let men examine themselves what number of these vain, useless thoughts night and day do rove up and down in their minds. If now it be apprehended too severe, that men’s thoughts of spiritual things should exceed them that are employed about their lawful callings, let them consider what proportion they bear unto those that are vain and useless. Do not many give more time unto them than they do unto holy meditations, without an endeavor to mortify the one or to stir up and enliven the other? are they not more wonted to their seasons than holy thoughts are? And shall we suppose that those with whom it is so are spiritually minded?”
Water that rises and flows from a living spring runs equally and constantly, unless it be obstructed or diverted by some violent opposition; but that which is from thunder-showers runs furiously for a season, but is quickly dried up. So are those spiritual thoughts which arise from a prevalent internal principle of grace in the heart; they are even and constant, unless an interruption be put upon them for a season by temptations. But those which are excited by the thunder of convictions, however their streams may be filled for a season, they quickly dry up and utterly decay.”
There is a being earthly minded which consists in an inordinate affection unto the things of this world. It is that which is sinful, which ought to be mortified; yet it is not absolutely inconsistent with the substance and being of the grace inquired after. Some who are really and truly spiritually minded, yet may, for a time at least, be under such an inordinate affection unto and care about earthly things, that if not absolutely, yet comparatively, as unto what they ought to be and might be, they may be justly said to be earthly minded. They are so in respect of those degrees in being spiritually minded which they ought to aim at and may attain unto. And where it is thus, this grace can never thrive or flourish, it can never advance unto any eminent degree.
Ah! such a one was very hopeful for a season; but he fell into ill company, and he is quite lost. Such a one had some good beginning of religion, we were in great expectation of him; but he is fallen into temptation.” And so in other places. “Such a one was useful and humble, adorned the gospel; but now he is so wofully entangled with the world that he is grown all self, hath no sap nor savor. Such a one was humble and zealous; but he is advanced, and hath lost his first love and ways.” Oh! how full is the world, how full is this place, of these woful examples; to say nothing of those innumerable poor creatures who are fallen into temptation by delusions in religion. And is it not time for us to awake before it be too late, — to watch against the first rising of sin, the first attempts of Satan, and all ways whereby he hath made his approaches to us, be they never so harmless in themselves?
Does sin have dominion over me? Certain things are mentioned which leave the case doubtful; as when sin takes hold of the imagination, when it prevails in the affections, when there is a neglect of the means by which it is mortified, when a reservation is made in favor of any known sin, and when hardness of heart is manifested, III. Hardness of heart is specially considered, and distinguished into natural, judicial, and partial or comparative;
The one who bows to the solemn and searching teaching of God’s Word, the one who there learns the awful wreckage which sin has wrought in the human constitution, the one who sees the exalted standard of holiness which God has set before us, cannot fail to discover what a vile wretch he is. If he is given to behold how far short he falls of attaining to God’s standard; if, in the light of the divine sanctuary, he discovers how little he resembles the Christ of God; then will he find this language most suited to express his godly sorrow. If God reveals to him the coldness of his love, the pride of his heart, the wanderings of his mind, the evil that defiles his godliest acts, he will cry, “O wretched man that I am.”
The will, that commanding faculty, which at first was faithful and ruled with God, is now turned traitor, and rules with and for the devil. God planted it in man, “wholly a holy seed;” but now it is “turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine.” It was originally placed in due subordination to the will of God, as was shown before; but now it is wholly gone aside.
We ordinarily and naturally lack the ability to raise and extract holy and useful considerations and thoughts from all ordinary occurrences and occasions. But a heart which is sanctified, in whose affections true grace is enkindled, will out of all God’s dealings with him, out of the things he sees and hears, will distil holy and sweet, useful meditations from them.
That which is transacted within the mind is called the thoughts. Whatever manifests themselves, breaking out into actions, are called works. So we see in Genesis 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts,”— that is, all that which the mind frames within itself, the purposes, desires, etc.—are “only evil continuously.