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THINK ON THESE THINGS.
“ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”-PHILIPPIANS iv. 8.
WHEN a man's attention is directed to the solemn inquiry, what is his moral condition in the sight of God, he cannot fail to perceive that the answer is chiefly to be sought for in the discipline of the mind. His external conduct is the only test by which his character can be estimated by his fellow-men; but this, it is obvious, may be guided by motives and principles of a very inferior or even selfish description, principles which would not bear the inspection of man, far less the scrutiny of Him who cannot be deceived by external appearance, but whose eye looketh directly into the heart. This important consideration is brought
before us in the most forcible manner in various parts of Scripture; and the solemn truth is impressed upon our serious attention, that a man may hold a fair and respectable character in the estimation of men, while he is in a state of moral degradation in the eye of God.
Whenever this subject is referred to in Scripture, accordingly, we find the condition of the heart viewed as of equal importance with a man's conduct and character in life, or even brought forward as holding a more essential place in determining his condition as a moral being. “Keep thy heart with all diligence,” says one of the inspired writers, "for out of it are the issues of life." "Let the wicked forsake his way," says another, "and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord.” When the Psalmist, again, prays the Eternal One to scrutinise most rigidly his moral condition, it is by saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." And in another passage by the same writer, the discipline of the heart is placed upon a level with those great principles of veracity and justice, the least infringement of which exposes a man to the unanimous condemnation of his fellow-men. " Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in his holy
place; he that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." "Blessed," says our Lord himself, "are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
In all these passages of Scripture, and many others of similar import, there is distinctly and fully recognised the important principle, that we have a power over the succession of our thoughts, and the subjects to which they are directed. A deep and solemn responsibility thus arises, respecting the government of the mind; and to every one who feels, as he ought, this responsibility, it is of the greatest consequence to keep in view in what the voluntary power over the mind consists, and what are the principles on which it ought to be exercised by every rational being. Without this, a man may be lamenting defects in his mental condition, which refer to emotions over which he has no direct control, and may thus waste himself in useless regrets, instead of directing his earnest efforts to those mental processes, and those points of mental discipline over which he can really exert a power. He may be lamenting his want of faith and confidence in God, of love to him, of submission to his will, and delight in his service, while he is neglecting that diligent and habitual direction of the thoughts to the character, the works, and the will of God, from
which, under the power of the Holy Spirit, these emotions naturally spring.
On this important subject, a beautiful harmony pervades the economy of the mind. The emotions of the heart, properly so called, are mental conditions over which we have not a direct power; we cannot call them forth at our will, however much we may desire to experience them, and however much we may feel that in them really consists the healthy, condition of the soul. But these emotions are called into action by certain truths, when these truths have acquired that established place, which their nature demands, in the economy of the mind; that is, when they have been the subjects of steady attention and serious reflection, adapted to their supreme importance. Now, this is a process of the understanding over which every man feels that he has a power. He can direct his thoughts to any subject he wills,-can keep them directed to it for such a period as he pleases, and withdraw them at his will. He has within his reach the means of acquiring the knowledge of those truths, which, as a moral and responsible being, most of all concern him; and he has the power to make these truths the subject of that calm attention and serious reflection, which may lead to their natural and legitimate influence over the economy of the heart. In these great concerns, also,
he is encouraged to look for the mighty Spirit of all truth,—who alone has power to purify the heart, and to produce a condition of the moral system, which dif. fuses itself, by inseparable consequence, over the whole character and conduct. It is thus that, according to the statement of Scripture, "out of the heart are the issues of life;" and it is thus alone that the character can be framed and regulated in a manner worthy of a moral being. When a man's attention is directed only to his conduct in life, he probably looks in a great measure to the approbation of men ; that culture of the character, which has respect to the approbation of God, must have its origin in the heart.
Such, in a striking manner, was the experience of the Psalmist, whose mind had thus been disciplined to an habitual contemplation of the character and the will of God.” “O how I love thy law, it is my
meditation all the day.” “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” “When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night-watches,-in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” And it was by such a process of the understanding, directing his thoughts to this highest of all subjects, that he experienced those wondrous effects of the truth on the whole economy both of his understanding and his heart, which he has described in a manner 80 striking and so comprehensive; "The law of the