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enjoyments of saints made perfect ; that we may be both inspired with fresh ardour to attain the heavenly inheritance; and that when we die and are gathered to our Fathers, we may be enabled to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of glory, which the Lord, the righteous shall give me,” in his heavenly kingdom.
REGULATION OF THE HEART.
Prov. IV. 23. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are
the issues of life.
THE nature of man is a complex piece of intellectual mechanism, which it is necessary to understand, that we may know its capacities, and the proper manner of directing them. It is compounded of two parts very dissimilar in their properties, which are usually denominated the soul and the body. The body is a most wonderful structure of organized matter, formed by the hands of that Almighty Artificer who created all things, and for whose pleasure they are and were created. The soul is a sentient being furnished with powers which belong exclusively to a spiritual nature, and so united to our corporeal frame as to make use of its members, and organs, and senses, for the purpose of perception, of thought, and of action. By its necessary connexion with, and dependence on the body, the soul is often obstructed in its operations, and even contaminated in its faculties. For our sensitive appetites, which minister to our animal existence, are so powerful in themselves, and so interwoven with those higher powers we possess as intellectual beings, that the former often counteract the decisions of the latter, and we thus find a law in our members warring against the law of our minds, bringing us into captivity to the law of sin.-By the original corruption of our nature, also, the passions which are the active principles of our minds, have become so violent and impetuous, as often to excite our mental energies, without suffering us to listen to reason and conscience, which are given to direct us in the way we should go. The affections, likewise, are frequently placed on objects unworthy of regard ; and even when employed on such as are desirable, seldom confine themselves within the bounds of moderation.
This, we find, from experience, is the state of human nature; containing in its composition various propensities, inclinations, and desires, sometimes impelling us with irresistible fury, at other times controuled by the salutary restraints of our governing faculties.
Though we have thus lost that due subordination of the sensitive to the rational powers in which consisted the perfection of our nature in its primitive condition, still our moral constitution remains the same, and may be repaired in a great degree by that religious discipline which God hath appointed to renew us in the spirit of our minds, and create us again in Christ Jesus unto good works. We still have the light of understanding to teach us our duty, we have reason to distinguish between good and evil, we have conscience to check us in the career of sin, a will which may be disposed to obey God's commandments, and the power of habit which renders that obedience easy and delightful. We have moreover, the influences of the holy Spirit to help our infirmities and strengthen us with might in the inner man ; and are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Furnished with such capabilities of spiritual improvement, it is expected by our Creator wl.o hath stationed us in this world of probation, that we should exert those faculties with which he has endowed us, to promote our improvement in knowledge and goodness. These are talents which he hath committed to our trust, for the employment of which an account will be required of us at his judgment-scat, where each of us shall receive according to our works. As it is only by the right regulation of our mental powers, that we can advance to that degree of excellence which can render us meet for the heavenly inheritance; it may tend to our edification and instruction in righteousness, if we examine in the sequel of this dis
1. The various powers of our minds, and the mode of their operation.
II. The religious and moral discipline, by which they should be regulated.
III. The obligations under which we are to cultivate and improve our intellectual character. And then,
, IV. Make some application of the subject.
1. The powers of our minds are various, but for the sake of classification may all be reduced under those of the understanding and those of the will. To the first belong all those principles by which we are enabled to acquire useful knowledge; by the last those which prompt us to active pursuits. The faculties of both are strengthened and invigorated by experience and exercise. When we come into the world, we are ignorant of almost every thing which afterwards becomes the subject of our investigation, and know little of what is good or evil. By degrees, however, we begin to take cognizance of various objects, and to form judgments and opinions respecting them. For this purpose, the soul is furnished with five external senses, viz. seeing, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. These are the organs of perception, and the inlets of all the knowledge we obtain by means of our corporeal sensations. In process of time, our internal powers are capable of exerting themselves in thinking and combining ideas of different things according to their qualities, relations, and effects.
The first mental faculty which we exert in early life, is attention, or the capacity of directing our thoughts exclusively to some individual thing, for a longer or shorter time, according to pleasure. But attention to one object of thought is a difficult attainment, and can only be im- proved by a greater command of our mental operations, as we advance in life. This difficulty is increased by the constant recurrence of a train of ideas which present themselves to the youthful mind.---The faculty by which these are united has been called by philosophers the ima
gination and it is lively in youth to a high degree, from its tendency to be roused by every external object. It is regulated by a certain law, denominated the association of ideas, or the capacity which our thoughts have to succeed each other, according to those casual or contiguous relations observable among the subjects of our cogitation. As our knowledge is thus increased by observation and reflection ; hence we are endowed with another faculty, by which we retain the recollection of what has occurred during the course of our lives. This is the memory, or mental repository, wherein is treasured up the ideas we acquire, and whereby we are supplied with materials for judging and acting according to the deductions of experience. These faculties are capable of exertion at a very early period, and gradually improve by discipline and exercise. - When we arrive at years of understanding, we begin to consider the objects and persons by which we are surrounded with a more discerning view, to judge of their nature, value and utility; to determine that one thing is desirable, another detestable; that one action is right, another wrong; that one man is virtuous, another vicious. Such a conclusion is the result of those original dictates of the human mind which judgment suggests from evidence adduced ; and when unperverted by prejudice or education, enables us to form such an opinion as serves to direct our future conduct.-- Accordingly, the next faculty which we exert is that of reasoning. By this we reflect on the various subjects of enquiry which the world and its inhabitants furnish to our discursive mind. By it we infer that the pleasures and riches and honours of life are not so valuable as they appear, because those who enjoy them are not happier than those who want them; that as men are esteemed for virtue and abhorred for vice, therefore we should pursue the former and avoid the latter; nay, by it we carry our researches beyond the present scene, and represent to our view an invisible God, and an unseen world; and conclude that as God is our Creator, Preserver and Benefactor, he deserves our homage, gratitude and obedience; as Christ is our Saviour, he is entitled to our love, our confidence and trust; as