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Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the
desires of thine heart. Pg. 37. 4. The desires of the heart, comprise all those varieties of emotion, which connect the thoughts of the mind with the actions of the life. They are susceptible of numberless gradations of strength, from the incipient tendency, of which the mind is scarcely conscious, to the resistless impetuosity of passion. Our passions themselves, even when excited to the utmost intensity, are only the desires of the heart, under another name ; for “ desires rise into passions whenever they are vivid, whenever they are permanent.” It is, then, to a subject, by no means wanting in importance or interest, that I would now direct your attention: it is to that Government of the Desires which is essential to personal sanctity. Let me endeavor to place before you, both the Inducements by which we should be urged to the attempt, and the Principles by which that attempt should be regulated.
to aim at the due Government of our Desires.
First, Consider how much of our mental existence is spent in giving exercise, and indulgence, to the desires of the heart.
Consider how many of the thoughts and feelings of every day move on in the channel of wishes and hopes and expectations. And what are all these movements of the mind but certain modifications of desire ? What is a wish but a feeble and idle desirean indolent aspiration after something which we deem desirable, but which we have no reason to regard as actually attainable? And what is hope—that balm of life—that medicine of the soul-but the encouragement given to desire, under a strong probability of the attainment of the object? And what is expectation, but the cheering confidence of hope, when the strength of probability, rising still higher, makes apparently a near approach to certainty itself? If, then, these states of mind, which make up so large a part of our daily consciousness, are so many gradations of desire, how evident is it, that on the due regulation of our desires, the happiness of life must depend! And could human life be happy, were it possible to effect an entire suppression of these longings, after some object, not yet attained,—this “ reaching forth to the things of futurity ? Could this be effected, even for a single hour, there
would be during that dreary interval a perfect stagnation of the feelings, a paralysis of the inner man, a death-like torpor of soul. On the other hand, it is equally impossible to be happy, if the desires attain an impetuosity which spurns control, or go forth with eagerness after objects which deserve not the energy of the mind. Is that man happy, whose desires are unreasonable, and extravagant, and intemperate? On the contrary, is not he alone pursuing the path of happiness, who is ever on his guard against the ascendency of desires, which are either in themselves unjustifiable, or calculated to issue in disappointment?
Secondly, Consider how many of the