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the Week-Days, you would think him either very Ignorant of the Nature of Religion, or very Prophane. Yet this is as Wise and Religious, as to forbear reading ill Books and wanton Poems only on Sundays, and to take the Liberty of Reading, them at other times. For that Vanity of Mind, that Foolishness of Heart, that depraved Taste, which can relish the wild Fictions, the lewd Speeches, the prophane Language of mad Heroes, disappointed Lovers, raving in all the furious Expressions of Lust and Passion, and Madness, is as corrupt a Temper, as contrary to Holiness, and as odious on its own Account, as evil Speaking and Malice.
WHEN therefore you see a Person reading a Play, as soon as he comes from the Sunday's Solemnity of publick Service, you abhor his Prophaness, but pray bé fo just to your self, so consistent with common Sense, as to think every one liable to the same Accusation, that delights in the fame Book on any other Time of the Week ; and that the Difference of reading Plays on Week-Days and not on Sundays, is only the Difference of Speaking evil on Week-Days, and not on Sundays.
FROM these Reflections, I hope, it sufficiently appears, that the reading vain and impertinent Books, is no Matter of
Indifferency, but that it is justly to be reckoned amongst our greatest Corruptions, that it is as unlawful, as Malice and evil Speaking, and is no more to be allowed in any Part of our Life, than Pride or Covetousness.
READING, when it is an Exercise of the Mind upon wise and pious Subjects, is, next to Prayer, the best Improvement of our Hearts. It enlightens our Minds, collets our Thoughts, calms and allays our Passions, and begets in us wise and pious Resolutions. It is a Labour that has so many Benefits, that does so much Good to our Minds, that it ought never to be employ'd amiss : It enters so far into our Souls, that it cannot have a little Effect
We commonly say, that a Man is known by his Companions ; but it is certain, that a Man is much more known by the Books that he converses with. These Closet-companions with whom we chuse to be alone and in private, are neverfailing Proofs of the State and Disposition of our Hearts.
WHEN we are abroad, we must take such as the World gives us, we must be with such People, and hear such Discourse, as the common State of our Life exposes us to. This is what we must bear with, because not altogether to be avoided. And
as it is not altogether Matter of Choice, so it is no Proof of what Temper we are of. But if we make our Closet an Entertainment of greater Vanity and Impertinence, than any Conversation we can met with abroad, if rakish, libertine Writers are welcome to us in fecret, if Histories of Scandal and romantick Intrigues are to be with us in our private Retirements, this is a plain Discovery of our Inside, and is a manitest Proof, that we are as vain, and foolith, and vicious, as the Authors that we chuse to read. If a wanton Poeng pleascs you, you may fairly reckon your felf in the same State and Condition with him that made it.
In like manner, if Histories of Nonsense and Folly, if Compolitions of Intrigue and Scandal suit your Temper, such Books do as truly represent your Nature, as they represent the Nature of their Authors.
ULIA has buried her Husband, and married her Daughters, since that she spends her time in reading. She is always reading foulish and unedifying Books: She tells you every time she sees you,
that She is almost at the End of the filliest Book, that ever the read in her Life ; that the best of it is, it is very long, and serves to dispose of a good deal of her time. She tells you that all Romances are fad Stuff,
yet is very impatient till she can get all that she can hear of. Histories of Intreague and Scandal, are the Books that Julid thinks are always too short. If Julia was to drink Drams in private, and had no Enjoyment of her self without then, she would not tell you this, because she knows it would be plainly telling you that she was a poor disordered Sot. See here therefore the Weakness of Julia ; she would not be thought to be a Reprobate, yet she lets
you know that she lives upon Folly, and Scandal, and Impertinence, in her Closets that she cannot be in private without them, that they are the only Support of her dull Hours, and yet she does not perceive, that this is as plainly telling you, that she is in a miserable, disordered, reprobate State of Mind.
To return. It is reckoned very dangerous not to guard our Eyes; but it is much more dangerous not to guard our Meditations ; because whatever enters that way, enters deeper into our Souls, than any thing that only affects our Sight. Reading and Meditation is that to our Souls, which Food and Nourishment is to our Bodies, and becomes a part of us in the same Manner; so that we cannot do ourselves either a little Good, or little Harm, by the Books that we read. A 2
You perhaps think, that it is a dull Task to read only religious and moral Books, but when you have the Spirit of Religion, when you can think of God, as your only Happiness, when you are not afraid of the Joys of Eternity, you will think it a dull Task to read any other Books. Don't fanfy therefore that your Heart is right, and that you are well enough affected with Religion, though you had rather read Books upon other Subjects; for it is there that you are to charge your Dulness; Religion has no hold of you, the Things of Eternity are not the Concerns of your Mind, it is dull and tiresome to you to be wise and pious, and that makes it a dull Task to read Books that treat only upon such Subjects. When it is the Care of your Soul to be humble, holy, pious, and heavenlyminded, when you know any thing of the Guilt and Misery of Sin, or feel a real Defire of Salvation, you will find religious Books to be the greatest Feast and Joy of
If you think it dull and tedious to be in wile, prudent, and fober Company, it is because you are neither wise nor sober your self: So if it is dull and tiresome to you to be often upon Subjects of Piety and Religion, it is as sure a Proof that you are neither pious nor religious. If therefore