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people die with, that we may see the vanity of the world, the misery of sin, the greatness of eternity, and the want of God, as they see it, who stand upon the brink of another world.
This is the great and happy work of self-denial, which is to fill us with a spirit of wisdom, to awaken us into a true knowledge of ourselves, and show us who, and where, and what we are. Till this selfdenial has put a stop to our follies, and opened our eyes, our life is but a sleep, a dream, a mere succession of shadows; and we act with as little reason and judgment, as a child that is pleased with blowing about a feather. We must therefore not only deny our wicked and sinful inclinations, but also all our follies, impertinences, and vain satisfactions; for as plain and known sins harden and corrupt, so impertinencies and false satisfactions delude and blind our hearts, and render them insensible of our real misery, or true happiness.
We are true members of the kingdom of God, when the kingdom of God is within us, when the Spirit of religion is the spirit of our lives; when seated in our hearts, it diffuses itself into all our motions: when we are wise by its wisdom, sober by its sobriety, and humble by its humility; when it is the principle of all our thoughts and desires, the spring of all our hopes and fears; when we like and dislike, seek and avoid, mourn and rejoice, as becomes those who are born again of God. Now this is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, to give us a new understanding, a new judgment, temper, taste, and relish, new desires, and new hopes and fears. So far, therefore, as we prepare ourselves by self-denial for this change of heart and mind, so far we invite the assistance, and concur with the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. And so far as we nourish any foolish passion, indulge any vanity of mind, or corruption of heart; so far we resist the graces of God's Holy Spirit, and render ourselves indisposed to relish and improve his secret inspiratious. Christians are therefore to consider themselves, not only as men that are to act by a principle of reason, but as spiritual beings, who have a higher principle of life within them, and are to live by the wisdom and instructions of the Spirit of God.
As reasonable men would do every thing that tended to strengthen and improve their reason; so wise Christians ought to practise every way of life, that can fit them for farther degrees of grace, that can strengthen and preserve their union with the Spirit of God. For as a man without reason, has but the figure of a man; so a Christian without the Spirit of God, has but the form of a Christian. And as the perfection of a man consists in the highest improvement of his reason; so the perfection of a Christian consists in his growth in grace, in the spiritual turn and temper of his heart and mind. Here therefore must we fix all our care and concern, that we may remove all hinderances of divine grace, and preserve this kingdom of God within us; that we may be truly spiritual in all our ways and designs, and indulge no tempers that may lessen our union with the Spirit of God.
Some persons will perhaps refrain from grief, when they find that it hurts their eyes; they will avoid passion and anger, if it ends in pains of the head; but they would do well to consider that these tempers are to be abstained from upon much greater accounts. Passion may disorder our bodies, waste our spirits, and leave pains in our heads; but it leaves greater marks of injury in our better part, as it throws us into a state of madness, and banishes the Holy Spirit of peace and gentleness, and prepares us for the suggestions of the spirit of darkness. Grief may hurt our eyes, but it much more hurts our souls, as it sinks them into a state of gloom and darkness, which expels and quenches the Spirit of God; for light may as well unite with darkness, as
the Spirit of God dwell with the gloomy dulness and horror of stupid grief. What I have observed of these two passions, ought to be concluded of every other passion and temper; we are to consider it as it suits with, or resists that new Spirit, by whose holy motions we are to be preserved in a state of holiness.
Now seeing this change of our hearts, and newness of spirit, is the whole of religion; we must fear and avoid all irregularity of spirit, every unreasonable temper, because it affects us in the seat of life, because it hurts us in our principal part, and makes us less capable of the graces, and less obedient to the motions of God's Holy Spirit. We must labour after a state of peace, satisfaction, and thankfulness, free from the folly of vain hopes, idle fears, and false anxieties, that our souls may be disposed to feel the joys, to rejoice in the comforts, and advance in the graces of the Holy Ghost.
With what care and exactness we are to conduct ourselves, with regard to the Spirit of God, is fully set forth in the following words: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers ; and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph. iv. 29. That we may not here mistake what is meant by corrupt communications, that we may not fancy it only implies sinful and wicked discourse, the apostle adds---but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. So that it is a conversation that does not edify and profit the hearer, that the apostle condemus as corrupt, and such as is to be avoided. Let it be observed, that the apostle does not prohibit this kind of conversation, because it is useless, impertinent, and better to be avoided; but for a reason of the utmost consequence, that we may not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. This shows us, that we Christians are to govern ourselves by no less a rule than a conformity to the Spirit of God; that we are not only to deny ourselves vain and foolish actions, but also idle and unedifying discourse, and conduct ourselves in all our behaviour with such a spirit of wisdom and purity, as may make the Holy Ghost delight to dwell in us. This rule of perfection is highly conformable to the nature of our religion. For as our religion consists in a new heart and new spirit; it is certain that we are then only arrived to the true state of our religion, when it governs our words and actions, and is the constant temper of our minds at all times, and on all occasions. A covetous man is not only covetous, when he is in his counting-room, he is the same person, and governed by the same temper and way of thinking wherever he is. And the same thing is equally true of every way of life, when it has once entered into our heart, and become a settled temper; it is not occasionally exercised in this or that place, or at set times; but is always in being, and constantly disposing us to thoughts, and words, and actions suitable to it.
Some persons seem to know so little of religion, that they confine it to acts of devotion, and public occasions of divine service; they do not consider that it consists in a new heart and new spirit, and that acts of devotion, prayer and preaching, watchings, fastings, and sacraments, are only to fill us with this new heart and spirit, and make it the common constant spirit of our lives every day and in every place.
A man may be said to have some regard for religion, who is regular at places of divine worship; but he cannot be reckoned of a religious spirit, till it is his spirit in every place, and on every occasion; till he lives and breathes by it, and thinks, and speaks, and acts according to its motions.
A man may frequent meetings for mirth; but
yet, if when he is out of them, he gives himself unto peevishness, chagrin and dulness, I presume no one will say that such a man is of a cheerful spirit. It is easy to make the application here, if we are only attendants at places of religion; if when we are out of those places, we are of another spirit, I do not say proud or covetous, but vain and foolish; if our actions are silly, and conversation trifling and impertinent, our tempers vain and worldly, we are no more of a religious spirit, than a dull and peevish man is of a cheerful spirit, because he is regular at some set meetings for mirth. • If a person of pride and vanity in the general course of his life, should yet think himself humble, because he had his appointed times of praying for kumility, we might justly say of him, that he knew nothing of the nature of that virtue: in like manner, if one, whose conversation, whose discourse, and carriage, and temper in common life, are not according to the spirit of religion, should yet think himself religious, because he had his appointed places of prayer, it might be justly said of him, that he was a stranger to the nature of true religion. For religion is not ours till we live by it; till it is the religion of our thoughts, words, and actions; till it goes with us into every place; sits uppermost on every occasion; and forms and governs our hopes and fears, our cares and pleasures. He is the religious man who watches and guards his spirit, and endeavours to be always in the temper of religion; who worships God in every place by a purity of behaviour; wlio is as fearful of foolish thoughts, irregular tempers, and vain imaginations, at one time as at another; who is as wise and heavenly at home, or in the field, as in the house of God. For when once religion has got possession of a man's heart, and is become, as it ought to be, his ruling temper; it is as agreeable to such a one in all places, and at all times, to speak and act according to its directions,