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The followers of Jesus Christ are frequently described in the inspired writings as persons who, in this world, are “strangers and pilgrims," who have here “no continuing city, but seek one to come.” Spiritual-mindedness is that state of mind which naturally belongs to, and becomes those, who answer to this description; who, knowing that there “remaineth a rest for the people of God," and deeply feeling its glory and excellence, ardently desire and humbly wait for it. It implies, therefore, a settled and decided preference of heavenly things; the mortification of worldly desires, and the continual growth of those which are spiritual. It is a temper, not an affection. It is fed and cherished by every holy disposition; it embraces and sustains them all.
The spiritual-mindedness of a Christian has but little in common with those contemplative and abstract dispositions which were formerly in considerable credit among the Platonists and Stoics, as well as in one of the principal schools of Indian philosophy. It is natural for men who think and feel deeply, to be dissatisfied with ordinary pleasures, and to discover the superiority of intellectual to sensitive gratifications; and some may be expected to arise in every cultivated age who will push these truths a little further, and withdrawing themselves in a considerable measure from the influence of external things, will endeavour to find a higher happiness in the exercise of their reason, or the indulgence of a glowing and creative imagination. It is harsh to speak contemptuously of such practices: the best and highest minds could travel onward but a little way under the darkness of Paganism; and philosophy, doubtless, was religion to the heathen world, Yet it would be difficult I believe, to shew, that the
masters of ancient wisdom ordinarily attempted more than to ascertain what is the proper perfection of man in his present state. The immortality of the soul was indeed, an article of faith; at least in the Academy; but its future destiny was so enveloped in the shades of a metaphysical mysticism *, that we cannot easily suppose it to have furnished any motives of action, beyond those which the voice of nature and conscience will supply. Who can be seriously or practically affected by hearing, that after death his spirit shall undergo all sorts of inconceivable lustrations, and finally, be absorbed into the Deity? The extreme ignorancet, too, which universally prevailed, respecting the nature and character of God, made it impossible, even for the wisest, to venture far into futurity. They could reason with a tolerable degree of certainty on the connection of causes with their consequences, under the existing economy of things; but who could speculate with any confidence as to an ulterior dispensation, without first ascertaining the power, and attributes, and dispositions of Him who can alone ordain it? The Christian, on the contrary, founds his disregard of worldly things, chiefly upon those truths which the Gospel has revealed to usan acquaintance with the true God, and the assurance of an everlasting rest to all his faithful servants. His improvement and sanctification in this life, he chiefly desires as a
* See Somnium Scipionis, and Æneid. Lib. vi.
+ Of the general ignorance respecting God we may form some idea, by considering that the Stoics, one of the most learned, most moral, and most respectable sects of antiquity, either were Atheists, (as War. burton insists), or held such a multiplicity of deities as was scarcely at all removed from the most vulgar superstition. Vid. Cicero de Nat. Deor. Lib. 2.
becoming tribute of gratitude to his Redeemer, and an indispensable qualification for future happiness. He feels indeed, its value even in the midst of infirmity, and blesses God for the meanest pledge of his ultimate perfection; but he knows that its true glory and excellence will thens only be ascertained when the “creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of: the children of God."
The prospect of everlasting salvation presented to Chris tians by the Gospel is so unspeakably glorious and affecting, that it may well excite astonishment, as well as sorrow, to observe how small is its influence upon mankind, compared with the authority which even a moment's reflection convinces us it ought to possess. Should some angelic company, travelling through the empire of their Creator, arrive for the first time on the confines of our orb; and having gazed awhile on the surrounding objects, be informed, that to the mortal myriads whom they beheld, the gates of everlasting happiness had been opened by their God and Saviour; what do we imagine would be their first feeling? Would they not conclude, even with intuitive rapidity, that the multitudes, whom they saw so busily oceupied, were all engaged in preparing themselves for that glorious inheritance, their hearts beating high with hope, and overflowing with grateful adoration? And when, after gazing a little longer, they should ascertain the real anxieties and business and pleasures of men, what, think we, must be the second emotion?
Dim sadness would not spare, That day, celestial visages *
* Par. Lost, Lib. 10.
In truth, the phenomenon is so strange that it admits but of one satisfactory solution; "that man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil *.” Were the profane and wicked alone engrossed with worldly concerns, and indisposed to contemplate an inheritance which they neither hope nor desire to possess, it might be a subject of little astonishment. But what shall we say of that too numerous class of Christians, who believe that they are heirs of heaven, who trust in the blood of their Redeemer, and yet are as busy with "the cares and riches and pleasures of this life," as if these were their proper portion? Nay, ask the very best, the most holy and experienced servant of his Saviour, and I doubt not he would confess, even with tears, that it is with difficulty he maintains but for a few days an undisturbed and lively perception of heavenly things; that after the most delightful spiritual exercises, full of joy and consolation, a slight temptation, a moderate sorrow, is often sufficient to fill him with distress and perplexity; that "he finds a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, so that he cannot do the things he would t." Real spirituality of mind is one of the last and highest attainments of the Christian life. Of this truth our own experience ought to have informed us. That it is a prize
Articles of Religion, IX. + This statement seems to be justified by the accounts given, from private documents, in the memoirs of many pious men. There is a letter in Orton's Life of Dr. Doddridge, which is remarkable to this effect; and it is the more valuable, because that excellent man was not only eminent for piety from his early youth, but was naturally of a cheerful disposition, and at all periods of his life peculiarly free from enthusiasm and superstition.
which deserves every sacrifice, the Apostle surely has determined, in declaring it to be “life and peace.”
What then are the most effectual means of acquiring this heavenly temper? Three chiefly may be noticed: and the first of these is Prayer.
The corruption and weakness of our nature, the necessity of spiritual strength, and the efficacy of prayer for obtaining what we need, are truths which can scarcely be said to be known at all to any but Christians, and which certainly are fully and deeply apprehended, only where they have been learned experimentally. “ If I were a Christian” (sajd a noble Lord to Bishop Burnet), “ I would outlive you all.” The good Bishop might well have answered -“If you were a Christian, you would know yourself better.” How different has been the language of holy men in every age! “When I was young,” (says the pious and excellent Mr. Newton), “ I thought I should soon obtain the mastery over myself, and arrive at a state of secure and established holiness. But I find that I must
down to my grave a poor unhappy sinner, dependent upon my Saviour for every thing, at the last as at the first*."--The great obstacles to spiritual-mindedness (as to every
other Christian excellence), are undoubtedly to be found within our own bosoms. They are laid in the deepest recesses of the heart; inwoven with the essential principles of our nature. He only can subdue them who is the “Lord and Giver of Life ;” and by his power they certainly will be mortified more and more, even until that day, when “ this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal im.
* I quote from memory, not having the book at hand. The words, probably, are somewhat different; but the sentiment is the same.