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ny; Is it not natural to such a one to bend all his Thoughts that way? Or doth he put any Force or Violence upon himself, in think-. ing and contriving all the Day long, how to bring to pass the Gratifications of his Lusts or his Appetites?
Why, my Brethren, if we did all of us in good Earnest make the Service of God, and the purchasing Heaven and Happiness to ourselves, as much our Business, our End, our Design, as these Men make Wealth or Pleasure to be theirs, we should certainly be thus affected. The common Course of our Thoughts would naturally and easily, without the least Constraint, run upon those Objects: And we should take as great Delight in Thinking of our Treasure, and Contriving for the obtaining of it; as they do in Thinking and Proječting for theirs.
I say, Thus it would be with us. For I can. not for my Life apprehend, what Charms there can be in Worldly or Sensual Things, to attract a Man's Mind; what Fetters there can be in them, to bind his Thoughts, and tye them to themselves: But that there are the fame, or greater, in Vertue and Goodness; in the Love and Favour of God; in a Pure Con science here, and Eternal Glory hereafter : Always provided, that they are as much made the Objects of our Choice and Pursuit, as the other.
And therefore I cannot but suspect, where we fee Men so very cold and backward to Spiritual Things; and fo apt to spend all their Thoughts upon trifling, vain, or worldly Matters, that it is with a great deal of Pains
and Reluctancy, that they can bring them. selves to think of their Everlasting Concernments : I say, I cannot but suspect that these Persons have not yet laid up their Treasure in Heaven, as our Saviour expresseth it; they have not yet so wholly devoted themselves to the Service of God, as to make it their Main Business. When once they have done that, I dare assure them, they will find it so far from being a Force upon them, to think of good Things, that it will be very natural to them; and they will find the greatest Pleasure in the World in so doing.
Secondly, Whoever would keep his Heart always in a good Frame, and be able to give a good Account of his Thoughts to God, must have an especial Care to avoid Iwo Things, viz. Idleness, and loose Company: For both of these do ftrangely unhinge a Man's Mind; and disarm it of that Severity, which is its best Guard and Defence against evil Thoughts; and make it become an easie Prey to every Temptation that will attack it.
A wise. Man should never be at such a pass as to say, I have nothing to do, I do not know how to spend my next Hour : But should so order the Course of his Life, that all the Portions of his Time, as much as is possible, may be filled with some useful, or at least some innocent Employment.
It is Idleness, and having nothing to do, that is the Mother of most of those vain, and unprofitable, and sinful Fancies, in which some Men spend their Days. And whereas Temptations do now and then come in the
way of other Men; the Idle Man is forc'd 'to seek out Temptations for the Shipwreck of his Vertue. And therefore no wonder, if he that seeks them, finds abundance of them.
And truly, loose and impertinent Conversation, which was the other Thing I named, though it looks something with a better Grace, yet is not much better than Idleness. For where-ever, it is much used, it will so emasculate a Man's Mind, and take off the Edge and Vigour of it, as to serious Things, that he cannot easily get it into a good Frame again. Evil Communication (faith St. Paul) doth 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 impossible 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, profane, and wicked, and Atheistical too, if the Company they much converse with, be of that strain.
Thirdly, Another Thing of great Moment, for the keeping our Hearts, is, To be as attentive as is possible to the first Motions of our Minds ;, and whenever we find that they tend toward something that is forbidden, to stop them, as soon as we can.
We cannot, as I told you before, often prevent irregular Defires, or Passions, or Inclinations, from arising in our Minds, upon sundry Occasions. But this we can do: As soon as we are aware of them, we can refuse our Consent to them; (and in that Case, I hope, they will
not be imputed to us as Sins ;) Nay, not only fo, but we can refuse their breaking out, Shewing themselves in our Words, or our Actions : For the Motions of our outward Members are all at our Command, though the first Motions of our Minds be not.
Here therefore will lie a main Point in the Art of well governing our Minds and Thoughts. You cannot perhaps, for Instance, prevent a fudden Passion of Anger from 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 vent itself in unseemly Words: And if you will withdraw that Fuel from the new kindled Fire, it will be foon extinguished, and die. Whereas if you suffer it to break out in bitter Speeches and Expressions, it will flame beyond measure.
Thus again, If any undecent, impure Fancies or Delires 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 caused them; and to endeavour to direct your Thoughts to some other Object; at least not to proceed one Step in any outward A&tion towards the accomplishing of those Delireś. If
If you take this Course, the Disturbance of your Mind will foon cease, and you will return presently to your ordinary Temper.
And let me tell you this farther : That by your being thus careful to resist and smother the first Beginnings of Sin, you will not only
preserve, in a greater measure, the Innocency
Minds under the present Temptation; but you will also have this further Advantage, that by this means, you increase your Power over your Thoughts, against the next Time that the Temptation returns. Every Check you give to che first Motions of Sin, makes the next Assault of them the less furious. And if you do constantly use yourselves thus to Guard and Watch over your 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, here
upon several Occasions, used to be kind. led in you. By this Method
will strengthen your Faculties, and enlarge your Powers; and by' degrees, bring yourselves to that happy Temper of Soul, that there will be no great War between the Law of your Members, and the Law of your Minds: But the World and the Flesh will be Crucified to you, as you are to them; that I may use St. Paul's Expressions.
But then, Fourthly, 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; there are some particular Exercises very proper for this purpose to be recommended. Such I mean as these, Converse with discreet and pious Persons; Reading good Books, especially the Holy Scriptures; taking Times of Meditation and Recollection ; and above all, Fervent and Constant Prayer to God.
It is not to be told how every one of these Things doth help to inspire us with good Thoughts and Purposes.