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SERMON As, therefore, you would govern your
thoughts, or indeed as you would have any thoughts that are worthy of being governed, provide honourable employment for the native activity of your minds. Keep knowledge, virtue, and usefulness, ever in view. Let your life proceed in a train of such pursuits as are worthy of a Christian, of a rational and social being. While these are regularly carried on as the main business of life, let amusement possess no more than its proper place in the distribution of your time. Take particular care that your amusements be of an irreproachable kind, and that all your society be either improving or innocent. So shall the stream of your thoughts be made to run in a pure channel. Manly occupations and virtuous principles will expel the taint, which idleness never fails to communicate to the vacant mind. :
In the third place, when criminal thoughts arise, attend to all the proper methods of speedily suppressing them. Take example from the unhappy industry which sinners discover in banishing good ones, when a natural sense of religion forces them on their conscience. How anxiously do they fly
from themselves! How studiously do they SERMON drown the voice which upbraids them in II.
the noise of company or diversion! What -numerous artifices do they employ to evade
the uneasiness which returns of reflection would produce !-Were we to use equal diligence in preventing the entrance of vicious suggestions, or in expelling them when enter
ed, why should we not be equally successful - in a much better cause ? As soon as you are sensible that any dangerous passion begins to ferment, instantly call in other passions, and other ideas, to your aid. Hasten to turn your thoughts into a different direction. Summon up whatever you have found to be of power for composing and harmonizing your mind. Fly for assistance to serious studies, to prayer, and devotion; or even fly
to business, or innocent society, if solitude · be in hazard of favouring the seduction. By
such means you may stop the progress of the growing evil. You may apply an antidote, · before the poison has had time to work its
* In the fourth place, it will be particularly
useful to impress your minds with an habitual
SERMON sense of the presence of the Almighty. Wheri II.
we reflect what a strong check the belief of divine omniscience is calculated to give to all criminal thoughts; we are tempted to suspect that even by Christians this article of faith is not received with sincere conviction. For who but must confess, that if he knew a parent, a friend, or a neighbour, to have the power of looking into his heart, hie durst not allow himself that unbounded scope which he now gives to his imagination and desire ? Whence, then, comes it to pass, that men, without fear or concern, bring into the presence of the awful Majesty of Heaven, that folly and licentiousness of thought which would make them blush and tremble, if one of their own fellow-creatures could descry it? At the same time, no principle is supported by clearer evidence, than the .omniscience of God. All religious sects have admitted it, all societies of men, in their oaths and covenants, appeal to it. The Sovereign of the universe cannot but know what passes throughout his dominions. He who supports all nature, must needs pervade and fill it. He who formed the heart, is certainly conscious to what passes within it.
Never let this great article of faith escape SERMON from your view. In thinking, as well as in acting, accustom yourselves to look up with reverence to that piercing eye of divine observation, which never slumbers nom sleeps. Behold a pen always writing over your head, and making up that great record of your thoughts, words, and actions, from which at last you are to be judged. Think that you are never less alone, than when by yourselves; for then is he still with you, whose inspection is of greater consequence than that of all mankind. Let these awful considerations not only check the dissipation of corrupt fancy, but infuse into your spirits that solemn composure which is the parent of meditation and wisdom. Let them not only expel what is evil, but introduce in its stead what is pure and holy; elevating your thoughts to divine and eternal objects, and acting as the coun. terpoise to those attractions of the world, which would draw your whole attention downwards to sense and vanity. .
PROVERBS, iv. 23:
it are the issues of life.
thoughts, I proceed to consider the government of the passions, as the next great duty included in the keeping of the beart. .
Passions are strong emotions of the mind, occasioned by the view of apprehending good or evil. They are original parts of the constitution of our nature; and therefore to extirpate them is a mistaken aim. Religion requires no more of us, than to moderate and rule them. When our blessed Lord assumed the nature, without the