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find any idle thoughts begin to frisk and rove out of the way, to call them in again, and set them at work upon one or other of these objects before mentioned, and to keep them, for some time, fixed and intent upon it; and considering the relations and dependences of one thing upon another, not to suffer any foreign ideas, such, I mean, as are impertinent to the chain of thoughts I am upon, to justle them out, or divert my mind another way. No, not though they be otherwise good thoughts; for thoughts in themselves good, when they crowd in unseasonably, are sometimes attended with very ill effects, by interrupting and preventing some good purposes and resolutions, which might prove more effectual for promoting God's glory, the good of others, and the comfort of our own souls.
These, and such like, are the methods by which I design and resolve to regulate my thoughts: and since I can do nothing without the divine assistance, I earnestly beg of God to give me such a measure of his grace, as may enable me effectually to put these resolutions in practice, that I may not think and resolve in vain.
CONCERNING MY AFFECTIONS.
BUT whilst I am thus ranging my thoughts, I find something of a passion or inclination within me, either drawing me to, or driving me from, every thing I think on; so that I cannot so much as think upon a thought, but it is either pleasing or displeasing to me, according to the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the object it is placed upon, to my natural affections. If it comes under the pleasing dress and appearance of good, I readily choose and embrace it; if otherwise, I am as eagerly bent to refuse and reject it. And these two acts of the will are naturally founded in those two
reigning passions of the soul, love and hatred, which I cannot but look upon as the grounds of all its other motions and affections. For what are those other passions of desire, hope, joy, and the like, but love in its several postures? And what else can we conceive of fear, grief, abhorrence, &c. but so many different expressions of hatred, according to the several circumstances that the displeasing object appears to be under. Doth my understanding represent any thing to my will, under the notion of good and pleasant? my will is presently taken and delighted with it, and so places its love upon it; and this love, if the object be present, inclines me to embrace it with joy; if absent, it puts forth itself into desire; if easy to be attained, it comforts itself with hope; if difficult, it arms itself with courage; if impossible, it boils up into anger; if obstructed, it presently falls down into despair.
On the other hand, doth my understanding represent any object to my will, as evil, or painful, or deformed? How doth it immediately shrink and gather up itself into a loathing and hatred of it! And this hatred, if the ungrateful object be present, puts on the mournful sables of grief and sorrow; if it be at any distance from it, it boils up into detestation and abhorrence; if ready to fall upon it, it shakes for fear; if difficult to be prevented, it strengthens itself with courage and magnanimity, either to conquer or undergo it. These affections, therefore, being thus the constant attendants of my thoughts, it behoves me as much to look to those, as to the other; especially when I consider, that not only my thoughts, but even my actions too, are generally determined to good or bad, accordingly as they are influenced by them. That my affections, therefore, as well as my thoughts, may be duly regulated,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, always to make my affections subservient to the dictates of my understanding, that my reason may not follow, but guide my affections.
THE affections being of themselves blind and inordinate, unless they are directed by reason and judgment, they either move toward a wrong object, or pursue the right in a wrong way. And this judgment must be mature and deliberate, such as arises from a clear apprehension of the nature of the object that affects me, and a thorough consideration of the several circumstances that attend it. And great care must be taken, that I do not impose upon myself by fancy and imagination, that I do not mistake fancy for judgment, or the capricious humours of my roving imagination, for the solid dictates of a well-guided reason: for my fancy is as wild as my affections; and if the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch.
And alas! how often am I deceived in this manner! If I do but fancy a thing good and lovely, how eager are my affections in the pursuit of it? If I do but fancy any thing evil and hurtful to me, how doth my heart presently rise up against it, or grieve and sorrow for it? And this, I believe, hath been the occasion of all the enormities and extravagances I have been guilty of, through the whole course of my past life, divesting me of my reasonable faculties, as to the acts and exercises of them, and subjecting my soul to the powers of sense, that I could not raise my affections above them. Thus, for instance, I have not loved grace, because my fancy could not see its beauty; I have not loathed sin, because my fancy could not comprehend its misery; and I have not truly desired heaven, because my fancy could not reach its glory: whereas if the transient beauty and lustre of this world's vanities was but pre
sented to my view, how has my fancy mounted up to the highest pitch of pleasure and ambition, and inflamed my heart with the desire of them?
And thus, poor wretch! have I been carried about with the powerful charms of sense, without having any other guide of my affections, but what is common to the very brutes that perish; fancy supplying that place in the sensitive, which reason does in the rational soul. And alas! what is this, but, with Nebuchadnezzar, to leave communion with men, and herd myself with the flocks of the beasts of the field! And what a shame and reproach is this to the image of God, in which I was created!
Oh! thou, that art the Author of my nature, help me, I beseech thee, to act more conformably to it for the time to come; that I may no longer be bewildered or misled by the blind conduct of my straggling fancy, this ignis fatuus, that hurries me over bogs and precipices to the pit of destruction, but that I may bring all my affections and actions to the standard of a clear and sound judgment; and let that judgment be guided by the unerring light of thy divine word; that so I may neither love, desire, fear, nor detest any thing, but what my judgment, thus formed, tells me I ought to do!
I know, it will be very hard thus to subject my affections to the dictates and commands of my judgment: but howsoever, it is my resolution, this morning, in the presence of Almighty God, to endeavour it, and never to suffer my heart to settle its affections upon any object, till my judgment hath passed its sentence upon it. And as I will not suffer my affections to run before my judgment, so, whenever that is determined, I stedfastly resolve to follow it; that so my apprehensions and affections always going together, I may be sure to walk in the direct path of God's commandments, and enter the gate that leads to everlasting life. And the better to facilitate the performance of this general resolution, it being necessary to descend to particulars ;
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to love God, as the best of goods, and to hate sin, as the worst of evils. AS God is the centre of our concupiscible affections, so sin is the object of those we call irascible: and the affections of love and hatred being the ground of all the rest, I must have a great care, that I do not mistake or miscarry in them: for if these be placed upon wrong objects, it is impossible any of the rest should be placed upon right ones. In order, therefore, to prevent such a miscarriage, as God is the greatest good, and sin the greatest evil, I resolve to love God above all things else in the world, and to hate sin to the same degree; and so to love other things, only in relation to God; and to hate nothing, but in reference to sin.
As for the first, the loving God above all things, there is nothing seems more reasonable; inasmuch as there is nothing lovely in any creature, but what it receives from God; and by how much the more it is like to God, by so much the more it is lovely unto us. Hence it is, that beauty, or an exact symmetry and proportion of parts and colours, so attracts our love, because it so much resembles God, who is beauty and perfection itself. And hence it is, likewise, that grace is the most lovely thing in the world, next to God, as being the image of God himself stamped upon the soul; nay, it is not only the image and representation, but it is the influence and communication of himself to us; so that the more we have of grace, we may safely say, so much the more we have of God, within us. Why, therefore, should I grudge my love to him, who only deserves it; who is not only infinitely lovely in himself, but the author and perfection of all loveliness in his creatures? Why, the true reason is, that my affections have run a gadding without my judgment, or else my judgment hath been balked or anticipated by my fancy; whereas, now that