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we carry on this grace in the way of diligent pursuit or constant obedience. It is not one endeavour, or two, but such as hath it constant force; hath not its pangs of devotion, but tò SÉAelv napakeitai, “to will is present with me” (Rom. vii. 18); it is a daily, habitual, constant will; not a volatile devotion, that cometh upon us now and then, but such a will as is “ present," as constant as evil is, kakoy napákeltai (Rom. vii. 21). Wherever you go, or whatever you are about, you carry à sinning nature about with you; it is urging the heart to vanity, folly, and lust: so this will is present, urging the heart to good, and stirring up to holy motions.
Secondly, Let me now show you the necessity of this inclined heart, that we may yield to God cheerful, uniform, and constant obedience.
1. That we may yield to God cheerful obedience in all our services, God looketh for a ready mind. God accepts the will for the deed, never accepts the deed without the will. The dregs of things come out with squeezing and wringing: duty is best done when, like lite-honey, it droppeth of its own accord; cheerful and hearty service only pleaseth the Lord. Now, that is cheerful service which cometh, not from the influence of by-ends and foreign motives, or the compulsion of a natural conscience or legal fears, but from the native inclination and bent of the heart : “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John y. 3): the work is not grievous, but pleasant, because suitable to the principles that are in us ; it is not done against the hair : Cain offered sacrifice, but with a grudging mind. It is somewhere said, they offered to the Lord whose hearts made them willing. When the heart is in it, it is not constrained, forced service, but natural and genuine; not like water out of a still, but like water out of a foun. tain.
2. For uniform obedience, to serve God in the whole tenour of our lives, that needs a heart inclined, that may be as a constant spring of holiness. A man may force himself now and then to actions displeasing to himself; but his constant course is according to his natural bent and inclination : Haman could refrain himself from murder ; but his heart still boiled with rancour and malice. When men look only to the refraining of outward actions, or the restraining the outward man, it will never hold: the bent of the heart will discover itself; and so they will be off and on with God. The compulsion of conscience will sometimes urge them to God; but the inclination of the heart will draw them to evil; therefore God wisheth that his people had a heart to serve him (Deut. v. 20).
3. Constant obedience, that can never be till the heart be inclined. Judas was a disciple for a while, but Satan entered into his heart (Luke xxii. 3). Ananias joined himself to the people of God; but Satan filled his heart. Simon Magus was baptized; but his heart was not right with God (Acts viii. 22). Here is the great defect; but now, when God gets possession of the heart, there he dwelleth (Eph. üi. 17), there he abideth, as in his strong citadel, and from thence commandeth all the faculties of the soul and the members of the body.
Use I.–To press you to get this bent of heart; otherwise, all your labour in religion will be in vain; every difficulty will put you out of the way, and make you think of a revolt from God; till this, the work of grace is not begun. God's first gift is a new heart, “ A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (Ezek. xxxvi. 26). Without this, you can never hold out, but you will be uncertain and mutable in
the profession of godliness; whatever restraints are upon you for a time, sin will be breaking out ever and anon with violence; and at length men will return with the dog to the vomit, and with the sow to her wallowing in the mire (2 Peter ii. 22). Oh! then, go to God for it; say, “ Hear me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved" (Jer. xvii. 14).
Carry forth the work of God so far as you receive it; follow after to apprehend that for which also we are apprehended of Christ (Phil. iji. 12).
USE II.-Have we such a heart, a heart inclined to do the will of God?
Ist, Though there be such a bent and inclination, there will be failings; yea, reluctances and oppositions : “ To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. vii. 18). There is a ready will asserted, and a weak discharge complained of: observe, it is a will, not a wish; a weak discharge, not that nothing is done, but not all that good that is required, nor in that purity; the work doth not perfectly answer the will, nor the motions of the Spirit by which it is excited. And mark, this weakness is not rested in, but complained of; and not only complained of, but resisted. “I find not," that implieth he sought it; for the word finding implieth a diligent search; he laid about him on every side, he did not expect it should come by chance or a lazy inquiry.
2ndly, If wrought,-1. How was it wrought in you? Did God turn thee, and thou wast turned? Were you ever brought to self-resignation? By what steps was this work carried on? Thy heart was naturally wedded to thy lusts and to carnal vanity; did ever God make you see the odiousness of sin, the vanity of the creature, the insufficiency of self? Eril men seek contentment in the world, as long as conscience will let them hold out in that way: you cannot cleave to God till you are rent off from the world and self. Was there ever such a separation such a rending work? Conversion, or the altering the bent of the heart, lieth in three things, in turning from the creature to God, from self to Christ, from sin to holiness. How to God? By making us a willing people, to yield up ourselves to his service. How drawn from self to Christ? To seek all this good in him. How from sin to holiness? By seeing the beauty of God's ways. Paul found it a sensible work, before he was brought to this self-resignation: “Lord, what wilt thou hare me to do?" (Acts ix. 6.) How did God draw you or drive you to this?
2. How is this bent of heart kept up towards God? Nature is apt to recoil, and the heart to return to its own bent and bias again. David beggeth, “ Incline my heart to thy testimonies" (verse 36). It is a hard matter to keep up a bent of heart towards God; it will cost us much watching, striving, praying, to keep it fixed. The frame of man's heart is changeable and various, doth not always continue at the same pass; and lust will waken, and be pressing and importunate; deadness will creep upon us. The great business of the spiritual life is to keep the bent of the heart steady. Neglected grace will suffer decay; and worldly vanities and listlessness and deadness to holy things, will encroach upon the soul, and a gracious heart is much discomposed. As a needle that bendeth towards the pole may be jogged and put aside, though it cannot rest there, but turneth thither again; so the bent of the soul towards God may be much disordered, and we may lose much of our free spirit and ready mind, and grow uncomfortable and uncheerful in God's service; and it may cost us much sorrow and deep humiliation to get in frame again. A cold profes
sion is easily maintained; but to keep up a spiritual inclination is the work of labour and cost.
3. How doth it work in you? This bent of heart is seen in two things :
(1.) In pulling back the heart from those sins to which corrupt nature doth incline us. Nature carrieth us to carnal things. There is something within that puts you on, and something without to draw you forward: nature thrusteth, occasion inviteth, but grace interposeth and checketh the motion : “The spirit (lusteth against the flesh” (Gal. v. 17); it is against the bent and inclination of the new nature, there is a back bias. Joseph had a temptation; we read of occasion inviting, but not of nature inclining; but presently his heart recoiled. The heart of man is seldom without these counteròuffs: it is an advantage to have the new nature as ready to check, as the old nature to urge and solicit: “His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin“ (1 John iii. 9).
(2.) In putting on the heart upon duties that are against the hair and bent of corruption; such acts of obedience as are most troublesome and burthensome to the flesh, as are laborious, costly, dangerous. Laborious, as private worship, wrestling with God in prayer, holding the heart to meditation and self-examination; sluggish nature is apt to shrink, but love constraineth (2 Cor. v. 14). Spiritual worship, and such as is altogether without secular encouragement, that is tedious; to work truth into the heart, to commune with God, to ransack conscience, it is troublesome; but thy striving will overcome it. So there is costly and chargeable work, as alms, contributions to public good; there must be a striving to bring the heart to it. Then for actions dangerous, as public contests for God's glory, or keeping a good conscience, though with cost to ourselves. Our great work is to keep the will afoot; nature is slow to what is good; a coachman in his journey is always quickening his horses, and stirring them up; so must we quicken a sluggish will; do what we can, though we cannot do all that we should; the will must hold up still. A prisoner escaped would go as far as he can; but his bolts will not suffer to make long journeys; but yet he thinketh he can never get far enough; so this will is a disposition that puts us upon striving to do our utmost for God.
3rdly, The matter resolved on, “ To perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.” Uniform obedience, always, or all his days. As long as life lasteth, we must be always ready to observe all God's commands, which notes the continuity of our obedience, sincerity and perpetuity of it. We are to engage our hearts by a serious resolution to serve him, and that not by fits and starts, but always; not for a time, but to the end. Resolve to cleave to him; to hold him fast that he may not go, to keep our hold fast that we may not go. Take notice of the first decays, and let us keep our hold fast, and bewail often the inconstancy of our hearts, that we are so unconstant in that which is good. Every hour our hearts are changed in a duty. What a Proteus would man be, if his thoughts were visible, in the best duty that ever he performed! “ To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. vii. 18). Our devotion comes by pangs and fits; now humble, anon proud ; now meek, anon passionate ; not the same men in a duty, and act of a duty, unstable as water. Compare it with God's constancy, his unchangeable nature, his love to us, that we may be ashamed of our levity ; from everlasting to everlasting, God is where he was, the same; the same to those that believe in him. Secondly, this to the end. God's grace holdeth out to the end, so should our obedience. He that hath begun a good work will perfect it, &c. Consider, how unreasonable it is to desire God to be ours unto the end, if we are not his : “ This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death” (Psalm xlviii. 14); he doth not lay down the con. duct of his providence. So, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm lxxiii. 24). We can give nothing to God; our obedience is but a profession of homage. If God be always in our eye, we shall be always in his. We receive life, breath, and motion from him; every moment he sustaineth us; every day and hour yieldeth new mercy. God watcheth over us when we are asleep; yet how much of our time passeth away when we do not perform one act of love to God ! The Devil is awake when we sleep, to do us a mischief; but the God of Israel never slumbereth nor sleepeth. How can we offend him? Let us, then, take up this serious resolution, to perform God's statutes always, to the end.
SERMON CXXIV. VERSE 113.—I hate vain thoughts ; but thy law do I love. There are in men two great influencing affections, love and hatred ; one serves for choice and pursuit, the other for flight and aversation. The great work of grace is to fix these upon their proper objects ; if we could but set our love and hatred right, we should do well enough in the spiritual life. Man fallen, is but the anagram of man in innocency: we have the same affections, but they are misplaced; we love where we should hate, and hate where we should love; our affections are like a member out of joint, out of its proper place, as if the arms should hang backward. If men knew how to bestow their love and hatred, they would be other manner of persons than now they are. In the text, we are taught what to do in both, by David's example; see how he bestowed his love and hatred, “I hate vain thoughts; but thy law do I love." Love was made for God, and for all that is of God's side, his law, his ordinances, his image, &c.; but hatred was made for sin. All sin must be hated, of what kind and degree soever it be. Every drop of water is water, and every spark of fire is fire; so the least degree of sin is sin. Thoughts are but a partial act, a tendency towards an action ; and yet thoughts are sin. Of all the operations of the soul (the world thinketh), a man should be least troubled about his thoughts; of all actual breaches of the law, these are most secret; therefore we think thoughts are free, and subject to no tribunal. Most of the religion that is in the world is but man's observance; and therefore we let thoughts go without dislike or remorse, because they do not betray us to shame or punishment. These are most venial in man's account, they are but partial or half-acts. What! not a thought pass but we must make conscience of it? this is intolerable. Once more, of all thoughts, vain thoughts would escape censure. A thought that hath apparent wickedness in it, a murderous or an unclean thought, a natural conscience will rise up in arms against it; but vain thoughts, we think, are not to be stood upon. Oh! but David was sensible that these were contrary to the law of God, transgressions as well as other thoughts, and therefore inconsistent with his love to God, “ I hate vain thoughts." Secondly, he bestows his love on the law. Naturally, men hate God as a
law-girer and as a judge; they cannot hate him as a creator and preserver: under that formality, they do not hate God; but the ground of our hatred to God is his law : “ The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be ” (Rom. viii. 7). But now, saith David, “Thy law do I love," I do not fear it, but love it ; I do not only keep it, but love it. A child of God will bless God for his commands as well as his promises ; he owns God in the holiness of his law, and looks upon it as a copy and draft of God's own perfection; it is a good law, there is a suitableness between it and a renewed heart; and therefore I love thy law. The one of these is inferred out of the other ; his love to the law is mentioned as a ground of his hatred against vain thoughts. Love is the great wheel of the soul, that sets all a-going. Therefore sin is hated, because the law is loved. He that hath a true respect to the law of God, is sensible of the least contrariety to it; for hatred is uniform : the philosopher tells us it is to the whole kind; as Haman, when he hated Mordecai, sought to destroy all the people of the Jews; and when a man hates sin, he hates all sin; even where he finds it, in thoughts, words, speeches, love will not allow it.
Well then, I love thy law, therefore do I hate vain thoughts; that is, though I cannot wholly keep them out of my heart, yet I hate them, resist them, watch against them; they are not allowed there. Without further glossing, the point is this :
DOCTRINE.—It is a sign of an unfeigned love to the law of God, when we hate vain thoughts.
I observe it, because a man never begins to be really serious and strict, till he makes conscience of his thoughts, his time, and is sensible of his last account. Of his thoughts; for that is a sign he minds an entire subjection to the law of God, that he may obey it from his very soul. Of his time, that it may not pass away before his great work be done. Of his account, that is not far off; the Christian that lives in a due sense of his great account, is always preparing to reckon with God. The one of these doth enforce the other. A man that is gensible he shall be called to a reckoning, will be careful how he spends his time, and he that is careful how he spends his time, will make conscience of his thoughts.
I. To give a taste of the vanity of thoughts.
III. The reasons why a godly man will make conscience of his thoughts.
First, Some taste of the vanity of thoughts. There are three solemn words by which the New Testament expresseth thoughts : 1. Aoylouoi, discourses, with its compound dialoycopoi, which we render imaginations. 2. Ovpnous, and sometimes evfruņoers, musings. 3. Nonpara, which we render devices. These three ways the dunghill of corruption reeks out by our thoughts. Sometimes in our vain arguings and reasonings, by way of images and representations in our musings, sometimes by way of foolish inventions and devices that are in the heart of man.
Ist, Aóyigmoi, carnal discourses of the mind, come under the notion of vain thoughts. If our more refined reason came to scan them, how light and vain would they be found! Our reasonings are usually against the sovereignty of God: “ Nay, but, О man, who art thou, that repliest against God!” (Rom. ix. 22.) We cannot see how it is just, that by one man's transgression all should be made sinners; that God should choose VOL. II.