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?”
Owen wrote, “what is astonishing is, men abide in the duty of prayer, and that with constancy, in their families and otherwise, and yet live in known sins. Whatever spiritual thoughts such men have in and by their prayers, they are not spiritually minded. Shall we now say that all such persons are gross hypocrites, such as know they do but mock God and man, — know that they have not desires nor aims after the things which they mention in their own prayers, but do these things either for some corrupt end or at best to satisfy their convictions?” Could we thus resolve, the whole difficulty of the case were taken off; for such “double-minded men” have no reason to “think that they shall receive any thing of the Lord,” as James speaks, chapter 1: 7. Indeed they do not; — they never act faith with reference unto their own prayers. But it is not so with all of this sort. Some judge themselves sincere and in good earnest in their prayers, — not without some hopes and expectations of success. I will not say of all such persons that they are among the number of them concerning whom the Wisdom of God says, “Because I called, and they refused; they shall call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me,” Proverbs 1: 24,28.
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.
That underlying and most momentous question is not, What must we do to prevent the Jews believing on this man, or to prevent the Romans destroying the nation? but, Is this, or is this not, the Christ? That is the question which, as honest men, were they such, they would feel themselves bound in the first instance to raise and face and settle. Settle that, and it may fairly be expected to carry in its train an adjustment of all their difficulties, scattering those that are imaginary, guiding them safely through those that are real. Leave that question unsettled and danger and evil must thicken.”