« PreviousContinue »
SERM are not then employed upon this duty; are not watching over our hearts, and observing those inward fountains, (levity and wantonness of thought, precipitancy and disorder of passion) from whence they overflow: were we intent there, we should perhaps endeavour to stop the current, and contain these inward bad motions from venting themselves. The like we may say concerning many unwarrantable actions, into which we inconsiderately plunge ourselves, not heeding whence they spring: did we regard that such actions were arising from ambitious, covetous, froward dispositions, or from certain illgrounded prejudices lurking in our minds, we should often surely forbear them: but while we keep none, or bad sentinels; while in the custody of our hearts we sleep, or are drowsy; while we neglect to examine and weigh our actions what they are, and whence they come, they (although very bad and hurtful) do steal by us, and pass as friends, and we hear no more of them, but in their woful consequences. What efficacy the consideration of God's omnipresent eye, beholding all our doings, hath, and how all wise men do press it as a powerful means to contain us from bad action, you cannot but well know; as likewise that some of them, in order to the same purpose, direct us to conceive ourselves always under the inspection of some person especially Sen. Ep. xi. venerable for his worth, or for his relation to us, whom we should be afraid or ashamed to displease: and surely were the faith concerning God's presence, or the fancy concerning the presence of a Cato, or a Lælius, strong enough, they could not but have great effect however, did we but live, even in our own presence, under the eye of our own judgment
and conscience; regarding not only the matter and SERM. body, but the reason and ground, that is the soul, of our actings; even that would do much; the love and reverence of ourselves would somewhat check and control us; we should fear to offend, we should be ashamed to vilify even ourselves by fond or foul proceedings; it would, in the philosopher's esteem, Sen. Ep.25. supply the room of any other keeper or monitor, if we could thus keep ourselves; If, saith he, we have Cum jam so far profited, as to have got a reverence of our- tantum, ut selves, we may then well let go a tutor, or peda- sit tibi gogue.
etiam tui reverentia, licebit
12. This practice doth much conduce to the dimittas knowledge of human nature, and the general dispo-gogum. sitions of mankind, which is an excellent and most useful part of wisdom: for the principal inclinations and first motions of the soul are like in all men; whence he that by diligent study of himself hath observed them in his own soul, may thence collect them to be in others; he hath at least a great advantage of easily tracing them, of soon descrying them, of clearly perceiving them in those he converseth with; the which knowledge is of great use, as directing us how to accommodate ourselves in our behaviour and dealing with others.
No man indeed can be a good instructor or adviser in moral affairs, who hath not attained this skill, and doth not well understand the nature of man his precepts and rules will certainly be fallacious, or misapplied without it: this is that, which rendered the dictates of the Stoics and other such philosophers so extravagant and unpracticable, because they framed them not according to the real nature of man, such as is existent in the world, but
SERM. according to an idea formed in their own imaginaXLV. tions.
Some caution indeed is in this matter to be used, that those motions of soul, which proceed from particular temper and complexion, from supervenient principles or habits, may be distinguished from those which are natural and common unto all: which distinction to make is of great use and benefit, in order to the governing, restraining, or correcting them.
If there be any in us, which are not observable in any other men; or in other men, which are not in us, those do not arise from common nature, but from the particular disposition of one or other respectively.
13. I add lastly, that universally this practice is requisite and necessary for the well governing of our heart. Politicians inculcate much, that to the well governing of a people, squaring fit laws for it, and keeping it in good order, the nature and humour of that people should be chiefly heeded and well understood; for that the grave Romans, and light Greeks; the soft Persians, and stout Germans; the subtle Africans, and gross Scythians, would not be well Vid. Naz. managed in the same manner. So to govern any man's heart, (since the hearts of men, as their faces, and as their voices, differ according to diversities of complexion, of age, of education, of custom and manner of living,) it conduceth to know how it is disposed from any of those, or the like causes. But how we are to guide and govern our hearts, and what particular influence this practice hath thereupon, I reserve for other meditations; when we shall endeavour more distinctly to shew how we may apply our thoughts to due objects; how curb and correct our inclinations; how order our passions;
how rectify our opinions; how purify our intentions: SERM. now I conclude with the good Psalmist's requests to XLV. God Almighty: Teach us thy way, O Lord; unite Ps. lxxxvi. our hearts to fear thy name. Give us understand-Psal. cxix. ing, and we shall keep thy law; yea, we shall observe it with our whole heart. Search us, O God, Ps. cxxxix. and know our hearts; try us, and know our thoughts; see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen.
THE CONSIDERATION OF OUR LATTER
PSALM XC. 12.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
SERM. THIS Psalm is upon several peculiar accounts very XLVI. remarkable; for its antiquity, in which it perhaps
doth not yield to any parcel of scripture; for the eminency of its author, Moses, the man of God, the greatest of the ancient prophets, (most in favour, and, as it were, most intimate with God:) it is also remarkable for the form and matter thereof, both affording much useful instruction. In it we have a great prince, the governor of a numerous people, sequestering his mind from the management of public affairs to private meditations; from beholding the present outward appearances, to considering the real nature and secret causes of things; in the midst of all the splendour and pomp, of all the stir and tumult about him, he observes the frailty of human condition, he discerns the providence of God justly ordering all; this he does not only in way of wise consideration, but of serious devotion, moulding his observations into pious acknowledgments and earnest prayers to God: thus while he casts one eye upon