Sivut kuvina

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 counterpoise to those attractions of the world, which would draw your whole attention downwards to sense and vanity.



PROVERBS, iv. 24,

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

HAVING treated, in the foregoing Discourse, of the government of the thoughts, I proceed to consider the government of the passions, as the next great duty included in the keeping of the heart,

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 corruption, of man, he was subject to like passions with us. On some occasions, he felt the risings of anger. He was often touched with pity. He was grieved in spirit; he sorrowed, and he wept.

Passions, when properly directed, may be subservient to very useful ends. They rouse the dormant powers of the soul. They are even found to exalt them. They often raise a man above himself, and render him more penetrating, vigorous, and masterly, than he is in his calmer hours. Actuated by some high passion, he conceives great designs, and surmounts all difficulties in the execution. He is inspired with more lofty sentiments, and endowed with more persuasive utterance, than he possesses at any other time. Passions are the active forces of the soul. They are its highest powers brought into movement and exertion. But, like all other great powers, they are either useful or destructive, according to their direction and degree; as wind and fire are instrumental in carrying on many of the beneficent operations of nature; but when they rise to undue violence, or deviate from their proper course, their path is marked with


[ocr errors]

It is the present infelicity of human nature, that those strong emotions of the mind are

become too powerful for the principle which ought to regulate them. This is one of the unhappy consequences of our apostacy from God, that the influence of reason is weakened, and that of passion strengthened within the heart. When man revolted from his Maker, his passions rebelled against himself; and from being originally the ministers of reason, have become the tyrants of the soul. Hence, in treating of this subject, two things may be assumed as principles: first, that through the present weakness of the understanding, our passions are often directed towards improper objects; and next, that even when their direction is just, and their objects are innocent, they perpetually tend to run into excess; they always hurry us towards their gratification with a blind and dangerous impetuosity. On these two points, then, turns the whole government of our passions: first, to ascertain the proper objects of their pursuit ; and next, to restrain them in that pursuit, when they would carry us beyond the bounds of reason. If there be any passion which intrudes itself unseasonably into our mind, which darkens and troubles our judgement, or habitually discomposes our temper; which unfits us for properly discharging the duties, or disqualifies us for cheerfully enjoy

[ocr errors]

ing the comforts of life, we may certainly conclude it to have gained a dangerous ascendant. The great object which we ought to propose to ourselves, is, to acquire a firm and steadfast mind, which the infatuation of passion shall not seduce, nor its violence shake; which, resting on fixed principles, shall, in the midst of contending emotions, remain free and master of itself; able to listen calmly to the voice of conscience, and prepared to obey its dictates without hesitation.

To obtain, if possible, such command of passion, is one of the highest attainments of the rational nature. Arguments to show its importance crowd upon us from every quarter. If there be any fertile source of mischief to human life, it is, beyond doubt, the misrule of passion. It is this which poisons the enjoyment of individuals, overturns the order of society, and strews the path of life with so many miseries, as to render it indeed the valley of tears. All those great scenes of public calamity, which we behold with astonishment and horror, have originated from the source of violent passions. These have overspread the earth with bloodshed. These have pointed the assassin's dagger, and filled the poisoned bowl. These, in every age, have furnished too copious materials for the orator's pa

« EdellinenJatka »