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GOVERNMENT OF THE THOUGHTS. 197 The indulgence of evil thoughts is represented as descriptive of those who are hastening to perdition. “ The wicked will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." Hence
their thoughts are declared to be hateful to the heart-searching : God. “ The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to
the Lord.” “ A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, God hateth.” Such thoughts need repentance and forgiveness. “ Repent therefore of this thy wickedness," said the apostle Peter, “and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Those who wish for holiness and happiness, are exhorted to forsake evil thoughts. “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts." < On the other hand, to indulge pious thoughts is represented
as descriptive of piety. “I will sing praise unto my God, my meditation of him shall be sweet."*“ Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night."y To have the thoughts frequently occupied with divine subjects, was required from the people of God under the old dispensation; and reason and Scripture may convince us, that it is not less important under the new.” The apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, directed Timothy to meditate on these things, and to give himself to meditation and prayer. Peter, the favoured disciple of the Lord of glory, not long before he quitted this world, wrote his second epistle, that his beloved friends might be stirred up to have those things which belonged to their eternal peace "ALWAYS IN REMEMBRANCE." If after all these testimonies to the importance of repressing evil thoughts, and of cherishing those of a holy and pious nature, more were necessary, you have it in the declaration of the blessed God, that “ a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that THOUGHT UPON HIS NAME. They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels.”b
To assist in governing the thoughts, it is a highly useful practice in the morning to fix upon some part of the divine word, though it should be but a single verse, which may furnish matter for meditation at leisure intervals during the day. (? Ps. . 4. (*)_Prov. xv, 26. (u) Prov. vi. 16. (v) Acts viii. 22. (a) 2 Pet. i. 15.
(6) Mal, ji. 16, 17.
) Isa. lv. 7.
(x) Ps, ciii. 33.
(v) Ps. i. 1, 2.
(2) Josh, 1.8, Deut. vi. 6.
GOVERNMENT OF THE LIPS. Such a practice will store the mind with Scripture knowledge, will greatly promote pious feeling, and will lead to enlarged views of the wisdom and loving-kindness of the Lord; if one day in a believer's life can be spent with God, every day may; and who at the close of life will regret such exertions, to promote in his own soul a spirit of piety, and of meetness for eternal glory?
$ 4. If you are a Christian, the government of your words will be an object of your earnest care. You will not think it sufficient, to avoid falsehood, profaneness, and slander ; but all conversation that can pollute the mind, or that tends to excite improper passions or unchristian feelings in others or yourself. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, neither foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but that which is good, to the use of edifying." Plainly sinful is language calculated to irritate those whose natural disposition may be less calmn than your own. In such cases, they who provoke, however tranquil themselves, are guilty of more sin than they who are provoked into rage. As he who coolly tempts another to sin, is evidently much more wicked than he who falls by that tempt. ation. Religion also enjoins its professors to guard against un profitable, as well as mischievous, conversation; and to endeavour to render their discourse beneficial and improving. Jesus said, “ I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”d “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."e And let it not be forgotten, that the Christian should cherish a habit of frequently discoursing on subjects not only harmless and useful, but decidedly religious. “They that feared the Lord spake often to one another, and the Lord hearkened and heard." “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”g
The government of our discourse is not easy; but is one of the highest Christian attainments; so high, that the Scriptures declare, that “ if any man offend not in word, the same is a (c) Eph. iv. 29. (d) Matt. xii. 36. ... (e) Col. iv. 6. (f) Mal. iii. 16.
(9) Col. iii. 16, 17.
199 perfect man." Nor is it unimportant; for in that solemn survey of our conduct and character, which must fix our eternal state, words, as well as actions and dispositions, will be brought into account, and “by thy words thou shalt be justified, or by thy words thou shalt be condemned."}
The power of speech is an important talent: by it you may reclaim the vicious, cheer the sad, guide the bewildered, instruct the ignorant, and comfort those who mourn. Improved aright, it will be the source of innumerable benefits to yourself, and those with whom you are connected; but if misim proved, it will heap upon your soul numberless sins, and prepare it for final condemnation.
$ 5. When interests of great magnitude are at stake, how solicitous are men to guard against deception! What care the purchaser of an estate employs, to prevent being deluded by an insufficient title ! How watchfully the general of an army scrutinizes every movement of the enemy, lest by artifice and delusion he should be robbed of victory! But you are engaged in a more important warfare than any on which crowns and kingdoms, life and liberty, depend. You seek a title to richer possessions than misers ever coveted, or kings possessed. A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Delusion however may rob you of the splendid prize. Self-deception, that common foe, would shut you out of heaven, and sink you to perdition.
There is not so much self-deception on any subject, as on those connected with the interests of eternity. The poor are sensible of their poverty, the sick feel their want of health, the captive his imprisonment; but myriads, who are poor for eternity, suppose themselves rich in heavenly treasures; and while sinking into the arms of eternal death, imagine themselves the heirs of immortal life. The Searcher of hearts assigns the cause of such horrible delusion: “ The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can know it?”k Hence arises the importance of frequent and rigid self-examination. The sacred Scriptures inculcate this important duty. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves : know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ?" In that holy book we are also taught to look up to the Searcher of hearts, for grace to purify (h) James iii. 2. () Matt. xii. 37. (k) Jer. xvii. 10. 02 Cor. xiii. 5, 200
SUBJECTS OF SELF-EXAMINATION. the soul from those corruptions, which after the most rigid self-examination, may still remain hidden from our observation.m “ Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."'n The importance of self-acquaintance is strongly enforced by the Lord Jesus Christ, in the parable of the ten virgins. Of ten that set out for heaven, he represents. half as self-deceived. Five were wise and five were foolish. And the foolish were always foolish. At the commencement of their course they were so ; yet such was their delusion, that they never discovered their error till the day of grace had finished. Only when called to meet the bridegroom, did they perceive that they had no 1 oil in their lamps.
That you may not be deceived where eternity is at stake, try yourself as in his sight who will hereafter try you. Frequently examine your own spiritual estate. Mark every symptom which may assist you in forming a faithful judgment of your own condition; and endeavour to form no opinion of yourself but that which you have reason to believe God forms of you.
$ 6. Examine the reality of your conversion, and the sincerity of your repentance. Is your repentance heartfelt? is it universal? do you abhor yourself? do you hate all sin ?
Examine your faith. Is the blessed Jesus the grand object on which it fixes? Have you been drawn to him for pardon and peace ? Is your faith active? does it work by love is it powerful? does it overcome the world ? is it sanctifying? does it purify your heart? is it comforting? through it have you obtained from the Lord Jesus all the true peace you ever knew, and are you seeking more? is it indeed lioing? does it operate in your heart as a mighty principle, urging you to mortify all sin, to pursue all holiness, to set your affections on heaven, and to scorn all that earth can give or threaten, for the sake of Jesus Christ, and him crucified? Is your soul committed to his care ? are your immortal interests intrusted to his hands? Is he your all in all ? and are you his humble and sincere, though unworthy, disciple ?
Examine your conduct. What is it in the family, the church, and the world ? Do you imitate the Son of God? do (m) Ps. xix. 12.
(n) Ps. cxxxix. 93, 24.
SUBJECTS OF SELF-EXAMINATION.
his laws rule, his precepts guide, you? do you daily set his example before you? and copy him who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners ?
Examine your tempers and dispositions. Are you humble, gentle, meek, forgiving, courteous, patient ? Not giving way to pride, anger, passion, sullenness, obstinacy; but mortifying those evil tempers to which by nature you may be most prone ?
Examine your heart. Keep it with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. What harbours there ? do unkindness, self-conceit, self-importance, discontent ? Anger, that fires at a word; pride, that flames into resentment at every real or supposed offence; envy, that repines at another's good; and worldly-mindedness, that grovels in the dust, and grasps at earth more eagerly than heaven? Or are you labouring and praying to defeat and kill all this hellish brood ? and cherishing within your breast those sweet graces which angels cherish, meekness, and humility, and gratitude, and love ?
Examine your discourse. Do you watch over your lips, that neither impure nor foolish talking may ever proceed from them ? that no slander may wound another's mind, or injure another's character ? that no provoking language may inflame another's passions ? and no unkind expressions pierce and pain another's heart? Is your discourse about even the ordinary concerns of time, such as you would not wish to be concealed from the Saviour ? Does your tongue speak its Creator's praise ? and direct, or comfort, or encourage, those fellow-pilgrims to heaven, with whom you associate ? and do you warn, and endeavour to reclaim, those you see wandering to perdition ?
Thus examine yourself, and let not this be a rare and strange employment to you. If your circumstances will allow sufficient leisure, every evening take a review of the departed day. Recollect its faults, that you may mourn and avoid them ; remember its mercies, that you may praise their Giver, and lie down considering that your last day will soon arrive, and your body be laid in that bed, where it must continue till the heavens be no more. But if you cannot obtain sufficient time for this exercise daily, yet, when the sabbath brings its rest from toil and care, not only wait upon your