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WHEN in my serious thoughts and more retired medita tions I am got into the closet of my heart, and there begin to look within myself and consider what I am, I presently find myself to be a reasonable creature; for were I not so, it would be impossible for me thus to reason and reflect. But am I a reasonable creature? Why then I am sure within this veil of flesh there dwells a soul, and that of a higher nature than either plants or brutes are endued with; for they have souls indeed, but yet they know it not; and that because their souls or material forms, as the philosophers term them, are not any thing really and essentially distinct from the very matter of their bodies; which being not capable of a reflexive act, though they are, they know it not, and though they act, they know it not; it being not possible for them to look within themselves, or to reflect upon their own existences and actions. But it is not so with me. I not only know I have a soul, but that I have such a soul which can consider of itself, and deliberate of every particular action that issues from it. Nay, I can consider that I am now considering of my own actions, and can reflect upon myself reflecting; insomuch that had I nothing else to do, I could spin out one reflection upon another to infinity.
And indeed were there never another argument in the world, to convince me of the spiritual nature of my soul, Div.
this alone would be sufficient to wrest the belief and confession of it from me; for what below a spirit can thus reflect upon itself? Or what below a spirit can put forth itself into such actions, as I find I can exercise myself in? My soul can, in a moment, mount from earth to heaven, fly from pole to pole, and view all the courses and motions of the celestial bodies, the sun, moon, and stars; and then the next moment, returning to myself again, I can consider where I have been, what glorious objects have been presented to my view, and wonder at the nimbleness and activity of my soul, that can run over so many millions of miles, and finish so great a work in so small a space of time. And are such like acts as these the effects of drossy earth or impenetrable matter? Can any thing below a spirit raise itself so much beyond the reach of material actions?
But stay a little.-What is this soul of mine that I am now speaking of, that it is so nimble in its actions, and so spiritual in its nature? Why, it is that which actuates and informs the several organs and members of my body, and enables me not only to perform the natural actions of life and sense, but likewise to understand, consult, argue, and conclude; to will and nill, hope and despair, desire and abhor, joy and grieve, love and hate; to be angry now, and again appeased. It is that by which, at this very time, my head is inditing, my hand is writing, and my heart resolving, what to believe and how to practise. In a word, my soul is myself; and therefore when I speak of my soul, I speak of no other person but myself.
Not as if I totally excluded this earthly substance of my body from being a part of myself. I know it is. But I think it most proper and reasonable to denominate myself from my better part: for, alas! take away my soul, and my body falls, of course, into its primitive corruption, and moulders into the dust from whence it was first taken. All flesh is grass, says the prophet, and all the goodli ness thereof is as the flower of the field. And this is no metaphorical expression, but a real truth; for what is that which I feed upon, but merely grass, digested into corn, flesh, and the like, which, by a second digestion,
is transfused and converted into the substance of my body? And hence it is that my body is but like the grass or flower of the field, fading, transient, and momentary; to-day florishing in all its glory, to-morrow cut down, dried up, and withered. But now how far is this beneath the spiritual and incorruptible nature of my immortal soul, which subsists of itself, and can never be dissolved; being not compounded of any earthly or elementary matter, as the body is, but a pure spiritual substance, infused into me by God, to whom, after a short abode in the body, it is to return, and to live and continue for ever, either in a state of happiness or misery in another life?
But must it so indeed? How much then does it concern me seriously to bethink myself, where I had best to lead this everlasting life, in the heavenly mansions of eternal glory, or else in the dreadful dungeon of infernal misery! But betwixt these, as there is no medium, so there is no comparison; and, therefore, I shall not put it to the question, which place to choose to live in: but, without giving the other that honor to stand in competition with it, I this morning, with the leave of the most high God, do choose the land of Canaan, the kingdom of heaven, to be the lot of mine inheritance, the only seat of bliss and glory for my soul to rest and dwell in to all eternity.
But heaven, they say, is a place hard to come at; yea, the King of that glorious place hath told me, that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and that there be few that find it; yea, and that many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. What, therefore, must I do? Why I must either resolve to make my whole business to get to heaven, or else I must never hope or expect to come thither. Without any farther dispute therefore about it, I resolve at this time, in the presence of Almighty God, that, from this day forward, I will make it my whole business here upon earth to look after my happiness in heaven, and to walk circumspectly in those blessed paths that God hath appointed all to walk in, that ever expect to come to him.
Now though there be but one way, and that a narrow
one too, that leads to heaven, yet there are two things requisite to all those that walk in it; and these are faith, and obedience, to believe and to live aright. So that it as much behoves me to have my faith rightly confirmed in the fundamentals of religion, as to have my obedience exactly conformed to the laws of God. And these two duties are so inseparably united, that the former cannot well be supposed without the latter; for I cannot obey what God hath commanded me, unless I first believe what he hath taught me. And they are both equally difficult, as they are necessary: indeed, of the two, I think it is harder to lay the sure foundation of faith, than to build the superstructure of obedience upon it; for it seems next to impossible for one that believes every truth, not to obey every command that is written in the word of God. But it is not so easy a thing as it is commonly thought to be, to believe the word of God, and to be firmly established in the necessary points of religion; especially in these wicked times wherein we live, in which there are so many pernicious errors and damnable heresies crept into the articles of some men's faith, as do not only shock the foundation of the church of Christ, but strike at the root of all religion. The first thing, therefore, that, by the grace of God, I am resolved to do in reference to my everlasting estate, is, to see my faith, that it be both rightly placed and firmly fixed, that I may not be as a wave tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness of those that lie in wait to deceive; but that I may be thoroughly settled in my faith and judg ment concerning those things, the knowledge of, and assent unto, which is absolutely necessary to my future happiness. Let, therefore, what times soever come upon me, let what temptations soever be thrown before me, I am resolved by the grace of God stedfastly to believe as followeth.
I believe there is one God, the Being of all beings.
THE other articles of my faith I think to be true, because they are so; this is true, because I think it so; for