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it have the contrary, men may call religion (if they please); but they cannot call it more out of its name. And whatever is called religious knowledge, if it does not direct us in the way to this end, is not religious knowledge, but something else falsely
And some are unhappily accustomed to such an abuse of words and understanding, as not only to call, but to think, thole things religion, which are the very reverse of it, and those notions ren ligious knowledge, which lead them the fartheft from it.
The fincerity of a true religious prin ciple cannot be better known, than by the readiness with which the thoughts advert to God, and the pleasure with which they are employed in devout exercises. And though a person may not always be fo well pleafed with hearing religious things talked of by others, whofe different tafte, fentiments, or manner of expression may have something disagreeable; yet if he have no inclination to think of them himself, or converse with himself about them, he hath great reafon to fufpect that his heart is
not right with God.” But if he frequently and delightfully exercises his mind in divine contemplations, it will not only be a good mark of his fincerity, but will
habitually dispose it for the reception of the best and most useful thoughts, and fit it for the noblest entertainments.
Upon the whole, then, it is of as great importance for a man to take heed what thoughts he entertains, as what company he keeps; for they have the fame effect upon the mind.
Bad thoughts are as infectious as bad company, and good thoughts solace, instruct, and entertain the mind like good company. And this is one great advantage of retirement; that a man may choose what company he pleafes, from within himself.
As in the world we oftener light into bad company than good; fo in folitude we are oftener troubled with impertinent and unprofitable thoughts, than entertained with agreeable and useful ones. And a man that hath so far lost the command of himself, as to lie at the mercy of every foolish or vexing thought, is much in the same situation as a bost, whose house is open to all comers, whom, though ever fo noisy, rude, and troublefome, he cannot get rid of; but with this difference, that the latter hath some
for his trouble, the former none at all, but s robbed of his peace and quiet for noiing.
Of such vast importance to the peace, as well as the improvement of the mind, is the right regulation of the thoughts, which will be my apology for dwelling so long on this branch of the subject : Which I shall conclude with this one obfervation more; that it is a very dangerous thing to think, as too many are apt to do, that it is a matter of indifference what thoughts they entertain in their hearts ; since the reason of things concurs with the testimony of the holy fcriptures to allure us, “That the allowed thought 46 of foolishness is fin," Prov. xxiv. 9
Concerning the Memory, XIV.“
MAN that knows himself will
“ have a regard not only to “ the management of his thoughts, but - the improvement of his memory :
The memory is that faculty of the foul, which was designed for the storehouse or repository of its most useful notions ; where they may be laid up in safety, to be produced upon proper occasions.
* Nam scelus inter se tacitum qui cogitat ullum Facti crimen haber.
Juv. Sat, 13. fuch
Now a thorough self-acquaintance can-. not be had without a proper regard to this in two respects. (1.) Its furniture. (2.) Its improvement.
(1.) A man that knows himself will have a regard to the furniture of his memory; not to load it with trash and lumber, a set of useless notions or low conceits, which he will be ashamed to produce before persons of taste and judge *ment.
If the retention be bad, do not crowd it. It is of as ill consequence to overload a weak memory, as a weak stomach. And that it may not be cumbered with trash, take heed what company you keep, what books you read, and what thoughts you favour; otherwise a great deal of useless rubbish
fix there before you are aware, and take
the room which ought to be poffeffed by better notions. But let not a valuable thought flip from you, though you pursue it with much time and pains before you overtake it. gaining and refixing it may be of more avail to you than many hours reading. What pity is it that men should take
such immense pains, as some do, to learn those things, which, as soon as they become wise, they must take as much pains to unlearn!--A thought that fhould make us very curious and cautious about the proper
furniture of our minds. (2.) Self-knowledge will acquaint a man with the extent and capacity of his memory, and the right way to improve
There is no small art in improving a weak memory, so as to turn it to as great an advantage as many do theirs which are much stronger. A few short rules to this purpose may be no unprofitable digreffion.
1. Beware of all kinds of intemperance in the indulgence of the appetites and pas, fions. Exceffes of all kinds do a great injury to the memory;
2. If it be weak, do not overload it. Charge it only with the most uteful and folid notions. A small vessel should not be stuffed with lumber : But if its freight be precious, and judicioufly stowed, it may be more valuable than a ship of twice its burden.
3. Recur to the help of a common placebook, according to Mr. Locke's method, and review it once a year. But take care that by confiding to your minutes or me