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selves to more animated fervour, as if this was the first day of our conversion; and to say, Assist
me, O LORD God, in my resolution to devote myself to thy holy service; and grant, that this day I may begin to walk perfectly, because all that I have done hitherto is nothing."
2. According to the strength of our resolution, so is the degree of our progress; and much diligence and ardour is necessary for him who wisheth to advance well: for if he whose resolutions are strong, often fails; what will he do, whose resolutions are weak? We break our resolutions, indeed, from various causes, and in various ways; and a slight omission of religious exercises seldom happens without some injury to the spirit.
3. The good resolutions of the righteous depend not upon their own wisdom and ability, but upon the grace of God, in which they perpetually confide, whatever be their attempts; for they know, that
though the heart of man deviseth his way,” yet the Lord ordereth the event ; and that “ it is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps."
4. If, for some act of piety, or some purpose of advantage to thy brother, a customary exercise is sometimes omitted, it may afterwards be easily resumed : but if it is lightly relinquished through carelessness or weariness of spirit, the omission becomes culpable, and will be found hurtful.
After the best exertion of our endeavours, we shall still be apt to fail in many duties: some determined resolution, however, must always be made, especially against those tempers and habits, that are the chief impediments to dur growth in Grace.
5. The concerns both of our outward state and inward spirit are to be equally examined and regulated ; because both have a considerable influence in ob structing or advancing the spiritual life. If thou canst not continually recollect thyself, do it sometimes at least, and not less than twice every day, in the morning and in the evening. In the morning, resolve ; and, in the evening, examine thy behaviour; what thou hast that day been in thought, word, and deed; for in all these, perhaps, thou hast often offended God and thy brother. Gird thy loins like a valiant man, and be continually watchful against the malicious stratagems of the devil. Bridle the appetite of gluttony, and thou wilt with less difficulty restrain all other inordinate desires of animal nature. Never suffer the invaluable moments of thy life to steal by unimproved, and leave thee in idleness and vacancy ; but be always either reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or employed in some useful labour for the common good.
6. Bodily exercises are to be used with discretion ; and the same exercises must not be indiscriminately undertaken by all. Those to which the duty of the society, as such, does not oblige us, must never be performed in the sight of others; for they are private and personal, and can be safely and usefully performed only in secret. Take care, however, that from the love of private and personal exercises, thou dost not;become averse to the public exercises of the community ; but having fully and faithfully discharged those to which thou art bound by the injunctions of the superior, if any leisure remains, return to thyself again, and do whatever the spirit of devotion prompts thee to.
7. The same kind of exercise is not equally suited to the state and improvement of every spirit ; but some are more useful and convenient to one than to another. Different exercises are also expedient for different times and seasons; and some are more salutary for the days of feasting, and some for the days of fasting: we stand in need of some in the seasons of temptation, and of others in the hours of internal peace and rest : some subjects of meditation are fitter for a time of sorrow, and others when we “ qejoice in the LORD."
8. On the eve of the principal feasts and fasts, we should renew our holy exercises, and with more exalted fervour implore the mediation of our great InTERCESSOR : and in the intervals between feast and feast, we should form such holy resolutions, as if we were about to leave this earthly life, to be made partakers of the everlasting feast. In all these seasons of peculiar devotion, we ought so to prepare our spirits, and so regulate our actions, as if we were shortly to be admitted into the joy of our LORD." And if that blessed event is still deferred, let us humbly acknowl. edge that we are not yet sufficiently prepared for it, but are still unworthy of that “great glory which shall be revealed in us” in God's appointed time : and may a contrite sense of such an improper state, quicken us to more faithful vigilance, and a inore holy preparation. “ Blessed is the servant," saith CHRIST,“ whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Verily, I 8ay unto you,
that he will make him ruler over all that he hath."
OF SOLITUDE AND SILENCE.
1. APPROPRIATE a convenient part of time to retirement and self-converse, and frequently meditate on the wonderful Love of God in the Redemption of man. Reject all studies that are merely curious"; and read only what will rather penetrate the heart with holy compunction, than exercise the brain with useless speculations.
* 2. If thou canst refrain from unnecessary conversation and idle visits, and suppress the desire of “hearing and telling some new thing ;" thou wilt find not only abundant leisure but convenient opportunity for holy and useful meditation. The most eminent saints, where Providence has permitted it, have shunned all intercourse with men, and chosen to live wholly to God in retirement and solitude.
3. It is the declaration of Seneca, that as often as he mingled in the company of men, he came out of it less a man than he went in;" and to the truth of this, our own experience, after much free conversation, bears testimony ; for it is much easier to be wholly silent, than not to exceed in word; it is much easier to keep concealed at home, than to preserve ourselves from sin abroad: hé, therefore, that presseth forward to the perfection of the internal and spiritual * life, must, with JESUS, twithdraw himself from the multitude."
4. No man can safely go abroad, that does not love to stay at home: no man can safely speak, that does not willingly hold his tongue ; no man can safely gove ern, that would not cheerfully become subject; no
man can safely command, that has not truly learned to obey is and no man can safely rejoice, but he that has the testimony of a good conscience.
5. The joy and safety of the saints has always been full of the fear of God: nor were they less humble, and less watchful over themselves, because of the splendour of their holiness, and their extraordinary measures of grace : but the security of the wicked be, gins in pride and presumption, and ends in self-delusion. Whatever, therefore, are thy attainments in holiness, do not promise thyself a state of unchangeable perfection in the present life. Those whose character for virtue has stood high in the esteem of men, have been proportionably more exposed to the danger of a severer fall, through self-confidence : and, therefore, it is much safer for most men not to be wholly free from temptation, but rather to be often assaulted, lest they grow too secure ; lest, perhaps, they exalt themselves in the pride of human attainments; nay, lest they become wholly devoted to the honours, the pleasures, and comforts of their earthly life.
6. O that man would never seek after transitory, joy, would never busy himself with the trifling affairs of a perishing world ; how pure a conscience might he maintain ! O that he could divorce his spirit from all vain solicitude ; and devoting it to the contempla-, tion of God and the truths of salvation, place all his confidence in the divine mercy; in what profound tranquillity and peace would he possess his soul !
7. No man is worthy of heavenly consolation, unless he hath been diligently exercised in holy compunction. If thou desirest true compunction, enter into thy closet, and excluding the tumults of the world,