How the Christian might know whether heaven be the prize he chiefly desires 2/2

 (b) A gracious heart pursues earthly things with a holy indifferency, saving the violence and zeal of his spirit for the things of heaven.  He useth the former as if he used them not—with a kind of non-attendancy; his head and his heart is taken up with higher matters, how he may please God, thrive in his grace, enjoy more intimate communion with Christ in his ordinances; in all these he spreads all his sails, plies all his oars, strains every part and power.  Thus we find David upon his full speed, ‘My soul presseth hard after thee,’ Ps. 63.  And, before the ark, we find him dancing with all his might.  Now a carnal heart is clean contrary, his zeal is for the world, and his indif­ferency in the things of God; he prays as if he did not pray, &c., he sweats in his shop, but chills and grows cold in his closet.  O how hard to pulley him up to a duty of God’s worship, or to get him out to an ordin­ance?  No weather shall keep him from the market; [let it] rain, blow, or snow, he goes thither; but if the church-path be a little wet, or the air somewhat cold, it is apology enough for him if his pew be empty. When he is about any worldly business, he is as earnest at it as the idolatrous smith in hammering of his image, who, the prophet saith, ‘worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh not, and is faint,’ Isa. 44:12.  So zealous is the muck-worm in his worldly employments, that he will pinch his carcase, and deny himself his repast in due season, to pursue that.  The kitchen there will wait on the shop; but in the wor­ship of God, it is enough to make him sick of the ser­mon, and angry with the preacher, if he be kept be­yond his hour.  Here the sermon must give place to the kitchen.  So the man for his pleasures and carnal pastime; he tells no clock at his sports, and knows not how the day goes; when night comes he is angry that it takes him off.  But at any heavenly work, O how is the man punished! time now hath leaden heels he thinks.  All he does at a sermon is to tell the clock, and see how the glass runs.  If men were not willing to deceive themselves, surely they might know which way their heart goes, by the swift motion, or the hard tugging, and slow pace it stirs, as well as they know in a boat, whether they row against the tide, or with it.

           (c) The Christian useth these things with a holy fear, lest earth should rob heaven, and his outward enjoyments prejudice his heavenly interest.  He eats in fear, works in fear, rejoiceth in his abundance with fear.  As Job sancti­fied his children by offering a sacri­fice, out of a fear lest they had sinned; so the Chris­tian is continually sanctifying his earthly enjoyments by prayer, that so he may be delivered from the snare of them.

  1. Particular.  [Observe thy heart] in keeping of earthly things.  The same heavenly law, which the Christian went by in getting, he observes in holding, them.  As he dares not say he will be rich and honourable in the world, but if God will; so neither that he will hold what he hath.  He only keeps them, until his heavenly Father calls for them, that at first gave them.  If God will continue them to him, and entail them on his posterity too, he blesseth God; and so he desires to do also when he takes them away.  Indeed, God’s meaning in the great things of the world, which sometimes he throws in upon the saints, is chiefly to give them the greater advantage of expressing their love to him, in denying them for his sake.  God never intended by that strange providence, in bringing Moses to Pharaoh’s court, to settle him there in worldly pomp and grandeur.  A carnal heart, indeed, would have expounded providence, and inter­preted it as a fair occasion put into his hands by God, to have advanced himself into the throne—which some say he might in time have done—but as an opportunity to make his faith and self-denial more eminently conspicuous, in throwing all these at his heels, for which he hath so honourable a remem­brance among the Lord’s worthies, Heb. 11:24,25.  And truly a gracious soul reckons he cannot make so much of his worldly interests any other way, as by offering them up for Christ’s sake.  However that traitor thought Mary’s ointment might have been carried to a better market, yet no doubt that good woman herself was only troubled that she had not one more precious to pour on her dear Saviour’s head. This makes the Christian ever to hold the sacrificing knife at the throat of his worldly enjoyments, ready to offer them up when God calls. Overboard they shall go, rather than hazard a wreck to faith or a good conscience; he sought them in the last place, and therefore he will part with them in the first.  Naboth will hazard the king’s anger—which at last cost him his life—rather than sell an acre or two of land which was his birthright.  The Christian will expose all he hath in this world to preserve his hopes for another.  Jacob, in his march towards Esau, sent his servants with his flocks before, and came himself with his wives behind; if he can save anything from his brother’s rage, it shall be what he loves best: if the Christian can save anything, it shall be his soul, his interest in Christ and heaven, and then no matter if the rest go, even then he can say, not as Esau to Jacob, I have “9 (rÇv), a great deal, but as Jacob to him, I have -, (kÇl), all, all I want, all I desire, Gen. 33:9,11; as David expresseth it, ‘This is all my salva­tion, and all my desire,’ II Sam. 23:5.  Now try whether thy heart be tuned to this note: Does heaven give law to thy earthly enjoyments?—wouldst thou not keep thy honour, estate, no, not life itself, to prejudice thy heavenly nature and hopes?  Which wouldst thou choose, if thou couldst not keep both—a whole skin or a sound conscience?  It was a strange answer, if true, which the historian saith Henry V. gave to his father, who had usurped the crown, and now dying, sent for his son, to whom he said, ‘Fair son, take the crown (which stood on his pillow by his head), but God knows how I came by it.’  He answered, ‘I care not how you came by it; now I have it, I will keep it as long as my sword can defend it.’  He that keeps earth by wrong, cannot expect heaven by right.

 

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