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saith he, that keepeth the fig-tree, shall eat the fruit thereof;' he that keepeth it, that is, he that dresseth and ordereth it to advantage for bearing fruit.
3. Again, keeping may be taken for preserving, guarding, securing from mischief or damage; which indeed is the most common use of the word, and therefore we need no instancing to countenance it.
Now any of these senses may be intended here, or all of them together; and they indeed are in the nature of the thing so coherent, or so mutually dependent one on the other, that any one of them can hardly be practised without the rest : for without heedfully observing our heart, we cannot well govern it; and an ill-governed heart cannot easily be attended to; and without both watchful observation and skilful management of it, we cannot guard it from evil; and reciprocally, without guarding it, we cannot well rule it, or duly mind it: such a complication there is in practice of these three custodies.
I shall at present only discourse concerning the first of them, which seems in the nature of things, and according to our method of acting, to precede. According to this exposition, when it is said, “ Keep thy heart with all diligence,' we may understand it as if each of us were thus advised : With a most constant and wary care observe all the interior propensions and motions of thy soul; whatever is done or designed within thee, whither thy desires lean, what thy affections are stirred by, to what thy judgment of things doth lead thee; with greatest attention and assiduity mark and ponder it.
It is a peculiar excellency of human nature, which seemeth more to distinguish a man from any inferior rank of creatures than bare reason itself, that he can reflect on all that is done within him, can discern the tendencies of his soul, is acquainted with his own purposes. Some shadows of other rational operations are discoverable in beasts; and it is not easy to convince them, who, from plausible experiments, do affirm them sometimes to syllogise : but no good reason or experience can, I suppose, make it probable that they partake of this reflexive faculty; that they do ever regard or remark on their own imaginations; they seem always to march directly forward with a blind impetuousness toward some pleasing object, without attending to the fancy that guides them, or the appetite which excites them: neither indeed do they seem to need any such power in order to the preservation of their life, or gratifying of their sense, which are the main ends they were designed and fitted for. But man being designed by his Maker, disposed by the frame of his nature, and obliged by a law imposed on him, not to follow casual impulses from exterior objects, nor the bare conduct of his imagination, nor the sway of his natural propensities; but to regulate as well the internal workings of his soul, as his external actions, according to certain laws or rules prescribed him, to settle his thoughts on due objects, to bend his inclinations into a right frame, to constrain his affections within due bounds, to rectify his judgments of things, to ground his purposes on honest reasons, and direct them unto lawful matters : it is needful that he should have this power of discerning whatever moveth or passeth within him, what he thinks on, whither be inclines, how he judgeth, whence he is affected, wherefore he doth resolve; without this power he could not be a moral agent, not able to perform any duty, not properly subject to any law, not liable to render an account of his doings: did he not perceive his own thoughts, how could he dispel them, when they are bad or vain ? might he not observe his own inclinations, how could he strive to restrain them or to reform them, when they draw to unlawful practices ? were he not sensible of his affections, how could he endeavor to reduce or compose them, when they become exorbitant or tumultuous ? were he not conscious of his own opinions, how could he weigh and examine them ? how could he conform his actions to them, or practise according to the dictates of his conscience? It is therefore plainly needful that man should be endued with this power, for that without it he can neither perform the duty required of him, nor enjoy the benefits he is capacified and designed for: our Maker therefore hath conferred it on us, our duty consists in its right use, our advantage ariseth from the constant and careful exercise of this excellent faculty : constant and careful, I say: constant, for observation implies so much ; for, if ever we shut our eyes or turn our heads aside, what we look to may be gone; much therefore will pass away undiscerned and unobserved by us, especially such quick and fleeting things as are the interior motions of our soul will escape; wherefore a continual vigilancy is requisite to a keeper of the heart: it must also be careful; as the keeper of a thing so nimble and slippery must not sleep, so he must not slumber; he must not be oscitant, but very intent on his charge; superficial glances on the outward face, as it were, of the soul, will not suffice : to observe, is with earnest care to look through the matter, to discern whatever lurketh therein, to pierce into the very depth and bottom of it, to spy through every nook and corner therein ; otherwise it is but slightly viewed rather than truly observed : especially so subtile, so intricate, so obscure a thing as a man's heart is, requireth an extraordinary application of mind in observing it with judgment and fruit.
This is then our duty, recommended by the wise man : to be continually, with extreme diligence, looking inward on ourselves, observing what thoughts spring up within us; what imaginations find most welcome harbor in our breasts; what objects most affect us with delight or displeasure ; (what it is that we love and readily embrace; what we distaste and presently reject;) what prejudices do possess our minds; wherefore we propose to ourselves such undertakings, conversing with ourselves, and, as it were, discoursing in this manner : What is it that I think on ? are my thoughts serious, seasonable, and pure ? Whither do I propend? are my inclinations compliant to God's law and good reason? What judgments do I make of things ? are my apprehensions clear, solid, sure, built on no corrupt prejudice ? What doth most easily stir me, and how is my heart moved ? are my affections calm, and orderly, and well placed? What plots do I contrive, what projects am I driving on ? are my designs good, are my intentions upright and sincere ? Let me thoroughly inquire into these points, let me be fully satisfied in them : thus should we continually be doing. The holy Scripture doth often bid us to judge ourselves; to examine our works; to search and try; to weigh, to heed, to watch over our ways: 'If,' saith St. Paul, 'we would judge (discern, or distinguish) ourselves, we should not be judged;" that is, we should avoid those miscarriages which bring the divine judgments on us: and, · Let us,' saith the prophet Jeremy, “search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord;' and, • I said, I will take heed to my ways,' saith the psalmist; and, ‘Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established,' is the wise man's advice. Searoh our ways, and ponder our paths; this implies that we first do examine and weigh our hearts, for there our ways begin, thence is motion derived to our feet and to our hands also; all our actions depend as effects of them, all do receive their moral quality thence: whatever in our doings is good or bad, čowher ÉKAUPEvetai, doth, as our Lord expresses it, issue from within us; our actions are but streams, sweet or bitter, clear or foul, according to the tincture they receive at those inward sources of good or evil inclinations, of true or false judgments, of pure or corrupt intention : there consequently we are principally obliged to exercise the scrutiny and trial required
Socrates is reported to have much admired that verse in Homer,
“Οττι τοι εν μεγάροισι κακόντ' αγαθόντε τέτυκται: affirming that in it the sum of all wisdom is comprised; the sense and drift thereof being this, as he took it-: Seek and study what good or bad is at home, within thy house; see how all goes in thy breast; employ thy chief inquiry on the affairs of thy soul; there confining thy curiosity and care.
Such is the duty; and the practice thereof is of huge profit and use, bringing many great benefits and advantages with it; the neglect of it is attended with many grievous inconveniences and mischiefs: and for persuading to the one, dissuading from the other, I shall propound some of them, such as are most obvious, and offer themselves to my meditation.
The most general and most immediate advantage arising hence is this, that, by such a constant and careful inspection, or study on our hearts, we may arrive to a competent knowlege of, and a true acquaintance with ourselves, (a most useful knowlege, a most beneficial acquaintance,) neither of them being otherwise attainable. The heart,' as you know the prophet says, • is deceitful above all things ;' and 'who, adds he, can know it? Who can know it ? None, it seems, but God that made it, and the man that hath it : he that hath it must, I say,
be able competently to know it: even in regard to him the question may intimate some difficulty, but it doth not denote an absolute impossibility. Hard it may be for us to know the heart, by reason of its deceitfulness; but the sliest imposture, if narrowly looked into, may be detected: it is a very subtile and abstruse, a very various and mutable thing; the multiplicity of objects it doth converse with, the divers alterations it is subject to from bodily temper, custom, company, example, other unaccountable causes ; especially its proneness to comply with, and to suit its judgments of things unto present circumstances without, and present app es within, do render it such; wherefore it is not indeed easy to know it; but yet possible it is; for under severe penalties we are obliged not to be deceived by it, or, which is all one, not to suffer it to be deceived : • Let no man,' saith St. Paul, 'deceive himself :' •See that ye be not deceived,' saith our Saviour : Take heed,' saith Moses, ' to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived.' Such precepts there are many, obliging us to know our hearts, and to discover the fallacies put on them, or on us by them ; carrying with them directions how to compass it; that is, by looking about us, and taking heed, by careful circumspection and caution. It is therefore a feasible thing to avoid being imposed on, and well to understand ourselves : but as other abstruse pieces of knowlege, so this especially cannot be attained without industrious applications of our mind, and constant observations, to find the corners wherein the deceit lurks; we must pursue its secret windings and intrigues; we must trace it step by step, as hunters do wild beasts, into the utmost recesses of its first desires and most deeply radicated prejudices; we must do as David did, when he strove to free himself from distrust and impatience in his straits : 'I communed with my own heart,' saith he, “and my spirit made diligent search :' by which practice he found, as he farther acquaints us, that it was
his infirmity,' which moved him to doubt of God's mercy and benignity toward hini. Cicero, having somewhere commended philosophy as the most excellent gift by heaven bestowed on man, assigns this reason : ' because it teaches us, as all other things, so especially this of all most difficult thing, to know