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our Minds, and exposing us to bad Company, so it lays us open to those Temptations, to which our corrupt
Natures are most inclined. And together with this of Idleness, or as a Branch of it , it is necessary that we be cautioned against bad Company and bad Books, as being Instruments whereby our own wicked, but perhaps as yet bashful Thoughts, are ripened and improved to a greater Daringness and Confidence, and affifted to throw off all Restraints of Shame and Modefty, and Reverence for Parents and others, who would give us better Counsel and Example. And as carefully as we are to avoid the "Infection of bad Company and bad Books, we are with the like Care to take the Assistance of good Company and good Books; and above all, should acquaint ourselves with the Holy Scriptures ; where, whenever our Souls are in a good Temper, we may find abundance of pleasant and useful Entertainment, 3:
Let us Study to be well acquainted with ourselves, especially with our most prevailing Inclinations, and to observe the usual Snares and Temptations to which we are exposed ; together with the best Methods of diverting or withstanding them ; for as the Enemy of Mankind fits his Temptations to the Temper and Disposition of our Mind and Circumstances, so the Way to countermine him, is to fortify ourfelves against all his Contrivances, by keeping out of the Way of fome Temptations ; and by setting ourselves with all our Might to refift others.
4. But in general, it is much the safest in this fpiritual Warfare, not to be overbold in venturing upon Temptations ; but rather to be diffident of ourselves, and of our Firmness and good Resolutions : and therefore to keep out of the Way of Danger. The spiritual Warfare is not to be managed so much by bold Attacks, as by prudent Retreats ; not so much by Courage and SelfConfidence, as by an holy Fear and Caution; an humble Diffidence of ourselves, and an entire Dependance on God.
5. Because a great many of the evil Thoughts to which we are exposed, are occasioned by Intemperance, which brings on many Indifpofitions of Body and Mind; and unbends all our spiritual Care and Industry ; let it be a great Part of our Care and Endeavour to reduce the Body and the carnal Appetite to such Degrees of Selfdenial, that it may not rebel against the Mind and Superior Faculty. I do not mean the Tormenting and Macerating the Body, but only the keeping it within the just Bounds of Temperance and Health, that it may be capable of accompanying the Soul in all good Exercises. For the Body ought to be a Servant to the Mind, not the Mind to the Body; and should be kept under such Rules of Mortification and Self-denial, as to make it a fit Instrument to attend the Soul in the Service of God and our Neighbour.
6. Particularly it is highly necessary to keep a vigilant Watch over all the Senses, they being the usual Doors, through which bad Thoughts get into the Soul. And therefore let us decline
such Sights of our Eyes as would raise bad Thoughts and Ideas in our Minds, and the Hearing of such Discourse with our Ears, as would corrupt our Hearts; and if our Hands or Feet offend us, that is, prove the Occasions of our Falling into any Sin, let us cut them off; that is, let us deny ourselves the Use of them upon such Occasions. In short, let all our Members be Instruments of Righteousness, and all our Senses Servants to God.
7. Because nothing exposes the Mind to more Snares and Dangers than a melancholy Despondency, which lets in the Devil with all his Temptations at once ; or a ruffling Passion, which makes us lose our Presence of Mind, and lays us open to whatever Anger, Fury and Despair suggest; therefore let us make it our Business, if we would avoid bad Thoughts, to keep our Minds in an even and cheerful Temper, well fortified against all the common Provocations to Anger, and well supported against all the Troubles and Calamities of Life, which might put us out of Heart and Temper. Calmness and Cheerfulness are absolutely necessary to withstand the Temptations of the Devil, the World and the Flesh; for if once a Breach is made in the Spirit, it is like a Gap in a Fence, where every destroying Creature may enter; it being impossible to keep a good Guard against finful Thoughts, if we let ourselves loose to any unruly Palfion, or sink under an heartless, melancholy Despondency.
8. It would be a great Means to prevent bad Thoughts, if we would employ the Mind in two very useful Exercises, Vigilance, and Self-ExaM 2
mination. By Vigilance, I understand the taking
Alteration of Circumstances that may happen ; yet no doubt it is very possible, from the Confideration of our present Circumstances, and the Knowledge of our own Inclinations and Dispositions, and former Lapses, to be much upon our Guard against the most usual Temptations that can befal us, so as not to be surprised or foiled by them. Especially if to this Vigilance and Forecast what is to be done, we add a daily Reflection and Self-examination, what we have done, in order to the PraiGing God for what we have done well, and the Repenting of what is amiss, and the taking right Measures to rectify it for the Future. For by this Method, a Man becomes his own Reprover and Monitor, and from daily Experience, both of his own Good and Bad Actions, learns to improve himfelf for the Future.
9. It is a great Help towards the right Government of the Thoughts, to have in Readiness a Magazine of good Thoughts to flee to, whenever we are affaulted by Temptations, e. g. if
we can then think on God's Works of Creation, Providence, Redemption, or Grace : If we are then ready with a Catalogue of God's peculiar Mercies to ourselves; or if we can then remember the Examples of other good Men and Women we have been acquainted with ; and if we are not at such Times fit to praise God in Composures of our own, we may make use of the Composures of others, particularly that excellent Book of the Psalms, where we may find Meditations suiting all the various Tempers and Circumstances of our Minds. These we may usefully read, repeat, or fing, till we have diverted the present Indisposition or Temptation we labour under. This is like a Garrison at Hand, to which we may Retreat from a sudden Attack of the Enemy.
10. The Fixing the Intention aright, in every Thing we go about, is a good way to fan&tify our Thoughts, and from Bad or Indifferent, to make them really Good and Heavenly; e. g. if in setting about any of the ordinaty Actions of Life, such as Eating, Drinking, Sleeping, and the like, we should think on God, and actually propose to ourselves the Refreshment of our Bodies, that they may be so much the fitter to accompany the Soul in his Service. If in whatever we do, we should think of his Command, and do it in Obedience to that ; or think on whatsoever Relation it may have to his Service, and set about it under that View and Prospect.
11. The Belief and Exercise of the Divine Presence, the Actual Remembrance that God is the Witness of all, even our most Secret