripture's manner of representing them, we are lost, and have nothing to fix our thoughts upon; we set them so far from us, that our thoughts are strange, and we are ready to say, what is above us is nothing to us. To conceive of God and glory only as above our conception, will beget but little love; or above our love, will produce little joy. Therefore put Christ no farther from you than he hath put himself, lest the divine nature be again inaccessible. Think of Christ as in our own glorified nature. Think of glorified saints as men made perfect. Suppose thyself a companion with John, in his survey of the New Jerusalem, and viewing the thrones, the majesty, the heavenly hosts, the shining splendor which he saw. Suppose thyself his fellow-traveller into the celestial kingdom, and that thou hadst seen all the saints in their white robes, with "palms in their hands;" and that thou hadst heard those "songs of Moses and of the Lamb." If thou hadst really seen and heard these things, in what a rapture wouldst thou have been! And the more seriously thou puttest this supposition to thyself, the more will thy meditation elevate thy heart. Do not, like the Papists, draw them in pictures! but get the liveliest picture of them in thy mind that thou possibly canst, by contemplating the Scripture account of them, till thou canst say, "Methinks I see a glimpse of glory! Methinks I hear the shouts of joy and praise, and even stand by Abraham and David, Peter and Paul, and other triumphant souls! Methinks I even see the Son of God appearing in the clouds, and the world standing at his bar to receive their doom; and hear him say, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father;' and see them go rejoicing into the joy of their Lord! My very dreams of these things have sometimes greatly affected me; and should not these just suppositions much more affect me' What if I had seen, with Paul, those 'unutterable things'' Or, with Stephen, had seen 'heaven opened, and Christ sitting at the right hand of God'' Surely that one sight was worth his storm of stones. What if I had seen, as Micaiah did, 'the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left'' Such things did these men of God see; and I shall shortly see far more than ever they saw, till they were loosed from the flesh, as I must be." Thus you see how it excites our affections in this heavenly work, if we make strong and familiar suppositions from our bodily senses, concerning the state of blessedness, as the Spirit hath in condescending language expressed it.
2. The other way in which our senses may promote this heavenly work, is by comparing the objects of sense with the objects of faith. As for instance: You may strongly argue with your heart from the corrupt delights of sensual men to the joys above. Think with thy self, "Is it such a delight to a sinner to do wickedly' and will it not be delightful indeed to live with God' Hath the drunkard such delight in his cups, that the fears of damnation will not make him forsake them' Will the licentious man rather part with his credit, estate and salvation, than with his brutish delights' If the way to hell can afford such pleasure, what then are the pleasures of the saints in heaven! If the covetous man hath so much pleasure in his wealth, and the ambitious man in places of power and titles of honor, what then have the saints in everlasting treasures, and in heavenly honors, where we shall be set above principalities and powers, and be made the glorious spouse of Christ! How delightfully will the voluptuous follow their recreations from morning till night, or sit at their cards and dice nights and days together! O the delight we shall have, when we come to our rest, in beholding the face of the living God, and in singing forth praises unto him and the Lamb!"
Compare also the
delights above with the lawful and moderate delights of sense. Think with
thyself, "How sweet is food to my taste when I am hungry; especially if it be,
as Isaac said, 'such as I love,' which my temperance and appetite incline to'
What delight, then, must my soul have in feeding upon 'Christ, the living
bread,' and in 'eating with him at his table in his kingdom!' Was a mess of
pottage so sweet to Esau in his hunger, that he would buy it at so dear a rate
as his birthright' How highly, then, should I value this never-perishing food!
How pleasant is drink in the extremity of thirst; scarcely to be expressed;
enough to make the 'strength of Samson revive!' O how delightful will it be to
my soul to drink of that 'fountain of living water, which whoso drinketh shall
thirst no more!' How delightful are grateful odors to the smell; or music to
the ear; or beautiful sights to the eye! what fragrance, then, hath 'the
precious ointment which is poured on the head' of our glorified Savior, and
which must be poured on the head of all his saints, and will fill all heaven
with its odor! How pleasing will be those real beauties above! How glorious the
'building not made with hands,' the house that God himself dwells in, the walks
and prospects in 'the city of
Compare, also, the delights above with those we find in natural knowledge. These are far beyond the delights of sense; but how much farther are the delights of heaven! Think, then, "can an Archimedes be so taken up with his mathematical invention, that the threats of death cannot disengage him, but he will die in the midst of his contemplations' Should not I be much more taken up with the delights of glory, and die with these contemplations fresh upon my soul; especially when my death will perfect my delights, while those of Archimedes die with him' What exquisite pleasure is it to dive into the secrets of nature, and find out the mysteries of arts and sciences; especially if we make a new discovery in any one of them! What high delights are there, then, in the knowledge of God and Christ! If the face of human learning be so beautiful as to make sensual pleasures appear base and brutish, how beautiful, then, is the face of God! When we meet with some choice book, how could we read it day and night, almost forgetful of meat, drink, or sleep! What delights are there, then, at God's right hand, where we shall know in a moment all that is to be known!"
Compare, also, the delights above with the delights of morality and of the natural affections. What delight had many sober heathen in the rules and practice of moral duty, so that they took him alone for an honest man who did well through the love of virtue, and not merely for fear of punishment; yea, so much valued was this moral virtue, that they thought a man's chief happiness consisted in it! Think, then, "What excellency will there be in our heavenly perfection, and in that uncreated perfection of God which we shall behold! what sweetness is there in the exercise of natural love, whether to children, parents, yoke-fellows, or intimate friends! Does David say of Jonathan, 'Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women!' Did the 'soul of Jonathan cleave to David'' Had Christ himself one 'disciple whom he especially loved, and who was wont to lean on his breast'' If, then, the delights of close and cordial friendship be so great, what delight shall we have in the friendship of the Most High, and in the dearest love of the saints! Surely this will be a stricter friendship than these, more lovely and desirable friends than ever the sun beheld; and both our affections to our Father and Savior, and especially theirs to us, will be such as we never knew here. If one angel could destroy a host, the affections of spirits must also be proportionably stronger, so that we shall then love a thousand times more ardently than we can now. As all the attributes and works of God are incomprehensible, so is this of love: he will love us infinitely beyond our most perfect love to Him. What, then, will there be in this mutual love!"
Compare also the excellencies of heaven with those glorious works of creation which our eyes now behold. What wisdom, power and goodness are manifested therein! How does the majesty of the Creator shine in this fabric of the world! "His works are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." What divine skill in forming the bodies of men or beasts! What excellency in every plant! What beauty in flowers! What variety and usefulness in herbs, plants, fruits and minerals! What wonders are contained in the earth and its inhabitants; the ocean of waters, with its motions and dimensions; and the constant succession of spring and autumn, of summer and winter! Think, then, "If these things, which are but servants to sinful man, are so full of mysterious worth, what is that place where God himself dwells, and which is prepared for just men made perfect with Christ! What glory is there in the least of yonder stars! What a vast resplendent body is yonder moon, and every planet! What an inconceivable glory has the sun! But all this is nothing to the glory of heaven. Yonder sun must there be laid aside as useless. Yonder sun is but darkness to the lustre of my Father's house. I shall myself be as glorious as that sun. This whole earth is but my Father's footstool. This thunder is nothing to his dreadful voice. These winds are nothing to the breath of his mouth. If the 'sending rain, and making the sun to rise on the just and on the unjust,' be so wonderful, how much more wonderful and glorious will that Sun be which must shine on none but saints and angels'"
Compare also the
enjoyments above with the wonders of
Add to these, those particular providences which thou hast thyself enjoyed and recorded through thy life, and compare them with the mercies thou shalt have above. Look over the mercies of thy youth and riper age, of thy prosperity and adversity, of thy several places and relations; are they not excellent and innumerable, rich and engaging' How sweet was it to thee, when God resolved thy doubts; scattered thy fears; prevented the inconveniences into which thy own counsel would have cast thee; eased thy pains; healed thy sickness; and raised thee up, as from death and the grave! Think, then, "Are all these so sweet and precious, that without them my life would have been a perpetual misery' Hath his providence on earth lifted me so high, 'and his gentleness made me so great'' How sweet, then, will his glorious presence be! How high will his eternal love exalt me! And how great shall I be made in communion with his greatness! If my pilgrimage and warfare have such mercies, what shall I find in my home and in my triumph' If God communicates so much to me while I remain a sinner, what will he bestow when I am a perfected saint! If I have had so much at such a distance from him, what shall I have in his immediate presence, where I shall ever stand before his throne!"
Compare the joys above with the comforts thou hast here received in ordinances. Has not the Bible been to thee as an open fountain, flowing with comforts day and night' What suitable promises have come into thy mind; so that, with David, thou mayst say, "Unless thy law had been my delight, I should then have perished in mine affliction!" Think, then, "If his word be so full of consolation, what overflowing springs shall we find in God himself! If his letters are so comfortable, what will the glory of his presence be! If the promise is so sweet, what will the performance be! If the testament of our Lord, and our charter for the kingdom, be so comfortable, what will be our possession of the kingdom itself!"
Think farther, "What delights have I also found in the word preached! When I have sat under a heavenly, heart-searching teacher, how has my heart been warmed! Methinks I have felt myself almost in heaven. How often have I gone to the congregation, troubled in spirit, and returned joyful! How often have I gone doubting, and God hath sent me home persuaded of his love in Christ! What cordials have I met with to animate me in every conflict! If the face of Moses shine so gloriously, what glory is there in the face of God! If 'the feet of them that publish peace, that bring good tidings of salvation, be beautiful,' how beautiful is the face of the Prince of Peace! If this treasure be so precious in earthen vessels, what is that treasure laid up in heaven! Blessed are the eyes that see what is seen there, and the ears that hear the things that are heard there. There shall I hear Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John, Peter, Paul; not preaching to gainsayers, in imprisonment, persecution and reproach; but triumphing in the praises of him who hath raised them to honor and glory."
Think also, "What joy is it to have access and acceptance in prayer; that I may always go to God, and open my case, and unbosom my soul to him, as to my most faithful friend! but it will be a more unspeakable joy, when I shall receive all blessings without asking, and all my necessities and miseries will be removed, and when God himself will be the portion and inheritance of my soul."
As for the Lord's supper, "What a privilege is it to be admitted to sit at his table, to have his covenant sealed to me there! But all the life and comfort there, is to assure me of the comforts hereafter. O the difference between the last supper of Christ on earth, and the marriage supper of the Lamb at the great day! Then his room will be the glorious heavens; his attendants, all the hosts of angels and saints: no Judas, no unfurnished guest comes there; but the humble believers must sit down by them, and their feast will be their mutual loving and rejoicing."
Concerning the communion of saints, think with thyself, "What a pleasure is it to live with intelligent and heavenly Christians! David says of such, they were 'all his delight.' O what a delightful society, then, shall I have above! Had I but seen Job on the dunghill, what a mirror of patience! and what will it be to see him in glory! How delightful to have heard Paul and Silas singing in the stocks! how much more to hear them sing praises in heaven! What melody did David make on his harp! but how much more melodious to hear that sweet singer in the heavenly choir! What would I have given for an hour's free converse with Paul, when he was just come down from the third heaven! But I must shortly see those things myself, and possess what I see."
Once more, think of praising God in concert with his saints: "What if I had been in the place of those shepherds who saw and heard the heavenly host singing, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!" But I shall see and hear more glorious things. How blessed should I have thought myself, had I heard Christ in his thanksgivings to his Father! How much more, when I shall hear him pronounce me blessed! If there was such joy at bringing back the ark, or at rebuilding the temple; what will there be in the New Jerusalem! If the earth rent when the people rejoiced at Solomon's coronation; what a joyful shout will there be at the appearing of the King of the church! If, 'when the foundations of the earth were laid, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy;' what a joyful song will there be, when the world of glory is both founded and finished, when the top-stone is laid, and when 'the holy city is adorned as the bride, the Lamb's wife!'"
Compare the joys thou
shalt have in heaven with what the saints have found in the way to it,
and in the foretastes of it. When did God ever reveal the least of himself to
any of his saints, but the joy of their hearts corresponded to the revelation'
In what an ecstasy was Peter on the mount of transfiguration! "Master," says
he, "it is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles; one for thee,
and one for Moses, and one for Elias." As if he had said, "O let us not go down
again to yonder persecuting rabble; let us not return to our mean and suffering
state. Is it not better to stay here, now we are here' Is not here better
company and sweeter pleasure'" How was Paul lifted up with what he saw! How did
the face of Moses shine when he had been talking with God! These were all
extraordinary foretastes; but little to the full beatific vision. How often
have we read and heard of dying saints who have been full of joy; and when
their bodies have felt the extremity of sickness and pain, have had so much of
heaven in their spirits that their joy has far exceeded their sorrows! If a
spark of this fire be so glorious even amidst the sea of adversity; what then
is glory itself! O the joy that the martyrs have felt in the flames! They were
flesh and blood, as well as we; it must therefore be some excellent thing that
filled their spirits with joy while their bodies were burning. Think, reader,
in thy meditations, "Sure it must be some wonderful foretaste of glory that
made the flames of fire easy, and the king of terrors welcome. What then is
glory itself! What a blessed rest, when the thoughts of it made Paul desire to
depart and be with Christ; and make the saints never think themselves well till
they are dead! Shall Saunders embrace the stake, and cry, 'Welcome, cross!' And
shall I not more delightfully embrace my blessedness, and cry, 'Welcome,
Compare the glory of the heavenly kingdom with the glory of the church on earth, and of Christ in his state of humiliation. If Christ's suffering in the room of sinners had such excellency, what is Christ at his Father's right hand! If the church under her sins and enemies have so much beauty, what will she have at the marriage of the Lamb! How wonderful was the Son of God in the form of a servant! When he is born, a new star must appear, and conduct the strangers to worship him in a manger, heavenly hosts with their songs must celebrate his nativity; while a child, he must dispute with doctors; when he enters upon his office, he turns water into wine, feeds thousands with a few loaves and fishes, cleanses the lepers, heals the sick, restores the lame, gives sight to the blind, and raises the dead. How wonderful, then, is his celestial glory! If there be such cutting down of boughs, and spreading of garments, and crying Hosanna, for one that comes into Jerusalem riding on an ass; what will there be when he comes with his angels in his glory! If they had heard him "preach the Gospel of the kingdom," confess, "Never man spake like this man;" they, then, that behold his majesty in his kingdom will say, "There was never glory like this glory." If, when his enemies came to apprehend him, they fell to the ground; if, when he is dying, the earth quakes, the veil of the temple is rent, the sun is eclipsed, the dead bodies of the saints arise, and the standers-by acknowledge, "truly this was the Son of God;" O what a day will it be when the dead must all arise and stand before him! when he "will once shake, not the earth only, but the heavens also!: when this sun shall be taken out of the firmament, and be everlastingly darkened with his glory! and when every tongue shall confess him to be the Lord and King! If, when he rose again, death and the grave lost their power; if angels must "roll away the stone," terrify the keepers till they are "as dead men," and send the tidings to his disciples; if he ascend to heaven in their sight; of what power, dominion and glory is he now possessed, and which we must for ever possess with him! When he is gone, can a few poor fishermen and tent-makers cure the lame, blind and sick, open prisons, destroy the disobedient, raise the dead, and astonish their adversaries' what a world will that be, where every one can do greater works than these! If the preaching of the Gospel be accompanied with such power as to discover the secrets of the heart, humble the proud sinner, and make the most obdurate tremble; if it can make men burn their books, sell their lands, and bring in the price and lay it down at the preacher's feet; if it can convert thousands, and turn the world upside down; if its doctrine, from the prisoner at the bar, can make the judge on the bench tremble; if Christ and his saints have this power and honor in the day of their abasement, and in the time appointed for their suffering and disgrace, what then will they have in their absolute dominion and full advancement in their kingdom of glory!
Compare the glorious change thou shalt have at last, with the gracious change which the Spirit hath here wrought on thy heart. There is not the smallest sincere grace in thee, but is of greater worth than the riches of the Indies; not a hearty desire after Christ, but is more to be valued than the kingdoms of the world. A renewed nature is the very image of God; Christ dwelling in us, and the Spirit of God abiding in us; it is a beam from the face of God; the seed of God remaining in us; the only inherent beauty of the rational soul: it ennobles man above all nobility; fits him to understand his Maker's pleasure, do his will, and receive his glory. If this grain of mustard-seed be so precious, what is "the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God!" If a spark of life, which will but strive against corruptions, and flame out a few desires and groans, be of so much worth, how glorious then is the fountain of this life! If we are said to be like God when we are pressed down with a body of sin; surely we shall be much more like God when we have no such thing as sin within us. Is the desire after, and love of heaven, so excellent; what then is the thing itself' Is our joy in foreseeing and believing so sweet; what will be the joy of full possession' How glad is a Christian when he feels his heart begin to melt, and be dissolved with the thoughts of sinful unkindness! Even this sorrow yields him joy. O what then will it be, when we shall know, and love, and rejoice, and praise in the highest perfection! Thine with thyself, "What a change was it to be taken from that state wherein I was born, and in which I was riveted by custom, when thousands of sins lay against me; and if I had so died, I have been damned for ever! What an astonishing change, to be justified from all these enormous crimes, and freed from all these fearful plagues, and made an heir of heaven! How often, when I have thought of my regeneration, have I cried out, O blessed day! and blessed be the Lord that ever I saw it! How, then, shall I cry out in heaven, O blessed eternity! and blessed be the Lord that brought me to it! Did the angels of God rejoice to see my conversion' surely they will congratulate my felicity in my salvation. Grace is but a spark raked up in the ashes, covered with flesh from the sight of the world, and sometimes covered with corruption from my own sight; but my everlasting glory will not be so clouded, nor my light be 'under a bushel, but upon a hill,' even upon mount Sion, the mount of God."
Once more, compare the joys which thou shalt have above, with those foretastes of it which the Spirit hath given thee here. Hath not God sometimes revealed himself extraordinarily to thy soul, and let a drop of glory fall upon it' Hast thou not been ready to say, "O that it might be thus with my soul continually!" Didst thou never cry out with the martyr, after thy long and mournful expectations, "He is come! he is come!" Didst thou never, under a lively sermon of heaven, or in thy retired contemplations on that blessed state, perceive thy drooping spirits revive, and thy dejected heart lift up thy head, and the light of heaven dawn on thy soul' Think with thyself, "What is this earnest to the full inheritance' Alas, all this light, that so amazeth and rejoiceth me, is but a candle lighted from heaven to lead me thither through this world of darkness! If some godly men have been overwhelmed with joy till they have cried out, 'Hold, Lord, stay thy hand; I can bear no more!' what then will be my joys in heaven, when my soul shall be so capable of seeing and enjoying God, that though the light be ten thousand times greater than the sun, yet my eyes shall be able for ever to behold it!: Or if thou hast not yet felt these sweet foretastes, (for every believer hath not felt them,) then make use of such delights as thou hast felt, in order the better to discern what thou shalt hereafter feel.
Secondly. I am now to show how heavenly contemplation may be PRESERVED FROM A WANDERING HEART. Our chief work here is to discover the danger, and that will direct to the fittest remedy. The heart will prove the greatest hinderance in this heavenly employment; either, by backwardness to it;-or, by trifling in it;-or by frequent excursions to other objects;-or, by abruptly ending the work before it is well begun. As you value the comfort of this work, these dangerous evils must be faithfully resisted.
1. Thou wilt find thy heart as backward to this, I think, as to any work in the world. O what excuses will it make! What evasions will it find out! What delays and demurs, when it is ever so much convinced! Either it will question whether it be a duty or not; or if it be so to others, whether to thyself. It will tell thee, "This is a work for ministers that have nothing else to study; or, for persons that have more leisure than thou hast." If thou be a minister, it will tell thee, "This is the duty of the people; it is enough for thee to meditate for their instruction, and let them meditate on what they have heard." As if it was thy duty only to cook their meat and serve it up, and they alone must eat it, digest it, and live upon it. If all this will not do, thy heart will tell thee of other business, or set thee upon some other duty; for it had rather go to any duty than this. Perhaps it will tell thee, "Other duties are greater, and therefore this must give place to them, because thou hast no time for both. Public business is more important; to study and preach for the saving of souls must be preferred before these private contemplations." As if thou hadst not time to care for thy own salvation, for looking after that of others; or thy charity to others were so great, that it obliges thee to neglect thy own eternal welfare; or as if there was any better way to fit us to be useful to others, than making this proof of our doctrine ourselves. Certainly heaven is the best fire to light our candle at, and the best book for a preacher to study; and if we would be persuaded to study that more, the church would be provided with more heavenly lights; and when our studies are divine and our spirits divine, our preaching will also be divine, and we may be called divines indeed. Or if thy heart will have nothing to say against the work, it will trifle away the time in delays, and promise this day and the next, but still keep off from the business. Or it will give thee a flat denial, and oppose its own unwillingness to thy reason. all this I speak of the heart, so far as it is still carnal; for I know, so far as it is spiritual, it will judge this the sweetest work in the world.
What is now to be done' Wilt thou do it if I tell thee' Wouldst thou not say in a like case, "What should I do with a servant that will not work, or with a horse that will not travel' Shall I keep them to look at'" Then faithfully deal thus with thy heart; persuade it to the work, take no denial, chide it for its backwardness, use violence with it. Hast thou no command of thy own thoughts' Is not the subject of thy meditations a matter of choice, especially under the guidance of thy judgment' Surely God gave thee, with thy new nature, some power to govern thy thoughts. Art thou again become a slave to thy depraved nature' Resume thy authority. Call in the Spirit of Christ to thine assistance, who is never backward to so good a work, nor will deny his help in so just a cause. Say to him, "Lord, thou gavest my reason the command of my thoughts and affections; the authority I have received over them is from thee; and now, behold, they refuse to obey thine authority. Thou commandest me to set them to the work of heavenly meditation, but they rebel and stubbornly refuse the duty. Wilt thou not assist me to exercise that authority which thou hast given me' O send down thy Spirit, that I may enforce thy commands, and effectually compel them to obey thy will!: Thus thou shalt see thy heart will submit, its resistance be overcome, and its backwardness be turned into cheerful compliance.
2. Thy heart will also be likely to betray thee by trifling, when it should be effectually meditating. Perhaps, when thou hast an hour for meditation, the time will be spent before thy heart will be serious. This doing of duty as if we did it not, ruins as many as the omission of it. Here let thine eye be always upon thy heart. Look not so much to the time it spends in the duty, as to the quantity and quality of the work that is done. You can tell by his work, whether a servant has been diligent. Ask yourself, "What affections have yet been exercised' How much nearer am I to heaven'" Think not, since thy heart is so trifling, it is better to let it alone: for, by this means thou wilt certainly banish all spiritual obedience; because the best hearts, being but sanctified in part, will resist, so far as they are carnal. But rather consider well the corruptions of thy nature; and that its sinful indispositions will not supersede the commands of God; nor one sin excuse another; and that God has appointed means to excite our affections. This self-reasoning, self-considering duty of heavenly meditation, is the most effective means both to excite and increase love. Therefore neglect not the duty till thou feelest thy love constrain thee, any more than thou wouldst stay from the fire till thou feelest thyself warm; but engage in the work till love is excited, and then love will constrain thee to further duty.
3. Thy heart will also be making excursions from thy heavenly meditation to other objects. It will be turning aside, like a careless servant, to talk with every one that passes by. When there should be nothing in thy mind but heaven, it will be thinking of thy calling, or thy afflictions, or of every bird, or tree, or place thou seest. The cure is here the same as before: use watchfulness and violence. Say to thy heart, "What! did I come hither to think of my worldly business, of persons, places, news or vanity, or of any thing but heaven, be it ever so good' 'Canst thou not watch one hour'' Wouldst thou leave this world and dwell for ever with Christ in heaven, and not leave it one hour to dwell with Christ in meditation' 'Is this thy love to thy friend'' Dost thou love Christ, and the place of thy eternal, blessed abode, no more than this'" If the ravening fowls of wandering thoughts devour the meditations intended for heaven, they devour the life and joy of thy thoughts; therefore drive them away from thy sacrifice, and strictly keep thy heart to the work.
4. Abruptly ending thy meditation before it is well begun, is another way in which thy heart will deceive thee. Thou mayest easily perceive this in other duties. In secret prayer, is not thy heart urging thee to cut it short, and frequently making a motion to have done' So in heavenly contemplation, thy heart will be weary of the work, and will stop thy heavenly walk before thou art well warm. But charge it in the name of God to stay, and not do so great a work by halves. Say to it, "Foolish heart! if thou beg a while, and goest away before thou hast thine alms, is not thy begging a lost labor' If thou stoppest before the end of thy journey, is not thy travel lost' Thou camest hither in hope to have a sight of the glory which thou must inherit; and wilt thou stop when thou art almost at the top of the hill, and turn back before thou hast taken thy survey' Thou camest hither in hope to speak with God; and wilt thou go before thou hast seen him' Thou camest to bathe thyself in the streams of consolation, and to that end didst unclothe thyself of thy earthly thoughts; and wilt thou only touch the bank and return' Thou camest to 'spy out the land of promise;' go not back without 'one cluster of grapes to show thy brethren,' for their encouragement. Let them see that thou hast tasted of the wine by the gladness of thy heart; and that thou hast been anointed with the oil, by the cheerfulness of thy countenance; and hast fed of the milk and honey, by the mildness of thy disposition and the sweetness of thy conversation. This heavenly fire would melt thy frozen heart, and refine and spiritualize it; but it must have time to operate." Thus pursue the work till something be done, till thy graces be in exercise, thy affections raised, and thy soul refreshed with the delights above; or, if thou canst not attain these ends at once, be the more earnest at another time. "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing."