By Lewis Bayly
Having thus begun, keep all the day after as diligent a watch as thou canst over all thy thoughts, words, and actions, which thou mayest easily do, by craving the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, and observing these few rules:-
First, For Thy Thoughts.
1. Be careful to suppress every sin in the first motion; dash Babylon's children, whilst they are young, against the stones; tread, betimes, the cockatrice's egg, lest it break out into a serpent; let sin be to thy heart a stranger, not a home-dweller: take heed of falling oft into the same sin, lest the custom of sinning take away the conscience of sin, and then shalt thou wax so impudently wicked, that thou wilt neither fear God nor reverence man.
2. Suffer not thy mind to feed itself upon any imagination which is either impossible for thee to do, or unprofitable if it be done; but rather think of the world's vanity, to condemn it-of death, to expect it-of judgment, to avoid it-of hell, to escape it-and of heaven, to desire it.
3. Desire not to fulfil thy mind in all things; but learn to deny thyself those desires, though never so pleasing to thy nature, which, being attained, will draw either scandal on thy religion, or hatred to thy person. Consider in everything the end before attempting the action.
4. Labour daily more and more to see thine own misery, through unbelief, self-love, and wilful breaches of God's laws; and the necessity of God's mercy, through the merits of Christ's passion, to be such, that if thou wert demanded, What is the vilest creature upon earth? thy conscience may answer, Mine ownself, by reason of my great sins. And if, on the other side, thou wert asked, What thou esteemest to be the most precious thing in the world? thy heart might answer, One drop of Christ's blood, to wash away my sins.
5. As thou tenderest the salvation of thy soul, live not in any wilful sin. Approve thyself to be a true servant of Christ, not only in thy general calling, as in the frequent use of the word and sacraments, but also, in particular, in making conscience to avoid every known sin, for true faith and the purpose of sinning can never stand together; and to obey God in every one of his commandments, like Josias, who turned to God with all his heart according to all the law of Moses; and Zachary and Elizabeth, who walked in all the commandments of God without reproof. But if at any time through frailty, thou slippest into any sin, lie not in it, but speedily rise out of it by unfeigned repentance; praying for pardon till thy conscience be pacified, thy hatred of sin increased, and thy purpose of amendment confirmed..
6. Beware of affecting popularity by adulation-the end never proves good; and though attained by due deserts, yet manage it wisely, lest it prove more dangerous than contempt; for states desire but to keep down whom they contemn for their unworthiness, but to cut off whom they envy for their greatness. He therefore is truly prudent who, considering the premises, neither affects nor neglects popularity; but in any wise take heed of harbouring a discontented mind, for it may work thee more woe than thou art aware of: it is a special mercy, in the multitude of so many blessings as thou dost enjoy, to have some crosses. God gives thee many blessings, lest through want, being his child, thou shouldst despair; and he sends thee some crosses, lest by too much prosperity, playing the fool, thou shouldst presume. Many who have mounted to great dignities, would have contented themselves with meaner, had they known their great dangers: affect therefore competency rather than eminency; and in all thy will ever have an eye to God's will, lest thy self-action turn to thine own destruction. Happy is the man who in this life is least known of the world, so that he doth truly know God and himself! Whatsoever cross, therefore, thou hast to discontent thee, remember that it is less than thy sins have deserved; count, therefore, Christ thy chiefest joy, and sin thy greatest grief: esteem no want to the want of grace, nor any loss to the loss of God's favour; and then the discontentment for outward means shall the less perplex thine inward mind; and as oft as Satan shall offer any motion of discontentment to thy mind, remember St. Paul's admonition, "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out: and having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." Pray, therefore, with wise Agur, "O Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be too full and deny thee, and say. Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain."
7. Bestow no more thought upon wordly things than thou needs must, for the discharge of thy place and the maintenance of thy estate; but still let thy care be greater for heavenly than earthly things, and be more grieved for a dishonour done to God than for any injury offered to thyself: but if any injury be offered to thee, bear it as a Christian, with patience. Never was an innocent man wronged, but if he patiently bore his cross, he overcame in the end. But if thy good name in the meanwhile is wounded, bear that also with patience: for he that at the last day will give thy body a resurrection, will as sure, in his good time, grant a resurrection to thy good name. If impatiently thou frettest and vexest at thy wrongs, the hurt which thou dost thyself is more than that which thine enemy can do to thee. Neither canst thou more rejoice him than to hear that it thoroughly vexeth thee. But if thou canst shew patience on earth, God will shew himself just from heaven. Pray for him: for if thou be a good man thyself, thou canst not but rejoice if thou shouldst see thy worst enemy become a good man too. But if he still continueth in his malice, and increaseth in his mischief, give thou thyself to prayer, committing thyself and commending thy cause to the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, saying with Jeremiah, "O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, and triest the reins and the heart, vengeance is thine, and unto thee have I opened my cause." (Jer. xi. 20.) In the meanwhile, "wait" (with David) "on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall comfort thine heart."
8. The more others commend thee for an excellent act, be thou the more humble in thine own thoughts. Affect not the vain praises of men: the blessed Virgin was troubled when she was praised of an angel. They shall be praised of angels in heaven, who have eschewed the praises of men on earth. Neither needest thou praise thyself; deal but uprightly, others will do that for thee (Psal. xlix. 18.) Be not thou curious to know other men's doings, but rather be careful that no man know any ill dealings by thee.
9. Esteem no sin little; for the curse of God is due to the least; and the least would have condemned thee, had not the Son of God died for thee. Bewail, therefore, the misery of thine own state; and, as occasion is ministered, mourn for the iniquity of the time (Ezek. ix. 4; Psal. lxix. 9, 10; Mark iii. 5.) Pray to God to amend it, and be not thou one of them that make it worse.
10. Lastly, think often of the shortness of thy life, and certainty of death; and wish rather a good life than a long. For as one day of man's life is to be preferred before the longest age of a stag or raven, so one day spent religiously is to be higher valued than a man's whole life that is consumed in profaneness.
Cast over, therefore, once every day, the number of thy days, by subtracting, those that are past (as being vanished like yesternight's dream), contracting them that are to come (since the one half must be slept out, the rest made uncomfortable by the troubles of the world, thy own sickness, and the death of friends), counting the only present day thine; which spend, as if thou wert to spend no more.