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It was an excellent rule which a wise heathen prescribed to himself in his private meditations :
Manage (saith he) all your actions and thoughts in such a manner, as if you were just going out of the world. Again, saith he, 'A man is seldom, if ever, unhappy for not knowing the thoughts of others; but he that does not attend to the motions of his own, is certainly miserable.'
It may be worth our while, then, to discuss this matter a little more precisely ; and consider, 1. What kind of thoughts are to be excluded or rejected. And, 2. What ought to be indulged and entertained.
1. Some thoughts ought to be immediately banished as soon as they have found entrance. And if we are often troubled with them, the safest way will be to keep a good guard on the avenues of the mind by which they enter, and avoid those occasions which commonly excite them. For sometimes it is much easier to pre: vent a bad thought entering the mind, than to get rid of it when it is entered. More particularly,
Watch against all fretful and discontented thoughts, which do but chafe and corrode the mind to no purpose. To harbour these, is to do yourself more injury than it is in the power of your greatest enemy to do you.
It is equally a christian's interest and duty to learn, in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content.'*
* Phil. iy. 11.
• 2. Harbour not too anxious and apprehensive thoughts. By giving way to tormenting fears, suspicious of some approaching danger or troublesome event, we not only anticipate, but double the evil we fear ; and undergo much more from the apprehension of it before it comes, than from the whole weight of it when present. This is a great, but common weakness ; which a man should endeavour to arm himself against by such kind of reflections as these :-- Are not all these events under the certain direction of a wise providence ? If they befal me, they are then that share of suffering which God hath appointed me ; and which he expects I should bear as a christian. How often hath my timorous heart magnified former trials? which I found to be less in reality than they appeared upon their approach. And perhaps the formidable aspect they put on, is only a stratagem of the great enemy of my best interest, designed on purpose to divert" me from some point of my duty, or to draw me into some sin to avoid them. However, why should I torment myself to no purpose ? The pain and affliction the dreaded evil will give me when it comes, is of God's sending ; the pain I feel in the apprehension of it before it comes, is of my own procuring Whereby I often make my sufferings more than double ; for this overplus of them, which I bring upon myself, is often greater than that measure of them which the
Think of the pa
hand of providence immediately brings upon me.'
3. Dismiss, as soon as may be, all angry and wrathful thoughts. These will but canker and corrode the mind, and dispose it to the worst temper in the world, viz, that of fixed malice and revenge. Anger may steal into the heart of a wise man, but it rests only in the bosom of fools.'* Make all the most candid allowances for the offender. Turn your anger into pity. Repeat 1 Cor. xiii. tience and meekness of Christ, and the petition in the Lord's Prayer : and how much you stand in need of forgiveness yourself, both from God and man ; how fruitless, how foolish, is indulged resentment; how tormenting to yourself? you have too much good nature willingly to give others so much torment; and why should you give it yourself? You are commanded to love your neighbour as yourself, but not forbidden to love yourself as much. And why should
yourself that injury, which your enemy would be glad to do you ?
But, above all, be sure to set a guard on the tongue whilst the fretful mood is upon you. The least spark may break out into a conflagration, when cherished by a resentive heat, and fanned by the wind of an angry breath. Aggravating expressions, at such a time, are like oil thrown upon flames, which always make them rage the more. Especially,
4. Banish all malignant and revengeful in Eccl. vii. 9.
thoughts. A spirit of revenge is the very spirit of the devil, than which nothing makes a man more like him ; and nothing can be more opposite to the temper which christianity was designed to promote. If your revenge be not satisfied, it will give you torment now ; if it be, it will give you greater hereafter. None is a greater self-tormentor than a malicious and revengeful man, who turns the poison of his own temper in upon himself. .
5. Drive from the mind all silly, trifling, and unreasonable thoughts ; which sometimes get into it we know not how, and seize and possess it before we are aware ; and hold it in empty, idle amusements, that yield neither pleasure nor profit, and turn to no manner of account in the world ; only consume time, and prevent a better employment of the mind. And indeed there is little difference, whether we spend the time in sleep, or in these waking dreams. Nay, if the thoughts which thus insensibly steal upon you be not altogether absurd and whimsical, yet if they be impertinent and unscasonable, they ought to be dismissed, because they keep out better company:
6. Cast out all wild and extravagant thoughts, all vain and fantastical imaginations. Suffer not your thoughts to roam upon things that never were, and perhaps never will be ; to give you a visionary pleasure in the prospect of what you have not the least reason to hope, or a needless pain in the apprehension of what you have not
the least reason to fear. The truth is, next to a clear conscience and a sound judgment, there is not a greater blessing than a regular and well governed imagination; to be able to view things as they are, in their true light and proper colours ; and to distinguish the false images that are painted on the fancy, from the representations of truth and reason. For how common a thing is it for men, before they are aware, to confound reason and fancy, truth and imagination together? To take the flashes of the animal spirits for the light of evidence ; and think they believe things to be true or false, when they only fancy them to be so ? and fancy them to be so, because they would have them so ? Not considering that mere fancy is only the ignis fatuus of the mind; which often appears brightest, when the mind is most covered with darkness ; and will be sure to lead them astray, who folow it as their guide. Near akin to these, are
7. Romantick and chimerical thoughts. By which I mean that kind of wild-fire, which the briskness of the animal spirits sometimes suddenly flashes on the mind, and excites images that are so extremely ridiculous and absurd, that one can scarce forbear wondering how they could get admittance. These random flights of the fancy are soon gone; and herein differ from that castle building of the imagination before mentioned, which is a more settled amusement. But these are too incoherent and senseless to be of long continuance ; and are the maddest