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sallies, and the most ramping reveries of the fancy, that can be. I know not whether my reader understands now what I mean ; but if he attentively regards all that passes through his mind, perhaps he may, hereafter, by experience.
8. Repel all impure and lascivious thoughts; which taint and pollute the mind ; and though hid from men, are known to God, in whose eye they are abominable. Our Saviour warns us against these as a kind of spiritual fornication, * and inconsistent with that purity of heart which his gospel requires.
9. Take care how you too much indulge gloomy and melancholy thoughts. Some are disposed to see every thing in the worst light. A black cloud hangs hovering over their minds; which, when it falls in showers through their eyes, is dispersed ; and all within is serene again. This is often purely mechanical ; and owing either to some fault in bodily constitution, or some accidental disorder in the animal frame. However, one that consults the peace of his own mind, will be upon his guard against this, which so often robs him of it.
10. On the other hand, let not the imagination be too sprightly and triumphant. Some are as unreasonably exalted, as others are depressed ; and the same person at different times often runs into both extremes ;, according to the different temper and flow of the animal spirits. And therefore the thoughts, which so
* Matt. v. 28.
eagerly crowd into the mind at such times, ought to be suspected and well guarded; otherwise they will impose upon our judgments, and lead us to form such a notion of ourselves and of things, as we shall soon see fit to alter, when the mind is in a more settled and sedate frame.
Before we let our thoughts judge of things, we must set reason to judge our thoughts ; for they are not always in a proper condition to execute that office. We do not believe the character which a man gives us of another, unless we have a good opinion of his own ; so neither should we believe the verdict which the mind pronounces, till we first examine whether it be impartial and unbiassed : whether it be in a proper temper to judge, and have proper lights to judge by.. The want of this previous act of self judgment, is the cause of much self deception and false judgment.
Lastly, With abhorrence reject immediately all profane and blasphemous thoughts; which are sometimes suddenly injected into the mind, we know not how, though we may give a pretty good guess from whence. And all those thoughts, which are apparently temptations and inducements to sin, our Lord hath, by his example, taught us to treat in this manner. *
These then are the thoughts we should carefully guard against.-+And as they will (especially some of them) be frequently insinuating themselves into the heart, remember to set rea
* Matt. iv, 10.
son at the door of it, to guard the passage and bar their entrance, or drive them out forthwith when entered ; not only as impertinent, but mischievous intruders.
But, II. There are other kinds of thoughts which we ought to indulge, and with great care and diligence retain and improve.
Whatever thoughts give the mind a rationa or religious pleasure, and tend to improve the heart and understanding, are to be favoured, often recalled, and carefully cultivated. Nor should we dismiss them, till they have made some impressions on the mind, which are like to abide there.
And to bring the mind into a habit of recov. ering, retaining, and improving such thoughts, two things are necessary,
1. To habituate ourselves to a close and rational way of thinking. And 2. To moral reflections, and religious contemplations.
1. To prepare and dispose the mind for the entertainment of good and useful thoughts, we must take care to accustom it to a close and ra. tional way of thinking.
When you have started a good thought, pursue it ; do not presently lose sight of it, or suffer any trifling suggestion that may intervene to divert you from it. Dismiss it not till you have sifted and exhausted it, and well considered the several consequences and inferences that result from it. However, retain not the subject any longer than
run freely upon it ; for to confine them to it when it is quite worrf out, is to give them an unnatural bent, without sufficient employment ; which will make them flag, or be more apt to run off to something else.
And to keep the mind intent on the subject you think of, you must be at some pains to recal and refix your desultory and rambling thoughts. Lay open the subject in as many lights and views as it is capable of being represented in. Clothe your best ideas in pertinent and well chosen words, deliberately pronounced ; or commit them to writing.
Whatever be the subject, admit of no inferences from it, but what you see plain and natural. This is the way to furnish the mind with true and solid knowledge. As, on the contrary, false knowledge proceeds from not understanding the subject, or drawing inferences from it, which are forced and unnatural; and allowing to those precarious inferences, or consequences drawn from them, the same degree of credibility as to the most rational and best established principles.
Beware of a superficial, slight, or confused view of things.' Go to the bottom of them, and examine the foundation'; and be satisfied with none but clear and distinct ideas (when they can be had) in every thing you read, hear, or think of.
For resting in imperfect and obscure ideas, is the source of much confusion and mistake.
in the pur
Accustom yourself to speak naturally, pertinently, and rationally, on all subjects, and you will soon learn to think so on the best ; especially if you often converse with those persons that speak, and those authors that write in that manner.
Such a regulation and right management of your thoughts and rational powers, will be of great and general advantage to you, in the suit of youthful knowiedge, and a good guard against the levities and frantick sallies of the imagination. Nor will you be sensible of any disadvantage attending it, excepting one, viz. its making you more sensible of the weakness and ignorance of others who are often talking in a random, inconsequential manner ; and whom it may oftentimes be more prudent to bear with than contradict. But the vast benefit this method will be of, in tracing out truth, and detecting errour, and the satisfaction it will give you in the cool and regular exercises of self employment, and in the retaining, pursuing, and improving good and useful thoughts, will more than compensate that petty disadvantage.
2. If we would have the mind furnished and entertained with good thoughts, we must inure it to religious and moral subjects.
It is certain, the mind cannot be more nobly and usefully employed than in such kind of contemplations. Because the knowledge it thereby acquires, is of ail others the most excellent knowledge ; and that, both in regard of its ob