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sons, why most men have so little conversation with themfelves.
And, ift, Because this reflection is a work and labour of the mind, and cannot be performed, without some pain and difficulty. For, before a man can reflect upon himself, and look into his heart with a steady eye, he must contract his fight, and collect all his scattered and roving thoughts into fome order and compass, that he may be able to take a clear and distinct view of them; he must retire from the world for a while, and be unattentive to all impressions of fenfe: and how hard and painful a thing must it needs be, to a man of passion and infirmity, amidst such a crowd of objects, that are continually striking upon the fense, and foliciting the affections, not to be moved and interrupted by one or other of them! But,
2dly, Another reason why we fo feldom converse with ourselves, is, because the business of the world taketh up all our time, and leaveth us no portion of it to spend upon this great work and labour of the mind. Thus, twelve or fourteen years pass away, before we can well discern good from evil; and, of the rest, so much goeth away in fleep, so much in the ordinary business of life, and so much in the proper business of our callings, that we have none to lay out upon
the more serious and religious employments. Every man's life is an imperfect fort of a circle, which he repeateth and runneth over every day; he hath a set of thoughts, desires, and inclinations, which
return upon him, in their proper time and order, and will very hardly be laid aside, to make room for any thing new and uncommon: so that, call upon him when you please, to set about the study of his own heart, and you are sure to find him pre-engaged; either he hath some business to do, or fome diversion to take, fome acquaintance that he must visit, or some company that he must entertain, or some cross accident hath put him out of humour, and unfitted him for such a grave employment. And thus it comes to pass, that a man can never find leisure to look into himself, because, he doth not set apart some portion of the day for that very purpose, but foolishly deferreth it from one day to another, until his glass is almost run out, and he is called upon to give a miserable account of himself in the other world. But,
3dly, Another reason why a man doth not more frequently converse with himself, is, because such a conversation with his own heart, may discover some vice, or some infirmity, lurking within him, which he is very unwilling to believe himself guilty of. For, can there be a more ungrateful thing to a man, than to find, that, upon a nearer view, he is not that person he took himself to be? that he hath neither the courage, nor the honesty, nor the piety, nor the humility, that he dreamed he had ? that a very little pain, for instance, putteth him out of patience, and as little pleasure, softeneth and disarmeth him into ease and wantonness ? that he hath been at more pains, and
labour, and cost, to be revenged of an enemy, than to oblige the best friend he hath in the world? that he cannot bring himself to say his prayers, without a great deal of reluctancy; and, when he doth say them, the spirit and fervour of devo, tion evaporate in a very short time, and he can scarcely hold out a prayer of ten lines, without a number of idle and impertinent, if not vain and wicked thoughts coming into his head? These are very unwelcome discoveries, that a man may make of himself; so that, it is no wonder, that every one, who is already flushed with a good 0pinion of himself, should rather study how to run away from it, than how to converse with his own heart.
But further, If a man were both able and wil. ling to recire into his own heart, and to set apart fome portion of the day for that very purpose ; yet he is still disabled from passing a fair and impartial judgment upon himself, by several difficulties, arising partly from prejudice and prepos, fession, partly from the lower appetites and inclinations. And,
1/, That the business of prepoffefsion may lead and betray a man into a false judgment of his own heart. For, we may observe, that the first opinion we take up of any thing, or of any perfon, doth generally stick close to us; the nature of the mind being such, that it cannot but desire, and, consequently, endeavour, to have some cerę tain principles to go upon, something fixed and immoveable, whereon it may rest and support it
self. And hence it cometh to pass, that some perfons are, with so much difficulty, brought to think well of a man, they have once entertained an ill opinion of; and, perhaps, that, too, for a very abfurd and unwarrantable reason. But, how much more difficult, then, must it be, for a man who taketh up a fond opinion of his own heart, long before he hath either years, or fense enough, to understand it, either to be persuaded out of it by himfelf, whom he loveth fo well, or by another, whose interest or diversion it may be, to make him ashamed of himself? Then,
2dly, As to the difficulties arising from the inferior appetites and inclinations, let any man look into his own heart, and observe, in how different a light, and under what different complexions, any two sins, of equal turpitude and malignity, do appear to him, if he hath but a strong inclination to the one, and none at all to the other. That which he hath an inclination to, is always dressed up in all the false beauty that a fond and busy imagination can give it; the other appeareth naked and deformed, and in all the true circumstances of folly and dishonour. Thus, stealing is a vice that few gentlemen are inelined to; and they justly think it below the dignity of a man, to stoop to so base and low a fin: but no principle of honour, no workings of the mind and conscience, not the still voice of mercy, not the dreadful call of judgment, nor any considerations whatever, can put a stop to that violence and oppression, that pride and ambition, that re
velling and wantonness, which we every day meet with in the world. Nay, it is easy to observe very different thoughts in a man, of the fin that he is molt fond of, according to the different ebbs and flows of his inclination to it. For, as soon as the appetite is alarmed, and seizeth upon the heart, a little cloud gathereth about the head, and spreadeth a kind of darkness over the face of the foul, whereby it is hindered from taking a clear and distinct view of things : but, no sooner is the appetite tired and satiated, but the fame cloud paffeth away like a shadow; and, a new light springing up in the mind, of a sudden, the man seeth much more, both of the folly and of the danger of the fin, 'than he did before.
And thus, having done with the several reasons, why man, the only creature in the world that can reflect and look into himfelf, is so very ignorant of what pafseth within him, and so much unacquainted with the standing dispositions and complexions of his own heart ; I proceed now, in the
III. Third and last place, to lay down several advantages that do moft asuredly attend a due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves. And,
1. One great advantage is, that it tendeth very much to mortify and bumble a man into a modeft and low opinion of himself. For, let a man take a nice and curious inspection into all the several regions of the heart, and observe every thing ir