Page images
PDF
EPUB

SER.M. This is the first, and indeed an essential IX branch of self-dominion, or rule over our

own spirits, without which we have not the right use of reason, which is our principal distinguishing faculty, nor can regularly pursue the proper ends of such a being. On the one hand, it is to be considered, that our condition and capacity is limited and imperfect ;' we cannot, at one view, comprehend the whole of things which are necessary to be considered, in order to the direction of our choice and our practice, but must take them in gradually, and pursue our enquiries by leisurely steps, as the narrowness of the mind will allow: How then is the understanding to be exercised, if it is to be exercised at all in forming our conduct, but in deliberation ? And what room is there for deliberation, unless the active powers be suspended to give way to it? On the other hand, this is the high prerogative of our being, above inferior agents, particularly those of the brutal kind. God hath made us with a variety of desires and affections, between which a ballance is to be preserved, that we may attain to the ends of our being, and enjoy our true happiness. We have selfish defires, which terminate in private good or enjoyment: We will find

in

· in our own hearts too, a defire of the good SERM.

of others, and a desire to those actions IX. . wherein our own minds may approve us, to the things which are pure, true, and just, and honest, and lovely: The former are in mạny men strong and vehement, being continually indulged and complied with; the other, are overlooked and neglected, whereby they become weak”; and yet the force of them appeareth very great, by the most painful sensations which arise in the mind for counter-acting them. It is for those creatures which have no desires but what center in themselves, to follow their direction wholly and without any hesitation ; bụt for us whom God hath endued with a capacity, and even a sense of obligation to do good to others, and to please him, we ought to cherish and actively endeavour to Itrengthen those nobler sentiments and difpositions, which is at the same time pursuing our own happiness in the best manner; for perceptions of the highest pleasure are annexed to them. But in order to preserve this due ballance of the affections, and anfwer the ends of our entire conftitution, which are so much fuperior to those of the brutes, it is necessary we should have, and habitually exert the power of suspending Q 2

Our

SERM. our determinations, till we have examined
1X. and been fatisfied, concerning the motives

upon which we act. The more we have
of this power, and exercise it, the more we
are masters of ourselves, and have ruļe
over our own spirits; and that mind is
impotent and without any defence against
fatal misconduct, which actęth rafhly and
ịndeliberately. .

But more particularly, to have the rule
over our own spirits, is, to keep the passions
under an exact discipline, and to restrain
their exceffes. By the passions are meant
those" vehement sensations and emotions,
which accompany desire and averfion, the
great springs of action in mankind. Ex-
perience Theweth, that often strong agita-
tions of body, and violent perturbations of
mind' attend our pursuit of what is appre-
hended to be good, and our averfion to,
and endeavour to fhun evil. These in their
original design, as planted in us by the wife
and gracious Author of nature, are a very useful
part of the constitution, directing and ex-
*citing us to the vigorous use of proper means
for our own preservation and happinefs, to
which' men would not be generally deter.
mined by calm reason and defire. " *****

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Concern

: Concerning every one of the passions we SER M. inay understand by serious reflection the par- IX. ticular ends and uses they serve; and it is the province of reason and conscience to . keep them within thofe limits which the ends and uses direct, that is, to provide that they do not transport us beyond the just design, or into a vehemence above what the importance of it will allow. This will be best understood by particular examples. Anger is a passion which the author of nature hath planted in us for our own necessary defence, by repelling injuries, and that we may exert ourselves with vigour for the pres fervation of our lawful interests against und just invasion ; but it riseth to an extreme which ought to be repressed, when it transporteth us beyond those bounds, and when it terminateth in the destruction or hurt of the injurious, without regard to our own safety, which is the proper end.

Again, there are natural desires in men of very unequal moment which often rise to pafsions. But how unreasonable and weak is it to be passionate for trifles ? and those desires which are of greater consideration to the state of the world, but do not relate to the highest ends of life, certainly we ought lo to govern, that the anxiety and uneafi

R3

ness

Serm. ness of them do not entirely destroy the-re

IX. lish of life, and render us unfit for pursuing by the main business of it. The desire of off-.

fpring is a natural one and lawful, but it was heightened by passion in Rachel to å great extreme, when she faid, give me child dren, or I die.

Besides thefe pafsions which have a foundation in nature, and the excess only is faulty, which the mind ought to restrain by calm and serious confideration, there are others raised on occasions merely fantastical ; custom, habit, and other causes, beget false opinions, which represent things under the äppearance of good, and stamp a great importance upon them, which have really no relation to the neceflities and the ends of our being, as the objects of the original desires have; such as gay apparel, equipage, titles, which have the inviting idea of magnificence and grandeur annexed to them. But if we calmly consider the human nature, we will see they have no connection with the main concerns of it'; and yet thefe fantastical things are known to be the occasion of very violent and disturbing passions, which a wise man ought to restrain ; and it evidently belongeth to a just government of himself.

Fear

« PreviousContinue »