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The DIFFICULTY of KNOWING One's SELF."
2 Kings viii. 13. part of it. And Hazael faid, But what, is thy servant a dog,
that he should do this great thing? . W E have a very signal instance of the
W 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 labouring under, began to fet 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 confufion, asked, Why weepeth my lard ? he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the chile dren of Israel: their forong-holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou flay with the sword, and wilt dasis 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 poflible, that a man of his temper could ever run over into such enormous instances of cruelty and inhu. manity: What, says he, is thy servant a dog, that be should do this great thing?
and * The manuscript title-page of the following sermon being loft, and no memorandums writ upon it, as there were upon the others, when and where it was preached, made the editor doubtful whether he should print it as the Dean's or not. But its being found amongst ti:e fame papers ; and the hand, although writ somewhat better, having a great similitude to the Dean's, made him willing to lay it before the public, that they might judge whether the style and manner also do not render it still more probable to be his. Dublin edition. I shall take no notice of this fermon, as it is eridently not composed by the Dean. Orrery.
And yet, for all this, it is highly probable, that he was then that very 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 Ifrael.
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 believes 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 paflion, thall hereafter make him say and dio several absurd, indiscreet, and misbecoming things : le may perhaps own, that he hath a spirit of resentment within him, that will not let him be imposed on ; but he fondly imagines, that he can lay a becoming restraint upon it when he pleafes, although it is ever running away with him into some indecency or other.
Therefore, to bring down the words of my text to our present occasion, I shall endeavour, in a further prosecution of them, to evince the great neceflity of a nice and curious inspection into the several receffes of the heart; that being the sureft and the Thortest method that a wicked man can take to reform himielf. For, let us but ftop 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 a temptation riseth, and breaketh in upon it, then we shall find, that we have begun at the wrong end of our duty, and that
ronzl we are very little more the better for it, than if hich we had fat still, and made no advances at all. ther. But, in order to a clearer explanation of the and point, I shall speak to these following particulars.
at he . 1. By endeavouring to prove, from particular
instances, that man is generally the most igno
sant creature in the world of himself. nucky - 2. By inquiring into the grounds and reasons
of this ignorance.
3. And lastly, By proposing several advantages that do most assuredly attend a due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves.
I. First then, To prove that man is generally the most ignorant creature in the world of himfelf:
To purfue 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 putieth on, would be a difficult and almost impossible undertaking : fo that I shall confine myfelf to such as have a nearer reference to the present oecasion, and do, upon a closer view, shew 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 amendment for
the the time to come. And now, to shew the falleness of the heart in both these parts of repentance. And,
First, As to a hearty sorrow for the fins 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 fome 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 shew 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 fins, are then full of an ill-grounded 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 milftone, may as well put on. For tears and fighs, however in some persons they may be decent and commendable expresfions of a godly forrow, are neither necessary, nor infallible figns 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 fo little a thing as a tear; and then it turneth its edge inwards upon the mind; and, like those wounds of the body which bleed inwardly, it generally proves the most fatal and dangerous to the whole body of fin; nog infallible, because