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mind, that it get not away to the vanities of the world again. When God is speaking to men by his word, or they are speaking to him in prayer, doth not the mind often leave them before the Lord, like so many idols that have eyes, but see not, and ears, but hear not? The carcase is laid down before God, but the world gets away the heart ; though the eyes be closed, the man sees a thousand vanities; The mind, in the mean time, is like a bird got loose out of the cage, skipping from bush to bush ; so that, in effect, the man never comes to himself, till he be gone from the presence of the Lord. Say not, it is impossible to get the mind fixed. It is hard, indeed, but not impossible. Grace from the Lord can do it, Psal. cviii. 1. Agreeable objections will do it. A pleasant speculation will arrest the minds of the inquisitive: The worldly man's mind is in little hazard of wandering, when he is contriving of business, casting up his accounts, or telling his money : If he answer you not at first, he tells you, he did not hear you, he was busy ; his mind was fixed. Were we admitted into the presence of a king to petition for our lives, we would be in no hazard of gazing through the chamber of presence : But here lies the case, the carnal mind, employed about any spiritual good, is out of its element, and therefore cannot fix.
Evid. 5. But however hard it is to keep the mind on good thoughts, it sticks as glue to what is evil and corrupt like itself, 2 Pet. ii. 14. “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.” Their eyes cannot cease from sin, (so the wordsare constructed,) thatis, their hearts and minds venting by the eyes, what is within, are like a furious beast, which cannot be held in, when once it has got out its head.
Let the corrupt imagination once be let loose on its proper object, it will be found hard work to call it back again, though both teason and will be for its retreat. For then it is in its own element; and to draw it it off from its impurities, is as the drawing of a fish out of the water, or the renting of a limb from a man. It runs like fire set to a train of powder, that resteth not till it can get no further.
Evid. 6. Consider how the carnal imagination supplies the want of real objects to the corrupt heart; that it may make sinners happy, at least, in the imaginary enjoyment
of their lusts. Thus the corrupt heart feeds itself with imagination sins : The unclean person is filled with speculative impurities, having eyes full of adultery; the covetous man fills his heart with the world, though he cannot get his hands full of it; the malicious person, with delight acts his revenge within his own breast; the envious man, within his own narrow soul, beholds, with satisfaction, his neighbour laid low enough; and every lust finds the corrupt imagination a friend to it in time of need. And this it doth, not only when people are awake, but sometimes even when they are asleep ; whereby it comes to pass, that these sins are acted in dreams, which their hearts were carried out after, while they were awake. I know some do question the sinfulness of these things : But can it be thought they are consistent with that holy nature and frame of spirit, which was in innocent Adam, and in Jesus Christ, and should be in every man? It is the corruption of nature, then, that makes filthy dreamers condemned, Jude 8. Solomon had experience of the exercise of grace in sleep ; in a dream he prayed ; in a dream he made the best choice ; both were accepted of God, : 1 Kings iii. 5–15. And if a man may, in his sleep, do what is good and acceptable to God; why may he not also, when asleep, do that which is evil and displeasing to God? The same Solomon would have men aware of this; and prescribes the best remedy against it, namely, the law upon the heart, Prov. vi. 20, 21. « When thou sleepest (says he, ver. 22.) it shall keep thee : to wit, from the sinning in thy sleep: That is, from sinful dreams. For one's being kept from sin (not his being kept from affliction) is the immediate proper eifect of the law of God impressed upon the heart, Psal. cxix. 11. And thus the whole verse is to be understood, as appears from Werse 23. “ For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." Now, the law is a lamp of light, as it guides in the way of duty; and instructing reproofs from the law, are the way of life, as they keep from sin : Neither do they guide into the way of peace, but as they lead into the way of duty; nor do they keep a man out of trouble, but as they keep him from sin. And remarkable is the particular, in which Solomon instanceth, namely, the sin of uncleanness ; To keep thee from the evil woman, verse 24. Which is to be joined with verse 22. including verse 23. in a parenthesis, as some versions have it. These things may suffice to convince us of the natural bias of the mind to evil.
Fourthly, There is in the carnal mind an opposition to spiritual truths, and an aversion to the receiving of them. It is as little a friend to divine truths, as it is to holiness. The truths of natural religion, which do, as it were, force their entry into the minds of natural men, they hold prisoners in unrighteousness, Rom. i. 18. And as for the truths of revealed religion, there is an evil heart of unbelief in them, which opposeth their entry; and there is an armed force necessary to captivate the mind to the belief of them, 2 Cor. X. 4, 5. God has made a revelation of his mind and will to sinners, touching the way of salvation ; he has given us the doctrine of his holy word: But do natural men believe it indeed ? No, they do not ; « For he that believeth not on the Son of God, believeth not God;" as is plain from 1 John v. 10. They believe not the promises of the woid; they look on them, in effect only as fair words; for these that receive them, are thereby made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4. The promises are as silver cords, let down from heaven, to draw sinners unto God, and to waft them over into the promised land; but they cast them from them. They believe not the threatenings of the word. As men travelling in desarts carry fire about with them, to fright away wild beasts; so God has made his law a fiery law, (Deut. xxxiii. 2.) hedging it about with threats of wrath : But men naturally are more brutish than beasts themselves ; and will needs touch the fiery smoking mountain, though they should be thrust through with a dart. I doubt not but most, if not all of you, who are yet in the black state of nature, will here plead, Not guilty : But remember thę carnal Jews in Christ's time were as confident as you are, that they believed Moses, John ix. 28, 29. But he confutes their confidence, roundly telling them, John v. 46. “ Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me.” Did
believe the truths of God, ye durst not reject, as ye do, him who is truth itself. The very difficulty you find in assenting to this truth, bewrays that unbelief I am charging you with. Has it not proceeded so far with some at this day, that it has steeled their foreheads with the impudence and impiety, openly to reject all revealed religion ? Surely it is out of the abundance of the heart their mouth speaketh. But though ye set not your mouths against the heavens, as they do, the same bitter root of unbelief is in all men by nature, and reigns in you and will reign, till overcoming grace captivate your minds to the belief of the truth. To convince you in this point, consider these three things :
Evidence l. How few are there who have been blessed with an inward illumination, by the special operation of the Spirit of Christ, letting them into a view of divine truths, in their spiritual and heavenly lustre! How have you learned the truths of religion, which ye pretend to belieye! Ye have them merely by the benefit of external revelation, and of your education ; so that you are Christians, just because you were not born and bred in a Pagan, but in a Christian country. Ye are strangers to the inward work of the holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in your hearts; and so you cannot have the assurance of faith, with respect to that outward divine revelation made in the word, 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11, 12. And, therefore, ye are still unbelievers. “ It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,” says our Lord, John vi. 45. Now have pot come to Christ, therefore ye have not been taught of God; ye have not been so taught, and therefore
ye have not come ; ye believe not. Behold the revelation from which the faith even of the fundamental principles in religion doth spring, Matth. xvi. 17, 18. « Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona ; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” If ever the Spirit of the Lord take a dealing with thee, to work in thee that faith, which is of the operation of God; it
may be, as much time will be spent in razing the old foundation, as will make thee find a necessity of the working of his mighty power, and to enable thee to believe the very foundation principles, which now thou thinkest thou makest no doubt of, Eph. i. 19.
Evid. 2. How many professors have made shipwreck of their faith (such as it was) in time of temptation and trial ! See how they fall, like stars from heaven, when Antichrist prevails, 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. “God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth.” They fell into damning delusions, because they never really believed the truth, though they themselves, and others too, thought they did believe it. That house is built upon the sand, and that faith is but ill-founded, that cannot bear out, but is quite overthrown, when the storm comes.
Evid. 3. Consider the utter inconsistency of most mens lives, with the principles of religion which they profess; ye may as soon bring east and west together, as their practice. Men believe that fire will burn them, and therefore they will not throw themselves into it : But the truth is, most men live as if they thought the gospel a mere fable; and the wrath of God revealed in his word against their unrighteousness and ungodliness, a mere scarecrow. If ye believe the doctrines of the word, how is it that ye are so unconcerned about the state of your souls before the Lord ? How is it that you are so little concerned, with that weighty point, whether ye be born again or not? Many live as they were born, and are like to die as they live, and yet live in peace. Do such believe the sinfulness and misery of a natural state? Do they believe they are children of wrath ? Do they believe there is no salvů tion without regeneration ? and no regeneration but what makes man a new creature? if you believe the promises of the word, why do you not embrace them, and labour to enter into the promised rest? What sluggard would not dig for a hid treasure, if he really believed he might so obtain it? Men will work and sweat for a maintenance; because they believe that by so doing they will get it; yet they will be at no tolerable pains for “ the eternal weight of glory;" why, but because they do not believe the word of promise ? Heb. iv. 1, 2. If you believe the threatenings, how is it that you live in your sins, live out of Christ, and yet hope for mercy? Do such believe God to be the holy and just one, who will by no means clear the guilty ?