Directions unto the exercise of our thoughts on things above, things future, invisible, and eternal; on God himself; with the difficulties of it, and oppositions unto it, and the way of their removal — Right notions of future glory stated.
(2.) We have treated in general before of the proper objects of our spiritual thoughts aa unto our present duty. That which we were last engaged in is an especial instance in heavenly things — things future and invisible — with the fountain and spring of them all in Christ and God himself. And because men generally are unskilled herein, and great difficulties arise in the way of the discharge of this part of the duty in hand, I shall give some especial directions concerning it:
[1.] Possess your minds with right notions and apprehensions of things above, and of the state of future glory.
We are in this duty to “look at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor 4:18). It is faith only whereby we have a prospect of them; for “we walk by faith, and not by sight.” And faith can give us no interest in them unless we have due apprehensions of them; for it doth but assent and cleave unto the truth of what is proposed unto it. And the greatest part of mankind do both deceive themselves and feed on ashes in this matter. They fancy a future state, which hath no foundation but in their own imaginations. Wherefore the apostle, directing us to seek and mind the “things that are above,” adds, for the guidance of our thoughts, the consideration of the principal concernment of them, “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1,2). He would lead us unto distinct apprehensions of those heavenly things, especially of the presence of Christ in his exaltation and glory. Wherefore the true notion of these things which we are to possess our minds withal may here be considered:
1st. All that have an apprehension of a future state of happiness do agree in this matter, that it contains in it, or is accompanied with, a deliverance and freedom from all that is evil.
But in what is so they are not agreed. Many esteem only those things that are grievous, troublesome, wasting and destructive unto nature, to be so; that is, what is penal, in pain, sickness, sorrow, loss, poverty, with all kinds of outward troubles, and death itself, are evil. Wherefore they suppose that the future state of blessedness will free them from all these things, if they can attain unto it. This they will lay in the balance against the troubles of life, and sometimes, it may be, against the pleasures of it, which they must forego; yea, persons profane and profligate will, in words at least, profess that heaven will give them rest from all their troubles: but it is no place of rest for such persons.
Unto all others also, unto believers themselves, these things are evil, such as they expect a deliverance from in heaven and glory. And there is no doubt but it is lawful for us and meet that we should contemplate on them, as those which will give us a deliverance from all outward troubles, death itself, and all that leads thereunto. Heaven is promised as “rest” unto them that are “troubled” (2 Thess 1:7). It is our duty, under all our sufferings, reproaches, persecutions, troubles, and sorrows, to raise up our minds unto the contemplation of that state wherein we shall be freed from them all. It is a blessed notion of heaven, that “God shall therein wipe away all tears from our eyes” (Rev 7:17), or remove far from us all causes of sorrow. And it would be unto our advantage if we did accustom our minds more unto this kind of relief than we do, if, upon the incursion of fears, dangers, sorrows, we did more readily =retreat unto thoughts of that state wherein we shall be freed from them all. Even this most inferior consideration of it would render the thoughts of it more familiar, and the thing itself more useful unto us. Much better it were than on such occasions to be exercised with heartless complaints, uncertain hopes, and fruitless contrivances.
But there is that which, unto them who are truly spiritually minded hath more evil in it than all these things together; and that is sin. Heaven is a state of deliverance from sin, from all sin, in all the causes, concomitants, and effects of it. He is no true believer unto whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow, and trouble. Other things, as the loss of dear relations, or extraordinary pains, may make deeper impressions on the mind, by its natural affections, at some seasons than ever our sins did at any one time in any one instance — so a man may have a greater trouble in sense of pain by a fit of the toothache, which will be gone in an hour, than in a hectic fever or consumption, which will assuredly take away his life — but take in the whole course of our lives, and all the actings of our souls, in spiritual judgment as well as in natural affection, and I do not understand how a man can be a sincere believer unto whom sin is not the greatest burden and sorrow.
Wherefore, in the first place, it belongs unto the true notion of heaven, that it is a state wherein we shall be eternally freed from sin and all the concernments of it; but only [through] the exaltation of the glory of God’s grace in Christ by the pardon of it. He that truly hates sin and abhors it, whose principal desire and design of life is to be freed from it so far as it is possible, who walks in self-abasement through a sense of his many disappointments, when he hoped it should act in him no more, cannot, as I judge, but frequently betake himself for refreshment unto thoughts of that state wherein he shall be freed from it, and triumph over it unto eternity. This is a notion of heaven that is easily apprehended and fixed on the mind, and which we may dwell upon unto the great advantage and satisfaction of our souls.
Frequent thoughts and meditations on heaven under this notion do argue a man to be spiritually minded; for it is a convincing evidence that sin is a burden unto him, that he longs to be delivered from it and all its consequents, that no thoughts are more welcome unto him than those of that state wherein sin shall be no more. And although men are troubled about their sins, and would desirously be freed from them, so far as they perplex their minds and make their consciences uneasy, yet if they are not much in the prospect of this relief, if they find not refreshment in it, I fear their trouble is not such as it ought to be.
Wherefore, when men can so wrangle and wrestle with their convictions of sin, and yet take up the best of their relief in hopes that it will be better with them at some time or other in this world, without longing desires after that state wherein sin shall be no more, they can give no evidence that they are spiritually minded.
It is quite otherwise with sincere believers in the exercise of this duty. The consideration of the grace and love of God, of the blood of Christ, of the purity and holiness of that good Spirit that dwelleth in them, of the light, grace, and mercy, which they have attained through the promises of the gospel, are those which make the remainders of sin most grievous and burdensome unto them. This is that which even breaks their hearts, and makes some of them go mourning all the day long — namely, that any thing of that which alone God hates should be found in them or be remaining with them. It is, in this condition, an evidence that they are spiritually minded, if, together with watchful endeavours for the universal mortification of sin, and utter excision of it, both root and branch, they constantly add these thoughts of that blessed state wherein they shall be absolutely and eternally freed from all sin, with refreshment, delight, and
These things belong unto our direction for the fixing of our thoughts and meditations on things above. This the meanest and weakest person who hath the least spark of sincerity and grace is capable of apprehending and able to practise; and it is that which the sense they have of the evil of sin will put them on every day, if they shut not their eyes against the light of the refreshment that is in it. Let them who cannot rise in their minds unto fixed and stable thoughts of any other notion of these invisible things dwell on this consideration of them, wherein they will find no small spiritual advantage and refreshment unto their souls.
2dly. As unto the positive part of this glorious future state the thoughts and apprehensions of men are very various; and that we may know as well what to avoid as what to embrace, we shall a little reflect on some of them:
(1st.) Many are able to entertain no rational conceptions about a future state of blessedness and glory, no notions wherein either faith or reason is concerned. Imagination they have of something that is great and glorious, but what it is they know not. No wonder if such persons have no delight in, no use of, thoughts of heaven. When their imaginations have fluctuated up and down in all uncertainties for a while they are swallowed up in nothing. Glorious, and therefore desirable, they take it for granted that it must be. But nothing can be so unto them but what is suitable unto their present dispositions, inclinations, and principles; and hereof there is nothing in the true spiritual glory of heaven or in the eternal enjoyment of God. These things are not suited unto the will of their minds and of the flesh; and therefore they cannot rise up unto any constant desires of them. Hence, to please themselves, they begin to imagine what is not; but whereas what is truly heaven pleaseth them not, and what doth please them is not heaven, nor there to be found, they seldom or never endeavour in good earnest to exercise their thoughts about it.
It were well if darkness and ignorance of the true nature of the future state and eternal glory did not exceedingly prejudice believers themselves as unto their delight in them and meditations about them. They have nothing fixed or stated in their minds, which they can betake themselves unto in their thoughts when they would contemplate about them. And, by the way, whatever doth divert the minds of men from the power and life of spiritual worship, as do all pompous solemnities in the performance of it, doth greatly hinder them as unto right conceptions of a future state.
There was a promise of eternal life given unto the saints under the old testament; but whereas they were obliged unto a worship that was carnal and outwardly pompous, they never had clear and distinct apprehensions of the future state of glory, for “life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel.” Wherefore, although no man living can see or find out the infinite riches of eternal glory, yet it 0is the duty of all to be acquainted with the nature of it in geeneral, so as that they may have fixed thoughts of it, love unto it, earnest desires after it; all under its own true and proper notion.
(2dly.) So great a part of mankind as the Mohammedans, unto whom God hath given all the principal and most desirable parts of the world to inhabit and possess, do conceive the state of future blessedness to consist in the full satisfaction of their sensual lusts and pleasures. And evidence this is that the religion which they profess hath no power or efficacy on their minds, to change them from the love of sin, or from placing their happiness in fulfilling the desires of the flesh. It doth not at all enlighten their minds to discern a beauty in spiritual things, nor excite their affections unto the love of them, nor free the soul to look after blessedness in such things as alone are suited unto its rational constitution; for if it did, they would place their happiness and blessedness in them. Wherefore, it is nothing but an artifice of the god of this world to blind the eyes of men, unto their eternal destruction.
(3dly.) Some of the philosophers of old did attain an apprehension that the blessedness of men in another world doth consist in the soul’s full satisfaction in the goodness and beauty of the divine nature. And there is a truth in this notion, which contemplative men have adorned with excellent and rational discourses; and sundry who have been and are learned among Christians have greatly improved this truth by the light of the Scripture. From reason they take up with thoughts of the goodness, the amiableness, the self-sufficiency, the all-sufficient satisfactoriness of the infinite perfections of the divine nature. These things shine in themselves with such a glorious light as that there is no more required unto a perception of them but that men do not wilfully shut their eyes against it through bestial sensuality and love of sin.
From reason also do they frame their conceptions concerning the capacity of the souls of men for the immediate enjoyment of God, and what is suited therein unto their utmost blessedness. No more is required unto these things but a due consideration of the nature of God and man, with our relation unto him and dependence on him. By the light of the Scripture they frame these things into that which they call the “beatifical vision;” whereby they intend all the ways whereby God, in the highest and immediate instances, can and doth communicate of himself unto the souls of men, and the utmost elevation of their intellectual capacities to receive those communications. It is such an intellectual apprehension of the divine nature and perfections, with ineffable love, as gives the soul the utmost rest and blessedness which its capacities can extend unto.
These things are so, and they have been by many both piously and elegantly illustrated; howbeit they are above the capacities of ordinary Christians — they know not how to manage them in their minds, nor exercise their thoughts about them. They cannot reduce them unto present usefulness, nor make them subservient unto the exercise and increase of grace. And the truth is, the Scripture gives us another notion of heaven and glory, not contrary unto this, not inconsistent with it, but more suited unto the faith and experience of believers, and which alone can convey a true and useful sense of these things unto our minds. This, therefore, is diligently to be inquired into, and firmly stated in our thoughts and affections.
(4thly.) The principal notion which the Scripture gives us of the state of heavenly blessedness, and which the meanest believers are capable of improving in daily practice, is, that faith shall be turned into sight, and grace into glory. “We walk by faith, and not by sight,” saith the apostle (2 Cor 5:7). Wherefore, this is the difference between our present and our future state, that sight hereafter shall supply the room of faith (1 John 3:2); and if sight come into the place of faith, then the object of that sight must be the same with the present object of our faith.
So the apostle informs us, “We know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:9,10,12). Those things which we now see darkly, as in a glass, we shall then have an immediate sight and full comprehension of; for that which is perfect must come and do away that which is in part.
What, then, is the principal present object of faith as it is evangelical, into whose room sight must succeed? Is it not the manifestation of the glory of the infinite wisdom, grace, love, kindness, and power of God in Christ, the revelation of the eternal counsels of his will and the ways of their accomplishment, unto the eternal salvation of the church, in and by him, with the glorious exaltation of Christ himself? Wherefore, in the full, satisfactory representation of these things unto our souls, received by sight, or a direct, immediate intuition of them, doth the glory of heaven principally consist. We behold them now darkly, as in a glass — that is the utmost which by faith we can attain unto; in heaven they shall be openly and fully displayed.
The infinite, incomprehensible excellencies of the divine nature are not proposed in Scripture as the immediate object of our faith; nor shall they be so unto sight in heaven. The manifestation of them in Christ is the immediate object of our faith here, and shall be of our sight hereafter. Only through this manifestation of them we are led even by faith ultimately to acquiesce in them, as we shall in heaven be led by love perfectly to adhere unto them with delight ineffable. This is our immediate objective glory in heaven; we hope for no other. And this, if God will, I shall shortly more fully explain.
Whoever live in the exercise of faith, and have any experience of the life, power, and sweetness, of these heavenly things, unto whom they are a spring of grace and consolation, they are able to meditate on the glory of them in their full enjoyment. Think much of heaven, as that which will give you a perfect view and comprehension of the wisdom, and love, and grace of God in Christ, with those other things which shall be immediately declared.
Some perhaps will be ready to say, that if this be heaven, they can see no great glory in it, no such beauty as for which it should be desired. It may be so, for some have no instrument to take a view of invisible things but carnal imaginations. Some have no light, no principle, no disposition of mind or soul, whereunto these things are either acceptable or suitable. Some will go no farther in the consideration of the divine excellencies of God, and the faculties and actings of our souls, than reason will guide them; which may be of use. But we look for no other heaven, we desire none, but what we are led unto and prepared for by the light of the gospel; that which shall perfect all the beginnings of God’s grace in us, not what shall be quite of another nature and destructive of them.
We value not that heaven which is equally suited unto the desires and inclinations of the worst of men as well as of the best; for we know that they who like not grace here, neither do nor can like that which is glory hereafter. No man who is not acquainted experimentally, in some measure, with the life, power, and evidence of faith here, hath any other heaven in his aim but what is erected in his own imagination. The glory of heaven which the gospel prepares us for, which faith leads and conducts us unto, which the souls of believers long after, as that which will give full rest, satisfaction, and complacency, is the full, open, perfect manifestation of the glory of the wisdom, goodness, and love of God in Christ, in his person and mediation, with the revelation of all his counsels concerning them, and the communication of their effects unto us.
He that likes it not, unto whom it is not desirable, may betake himself unto Mohammed’s paradise or the philosophers’ speculations; in the gospel heaven he hath no interest. These are the things which we see now darkly, as in a glass, by faith; in the view of them are our souls gradually changed into the likeness of God, and the comprehension of them is that which shall give us our utmost conformity and likeness unto him whereof our natures are capable. In a sense and experience of their reality and goodness, given us by the Holy Ghost, do all our spiritual consolations and joys consist. The effects produced by them in our souls are the first-fruits of glory. Our light, sense, experience, and enjoyment of these things, however weak and frequently interrupted; our apprehensions of them, however dark and obscure, are the only means whereby we are “made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
To have the eternal glory of God in Christ, with all the fruits of his wisdom and love, whilst we are ourselves under the full participation of the effects of them, immediately, directly revealed, proposed, made known unto us, in a divine and glorious light, our souls being furnished with a capacity to behold and perfectly comprehend them — this is the heaven which, according unto God’s promise, we look for. But, as was said, these things shall be elsewhere more fully treated of.
It is true that there are sundry other things in particular that belong unto this state of glory; but what we have mentioned is the fountain and spring of them all. We can never have an immediate enjoyment of God in the immensity of his nature, nor can any created understanding conceive any such thing. God’s communications of himself unto us and our enjoyment of him shall be in and by the manifestation of his glory in Christ. He who can see no glory, who is sensible of no blessedness, in these things, is a stranger unto that heaven which the Scripture reveals and which faith leads unto.
It may be inquired, What is the subjective glory, or what change is to be wrought in ourselves that we may enjoy this glory? Now, that consists principally as unto our souls, in the perfection of all grace which is initially wrought and subjectively resides in us in this world. The grace which we have here shall not be done away as unto its essence and nature, though somewhat of it shall cease as unto the manner of its operation. What soul could think with joy of going to heaven, if thereby he must lose all his present light, faith, and love of God, though he be told that he should receive that in lieu of them which is more excellent, whereof he hath no experience, nor can understand of what nature it is? When the saints enter into rest, their good works do follow them; and how can they do so if their grace do not accompany them, from whence they proceed?
The perfection of our present graces, which are here weak and interrupted in their operations, is a principal eminency of the state of glory.
Faith shall be heightened into vision, as was proved before; which doth not destroy its nature, but cause it to cease as unto its manner of operation towards things invisible. If a man have a weak, small faith in this life, with little evidence and no assurance, so that he doubts of all things, questions all things, and hath no comfort from what he doth believe; if afterward, through supplies of grace, he hath a mighty prevailing evidence of the things believed, is filled with comfort and assurance; this is not by a faith or grace of another kind than what he had before, but by the same faith raised unto a higher degree of perfection.
When our Saviour cured the blind man and gave him his sight, at first he saw all things obscurely and imperfectly — he saw “men as trees, walking” (Mark 8:24), but on another application of virtue unto him, “he saw every man clearly” (Mark 8:25). It was not a sight of another kind which he then received than what he had at first; only its imperfection, whereby he “saw men as trees, walking,” was taken away. Nor will our perfect vision of things above be a grace absolutely of another kind from the light of faith, which we here enjoy; only what is imperfect in it will be done away, and it will be made meet for the present enjoyment of things here at a distance and invisible.
Love shall have its perfection also, and the least alteration in its manner of operation of any grace whatever; and there is nothing that should more extie us to labour after a growth in love to God in Christ than this, that it shall to all eternity be the same in its nature and in all its operations, only both the one and the other shall be made absolutely perfect. The soul will by it be enabled to cleave unto God unchangeably, with eternal delight, satisfaction, and complacency.
Hope shall be perfect in enjoyment, which is all the perfection it is capable of. So shall it be as unto other graces.
This subjective perfection of our nature, especially in all the faculties, powers, and affections of our souls and all their operations, belongs unto our blessedness, nor can we be blessed without it. All the objective glory in heaven would not, in our beholding and enjoyment of it (if it were possible), make us blessed and happy, if our own natures were not made perfect, freed from all disorder, irregular motions, and weak, imperfect operations.
What is it, then, that must give our natures this subjective perfection? It is that grace alone whose beginnings we are here made partakers of; for therein consists the renovation of the image of God in us, and the perfect communication of that image unto us is the absolute perfection of our natures, the utmost which their capacity is suited unto.
And that gives us the last thing to be inquired into – namely, by what means in ourselves we shall eternally abide in that state; and this is, by the unalterable adherence of our whole souls unto God, in perfect love and delight. This is that whereby alone the soul reacheth unto the essence of God, and the infinite, incomprehensible perfections of his nature. For the perfect nature hereof, divine revelation hat left it under a veil, and so must we do also; nor do I designedly handle these things in this place, but only in the way of a direction how to exercise our thoughts about them.
This is the notion of heaven which those who are spiritually minded ought to be conversant withal; and the true stating of it by faith is a discriminating character of believers. This is no heaven unto any others. Those who have not an experience of the excellency of these things in their initial state in this world, and their incomparable transcendency unto all other things, cannot conceive how heavenly glory and blessedness should consist in them. Unskilful men may cast away rough unwrought diamonds as useless stones; they know not what polishing will bring them unto. Nor do men unskilful in the mysteries of godliness judge there can be any glory in rough unwrought grace; they know nut what lustre and beauty the polishing of the heavenly hand will give unto it.
It is generally supposed that however men differ in and about religion here, yet they agree well enough about heaven; they would all go to the sam heaven. But it is a great mistake; they differ in nothing more; they would not all go to the same heaven. How few are they who value that heavenly state which we have treated of, or do understand how any blessedness can consist in the enjoyment of it! But this, and no other heaven, would we go unto. Other notions there may be, there are of it; which being but fruits and effects of men’s own imaginations, the more they dwell in the contemplation of them, the more carnal they may grow, at best the more superstitious.
But spiritual thoughts of this heaven, consisting principally in freedom from all sin, in the perfection of all grace, in the vision of the glory of God in Christ, and all the excellencies of the divine nature as manifested in him, are an effectual means for the improvement of spiritual life and the increase oi all graces in us; for they cannot but effect an assimilation in the mind and heart unto the things contemplated on, when the principles and seeds of them are already inlaid and begun. This is our first direction.
2. Having fixed right notions and apprehensions of heavenly things in our minds, it is our duty to think and contemplate greatly on them and our own concernment in them. Without this all our speculations concerning the nature of eternal things will be of no use unto us. And unto your encouragement and direction take these few short rules relating unto this duty:
1st. Here lies the great trial whether we are spiritually minded or no, by virtue of this rule, “If we are risen with Christ, we will mind the things that are above” (Col 3:1).
2dly. Here lies the great means whereby we may attain farther degrees in that blessed frame of mind, if it be already formed in us, by virtue of that rule, “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18).
3dly. Here lies the great evidence whether we have a real interest in the things above or no, whether we place our portion and blessedness in them, by virtue of that rule, “Where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.” Are they our treasure, our portion, our reward, in comparison whereof all other things are “but loss and dung?” — we shall assuredly be conversant in our minds about them.
4hly. It cannot be imagined that a man should have in him a principle cognate and suited unto things above, of the same kind and nature with them, that his soul should be under the conduct of those habits of grace which strive and naturally tend unto perfection, labouring greatly here under the weight of their own weaknesses, as it is with all who are truly spiritually minded, and yet not have his thoughts greatly exercised about these things (1 John 3:2,3).
It were well if we would try ourselves by things of so uncontrollable evidence. What can any object unto the truth of these things or the necessity of this duty? If it be otherwise with us, its from one of these two causes: either we are not convinced of the truth and reality of them, or we have no delight in them because we are not spiritually minded.
Do we think that men may turmoil themselves in earthly thoughts all the day long, and, when they are freed of their affairs, betake themselves unto those that are vain and useless, without any stated converse with things above, and yet enjoy life and peace? We must take other measures of things if we intend to live unto God, to be like him, and to come unto the enjoyment of him.
What is the matter with men that they are so stupid? They all generally desire to go to heaven, at least when they can live here no longer. Some, indeed, have no other regard unto it but only that they would not go to hell. But most would “die the death of the righteous,” and have their “latter end like his;” yet few there are who endeavour to attain a right notion of it, to try how it is suited unto their principles and desires, but content themselves with such general notions of it as please their imaginations.
It is no wonder if such persons seldom exercise their minds or thoughts about it; nor do they so much as pretend to be spiritually minded. But as for those who are instructed in these things, who profess their chiefest interest to lie in them, not to abound in meditation concerning them, it argues, indeed, that whatever they profess, they are earthly and carnal.
[3.] Again; meditate and think of the glory of heaven so as to compare it with the opposite state of death and eternal misery.
Few men care to think much of hell, and the everlasting torments of the wicked therein. Those do so least who are in the most danger of falling thereinto. They put far from them the evil day, and suppose their covenant with death and hell to be sure. Some begin to advance an opinion that there is no such place; because it is their interest and desire that there should be none. Some, out of profaneness, make a scoff at it, as though a future judgment were but a fable. Most seem to think that there is a severity in thoughts about it, which it is not fit we should be too much terrified withal. Some transient thoughts they will have of it, but [they do] not suffer them to abide in their minds, lest they should be too much discomposed; or they think it not consistent with the goodness of Christ to leave any men in that condition, whereas there is more spoken directly of hell, its torments and their eternity, by himself than in all the Scripture besides.
These thoughts, in most, proceed from an unwillingness to be troubled in their sins, and are useful unto none. It is the height of fully for men to endeavour the hiding of themselves for a few moments from that which is unavoidably coming upon them unto eternity, and the due consideration whereof is a means for an escape from it. But I speak only of true believers; and the more they are conversant in their thoughts about the future state of eternal misery, the greater evidence they have of the life and confidence of faith.
It is a necessary duty to consider it, as what we were by nature obnoxious unto, as being “children of wrath;” what we have deserved by our personal sins, as “the wages of sin is death;” what we are delivered from through Jesus the deliverer, who “saves us from the wrath to come;” what expression it is of the indignation of God against sin, who hath “ordained Tophet of old” — that we may be delivered from sin, kept up to an abhorrency of it, walking in humility, self-abasement, and the admiration of divine grace.
This, therefore, is required of us, that in our thoughts and meditations we compare the state of blessedness and eternal glory, as a free and absolute effect of the grace of God in and through Christ Jesus, with that state of eternal misery which we had deserved; and if there be any spark of grace or of holy thankfulness in our hearts, it will be stirred up unto its due exercise.
Some, it may be, will say that they complained before that they cannot get their minds fixed on these things. Weakness, weariness, darkness, diversions, occasions, do prevalently obstruct their abiding in such thoughts. I shall speak farther unto this afterward. At present I shall only suggest two things:
First, If you cannot attain, yet continue to follow after. Get your minds in a perpetual endeavour after an abode in spiritual thoughts. Let your minds be rising towards them every hour, yea, a hundred times a day, on all occasions, in a continual sense of duty; and sigh within yourselves for deliverance when you find disappointments, or a not-continuance in them. It is the sense of that place, Rom 8:23-26.
Secondly, Take care you go not backwards and lose what you have wrought. If you neglect these things for a season, you will quickly find yourselves neglected by them. So I observe it every day in the hearing of the word. Whilst persons keep up themselves to a diligent attendance on it, where they find it preached unto their edification, they find great delight in it, and will undergo great difficulties for the enjoyment of it; let them be diverted from it for a season, after a while it grows indifferent unto them; any thing will satisfy them that pretends unto the same duty.