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ledgments should be made to God on these accounts, as we pass through such agreeable scenes. On the other hand, providence is to be regarded in every disappointment, in every loss, in every pain, in every instance of unkindness, from those who have professed friendship: and we should endeavour to argue ourselves into a patient submission, from this consideration, that the hand of God is always mediately, if not immediately in each of them; and that if they are not properly the work of providence, they are at least under its direction. It is a reflection, which we should particularly make with relation to those little cross accidents, (as we are ready to call them,) and those infirmities and follies in the temper and conduct of our intimate friends, which may else be ready to discompose us. And it is the more necessary to guard our minds here, as wise and good men often lose the command of themselves on these comparatively little occasions; who calling up reason and religion to their assistance, stand the shock of great calamities with fortitude and resolution.
§. 16. (5.) For watchfulness against temptations: it is necessary, when changing our place, or our employment, to reflect, "What snares attend me here?" And as this should be our habitual care, so we should especially guard against those snares which in the morning we foresaw. And when we are entering on those circumstances in which we expected the assault, we should reflect, especially if it be a matter of great importance, "Now the combat is going to begin: now God and the blessed angels are observing what constancy, what fortitude there is in my soul, and how far the divine authority, and the remembrance of my own prayers and resolutions, will weigh with me, when it comes to a trial."
§. 17. (6.) As for dependance on divine grace and influence; it must be universal: and since we always need it, we must never forget that necessity. A moment spent in humble fervent breathings after the communions of the divine assistance may do more good, than many minutes spent in mere reasonings: and though indeed this should not be neglected, since the light of reason is a kind of divine illumination; yet still it ought to be pursued in a due sense of our dependance on the Father of lights, or where we think ourselves wisest, we may become vain in our imaginations*. Let us therefore always call upon God; and say, for instance, when we are going to pray, "Lord, fix my attention! Awaken my holy affections, and pour out
*Rom. i. 21, 22.
upon me the spirit of grace and of supplication*! When taking up the bible, or any other good book, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law+! Enlighten mine understanding! warm my heart! May my good resolutions be confirmed, and all the course of my life in a proper manner regulated!" When addressing ourselves to any worldly business, "Lord, prosper thou the work of mine hands upon me, and give thy blessing to my honest endeavours!" When going to any kind of recreation, "Lord, bless my refreshments! Let me not forget thee in them, but still keep thy glory in view!" When coming into company, "Lord, may I do, and get good! Let no corrupt communication proceed out of my mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers§! When entering upon difficulties, "Lord, give me that wisdom, which is profitable to direct ||! Teach me thy ways, and lead me in a plain path ¶!" When encountering with temptations, "Let thy strength, O gracious Redeemer, be made perfect in my weakness.**" These instances may illustrate the design of this direction, though they be far from a complete enumeration of all the circumstances in which it is to be regarded.
§. 18. (7.) For the government of our thoughts in solitude: let us accustom ourselves, on all occasions, to exercise a due command over our thoughts. Let us take care of those entanglements of passion, and those attachments to any present interest and view, which would deprive us of our power over them. Let us set before us some profitable subject of thought: such as the perfections of the blessed God, the love of Christ, the value of time, the certainty and importance of death and judgment, and the eternity of happiness or misery which is to follow. Let us also at such intervals reflect, on what we have observed as to the state of our own souls, with regard to the advance or decline of religion; or on the last sermon we have heard, or on the last portion of scripture we have read. You may perhaps, in this connexion, sir, recollect what I have (if I remember right,) proposed to you in conversation; that it might be very useful to select some one verse of scripture, which we had met with in the morning, and to treasure it up in our mind, resolving to think of that at any time when we are at a loss for matter of pious reflection, in any intervals of leisure for entering
Zech. xii. 1.0.
+Psal. cxix. 18.
Psal. xc. 17. **2 Cor. xii. 9.
Eph. iv. 29.
upon it. This will often be as a spring, from whence many profitable and delightful thoughts may arise, which perhaps we did not before see in that connexion and force. Or if it should not be so, yet I am persuaded it will be much better to repeat the same scripture in our mind an hundred times in a day, with some pious ejaculation formed upon it, than to leave our thoughts at the mercy of all those various trifles, which may otherwise intrude upon us; the variety of which will be far from making amends for their vanity.
§. 19. (8.) Lastly, For the government of our discourse in company we should take great care, that nothing may escape us, which can expose us, or our christian profession, to censure and reproach: nothing injurious to those that are absent, or to those that are present; nothing malignant, nothing insincere, nothing which may corrupt, nothing which may provoke, nothing which may mislead those about us. Nor should we, by any means be content, that what we say is innocent; it should be our desire, that it may be edifying to ourselves and others. In this view, we should endeavour to have some subject of useful discourse always ready; in which we may be assisted by the hints given about furniture for thought, under the former head. We should watch for decent opportunities of introducing useful reflections; and if a pious friend attempt to do it, we should endeavour to second it immediately. When the conversation does not turn directly on religious subjects, we should endeavour to make it improving some other way: we should reflect on the character and capacities of our company, that we may lead them to talk of what they understand best; for their discourses on those subjects will probably be most pleasing to themselves, as well as most useful to us. And in pauses of discourse, it may not be improper to lift up an holy ejaculation to God, that his grace may assist us and our friends in our endeavours to do good to each other; that all we say, and do, may be worthy the character of reasonable creatures and of christians.
§. 20. (III.) The directions for a religious closing of the day, which I shall here mention, are only two.-Let us see to it, that the secret duties of the evening be well performed, And let us lie down on our beds in a pious frame.
§. 21. (1.) For secret devotion in the evening, I would propose a method something different from that in the morning; but still, as then, with due allowances for circumstances, which may make unthought of alterations proper, I should, sir, advise to read a portion of scripture in the first place, with suitable
reflections, and prayer, as above: then to read a hymn, or psalm: after this to enter on self-examination, to be followed by a longer prayer than that which followed reading, to be formed on this review of the day in this address to the throne of grace it will be highly proper, to intreat that God would pardon the omissions and offences of the day; to praise him for mercies temporal and spiritual; to recommend ourselves to his protection for the ensuing night; with proper petitions for others, whom we ought to bear on our hearts before him; and particularly, for those friends with whom we have conversed or corresponded, in the preceding day. Many other concerns will occur, both in morning and evening prayer, which I have not here hinted at; but I did not apprehend that a full enumeration of these things belonged, by any means, to our present purpose. §. 22. Before I quit this head, I must take the liberty to remind you, that self-examination is so important a duty, that it will be worth our while to spend a few words upon it. And this branch of it is so easy, that when we have proper questions before us, any person of a common understanding may hope to go through it with advantage under a divine blessing. I offer you, therefore, the following queries, which I hope you will, with such alterations as you may judge requisite, keep near you for daily use. "Did I awake as with God this morning, and rise with a grateful sense of his goodness? How were the secret devotions of the morning performed? Did I offer my solemn praises, and renew the dedication of myself to God, with becoming attention and suitable affections? Did I lay my scheme for the business of the day, wisely and well? How did I read the scripture, or any other devotional or practical piece, which I might afterwards conveniently review? Did it do my heart good, or was it a mere amusement?-How have the other stated devotions of the day been attended, whether in the family or in public? Have I pursued the common business of this day with diligence and spirituality; doing every thing in season, and with all convenient dispatch, and as unto the Lord? What time have I lost this day, in the morning or the forenoon, in the afternoon, or the evening?" (for these divisions will assist your recollection ;) "and what has occasioned the loss of it? With what temper, and under what regulations, have the recreations of this day been pursued? Have I seen the hand of God in my mercies, health, cheerfulness, food, clothing, books, preservation in journies, success of business, conversation and kindness of
*Colos. iii. 23.
friends, &c.? Have I seen it in afflictions, and particularly in little things, which had a tendency to vex and disquiet me? And with regard to this interposition, have I received my comforts thankfully, and my afflictions submissively? How have I guarded against the temptations of the day, particularly against this or that temptation which I foresaw in the morning? Have I maintained an humble dependance on divine influences? Have I lived by faith in the Son of God*, and regarded Christ this day, as my teacher and governor, my atonement and intercessor, my example and guardian, my strength and forerunner? Have I been looking forward to death and eternity this day, and considered myself as a probationer for heaven, and through grace an expectant of it? Have I governed my thoughts well, espepecially in such or such an interval of solitude? How was my subject of thought this day chosen, and how was it regarded? Have I governed my discourses well, in such and such company? Did I say nothing passionate, mischievous, slanderous, imprudent, impertinent? Has my heart this day been full of love to God, and to all mankind? And have I sought, and found, and improved opportunities of doing, and of getting good?— With what attention and improvement have I read the scripture this evening? How was self-examination performed the last night; and how have I profited this day by any remarks I then made on former negligences and mistakes? With what temper did I then lie down, and compose myself to sleep?"
§. 23. You will easily sce, sir, that these questions are so adjusted, as to be an abridgment of the most material advices I have given in this letter; and I believe I need not, to a person of your understanding, say any thing as to the usefulness of such enquiries. Conscience will answer them in a few minutes; but if you think them too large and particular, you may make a still shorter abstract for daily use, and reserve these, with such obvious alteration as will then be necessary, for seasons of more than ordinary exactness in review, which I hope will occur at least once a week. Secret devotion being thus performed, before drowsiness render us unfit for it, the interval between that and our going to rest must be conducted by the rules mentioned under the next head. And nothing will farther remain to be considered here, but
§. 24. (2.) The sentiments with which we should lie down and compose ourselves to sleep. Now here it is obviously suitable to think of the divine goodness, in adding another day, and
*Gal. ii. 20.