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especial duties, I had not at this day been thus sick, weak, thriftless, wounded, decayed, defiled. My careless, my deceived mind, hath been the beginning of sin and transgression unto my soul. And this discovery will direct the soul unto a suitable way for its healing and recovery, which will never be effected by a multiplying of particular duties, but by a restoring of the mind, Psal. xxiii. 3.
And this also doth hence appear to be the great means of preserving our souls, both as unto their general frame and particular duties, according to the mind and will of God; namely, to endeavour after a sound and steadfast mind. It is a signal grace to have the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. i. 7. A stable, solid, resolved mind in the things of God, not easily moved, diverted, changed, not drawn aside, a mind not apt to hearken after corrupt reasonings, vain insinuations, or pretences to draw it off from its duty. This is that which the apostle exhorts believers unto, 1 Cor. xv. 38. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.' The steadfastness of our minds abiding in their duty, is the cause of all our unmoveableness and fruitfulness in obedience. And so Peter tells us, that those who are by any means led away, or enticed, they fall from their own steadfastness ;' 2 Pet. iii. 7. And the great blame that is laid upon backsliders, is, that they are not steadfast, Psal. lxxviii. 37. “Their spirit was not steadfast.' For if the soul be safe, unless the mind be drawn off from its duty, the soundness and steadfastness of the mind is its great preservative. And there are three parts of this steadfastness of the mind. First, A full purpose of cleaving to God in all things. Secondly, A daily renovation and quickening of the heart unto a discharge of this purpose. Thirdly, Resolutions against all dalliances or parlies about negligences in that discharge; which are not here to be spoken unto.
T'he deceit of sin in drawing off the mind from its attendance unto parti
cular duties farther discovered. Several things required in the mind of of believers, with respect unto particular duties of obedience. The actings of sin in a way of deceit, to divert the mind
from them. We have not as yet brought unto an issue the first way of the working of the deceit of sin; namely, in its drawing away of the mind from the discharge of its duty, which we insist upon the longer, upon a double account.
First, Because of its importance and concernment. If the mind be drawn off, if it be tainted, weakened, turned aside from a due and strict attendance unto its charge and office, the whole soul, will, and affections, are certainly entangled and drawn intosin, as hath been in part declared, and will afterward farther appear. This we ought therefore to give diligent heed unto, which is the design of the apostle's exhortation, Heb. ï. 1. . Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.' It is a failure of our minds, by the deceitfulness of sin, in losing the life, power, sense, and impression of the word which he cautions us against. And there is no way to prevent it, but by giving of most earnest heed unto the things which we have heard,' which expresseth the whole duty of our minds in attending unto obedience.
Secondly, Because the actings and workings of the mind being spiritual, are such as the conscience, unless clearly enlightened, and duly excited and stirred up, is not affected withal, so as to take due notice of them. Conscience is not apt to exercise reflex acts upon the mind's failures, as principally respecting the acts of the whole soul. When the affections are entangled with sin (of which afterward), or the will begins to conceive it by its express consent, conscience is apt to make an uproar in the soul, and to give it no rest or quiet until the soul be reclaimed, or itself be one way or other bribed or debauched. But these neglects of the mind being spiritual, without very diligent attendance, they are seldom taken notice of. Our minds are often in the Scriptures called our spirits; as Rom. i. 9. Whom I serve in my
spirit;' and are distinguished from the soul, which principally intends the affections in that distribution, 1 Thess. v. 23. 'Sanctify you wholly, your whole spirit and soul;' that is, your mind and affections. It is true, where the spirit is used to express spiritual gifts, it is as unto those gifts opposed to our understandings, 1 Cor. xiv. 15. which is there taken for the first act of the mind in a rational perception of things. But as that word is applied unto any faculty of our souls, it is the mind that it expresseth. This then being our spirit, the actings of it are secret and hidden, and not to be discovered without spiritual wisdom and diligence. Let us not suppose then that we dwell too long on this consideration, which is of so great importance to us, and yet so hidden, and which we are apt to be very insensible of; and yet our carefulness in this matter is one of the best evidences that we have of our sincerity. Let us not then be like a man that is sensible, and complains of a cut finger, but not of a decay of spirits tending unto death. There remains therefore as unto this head of our discourse, the consideration of the charge of the mind in reference unto particular duties and sins; and in the consideration of it we shall do these two things :
1. Shew what is required in the mind of a believer, in reference unto particular duties.
2. Declare the way of the working of the deceit of sin, to draw it off from its attendance thereunto. The like also shall be done with respect unto particular sins, and their avoidance.
(1.) For the right performance of any duty, it is not enough that the thing itself required be performed, but that it be universally squared and fitted unto the rule of it. Herein lies the great duty of the mind; namely, to attend unto the rule of duties, and to take care that all the concernments of them be ordered thereby. Our progress in obedience is our edification or building. Now it is but a very little furtherance unto a building, that a man bring wood and stones, and heap them up together without order : they must be hewed and squared, and fitted by line and rule, if we intend to build. Nor is it unto any advantage unto our edification in faith and obedience, that we multiply duties, if we heap them upon one another, if we order and dispose
them not according to rule: and therefore doth God expressly reject a multitude of duties, when not universally suited unto the rule, Isa. i. 11. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices ?' and ver. 14. . They are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.' And therefore all acceptable obedience is called a proceeding according unto rule, Gal. vi. 16. it is a canonical, or regular obedience. As letters in the alphabet heaped together signify nothing, unless they are disposed into their proper order, no more do our duties without this disposal. That they be so is the great duty of the mind, and which with all diligence it is to attend unto, Ephes. v. 15. · Walk circumspectly,’exactly, accurately; that is, diligently in all things, take heed to the rule of what you do. We walk in duties, but we walk circumspectly in this attention of the mind.
(1.) There are some special things which the rule directs unto, that the mind is to attend in every duty; as,
[1.] That as to the matter of it, it be full and complete. Under the law, no beast was allowed to be a sacrifice that had any member wanting, any defect of parts. Such were rejected, as well as those that were lame or blind. Duties must be complete as to the parts, the matter of them. There may be such a part of the price kept back, as may make the tendering of all the residue unacceptable. Saul sparing Agag, and the fattest of the cattle, rendered the destroying of all the rest useless. Thus, when men will give alms, or perform other services, but not unto the proportion that the rule requireth, and which the mind by diligent attention unto it might discover, the whole duty is vitiated.
[2.] As to the principle of it, namely, that it be done in faith, and therein by an actual derivation of strength from Christ, John xv. 5. without whom we can do nothing. It is not enough that the person be a believer, though that be necessary unto every good work, Ephes. ii. 10. but also, that faith be peculiarly acted in every duty that we do; for our whole obedience is the obedience of faith, Rom. i. 5. that is, which the doctrine of faith requireth, and which the grace of faith beareth or bringeth forth. So Christ is expressly said to be our life,' Col. ii. 4. our spiritual life, that is, the spring, author, and cause of it. Now as in life natural, no vital act can be performed, but by the actual operation of the principle of life itself; so, in life spiritual, no spiritually-vital act, that is, no duty acceptable to God can be performed, but by the actual working of Christ, who is our life. And this is no other way derived unto us but by faith : whence saith the apostle, Gal. ii. 20. Christ liveth in me:and the life which I now lead in the flesh, is by the faith of the Son of God. Not only was Christ his life, a living principle unto him, but he led a life, that is, discharged vital actions in all duties of holiness and obedience, by the faith of the Son of God, or in him, deriving supplies of grace and strength from him thereby. This therefore ought a believer diligently to attend unto, namely, that every thing he doth to God be done in the strength of Christ; which wherein it consisteth ought diligently to be inquired into by all who intend to walk with God.
[3.] In this respect unto rule, the manner of the performance of every duty is to be regarded. Now there are two things in the manner of the performance of any duty which a believer, who is trusted with spiritual light, ought to attend unto.
1st. That it be done in the way, and by the means that God hath prescribed with respect unto the outward manner of its performance. And this is especially to be regarded in duties of the worship of God; the matter and outward manner whereof do both equally fall under his command. If this be not regarded, the whole duty is vitiated. I speak not of them who suffer themselves to be deluded by the deceitfulness of sin, utterly to disregard the rule of the word in such things, and to worship God according to their own imaginations; but of them principally, who although they in general profess to do nothing but what God requires, and as he requires it, yet do not diligently attend to the rule, to make the authority of God to be the sole cause and reason both of what they do, and of the manner of the performance of it. And this is the reason that God so often calls on his people to consider diligently and wisely, that they may do all according as he had commanded.
2 dly. The affections of the heart and mind in duties belong to the performance of them in the inward manner. The prescriptions and commands of God for attendance hereunto are innumerable, and the want hereof renders