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(1.) Meditate in a methodical way. Begin with those things which are low, and then ascend higher, you will find a sensible advantage, by an orderly management of this duty; for this will be of special use to confine our thoughts. When we run from one object to another without order, we lose the benefit. As when there is a crowd of persons press forward to go through one door, all are hindered in their progress : so when our thoughts run from one object to another, we cannot proceed nor make such sensible progress as otherwise we might do, one thought hinders another. He that intends to go several ways, goes no way: so he that lets the eye of his soul run from one object to another without fixing, loseth the advantage of this duty; and therefore let us use an order and method in our thoughts.
(2.) Let your meditation be as particular as you can, in reference to the nature and circumstances of the object. You know that particulars are affecting, and therefore we should labour to have as minute thoughts concerning every part of the object as we can; as to give you an instance, suppose my meditations were fixed upon the mercies of God, then the best way were to rank these mercies under several heads. Some are spiritual, some are corporal. If you
the common mercies of this life, then take your rise with David, from the very first beginning of your being. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect, and in thy book all my members were written;" (as an artificer first draws a model, and then finisheth it.) And then proceed a little, he brought me safely into the world, (which mercy would be thought miraculous but that it is ordinary.) And when I came, he provided two bottles of milk for me before I could help myself; and all my days mercy and my soul have been as twins of the same age, and day ; and then consider the mercies of infancy, and childhood, and youth, and riper years. And then think of the mercies that respect the day, and the night ; how God is like a pillar of cloud, and fire; and then divide these temporal mercies, some respect the estate, some the name, and some the health. He that shall thus meditate upon the mercies of God, he will by experience find, that he needs an eternal life to be thankful for the mercies of this temporal life.
(3.) Before you begin the work, let there be a serious discharge of all worldly things; whenever we engage in any duty we are apt to look back, because we do not leave the world behind us. Therefore when you begin this work, issue forth a practical decree, a strong resolution that you will not endure any vain thought to interpose between God and your souls ; this is the girding up of our minds, that so we may not be hindered in our race.
(4.) Beg the assistance of the Holy Spirit: he that is able to stop the sun in its flight, and to bound the waters in their course; he is able to fix thy thoughts and to stop their motion.
(5.) Be careful to prevent or stop the first excursion of thy thoughts. Many times our thoughts hurry us away before we are aware; whereas, if there were a careful watchfulness, to prevent the first diversions, we should be more constant. In a town where there is a constant watch and ward, vagrants are stopped from entering, and hindered from conversing there ; so if thy soul watch the first motions of thy thoughts, those vagrant excursions of them would be prevented. Yet take this caution : suppose thy thoughts on a sudden do glance forth upon a carnal object; do not pore upon the thought, but rather proceed in thy work. For here is the devil's policy, to get that by reflex acts, which he cannot get by direct acts. And many times a christian loseth the advantage of the duty, by poring upon his vain thoughts. It is just like a crier in the court that calls for peace, and by his noise makes more disturbance. A man that is bent to go a journey, doth not regard the barking of every dog ; so when thou dost design to ascend this mount, do not regard every vain thought that may be injected ; but strengthen thy resolutions, and go forward in the discharge of thy work. · 2. How we may perform this duty so as to inflame and fire our affections : for that take these four particulars.
(1.) When thou dost meditate upon a subject, which is of spiritual concernment, let thy thoughts work upon it by way of argument, and serious consideration both of the causes and of the effects of the object. As now suppose I were meditating upon the conversion of a sinner; here my thoughts should ascend to the cause of this conversion; it is the Spirit of holiness, he that is able by his power to raise from the grave, is alone able to raise from the power of sin: and then we should descend to the effects
of things, for the effects are interpreters of the nature of their causes.. As to instance; suppose I were meditating upon sin; consider the effects of sin, the fall of the angels, they were the courtiers of heaven, and the associates of God; but sin is that which cast them from their first habitation. So if you bring your eye lower to the fall of man; certainly the poison is very deadly, one draught of which destroyed the whole race of mankind. If you look upon the effects of sin, which are inward, there you shall find terrors of conscience; there is a spiritual tophet wlrich sin hath enkindled : sin is that which causeth a man to walk up and down with a hell in his own bosom. If you look outward, upon men's bodies, and consider the effects of sin, all the diseases from the scorching fever, to the lingering consumption; all are the effects of sin ; and chiefly if you regard the terrors of another life, if you consider the never dying worm, and the ever living Alames; these things discover the nature of sin.
(2.) That so this work may be the more efficacious upon your affections; manage it as by argument, so by comparisons. 1. By similitudes. 2. By comparing those things which are opposite one to another. ; Ist. By similitudes : they have an excellent force to prevail upon the soul, they are of great use, both to enlighten the understanding, and inflame the affections. To enlighten the understanding; a similitude is that which presents a truth clearly to our apprehensions: by the knowledge of a material thing that is visible, we come to the sight of a spiritual thing that is invisi ble ; and therefore our Saviour trained up his disciples by earthly similitudes : you know a double medium helps the sight, therefore old men look through spectacles. Similitudes are like a double medium, and as they help our apprehensions, so they exceedingly inflame our affections. We naturally love pictures; now a similitude is the picture of truth, for fancy to look and gaze on; for instance, we all of us naturally are full of timorousness in the dark. Why do I not much more tremble at hell ? “ For there is blackness of darkness.” We all of us fear death : then why do I not fear sin ? which is the death of the noble part, which destroys the soul. Thus if you find your hearts dull and sluggish in the duties of religion, compare thyself with the creatures beneath thee, as thou art a rational being. The sun and stars obey their Creator by a constant law; there is an unalterable tenour of their obedience : and why do I swerve, and wander from the ways of holiness? They will contradict their private nature, to obey the commands of God; and why should I gratify my carnal lusts and pleasures to disobey God? As the Lord said to them in Malachi, when they were negligent in reference to their religious duties, he bids them put it into a temporal case, "offer it to thy governor, will he be pleased with thee.” &c. Malachi 1. 8.
2dly. Manage this comparison by way of dissimilitude, and compare things that are unlike one with another, and this will work on our affections. For instance, compare the easiness of Christ's yoke with the bondage of sin, and this will raise your affections, and intender them in reference to the Lord Jesus. Compare the beauty of holiness with the exorbitances of a carnal life : consider every sinner hath many lords, many tyrants over him; but he that is a servant of Christ, hath but one master, who is full of meekness and sweetness. These lords command contrary things; and thus while one lust ravishes the soul to itself, another hales it to another object; whereas all the commands of Christ are regular, and they all concentre in one end, to advance the glory of God. Then consider the different fruit; those that are slaves to their lusts, have sin for their work, and hell for their wages; their service is drudgery, and their recompence eternal death: but the ways of God are liberty here, and glory hereafter. The commands of the gospel, are not fetters, but ornaments, and they bring a crown ; how would this cause the soul with a greater willingness to submit to the commands of the gospel! Shall wicked men draw sin“ as with cart-ropes ?” Isa. 5. 18. that is, shall they toil and spend themselves in the service of their lusts? And shall I refuse obedience to that God whose service is perfect freedom ?
3. When thou art meditating that so it may be fruitful ; let there be frequent emissions of thy soul to God: let thy thoughts be moulded into words, and that, (1.) By way of complaint. (2.) By way of desire.
(1.) By way of complaint, as when thou art meditating concerning the glory of another world, then reflect upon thy soul thus, and complain to God, Oh wretched man that I am, who am chained to this earth! My treacherous nature betrays me to the vanities of this life. Oh that I should be insensible of spiritual joys! and charmed by sensual delights! Oh ihat I should be so mad upon and fond of perishing vanities, and dis esteem and undervalue a blessed eternity! Thus we should complain to God of ourselves, there should be confession mixed with this complaint.
(2.) These emissions towards God should go forth in a way of desire and request to him. We should breathe forth our souls thus. Oh when shall my brazen affections be melted? When shall I be unglued from the world? What, shall I be a stranger in my affections, as I am in my residence? O Lord thou who hast prepared glory for my soul, prepare my soul for glory.
4. Manage this duty, by way of impressions upon the heart, when you have thus sent forth your souls to God. As it is when a vapour is drawn up to heaven, it afterwards returns to the earth : so when thy thoughts have been drawn up towards God, then they should descend upon thyself, and that in a double way. (1.) By way of charge to quicken thy soul to duty. (2.) By way of check and restraint to keep thy soul from sin.
(1.) By way of charge to quicken thy soul to duty. As when a christian considers with himself, how superficial he is in the service of God, how (many times) he offers a sacrifice without a heart ; let him charge his soul thus. My soul, consider that God doth both deserve, and require thy affections: he is the Maker, the Searcher, the Redeemer, and Judge of spirits; in him there is majesty and purity conjoined; and therefore when thou art engaged in any religious service, draw near to him with thy spirit. Why should we debase God, when we pretend to honour him ? and deal with his name as the devil did with the body of Christ ; who raised him to a pinnacle of the temple, intending to throw him down ? So many seem to honour God, when at the same time they debase him..
(2.) By way of check and restraint from sin. Whenever any temptation presents itself to us : let us by meditation thus argue. What will be the fruit of these things ? Can we resist the wrath of God? Are we stronger than he ? The temptation is pleasing, but the issue of compliance will be dreadful. The time is a coming when there will remain nothing of sin, but the worm and the flame. Thus we should check our hearts, and repress