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dance between the inward and outward man; thought, word, and deed, must be constantly and inseparably united.
Let us then seek to lay the foundation of virtue deeply and permanently in holy thoughts; and keep the recesses of the heart pure from the intrusion of guilt. It is easy to stifle vice, while it yet exists half formed and immature in the thoughts; but if we suffer it to live there, and gather strength, it will at length become too powerful for our controul, and sting the unguarded bosom which has fostered and cherished it. We must hold no parley with sin, if we would not become its victim and its slave. Say not that it is safe merely to listen to sin; that there can be no harm in merely suffering our thoughts to gaze upon it; we can still always deny; we can always retreat, when we please ; we still remain masters of our actions. My friends, we deceive ourselves. All that sin asks of us, is to think of it. It is madness to contend on equal terms with the eloquence of passion. She will first charm you to silence, then deceive your reason into conviction, and then lead you utterly from God. There is no safety but in eternal and irreconcilable war with it.
To meditate on sin is the more dangerous, because it may be indulged in the deepest solitude, where it escapes the awe of observation, and the restraints of public opinion. The undermining process of internal corruption may be secretly going on in the mind, while all without appears lovely, innocent, and pure.
We are called on, therefore, by our love of openness, and detestation of hypocrisy, to make the thoughts of our minds correspond to the external character of our actions, to disdain to display one character to the world, and have another in the secret places of the heart; to be unwilling to owe our estimation among men only to their ignorance of the real state of our desires. A good man will seek to have his thoughts and actions one; to own a heart so pure, as that he may be able to defy the keenest inquisition of the human race.
There remains yet a more solemn consideration. It is, that however we may succeed in concealing our thoughts from the world, there is an eye which constantly fastens its observations on us, to which the darkness and the light are both alike, and which can pierce the thickest veil with which we cover our hearts. We
We may deceive our fellow men, but God we cannot deceive; and “ He will bring into judgment every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.”
SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
PSALM CXXXIX. 23, 24.
Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me and
know my thoughts; and see if there
in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Nothing at first view may seem more wholly placed beyond control than the thought of man. It not only escapes all external power and authority; but it is not even restrained within the limits of nature and reality. No bounds can be set to its excursions. It
passes in a moment from earth to heaven, numbers the stars, weighs their masses, traces their courses and predicts their revolutions. While the body is confined to a single planet, along which it creeps with pain and difficulty, thought can at once transport us into the most distant parts of the universe, or even into the illimitable regions of space. The conception of the mind outruns incalculably the performance of the hand, and we can contrive in minutes, what we can only slowly execute in
To confine within rules a power so restless and excursive might seem at first too hard a task to be attempted. Yet it is a command of the gospel of Christ, that we should confine its wanderings and repress its irregularities; and we may be that whatever God has made necessary, he has also made possible. It is a command which is founded on the most deep and intimate knowledge of the moral nature of man. The connexion between thought and action is so unavoidable, that if the propensities of our nature are to be subjected to regulation at all, the check must be laid on the thought, or it will be in vain to prohibit the action. If to regulate the thoughts be impossible, then is virtue itself impracticable ; and to call on us to obey its laws is only cruel and insulting mockery.
But this we know to be false. The consciousness of responsibility is written on the human heart, in characters too deep and lasting to be argued away by any sophistry; and if we are commanded to regulate the thoughts, He who gives the command, will give also the power of obedience.
For every temptation with which we can be assailed in the world, there is a power within us, greater and mightier than that temptation. We have reason, to discern between good and evil, both in their present and remote consequences. We have freedom to resolve, we have conscience and revelation to teach us what to resolve, and we may have, if we ask it, the
grace of God, and his protecting spirit, to sanctify all the good which we desire and intend.
I endeavoured this morning to impress on you the importance of governing the thoughts, by showing, in the first place, its necessity to the full and successful exertion of our mental powers;
in the next place to our happiness here, and our fitness for the scenes and duties of actual life ; and thirdly to our virtue, and consequently to our everlasting well-being. I shall now endeavour to illustrate the practicability of this duty, and point out some of the means, which
assist us in perform
We must begin by conceding, that perhaps no man can so wholly regulate attention by his will, that his ideas shall always come and go exactly at his command. There is a constant succession of thoughts, an ever-changing current of ideas, passing through the mind, by which our past sensations and impressions, combined and compounded in innumerable ways, present themselves to the attention. This train of our ideas, as it is called, is so far involuntary, that it proceeds, like the act of breathing, without the necessary concurrence of our will, and must be in perpetual motion, whether we sleep or wake, whether we observe or neglect it.
We cannot by any effort of mind altotogether stop its course; as any one will
perceive, who shall attempt, even for a few moments, to exclude every thought from his mind. He will speedily find, that in spite of himself, a