« PreviousContinue »
against them. Do we find that Worldlymindedness, Covetousness, or the Distrust of God's Providence, is the prevailing Sin that enslaves us ? Let us, in the forming Resolutions, have a special Regard to the subduing that Vice. Are we by our Tempers inclined to Ease, or Pleasure, or too free a Gratification of our sensual Appetites ? And this Humour of ours we find doth betray us into the great Inconveniencies of our Lives? Why, above all Things, we should take Care to keep a strict Guard over ourselves as to that Point, and endeavour to work our Minds to the strongest Resolutions of a severe Sobriety and Tempe
And so in all other Things. But this is not all I intend under this Consideration. Tho' it is fit, that in makeing up our Resolution, we should have a principal Regard to the leading predominant Sins of our Life, and those Infirmities of our Temper that do us most Mischief, yet we must not neglect to provide against our other Sins and Weaknesses. And therefore it will not be amiss, when we are about this great Work, that we make it our Business to search, as particularly as we can, into all the several Heads and Branches of our Duty, both towards God, and towards our Neighbour, and towards ourselves. And when we have done this, to call ourselves to account how we have performed it; what Part of it we have
most notoriously omitted, and what Part of it we have transgressed by notorious actual Sins; and then, accordingly as our Conscience gives in Evidence to us concerning these Matters, we are to take up particular Resolutions to be careful for the future, both to do those Things which we find we have hitherto been negligent in, and to avoid those Things wherein
we have hitherto transgressed. By observing this Course, we shall have done ourselves very great Service, whenever we come to bring our Resolutions into Action. For this is the best Method both to secure our Performance of them, and also to perform them with the least Labour and Trouble. For by this Means, as we are especially fortified against those Enemies of ours that are most treacherous, and have moft Power to do us Mischief (viz. the Sins of our Tempers and Constitutions ;) so also are we provided against every other Lust that make an Affault upon us, nor will it be in the Power of any of them easily to surprize us.
4. Another Thing we are to observe in the forming our Resolutions, is this ; that we should not only resolve upon such and such particular Things to be done or to be avoided by us, but we should also consider how those Things are to be done or to be avoided. What are the properest Methods and Expedients for the effecting of our Purposes, and to resolve upon them also.
He who resolves upon the End, and pitcheth not upon the Means for the attaining that End, doth but half his Work. You find, it may be, that the great Sin of
your Life is Intemperance, or that which we call too much Good-Fellowship; and you make most strict and particular Refolutions to avoid that Sin for the future: If now you would take the right Course to have those Resolutions effectual, it will be fit you should enquire what are the great Occasions and Tempations that draw you into this Sin. After you have found them, examine further whether those Occasions and Temptations are of your own making, and such as you may easily prevent or avoid, if you please, or whether they are unavoidably incident to your Business or Calling, or the like. If they be of the former Sort, you must resolve quite to cut them off, or to keep out of the Way of them. It is an idle Thing to think of practising Sobriety and Temperance so long as we encourage the Occasions, and throw ourselves into the Temptations that cause our Irtemperance. But if we find that these Temptations are really such as we cannot avoid, but they lie in the Course of our necessary Business and Employments, then we are to secure ourselves against this Vice another Way ; not by flying the Temptations, but by standing upon our Guard, which is done either by wholly
denying our Appetites in what they desire, or by confining them to such precise Measures of Meat and Drink, which they shall not exceed. And thus again. Is Anger, and Wrathfulness, and Impatience the great Sin we mean to set ourselves against ? Why, it is not enough to resolve, I will not be angry, nothing fall put me into a Passion; but we must likewise resolve thus, Such and such Things are very apt to provoke me, and put me out of Temper, and therefore I will keep out of the Way of them. Or, I find that it is the too sudden and free venting of my Mind when I am provoked, that blows me into those unfeemly Fits of Rage and Fury; and therefore, I am resolved, when the next Provocation is offered me, I will seal up my Lips for some Time, and either speak nothing at all
, or speak mild and gentle Words. Thus should we do as to every Instance of our Duty we resolve upon, or every Sin we resolve against : Inquire into the best Means and Expedients for the securing of the one, and mortifying the other, and put them into our Resolutions also.
5. But, in the last Place, in the forming our Resolutions we must be mighty careful not to clog them with too many needless, uncommanded Things. What is absolutely necessary for the securing our Virtue and Obedience to God's Laws, it is fit should be very firmly and particularly resolved by us. But for other Things, tho they
may be sometimes very convenient, and may prove, if discreetly used, excellent Instruments for the promoting Virtue and Goodness; yet, if they be no dire& Parts of our Duty imposed upon us by God, or necessarily required as Means for the performing that Duty, it will be very dangerous to tye them upon ourselves, especially for any long Time. Let no Man thereforc, especially no young Beginner in Religion, easily put more Impositions upon himself, than God has put upon him. Let him not abridge himself of that Liberty which Christ hath left him. If he bind himself to all that is barely needful to preserve his Innocence, and secure the Performance of his Duty, it is enough for one in his Circumstances. But if he will make Resolutions, that he will, for Instance, Spend to great « Portion of his Time in Prayers, that he will read so much of a good Book every Day, that he will fast so often, that he will wholly abstain from such and such particular Things that are not in themselves evil; I say, in my Opinion, he doth not act prudently in so doing; for these kind of Things do generally prove a Snare to those who use them. They make the Work of Religion intolerably heavy and troublefome; and a Man, in a little Time, grows 1o weary of them, that he repents he ever bound
himself to them: and it is ten to one but in fome Humour or other he will