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ere long we will be in eternity. Why then are you not making it your business to seek a continuing city, seeing here we have none?
USE 2. Of trial. Hereby you may try yourselves, whether you be truly religious or not. How does the pulse of your affections beat? What is it that you are seeking, is it heaven or the world? I told you in what this seeking consists, and upon this I would propose two questions:
1. What desires have you after heaven? Are your souls yet reconciled to it? Could you get an abode here for ever, would you desire to remove? I fear there are many would even be content to settle down on this side of Jordan. They desire heaven, but not for contempt of the world, but fear of hell. But a gracious soul cannot be content with this their sinful condition in the world, to want uninterrupted communion with God, which is only to be enjoyed above.
2. What endeavours are you using to get it? Simple wishes for heaven will never come speed. Many wish for heaven but work for hell. If this be not your main work to seek the continuing city, you will never get there. But alas! what little pains do most men take to get heaven? If coming to the church, giving the compliment of a morning and evening prayer to God-coldrife and dead suits-will bring them to heaven, they will be sure of it; but they will never see it, if they cannot reach it without cutting off right hands, mortifying their lusts, and taking it by violence.
USE 3. Of exhortation.
upon you. And,
From this I may press several duties
1. Be content with such things as you have. Nature is content with little, grace with less; but corruption enlarges the soul as hell, that it never says it hath enough. Though a stranger get but bad accommodation on a journey, it pleases him to think that he is going homewards, he is not to stay with it. You are on your way te eternity. It is of little consequence whether a traveller have a cane in his hand, or a rough stick; either of them may serve, and both are laid aside at the journey's end.
2. Do not sit down upon the world's smiles. If the world court you, do not give it your heart, but tell it you are not to stay. O! it is hard to keep the heart from falling in love with a smiling world; hard to carry a full cup even; to take a large draught of carnal comforts, and not to fall asleep. Ere long, the richest shall be on a level with the poorest; and when the fool, who sets his heart on his wealth, comes to die, he cannot answer the question, Whose shall these things be, which he hath provided?
3. Bear afflictions patiently. You are posting out of the place of afflictions. If you be not in Christ, ere long the cross will be
turned into an unmixed curse. If you be in Christ, ere long all tears shall be wiped away from your eyes.
4. What you do, do quickly. Beware of delays, they are very dangerous. Our great work is to do good, and to get good. Ply your work with all speed and diligence. Parents do good to your children; ere long they may be taken from you, or you from them.
Lastly, Seek the continuing city that is to come, O! set yourselves to this work in good earnest; apply to it with all diligence. Young and old, rich and poor, you must all go out of this world. O! strive to secure your lodging in heaven.
MOTIVE 1. Consider you are all seeking something. Man is a restless creature, always crying give, give. The river runs as fast when it is overflowing its banks, as when it is going in its proper channel. The watch moves as fast when it is going wrong, as when it is going right. The spider is at pains as well as the bee. Alas! many men are like the spider; it consumes its bowels to make its web. They exert themselves wholly for their bodies, and neglect their souls. O what folly is this!
2. The devil is seeking to keep you out of heaven. He is constantly seeking whom he may devour. He wants not skill to contrive means for your ruin. He hath had experience for several thousand years in that trade. He wants not malice nor cunning. And will not you be at pains for your own salvation?
3. You have loud calls to this work. You have the call of the word. Wherefore hath the Lord instituted ordinances among you, but for this end? A master doth not light a candle for his servants to play themselves at it. You are not shut up in the dark, muffled up in clouds of ignorance. The night is over, the day shines. Go forth then to your work and to your labour, until the evening. The voice of providence calls loudly to you. God seems to be on his way against these lands, for their contempt of the gospel. And, I dare say, men under the gospel cannot but sometimes have their convictions.
4. Our abode here will be very short. Ere long, all of us shall be in an unalterable state. Some are at the borders of the grave; all are going forward. Our life is a vapour, and our days a shadow that passeth away. Let us then work the works of him that sent us, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Amen.
Simprin, March 23, 1707.
BELIEVERS COMMUNING WITH THEIR OWN HEARTS.
PSALM iv. 4,
Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.
In these words, we have David's friendly advice to his enemies, for the good of their souls. In this particular advice, there is, 1. The duty itself, "Commune with your own heart." By the heart is meant the conscience. In this sense it is used by the apostle John: "If our heart condemn us," saith he, "God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God." It is also said, that David's heart smote him, after that he had numbered the people. There is next a special season of the duty, upon your beds, in the night season. There is also the connection of it with the other duties here recommended. It looks backward and forward, and is here prescribed as an excellent mean to keep us from sin, and to be still from wicked practices.
DOCTRINE. As it is a necessary duty to commune with our own consciences, so it is an excellent mean to a holy life. In prosecuting this subject, I shall,
I. Shew in what the duty consists.
II. The manner in which it should be performed.
III. The special seasons for engaging in it.
IV. Give the reasons for the duty; and,
We are then,
V. Shew that it is an excellent mean to a holy life. I. To shew what it is to commune with our conscience. duty consists in two things:
1. We must speak to our consciences. This is easily performed, for they can hear without a voice. Our tongues need not weary in this exercise; for in the deepest silence we speak best, and commune with our hearts to the greatest purpose. Thus David spoke to his heart, "O my soul," said he, "thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord."
2. We must hear our heart and conscience speak to us. "When thou saidst, seek ye my face, my heart," says David, "said unto thee, (namely, to, or within me), thy face, Lord, will I seek." Con
science can speak to us, so as to make its voice be heard through all parts of the soul. It roused David himself out of his sleep, and put Judas to his wits end. It is God's voice, and therefore must be majestic.
II. To shew the manner in which this duty should be performed. 1. We should commune with our hearts willingly. It is a work of righteousness; "and the Lord meeteth him that rejoiceth, and worketh righteousness." We should be willing to enter on the conference, and even seek this communing. "Isaac went out to meditate at the even-tide." It is sad when conscience speaks only unbidden. We should also continue the communing, and not, like Felix, break it off violently, saying, "when I have a convenient season I will call for thee."
2. Friendly. That which most injures this communing, is people's looking on conscience as their enemy, and therefore they cannot endure it. But conscience may say to you, "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" It argues a person to be of little judgment to look on the surgeon as his enemy, though he come with his lance or knife in his hand to open his sores. If conscience speak roughly, it is but to make way for a sound peace. "When I heard," says Habakkuk, "my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice, rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble."
3. We should do it freely. We must have no reserve, no sweet morsel under the tongue. It is grieving to think how averse people are to come upon some points with their conscience, and at what pains they will be to divert or change that discourse. Some sins they love, some they hate; accordingly they are content to commune, so as the conscience will but hold of these points the right eye, the right hand.
4. Honestly and uprightly, not refusing conviction, but admitting what conscience offers according to the word of God. Conscience, indeed, is but a subordinate judge, and therefore the appeal is to be made to the Scriptures. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." But alas! many refuse the very light which conscience offers from the Scriptures, and are at much pains to cheat conscience into a belief of their mistaken apprehension, as the foolish virgins deceived themselves.
5. Frequently. There is no acquaintance more difficult to be obtained, and more easily lost, than that with ourselves. The soul of man is an unfathomable deep. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" There is still
occasion for new discoveries, therefore this exercise should be habitual to us. It is one to a thousand, if we find our hearts as we left them. We are now,
III. To attend to the special seasons for communing with our hearts. It is a duty at all times, but for the more solemn performance of it, the Scripture points out the following seasons :
1. The morning. "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning." The first fruits belong to God. The devil and the world will strive to rob him of them, as a pledge for the whole day; and alas! they often succeed. David was careful to give his first thoughts to God. "When I awake," says he, "I am still with thee." The pious women who followed our Lord, "came very early in the morning to his sepulchre." The want of this early devotion is the source of great disorders. Possession is much. It is easier to hold out, than to put out.
2. The evening. This is to close the and end with God.
"Isaac went out to meditate at the even-tide.” day with God. There is great reason to begin In the morning, we are to go out amidst many snares; in the evening, we have a whole day's course to examine and judge.
3. The night season, upon our beds; so says the text. And says David for himself, "when I remember thee on my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches." Men should not go to sleep with their hearts bound to the world, as the horse to the manger. The night is especially proper for this duty, for then a man is at the end of the day's progress, and it is most meet he should then look back upon it, and observe how matters have gone that day. Again, a man is now out of the noise of the world, his converse with others is at an end, and he may, therefore, the better take a word with himself, and recollect himself freely. Besides, the bed and sleep bear a resemblance to death and the grave, and so calls upon a man to remember his latter end. The night has a kind of awful majesty with it; and seeing we know not of an awakening, we should compose ourselves to sleep, as we would do to death.
4. A time of affliction. Says Asaph, "I call to remembrance my song in the night; I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search." God sends afflictions to bring sinners back again to himself, Hosea ii. 6, 7. But when we run away from God, we run away from ourselves; and the first turning is, to turn to ourselves, to come to serious consideration, Luke xv. 17; then is it time to pose our conscience with that question, What have I done?