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3. They are considerable from their kind; here are the roots of all evils. Everything that we do, every deliberate act that is done by a reasonable creature, argueth some foregoing thought, every temptation is fastened upon the heart by some intervening thought. Before sin be formed, brought forth, and becomes a complete sin, there are musings, which are, as it were, the incubations of the soul, or sitting abrood upon the temptation : “ They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity” (Isa. lix. 4). The mind sits abrood upon sin. It is thoughts that bring the heart and object together. First men think, then they love, then they practise. Beating the steel upon the flint makes the sparks fly out; so, when the understanding beats and knocks upon the will by pregnant thoughts, by inculcation, that stirs up the affection: these are the bellows which blow those latent sparks of sin that are in our souls; therefore, if you would make conscience of acts, you should make conscience of thoughts. It is the greatest imprudence that can be, to think to do anything in reformation, when we do not take care of our thoughts. See, when God adviseth us to return to him, he saith, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (Isa. lv. 7). In vain do we lop off the branches, and let the root live. If we would forsake our way, we must first forsake our thoughts. When certain fowl pestered a man, he asked how he should be rid of them? The answer was, the nest must be destroyed, and they must be crushed in the egg: so here is the best way of crushing the egg, by dashing Babylon's brats against the wall. So much is implied in that place, “Wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved : how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" (Jer. iv, 14.) Wash thy heart, begin there. Medicines applied to the outward parts will do no good, unless the inwards be cleansed and purged; so, until the soul be cleansed and purged from these evil thoughts, outward reformation will be to no purpose.
4. They are considerable in regard of their number, they are most numberless acts of the soul. The sea is always working, so the heart of man is always casting forth mire and dirt (Isa. lvii. 20). Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually (Gen. vi. 5). There is a mint in us that is always working towards that which is evil. This is a means to humble us. The Lord knows the best of our thoughts are but vain; this is that which raiseth the account in God's book of remembrance, which makes us more admire the riches of his grace, even to the very last, Let him forsake his thoughts: what then? I will multiply to pardon (Isa. lv. 7). Certainly, if thoughts be sins, God must not only pardon, but multiply to pardon.
Use I. –To humble us all, the best of us, from first to last. Vanity of heart sticks to us. Oh! how many carnal thoughts haunt us wherever we go! As thou walkest in the streets up and down, whereupon do thy thoughts run? The common, vain thoughts should be laid to heart. Have we not a God, a Christ to think of, sweet and precious promises, Heaven and glory, and the great concernments of our souls? and yet with what chaff do we fill our minds! We go thinking of every toy and trifle, grinding chaff instead of corn every day. Oh! how do we throw away our thoughts, rather than God should have them, upon every vain thing! It is very irksome a little to retire, and recollect ourselves, and think of God, Christ, and Heaven; but what a deal of vanity do we take into our minds! If our hearts were turned inside outward, and all our thoughts liable to the notice of men, as they are to the notice of God, what odious creatures should we be! And have we no reverence of the great God? The Lord knows our hearts, he knows we have thoughts enough and to spare, more than we know what to do withal, and he knows we are backward to exercise them upon him, and things that lead to communion with him. These thoughts are aggravated from the time; as upon God's day, for then we are not to think our own thoughts (Isa. lviii. 13). A Christian is then to sequester himself only for God. Nay, our vain beart bewrayeth itself in solemn duties; a man cannot go to prayer, but the vanity of his thoughts will trouble him, and run about him when he is hearing the word. How do we course up and down like spaniels hither and thither! Yea, to humble ourselves because of our wicked thoughts, our desperate thoughts against the being of God, “ The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm xiv. 1). Though we cannot open our eyes but the creature presently doth show us something of God, and call upon us, whether we look upward or downward; yet how do we vent this thought, if there were no God, then we could live as we list, without check and restraint ! Thoughts which arise within us against the truth of the Gospel, as if it were but a well-devised fable; thoughts against the purity of God's laws, that we need not be so strict, that it is but nice folly, that we shall do well eriough without repenting, believing, minding the work of our salvation. Yea, we have thoughts against the light of nature, filthy, unclean thoughts, such as defile and stain the heart. Of earthly thoughts, how natural is that of musing upon that esteem, honour, greatness that we shall have in in the world! How do carnal thoughts haunt us; and this not only when we are in our natural condition, but even after grace! And Christians are mistaken that do not think those thoughts evil, though there be no consent of the will. I confess there are thoughts cast into the mind by Satan; bnt these not resisted, these cherished, fostered, they become ours, though they are children of Satan's getting, and may be cast in, as the tempting of Christ was, by injection of thought; but then, we entertain these things. As weeds thrown over the wall are not to be charged upon the gardener, but the envious man; but, if the gardener lets them lie there and root there, then it is his fault. • USE II.-Do we love the law of God? Do we aim at a complete and
eutire subjection to the will of God? Do we desire to serve him in spirit? Here is the evidence, do we hate yain thoughts? We cannot be free from them, but are they your burden? A child of God is pestered with them, though he hates them.
1. Do we give them entertainment? “How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" (Jer. iv. 14.) They may rush into a gracious heart, but they do not rest there. Wicked men may have good thoughts, but do not give them entertainment; take a snatch and away, but do not make a meal upon any spiritual truth: there is an occasional salute sometimes in wicked men of good things; but their heart doth not dwell upon them.
2. Do you make conscience of them? Do they put you upon remorse, caution, watchfulness, frequent recourse to God for pardon and grace? “ Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee" (Acts viii. 22). Are you humbled for them, as well as for other sins, because these grieve the Spirit of God, are conceived there where he hath his residence, chiefly in the heart? Doth this trouble you, that the Spirit should be grieved ?
Use III.-It presseth us to take care of our thoughts. Thoughts fall under the judicature of God's word (Heb. iv. 12): thoughts are hateful to God: “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord" (Prov, xv. 26): and, as they are hated of him, so he knows them all : it is his prerogative to tell man his thoughts, he understands our thoughts afar off (Psalm cxxxix. 2). What thoughts we have when we are walking, praying, employed in our calling ; what comes in, what goes out ; there is not a thought but God regards; and God will reckon with us about our thoughts.
1. Look more earnestly after a principle of regeneration. “They that are after the flesh;" employ their wisdom about the flesh, they are contriving for the flesh, savouring the things of the flesh; and “they that are after the Spirit,” savour the things of God, savour spiritual things (Rom, viii. 5). We must be renewed by the Spirit. The ground brings forth weeds, but not flowers, of itself; so our hearts naturally bring forth vain thoughts, but they must be cultivated and dressed, we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind. There is nothing discovers the necessity of regeneration so much as this, that we must take care of our thoughts. Moral restraints may prevent the excesses of life, or regulate the outward man. If sin did lie only in words and deeds, human laws and edicts would be enough, and we needed no other discipline to bring us to Heaven. There are excellent laws for bridling man's speech and practice, for these things man can take notice of; but he that is only good according to the laws of men, his goodness is too narrow, is not broad enough, for God. It is the peculiar privilege of that judicature God hath set up, to bring the thoughts under. Look that there may be within you a spring of holy thoughts.
2. Get a stock of sound knowledge. The mind of man is always work. ing; and, if it be not fed and supplied with good matter, it works upon that which is evil and vain. If there be not a plenty of good matter wherein to exercise yourselves, the soul will necessarily spend itself in vanity of thoughts. Now, abundance of knowledge supplies and yields matter. It is a good thing when our reins instruct us in the night season (Psalm xvi. 7), in the darkness and silence of the night, when we are taken off from all company, books, worldly employment, and distractions of sense, and the soul is left to itself, to its own operations; then to draw out knowledge, and have our reins instruct us. But men are barren of holy thoughts, and so are forced to give way to vanity. Bind them continually upon thine heart: what then? “When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee" (Prov. vi. 21, 22); that is, as soon as you awake, before you have received images from abroad, a man is to parley with his soul about the course of his service that day. Words and thoughts are both fed by abundance in the heart. Thoughts are but verba mentis, words of the mind; and words are but thoughts expressed and languaged. Now, if a man would have these things present when he is lying down and sitting up, then these words must be in his heart. A man must have a good treasure within, that he may bring forth out of his treasure things both new and old (Matt. xii. 52). When the mind is the store-house of truth, he will ever be drawing forth upon all occasions. He that hath more silver and gold in his pocket than brass farthings, brings forth gold and silver oftener than brass; so he that is stored with Divine truths, and full of the knowledge of the Lord, his mind will more run upon these things, and will often out of the treasure of his heart bring forth things that are
3. Inure yourselves more to holy meditation. There must be some time to wind up the plummets and lift up our hearts to God (Psalm xxv. 1). For want of this, no wonder if men's thoughts are loose and scattered, when they are left at random, when they are never solemnly exercised in consideration of Divine truths (verse 99 of this psalm).
4. Begin with God: “When I awake (saith David), I am still with thee” (Psalm cxxxix. 18). As soon as we awake, our hearts should be in Heaven; we should leave our hearts with God overnight, that we might find them with God in the morning. We owe God the first-fruits of our reason, before we think of other things; for every day is but the lesser circle of our lives. We should begin with God before earthly things encroach upon us, season your hearts with the thoughts of his holy presence; that is the means to make the fear of God abide upon us all the day after: and it is some recompence for those hours spent in sleep, wherein we showed not the least act of thankfulness to God, to exercise our reason again ; and, when we are awake, we should be thinking of God.
SERMON CXXV. VERSE 114.-Thou art my hiding place, and my shield: I hope in thy
word. In these words, you have, 1. A privilege which believers enjoy in God, and that is protection in a time of danger. 2. David's right to that privilege, “ I hope in thy word.” From both the note will be this ;
DOCTRINE.—They that hope in God's word for the protection which he hath promised, will find God to be a shield and a hiding place to them.
I. I shall speak of the nature of Divine protection, as it is here set forth under the notions of a shield and hiding place.
II. Of the respect which the word hath to these benefits.
First, For the nature of this protection, it is set forth in two notions, a hiding place and a shield. Upon which I observe,
Ist, David was a military man, and therefore often makes use of metaphors proper to his function. When he wandered in the wilderness and forest of Ziph, they yielded to him many a lurking hole, and so he knew the benefit of a hiding place; and, being a man of war, he was more acquainted with the use of a shield in battle. That which I observe is this, that it is good to spiritualize the things that we often converse with, and from earthly occasions to raise heavenly thoughts. You will ever find our Lord Jesus so doing. When he sat at mcat in the Pharisee's house, he discourseth of eating bread in his Father's kingdom (Luke xvi, 11). When he was at the well of Samaria, he falls a-discoursing of the well of life, of the water that springeth up to eternal life (John iv). Again, when he was at the feast of tabernacles, you will find there it was the fashion of the people at that feast to fetch water from the pool of Siloam, and to pour it out until it ran in a great stream; and then at the feast of taber
nacles Christ cried out, “He that believeth on me, &c., out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John vii. 38): he spiritualizeth that occasion. Thus should we learn to turn brass into gold, and, by a holy chemistry, to extract useful thoughts from these ordinary objects that we are cast upon. Thus doth David; he had been acquainted with the use of a hiding place and with a shield, and accordingly expresseth his confidence by these notions. The Septuagint renders it simply and without the metaphor, my help and my undertaker; but we from the Hebrew, my hiding place, my shield.
2ndly, Observe again, both the notions imply defence and protection; a shield is not a weapon offensive, but defensive. Indeed, elsewhere, God said to Israel, I am the shield of thy strength, and sword of thy excellency (Deut. xxxiii. 29). God is a sword as well as a shield, a weapon offensive as well as defensive, in the behalf of his people. But here both metaphors imply only defence and protection. It is not here a hiding place and a sword, but a hiding place and a shield. Why? The godly are subject to many dangers and perils from adverse powers, spiritual and bodily, and therefore need much preservation and defence.
1. The soul is in danger of Satan and his temptations. There are spi. ritual enemies that will put us upon the need of a shield and a hiding place : “We wrestle not against flesh and blood," &c. (Eph. vi. 12 ;) that is, not 'principally; we do not wrestle against bodily or human powers. Outward agents are not principals, but instruments; our chief war is with devils and evil spirits, who have a mighty power over a great part of the world. They are the rulers of the darkness of this world, the ignorant and carnal part of the world; and they assault us with much cunning and strength; and invisible enemies are the worst, none like to them for craft, for strength, for malice, for number. They easily get the advantage over us by their crafty insinuations, and applying themselves to our humours, a feeding every distemper with a bait suitable; and they are always about us: unseen and unperceived, they lie in ambush for our souls, and assault us in company and alone, in business and in recreations, in the duties of religion and in our ordinary affairs; they follow us in our retirements, and pursue us with unwearied diligence. No such enemies as these for craft and subtlety of address. And then for their power and strength, they have their fiery darts to throw upon us (verse 16); they inject and cast in blasphemous thoughts, and enkindle and awaken in us burning lusts, or fire us with rage and despair; their power is exceeding great, because they have the management of fiery darts. And their malice is great: it is not to hurt our bodies chiefly, that is but the shell of the man; but the chiefest part, our immortal soul; and therefore we need a hiding place and a shield, when we have to do with spiritual wickednesses, that always are assaulting us in this manner upon all occasions. And for their number, there are many of them, and all engaged in this spiritual warfare against the saints; we cannot dream of case, it we would be Christ's soldiers. In the Gospel, we find one man possessed with a whole legion of them; “ My name is Legion, for we are many" (Mark v. 9). They cease not in this manner thus continually to assault and vex us; and therefore we need a hiding place and shield.
2. The bodies of God's people and their temporal lives are exposed to a great deal of hazard and danger from evil men, who are ready to molest and trouble us; somctimes upon one pretence, and sometimes upon another,