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do they throw a man into, so that he can neither think, nor speak, nor act, as he should do, while he is under the dominion of any one of them.
THUS, let every man look with a fevere and impartial eye into all the distinct regions of the heart; and, no doubt, feveral deformities and irregularities that he never thought of, will open and disclose themselves upon fo near a view; and rather make the man ashamed of himfelf, than proud.
2. A due improvement in the knowledge of ourfelves, doth certainly fecure us from the fly and infinuating affaults of flattery. There is not in the world a bafer, and more hateful thing, than flattery. It.proceedeth from fo much falfenefs and infincerity in the man that giveth it, and often discovereth so much weaknefs and folly in the man that taketh it, that it is hard to tell which of the two is most to be blamed. Every man of common fenfe can demonftrate in fpeculation, and may be fully convinced, that all the praises and commendations of the whole world can add no more to the real and intrinfic value of a man, than they can add to his ftature. And yet, for all this, men of the best fenfe and piety, when they come down to the practice, cannot forbear thinking much better of themselves, when they have the good fortune to be fpoken well of by other perfons.
Bur the meaning of this abfurd proceeding feemeth to be no other than this: There are few men that have fo intimate an acquaintance with their own hearts, as to know their own real worth, and how to fet a juft rate upon themselves; and therefore they do not know, but that he who praises them moft, may be most in the right of it. For, no doubt, if a man were ignorant of the true value of a thing he loved as well as himself, he would measure the worth of it according to the esteem of him who biddeth most for it, rather than of him that biddeth lefs.
THEREFORE the most infallible way to disentangle a man from the fnares of flattery, is, to confult and study his own heart; for whoever does that well, will hardly be fo abfurd, as to take another man's word, before his own fenfe and experience.
3. ANOTHER advantage from this kind of ftudy, is this, that it teacheth a man how to behave himself patiently, when he has the ill fortune to be cenfured and abused by other people. For a man who is thoroughly acquainted with his own heart, doth already know much more evil of himself than any body elfe can tell him ; and when any one speaketh ill of him, he rather thanketh God, that he can fay no worfe. For could his enemy but look into the dark and hidden receffes of the heart, he confidereth what a number of impure thoughts he might there fee brooding and hovering like a dark cloud upon the face of the foul; that there he might take a profpect of the fancy, and view it acting over the feveral scenes of pride, of ambition, of envy, of luft, and revenge; that there he might tell how often a vitious inclination hath been restrained, for no other reafon, but just to fave the man's credit or intereft in the world; and how many unbecoming ingredients have entered into the compofition of his best actions.
now, what man in the whole world would be able to bear fo fevere a teft, to have every thought and inward motion of the heart laid open and exposed to the view of his enemies? But,
4. AND laftly, Another advantage of this kind is, that it maketh men lefs fevere upon other people's faults, and less busy and induftrious in fpreading them. For a man employed at home, infpecting into his own failings, hath not leifure enough to take notice of every little fpot and blemish that lieth fcattered upon others: or, if he cannot escape the fight of them, he always paffes the most eafy and favourable conftruction upon them. Thus, for inftance, does the ill he knoweth of a man proceed from an unhappy temper and conftitution of body he then confidereth with himself, how hard a thing it is, not to be born down with the current of the blood and fpirits; and accordingly layeth fome part of the blame upon the weakness of human nature, for he hath felt the force and rapidity of it within his own breaft, tho' perhaps in another inftance; he remembereth how it rageth and fwelleth by oppofition, and tho' it may be reftrained, or diverted for a while, yet it can hardly ever be totally fubdued.
OR, hath the man finned out of cuftom? he then, from
his own experience, traceth a habit into the very first rise and imperfect beginnings of it; and can tell, by how flow and infenfible advances it creepeth upon the heart: how it worketh itself by degrees into the very frame and texture of it, and fo paffeth into a fecond nature ; and confequently he hath a juft fenfe of the great diffi. culty for him to learn to do good, who hath been long accustomed to do evil.
OR, lastly, hath a false opinion betrayed him into a fin? he then calleth to mind what wrong apprehenfions. he hath had of fome things himself; how many opinions that he once made no doubt of, he hath, upon a ftricter examination, found to be doubtful and uncertain; how many more to be unreasonable and abfurd. He knoweth, further, that there are a great many more opinions that he hath never yet examined into at all, and which, however, he still believeth, for no other reason, but because he hath believed them fo long already without a reason. Thus, upon every occafion, a man inti→ mately acquainted with himself, confulteth his own heart and maketh every man's cafe to be his own, (and fo puts the most favourable interpretation upon it.) Let every man therefore look into his own heart, before he begin neth to abuse the reputation of another, and then he will hardly be fo abfurd," as to throw a dart that will fo certainly rebound, and wound himself. And thus, thro' the whole courfe of his converfation, let him keep an eye upon that one great and comprehensive rule of Chriftian duty, on which hangeth not only the law and the prophets, but the very life and fpirit of the gospel too; Whatfoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even So unto them. Which rule that we may all duly obferve, by throwing afide all fcandal and detraction, all spite and rancour, all rudeness and contempt, all rage and violence, and whatever tendeth to make conversation and commerce either uneafy or troublesome, may the God of peace grant, for Jefus Chrift's fake, &c.
CONSIDER What hath been faid, and the Lord give you a right understanding in all things. To whom, with the Son, and the Holy Ghoft, be all honour and glory, now and for ever.