For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
~ Romans 8:13
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
~ Romans 13:14
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
~ Romans 5:1
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
~ Romans 5:10
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
~ Galatians 5:22-24
What of God or in God We Are to Think and Meditate Upon, by John Owen. The following contains Chapter 9 of his work, “The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded, Declared and Practically Improved”. 1681.
To be spiritually minded is life and peace.
— Romans 8:6
Set your affection on things above.
— Colossians 3:2.
What of God or in God we are to think and meditate upon — His being — Reasons of it; oppositions to it; the way of their conquest — Thoughts of the omnipresence and omniscience of God peculiarly necessary — The reasons hereof — As also of his omnipotence — The use and benefit of such thoughts.
These things mentioned have been premised in general as unto the nature, manner, and way of exercise, of our thoughts on God. That which remains is, to give some particular instances of what we are to think upon in an especial manner, and what we will be conversant withal in our thoughts, if so be we are spiritually minded. And I shall not insist at present on the things which concern his grace and love in Christ Jesus, which belong unto another head, but on those which have an immediate respect unto the divine nature itself, and its holy essential properties.
First, Think much of the being and existence of God. Herein lies the foundation of all our relation and access unto him: Hebrews 11:6, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is.” This is the first object of faith, and it is the first act of reason; and being the sole foundation of all religion, it is our duty to be exercised unto multiplied thoughts about it, renewed on all occasions: for many who are not direct atheists, yet live without any solid, well-grounded assent unto the divine being; they do not so believe it as to be practically influenced with the consideration of it. It is granted that the inbred light of nature, in the due exercise of reason, will give any rational creature satisfaction in the being of God; but there is in the most an anticipation of any thoughts of this nature by tradition and education, which hath united men into an assent unto it they know not how. They never called it into question, nor have, as they suppose, any cause so to do. Nature itself startles at the first thought of denying it. But if ever such persons, on any urgent occasions, come to have real thoughts about it, they are at a loss and fluctuate in their minds, as not having any certain, indubitable conviction of its truth. Wherefore, as our knowledge of the Divine Being is, as to the foundation of it, laid in the light of nature, the operation of conscience, and the due exercise of reason about the works and effects of infinite power and wisdom, so it ought to be increased and rendered useful by faith in divine revelations, and the experience of divine power through them. By this faith we ought to let in frequent thoughts of the divine being and existence, and that on two reasons, rendering the duty necessary in an eminent manner in this age wherein we live: —
1. The abounding of atheism, both notional and practical. The reasons of it have been given before, and the matter of fact is evident unto any ordinary observation. And on two accounts with respect hereunto we ought to abound in thoughts of faith concerning the being of God: —
(1.) An especial testimony is required in us in opposition to this cursed effect of hell. He, therefore, who is spiritually minded, cannot but have many thoughts of the being of God, thereby giving glory to him: Isaiah 43:9-12,
“Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”
“Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”
(2.) We shall have occasion of them continually administered unto us. Those atheistical impieties, principles and practices, which abound amongst us, are grievous provocations unto all pious souls. Without frequent retreat unto thoughts of the being of God, there is no relief nor refreshment to be had under them. Such was the case of Noah in the old world, and of Lot in Sodom; which rendered their graces illustrious.
2. Because of the unaccountable confusions that all things are filled withal at this day in the world. Whatever in former times hath been a temptation in human affairs unto any of the people of God, it abounds at this day. Never had men profane and profligate greater outward appearances to strengthen them in their atheism, nor those that are godly greater trials for their faith, with respect unto the visible state of things in the world. The psalmist of old on such an occasion was almost surprised into unbelieving complaints, Psalm 123:2-5, etc.; and such surprisals may now also befall us, that we may be ready to say with him,
“Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.”
Hence, when the prophet Habakkuk was exercised with thoughts about such a state of things as is at this day in the world, which he declares, chap. 1:6-10, he lays the foundation of his consideration in the fresh exercise of faith on the being and properties of God, verses 12,13; and David makes that his retreat on the like occasion, Psalm 11:3-5.
In such a season as this is, upon both the accounts mentioned, those who are spiritually minded will much exercise their thoughts about the being and existence of God. They will say within themselves, “Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God who judgeth in the earth.” Hence will follow such apprehensions of the immensity of his nature, of his eternal power and infinite wisdom, of his absolute sovereignty, as will hold their souls firm anal steadfast in the highest storms of temptation that may befall them.
Yet are there two things that the weaker sort of believers may be exercised with, in their thoughts of the divine being and existence, which may occasion them some trouble: —
(1.) Satan, knowing the weakness of our minds in the immediate contemplation of things infinite and incomprehensible, will sometimes take advantage to insinuate blasphemous imaginations in opposition unto what we would fix upon and relieve ourselves withal. He will take that very time, trusting unto our weakness and his own methods of subtlety, to suggest his temptations unto atheism by ensnaring inquiries, when we go about to refresh our souls with thoughts of the divine being and excellencies, “But is there a God indeed? how do you know that there is a God? and may it not be otherwise?” will be his language unto our minds; for from his first temptation, by way of an ensnaring question, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” he proceeds still much in the same method. So he did with our Savior himself, “If thou be the Son of God.” “Is there a God? how if there should be none?” In such a case the rule is given us by the apostle: “Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,” Ephesians 6:16, “of the wicked one;” that is, the devil. And two ways will faith act itself on this occasion: —
(1.) By a speedy rejection of such diabolical suggestions with detestation. So did our Savior in a case not unlike it: “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Wherefore, if any such thoughts are suggested or seem to arise in your minds, know assuredly that they are no less immediately from the devil than if he personally stood before you and visibly appeared unto you. If he did so, there is none of you but would arm yourselves with an utter defiance of what he should offer unto you. It is no less necessary on this occasion, when you may feel him, though you may see him not. Suffer not his fiery darts to abide one moment with you; entertain no parley or dispute about them; reject them with indignation; and strengthen your rejection of them with some pertinent testimony of Scripture, as our Savior did. If a man have a grenado or fire-ball cast into his clothes by his enemy, he doth not consider whether it will burn or no, but immediately shakes it off from him. Deal no otherwise with these fiery darts, lest by their abode with you they inflame your imagination unto greater disturbance.
(2.) In case they depart not utterly upon this endeavor for their exclusion and casting out, return immediately without farther dispute unto your own experience. When the devil hath asked you the question, if you answer him you will be ensnared; but if thereon you ask yourselves the question, and apply yourselves unto your own experience for an answer unto it, you will frustrate all his designs. There are arguments to be taken, as was said, from the light of nature, and reason in its proper exercise, sufficient to defeat all objections of that kind; but these are not our proper weapons in case of our own temptation, which alone is now under consideration. It requires longer and more sedate reasoning than such a state will admit of; nor is it a sanctified medium for our relief.
It is what is suited unto suggestions on the occasion of our meditations that we inquire after. In them we are not to argue on such principles, but to take the shield of faith to quench these fiery darts. And if, on such occasions, Satan can divert us into long disputes about the being of God, he hath his end, by carrying us off from the meditation on him which we did design; and after a while he will prevail to make it a common road and trade, that no sooner shall we begin to think of God but immediately we must dispute about his being.
Therefore the way in this case, for him who is really a believer, is, to retreat immediately unto his own experience; which will pour shame and contempt on the suggestions of Satan. There is no believer, who hath knowledge and time to exercise the wisdom of faith in the consideration of himself and of God’s dealings with him, but hath a witness in himself of his eternal power and Godhead, as also of all those other perfections of his nature which he is pleased to manifest and glorify by Jesus Christ. Wherefore, on this suggestion of Satan that there is no God, he will be able to say, “He might better tell me that I do not live nor breathe, that I am not fed by my meat nor warmed by my clothes, that I know not myself nor any thing else; for I have spiritual sense and experience of the contrary:” like him of old, who, when a cunning sophister would prove unto him by syllogisms that there was no such a thing as motion, gave no answer unto his arguments, but rose up and walked! “How often,” will he say, “have I had experience of the power and presence of God in prayer, as though I had not only heard of him by the hearing of the ear, but also seen him by the seeing of the eye! How often hath he put forth his power and grace in me by his Spirit and his word, with an uncontrollable evidence of his being, goodness, love, and grace! How often hath he refreshed my conscience with the sense of the pardon of sin, speaking that peace unto my soul which all the world could not communicate unto me! In how many afflictions, dangers, troubles, hath he been a present help and relief! What sensible emanations of life and power from him have I obtained in meditation on his grace and glory!” As he who had been blind answered the Pharisees unto their ensnaring and captious questions, “Be it what it will, ‘one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see:’” so, “Whatever,” saith such a soul, “be in this temptation of Satan, one thing I know full well, that whereas I was dead, I am alive, whereas I was blind, now I see, and that by the effect of divine power.”
This shield of faith, managed in the hand of experience, will quench the fiery darts of Satan, and he will fall under a double defeat: —
lst. His temptations will be repelled by the proper way of resistance, whereon he will not only desist in his attempt, but even flee from you. “Resist the devil,” saith the apostle, “and he will flee from you.” He will not only depart and cease to trouble you, but will depart as one defeated and confounded. And it is for want of this resistance, lively made use of, that many hang so long in the briers of this temptation.
2dly. Recalling the experiences we have had of God will lead us unto the exercise of all kind of graces; which is the greatest disappointment of our adversary.
(2.) In thoughts of the divine being and existence, we are apt to be at a loss, to be as it were overwhelmed in our minds, because the object is too great and glorious for us to contemplate on. Eternity and immensity, every thing under the notion of infinite, take off the mind from its distinct actings, and reduce it as it were unto nothing. Hereon in some, not able to abide in the strict reasons of things, vain and foolish imaginations are apt to arise, and inquiries how those things can be which we cannot comprehend. Others are utterly at a loss, and turn away their thoughts from them, as they would do their eyes from the bright beams of the sun. Two things are advisable in this case: —
(1.) That we betake ourselves unto a holy admiration of what we cannot comprehend. In these things we cannot see God and live; nay, in life eternal itself they are not absolutely to be comprehended. Only what is infinite can fully comprehend what is so. Here they are the objects of faith and worship; in them we may find rest and satisfaction when inquiries and reasonings will disquiet us, and, it may be, overwhelm us. Infinite glory forbids us any near approach but only by faith. The soul thereby bowing down itself unto God’s adorable greatness and incomprehensible perfections, finding ourselves to be nothing and God to be all, will give us rest and peace in these things, Romans 11:33-36. We have but unsteady thoughts of the greatness of the world and all the nations and inhabitants of it; yet are both it and these “but as the small dust of the balance and the drop of a bucket, as vanity, as nothing,” compared with God. What, then, can our thoughts concerning him issue in but holy admiration?
(2.) In case we are brought unto a loss and disorder in our minds on the contemplation of any one infinite property of God, it is good to divert our thoughts unto the effects of it, such as whereof we have or may have experience; for what is too great or high for us in itself is made suitable to our understandings in its effects. So the “invisible things of God” are known in and by the things that are seen. And there is, indeed, no property of the divine nature but we may have an experience of it, as unto some of its effects, in and upon ourselves. These we may consider, and in the streams taste of the fountain which we cannot approach. By them we may be led unto a holy admiration of what is in itself infinite, immense, incomprehensible. I cannot comprehend the immensity of God’s nature; it may be I cannot understand the nature of immensity: yet if I find by experience, and do strongly believe, that he is always present wherever I am, I have the faith of it and satisfaction in it.
Secondly, With thoughts of the Divine Being, those of his omnipresence and omniscience ought continually to accompany us. We cannot take one step in a walk before him unless we remember that always and in all places he is present with us, that the frame of our hearts and our inward thoughts are continually in his view, no less than our outward actions. And as we ought to be perpetually under an awe of and in the fear of God in these apprehensions, so there are some seasons wherein our minds ought to be in the actual conception and thoughts of them, without which we shall not be preserved in our duty.
1. The first season of this nature is when times, places, with other occasions of temptation, and consequently of sinning, do come and meet. With some, company doth constitute such a season; and with some, secrecy with opportunity do the same. There are those who are ready, with a careless boldness, to put themselves on such societies as they do know have been temptations unto them and occasions of sin. Every such entrance into any society or company, unto them who know how it hath formerly succeeded, is their actual sin; and it is just with God to leave them to all the evil consequents that do ensue. Others, also, do either choose or are frequently cast on such societies; and no sooner are they engaged in them but they forget all regard unto God, and give themselves up not only unto vanity, but unto various sorts of excess. David knew the evil and danger of such occasions, and gives us an account of his behavior in them: Psalm 39:1-3,
“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned; then spake I with my tongue.”
As for their evil words and ways, he would have no communication with them; and as unto good discourse, he judged it unreasonable to “cast pearls before swine.” He was therefore silent as unto that also, though it was a grief and trouble to him. But this occasioned in him afterward those excellent meditations which he expresseth in the following verses. In the entrance of these occasions, if men would remember the presence of God with them in these places, with the holy severity of the eye that is upon them, it would put an awe upon their spirits, and imbitter those jollities whose relish is given them by temptation and sin. He doth neither walk humbly nor circumspectly who, being necessarily cast on the society of men wicked or profane, — on such occasions wherein the ordinary sort of men give more than ordinary liberty unto corrupt communication or excess in any kind, — doth not in his entrance of them call to mind the presence and all-seeing eye of God, and at his departure from them consider whether his deportment hath been such as became that presence and his being under that eye. But, alas! pretenses of business and necessary occasions, engagements of trade, carnal relations, and the common course of communication in the world, with a supposition that all sorts of society are allowed for diversion, have cast out the remembrance of God from the minds of most, even then when men cannot be preserved from sin without it.
This hath sullied the beauty of gospel conversation amongst the most, and left in very few any prevalent evidence of being spiritually minded.
Wherefore, as unto them who, either by their voluntary choice or necessity of their occasions, do enter and engage promiscuously into all societies and companies, let them know assuredly that if they awe not their hearts and spirits continually with the thoughts and apprehensions of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, that he is always with them and his eye always upon them, they will not be preserved from snares and sinful miscarriages.
Yea, such thoughts are needful unto the best of us all, and in the best of our societies, that we behave not ourselves indecently in them at any time.
Again; unto some, privacy, secrecy, and opportunity, are occasions of temptation and sin. They are so unto persons under convictions, not wholly turned to God. Many a good beginning hath been utterly ruined by this occasion and temptation. Privacy and opportunity have overthrown many such persons in the best of their resolutions. And they are so unto all persons not yet flagitiously wicked. Cursed fruits proceed every day from these occasions. We need no other demonstration of their power and efficacy in tempting unto sin but the visible effects of them. And what they are unto any, they may be unto all, if not diligently watched against. So the apostle reflects on the shameful things that are done in the dark, in a concurrence of secrecy and opportunity. This, therefore, gives a just season unto thoughts of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, and they will not be wanting in some measure in them that are spiritually minded.
God is in this place; the darkness is no darkness unto him, light and darkness are with him both alike, — are sufficient considerations to lay in the balance against any temptation springing out of secrecy and opportunity. One thought of the actual presence of the holy God and the open view of his all-seeing eye will do more to cool those affections which lust may put into a tumult on such occasions than any other consideration whatever. A speedy retreat hereunto, upon the first perplexing thought wherewith temptation assaults the soul, will be its strong tower, where it shall be safe.
2. A second season calling for the exercise of our minds in thoughts of the omnipresence and omniscience of God is made up of our solitudes and retirements. These give us the most genuine trials whether we are spiritually minded or no. What we are in them, that we are, and no more. But yet in some of them, as in walking and journeying, or the like, vain thoughts and foolish imaginations are exceeding apt to solicit our minds. Whatever is stored up in the affections or memory will at such a time offer itself for our present entertainment; and when men have accustomed themselves unto any sort of things, they will press on them for the possession of their thoughts, as it were whether they will or no. The psalmist gives us the way to prevent this evil: Psalm 16:7,8,
“I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand,” etc.
His “reins,” — that is, his affections and secret thoughts, — gave him counsel and instructed him in all such seasons. But whence had they that wisdom and faithfulness? In themselves they are the seat of all lusts and corruptions, nor could do any thing but seduce him into an evil frame. It was from hence alone, that “he set the LORD always before him.” Continual apprehensions of the presence of God with him kept his mind, his heart and affections, in that awe and reverence of him as that they always instructed him unto his duty. But, as I remember, I spake somewhat as unto the due management of our thoughts in this season before.
3. Times of great difficulties, dangers, and perplexities of mind thereon, are a season calling for the same duty. Suppose a man is left alone in his trials for the profession of the gospel, as it was with Paul, when “all men forsook him, and no man stood by him;” suppose him to be brought before princes, rulers, or judges, that are failed with rage and armed with power against him, all things being disposed to affect him with dread and terror; — it is the duty of such an one to call off his thoughts from all things visibly present, and to fix them on the omnipresence and omniscience of God. He sits amongst those judges, though they acknowledge him not; he rules over them at his pleasure; he knows the cause of the oppressed, and justifies them whenever the world condemns, and can deliver them when he pleaseth. With the thoughts hereof did those holy souls support themselves when they stood before the fiery countenance of the bloody tyrant on the one hand, and the burning fiery furnace on the other: Daniel 3:17,18,
“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Thoughts of the presence and power of God gave them not only comfort and supportment under their distress, when they were alone and helpless, but courage and resolution to defy the tyrant to his face. And when the apostle was brought before Nero, that monster of cruelty and villainy, and “all men forsook him,” he affirms that “the Lord stood by him and strengthened him,” 2 Timothy 4:17. He refreshed himself with thoughts of his presence, and had the blessed fruit of it.
Wherefore, on such occasions, when the hearts of men are ready to quake, when they see all things about them filled with dread and terror, and all help far away, it is, I say, their duty and wisdom to abstract and take off their thoughts from all outward and present appearances, and to fix them on the presence of God. This will greatly change the scene of things in their minds, and they will find that strength, and power, and wisdom, are on their side alone, all that appears against them being but vanity, folly, and weakness.
So when the servant of Elisha saw the place where they were compassed with a host, both horses and chariots, that came to take them, he cried out for fear, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?” But upon the prayer of the prophet, the Lord opening the eyes of the young man to see the heavenly guard that he had sent unto him, the mountain being full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, his fear and trouble departed, 2 Kings 6:15-17. And when, in the like extremity, God opens the eye of faith to behold his glorious presence, we shall no more be afraid of the dread of men. Herein did the holy martyrs triumph of old, and even despised their bloody persecutors. Our Savior himself made it the ground of his supportment on the like occasion: John 16:32, “Behold,” saith he to his disciples, his only friends, “the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every one to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” Can we but possess our souls with the apprehension that when we are left alone, in our trials and dangers, from any countenance of friends or help of men, yet that indeed we are not alone, because the Father is with us, it will support us under our despondencies, and enable us unto our duties.
4. Especial providential warnings call for thoughts of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. So Jacob in his night vision instantly made this conclusion, “God is in this place, and I knew it not.” We have frequently such warnings given unto us. Sometimes we have so in the things which are esteemed accidental, whence, it may be, we are strangely delivered; sometimes we have so in the things which we see to befall others, by thunder, lightning, storms at sea or land: for all the works of God, especially those that are rare and strange, have a voice whereby he speaks unto us. The first thing suggested unto a spiritual mind in such seasons will be. “God is in this place,” — “He is present that liveth and seeth,” as Hagar confessed on the like occasion, Genesis 16:13,14.
Thirdly, Have frequent thoughts of God’s omnipotency, or his almighty power. This most men, it may be, suppose they need not much exhortation unto; for none ever doubted of it. Who doth not grant it on all occasions? Men grant it, indeed, in general; for eternal power is inseparable from the first notion of the Divine Being. So are they conjoined by the apostle: “His eternal power and Godhead,” Romans 1:20. Yet few believe it for themselves and as they ought. Indeed, to believe the almighty power of God with reference unto ourselves and all our concernments, temporal and eternal, is one of the highest and most noble acts of faith, which includes all others in it: for this is that which God at first proposed alone as the proper object of our faith in our entrance into covenant with him, Genesis 17:1, “I am the Almighty God;” that which Job arrived unto after his long exercise and trial. “I know,” saith he, “that thou canst do every thing, and no thought of thine can be hindered,” chapter 42:2. “God hath spoken once,” saith the psalmist; “twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God,” Psalm 62:11. It was that which God saw it necessary frequently to instruct him in; for we are ready to be affected with the appearances of present power in creatures, and to suppose that all things will go according unto their wills because of their power. But it is quite otherwise; all creatures are poor feeble ciphers, that can do nothing. Power belongs unto God; it is a flower of his crown imperial, which he will suffer none to usurp. If the proudest of them go beyond the bounds and limits of his present permission, he will send worms to eat them up, as he did to Herod.
It is utterly impossible we should walk before God, unto his glory, or with any real peace, comfort, or satisfaction in our own souls, unless our minds are continually exercised with thoughts of his almighty power. Every thing that befalls us, every thing that we hear of which hath the least of danger in it, will discompose our minds, and either make us tremble like the leaves of the forest that are shaken with the wind, or betake ourselves to foolish or sinful relief, unless we are firmly established in the faith hereof. Consider the promises of God unto the church which are upon record, and as yet unaccomplished; consider the present state of the church in the world, with all that belongs unto it, in all the fears and dangers they are exposed unto, in all the evils they are exercised withal, — and we shall quickly find that unless this sheet-anchor be well fixed, we shall be tossed up and down at all uncertainties, and exposed to most violent temptations, Revelation 19:6. Unto this end are we called hereunto by God himself in his answer unto the despondent complaints of the church in its greatest dangers and calamities: Isaiah 40:28-31,
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Take one instance, which is the continual concernment of us all. We are obnoxious unto death every moment. It is never the farther from any of us because we think not of it as we ought. This will lay our bodies in the dust, from whence they will have no more disposition nor power in themselves to rise again than any other part of the mould of the earth.
Their recovery must be an act of external almighty power, when God shall have a desire to the work of his hands, when he shall call, and we shall answer him out of the dust. And it will transmit the soul into an invisible world, putting a final end unto all relations, enjoyments, and circumstances here below. I speak not of them who are stout-hearted and far from righteousness, who live and die like beasts, or under the power of horrible presumption, without any due thoughts of their future and eternal state; but as unto others, what comfort or satisfaction can any man have in his life, whereon his all depends, and which is passing from him every moment, unless he hath continual thoughts of the mighty power of God, whereby he is able to receive his departing soul and to raise his body out of the dust?
Not to insist on more particulars, thus is it with them who are spiritually minded; thus must it be with us all if we pretend a title unto that privilege: They are filled with thoughts of God, in opposition unto that character of wicked men, that “God is not in all their thoughts.” And it is greatly to be feared that many of us, when we come to be weighed in this balance, will be found too light. Men may be in the performance of outward duties; they may hear the word with delight, and do many things gladly; they may escape the pollutions that are in the world through lust, and not run out into the same compass of excess and riot with other men: yet may they be strangers unto inward thoughts of God with delight and complacency. I cannot understand how it can be otherwise with them whose minds are over and over filled with earthly things, however they may satisfy themselves with pretenses of their callings and lawful enjoyments, or that they are not any way inordinately set on the pleasures or profits of the world.
To “walk with God,” to “live unto him,” is not merely to be found in an abstinence from outward sins, and in the performance of outward duties, though with diligence in the multiplication of them. All this may be done upon such principles, for such ends, with such a frame of heart, as to find no acceptance with God. It is our hearts that he requireth, and we can no way give them unto him but by our affections and holy thoughts of him with delight. This it is to be spiritually minded, this it is to walk with God. Let no man deceive himself; unless he thus abound in holy thoughts of God, unless our meditation of him be sweet unto us, all that we else pretend unto will fail us in the day of our trial.
This is the first thing wherein we may evidence ourselves unto ourselves to be under the conduct of the minding of the Spirit, or to be spiritually minded; and I have insisted the longer on it, because it contains the first sensible egress of the Spirit of living waters in us, the first acting of spiritual life unto our own experience. I should now proceed unto the consideration of our affections, of whose frame and state these thoughts are the only genuine exposition; but whereas there are, or may be, some who are sensible of their own weakness and deficiency in the discharge of that part of this duty in being spiritually minded which we have passed through, and may fall under discouragements thereon, we must follow Him, as we are able, who “will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed,” by offering something unto the relief of them that are sincere under the sense of their own weakness.