And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
~ Numbers 15:39
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
~ Psalm 119:36-37
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
~ Romans 8:4-6
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
~ Proverbs 23:5, Isaiah 33:15
My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.
~ Psalm 119:25, Psalm 119:40
Heavenly Contemplation May Be Preserved from a Wandering Heart, and Heavenly Contemplation Exemplified, and the Whole Work Concluded, by Richard Baxter. These are excepts from Chapter Fifteen and Sixteen from his work, “The Saint’s Everlasting Rest”.
Chapter XV. Heavenly Contemplation May Be Preserved from a Wandering Heart.
Secondly. I am now to show how heavenly contemplation may be preserved from a wandering heart. Our chief work here is to discover the danger, and that will direct to the fittest remedy. The heart will prove the greatest hinderance in this heavenly employment; either, by backwardness to it; or, by trifling in it; or by frequent excursions to other objects;–or, by abruptly ending the work before it is well begun. As you value the comfort of this work, these dangerous evils must be faithfully resisted.
1. Thou wilt find thy heart as backward to this, I think, as to any work in the world. O what excuses will it make! What evasions will it find out! What delays and demurs, when it is ever so much convinced! Either it will question whether it be a duty or not; or if it be so to others, whether to thyself. It will tell thee, “This is a work for ministers that have nothing else to study; or, for persons that have more leisure than thou hast.” If thou be a minister, it will tell thee, “This is the duty of the people; it is enough for thee to meditate for their instruction, and let them meditate on what they have heard.” As if it was thy duty only to cook their meat and serve it up, and they alone must eat it, digest it, and live upon it. If all this will not do, thy heart will tell thee of other business, or set thee upon some other duty; for it had rather go to any duty than this. Perhaps it will tell thee, “Other duties are greater, and therefore this must give place to them, because thou hast no time for both. Public business is more important; to study and preach for the saving of souls must be preferred before these private contemplations.” As if thou hadst not time to care for thy own salvation, for looking after that of others; or thy charity to others were so great, that it obliges thee to neglect thy own eternal welfare; or as if there was any better way to fit us to be useful to others, than making this proof of our doctrine ourselves. Certainly heaven is the best fire to light our candle at, and the best book for a preacher to study; and if we would be persuaded to study that more, the church would be provided with more heavenly lights; and when our studies are divine and our spirits divine, our preaching will also be divine, and we may be called divines indeed. Or if thy heart will have nothing to say against the work, it will trifle away the time in delays, and promise this day and the next, but still keep off from the business. Or it will give thee a flat denial, and oppose its own unwillingness to thy reason. all this I speak of the heart, so far as it is still carnal; for I know, so far as it is spiritual, it will judge this the sweetest work in the world.
What is now to be done? Wilt thou do it if I tell thee? Wouldst thou not say in a like case, “What should I do with a servant that will not work, or with a horse that will not travel? Shall I keep them to look at?” Then faithfully deal thus with thy heart; persuade it to the work, take no denial, chide it for its backwardness, use violence with it. Hast thou no command of thy own thoughts? Is not the subject of thy meditations a matter of choice, especially under the guidance of thy judgment? Surely God gave thee, with thy new nature, some power to govern thy thoughts. Art thou again become a slave to thy depraved nature? Resume thy authority. Call in the Spirit of Christ to thine assistance, who is never backward to so good a work, nor will deny his help in so just a cause. Say to him, “Lord, thou gavest my reason the command of my thoughts and affections; the authority I have received over them is from thee; and now, behold, they refuse to obey thine authority. Thou commandest me to set them to the work of heavenly meditation, but they rebel and stubbornly refuse the duty. Wilt thou not assist me to exercise that authority which thou hast given me? O send down thy Spirit, that I may enforce thy commands, and effectually compel them to obey thy will!: Thus thou shalt see thy heart will submit, its resistance be overcome, and its backwardness be turned into cheerful compliance.
2. Thy heart will also be likely to betray thee by trifling, when it should be effectually meditating. Perhaps, when thou hast an hour for meditation, the time will be spent before thy heart will be serious. This doing of duty as if we did it not, ruins as many as the omission of it. Here let thine eye be always upon thy heart. Look not so much to the time it spends in the duty, as to the quantity and quality of the work that is done. You can tell by his work, whether a servant has been diligent. Ask yourself, “What affections have yet been exercised? How much nearer am I to heaven?” Think not, since thy heart is so trifling, it is better to let it alone: for, by this means thou wilt certainly banish all spiritual obedience; because the best hearts, being but sanctified in part, will resist, so far as they are carnal. But rather consider well the corruptions of thy nature; and that its sinful indispositions will not supersede the commands of God; nor one sin excuse another; and that God has appointed means to excite our affections. This self-reasoning, self-considering duty of heavenly meditation, is the most effective means both to excite and increase love. Therefore neglect not the duty till thou feelest thy love constrain thee, any more than thou wouldst stay from the fire till thou feelest thyself warm; but engage in the work till love is excited, and then love will constrain thee to further duty.
3. Thy heart will also be making excursions from thy heavenly meditation to other objects. It will be turning aside, like a careless servant, to talk with every one that passes by. When there should be nothing in thy mind but heaven, it will be thinking of thy calling, or thy afflictions, or of every bird, or tree, or place thou seest. The cure is here the same as before: use watchfulness and violence. Say to thy heart, “What! did I come hither to think of my worldly business, of persons, places, news or vanity, or of any thing but heaven, be it ever so good? `Canst thou not watch one hour?’ Wouldst thou leave this world and dwell for ever with Christ in heaven, and not leave it one hour to dwell with Christ in meditation? `Is this thy love to thy friend?’ Dost thou love Christ, and the place of thy eternal, blessed abode, no more than this?” If the ravening fowls of wandering thoughts devour the meditations intended for heaven, they devour the life and joy of thy thoughts; therefore drive them away from thy sacrifice, and strictly keep thy heart to the work.
4. Abruptly ending thy meditation before it is well begun, is another wayin which thy heart will deceive thee. Thou mayest easily perceive this in other duties. In secret prayer, is not thy heart urging thee to cut it short, and frequently making a motion to have done? So in heavenly contemplation, thy heart will be weary of the work, and will stop thy heavenly walk before thou art well warm. But charge it in the name of God to stay, and not do so great a work by halves. Say to it, “Foolish heart! if thou beg a while, and goest away before thou hast thine alms, is not thy begging a lost labour? If thou stoppest before the end of thy journey, is not thy travel lost? Thou camest hither in hope to have a sight of the glory which thou must inherit; and wilt thou stop when thou art almost at the top of the hill, and turn back before thou hast taken thy survey? Thou camest hither in hope to speak with God; and wilt thou go before thou hast seen him? Thou camest to bathe thyself in the streams of consolation, and to that end didst unclothe thyself of thy earthly thoughts; and wilt thou only touch the bank and return? Thou camest to `spy out the land of promise;’ go not back without `one cluster of grapes to show thy brethren,’ for their encouragement. Let them see that thou hast tasted of the wine by the gladness of thy heart; and that thou hast been anointed with the oil, by the cheerfulness of thy countenance; and hast fed of the milk and honey, by the mildness of thy disposition and the sweetness of thy conversation. This heavenly fire would melt thy frozen heart, and refine and spiritualise it; but it must have time to operate.” Thus pursue the work till something be done, till thy graces be in exercise, thy affections raised, and thy soul refreshed with the delights above; or, if thou canst not attain these ends at once, be the more earnest at another time. “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.”
Chapter XVI. Heavenly Contemplation Exemplified, and the Whole Work Concluded.
Why dost thou look about? can any save thee? Whither dost thou run? can any hide thee? O, wretch, that hast brought thyself to this!
4. “Now, blessed saints, that have believed and obeyed! this is the end of faith and patience. This is it for which you prayed and waited. Do you now repent your sufferings and sorrows, your self-denial and holy walking? Are your tears of repentance now bitter or sweet? See how the Judge smiles upon you: there is love in his looks; the titles of Redeemer, Husband, Head, are written in his amiable, shining face. Hark, he calls you! he bids you stand here on his right hand: fear not, for there he sets his sheep. O joyful sentence! `Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ He takes you by the hand, the door is open, the kingdom is his, and therefore yours; there is your place before his throne! The Father receives you as the spouse of his Son, and bids you welcome to the crown of glory. Ever so unworthy, you must be crowned. This was the project of free redeeming grace, the purpose of eternal love. O blessed grace! O blessed love! O how love and joy will rise! But I cannot express it, I cannot conceive it.
5. “This is that joy which was procured by sorrow, that crown which was procured by the cross. My Lord wept, that now my tears might be wiped away; he bled, that I might now rejoice; he was forsaken, that I might not now be forsaken; he then died, that I might now live. O free mercy, that can exalt so vile a wretch! Free to me, though dear to Christ! Free grace, that hath chosen me when thousands were forsaken! When my companions in sin must burn in hell, I must here rejoice in rest! Here must I rejoice in rest! Here must I live with all these saints! O comfortable meeting of my old acquaintance, with whom I prayed, and wept, and suffered, and spoke often of this day and place! I see the grave could not detain you: the same love hath redeemed and saved you also.
6. “This is not like our cottages of clay, our prisons, our earthly dwellings. This voice of joy is not like our old complaints, our impatient groans and sighs; nor this melodious praise like the scoffs and revilings, or the oaths and curses which we heard on earth. This body is not like that we had, nor this soul like the soul we had, nor this life like the life we lived. We have changed our place and state, our clothes and thoughts, our looks, language and company. Before, a saint was weak and despised; so proud and peevish we could often scarce discern his graces; but now, how glorious is a saint! Where is now their body of sin, which wearied themselves and those about them? Where are now our different judgments, reproachful names, divided spirits, exasperated passions, strange looks, uncharitable censures? Now we are all of one judgment, of one name, of one heart, house and glory. O sweet reconciliation! Happy union! Now the Gospel shall no more be dishonoured through our folly. No more, my soul, shalt thou lament the sufferings of the saints or the church’s ruins; nor mourn thy suffering friends, nor weep over their dying beds or their graves. Thou shalt never suffer thy old temptations from Satan, the world or thy own flesh. Thy pains and sickness are all cured; thy body shall no more burden thee with weakness and weariness; thy aching head and heart, thy hunger and thirst, thy sleep and labour are all gone. O what a mighty change is this! from the dunghill to the throne! from persecuting sinners to praising saints! from a vile body to this which `shines as the brightness of the firmament!’ from a sense of God’s displeasure to the perfect enjoyment of him in love! from all my doubts and fears to this possession which puts me out of doubt! from all my fearful thoughts of death to this joyful life! Blessed change! Farewell sin and sorrow for ever; farewell my rocky, proud, unbelieving heart; my worldly, sensual, carnal heart; and welcome now my most holy, heavenly nature. Farewell repentance, faith and hope; and welcome love, and joy, and praise. I shall now have my harvest, without ploughing or sowing; my joy, without a preacher or a promise; even all from the face of God himself. Whatever mixture is in the streams, there is nothing but pure joy in the fountain. Here shall I be encircled with eternity, and ever live, and ever, ever praise the Lord; my face will not wrinkle nor my hair be gray; `for this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal, immortality, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. O death, where is now thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ The date of my lease will no more expire, nor shall I trouble myself with thoughts of death, nor lose my joys through fear of losing them. When millions of ages are passed, my glory is but beginning; and when millions more are passed, it is no nearer ending. Every day is all noon, every month is harvest, every year is a jubilee, every day is full manhood, and all this is one eternity. O blessed eternity! the glory of my glory! the perfection of my perfection!
7. “Ah, drowsy, earthly heart! how coldly dost thou think of this reviving day! Hadst thou rather sit down in dirt, than walk in the palace of God? Art thou now remembering thy worldly business, or thinking of thy lusts, earthly delights and merry company? Is it better to be here than above with God? Is the company better? Are the pleasures greater? Come away; make no excuse nor delay; God commands and I command thee; gird up thy loins; ascend the mount; look about thee with faith and seriousness. Look not back upon the way of the wilderness, except it be to compare the kingdom with that howling desert, more sensibly to perceive the wide difference. Yonder is thy Father’s glory; yonder, O my soul, must thou remove when thou departest from this body; and when the power of thy Lord hath raised it again and joined thee to it, yonder must thou live with God for ever. There is the glorious New Jerusalem, the gates of pearl, the foundation of pearl, the streets and pavements of transparent gold. That sun, which lighteth all this world, will be useless there; even thyself shall be as bright as yonder shining sun; God will be the sun and Christ the light, and in his light shalt thou have light. 8. “O my soul! dost thou `stagger at the promises of God through unbelief? I much suspect thee. Didst thou believe indeed, thou wouldst be more affected with it. Is it not under the hand, and seal, and oath of God? Can God lie? Can he that is truth itself be false? What need hath God to flatter or deceive thee? Why should he promise thee more than he will perform? Dare not to charge the wise, almighty, faithful God with this. How many of the promises have been performed to thee in thy conversion! WouldGod so powerfully concur with a feigned word? O wretched heart of unbelief!Hath God made thee a promise of rest, and wilt thou come short of it? Thine eyes, thine ears and all thy senses may prove delusions sooner than a promise of God can delude thee. Thou mayst be surer of that which is written in the word, than if thou didst see it with thine eyes, or feel it with thine hands. Art thou sure thou art alive, or that this is earth thou standest on, or that thine eyes see the sun? As sure is all this glory to the saints; as sure shall I be higher than yonder stars, and live for ever in the holy city, and joyfully sound forth the praises of my Redeemer, if I be not shut out by this `evil heart of unbelief,’ causing me to `depart from the living God.’