Fixing Thoughts

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
~ Colossians 3:2

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
~ Matthew 6:33

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
~ Romans 8:6

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
~ 1 John 2:15

From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
~ Psalm 17:14-15

The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Five of his work.

Chapter V.
The objects of spiritual thoughts, or what they are conversant about, evidencing them in whom they are to be spiritually minded — Rules directing unto steadiness in the contemplation of heavenly things — Motives to fix our thoughts with steadiness in them.

It is our duty greatly to mind the things that are above, eternal things, both as unto their reality, their present state, and our future enjoyment of them. Herein consists the life of this grace and duty. To be heavenly minded, — that is, to mind the things of heaven, — and to be spiritually minded, is all one; or it is the effect of being spiritually minded as unto its original and essence, or the first proper actings of it. It is the cause of it as unto its growth and degrees, and it is the evidence of it in experience. Nor do I understand how it is possible for a man to place his chief interest in things above, and not have many thoughts of them. It is the great advice of the apostle, on a supposition of our interest in Christ and conformity unto him, Colossians 3:1,2, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on” (or your thoughts), mind much, “things above.” It becomes those who, through the virtue of the resurrection of Christ, are raised unto newness of life to have their thoughts exercised on the state of things above, with respect unto the presence of Christ among them. And the singular use of our prospect into these things, or our meditations on them, he instructsus in: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18,

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Not to faint under the daily decays of our outward man, and the approaches of death thereby, to bear afflictions as things light and momentary, to thrive under all in the inward man, are unspeakable mercies and privileges. Can you attain a better frame? Is there any thing that you would more desire, if you are believers? Is it not better to have such a mind in us than to enjoy all the peace and security that the world can afford? One principal means whereby we are made partakers of these things is a due meditation on things unseen and eternal. These are the things that are within the veil, whereon we ought to cast the anchor of our hope in all the storms we meet withal, Hebrews 6:19,20, whereof we shall speak more afterward.

Without doubt, the generality of Christians are greatly defective in this duty, partly for want of light into them, partly for want of delight in them; they think little of an eternal country. Wherever men are, they do not use to neglect thoughts of that country wherein their inheritance lies. If they are absent from it for a season, yet will they labor to acquaint themselves with the principal concernments of it. But this heavenly country, wherein lies our eternal inheritance, is not regarded. Men do not exercise themselves as they ought unto thoughts of things eternal and invisible. It were impossible, if they did so, that their minds should be so earthly, and their affections cleave so as they do unto present things. He that looks steadily on the sun, although he cannot bear the lustre of its beams fully, yet his sight is so affected with it that when he calls off his eyes from it, he can see nothing as it were of the things about him; they are all dark unto him. And he who looks steadily in his contemplations on things above, eternal things, though he cannot comprehend their glory, yet a veil will be cast by it on all the desirable beauties of earthly things, and take off his affections from them.

Men live and act under the power of a conviction that there is a state of immortality and glory to come. With a persuasion hereof they much relieve themselves in their sorrows, sufferings, and temptations; yet with many it is only a reserve when they can be here no more. But as unto daily contemplation of the nature and causes of it, or as unto any entrance into it by faith and hope, the most are strangers thereunto. If we are spiritually minded, nothing will be more natural unto us than to have many thoughts of eternal things, as those wherein all our own principal concerns do lie, as well as those which are excellent and glorious in themselves. The direction thereon is, that we would make heavenly things, the things of the future state of blessedness and glory, a principal object of our thoughts, that we would think much about them, that we would meditate much upon them. Many are discouraged herein by their ignorance and darkness, by their want of due conceptions and steady apprehensions of invisible things. Hence one of these two things doth befall them when they would meditate on things above: —

1. The glory of them, the glory of God in them, being essentially infinite and incomprehensible, doth immediately overwhelm them, and, as it were, in a moment put them unto an utter loss, so that they cannot frame one thought in their minds about them. Or,

2. They want skill and ability to conceive aright of invisible things, and to dispose of them in such order in their minds as that they may sedately exercise their thoughts about them. Both these shall be afterward spoken unto. At present I shall only say, that, —

Whosoever shall sincerely engage in this duty according unto what he hath, and shall abide constant therein, he will make such a refreshing progress in his apprehension of heavenly things as he will be greatly satisfied withal. We are kept in darkness, ignorance, and unsteadiness of meditations about them, not from the nature of the things themselves, but from our own sloth, negligence, and readiness to be turned aside by apprehensions of difficulties, of the lion in the way. Wherefore, I shall consider two things:

(1.) What are the principal motives unto this duty of fixing our thoughts on the things that are above, and the advantages which we receive thereby.

(2.) Give some directions how, and on what in particular, we may exercise our thoughts on those things above: —

(1.) (1.) Faith will be increased and strengthened by it. Invisible things are the proper objects of faith. It is “the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1. Wherefore, in our thoughts of them faith is in its proper exercise; which is the principal means of its growth and increase. And hereon two things will ensue: —

1st. The soul will come unto a more satisfactory, abiding sense of the reality of them. Things of imagination, which maintain a value of themselves by darkness, will not bear a diligent search into them. They lose of their reputation on every serious inquiry. If rational men would but give themselves the liberty of free indagation by their own thoughts, it would quickly cashier the fool’s paradise of Mohammed, the purgatory of the Papists, and all such creatures of imagination and superstition. But where things are real and substantial, the more they are inquired into, the more they evidence their being and subsistence. It is not, therefore, every profession of a faith of a future state of blessedness that will realize it in our minds; and therefore, for the most part, it is rather a notion that men have of heavenly things, which they do not contradict, than any solid satisfaction in or spiritual sense of their reality: for these are things that “eye hath not seen, nor= ear heard, nor will enter into the heart of man to conceive,” — whose existence, nature, and real state, are not easily comprehended. But through the continual exercise of holy thoughts about them, the soul obtains an entrance into the midst of them, finding in them both durable substance and riches. There is no way, therefore, to strengthen faith unto any degree but by a daily contemplation on the things themselves. They who do not think of them frequently shall never believe them sincerely. They admit not of any collateral evidence, where they do not evidence themselves unto our souls. Faith, as we said, thus exercised, will give them a subsistence; not in themselves, which they have antecedent thereunto, but in us, in our hearts, in the minds of them that do believe. Imagination creates its own object; faith finds it prepared beforehand. It will not leave a bare notion of them in the understanding, but give them a spiritual subsistence in the heart, as Christ himself dwells in our hearts by faith. And there are two things that will discover this subsistence of them in us: —

(1st.) When we find them in a continual readiness to rise up in our minds on all occasions wherein the thoughts and remembrance of them are needful and useful unto us. There are many seasons (some whereof shall be immediately spoken unto) and many duties, wherein and whereunto the faith and thoughts of things invisible and eternal are needful unto us, so as that we cannot fill up those seasons nor perform those duties in a due manner without them. If on all such occasions they do, from the inward frame of our minds, present themselves unto us, or, through our acquaintance and familiarity with them, we recur in our thoughts unto them, they seem to have a real subsistence given unto them in our souls. But if on such occasions, wherein alone they will yield us help and relief, we accustom ourselves to other thoughts, if those concerning them are, as it were, out of the way, and arise not in our minds of their own accord, we are yet strangers unto this effect of faith.

(2dly.) They are realized unto us, they have a subsistence in us, when the soul continually longeth to be in them. When they have given such a relish unto our hearts, as the first-fruits of glory, that we cannot but desire on all opportune occasions to be in the full enjoyment of them, faith seems to have had its effectual work herein upon us. For want of these things do many among us walk in disconsolation all their days.
(3dly.) It will gradually give the heart an acquaintance with the especial nature and use of these things. General thoughts and notions of heaven and glory do but fluctuate up and down in the mind, and very little influence it unto other duties; but assiduous contemplation will give the mind such distinct apprehensions of heavenly things as shall duly affect it with the glory of them.

The more we discern of the glory and excellency of them in their own nature; of their suitableness unto ours, as our only proper rest and blessedness, as the perfection and complement of what is already begun in us by grace; of the restless tendency of all gracious dispositions and inclinations of our hearts towards their enjoyment, — the more will faith be established in its cleaving unto them. So in the contemplation of these things consists the principal food of faith, whereby it is nourished and strengthened. And we are not to expect much work where there is not provision of proper food for them that labor. No wonder if we find faith faint and weak in the work it hath to do, which ofttimes is great and weighty, if we neglect to guide it daily unto that which should administer strength unto it.

(2.) It will give life and exercise unto the grace of hope. Hope is a glorious grace, whereunto blessed effects are ascribed in the Scripture, and an effectual operation unto the supportment and consolation of believers. By it are we purified, sanctified, saved. And, to sum up the whole of its excellency and efficacy, it is a principal way of the working of Christ as inhabiting in us:

Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Where Christ evidenceth his presence with us, he gives us an infallible hope of glory; he gives us an assured pledge of it, and worketh our souls into an expectation of it. Hope in general is but an uncertain expectation of a future good which we desire; but as it is a gospel grace, all uncertainty is removed from it, which would hinder us of the advantage intended in it. It is an earnest expectation, proceeding from faith, trust, and confidence, accompanied with longing desires of enjoyment. From a mistake of its nature it is that few Christians labor after it, exercise themselves unto it, or have the benefit of it; for, to live by hope they suppose infers a state not only beneath the life of faith and all assurance in believing, but also exclusive of them. They think to hope to be saved is a condition of men who have no grounds of faith or assurance; but this is to turn a blessed fruit of the Spirit into a common affection of nature. Gospel hope is a fruit of faith, trust, and confidence; yea, the height of the actings of all grace issues in a well-grounded hope, nor can it rise any higher, Romans 5:2-5.

Now, the reason why men have no more use of, no more benefit by, this excellent grace, is because they do not abide in thoughts and contemplation of the things hoped for. The especial object of hope is eternal glory, Colossians 1:27; Romans 5:2. The peculiar use of it is to support, comfort, and refresh the soul, in all trials, under all weariness and despondencies, with a ftrm expectation of a speedy entrance into that glory, with an earnest desire after it. Wherefore, unless we acquaint ourselves, by continual meditation, with the reality and nature of this glory, it is impossible it should be the object of a vigorous, active hope, such as whereby the apostle says “we are saved.” Without this we can neither have that evidence of eternal things, nor that valuation of them, nor that preparedness in our minds for them, as should keep us in the exercise of gracious hope about them.

Suppose sundry persons engaged in a voyage unto a most remote country, wherein all of them have an apprehension that there is a place of rest and an inheritance provided for them. Under this apprehension they all put themselves upon their voyage, to possess what is so prepared. Howbeit some of them have only a general notion of these things; they know nothing distinctly concerning them, and are so busied about other affairs that they have no leisure to inquire into them, or do suppose that they cannot come unto any satisfactory knowledge of them in particular, and so are content to go on with general hopes and expectations. Others there are who by all possible means acquaint themselves particularly with the nature of the climate whither they are going, with the excellency of the inheritance and provision that is made for them. Their voyage proves long and wearisome, their difficulties many, and their dangers great, and they have nothing to relieve and encourage themselves with but the hope and expectation of the country whither they are going. Those of the first sort will be very apt to despond and faint, their general hopes will not be able to relieve them; but those who have a distinct notion and apprehension of the state of things whither they are going, and of their incomparable excellency, have always in a readiness wherewith to cheer their minds and support themselves.

In that journey or pilgrimage wherein we are engaged towards a heavenly country, we are sure to meet with all kinds of dangers, difficulties, and perils. It is not a general notion of blessedness that will excite and work in us a spiritual, refreshing hope. But when we think and meditate on future glory as we ought, that grace which is neglected for the most pare as unto its benefit, and dead as unto its exercise, will of all others be most vigorous and active, putting itself forth on all occasions. This, therefore, is an inestimable benefit of the duty exhorted unto, and which they find the advantage of who are really spiritually minded.

(3.) This alone will make us ready for the cross, for all sorts of sufferings that we may be exposed unto.

There is nothing more necessary unto believers at this season than to have their minds furnished with provision of such things as may prepare them for the cross and sufferings. Various intimations of the mind of God, circumstances of providence, the present state of things in the world, with the instant peril of the latter days, do all call them hereunto. If it be otherwise with them, they will at one time or other be woefully surprised, and think strange of their trials, as if some strange thing did befall them. Nothing is more useful unto this end than constant thoughts and contemplations of eternal things and future glory. From hence alone can the soul have in a readiness what to lay in the balance against all sorts of sufferings. When a storm begins to arise at sea, the mariners bestir themselves in the management of the tackling of the ship, and other applications of their art, for their safety; but if the storm increase and come to extremity, they are forced to forego all other means and betake themselves unto a sheet-anchor, to hold their ship steady against its violence. So when a storm of persecution and troubles begins to arise, men have various ways and considerations for their relief; but if it once come to extremity, — if sword, nakedness, famine, and death, are inevitably coming upon them, — they have nothing to betake themselves unto that will yield them solid relief but the consideration and faith of things invisible and eternal.

So the apostle declares this state of things, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (the words before insisted on),

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

He lays all sorts of afflictions in one scale, and, on the consideration of them, declares them to be “light” and “but for a moment.” Then he lays glory in the other scale, and finds it to be ponderous, weighty, and “eternal,” — “an exceeding weight of glory.” In the one is sorrow for a little while, in the other eternal joy; in the one pain for a few moments, in the other everlasting rest; in the one is the loss of some few temporary things, in the other the full fruition of God in Christ, who is all in all. Hence the same apostle casts up the account of these things, and gives us his judgment concerning them, Romans 8:18,

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”

There is no comparison between them, as if one had as much evil and misery in them as the other hath of good and blessedness; as though his state were any way to be complained of who must undergo the one whilst he hath an interest in the other; or as though to escape the one he hazard the enjoyment of the other.

It is inseparable from our nature to have a fear of and aversation from great, distressing sufferings, that are above the power of nature to bear. Even our Lord Jesus himself, having taken on him all the sinless properties of our nature, had a fear and aversation, though holy and gracious, with respect unto his own. Those who, through a stout- heartedness, do contemn them before their approach, boasting in themselves of their abilities to undergo them, censuring such as will not unadvisedly engage in them, are such as seldom glorify God when they are really (called) to conflict with them. Peter alone trusted unto himself that he would not forsake his Master, and seemed to take the warning ill that they should all do so, and he alone denied him. All church stories are filled with instances of such as, having borne themselves high before the approach of trials, have shamefully miscarried when their trials have come. Wherefore, it is moreover allowed unto us to use all lawful means for the avoiding of them. Both rules and examples of the Scripture give sufficient warranty for it. But there are times and seasons wherein, without any tergiversation, they are to be undergone unto the glory of God and in the discharge of our duty, confessing Christ before men, as we would be owned by him before his Father in heaven. All things do now call us to prepare for such a season, to be martyrs in resolution, though we should never really lose our lives by violence. Nothing will give us this preparation but to have our minds exercised in the contemplation of heavenly things, of things that are invisible and eternal. He who is thus spiritually minded, who hath his thoughts and affections set on things above, will have always in a readiness what to oppose unto any circumstance of his sufferings.

Those views which such an one hath had by faith of the uncreated glories above, of the things in heavenly places where Christ sits at the right hand of God, of the glory within the veil, whereby they have been realized and made present unto his soul, will now visit him every moment, abide with him continually, and put forth their efficacy unto his supportment and refreshment. Alas! what will become of many of us, who are grovelling continually on the earth, whose bellies cleave unto the dust, who are strangers unto the thoughts of heavenly things, when distressing troubles shall befall us? Why shall we think that refreshing thoughts of things above will then visit our souls, whet we resisted their admittance in days of peace? “Do ye come to me in your distress,” saith Jephthah, “when in the time of your peace ye drove me from you?” When we would thus think of heavenly things to our refreshment, we shall hardly get them to make an abode with us. I know God can come in by the mighty power of his Spirit and grace to support and comfort the souls of them who are called and even surprised into the greatest of sufferings; yet do I know also that it is our duty not to tempt him in the neglect of the ways and means which he hath appointed for the communication of his grace unto us.

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, as “the author and finisher of our faith, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame,” Hebrews 12:2. His mediatory glory in the salvation of the church was the matter of the joy set before him. This he took the view and prospect of in all his sufferings, unto his refreshment and supportment. And his example, as “the author and finisher of our faith,” is more efficaciously instructive than any other rule or precept. Eternal glory is set before us also; it is the design of God’s wisdom and grace that by the contemplation of it we should relieve ourselves in all our suffering, yea, and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. How many of those blessed souls now in the enjoyment of God and glory, who passed through fiery trials and great tribulations, were enabled to sing and rejoice in the flames by prepossession of this glory in their minds through believing! yea, some of them have been so filled with them as to take off all sense of pain under the most exquisite tortures. When Stephen was to be stoned, to encourage him in his suffering and comfort him in it, “the heavens were opened, and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Who can conceive what contempt of all the rage and madness of the Jews, what a neglect of all the pains of death, this view raised his holy soul unto? To obtain, therefore, such views frequently by faith, as they do who are truly spiritually minded, is the most effectual way to encourage us unto all our sufferings. The apostle gives us the force of this encouragement in a comparison with earthly things: 1 Corinthians 9:25,

“Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

If men, when a corruptible crown of vain honor and applause is proposed unto them, will do and endure all that is needful for the attainment of it, and relieve themselves in their hardships with thoughts and imaginations of attaining it, grounded on uncertain hopes, shall not we, who have a crown immortal and invisible proposed unto us, and that with the highest assurance of the enjoyment of it, cheerfully undergo, endure, and suffer, what we are to go through in the way unto it.

(4.) This is the most effectual means to wean the heart and affections from things here below, to keep the mind unto an undervaluation, yea, a contempt of them, as occasion shall require; for there is a season wherein there is such a contempt required in us of all relations and enjoyments as our Savior calleth the “hating” of them, — that is, not absolutely, but comparatively, in comparison of him and the gospel, with the duties which belong unto our profession: Luke 14:26,

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Some, I fear, if they did but consider it, would be apt to say, “This is a hard saying, who can bear it?” and others would cry out, with the disciples in another case, “Lord, who then can be saved?” but it is the word whereby we must be judged, nor can we be the disciples of Christ on any other terms. But here, in an especial manner, lies the wound and weakness of faith and profession in these our days: “The bellies of men cleave unto the dust,” or their affections unto earthly things.

I speak not of those who, by rapine, deceit, and oppression, strive to enrich themselves; nor of those who design nothing more than the attainment of greatness and promotion in the world, though not by ways of open wickedness; least of all of them who make religion, and perhaps their ministry therein, a means for the attaining of secular ends and preferments. No wise man can suppose such persons, any of them, to be spiritually minded, and it is most easy to disprove all their pretences. But I intend only those at present whose ways and means of attaining riches are lawful, honest, and unblamable; who use them with some moderation, and do profess that their portion lies in better things, so as it is hard to fasten a conviction on them in the matter of their conversation. Whatever may seem to reflect upon them, they esteem it to be that whose omission would make them foolish in their affairs or negligent in their duty. But even among these also there is ofttimes that inordinate love unto present things, that esteem and valuation of them, that concernment in them, as are not consistent with their being spiritually minded. With some their relations, with some their enjoyments, with most both in conjunction, are an idol which they set up in their hearts and secretly bow down unto. About these are their hopes and fears exercised, on them is their love, in them is their delight. They are wholly taken up with their own concerns, count all lost that is not spent on them, and all time misspent that is not engaged about them. Yet the things which they do they judge to be good in themselves; their hearts do not condemn them as to the matter of them. The valuation they have of their relations and enjoyments they suppose to be lawful, within the bounds which they have assigned unto it. Their care about them is, in their own minds, but their duty. It is no easy matter, it requires much spiritual wisdom, to fix right boundaries unto our affections and their actings about earthly things. But let men plead and pretend what they please, I shall offer one rule in this case, which will not fail; and this is, that when men are so confident in the good state and measure of their affections and their actings towards earthly things as that they will oppose their engagements into them unto known duties of religion, piety, and charity, they are gone into a sinful excess. Is there a state of the poor that requires their liberality and bounty, — you must excuse them, they have families to provide for; when what is expected from them signifies nothing at all as unto a due provision for their families, nor is what would lessen their inheritances or portions one penny in the issue. Are they called to an attendance on seasons of religious duties? — they are so full of business that it is impossible for them to have leisure for any such occasions. So by all ways declaring that they are under the power of a prevalent, predominant affection unto earthly things. This fills all places with lifeless, sapless, useless professors, who approve themselves in their condition, whilst it is visibly unspiritual and withering.

The heart will have something whereon, in a way of pre-eminence, it will fix itself and its affections. This, in all its perpetual motions, it seeks for rest and satisfaction in. And every man hath an edge; the edge of his affections is set one way or other, though it be more keen in some than others. And whereas all sorts of things that the heart can fix upon or turn the edge of its affections unto are distributed by the apostle into “things above” and “things beneath,” things heavenly and things earthly, if we have not such a view and prospect of heavenly things as to cause our hearts to cleave unto them and delight in them, let us pretend what we will, it is impossible but that we shall be under the power of a predominant affection unto the things of this world.

Herein lies the great danger of multitudes at this present season; for, let men profess what they will, under the power of this frame their eternal state is in hazard every moment. And persons are engaged in it in great variety of degrees; and we may cast them under two heads: —

1st. Some do not at all understand that things are amiss with them, or that they are much to be blamed. They plead, as was before observed, that they are all lawful things which their hearts do cleave unto, and which it is their duty to take care of and regard. “May they not delight in their own relations, especially at such a time, when others break and cancel all duties and bonds of relation in the service of and provision they make for their lusts? May they not be careful, in good and honest ways of diligence, about the things of the world, when the most either lavish their time away in the pursuit of bestial lusts, or heap them up by deceit and oppression? May they not contrive for the promotion of their children in the world, to add the other hundred or thousand pounds unto their advancement, that they may be in as good condition as others, seeing he is worse than an infidel who provides not for his own family,” By such reasonings and secret thoughts do many justify themselves in their earthly mindedness. And so fixed they are in the approbation of themselves, that if you urge them to their duty, you shall lose their acquaintance, if they do not become your enemies for telling them the truth. Yea, they will avoid one duty that lieth not against their earthly interest, because it leads unto another; — they will not engage in religious assemblies, or be constant unto their duty in them, for fear duties of charity should be required of them or expected from them. On what grounds such persons can satisfy themselves that they are spiritually minded, I know not. I shall leave only one rule with persons that are thus minded: — Where our love unto the world hath prevailed, by its reasonings, pleas, and pretenses, to take away our fear and jealousy over our own hearts lest we should inordinately love it, there it is assuredly predominant in us.

2dly. Others are sensible of the evil of their hearts, at least are jealous and afraid lest it should be found that their hearts do cleave inordinately unto these things. Hence they endeavor to contend against this evil, sometimes by forcing themselves unto such acts of piety or charity as are contrary unto that frame, and sometimes by laboring a change of the frame itself; especially they will do so when God is pleased to awaken them by trials and afflictions, such as write vanity and emptiness on all earthly enjoyments. But, for the most part, they strive not lawfully, and so obtain not what they seem to aim at.

This disease with many is mortal, and will not be thoroughly cured in any but by the due exercise of this part of spiritual mindedness. There are other duties required also unto the same end, — namely, of the mortification of our desires and affections unto earthly things, — whereof I have treated elsewhere; but without this, or a fixed contemplation on the desirableness, beauty, and glory, of heavenly things, it will not be attained. Farther to evince the truth hereof, we may observe these two things: —

(1st.) If by any means a man do seem to have taken off his heart from the love of present things, and be not at the same time taken up with the love of things that are heavenly, his seeming mortification is of no advantage unto him. So persons frequently, through discontent, disappointments, or dissatisfaction with relations, or mere natural weariness, have left the world, the affairs and cares of it, as unto their wonted conversations in it, and have betaken themselves to monasteries, convents, or other retirements suiting their principles, without any advantage to their souls.

(2dly.) God is no such severe lord and master as to require us to take off our affections from and mortify them unto those things which the law of our nature makes dear unto us, as wives, children, houses, lands, and possessions, and not propose unto us somewhat that is incomparably more excellent to fix them upon. So he invites the elect of the Gentiles unto Christ: Psalm 45:10,

“Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;” that is, “Come into the faith of Abraham, who forsook his country and his father’s house to follow God whithersoever he pleased.” But he proposeth this for their encouragement, verse 11, “So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.” The love of the great King is an abundant satisfactory recompense for parting with all things in this world. So when Abraham’s servant was sent to take Rebekah for a wife unto Isaac, he required that she should immediately leave father and mother, brothers, and all enjoyments, and go along with him; but withal, that she might know herself to be no loser thereby, he not only assured her of the greatness of his master, but also at present he gave her “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment,” Genesis 24:53. And when our Savior requires that we should part with all for his sake and the gospel, he promiseth a hundredfold in lieu of them, even in this life, — namely, in an interest in things spiritual and heavenly. Wherefore, without an assiduous meditation on heavenly things, as a better, more noble, and suitable object for our affections to be fixed on, we can never be freed in a due manner from an inordinate love of the things here below.

It is sad to see some professors, who will keep up spiritual duties in churches and in their families, who will speak and discourse of spiritual things, and keep themselves from the open excesses of the world, yet, when they come to be tried by such duties as intrench on their love and adherence unto earthly things, quickly manifest how remote they are from being spiritually minded in a due manner. Were they to be tried as our Savior tried the young man who made such a profession of his conscientious and religious conversation, “Go sell what thou hast, give to the poor, and follow me,” something might be pleaded in excuse for their tergiversation; but, alas! they will decline their duty when they are not touched unto the hundredth part of their enjoyments.

I bless God I speak not thus of many of my own knowledge, and may say with the apostle unto the most unto whom I usually speak in this manner,

“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak,” Hebrews 6:9.