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yond measure presumptuous for any man to refuse the light and aid of the religion of Christ, in this world of danger, temptation, and frailty. With all his supports, the best man finds the path of virtue difficult, God knows, and perilous enough. Without them, every spot on which we tread is insecure, and every step we advance we are menaced by destruction. As then you value the peace and hopes which virtue can give in this world; as you regard the favour of God, as you value his mercies, and hope for final acceptance with him, seek to impress on your hearts the eternal truth, that religion and morality are bound together in indissoluble bonds. Let us then put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand in the evil day. Then we may meet the enemies of our salvation, and fight the good fight of faith unshaken, unseduced, unterrified. And when at last the struggle is over with us, Heaven will open wide her ever during gates to receive us, and we shall be welcomed to the joy of our Lord.
GOVERNMENT OF THE THOUGHTS.
PSALM CXXXIX. 23, 24.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any
wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Whatever theory may be formed to account for the progress of the gospel, it will at least be admitted that it owes none of its success to flattering the passions, or coinciding with the vicious propensities, of mankind. The requisitions of the gospel every where display the most high and austere and unaccommodating purity. In the systems of most of the ancient moralists, even when there was no intention of making any compromise with the vicious inclinations of the human heart, the utmost that was proposed was to regulate the actions of mankind. But the Master whom we serve, exercises a sublimer and more extensive jurisdiction over his followers. His empire is universal. It controuls every faculty of our minds, and is to be felt in the
inmost recesses of our hearts. His religion does not merely restrain our external actions, it penetrates where no human eye can follow it, and regulates the secret workings of our very thoughts.
And herein is illustrated that profound and intimate knowledge of human nature, on which the precepts of him “ who knew what is in man,” are all built. To impose any restriction on the thoughts, might at the first view appear to be severe and cruel, and an unnecessary abridgment of the scanty stock of our harmless pleasures. What is so free, it
may be said, as thought, and what so innocent, as long as our actions are right, as to suffer our thoughts to range without controul ? But our Saviour knew that it was in vain to prohibit actions, as long as the thoughts are suffered to rove at liberty; to attempt to check the flowing of the stream, when the fountain itself is strained. The connexion between thought and action is so intimate and unavoidable, that in its most extensive sense, it may be said, that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. The gospel therefore requires the government of the thoughts, not merely as a useful, but an indispensable discipline; not merely as auxiliary to the higher virtues of the christian character, but as altogether necessary to preserve us from the dominion of our sinful
propensities. It does not teach us to wait for sin till it is strong and flourishing, but commands us to root up its seeds as they are bursting into life. It
carries order and discipline into our very fancies and conceptions, and by hallowing the first shadowy notions of the minds from which actions spring, makes our actions themselves good and holy.
I propose to occupy your time to day, in attempting to illustrate the importance and practicability of the government of the thoughts. In illustrating its importance, I shall endeavour in the first place to show that the discipline of our thoughts is necessary to the full and successful exertion of our mental powers ; secondly, that it is necessary to our happiness, and to fit us for the scenes and duties of actual life; thirdly, that it is necessary to our virtues, and consequently to our everlasting well being.
I. It is necessary that our thoughts should be under regular discipline, in order to the full and successful exertion of our mental powers. What is called a vigorous and active mind seems, after all, to mean only a mind, of which the thoughts are all subjected to the authority of its governing powers, and may
therefore all be brought to bear, with their whole force, on the business in which it is occupied. Attention seems only another name for that state of mind, when all its thoughts are fixed and collected, and bent to a single point; and it is a power of attention, much more than any original and native diversity of talents, which constitutes the intellectual difference among men.
Newton was accustomed to declare, that if he differed from his fellow men, he owed it to his
meditation; in other words to his power of fixing his thoughts intently and long on any subject with which he was occupied. We must have all observed the truth of these remarks in the course of our various pursuits. If we examine our minds at those periods when they are most vigorously and successfully exerted, we shall observe that all other objects are excluded from our minds, and that our thoughts are concentrated and engrossed by the task in which we are employed. If on the contrary we observe ourselves when our minds are indisposed, reluctant and inefficient, we shall find that our dominion over our thoughts is lost, that attention is dissipated and distracted by a multitude of unrelated images, which float through the fancy,and that all our powers are weakened, because discordant and divided. The effect of suffering our thoughts to wander without guidance and without object is too obvious to have escaped the most careless observer. It breaks up all our habits of regular inquiry, indisposes us for any thing which requires seriousness and patience, and especially unfits us for meditation on divine things, which from their nature the mind is with so much difficulty brought steadily to contemplate. If then we desire to effect any thing valuable in this short life; if we seek to use our talents according to the purposes of the Giver; if we would improve our own minds for the service of God, and the scenes of eternity; and contribute what we can, to the hapa