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to satisfy our natural desire, but for God; even to propound this in our sitting down to it, in obedience to him; to use these helps of life, and the life itself, to be spent in his obedience, and endeavour of ad vancing his glory.
It is a most shameful idol, a dunghill-god indeed, to serve the belly, and to delight in feastings, or in our ordinary repast, laying the reins loose on our appetite to take its own career. And yet in this they most commonly offend, even persons that are not notably intemperate, neither gluttonous nor drunken, and
say, have not that holy retained bridled way of using their repast, with an eye upon an higher end.
But this sobriety, in its ample sense, binds not only that sense of lust, but all the rest in the use of their several delights, yea and in the whole man; all the affections of the soul, in relation to this world, and the things of it, to be in it as weaned from it, and raised above it in the bent of our minds; to use it as if we used it not b.
This we speak and hear of, but do not apply ourselves really to this rule. Each hath some trifle or earthly vanity, one or more, but especially some choice one, that they cannot be taken off from, as children readily have some toy that they set more by than the rest. We have childish hearts cleaving to vanity; one hankering after some preferment, another after some estate, lands, or houses, or money, and we are drunk in the pursuit of these; so that when our hearts should be fixed on divine exercises they cannot stand, but reel to and fro, or stumble down and fall asleep, roving after these thoughts of that which we affect, staggering ever and anon, or else so plunged in them all the time, that we are as asleep in them.
Therefore these two are here, and ordinarily joined, Be sober and watchful. Glutting ourselves either with the delights, or with the desires and cares of earth, makes us sleepy; the fumes that arise from them surcharge us, and cast us into a deep sleep; a secure unminding of God and of ourselves, the interest of our immortal souls.
b 1 Cor', yii. 31.
The pleasures of sense are too gross for the divine soul, divine I call it, for so by original it is; but we abase it, and make it flesh by those gross earthly things, and make it unfit to rise heavenwards. As insobriety, intemperance in diet, prejudices the very natural spirits, making them dull, clogs their passage, and makes them move as a coach in a miry way; thus doth all inordinate use and love of inferior things; it makes the soul of a low heavy constitution, that it cannot move freely in any thing that is spiritual. . Yea, where there is some truth of grace, yet it is obstructed and dulled by taking in too much of the world, and feeding on it; which is no more proper for the finest part of the man, for the soul, than the coarse plowman's diet is for delicate tender bodies of higher breeding, yea, the disproportion is far greater.
If then you would have free spirits for spiritual things, keep them at a spare diet in all things temporal. Let not out your hearts to any thing here below. Learn to delight in God, and seek to taste of his transcendent sweetness, that will perfectly disrelish all lower delights; so your sobriety in abstaining from them shall be still further recompensed with more enjoyment of God; and you shall not lose pleasure by denying the pleasures of earth, but shall change them for those that are unspeakably better and purer in their stead; he shall communicate himself unto you, the light of whose countenance feeds and satisfies the glorified spirits that are about his throne.
Be vigilant.] This watchfulness, joined with sobriety, extends to all the estates and ways of a Christian, being surrounded with hazards and snares. He that despiseth his way shall die, says Solomon “; the most do thus walk at random, give attendance on public worship, and have some customary way
a Prov. xix, 16.
of private prayer; but further do not regard how they walk, what is their carriage all the day long, what they speak, how they are in company, and how alone, which way their hearts go early and late, what it is that steals away most of their affection from God.
Oh! my beloved, did we know our continual danger, it would shake us out of this miserable dead security that possesses us. We think not on it, but there are snares laid for us all the way, in each path we walk in, and each step of it; in our meat and drink; in our calling and labour; in our house at home; in our journeying abroad; yea, even in God's house, and in our spiritual exercises, both there and in private. Knew we, or, at least, considered we this, we would choose our steps more exactly, and look to our ways, to our words, our thoughts, which truly, whatsoever noise we make, we really do not. Ponder the path of thy feet, says Solomon; and before that, Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye-lids look straight before thee. And further, Put away a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
But first of all, as the main reason and spring of all, Keep thy heart with all diligence, or above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life.
Because your adversary the devil.] An alarm to watchfulness is here given, from the watchfulness of our grand adversary. There be other two usually ranked with him, as the leading enemies of our souls, the world and our own flesh; but here he is expressly named who commands in chief, and orders and manages the war, uses the service of the other two against us, ás prime officers, under which most of the forces of particular temptations are ranked. Some others there be which he immediately commands and leads on himself, a regiment of his own, some spiritual temptations.
And we have need to be put in mind of the hostility and practices of Satan against us; for if the most were put to it, they would be forced to confess that they very seldom think on their spiritual danger from this hand: As we keep loose guard against the allurements of the world, and of our own.corruption, we watch not against the devices of Satan, but go on by guess, and suspect nothing, and so are easily a prey to all.
b Proy. iv. 25,
The least enemy being despised and neglected, as men observe, proves often too great; the smallest appearances of evil, the least things that may prejudice our spiritual good, while we make no reckoning of them, may do us great mischief. Our not considering them makes them become considerable, especially being under the command of a vigilant and skilful leader, that knows how to improve advantages: Therefore, in things, which we many times account petty, and not worthy our notice, as having any evil in them, we should learn to suspect the address of this adversary, who usually hides himself, and couches under some covert, till be may appear irresistible, seize on us, and then indeed he roars.
And this seeking the destruction of souls, is, you see, marked as all his work. The prey he hunts is souls, that they may be as miserable as himself: Therefore he is justly called our adversary; the enemy of holiness, and of our souls, tempting to sin, and then accusing for sin, as his name here imports; appearing against us upon the advantages he hath gained. He studies our nature, and fits his temptations to it; knows the prevalency of lust, or earthliness, or that great and most general evil of pride, so like himself, and that is his throne in the heart. Sometimes he boweth down, as it is said of the lion'. He waits his opportunity craftily, and then assaults fiercely; and the children of God find sometimes so much violence of his temptations, that they surprise them; and the most horrid thoughts are cast in, as poisoned arrows, or fiery darts, as the Apostle speaks" And this his enmity, though it is against man in general, yet is most enraged against
c Psal. x. 9, 10. d Eph. vi. 16.
the children of God; he goes about and spies where we are weakest, and amongst them most against those that are most advanced in holiness, and nearest unto God.
They were once under his power, and now being escaped from him, he pursues them, as Pharaoh did the Israelites, with all his forces, raging and roaring after them, as a prey that was once in his den, and under his paw, and now is rescued.
The resemblance hath in it, his strength, his diligence, and his cruelty. His strength, a lion; his diligence, going about and seeking; his cruelty, roaring, and seeking to devour.
Inf. Is it not most reasonable hence to press watchfulness ? and to keep continual watch, to see what comes in, and what goes out; to try what is under every offer of the world; every motion of our own natural hearts, whether there be not some treachery, some secret intelligence or not? especially after a time of some special seasons of grace, and some special new supplies of grace received in such seasons; as after the holy sacrament, then will he set on most eagerly, when he knows of the richest booty. The pirates that let the ships pass as they go by empty, watch them well when they return richly laden: So doth this great pirate. Did he not assault' our Saviour straight after his baptism? πειράζων. .
And, that we may watch, it concerns us to be sober. The instruction is military, and a drunk soldier is not fit to be on the watch. This most of ụs are with our several fancies and vanities, and so exposed to this adversary, yea, when we have gained some advantage in a conflict, or when the enemy seems to retire and be gone, yet even then are we to be watchful, yea, then especially. How many, presuming on false safeties that way, and sitting down to carouse, or lying down to sleep, have been re-assaulted and cut off. Oh! beware when you think yourselves most safe; that very thought
* Invadunt urbem somno vinoque sepultam.