Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the former are all monopolized. The ideas of God and of heaven will not harmonize with the gay and busy spectacles, in which they seek for satisfaction. The souls of such men revolt at the intrusion of religious ideas; and the expectation of an approachiing amusement chases away the recollection of all that is serious. Abstract contemplations and invis: ible things can have no charms for the mind, wbich follows continually the ever-changing figures of fashion; and such a mind must be debilitated in all its powers, and lose even its terrestrial affections, by the fickleness and folly of all its exercises. As it would be impossible for an astronomer, to make any observation on the remote and celestial lumina. ries, who sbould be gazing continually on the clouds that flit across the sky, and noticing, though his glass, the innumerable successive hues wbich gild them, so the mind, that is pursuing the endless varieties of dissipation, knows nothing, thinks nothing, and is interested in nothing, which is pure, intellectual, and heavenly.

The love of sensual gratification is yet more degrading. All the passions of those who cherish it seem to be converted into appetites; all their affections, into lusts. If religious feelings of a spu. rious character unite, as they sometimes do, with carnal passions, a most horrible and depraved combination is formed, wbich brings disgrace upon the holiest affections of the soul. No, christians, the love of pleasure and the love of God are irreconcilable. They are at continual war; and they never can divide the empire of the same breast. I shudder to think, vain and profligate man, how far you are from the temper of the gospel! It appals me to imagine the sufferings, which will be necessary to bring you even to consideration. And how dreadful may be the discipline, which must bring your heart to enjoy a pure, boly, and spiritual religion, God only knows. Will you, then, continue to love supremely a world, which will desert you? Will you loosely ramble on the brink of perdition for the worthless flowers of pleasure, which you can gather there? O sinner, ibink, I beseech you, how

I fearful a thing it will be, to stand before a God, whom you have never loved; to see a Saviour, whom you have never deigned to honour, and whom, by your conduct, you have treated with every species of neglect and contumely. Remem. ber, senseless and brutal man, heaven is not a place for eartbly minds. If your affections have not been placed above, you will not find there a friend 10 welcome you; you will not find a joy, which you can taste, or a thought familiar and dear to your meditations. Christians, I pray God, that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve the things that are excellent.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

1 THAT HATU NO RULE OVER HIS OWN SPIRIT, 18 LIKE A CITY THAT 18 BROK ES

DOWN, AND WITHOUT WALLS.

No man can be said to have attained complete rule over his own spirit, who has not under bis babitual control the tenour of his thoughts, the language of his lips, the motions of lust and appetite, and the energy of his passion. This shows you at once the extent, and the division of our subject. By its extent you will immediately perceive, that it excludes from the praise of self-command much of what passes in the world for great moderation. There are many men of such stagnant and heavy tempers, that no irritation can provoke them, and no injuries rouse them to resentment; men, who are never thrown off their guard by rage, and yet in. dulge with much complacency in all the grossness of animal pleasure, and resign themselves, soul, spirit, and body, to the tyranny of sensuality, intemperance, and lust. To compliment such men with ihe praise of self-mastery would be absurd; yet this virtue is, in general, supposed to consist in the mere suppression of anger. There are others, who seem to have established a perfect control of the tongue, that little member, which setteth on fire the course of things; men guarded in speech, careful of offence, using knowledge aright, who yet secretly cherish a spirit of unextinguishable resentment, and take no pains to conquer a passion, which they find it so easy to silence. There are others, who exhibit the utmost modesty of speech, temperance of appetites, and gentleness of passions, who yet indulge the wildest rovings of thought, and expatiate in the vainest reveries of an undisciplined imagination. Let us then consider the several provinces of selfgovernment. And

1. The government of the thoughts. After all that has been written and recommended on the subject of self-command, the regulation of the thoughts has seldom drawn the attention of moralists. The imagination is supposed to be a faculty, which is not to be controlled or directed. As our thoughts cannot be discerned by others, nor their habitual current determined by exterior observation, they do not enter into the estimate made of our characters by the world, and are, therefore, unregarded in our judgment of ourselves. On the authority of silly maxims, like these, that thought is free as air, that no one can belp what he thinks, innumerable bours are wasted in idle reveries, without the hearing of censure or the suspicion of blame. But when we con; sider, bow great a portion, even of the most active and busy lise, must unavoidably be spent in thinking, and that complete inactivity is a state of mind unknown, even to the most sluggish of our race, the employment of the thoughts rises into unexpected importance, and constitutes no inconsiderable trait of character. The time, which we fondly supposed to be merely wasted in doing nothing, may bave been busily employed in mischievous imaginations, and thus, what was considered as lost simply, is found to have been abused.

W ben we reflect, also, that every licentious principle,

every criminal project, and every atrocious deed, is the fruit of a distempered fancy, whose rovings were originally unchecked, till thoughts grew into desires, desires ripened into resolves, and resolves terminated in execution, well may we tremble at discovering, how feeble is the control over our imaginations, which we have bitherto acquired. If we were asked, in the solemn language of the propbet, How long shall your vain thoughts lodge within you ? few of us, it is feared, could return a satisfactory answer.

It is, indeed, 10 be lamented, that our rules of vice and virtue are applied so seldom to what passes within ourselves. Others must form their judgments of us from our actions and words only, but not so should we form our judgments of ourselves. The indulgence of a loose imagination is not a crime cognizable by the world, till it has betrayed itself in conversation, in writing, or in action. Thus, what others cannot censure, because they cannot know, we forget to estimate, or are afraid to examine, till correction is hopeless and impracticable. To suppress a rash speech, or curb a craving appetite, is sometimes attempted with success ; but who ever thinks of checking a rising thought, or reining in a headstrong fancy? Who voluntarily draws off his attention from a seducing subject, or resolves to think no more of a favourite project, lest bis imagination should lead bim astray, lest bis principles should be polluted, his temper injured, or his time wasted ? But out of the heart, says our Saviour, proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false-witness, blasphemies. At the head of this formidable enumeration are placed evil thoughts, the invisible, airy precursors of all the storms and tempests of the soul; and it would be no less absurd to use no precaution against the violence of the wind, because its motion is invisible, than to take no care of our thoughts,

« AnteriorContinuar »