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them in their motions towards sin, that we may stop the career of our sins, and may be restrained from the commission of them.
Á use of trial. The difference between holy men and others, shown by
their thoughts: which are the immediate issues of the heart, and the invisible, delightful, continued acts of the soul. Necessary cautions. A difference between voluntary and injected thoughts. Good thoughts pleasant to us, and productive of holiness: else no sign of our spiritual state.
FIRST by way of trial. This assertion of David, contains the character of a man that is truly gracious. “ Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” And it is that which is the original distinction between à carnal and a gracious frame of heart; a gracious man's soul is the “ chamber of presence for the Holy Spirit.” The soul of a carnal man, is the devil's thoroughfare: temptations are let in, and corruptions are let out. You know a painter may draw the external representations of a man, but he cannot set forth the vitals, the inward parts : so it is here, although there may be a similitude between the external practices of a saint, and a carnal wretch ; yet the inward motions of the understanding, and the working of the affections, cannot be represented by a wicked man. If you take the whole world of unregenerate men, and look into their breasts; you will find that some of them like the camelion, feed upon the air of honour; and others like the serpent, feed upon the dust of profit ; and most like the swine satisfy themselves with the will of carnal pleasures. This is the temper of their souls, and these are the objects about which they exercise their thoughts. But now take a gracious man, he substantiates heaven by his forethoughts of it; if the breast of a gracious man were transparent, you would find a line drawn from his soul towards God. Herein is a great difference between these two sorts of men : there is an expression of Solomon, concerning the temper of a fool ; (now Solomon's fool is the wicked man.) As “ he thinketh in his heart, so he is.” Prov. 23. 7. The thoughts of the soul discover most naturally the frame and temper of the heart. For the opening of this a little more, consider these four particulars in reference to our thoughts and meditation, and they will clear up the difference between a godly man, and one that yet is but in his natural state.
1. Consider this, that the thoughts whereby meditation is managed, are the immediate issues of the heart and therefore the best discoveries of a man. There are many interposing circumstances between our actions and our affections many times; but there is no interposition between the heart and the thoughts. “ Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts," (saith Christ.) Matt. 15. 19. He that would taste of the water of the sea, must take it up immediately from the sea, and not when it hath passed through the veins of the earth some miles; for so it loseth its brackishness. So he that would pass an estimate upon the state and frame of a man, must judge of his thoughts which immediately arise from the soul: for you cannot judge of him (mány times) by his external actions. Therefore by what your continued meditation is upon, you may conclude your state good
2. They are the invisible productions of the soul; and that is another thing which makes them the better to discover our temper : they are neither subject to the knowledge, nor to the censure of the world; so that a man doth act most naturally in them. Fear and shame are two great checks and restraints from evil actions. Praise and interest are two great attractives to good actions, in reference to wicked men. Fear and shame restrain them from sin. Praise and interest excite them to good. But now thoughts are neither capable of these restraints, nor of those attractives; because they are not subject to the eye of the world. And this is the reason why many that dare not steal with the hand, yet dare steal with the eye; and so those that dare not defile another's body, yet dare pollute their own souls with speculative wickedness, because their thoughts are invisible, not seen by the eye of the world ; and this fortifies and strengthens this difference.
3. Our thoughts as they are the invisible productions of the soul, so they are the most delightful acts of the soul : our thoughts proceed from our affections; and therefore you may find the temper of the heart by them : and this is the reason why the different thoughts of men, stream forth in various and different ways. As a covetous man sets up an image of gold, and falls down and worships it in his thoughts, and this is very delightful and pleasing to him, because the world is his God. And thus pleasurable persons set up images of vanity, and these they look upon with the greatest delight and contentment; because pleasure is their God : so an ambitious man fancies echoes of praise, he hears the sound of his own glory; and this takes up his thoughts most delightfully and pleasingly, because honour is his God. Now a gracious heart looks upon things spiritual, as those chiefly that deserve his affections, for his thoughts run upon them.
4. Our thoughts are the continued acts of the soul. There is nothing so profuse in all the world as the soul of man; it is always spending of itself. The sun is not so full of beams, as the heart is of thoughts. Now where the temper of the soul is carnal, there is a vile expence of our thoughts upon base inferior objects; but where the soul is changed and renewed, there is a constant tendency of the soul towards God, there the thoughts by troops run up to heaven, and unbosom themselves in God. These are the refined acts of the soul, and therefore they do the most fully represent the difference that is between a carnal and a spiritual man. , 'There are only these three cautions I will fix to this trial ; possibly many of you may fancy yourselves changed upon this account, because sometimes you have good thoughts within you; therefore take three cautions to strengthen the trial.
(1.) Consider there is a difference between good thoughts that ascend from the frame of our heart; and those that are injected from without. For instance, a gracious man's holy thoughts ascend from the spiritual frame that is in his soul : but now a wicked man may have holy thoughts cast into him as a flash of lightning in the night, which doth not make a day; neither doth the injection of some holy thoughts, argue the frame of his heart spiritual and holy. When he hath been hearing a warm sermon, then he thinks with himself, heaven deserves his choice and eager pursuits ; this is but from without, and therefore doth not argue that he is spiritual. Paul calls thoughts the “counsels of our hearts :" I Cor. 4. 5. now when thy thoughts are the fruit of thy counsel ; when thou dost determine to think of God, this argues the frame of thy spirit to be changed; but if it be merely an injection, thou mayest be in a natural state. I will illustrate it by its contrary; a gracious heart may have evil thoughts cast into him, there may be a rape committed upon his understanding; yet nevertheless he may not be a carnal person : so thou mayest have good thoughts cast into thee, yet this doth not arise from the frame and temper of thy soul. Bad thoughts may rush into a godly man, but they do not rest there : so good thoughts may be injected into wicked men, but pass away and are very transient, they do not arise from the frame of their hearts.
(2.) Consider whether these holy thoughts which sometimes are in thy soul, are cherished there as in their proper place and centre. In the 17th of Job v. 11. there is an expression concerning our thoughts, they are called “ the possessions of our hearts;" for so the word signifies in the original, and so it is rendered in the margin of your bibles. Now have spiritual thoughts their residence there? Are they fixed there as in their natural soil ? Are they in thy heart as meat in the stomach, which is received in its proper place, and so turned to food and nourishment ? Good thoughts in a wicked man, are like wind in the bowels of the earth, which is never quiet till it hath made an eruption; or like thunder in a cloud, that breaks forth in violence.
(3.) Are these spiritual thoughts in thy heart, productive of holiness in thy life? then it is an argument the frame of thy soul is right : our thoughts are implicit words, and our actions are explicit thoughts; therefore if thou find the power of meditation in thy life, this is an argument, those thoughts which are in thy soul, are natural.
A use of reproof. Carnal men reproved for their total neglect of meditation.
And regenerate men for their too great disuse of it, and remissness in it: wherein they are guilty of unkindoess to God, and disparagement of him.
FOR reproof, and that ; to carnal and sensual men ; to those that are truly gracious.
First, To the carnal and sensual sinner, that lives in a constant neglect of this spiritual duty of meditation. Oh it is a sad complaint, “ God is not in all their thoughts :" consider with thyself, how many years thou hast lived in the world, and thy thoughts have been altogether strangers to heaven?
heaven? Did God give unto thee that cabinet of thy understanding, either to keep it empty, or to treasure up in it only chaff or dung? Did God intend when he made thee a rational creature, that thou shouldst only spend thy thoughts either upon those things that are unprofitable, or those that are sinful ? Certainly God had higher ends when he gave to thee a reasonable soul. To press the of this upon you : consider with yourselves the sinfulness of neglecting this duty of meditation; it degrades thee from that honour which God hath given thee in thy creation; it debaseth thee and maketh thee of the inferior rank of creatures. There is an excellent expression in the 92 Psalm, ver. 5. “O Lord how great are thy works, and thy thoughts are very deep?" It follows in the 6th
a brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.” Observe the expression, those persons that neglect this duty of spiritual meditation, and do not consider the works of God; degrade and reduce themselves into the order of beasts. A carnal man that looks only upon the form and figure of external things, hath no better apprehension of them then a brute hath: a brute looks upon them with as clear an eye, as a carnal wretch; he that looks upon the things of the world, as only made for his own end, and not for the glory of God; and he that neglects the consideration of spiritual things lives like a brute. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a