« 上一頁繼續 »
some and endow them with grace, and leave others in their corruption ; how he should have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and harden whom he will harden. Man would be free from God, but would not have God free ; and therefore, contrary to these reasonings and vain discourses, the Scripture pleads the sovereignty of God, to show he may do with his own as pleaseth him (Matt. xx. 15). And, as against the right and sovereignty of God, so there are strange discourses against the providence of God, many anxious traverses and debates in our minds; and therefore the Scripture takes notice how distrust works by our thoughts: “ Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink,” &c. (Matt. vi. 25); and, “ Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?” (Verse 27.) We are tortured with many suspensive workings and discourses of mind within ourselves, whereas a little trust in God would save many of these vain arguings : “ Commit thy work unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established" (Prov. xvi. 3). He showeth that want of trust in God, and his word and providence, and committing all to his dispose, is the cause of a great deal of confusion and darkness in our thougths, and breedeth such perverse reasonings against the providence of God. So against the truth of the Gospel: the law is natural and runneth in by its own light, with evident conviction upon the heart; but the Gospel is suspected, looked upon with prejudice, received as a golden dream, and as a well-devised fable. We have reasonings in ourselves against that which is discovered concerning the salvation of sinners by Christ ; therefore the Apostle saith, “ Bringing into captivity every thought” (2 Cor. x. 5), imaginations, or lóylouoi, reasonings, those thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God in Christ. Then disputes against Christian faith, the mysteries of the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ; we are saying as the Virgin Mary, when the angel brought her tidings of it, “How can these things be?” So we have perverse reasonings against positive institutions : “Are not Abana and Pharphar, &c., better than all the waters of Israel?” (2 Kings v. 12.) We are apt to say, why is this? The means of grace seem foolish and weak: “ It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. i. 21). So our arguings, in perverting the truth of the Gospel and holy principles of the word to the countenance of our lusts, as Deut. xxix. 19; when we reason thus within ourselves, we shall have peace, though we walk in the imagination of our own hearts, we need not be so nice and strict, God will be merciful, he will pardon all, “ Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4), wresting the truth from its purpose to countenance a laziness. It is good to observe the different arguings in Scripture from the same principle. To instance in this principle, our time is short, what doth a holy man argue from it? “ That both they that have wives be as though they had none, and they that weep as though they wept not,” &c. (1. Cor. vii. 29.) Therefore we should be strict, temperate, sober in the use of all these things. Now, let a carnal wretch work upon this principle, and what inference doth he draw? “ Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die” (1 Cor. xv. 32). See this other principle, the grace of God brings salvation to poor sinners (Titus ii, 12); how doth a gracious heart work upon it? “ Teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,” &c. Oh! what shall be done for this God, the grace that offers such salvation by Christ? Let a carnal wretch work upon this principle, and he will take liberty to sin that grace may abound : "Shall we continue
in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid ” (Rom. vi. 1,2). Such kind of reasonings there are in the hearts of the godly : said David, “I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (2 Sam. vii. 2). God hath fenced me with his providence : what then? Here I may sit down and rest, and take my ease and pleasure, and gratify my sensual lusts? No; he doth not argue so; but what shall I do for God, that hath done so much for me? Now, see those ungracious Jews after their return, how they reason: “ The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built” (Hag. i. 2), no matter for God's house. It is the Lord's hand, let Eli work upon that: “Let him do what seemeth him good" (1 Sam. iii. 18); he draws from it a submissive patience. Oh! the sovereign God will take his own way, and the creature must not murmur, repine, and set up an anti-providence against him. But now said that carnal wretch, “ Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kings vi. 33.) He murmurs, and frets, and grows impatient. Solomon tells us, “ As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools" (Prov. xxvi. 9). A thorn was their instrument of sewing; now, when a drunkard should manage his needle, he wounds and gores himself; so is a parable in a fool's mouth : a carnal heart wounds and gores himself with the most holy principle of religion. The
2nd, Sort of vain thoughts are Suphoels, musings; and here take notice the vanity of our thoughts appears,
1. In the slipperiness and inconstancy of them. We run from object to object in a moment, and our thoughts look like strangers one upon another, wandering like those “ vagabond Jews” (Acts xix. 13); so they are called because of their uncertain station and frequent removes. “Better is the sight of the eyes, than the wandering of the desire” (Eccl. vi. 9); in the original, it is the working out of the soul. Usually, we have a straggling soul, roving, wandering here and there, and all in an instant; especially this roving madness may we take notice of when we are employed in holy things, hearing, prayer, and meditation. It is strange to see what impertinent, sudden discursions there are from good to lawful, from lawful to sinful, and how far the heart is removed from God, when we are before him; when a man hath brought his body to God, his heart is turned back again. These vain thoughts pursue and haunt us in duties ; so that we mingle sulphur with our incense (it is Gregory's comparison), even in our prayers and holy addresses to God.
2. The unprofitableness and folly of our musings. Our thoughts are set upon trifles and frivolous things, neither tending to our own profit nor the benefit of others : “ The heart of the wicked is little worth ;” all their debates, conceits, musings, are of no value: “the tongue of the just is as choice silver” (Prov. x. 20); but all their thoughts are taken up about childish vanity and foolish conceits: “ The thought of foolishness is sin" (Prov. xxiv. 9); not only the thought of wickedness, but foolishness. Thoughts are the first-born of the soul, the immediate issues of the mind; yet we lavish them away upon every trifle. Follow men all the day long, and take an account of their thoughts, oh! what madness and folly are in all the musings they are conscious to: “ The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity" (Psalm xciv. 11). If we did judge as God judges, all the thoughts, reasonings, discourses of the mind, if they were set down in a table, we might write at the bottom, 'Here is the sum and total account of all, nothing but vanity.'
3. The carnality and fleshliness of our thoughts: “ Who mind earthly things" (Phil. iii. 19). How sweet is it to us to be thinking of worldly matters, how to grow great, to advance ourselves here! This carnal mind is very natural to us. We are in our element, and do with a great deal of savour and sweetness think of these things; it makes our heart merry ; but, when we come to think of that which is good, we are tired presently; and it is very tedious to spend our thoughts upon them. Good things come upon us like a flash of lightning, soon gone; but on carnal things we can spend our thoughts freely. These carnal musings are stirred up by carnal desire or carnal delight; sometimes by a desire of worldly things, so they are forming images and suppositions of those things they hope for. As faith works in a godly man, forming images and suppositions of that happy time when they shall be gathered to God, and all holy ones, and rejoice in his presence; he hath a faith “ the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. xi. 1), which represents his hopes to him; so carnal men dream of preferment, riches, honours, vain-glorious applause; they are looking out after their hopes, they send their thoughts, as messengers of the soul, to forestall the contentment of those carnal things which they do expect. Sometimes they are employed by carnal delight, when the thing we muse upon is enjoyed. The complacency men take in any carnal enjoyment, it is part of this vanity; when we go musing upon our own worth, and our own excellency, as that king, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built, &c., for the honour of my majesty ?" (Dan. iv. 30.) Men take some time every day to worship the idol of self, and dote and gaze upon their own excellences and achievements, their wisdom and wit : they “ gather them in their drag; therefore, they rejoice and are glad ” (Hab. i. 15). Or else pleasing themselves in their estates, dialogizing within themselves, as the word is : “ Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease,” &c. (Luke xii. 19.)
4. By the impiety and apparent filthiness of them. When men are taken up with sin so as to act it over in their own minds, delighting themselves in fancying of sin, either by way of revenge or lust, or any other such thing, as an unclean person sets up a stage in his own heart, “eyes full of adultery” (2 Peter ii. 14), or the adulteress; their fancy is upon the beauty of women, their soul is set upon it. The
3rd thing is vonuara, devices. There are many devices and carnal inventions in the hearts of men which the Scripture takes notice of ; as,
1. When men devise, debate in their judgments by carnal means, without complying with God: “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded ” (James iv. 8). By vain thoughts they mind carnal projects, how to get from under the judgment without reforma. tion, humiliation; and complying with God by human means, or sinful shifts, without God's warrant and allowance. When it was ill with them, they hope to mend it: “ The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones ; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change into cedars” (Isa. ix. 10). The state of our affairs is bad; but we can work it into better.
2. When men spend their time wholly to compass their carnal end, as he: “I will pull down my barns, and build greater," &c. (Luke xii. 8.) When they sacrifice their precious thoughts to their interest and lusts, catering and progging how to satisfy carnal nature, making provision for the flesh to fulfil the lust thereof. Or,
3. When men's designs are plainly wicked and tend to the mischief of others : “He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips, he bringeth evil to pass" (Prov. xvi. 30). Moving the lips and shutting the eyes are gestures and postures of men that are pensive and musing. “ Wo to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds” (Mic, ii. 1): when men seek to spin and weave out a web of wickedness, and carry on their sins with the greatest secrecy. This, in short, is some taste of the vanity of our thoughts.
Secondly, What are the sins that do most usually engross and take up our thoughts? I answer,
Ist, Uncleanness. Speculative wickedness makes way for active: “Hath committed adultery, &c., in his heart” (Matt. v. 28). There is polluting ourselves by our thoughts, and this is a sin usually works that way.
2ndly, Revenge. Liquors are soured, when long kept; so, when we dwell upon discontents, they turn to revenge : “He that is soon angry, dealeth foolishly; and a man of wicked devices is hated” (Prov. xiv. 17). He that is passionate and soon angry, is a fool ; but, when a man is not only angry but malicious, that puts him upon wicked devices; when he doth concoct his anger, he is a fool to purpose. Purposes of revenge are most sweet and pleasant to carnal nature : “Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually” (Prov. vi. 14); when men are full of revengeful and spiteful thoughts.
3rdly, Envy. It is a sin that feeds upon the mind. Those songs of the women, that Saul had slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands, they ran in Saul's mind, therefore he hated David (1 Sam. xviii. 9). Envy is an evil disease that dwelleth in the heart, and bewrays itself mostly in thoughts.
4thly, Pride. Either pride in the desires or pride in the mind, either vain-glory or self-conceit; this is entertaining our hearts with whispers of vanity : therefore it is said, “He hath scattered the proud in the imagina. tion of their hearts” (Luke i. 51); proud men are full of imaginations.
5thly, Covetousness, which is nothing but vain musings and exercises of their heart : “ A heart they have exercised with covetous practices": (2 Peter ii. 14). And it withdraws the heart in the very time of God's worship : “ Their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezek. xxxii. 31).
6thly, Distrust is another thing which usually takes up our thoughts, distracting motions against God's providence,
Thirdly, Upon what grounds we are to make conscience of our thoughts.
Ist, Because they are irregularities contrary to the law of God. It is said, “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm xix. 7). The law of God differs herein from the laws of men. The commands of the greatest and most mighty potentates upon earth can go no further than the regulating of the conversation, for that is all they can take account of; but the law of God reacheth to the motions of the inward man, and to the reducing of our thoughts to the obedience of God; for God hath a tribunal in the heart and conscience; he searcheth and trieth the reins,
knows all our thoughts afar off; and therefore it is proper to him to give laws to our thoughts.
2ndly, God hath declared much of his displeasure against them. The Devil's sin, for which he was cast out of Heaven, was a sin of thought, an aspiring thought, possibly against the imperial dignity of God. And so great were his judgments upon men, that he doth not so much take notice of outward acts as of inward thoughts; therefore he threatened the old world for the imagination of the thoughts of their hearts (Gen. vi. 5). We look to the stream, but God looks to the fountain. Acts are hateful to men, because liable to their cognizance; so, “I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it" (Jer, vi. 19). Nay, in God's process at the last day, when God comes to judge the world, it is said, the secrets of their hearts shall be made manifest (1 Cor. iv. 5); men's inward debates, counsels, reasonings, and thoughts, they shall be brought into the judgment.
3rdly, Make conscience of thoughts, because among all sins thoughts are most considerable, and that in these respects :
1. In respect of the subject. They are the sins of the highest part of man, the mind, which is the leading part of the soul. The errors and irregularities of the lower part of the soul are not so considerable as the counsels, debates, reasonings, principles, that we are seasoned and guided by: the wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God (Rom. viii. 7). That which should be the guide to man, his wisdom, that puts him upon opposition. If sensual appetite were only in the fault, it were not so much.
2. From their nature. They are the immediate issues of the soul, the first-born of original corruption. The free acts of the heart do discover more of the temper of it, than words and actions that are more remote. A man may be known by his thoughts, but not so much known by his words and actions; for words and actions may be overruled by by-ends and restraints of fear and shame: men may speak not as they would, do not as they would, but think as they would. To curry favour with others, a man may refrain his tongue, and do some unpleasing actions, or may profess opinions contrary to his own mind; but inward thoughts, being The immediate births of the soul, very much discover the temper of the inan. Hereby you may take the best measure of your spirits. A gracious man is full of gracious thoughts, and a wicked man full of wicked thoughts: “ The thoughts of the righteous are right; but the counsels of the wicked are deceit" (Prov. xii. 5). Our thoughts we can best judge by, being the purest offspring of the mind, and the freest from restraint. “ The liberal deviseth liberal things” (Isa. xxxii. 8); the unclean man is devising unclean things; the earthly man is always talking with himself about building, planting, trading, these things take up his mind. You cannot judge of a fountain by the current of water at a distance, six or seven miles off; it may receive a tincture from the channel through which it passcth; but just at the fountain where it bubbles up, there you can judge of the quality, whether sweet or bitter water: so you cannot judge of the soul by things that are more remote, and where by-ends may inter. pose: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications" (Matt. xv. 10). Evil thoughits come first, other things come from the heart, but not so immediately: therefore, thoughts being so considerable, we should make conscience of them.