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of ourselves doth certainly secure us from the sly and insinuating assaults of flattery. There is not in the world a baser and more hateful thing than flattery: it proceedeth from so much falseness and insincerity in the man that giveth it, and often discovereth so much weakness 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 sense can demonstrate in speculation, and may be fully convinced, that all the praises and commendations of the whole world, can add no more to the real and intrinsic value of a man, than they can add to his stature. And yet, for all this, men of the best sense and piety, when they come down to the practice, cannot forbear thinking much better of themselves, when they have the good fortune to be spoken well of by other persons.
But the meaning of this absurd proceeding seemeth to be no other than this: there are few men that have so intimate an acquaintance with their own hearts, as to know their own real worth, and how to set a just rate upon themselves; and therefore they do not know but that he who praises them most, 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 less.
Therefore, the most infallible way to disentangle a man from the snares of flattery, is, to consult and study his own heart; for whoever does that well, will hardly be so absurd as to take another man's words, before his own sense and experience.
Thirdly, Another advantage from this kind of study is this, that it teacheth a man how to behave himself patiently, when he has the ill fortune to be censured and abused by other people. For a man, who is thoroughly acquainted with his own heart, doth already know more evil of himself, than any body else can tell him: and when any one speaketh ill of him, he rather thanketh God that he can say no worse : for, could his enemy but look into the dark and hidden recesses of the heart, he considereth what a number of impure thoughts he might there see brooding and hovering, like a dark cloud upon the face of the soul ; that there he might take a prospect of the fancy, and view it acting over the several scenes of pride, of ambition, of envy, of lust, and revenge; that there he might tell how often a vicious inclination hath been restrained, for no other reason, but just to save the man's credit or interest in the world; and how many unbecoming ingredients have entered into the composition of his best actions. And now, what man in the whole world would be able to bear so severe a test? to have every thought and inward motion of the heart laid open and exposed to the views of his enemies? But,
Fourthly and lastly, another advantage of this kind is, that it maketh men less severe upon other people's faults, and less busy and industrious in spreading them. For a man, employed at home, inspecting into his own failings, hath not leisure to take notice of every little spot and blemish that lieth scattered upon others; or, if he cannot escape the sight of them, he always passes the most easy and favourable construction upon them. Thus, for instance, does the ill he knoweth of a man proceed from an unhappy temper and constitution of body? he then considereth with himself, how hard a thing it is, not to be borne down with the current of the blood and spirits ; and accordingly layeth some part of the blame upon the weakness of human nature, for he hath felt the force and rapidity of it within his own breast; although, perhaps, in another instance, he remembereth how it rageth and swelleth by opposition; and, although it may be restrained, or diverted for a while, yet it can hardly ever be totally subdued.
Or, has the man sinned out of custom? he then, from his own experience, traceth a habit into the very first rise and imperfect beginnings of it; and can tell by how slow and insensible advances it creepeth upon the heart; how it worketh itself, by degrees, into the very frame and texture of it, and so passeth into a second nature; and consequently he hath a just sense of the great difficulty 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 sin? he then calleth to mind what wrong apprehensions he hath made of some things himself; how many opinions, that he once made no doubt of, he hath, upon a stricter examination, found to be doubtful and uncertain; how many more to be unreasonable and absurd. He knoweth farther, 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 so long already without a reason.
Thus, upon every occasion, a man intimately acquainted with himself, consulteth his own heart, and maketh every man's case to be his own, and so puts the most favourable interpretation upon it. Let every man therefore look into his own
heart, before he beginneth to abuse the reputation of another; and then he will hardly be so absurd as to throw a dart that will so certainly rebound and wound himself. And thus, through the whole course of his conversation, let him keep an eye upon that one great comprehensive rule of Christian duty, on which hangeth not only the law and the prophets, but the very life and spirit of the Gospel too: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.” Which rule that we may all duly observe, by throwing aside all scandal and detraction, all spite and rancour, all rudeness and contempt, all rage and violence, and whatever tendeth to make conversation and commerce either uneasy or troublesome, may the God of peace grant, for Jesus Christ his sake, &c.
Consider what hath been said; and the Lord give you a right understanding in all things. To whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for ever.
ON THE TRINITY.
FIRST PRINTED IN 1744,
FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF JOHN, v.7.
For there are Three that bear record in Heaven, the
Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One.
[Of this discourse lord Orrery has said, “ It is indeed a sermon,
and one of the best of its kind. The mysterious parts of our religion are apt to have dreadful effects upon weak minds. The general comments upon the Sacred Writings, and the several sermons upon the most abstruse points of Scripture, are too often composed in the gloomy style. Damnation, eternal damnation, is placed with all its horror before our eyes; and we are so terrified at the prospect, that fear makes us imagine we can comprehend mysteries, which, on this side the grave, must be for ever denied to limited understandings. Swift has taken the safest and the properest method of expounding these
He advances every position that can be established upon so incomprehensible a subject. He sustains the belief, ayows the doctrine, and adapts the matter of faith, 'as well as possible, to the human capacity. His manner of reasoning is masterly, and his arguments are nervous.”