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preffions be worn off, to think freely of what he pleaseth.
Thus for Instance, When a Man is under å sharp tormenting Pain; as he cannot avoid the feeling of that Pain, so neither can he avoid the thinking of it. When one is tull of Grief, for the loss of a dear Relation; or transported with Passion, for some unworthy usage he hath met with: It is in vain to say, Pray think not of these Matters; for these Things must, and will in a great measure imploy his Thoughts, 'till his Paffions do cool, and the Impresions that caused them be vanished.
Thus; for a Man to come from some Bulíness in which he is more than ordinarily con. cerned; or from the hearing some very good or very bad News: I say, to come fresh from this to the saying his Prayers; I do not, I can. not wonder, that in this Case his Mind will be much upon his Busines, or his News, notwithstanding all his Endeavours to the contrary.
For the Nature of Man is such, that he cannot so on a sudden, turn his Mind from one Busin neß to another; but that if he did closely and vigorously apply himself to the first Busines, his Thoughts will for some Time run upon it, even after he hath applied his Mind to the other.
I do not deny, but that a Man may often fo order his Affairs, as to be able to keep his Mind clear and free from such Prepossessions as I am now speaking of, so as that when he comes to apply himself to any Busineß he hath a mind to, he may intend it with his whole Might. But this I say, If our Minds be once engaged with warm Thoughts about any Thing; it is very VOL. I.
hard, if not impossible, to get them disengaged on a sudden. So that the Art of Govern. ing our Thoughts doth not much lie in that neither.
Thirdly, There are some Cases likewise, where a Man's Thoughts are in a manner forced upon him, from the present Temper and Indisposition of his Body. So that though he be in no Passion, though there be no unusual Objects of Sense that excite those Thoughts in him; Nay, tho' he never so much resolve not to think upon those Things; yet so long as that Habit of Body lasts, he cannot avoid those kind of Thoughts ; So that in this case also, there is little room left for the Government of Thoughts.
That which I now say, happens frequently, not only in all sorts of Distempers where the Brain is visibly disturbed, as in Fevers, and the like; which often cause a Thousand delirious Fancies, and sometimes downright Madness and Distraction : But also in other Cases where there seems to be no Fever, or other visible Diftemper; nor doth the Brain, as to other Matters, seem to be at all disorder'd; but the Persons, in all appearance, are sound both in Body and Mind.
And this is the Case of some deeply Hypochondriac Persons; many of which will be haunted with a Sett of Thoughts and Fancies, that they can by no Means get rid of, though they desire it never so earnestly.
Sometimes they cannot get it out of their Heads, but that they are Atheists and Infidels
, they neither believe in God nor in Jesus Chrift, nor have any Sense at all of Religion.
Sometimes they are tormented with Blasphe- ! mous Thoughts, and they cannot set themselves to the Performance of any Office of Devotion, but a Thousand impious Fancies will come in and spoil all.
Sometimes they fancy they are guilty of several grievous Crimes, which it is to be hoped, it was hardly possible they should be guilty of; nay, you cannot convince them, but that they do every Day commit some of these Crimes, bé. cause they imagine they give consent to them.
And whilft these Sorts of Thoughts fill their Imaginations, there is not a Passage in the Bible that they read, nor a Sermon that they hear, but they find something in it, which they do fo perverlly apply to their own Case, as thereby to increase their Trouble, but not to get any Relief.
I have known several well-disposed Persons, and some of them sincerely Pious, that have been in this Condition.
What now is to be said to this ? Why, it is very certain that all these Thoughts and Fancies are thrust upon them, and are not the free, natural, voluntary Operations of their own Minds, but the Effe&ts of Vapours or Hypochoudriac Melancholy. Nor can the Persons themfelves any more help their thus Thinking, or Fancying, than they can help the Disturbances of their Dreams, when they have a Mind to sleep quietly. Indeed, we may properly enough call these Fancies of theirs, their waking Dreams ; as their Dreams are their sleeping Fancies.
Well, but now of all Persons whatsoever, these People are most desirous to have Rules Dd2
given them for the Government of their Thoughts. And Į cannot blame them, because their Thoughts are certainly very Troublesome. But truly, if we should speak pertinently to their Case, instead of giving them Advices for the regulating their Thoughts, they should ra. ther be advised to look after their Bodies, and by the help of good Prescriptions to get rid of those Fumes and Vapours, which occasion these Fancies. When the Cause is removed, the Effect will soon cease. I do not in the least doubt, whatever these People may think of their own Cafe, but that this is as properly a Bodily Difease as a Fever, or Fits of the Falling Sickness.
In the mean Time, while they are in this Condition, whatever Rules are proper to be given to other Persons, for the Government of the Thoughts, of all People living, those Rules do the least concern them. For those Thoughts which they complain of, do not at all fall onder Regulation or Government; because they are suggested to their Minds, whether they will
And for my Part, I think it a great deal more advisable (if it could be) to neglect and despise them; than to be perpetually struggling and disputing with them, and vexing themselves about them.
But, you will say, If Men be such Slaves to their Thoughts, and are thus necessarily passive
under them, where is the Freedom of Though:? | To this I Answer,
In the Fourth Place, Out of these Three Cases I before-mentioned, we have Liberty of Thinking, and may chuse our own Thoughts. And that Liberty and Freedom we have in Thinking,
doth, to my apprehension, mainly consist in this, viz. That all of us (who are not in the Circumstances I have been hitherto speaking of) can, if we please, apply our Minds more vigorously to one fort of thing than to another; and accordingly, as we do thus apply our Minds, fo will the most of our Thoughts be.
It is in our Power, among the multitude of Objects, which present themselves to our Mind, (as for Instance, God, Vertue, Holiness, Heaven, Wealth, Power, Greatness,Preferments, Fine Cloaths, Splendid Equipage, Sensual Pleasures, Recreations, Divertisements, Knowledge, Learning, Arts, and the like ;) I say, that among all this multitude of Objects, that present themselves to our Minds, it is in our power to determine our selves, which of them we will dwell upon, and make a Business of. And accordingly, when at any Time we have pitched upon any of them, as a Business, it is in our power to mind that Business either more or less diligently. And if it be such one, as that we mean in good earnest to concern ourselves about it, it will then fo fill our Minds, as that by attending to that, we shall either prevent in a great measure, other Thoughts from coming into our Heads; or if they do come in, they will not long stay there, but will very speedily give place to that which is our main Business at that Time.
And the Reason of this is plain; because our Natures are of that Make, that Two Things at once cannot well possess our Minds; and therefore if we be intent about one thing, we cannot have much room or leisure for Thoughts of another Nature.