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sed Angels in all manner of Holiness, since. We, as well as they, are always in his Presence. To this purpose it would be expedient, daily to renew our Refolutions of living well, and every Morning to refresh and quicken that Zeal, with which they were made at first. To beg of God that he would help us, and enable us that Day to begin well ; To begin, I say; for all that we have done hitherto ought in Lowlinefs of Mind to seem, and to be acknowledg’d by us, as nothing.
Great Diligence and Watchfulness is nécessary, in order to discharging faithfully what we have intended, and resolved zealously. For if They, who are most fincere and vigorous in their Purposes, are yet too often weary, and remiss in their Performance, What do we think must needs become of those who purpose but very feldom, or very coldly ? 'Tis true, indeed, the Occasions of our falling off, or fainting in our Minds, are various and many; and feldom do we allow our selves in any Omission of Religious Duties, without even thus perceiving a very sensible Abatement and Decay of Zeal. The Perseverance of good Men, in the midst of so many Difficulties and Avocations, must be ascribed to God's Favour and Assistance, more than to any Care and Wisdom of their own. And Good Men have always this Notion of the Thing. For they depend upon God for the Success of all they do, even
of their best and wiseft Undertakings. A Prov. xvi. 9.
Man's Heart deviseth his Way, but the Lord directeth his Steps, says Solomori : We may con
trive and act as seems most adviseable ; Ibid. i.
But, as the very Preparations of the Heart, by which we do so, are from the Lord; so is the Event of our having done it, entirely in his Disposal.
If at any time a Religious Exercise be omitted, upon the Account of some other Act of Piety, or fome Work of Charity at that time inconsistent with it ;
this does us no Disservice, and the Omislion is easily repaired. But if thro’any Loathness or Indisposition of Mind, if thro’Laziness or any voluntary Neglect of our own, our customary Devotions be passed over ; this is from a wicked Cause, and will not fail to have a very ill Effect upon us. When we keep our Zeal with all our might, and do our very best, yet even then we shall find our selves often defective. But tho' we cannot arrive at absolute Perfection, nor conquer all our Frailties, nor prevent all our Hindrances in Goodness ; yet ought not this to discourage us from striving and resolving. And, when we do so, we shall do well not to content our selves with general Intentions, but bend our Forces against some particular Thing : And chiefly against such, as we have found by Experience to be the greatest and moft troublesome Obstruction to our doing well. The Condition of our Affairs without, and that of our own Souls within, must be diligently considered, and reduced into the best Order we can ; because both the Circumstances of the One, and the Dispositions of the Other, contribute greatly to our Furtherance in Piety.
It may be, you cannot at all Times recollect and call your self to Account, but certainly you cannot want Opportunities of doing so once every Day at least. The Morning or the Evening are proper for it. In the Morning you may lay out your Business for the Day following ; And, at the return of Night again you may reflect what hath passed in the Day-time ; how your Thoughts, and Words, and Actions have agreed with the Scheme of Behaviour you laid before your felf. Where you have transgressed, how far exceeded or fallen short, and in what Instances (for alas ! it is but too likely that you have in many Instances) offended God and Man. In this Scheme you for n of living well, quit your self like a Man, in resisting the Asaults of the Devil. To this End begin with keeping a strict
hand over your Appetite ; for when you have once attained to a rigid and masterly Sobriety, all other fleshly Desires and Temptations will be vanquished and kept under with much less Difficulty. To the same purpose, beware of Idlenefs ; be constantly in Action, Jet Reading, or Writing, or Praying, or Meditating, or Contriving somewhat for the good of Others, employ your leisure Hours. Some Bodily Exercises are very fit to be ufed, but these will require Prudence in the Choice of them ; for all are not equally convenient ; and therefore the Nature and Degrees of them must be considered, as well as the Temper and Constitution of the Perfon consulted, to render them profitable.
Some religious Exercises the Community is concern, ed in, and they must be attended to in Publick. Others are Personal, and these will be best performed in pri
This Distinction is of great Use, to keep Men from acting improperly ; for even a good thing may lofe much of its Gracefulness and Commendation, by being done out of due place and time. Another necelfary Caution, which many good People stand in need of, is, That you should not be so zealously bent upon any private Devotions or Duties, as for their fakes to flight or disuse the Publick ; for these require at least an equal degree of your Esteem, and Care in the Attendance of them. But when you have discharged your Duty in that Point, and done all that your particular Station, or the Commands of your Superiors, require
you ; Then is the proper Season, and then you will do well, to return into your own Breaft and employ the remainder of your Time, as Piety and Religi.. ous Purposes shall direct. And here again a prudent Choice is needful ; For all forts, even of Religious Entertainments, are not fuited alike to our Spiritual Advantage. Some Difference arises from the Confideration of the Persons, and another very visible one from the different Times and Seasons of using them. Some
from you i
are more proper for Holy-days, others for Common Days ; some for Festivals, others for Fasts ; some for a time of Temptation and AMiction, others for a peaceful and ferene State of Mind : Some to Persons in Grief, or under calamitous Circumstances; others for Prosperity, when the Spirits flow gayly, and our Hearts rejoyce and sing for the Goodness of the Lord. Particularly it will be convenient in an especial manner to renew and raise our Souls, by very frequent and folemn Acts of Piety and Devotion, at the constant Returns of all the Christian Festivals. For these should represent to our Minds the eternal uninterrupted Festival of Joy and Thanks, celebrated by the Saints in Heaven. And this should put our Souls upon the Wing, inflame our Devotion, mount us up thither, and make us act even beyond our felves; more chearfully, more vigorously; as if we were just then going to receive that Glorious Reward of our Labour, which these glad Seasons bring fo lively Ideas of to our Thoughts.
And, if the Time of our receiving that Reward be still delay'd, let us be so thankful for a longer Time given us here, as at the same time to be humbled by that very length of Life, which the generality of the World are apt to esteem the greatest happiness that can befal them. Let us endeavour to do God still better Service, but let us suspect, that we have not served him yet as we ought. For, if we had, he would not have put off our Recompence to a farther Day; and probable it is, that he does not translate us to Heaven as yet, because we are not fit for it. And let us there, fore double our Care to qualify our selves for that Glory which in his own appointed time shall not fail to be manifested in us. Come he most assuredly Luke xii. 37. will, and Blessed is that Servant whom his Matth. xxiv. Lord, when he cometh, fall find watching. 47. Verily I say unto you, be will make him Ruler-over all bis Goods, and Partaker of the Joy of his Lord.
CH A P.
CHA P. XX.
Love of Solitude and Silence.
Privacy and Conversing with your self; and let this be spent in frequent and thankful Reflections upon the Mercies of God ; and in reading good Books.. Among which I advise you by all means to let alone nice. Disputes, and unprofitable Speculations ;; and keep to such Subjects, as may be proper for the exciting your "Zeal and quickning your Affections, rather than such as may employ the Subtilty of your Wit. Never fear that you shall want leisure for these good Purposes. For if you will prevail with your self to abate the mere Impertinences of Life, the unnecessary Conversations, the Time spent in hearing and telling of News, in enquiring after, and spreading about idle Re: ports, and such as are either faulty or frivolous Waftings of your Time, you cannot want fufficient Leifure, and great Opportunities, for cherishing and improving holy and heavenly Meditations. Thus did the most eninent Saints industriously avoid Company and Business, and chuse to converse with God in private, as much, and as often, as possibly they could.
'Tis a good Reflection, which the Philofopher made of himself; That he never was in other Mens Company,
but he came out of it less a Man than he went in. And this is what we may frequently confirm by our own Experience, after a great deal of Discourse bath pafs’d. ''Tis certainly much easier for a Man to restrain himself from Talking at all, than to enter into Discourse, and not say more than becomes him: Ini finitely eafier to live at home and fee no Body, than to go abroad into Company, and return innocent.: A Man therefore, who makes inward and spiritual Per