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A little Passage now and then, though but occasionally dropt in Conversation, that is to the Business of Vertae and Goodneß, will supply us sometimes with Matter for good Thoughts
, for a considerable while after. What lasting Impressions then, do you think, would be left upon our Minds, if we made it our constant Exercise every Day, to read or hear something out of the Bible, or some other good Book, with a Design to grow better thereby?
But above all Things, we must take Care to be diligent and serious in our Applications to the Throne of Grace: It is Hearty Prayer and Devotion, that, when all is done, will prove the most effectual Means, for the keeping our Hearts steady to that which is Good, and securing them from the Pollutions of the fenfible Earthly Objects that do surround us.
O therefore let us be constant in our Religious Offices. Nay, let us take every Opportu. nity that our Affairs will allow us, of raising our Minds to God, and thanking him for his Infinite Love and Goodness to us; and imploring the continual Influences of his Grace and Holy Spirit, and re-inforcing our Vows and Purposes of persevering in his Service.
By this means we shall come to lead Spiritual Lives indeed. Our Souls will be a perpe. tual Fountain of good Thoughts.
And while we live here, our Conversation will be in Heaven: For God and Christ, and the Things Above, will have our Hearts, tho' the World hath our Bodies.
But then, in the Fifth and last Place, Notwithstanding what I have hitherto said con
terning the Diligence with which we are to keep our Hearts; yet this is always to be remembred, That with our Diligence we must be careful to join Discretion.
My Meaning is this, We must have a Care not to intend our Thoughts immoderately, and more than our Tempers will bear, even to the best Things : But we must fo keep our Hearts, as at the same Time to preserve our Healths; and keep up the Vigour of our Minds.
And the way to do that, is, Not to put them too much, or too long, upon the Stretch ac any one Time; but to relax them when there is Occasion, and to let them run out, and end tertain themselves upon any Thing that comes next to hand, so long as it is innocent.
It is a vain Thing to imagine, that we can always be thinking of our great Business ; or that we can always be a Praying, or Reading; or Meditating ; or, that, as our Condition is in this World, even the greater Part of our Thoughts should be such as we call Devont and Religious Thoughts.
God hath provided a great deal of other Bus finess for us to apply our Minds to, so long as we live in this world, and by minding that diligently and conscientiously, we do ferve God as acceptably, as if we were Reading or Praying:
Nay, even then, when we have no urgent Business upon our Hands to take up our Minds, it is not necessary that we should be always thinking of Religion. Nor would I call every Thought; a vain, or an idle, or a sinful Thought that hath not God, or our Spiritual Concernments for its Object; even the most Spiritua VOL. I. Ee
ally-minded among us, must oftentimes be content to be entertained with such Thoughts as our Company, or our Temper, or the prefent Circumstances we are in, do suggest to us. And provided those Thoughts be innocent, and do not intrench upon the Laws of Piety, and Purity, and Charity ; be they otherwise very triling and impertinent : I say, I would not look upon them as ill Thoughts, nor have any one angry at himself upon Account of them.
The Truth of it is, so long as we consist of Bodies and Souls, we cannot always be thinking of serious Things ; they, indeed, are the wiseft that think of them most, but it is even dangerous to attempt to think of them always. For, as most Mens Constitutions are, that is the ready way to spoil the Habit of our Bodies, and by that means, to render our Minds perfectly unfit for thinking at all, to any good Purposes.
Thus have I laid before you the Main Things wherein, as I do believe, the right Governing our Thoughts doth confift. And I doubt not they are so safe, and so effectual, that whofoever will sincerely practise them,
far as he can, will so keep his Heart, that the issues from thence in his Life and Conversation will be happy and prosperous. I conclude all with the Collect of this Day. Almighty God, who seeft that we have no Power of
ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our Bodies, and inwardly in our Souls; that we may be defended from all Adversities which may happen to the Body, and from all ÉVIL THOUGHTS, which may assault and hurt the Soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
LUKE Xviii. I. And he spake a Parable unto them, to this End, That Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
HE Parable which our Saviour
spake unto them, to this End, was T this; There was in a City a Judge, who
feared not God, nor regarded Men;
and there was a Widow in that City, and she came to him saying, Avenge me of my Adversary; and he would not for a while : But afterwards he said within himself, Tho' I fear not God, nor regard Man; Tet because this Widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, left by her continual coming she weary me.
The Application of this Parable is easie and natural. If a Man that neither fears God, nor regards Men; hath neither Sense of Religion nor Humanity; may be supposed to be so far prevaild upon by the earnest Prayer of a miserable necessicous Person, as to grant the Request made to him, and to administer Rea Ee 2
lief to the Supplicant; merely upon Account of the Continuance, and Importunity of the Petitions that are put up : Then how much more ought we think that God, who is Infinite Goodness itself ; who is always kind and bountiful to his Creatures; who delights to do Good to them, even without their seek. ing and desiring it; and who is so far from being at any Pains or Trouble for the supplying their Wants, that it is altogether as easie for him to do what is requested of him, as not to do it : I say, How much more ought we to think, that this God, upon our earnest and hearty Prayer to him for any Thing we stand in need of, will return us a kind Answer, and grant us such Supplies as are proper for us.
But then we are to remember, that we Pray always, and faint not. We must be diligent, and importunate, and persevering in our Devotions, otherwise we are not to ex. pect any more favourable Return of them, than the Judge in the Parable made to the Widow upon her once or twice putting up her Petitions to him.
This is the Effeet of the Parable. I mean not now farther to insist on it, but to stick to that Point, for the sake of which, our Saviour framed it : Jesus fpake a Parable unto them to this End, That Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
But what is meant by praying always, and not fainting, which our Lord here obliges us to ?' Is it to be always on your Knees, and to mind no other Business but Devotion ? So indeed, (they fay) some of ancient Times ex.