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William Penn. (1644–1718). Fruits of Solitude.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Part II

Of the Government of Thoughts

63. Man being made a Reasonable, and so a Thinking Creature, there is nothing more Worthy of his Being, than the Right Direction and Employment of his Thoughts; since upon This, depends both his Usefulness to the Publick, and his own present and future Benefit in all Respects.

64. The Consideration of this, has often obliged me to Lament the Unhappiness of Mankind, that through too great a Mixture and Confusion of Thoughts, have been hardly able to make a Right or Mature Judgment of Things.

65. To this is owing the various Uncertainty and Confusion we see in the World, and the Intemperate Zeal that occasions them.

66. To this also is to be attributed the imperfect Knowledge we have of Things, and the slow Progress we make in attaining to a Better; like the Children of Israel that were forty Years upon their Journey, from Egypt to Canaan, which might have been performed in Less than One.

67. In fine, ’t is to this that we ought to ascribe, if not all, at least most of the Infelicities we Labor under.

68. Clear therefore thy Head, and Rally and Manage thy Thoughts Rightly, and thou wilt Save Time, and See and Do thy Business Well; for thy Judgment will be Distinct, thy Mind Free, and the Faculties Strong and Regular.

69. Always remember to bound thy Thoughts to the present Occasion.

70. If it be thy Religious Duty, suffer nothing else to Share in them. And if any Civil or Temporal Affair, observe the same Caution, and thou wilt be a whole Man to every Thing, and do twice the Business in the same Time.

71. If any Point over-Labors thy Mind, divert and relieve it, by some other Subject, of a more Sensible, or Manual Nature, rather than what may affect the Understanding; for this were to write one Thing upon another, which blots out our former Impressions, or renders them illegible.

72. They that are least divided in their Care, always give the best Account of their Business.

73. As therefore thou art always to pursue the present Subject, till thou hast master’d it, so if it fall out that thou hast more Affairs than one upon thy Hand, be sure to prefer that which is of most Moment, and will least wait thy Leisure.

74. He that Judges not well of the Importance of his Affairs, though he may be always Busy, he must make but a small Progress.

75. But make not more Business necessary than is so; and rather lessen than augment Work for thy self.

76. Nor yet be over-eager in pursuit of any Thing; for the Mercurial too often happen to leave Judgment behind them, and sometimes make Work for Repentance.

77. He that over-runs his Business, leaves it for him that follows more leisurely to take it up; which has often proved a profitable Harvest to them that never Sow’d.

78. ’T is the Advantage that slower Tempers have upon the Men of lively Parts, that tho’ they don’t lead, they will Follow well, and Glean Clean.

79. Upon the whole Matter, Employ thy Thoughts as thy Business requires, and let that have a Place according to Merit and Urgency; giving every Thing a Review and due Digestion, and thou wilt prevent many Errors and Vexations, as well as save much Time to thy self in the Course of thy Life.