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Some time ago I was appointed one of a committee to inquire into the state of the workhouse; where we found that a charity was bestowed by a great person for a certain time, which in its consequences operated very much to the detriment of the house; for, when the time was elapsed, all those who were supported by that charity continued on the same foot with the rest of the foundation ; and being generally a pack of profligate vagabond wretches from several parts of the kingdom, corrupted all the rest; so partial, or treacherous, or interested, or ignorant, or mistaken, are generally all recommenders, not only to employments, but even to charity itself.
I know it is complained of, that the difficulty of driving foreign beggars out of the city is charged upon the bellowers (as they are called,) who find their accounts best in suffering those vagrants to follow their trade through every part of the town. But this abuse might easily be remedied, and very much to the advantage of the whole city, if better salaries were given to those who execute that office in the several parishes, and would make it their interests to clear the town of those caterpillars, rather than hazard the loss of an employment that would give them an honost livelihood. But if that should fail, yet a general resolution of never giving charity to a street-beggar out of his own parish, or without a visible badge, would infallibly force all vagrants to depart.
There is generally a vagabond spirit in beggars which ought to be discouraged and severely punished. It is owing to the same causes that drove them into poverty; I mean idleness, drunkenness, and rash marriages, without the least prospect of supporting a family by honest endeavors, which never came into their thoughts. It is observed, that hardly one beggar in twenty looks upon himself to be relieved by receiving bread or other food; and they have in this town been frequently seen to pour out of their pitchers good broth that has been given them into the kennel; neither do they much regard clothes unless to sell them; for their rags are part of their tools with which they work; they want only ale, brandy, and other strong liquors, which cannot be had without
money, as they conceive, always abounds in the metropolis.
I had some other thoughts to offer upon this subject. But as I am a desponder in my nature, and have tolerably well discovered the disposition of our people, who never will move a step toward easing themselves from any one single grievance, it will be thought that I have already said too much, and to little or no purpose, which has often been the fate or fortune of the writer.
*** The following form of prayer, which Dr. Swift constantly used in the pulpit before his sermon, is copied from bis own handwriting
Almighty and most merciful God ! forgive us all our sins. Give us grace heartily to repent them, and to lead new lives. Graft in our hearts a true love and veneration for thy holy name and word. Make thy pastors burning and shining lights, able to convince gainsayers, and to save others and themselves. Bless this congregation here met together in thy name; grant them to hear and receive thy holy word, to the salvation of their own souls. Lastly, we desire to return thee praise and thanksgiving for all thy mercies bestowed upon us, but chiefly for the fountain of them all, Jesus Christ our LORD, in whose name and words we further call upon thee, saying, Our Father, &c.”
SERMON THE FIRST.
THE DIFFICULTY OF KNOWING ONE'S-SELF.
2 KINGS viii. PART OF THE 13TH VERSE. And Hazael said, But what ! i8 thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?
We have a very singular instance of the deceitfulness of the heart, represented to us in the person of Hazael, who was sent to the prophet Elisha to inquire of the Lord concerning his master the king of Syria's recovery. For the man of God, having told him that the king might recover from the disorder he was then laboring under, began to set and fasten his countenance upon him of a sudden, and to break out into the most violent expressions of sorrow, and a deep concern for it; whereupon, when Hazael, full of shame and confusion, asked, “Why weepeth my lord ?” he answered, “Because I know all the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel ; their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their
women with child.” Thus much did the man of God say and know of him, by a light darted into his mind from heaven. But Hazael, not knowing himself so well as the other did, was startled and amazed at the relation, and would not believe it possible that a man of his temper could ever run out into such enormous instances of cruelty and inhumanity. “What, says he, “is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ?”
And yet for all this it is highly probable that he was then that man he could not imagine himself to be; for we find him, on the very next day after his return, in a very treacherous and disloyal manner, murdering his own master and usurping his kingdom; which was but a prologue to the sad tragedy which he afterwards acted upon the people of Israel.
And now the case is but very little better with most men than it was with Hazael; however it cometh to pass, they are wonderfully unacquainted with their own temper and disposition, and know very little of what passeth within them; for of so many proud, ambitious, revengeful, envying, and ill-natured persons that are in the world, where is there one of them, who, although he hath all the symptoms of the vice appearing upon every occasion, can look with such an impartial eye upon himself as to believe that the imputation thrown upon him is not altogether groundless and unfair? Who, if he were told by men of a discerning spirit and a strong conjecture, of all the evil and absurd things which that false heart of his would at one time or other betray him into, would not believe as little, and wonder as much as Hazael did before him? Thus, for instance; tell an angry person that he is weak and impotent, and of no consistency of mind; tell him that such or such a little accident, which he may then despise and think much below a passion, shall hereafter make him say and do several absurd, indiscreet, and misbecoming things; he may perhaps own that he hath a spirit of resentment within him that will not let him be imposed upon, but he fondly imagines that he can lay a becoming restraint upon it when he pleaseth, although it is ever running away with him into some indecency or other.
Therefore, to bring the words of my text to our present occasion, I shall endeavor, in a further prosecution of them, to erince the great necessity of a nice and curious inspection into the several recesses of the heart, being the surest and the shortest method that a wicked man can take to reform himself; for let us but stop the fountain, and the streams will spend and waste themselves away in a very little time; but if we go about, like children, to raise a bank,
and to stop the current, not taking notice all the while of the spring which continually feedeth it, when the next flood of temptation riseth and breaketh in upon it, then we shall find that we have begun at the wrong end of our duty, and that we are very little the better for it, than if we had sat still and made no advances at all.
But in order to a clearer explanation of the point, I shall speak to these following particulars :
First, By endeavoring to prove, from particular instances, that man is generally the most ignorant creature in the world of himself.
Secondly, By inquiring into the grounds and reasons of his igno
Thirdly and lastly, By proposing several advantages that do most assuredly atteni a due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves.
First, then, to prove that man is generally the most ignorant creature in the world of himself.
To pursue the heart of man through all the instances of life, in all its several windings and turnings, and under that infinite variety of shapes and appearances which it putteth on, would be a difficult and almost impossible undertaking; so that I shall confine myself to such as have a nearer reference to the present occasion, and do upon a closer view show themselves through the whole business of repentance. For we all know what it is to repent, but whether he repenteth him truly of his sins or not, who can know it ?
Now the great duty of repentance is chiefly made up of these two parts, a hearty sorrow for the follies and miscarriages of the time past, and a full purpose and resolution of amendinent for the time to come. And now to show the falseness of the heart in both these parts of repentance; and,
First, As to a hearty sorrow for the sins and miscarriages of the time past. Is there a more usual thing than for a man to impose upon himself by putting on a grave and demure countenance, by casting a severe look into his past conduct, and making some few pious and devout reflections upon it; and then to believe that he hath repented to an excellent purpose, without ever letting it step forth into practice, and show itself in a holy conversation ? Nay, some persons do carry the deceit a little higher; who, if they can but bring themselves to weep for their sins, are then full of an illgrounded confidence and security; never considering that all this may prove to be no more than the very garb and outward dress of a contrite heart, which another heart, as hard as the nether millstone, may as well put on. For tears and sighs, however in some persons they may be decent and commendable expressions of a godly sorrow, are neither necessary nor infallible signs of a true and unfeigned repentance. Not necessary, because sometimes, and in some persons, the inward grief and anguish of the mind may be too big to be expressed by so little a thing as a tear, and then it turneth its edge inward upon the mind; and like those wounds of the body which bleed inwardly generally proves the most fatal and dangerous to the whole body of sin; not infallible, because a very small portion of sorrow may make some tender dispositions melt and break out into tears; or a man may perhaps weep at parting with his sins as he would bid the last farewell to an old friend.
But there is still a more pleasant cheat in this affair, that when we find a deadness and a strange kind of unaptness and indisposition to all impressions of religion, and that we cannot be as truly sorry for our sins as we should be, we then pretend to be sorry that we are not more sorry for them; which is not more absurd and irrational than that a man should pretend to be very angry at a thing because he did not know how to be angry at all.
But after all, what is wanting in this part of repentance we expect to make up in the next; and to that purpose we put on a resolution of amendment, which we take to be as firm as a house built upon a rock; so that let the floods arise, and the winds blow, and the streams beat vehemently upon it, nothing shall shake it into ruin or disorder. We doubt not upon the strength of this resolve to stand fast and unmoved amid the storm of a temptation ; and do firmly believe at the time we make it that nothing in the world will ever be able to make us commit those sins over again which we have so firmly resolved against.
Thus many a time have we come to the sacrament of the Lord's supper
of amendment, and with as full a persuasion of putting that same purpose into practice; and yet have we not all as often broke that purpose, and falsified that same persuasion, by starting aside like a broken bow into those very sins, which we then so solemnly and so confidently declared against ?
Whereas had but any other person entered with us into a vow so solemn that he had taken the holy sacrament upon it; I believe, had he but once deceived us by breaking in upon
we should hardly ever after be prevailed upon to trust that man again, although we still continued to trust our own fears against reason and against experience.
This indeed is a dangerous deceit enough, and will of course be