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phemous thoughts, and cannot get rid of them ; we must consider that our thoughts are no farther ours, than as we chuse them; that all sin lies in the will, and all will implies · choice: that those thoughts therefore, which are not our choice, which we reject with a settled aversion and abhorrence, will never be placed to our account. So that our thoughts, how indecent or irregular soever they may be, are rather to be accounted the infirmities of our corrupt nature than our sins properly so called. If weclose with any thought that prompts us to evil, so as to be pleased with it, to delight in it, to think of pursuing it, till it be brought into action ; in thatcase we are no longer to plead our original corruption; for in that very instant we become actual sinners, or actual transgressors of the law of God. The mind is passive in receiving its notices of things, whether pureor impure; butit is active, in its determination, whether to harbour or discard them. As far as it is passive, it is entirely innocent; as far as it is active, it is accountable: and it certainly is active, when we dwell upon impure thoughts with complacency; when we strengthen ourselves in wickedness, by cherishing the remembrance of past guilty joys, and laying scenes in our imagination for the entertainment of future pleasures. Here : then we see in what the government of our thoughts con- • fifts ; they are not criminal till they have the consent of the will; and the soul can with-hold that consent, till it has fufficiently considered the whole case.
If we would keep our hearts in a good frame, and order The method our thoughts to good purposes; our first and great of govern- est care should be, that we rightly pitch upon our ing them. main desigus; and that we chuse that for the great business of our lives, that really ought to be fo. For men's 1. By bend- heads are fruitful of evasions to reconcile their duing our ty and their interest, when they come in competithoughts to boa puro tion: and arguments, such as they are, are never pojes. wanting to make that appear reasonable, which is agreeable or prontable to us; except where the case is very glaring and notorious. He, that earnestly wishes that 'a thing was lawful, has half confented that it is fo. Difho
. . a
nesty has already crept into his heart, and the transition from thence to the head is very quick and sudden. But
The greatest concernment of all is to approve ourfelves 'to that great God who made us, and disposes of · all our affairs ; and who, accor
we fin 2. By mak.
IS we m . ing religion cerely endeavour or not endeavour to serve him, our chief will make us either very happy or very miserable, care. both in this life and the other.
They that would thus keep their hearts always in a good frame must have a special care to avoid two 3. By athings, viz. idleness and loose company. And a voiding wife man should never be at such a pass as to say, but com um
idleness and I have nothing to do; I do not know how to spend pany. my next hour : idleness, and having nothing to do, is the mother of most of thosevain and unprofitable and sinful fancies, in which some men spend their days. And whereas temptations do now-and-then come into the way of other men; the idle man is forced to seek out temptations for the shipwreck of his virtue. Loose and impertinent conversation is not much better than idleness; for wherever it is much used, it will fo emafculate a man's mind, and take off the edge and vigour of it, as to serious things, that he cannot eafily get it into a good frame again. Ěvil communications (láith St. Paul) corrupt good manners. And therefore those people, a great part of whose life is taken up in gadding up and down; in play; in merry meetings; in telling or hearing idle stories, and the like; it is imposible but their thoughts and inclinations and the whole frame of their hearts will be suitable; that is to say, very frothy; very light and foolish; not to say prophane, and wicked, and atheistical too, if the company they much converse with be of that strain.
Let us be as attentive as possible to the first motions of our minds; and whenever we find that they tend towards something that is forbidden, let us stop lending to
4 By at. them as soon as we can. You cannot perhaps, for their fir/j instance, prevent a sudden passion of anger from moriens. rising in your minds upon twenty accidents; but as soon as you feel this passion, you can thus far stifle it; you can seal up your mouth, so that the passion shall not yent itself in un
seemly words. If any indecent, impure fancies or desires should be excited in you upon any occasion, it was not perhaps in your power to keep them from coming into your minds; but it is in your power to withdraw from the temptation that causeth them, and to endeavour to direct your thoughts to some other object; at least not to proceed one step in any outward action towards the accomplishing of those desires. Every check, that you give to the first motions of sin, makes the next affault of them the less furious. And, if you do constantly use yourselves thus to guard and watch over youş hearts, you will in time obtain such a command over them, that you will not be troubled with a quarter of those irregular desires and passions, which heretofore upon several occasions used to be kindled in you. That you may be able not only to keep bad thoughts out of your minds, but also to have a constant spring of good ones, converse with discreet and pious persons; read good books, especially the holy scriptures ; and take times of meditation and recollection; and, above all, offer feryent and constant prayers to God. And,
Notwithstanding what I have hitherto said concerning 5. By dif- the diligence with which we are to keep our criticn. hearts, yet this is always to be remembered, that with our diligence we must be careful to join difcretion: My meaning is this ; we must have a care not to extend our thoughts immoderately, and more than our tempers will bear, even to the best things. And the way to do that is not to put them too much, or too long, upon the stretch at any one time, but to relax them when there is occasion, and to let them run out and entertain themselves upon any thing that comes next to hand so long as it is innocent.
Another excellent rule for the good government of our And, 6. By thoughts is always to live under a constant sense living under of God's presence and inspection : For he, that a sense of God's pre
Pre made the eye, shall he not see? And, if he do fee Jence. shall he not punish? Hell and destruction are before the Lord! How much more then are the hearts of the children of men ? And, if it be so much shame to disclose pur wicked, presumptuous, vain, trifling, and vicious
thoughts thoughts to our fellow-creatures, as most men account it to be, left they upbraid or punish them for it; how much more should they be ashamed and dread to admit such thoughts, which are criminal in the fight of God, when they believe he sees and is able to punish them? And,
II. Aboveall, it will be found of exceeding great use to be cloathed with HUMILITY: not that fawning hu- 'Of bumis mility of outward expressionand behaviour, which lity. coversa false and proud heart; but that humility which confists in the inward frame and disposition of the mind, and in a right judgment, in the main, of ourselves: which retainsa deep sense that God created us out of nothing, and that fin reduceth us to a state worse than nothing without the mercies of God, and the merits of our Saviour ; and which admonilheth a man of his own corruption and subordination, and duty to God and Man, whose fruits are to be discerned best in a relative view: For, with regard to superiors in civil stations in the world, true humility consists in In what it obeying them willingly in all things just and law- confifts. ful; in submitting to the authority even of the froward and unworthy ; in not despising their persons, exposing their weaknesses, or insulting over their infirmities. With regard to superiors in natural abilities, true humility consists, not in submitting our understandings to them blindly and implicitly, but in being willing and desirous to be instructed and informed by them; in not envying them the advantages God has given them above ourselves; nor repining, but on the contrary rejoicing, at their being preferred or honoured, according to the proportion of their true merit and capacity. With regard to superiors in religious improvements, humility consists likewise in rejoicing to see the practice of virtue, and the advancement of the kingdom of God upon earth; not grieving, but taking pleasure, to find such persons highly esteemed in the world, and proposing them to ourselves as examples and patterns for our imitation. With regard to our equals, true humility consists in civil and affable, in courteous and modest behaviour ; patiently permitting our equals (when it shall so happen) to be preferred before us ; not thinking ourselves injused, when others but of equal merit chance to be more esteemed; willingly submitting,
for peace fake, to many things, if not very unreasonable ; yet otherwise such as in our own judgment we should not chuse to think best of. With regard to our inferiors, humility confifts in assuming to ourselves no more than the difference of men's circumstances, and the performance of their respective duties, for preserving the regularity and good order of the world, necessarily required. With regard to inferiors in natural abilities, or accidental advantages in the world, such as learning and knowledge, riches, plenty, and the like, humility consists in considering, that possibly they have some other gifts which may be wanting in us; and in being willing to communicate to them the advantages we enjoy, that they may be the better for the things wherewith God hath blessed us. The true humility of a rich man consists in being willing to assist them by relieving their necessities, endeavouring to make the condition of the meanest easy and supportable to themselves. And in like manner, the true humility of persons endued with more learning and knowledge than others consists in being willing to communicate what they know, and in sincerely defiring that all others may attain the same knowledge with themselves. Towards our inferiors in respect of religious improvements, true humility consists in being rightly sensible of our own many infirmities, even those of us who may be apt to imagine ourselves to have made the greatest improvements, and in being sincerely follicitous for the welfare and the salvation of all men ; it consists in endeavouring to influence men towards religion, by meekness rather than by power; in not affecting to gain the empty applause of men by an outward oftentation of greater piety than others; in condescending to those beneath us, and not disdaining even to yield to them in indifferent things : in bearing their infirmities patiently and without frowardness; in forbearing to judge or despise those that differ from us in opinion; in taking care not to offend, by haughty and presumptuous behaviour, such persons as by meekness might be prevailed upon to believe in Christ, or luch as by kind treatment might be kept from departing into divifions; in taking heed not to impole needless difficulties upon those under our power :