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must we not omit any occasion of doing them good: if our hearts be haughty and proud, we must nevertheless study a modest and humble deportment. These external performances are of little value in themselves, yet they may help us forward to better things. The apostle indeed tells us, that bodily exercise profiteth little; but he seems not to affirm that it is altogether useless: it is always good to be doing what we can, for then God is wont to pity our weakness, and assist our feeble endeavours; and when true charity and humility, and other graces of the divine Spirit, come to take root in our souls, they will exert themselves more freely, and with less difficulty, if we have before been accustomed to express them in our outward conversations. Nor need we fear the insputation of hypocrisy, though our actions do thus somewhat outrun our affections, seeing they do still proceed from a sense of our duty; and our design is not to appear better than we are, but that we may really become so. We must endeavour to form 'internal acts of
devotion, charity, &c. But as inward acts have a more immediate influence on the soul, to mould it to a right temper and frame, so ought we to be most frequent and sedulous in the exercise of them. Let us be often lifting up our hearts toward God; and if we do not say that we love him above all things, let us at least acknowledge that it is our duty, and would be our happiness so to do; let us lament the dishonour done unto him by foolish and sinful men, and applaud the praises and adorations that are given him by that blessed and glorious company above: let us resign and yield ourselves up unto him a thousand times, to be governed by his laws, and disposed of at his plea
And though our stubborn hearts should start back and refuse; yet let us tell him we are convinced that his will is always just and good; and therefore desire him to do with us whatsoever he pleaseth, whether we will or not. And so, for begetting in us an universal charity towards men, we must be frequently putting up
wishes for their happiness, and blessing every person that we see ; and when we have done any thing for the relief of the miserable, we may second it with earnest desires that God would take care of them, and deliver them out of all their distresses.
Thus should we exercise ourselves unto godliness. And when we are employing the powers that we have, the Spirit of God is wont to strike in, and elevate these acts of our soul beyond the pitch of nature, and givo them a divine impression: and, after the frequent reiteration of these, we shall find ourselves more inclined unto them, they flowing with greater freedom and
Consideration a great instrument of religion.
I shall mention but two other means for begetting that holy and divine temper of spirit which is the subject of the present discourse. And the first is, a deep and serious consideration of the truths of our religion, and that both as to the certainty and importance of them. The assent which is ordinarily given to divine truths, is very faint and languid; very weak and ineffectual; flowing only from a blind inclination to follow that religion which is in fashion, or a lazy indifference and unconcernedness whether things be so or not. Men are un willing to quarrel with the religion of their country, and since all their neighbours are christians, they are content to be so too; but they are seldom at the pains to consider the evidences of those truths, or to ponder the importance and tendency of them; and thence it is that they have so little influence on their affections and practice. Those spiritless and paralytic thoughts (as one doth rightly term them) are not able to move the will and di. rect the hand: we must therefore endeavour to work up our minds to a serious belief and full persuasion of divine truths, unto a sense and feeling of spiritual things. Our thoughts must dwell upon them, till we are both convinced of them, and deeply affected with them. Let us urge forward our spirits, and make them approach the invisible world; and fix on inirds upon iinmaterial
things, till we clearly perceive that these are no dreams; nay, that all things are dreams and shadows besides them. When we look about us and behold the beauty and magnificence of this goodly frame, the order and harmony of the whole creation, let our thoughts from thence take their flight towards that omnipotent wisdom and goodness which did at first produce, and doth still establish and uphold the same. When we reflect upon ourselves, let us consider that we are not a mere piece of organized matter; a curious and well contrived engine; that there is more in us than flesh, and blood, and bones; even a divine spark, capable to know, and love, and enjoy our Maker; and though it be now exceedingly clog. ged with its dull and lumpish companion, yet ere long it shall be delivered, and can subsist without the body, as well as that can do without the clothes which we throw off at our pleasur Let us often withdraw our thoughts from this earth, this scene of misery, folly, and sin, and raise them towards that more vast and glorious world, whose innocent and blessed inhabitants solace themselves eternally in the divine presence, and know no other passion but an unmixed joy, and an unbounded love: and then consider how the blessed Son of God came down to this lower world to live among us, and die for us, that he might bring us to a portion of the same felicity; and think how he hath overcome the sharpness of death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, and is now set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; and yet is not the less mindful of us, but receiveth our prayers, and presenteth them unto his Father; and is daily visiting his church with the influences of his Spirit, as the sun reacheth us with his beams. To beget divine love, we must consider the excel
lency of the divine nature. The serious and frequent consideration of these, and such other divine truths, is the most proper method to beget that lively faith which is the foundation of religion, the spring and root of the divine life. Let me further suggest some particular subjects of moditation for pro
ducing the several branches of it. And, first, to inflame our souls with the love of God, let us consider the excellency of his nature, and his love and kindness towards us. It is little we know of the divine perfection, and yet that little may suffice to fill our souls with admiration and love; to ravish our affections as well as to raise our wonder: for we are not merely creatures of sense, that we should be incapable of any other affection but that which entereth by the eyes. The character of any excellent person whom we have never seen, will many times engage our hearts, and make us hugely concerned. in all his interests. And what is it, I pray you, that engages us so much to those with whom we converse? I cannot think that it is merely the colour of their face, or their comely proportions; for then we should fall in love with statues, and pictures, and flowers. These outward accomplishments may a little delight the eye, but would never be able to prevail so much on the heart, if they did not represent some vital perfection. We either see or apprehend some greatness of mind, or vigour of spirit, or sweetness of disposition; some sprightliness, or wisdom, or goodness, which charm our spirit, and command our love. Now these perfections are not obvious to the sight, the eyes can only discern the signs and effects of them; and if it be the understanding that directs the affection, and vital perfections prevail with it, certainly the excellencies of the divine nature (the traces whereof we cannot but discover in every thing we behold) would not fail to engage our hearts, if we did seriously view and regard them. Shall we not be infinitely more transported with that almighty wisdom and goodness which fills the universe, and displays itself in all the parts of creation, which establisheth the frame of nature, and turneth the mighty wheels of providence, and keepeth the world from disorder and ruin, than with the faint rays of the same perfections which we meet with in our fellow-creatures? Shall we doat on the scattered pieces of a rude and imperfect picture, and never be affected with the original beauty? This were an unaccountable stupidity and blindness. Whatever we find
lovely in a friend, or in a saint, ought not to engross, but to elevate our affection. We should conclude with ourselves, that if there be so much sweetness in a drop, there must be infinitely more in the fountain; if there be so much splendour in a ray, what must the sun be in its glory?
Nor can we pretend the remoteness of the object, as if God were at too great a distance for our converse or our love: He is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being. We cannot open our eyes, but we must behold some foot. steps of his glory; and we cannot turn thein toward him, but we shall be sure to find his intent upon us; waiting as it were to catch a look, ready to entertain the most intimate fellowship and communion with us. Let us therefore endeavour to raise our minds to the clearest conceptions of the divine nature. Let us consider all that his works do declare, or his word doth discover of him unto us; and let us especially contemplate that visible representation of him which was made in our own nature by his Son, who was the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person; and who appeared in the world to discover at once what God is, and what we ought to be. Let us represent him unto our minds as we find him described in the gospel; and there we shall behold the perfections of the divine nature, though covered with the veil of human infirmities; and when we have framed unto ourselves the clearest notion that we can of a Being, infinite in power, in wisdom, and goodness; the author and fountain of all perfections, let us fix the eyes of our soul upon it, that our eyes may affect our heart, and while we are mus. ing the fire will burn. IVe should meditate on God's goodness and love.
Especially, if hereunto we add the consideration of God's favour and good-will towards us; nothing is more powerful to engage our affection, than to find that we are beloved. Expressions of kindness are always pleasing and acceptable unto us, though the person should be