Page images

regular and amifs within him ; for instance, how narrow and short-fighted a thing is the underftanding! upon how little reason do we take up an opinion, and upon how much less sometimes do we lay it down again ! how weak and false ground do we often walk upon, with the biggest confidence and assurance; and how tremulous and doubtful we are very often, where no doubt is to be made! Again, how wild and impertinent, how busy and incoherent a thing is the imagination, even in the best and wifest men ; infomuch, that every man may be said to be mad, but every man doth not shew it! Then, as to the passions, how noisy, how turbulent, and how tumultuous are they! how easily are they stirred and set a-going; how eager and hot in the pursuit, and what strange disorder and confusion do they throw a man into, so that he can neither think, nor speak, nor act, as he should do, while he is under the dominion of any one of them.

Thus, let every man look, with a severe and impartial eye, into all the diftinct regions of the heart; and, no doubt, several deformities and irregularities, that he never thought of, will open and disclose themselves upon so near a view ; and rather make the man ashamed of himself,


than proud.

2. A due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves, doth certainly secure us from the sly and infinuating assaults of flattery. There is not in the world a baser, and more hateful thing, than flattery. It proceedeth from fo much false


ness 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 fpeculation, 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 moft, 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 biddech most for it, rather than of him that biddeth less.

Therefore, the most infallible way to difentangle a man from the snares of flattery, is, to consult and study his own heart; for, whoever does that well, will hardly be fo absurd, as to take another man's word, before his own sense and experience.

3. Another

3. 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 much 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 receffes of the heart, he conádereth 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 luft, 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 compofition 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 .view of his enemies? But,

4. And lastly, Another advantage of this kind, is, that it maketh men less severe upon other peopleş faults, and less busy and industrious in spreading them. For, a man employed at home, inspecting into his own failings, hath not leisure enough to take notice of every little spot and


blemish that lieth scattered upon others : Or, if he cannot escape the fight of them, he always passes the most easy and favourable construction upon them. Thus, for instance, does the il he knoweth of a man proceed from an unhappy temper and constitution of body? he then confidereth 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; though, perhaps, in another instance, he remembereth how it rageth and swelleth by opposition ; and though it may be restrained, or diverted for a while, yet it can hardly ever be totally subdued.

Or, hath the man finned 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 flow and insensible advances it creepeth upon the heart ; how it worketh itself, by degrees, into the very frame and texture of it, and so pafseth 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 fin ? he then calleth to mind what wrong apprehensions he hath had of fome things himfelf; 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 abfurd. He knoweth, further, 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 fo 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 fo certainly rebound, and wound him?elf. And thus, through the whole course of his conversation, let him keep an eye upon that one great and comprehenfive 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 fo 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's fake, &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.


« PreviousContinue »