A selection from The Government of the Thoughts: a prefatory discourse to the government of the tongue, by Richard Allestree, 1694.
The main subject matter of this discourse, is to persuade men to regulate their inordinate thoughts, and affections, that such an unruley member, as St James affirms the tongue to be, may not break out into that conflaguration, as all their reason cannot easily quench: For out of the Heart proceeds all Evil Thoughts, the Product of bad Actions, which are concomitant to Contumelious Speeches: And indeed I presume we cannot place too strong a Guard on that which appears so formidable an Enemy, and threatens us with so much Violence, which, if not speedily prevented, may in the end prove Destructive.
I cannot reasonably expect, that this Product of my Labours should find a Candid Acceptance of all Persons; or like the Manna, accomodate every Palate, especially in this Censorious Age, wherein some approve of nothing but the Minerva's of their own Brain... .
I am not ignorant, that a Speaker ventureth within the reach of Censure; and that a Writer fixes himself to the Stake: Yet in hope that some may reap Benefit by my Labours, I resolve not to be discouraged...
Christ's Raiment on the Mount became shining, white as Snow, ... Mark 9.3. And Moses face when he talked with God, became so Glorious, that Israel could not behold it without a Veil, Cor. 3. 13. What then shall our Glory be, when we shall be like Christ? I Job. 3. 2.
A prudent Man, whose Knowledge is his Life, in the light, height, and use thereof, differing him not only from the Brutes, but ignorant Men; doth principally enjoy himself in his Mind and inward Man. There is indeed in humane Possessions, nothing great and excellent, but a magnanimous and good Mind... .
Affections are, as it is said of Caligula, There is no better Servant, nor worse Master; they are good commanded, but mischievous reigning; like Fire and Water, very necessary, and very destructive.
The Heart is the Fountain of Sin; and the Evangelist tells us, Mat. 15. 19. from thence spring evil Thoughts, Murders, Adulteries, Fornications, Thefts, False-Witnesses, Blasphemies, all the Sin of Man. All iniquity is here forged... it is the seat of Mischief, ... which excludeth all capacity of hearing God's Word and Judgements, which should lead us to Repentance whereby we may be healed... .
[...] There lodgeth Hypocrisie, ... and many secret Sins; like that unseen Multitude, which rangeth through the Paths of the Deeps, such are the dark Counsels of the Heart of Man... . Nor is this the Condition of some few, but the secret Corruption of all natural Men... .
The Almighty searcheth the Secrets of all Hearts, and will at the Great Audit, make all the Thoughts thereof manifest... . In the Corruption of the Heart, the very fibre and remainders of Sins reviving root, Satans's Venom remaineth: The Hydra's ever-growing Heads, which.... will shew its Venom in their will to Sin.
[I]t is a very difficult thing rightly to compose the Thoughts, in respect of the Hearts unfathomed Deceitfulness, and the Mind's unlimited Agility; in these depths of quick-shifting Thoughts, Sin easily hideth it self: ... Sins in Words or Works, are (like the Plague of Leprosie, ... broken all abroad, and covering all the Skin) nearer the Cure, and by so much the more easily amended, or overcome, by how much more evident they are, not only to others, but also to our selves.
The Sins of the Heart are harder to be Cured, the more secret, and invisibly they are committed: The Thoughts are more securely Extravagant, Negligent and Presuming, by how much less they are Obvious, to any... Censurer without:... : the Sin of the Mind... is let down into the depths of the Heart, whose secret Enemies are like those Ligurian Mountainers, whom the Roman's chased, more hardly found, than vanquished.
We must so compose our Hearts, that they may be upright and sincere in the sight of God.
Now, however the Ways of an Hypocrite may seem clean in his own Eyes, yet seeing the God of Justice Weigheth the Spirits, ... it highly concerneth every Man to look to the ordering of this inward House, that it may be a clean Temple, for God's Spirit to dwell in; without whose Guidance, Man runs to Destruction, both Body and Soul. If we govern our Thoughts aright, we have our Conversation in Heaven, we walk with God: And in our many dangerous Sicknesses of Mind, sundry Distempers, and Perturbations of fluctuant Thoughts, the wearied Soul shall ever have recourse unto this Ark for Rest.
There are troublesom Errors of Sick Minds, which see false Comforts instead of true. There is Anxiety, Impatience and Grief which devoureth the Heart: There is the Fire of Anger to inflame, Envy and Malice to transport; vain Hopes and Fears, whose vicissitudes do miserably afflict the disquiet Mind. There are many Perturbations, which if not prudently managed, will master Reason, and violently carry Men into the most dangerous Precipices, from whence they cannot, when they would, retrieve themselves: All which, to a wise and good Man, shall prove but Exercises to make his Victory over his own Passions more Glorious.
Fear is opposite to Fortitude, as one extream of Participation; and as it allayeth too much Presumption by its limitation, it becomes Beneficial; but when it exceeds its Extent, it grows Pernicious. Vertue is absent, when Fortitude is not present... .
[Fear] is the beginning of Wisdom, and it is principally demonstrated in [these] Things: First, That we place God ever before our Eyes, moving as always in his Presence. Secondly, That we acknowledge him as the Omniscient Witness, and Supream Judge of all our Thoughts, Words and Actions.
Endeavour to fix thy Mind upon such a Basis of Moderation, that thy Resolution neither rise to Temerity, nor fall to Timidity; neither to be Obstinate, nor to be Afraid of anything: But in a Medium, carry such an even Temper, as that Prudence may claim that Priviledge to sit at the Helm without the Interruption of either Extreams: Take the Prophet's Counsel, ... Sanctifie the Lord of Hosts, and let him be your Fear, and your Dread, and he shall be your Sanctuary... . The ... Fear of God Createth us an Eternal Security: Fear him, and he will banish all other Fears from thee.
David tells you... The Angel of the Lord encompeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. ... It animated the Royal Prophet [King David] to Cry out, In the Lord put I my trust; how say ye then to my Soul, flee, as a Bird to your Mountain? Psal. 11. 1.