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real heavėn, setting aside all circumstances of place, &c. the perfect and proper happiness of a soul, to fee God, Mark v. 8. to be like unto him, John iii. 2. to converse with the father by the fon, as our Saviour - hath told us, who best knew it, John xvii. 3. This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou haft fent, By this it is that God dwells in the soul, and the soul in God, as we shall see hereafter, and the kingdom of heaven doth really enter into every believer.
3. The natural man is utterly unwilling and unable to converse with God. An earthly mountain may as soon rise up to heaven by its power and good will, as an earthly mind: and fuch minds are natural and unregenerate. Sin, as I hinted before, is a falling from God, a finking of the soul into self, whether sensual felf, or spiritual self, and a Ihrivelling of it up into the creature, and the finful soul is always, like a shadow, moving upon the surface of the earth, and higher it cannot get, Rom. viii. 5. Would you know what is the principal object of a natural man's admiration, inclination, and ambition? The pfalmift will tell you, it is some created good, Pfal. iv. 6, 7. Will you know what is the disposition of the natural man towards the supreme and uncreated good; the apostle will tell you it is ignorance and enmity, 1 Cor. ii. Rom. viii. 7. The carnal mind is enmity against God. This high duty of conversing with God in a right manner is besides the temper of the wicked man: never any
perform it. It is a contradicttion : a wicked man converfing with God, is, as if one thould say, an ungodly
man, that is godly: but that is not all, this duty is not only out of the hands of a wicked
man, but out of his reach too: Neither can he know him, faith the apostle to the Corinthians and again to the Romans: Neither can he be subject to him. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Saith the prophet. Can man walk with God, converse with God, except he be reconciled to him ? and what agreement, but by a mediator? What mediator between God and '
man but Christ Jesus, who is a mediator as the logicians call a medium participationis, who is God-man? In a word, some converse with one thing in the world, and some with another, as I noted before ; but all converse prins cipally and mainly with the creature, that are not regenerated by grace, reconciled by Chrift,
4. It is the duty of man in all ages of life, at all times, and in all places and conditions, to converse with God. It is a necessary, natural, certain, constant duty, springing up out of the very nature and na. tural will of God, and out of the very nature and relation and capacity of the reasonable soul, binding semper and as semper, as the school-men speak, and of admitting of no dispensation or diminution, There is no time wherein it is not a duty, or wherein it is less a duty than at another time: however, we are apt to give to ourselves many
relaxations from it. The first fruits, nay, the buds of the tender soul, and of the springing faculties; these are due to God, and ought to be dedicated to him, Ecclef. xii. 1. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Manhood is not allowed so to attend unto cares and exploits, nor old age to pains and griefs, as to neglect converse
with God: but whether young men build or plant,
fight or ftudy, or work, or marry, or manage the affairs of the house or of the field, all thould be undertaken and carried on in a way of converse and fellowship with God: or whether old men fit and muse, and meditate, or lie under the pains and grievances of decrepid age, ftill it ought to be in the Lord. Neither doth this duty admit of interruption, more than of cessation: there is no difpensation given us from this duty, as in no age, so in no hour of life. As we cannot live a moment out of God, so neither ought we to live a moment without God in the world. We ought continually to endeavour to walk in subservience to, and converse with God, yea, and as far as may be, in a feeling converse with him too. Holy David witnesseth of himself that the fear of God was continually before his eyes, and that he did continually converse with God, for fo those words may be understood, Psal lxxiii. 23. I am continually with thee. The like is recorded of many other saints, both in the old and new testaments; concerning whom one may well say, as the queen of Sheba concerning the servants of Solomon, and with much better reason, 1 Kings x. 8. Happy are these thy servants, O Lord, which fand continually before thee! Neither is it the duty of some few men, that have the greatest knowledge or the most leisure. For it springs up out of the relation of a creature, and out of the very nature of the rational soul; so that no foul of man is exempted from it, however many ignorant and profane persons live rather in a professed independence upon God. Neither is it a duty only upon supposition of leisure and freedom from
wordly business, as some other things are, but is equally incumbent upon prince and peasant, upon him that fits in his closet, and upon him that ploughs in the field ; yea they that go down unto the sea in ships, ought to go up unto heaven in their hearts ; and not only to converse with the clouds, which they often do, but above them too. A handful of earth, and a heart full of heaven may well stand together; for as this duty justles out no honest business, so neither should itself be justled out by any. And as this high and excellent duty agrees to all ages and times and persons, so it agrees to all conditions too: poor men think that rich men may well do it, and rich men think that poor men had need to do it: Prosperity thinks it had better things to mind than a God, and Adversity knows it hath worse things, but it must buy them: Plenty is too full to entertain them, and Poverty hath enough to do to bear up under its own burden: Learning knows how, but will not ; Ignorance says it would, but knows not how; but notwithstanding all this shuffling, the obligation to this duty ceases not: none so high as to be above it, none so mean as to be below it ; for rich and poor, high and low, learned and unlearned, prince and peasant, though they are divided amongst themselves by punctilios and leffer differences, yet they are united in one universal being, meet in one and the same center, agree in the common capacity of reasonable creatures. As religion hath an interest and a concernment in the whole of the conversation, according to that of the apostle, Phil. iii. 20. Our conversation is in heaven, so also hath it a room in the conversation
of every man in every capacity: no relation, condition, action, change is exempted from the powerful influence thereof; fo the apostle describes himself, by his living in all good conscience before God all along, Aets xxiii. 1. and by his exercising himself in this thing, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men, Aets xxiv. 16.
Now the fifth step in order, would be, that it is more especially the duty of God's people to study to converse with him aright in the way of bis judgments, which is the doctrine it felf, which I must not come to confirm, till I have shewed according to my promise in the second place, what it is for the foul to converse with God, and how it comes to converse with him.
Not to name those too low and improper no. tions that men ordinarily have of this high and fpiritual matter, conversing with God, to speak properly of it, is a complex act of the foul, whereby it entertains God into itself, and renders itself back again to him; receives impressions from him, and gives up itself again to him; is first filled with him, and then empties itself into him. conceive of it after the fimilitude of a plant, that is influenced by the benign beams of the sun; and in those beams spreads itself, and in the virtue and power of them grows up towards heaven; or after the similitude of a river, that is continually filled with the ocean, and is continually emptying itself into the same. This seems to be our Saviour's elegant allusion, John iv. 14. where he compares a divine and godly principle in the soul, to a well of water springing out from God;