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The DIFFICULTY of KNOWING One's SELF.*
2 KINGS viïi. 13. part of it. And Hazael faid, But what, is thy servant a dog,
that he should do this great thing?
We have a very fignal instance of the
deceitfulness of the heart, represented to us in the person of Hazael ; who was fent to the prophet Elifha, 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 forrow, and a deep concern for it : whereupon, when Hazael, full of shame and confufion, asked, Why weepeth my lord ? he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the chik dren of Ifrael: their forong- holds wilt thou set on fire,
and * The manuscript title-page of the following fermon 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 fimilitude 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 fhall take no notice of this sermon, as it is eridently not composed by the Dean. Orrery.
and their young men wilt thou play with the sword, and wilt dass 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 over into such enormous instances of cruelty and inhumanity : What, fays 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 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 fad 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 pafs, they are wonderfully unacquainted with their own temper and disposition, and know very little of what paffeth 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 confiftency of mind; tell him, that such or such a little accident, which he may then despise, and think much below a pason, thall hereafter make him say and do several abfurd, indiscreet, and misbecoming things : he 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 profecution of them, to evince the great necessity of a nice and curious inspection into the several receffes of the heart; that being the surest and the shortest method that a wicked man can take to reform himielf. 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 a temptation rifeth, 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 more the better for it, than if we had fat still, and made no advances at all.
But, in order to a clearer explanation of the point, I shall speak to these following particulars.
1. By endeavouring to prove, from particular instances, that man is generally the most ignorant creature in the world of himself.
2. By inquiring into the grounds and reasons of this ignorance.
3. And lastly, By proposing several advantages that do moft 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 him
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 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 repentech him truly of his sins or not, who can know it? Now, the great duty of repentance, is chiefly
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 time to come. And now, to shew the falseness of the heart in both these parts of repentance. And,
First, As to a hearty forrow for the fins and miscarriages of the time past : Is there a more ulual thing than for a man to impose upon himself, by putting on a grave and demure countenance, by cafting 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 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 milstone, may as well put on. For tears and fighs, however in some persons they may be decent and commendable expreffions of a godly forrow, are neither necessary, nor infallible signs of a true and unfeigned repentance: not neceffary, because, sometimes, and in some persons, the inward grief and anguish of the mind may be too big to be expreffed 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; not infallible, because