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3. Employing the heart on the spiritual subject so chosen, to think upon it, study it, and seriously consider of it; to lay it before our understandings, so as to move our affections, and improve our hearts.
II. Let us apply the subject. I exhort you to make conscience of this duty of meditation, and particularly of fixed meditation; setting yourselves as solemnly to it, as to prayer and other duties.
MOTIVE 1. Consider it is the command of God. "Commune with your own heart upon your bed." "And meditate upon these things." says Paul to Timothy. Why do you perform other duties, but because God commands you? Well, he that bids you do other duties, bids you do this also. Remember "you shall not be ashamed, when you have respect to all his commandments." If the command of God hath due weight with you in one case, it will have weight in all, James ii. 10, 11.
2. It is made desirable, by the testimony which it hath from the practice of the people of God. Thus was Isaac employed. Thus David, Psalm lxiii. 6. Yea, David puts it in the description of the godly man, "that he meditates on the law of God day and night."
3. It is of notable use for a Christian's improvement. It much increases knowledge: "I have more understanding," says David, "than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation." It is the way to comfort under affliction. When David's enemies plotted against him, "thy servant," says he, "did meditate in thy statutes." It makes a Christian tender in his way. "I will meditate on thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways." It gives a Christian a sweet relish of the goodness of God, Psalm lxiii. 5, 6.
Now I would lay before you some directions, in order to your right managing of this work.
1. Habituate yourself to occasional meditation, to take up a holy meditation on things that you see or hear, turning them to a spiritual use. This was the practice of Christ, to spiritualize worldly things. None have fairer occasion of it than husbandmen, whose calling is so much spiritualized in the Scripture.
2. If your occasions will permit, and sometimes they will, retire by yourselves for solemn meditation, so as you may go about it without disturbance. But sometimes a man may have good occasion for meditation, even while at his employment in the world.
3. Make choice of some spiritual matter to meditate upon. Fix this in the first place, that so you may not be rambling from one thing to another. There is great variety of subjects: God; Christ; his sufferings; the love of God; death; judgment; heaven, hell; eternity; the graces of the Spirit, faith, love, hope; the word and works of God.
4. Begin with a short and earnest prayer; either ejaculatory, or more solemn. Pray as David: "O Lord, open mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy law."
5. When you enter on the duty, be resolute to go through with it, for Satan will strive to divert you; and that you may not want matter, take these few rules: When you enter upon a subject of meditation, if it will bear it, observe,
1. To begin with a description of the thing, what it is; as what God, faith, love is; or whatever be the matter of meditation.
2. If there be sundry kinds of these, observe them; as faith feigned, or unfeigned.
3. Consider the causes.
4. The effects.
5. Its properties.
6. Its opposites.
7. What it is compared to.
Lastly, Scriptural testimonies concerning it.
6, To think and enlarge on the subject, as that your heart may be affected and touched with it. Here I would advise you: 1. To get suitable affection and relish of it in your souls. 2. To bewail the want of that relish. 3. To desire that, of the want of which you complain. 4. Confess your inability to do for yourself what you wish to have. 5. Petition for the Lord's working it in you. Lastly, Believe the Lord will grant your request.
7. Conclude all with thaukfulness to the Lord, and committing yourself to him.
Lastly, Take all outward helps you can, for right managing of the duty; and because the sight of the eyes may divert you, if need be go into the dark, or shut your eyes. And if you cannot get your heart kept, while your tongue is not employed, stand not to speak your meditation any way, so as you be not overheard. The Hebrew word in the text, signifies both meditation and speaking.
To make this more plain to you, I will give you a short meditation on death, enlarged according to these rules.
Lord, gather my thoughts, that I may profitably meditate on this, which will gather me and all mankind into the grave at length; and open mine eyes to see it, before I feel it. O my soul! what is death? It is a dissolution of soul and body; a parting of these two loving companions, which God did unite in the womb. Consider, O my soul! there is a twofold death, violent and natural; and which of them may be my lot I do not know. Each of these may be done several ways. Either this life of mine must go as a candle that is blown out, or else will waste with diseases or age till like a
candle, it die out of itself, when the wick and grease are consumed. But O! what are the causes of death? Why, the cause is in myself. I bear about the seeds of so many diseases, as will cut me off at length, but the first cause of all is sin, that brought death into the world with it. Seeing I have sinned, I must die. And now, my soul, cast thine eyes on the effects of death. How does the ap
proach of this grim messenger fill all the body with pains, make the eyes stare, and the face grow pale; and when he gives his stroke, the breath goes, the soul departs, the body is left a lump of lifeless clay. While friends fall a weeping that the dead is gone, and they will see him no more in the land of the living. But what are the properties of death? Why, it is certain, it is uncertain. It is terrible in its most pleasant shape. It is a way we can but once go; if it once go wrong, we cannot put it right. O my soul! what are the opposites of it? Even life which we now enjoy here, which is sweet; and eternal life in glory, where we more death. And why should I forget the unstings it, according to that, Hos. xiii. 14. To what may I compare it? It is like the blowing out or wasting of a candle. Like the Egyptian jailor, that opened the prison door to the baker and butler, restoring the one to the court, and sending the other to the gibbet. What say the Scriptures? They tell me, "it is appointed unto all men once to die."
shall be liable to no death of Christ that What is death like?
Now, O my soul! how terrible is death? What a king of terrors is this? What need of preparation for it? But alas! how little is my hard heart touched with the consideration of this? How little am I affected with this, which I must feel? O that I were suitably affected with it? that I were wise, to consider my latter end! But alas! I cannot command this of myself, I cannot have one serious thought of it! I may as well dig through a rock with my nails, as think to affect mine own heart with it. But, O Lord, to thee I make my request. Do thou give me a heart duly touched with it. Thou hast prepared death for me; prepare me for it. And I desire to believe thou wilt do it, for thou workest all our works in us. Blessed be the Lord, that has opened a way, how we may be delivered of its sting. And so, into thy hands, I commit my spirit. Be my God and guide even unto death. Amen.
June 15, 1707.
FAREWELL SERMON, AT SIMPRIN.
JOHN vii. 37,
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
OUR Lord having kept the feast with the Jews for several days, and having about the midst of it begun to teach in the temple, and being now to part, gives them the parting word in the text. In which there is,
1. A large offer of himself, which he makes to them. He had dealt with them before, but he is resolved they shall have a large offer before they part. It was a custom among the Jews, on the last day of the feast, to draw water joyfully, out of the fountain of Siloam; therefore Christ offers himself to them, under the notion of a fountain of water, inviting all thirsty sinners to come to him; that is, believe on him, as he himself interprets it, ver. 38. To drink, that is, to make use of him for the supply of their needs. The offer is large, none are excluded. If any man thirst, be but sensible of wants and desire supply, here he may have it.
2. The time when he makes this offer. More generally, it was at the feast, namely, of tabernacles, John vii. 2. This was one of these three feasts, at which all the males of the Jews were to appear before the Lord, at Jerusalem, Deut. xvi. 16. Of this feast we have an account, Levit. xxiii. 33. More particularly, the last day of the feast; that is, the eight day, which was the great day; that is, a solemn day, which was to be observed as a sabbath, and on it there was to be a holy convocation. It was a joyful feast and lasted long, yet it has a last day. The people had been together seven days, and now, on the eighth, they were to part; and while this feast is upon the close, Christ invites them to a more lasting feast, where the table should never be drawn, even to feed on himself. And so the best wine comes last.
3. The way in which he delivered this discourse. It was standing, though he often sat while he taught. But at this time, he stood and cried. The reason may be, because of the multitude of hearers, but especially to denote his earnestness with them at parting. The
matter was so important, and it was so that in that manner, they were not soon to hear more.
DOCTRINE. If any man be under soul thirst, Christ bids him welcome to come to him and drink. Or needy sinners are welcome to Christ, to get supply of all their wants. Here we shall shew,
I. Who they are, that are invited.
II. To what they are invited.
III. I shall confirm the point. We are then,
I. To shew who they are, that are invited. It is any man that thirsts. There is a bodily and a soul thirst. It is the spiritual thirst that is here meant. In all thirst there are two things:
1. Sense of want. The thirsty soul wants something, and knows that it wants. Every man is sensible that he is not self-sufficient, that he labours under some defects, and must be supplied from some quarter or another; but it is not every one that knows to what quarter to go for supply.
2. Desire of supply. The thirsty soul craves what may supply its needs, as the hungry infant seeks for the breast. The soul of man is ever desiring, till it meet with that which doth fully satisfy its desires. The object of this thirsting is twofold:
1. The end where the soul may rest, and that is happiness. This every man thirsts after. All desire to be happy. A man cannot cease to desire to be a happy man; though, without grace, he cannot go the right way to obtain it.
2. The means leading to this end. This follows upon the other. The man that desires to be at the journey's end, desires also to go in the way, though perhaps he mistake it. He that desires refreshment, desires also to drink, though he may by ignorance take a cup of poison, instead of proper drink.
Now there is a twofold thirsting desire of these things:
1. One that is natural, and therefore is common to all men. is as natural for a man to desire to be happy and to get satisfaction, as it is for him to breathe. And upon supposition that the man lives under the gospel, and learns that Christ and grace are the means of happiness, he will thirst after these in a natural way, as a bridge to carry him over God's wrath, John vi. 34; Matth. xxv; Num. xxiii. 10. But it is the plague of all natural men, they see not the excellency of Christ and grace, nor the emptiness of the creatures; hence they practically mistake the way to happiness, and thirst after it, seeking it in the world and their lusts, crying, "Who will shew us any good?" Having lost God, they are like a blind thirsty man, still drawing at empty cisterns. Here is a thirst, but not that which has the promise of being satisfied, Matth. v. 6. VOL. IV. 2 G