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cious ointment;* these vain cogitations obstruct the operations of grace, and insensibly steal away the affections from God; even dust, though small, may hinder the clock from going. Raise up your affections heavenwards, centre and settle your hearts upon God, say to distractions, as Nehemiah to his enemies, I am doing a great work, and I eannot come down, or as it is storied of John Baptist, who being asked of his companions to play with them, when he was a child, yet answered, "I am not born for sport;" thus do you say to your trifling hearts, it is not fit that I should leave the work of God, to attend upon toys; I must mind my business, or I shall go behind in my spiritual trade. That man is in danger to be on the losing hand, that stands gazing at others, or runs playing at foot-ball on the market-day, when others are busy making bargains, and getting money. O Christians, you either gain
something, or lose in every performance; if the heart be not fixed on God, you are on the losing hand. Every thing is beautiful in its season, do what you do with all your might, pray when you pray, work when you work, but let not these things interfere. Set not up any idols in your hearts, drive away that which may interpose betwixt God and your souls, as Abraham drove away the fowls that sat upon the carcase. Jewish Rabbins say, † that if a serpent bite a man by the heel, while he is at his devotions, he must not stop, nor stoop to shake it off, and heathens have recorded instances of some that have rather suffered their arms or legs to be burnt, with a coal from the altar, than move whilst sacrificing; and do not Christians blush, upon consideration of their slight occasions of diversion from God in duty? O learn from hence to be more instant and intent in worshipping + Lightfoot's Miscell. page 26.
* Eccl. x. 1.
God, whereby your treasure will be maintained and promoted.
6. Be most jealous over yourselves after the sweetest enlargements. There is the greatest danger after you have been with God, and loaded your souls with choicest treasures of refreshing incomes. I have observed almost a score of Scripture instances of saints' saddest falls, suddenly after God's doing some signal thing for them, or their doing some notable thing for God; and I appeal to experienced souls, if they have not sustained saddest shakings and losses, after the sweetest gains. Dear, barren years usually succeed great plenty; a great spending follows a time of gaining; a long journey comes after a good bait, and a sharp winter after a pleasant summer. God in his wisdom usually lets Satan loose upon such as he hath armed to the combat. Paul must have Satan's messenger to buffet him after abundant revelations. Peter acts Satan's part in dissuading Christ from suffering, after he had acted an angel's part in acknowledging him for the Messias. The French have often got that again by craft, which the English had obtained by prowess, and we know in all wars, supine negligence hath undone many an army, after famous victories. This pugna osculana, as historians call it, is when the conquered gathered strength, and so returned upon the conquerors when they were dividing the spoils. Just thus, doth Satan with God's children, when the soul has been with God, and got its vessel well fraught with spiritual riches, then it is in greatest danger of pirates; then Satan doth bestir himself most, his malice and policy take that as the fittest season to foil and plunder the well-laden soul; and then the soul is most apt to grow secure and carnally confident, and so gives Satan the greatest advantage; as a man that hath run fast, or worked
hard, sits down and cools suddenly after much sweating, doth thereby endanger his health, and life too, by a dangerous surfeit; so when the heart hath been sweetly warmed with the love of God, and is powerfully affected in a holy duty, it is then most in danger of a spiritual ague, a chill fit of deadness, for such a one blesseth himself, and thinks now he may sit still, and take his ease, and then comes a fall. This is the believer's round; this is his wheeling condition in the world. Peter confesseth Christ nobly, then magnifies himself too confidently, then denies his master shamefully, and at last goes out and weeps bitterly, and so was kindly received by his loving Master. This, this is the Christian's round, ebbing and flowing state, up-hill and down-hill condition, in this howling wilderness. But how sad is it, that a Christian should so soon forget his enlargements! and so soon return unto folly, after his heart is broken, and peace is imparted to him!* O, why should the soul so quickly turn out of the way, wherein so lately it had such encouragements? † Why should we give Satan such occasion to represent and insinuate to the God of heaven, that his servants will not be hired to continue with him, for all his present rewards, and promises of future happiness? Ah, sirs, is there not much reward in keeping God's commandments? Is there not more pleasure in holiness, than any sin? Why should you think to eke out your spiritual delights with sensual pleasures? Think seriously of it, be afraid to stain your milk-white souls, that are newly washed in the blood of the Lamb, by wallowing in the mud of sin. Be ashamed to dishonour God, to torment yourselves, to gratify your grand enemy, and lose that in an instant, which was so hardly obtained. Be not high-minded, but fear; be jealous over yourselvcs, + Exod. xxxii. 8.
* Psal. lxxxv. 8.
with godly jealousy; rejoice with trembling, cast not off fear, nor restrain prayer before God, keep conscience tender, eyes open, and hearts resolved for God. Pray over David's prayer, for the continued settlement of those affectionate impressions upon your own hearts, in 1 Chron. xxix. 18. For, alas, the best man on earth, is no more than the Lord makes him hourly; we are like a staff that must fall, if the hand be removed, or a stone that descends, if not carried or cast upwards; if we were as good as Paul or Peter, we should fall foully, without supporting grace; therefore, be jealous of yourselves after enlargements, and take heed, lest by secu rity, you become a sacrifice to the devil, as Luther speaks. *
7. Another help for continuing and increasing this good treasure of the heart, is, to be frequent and exact in the search of your hearts. Be much in reviewing the frame of your spirits, "commune with your heart," ask what it getteth or loseth every day. Wise tradesmen often cast up accounts, and provident housekeepers look into their provision to see how it holds out, and wherein there is most danger of want. O Christians, be serious in this self-sifting work, and keep a distinct account how things are with you, whether you get or lose ground. Take the advice of a royal, learned writer to his princely son, † "Censure yourself as sharply as if you were your own enemy." A little further," therefore, I would not have you to pray to be delivered from sudden death, but that God would give
* Nos nihil sumus, Christus solus est omnia qui si avertat faciem suam nos perimus et Satanas triumphat, etiamsi aut Petri aut Pauli simus sicut Deo sacrificium est spiritus contribulatus, ita haud dubiè Diaboli sacrificium spiritus præfractus et securus.— Luth. Tom. 1. Lat. fol. 522.
King James, Basil. Doron, page 16, 17.
you grace so to live, as that you may every hour of your life be ready for death." Sirs, study your hearts, try your ways, deal faithfully with your own souls, for you must undergo a critical search at the great day; yea, now in this world, God is about to "search you with candles," ," and rouse up secure sinners from off their lees. A trying time may come, search yourselves first, you may by searching come to discern your state, and what degrees of grace you have, your "spirits may know the things of man" that concern yourselves, and may descend into the inward parts of the belly ;† therefore, make use of this reflective faculty of conscience, try your hearts, measure yourselves at this time with what you were formerly, and thereby you will understand how things are, and this will be a singular help against losing ground, will prevent apostacy, prepare you for, and engage you in a work of thankfulness, or repenting, suitable to what you find in your hearts. Only be clear and distinct about your state, that you may deplore, or congratulate yourselves on your condition accordingly. Thereby, God will have great glory, your souls much comfort, and if you find things amiss, that self-trial will be a step to reparation. ‡ O friends, take some time to pose || and search your own hearts, in the multitude of businesses abroad, be not strangers at home, you will find work enough there. I shall conclude all with the words of a contemplative Divine: "The varieties of an ever changing condition whilst in this vale of misery, cannot be without perpetual employment for a busy soul, therefore," saith he, "O God, let me be dumb to all the world, so as I may ever have a
* Zeph. i. 12.
+ 1 Cor. xxi. 10.
Dr. Hall's Sol. 13, called Bosom Discourse. of Self Exam. see Baxt. Saint's Rest, 3rd part.
Prov. xx. 27.
For this subject || Examine.