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best way to promote their edification. But if their taste be totally vitiated, and incline them to adopt that which will do them more harm than good, and to relish poison more than food, in that case the most charitable thing the preacher can do, is, to endeavour to correct such a vicious appetite, which loaths that which is most wholesome and craves pernicious food ; this I say, it is his duty to attempt in the most gentle and prudent manner he can, tho' he run the risk of having his judgment on orthodoxy called into question by them; for commonly they are the moft arbitrary and unmerciful judges in this case, who are least of all qualified for that office.
There is not, perhaps, a more unaccountable weakness in human nature, than this, that with regard to religious matters our animofities are generally greatest where our differences are least; they who come pretty near to our ftandard, but stop short there, are more the objects of our disgust and censure, than they who continue at the greatest diftance from it: and in many cases it requires much candor and felf-command to surmount this weakness. To whatever secret spring in the human mind it may
be owing, I shall not stay to enquire ; but it is too obvious not to take notice of this circumstance.
We should all of us be careful to discover and examine our proper taste of religious things; that if it be a false one, we may rectify it; if a bad one, mend it; if a right and good one, strengthen and improve it. For the mind is capable of a false gust, as well as the palate ; and comes by it the same way; viz. by being long used to unnatural relishes, which become grateful by custom : and having found out what it is, and examined it by test of Scripture, reason and conscience, if it be not very wrong let us indulge it, and read those books that are most suited to it, which, for that reason, will be most edifying. But, at the same time, let us take care of these two things, (1.) That it does not bias our judgment, and draw us into error. (2.) That it does not cramp our charity, and lead us to cenforiousness.
Of our great and governing Views in Life. XVI.
NOTHER Part of Self
Knowledge is, to know what are the greater Ends for which we live.
We must consider what is the ultimate fcope we aim at; the general maxims and principles we live by ; or whether we have not yet determined our end, and are governed by no fixed principles ; or by such as we are ashamed to acknowledge.
i The first and leading doctrine of pru• 'dence is, that a man propose to himself • his true and best interest for his end ; is and the next is that he make use of all • those means and opportunities whereby
that end is to be obtained. This is the
most effectual way that I know of to * fecure to one's self the character of a * wise man here, and the reward of one * hereafter. And between these two there
is a very close connection, that he who does not do the latter, cannot be fupposed to intend the former. He that is not careful of his actions, shall never persuade me that he seriously proposes to himself his best interest, as his end,
• for if he did, he would as seriously ap
ply himself to the regulation of the other, as the means ().'
There are few that live so much at random as not to have some main end in view ; something that influences their conduct, and is the great object of their pursuit and hope. A man cannot live without some leading views; a wise man will always know what they are, whether it is fit he should be led by them or not; whether they are such as his understanding and reason approve, or only such as fancy and inclination fuggest. He will be as much concerned to act with reason, as to talk with reason ; as much ashamed of a folecifm and contradiction in his character, as in his conversation.
Where do our views centre ? In this world we are in ; or that we are going to ? If our hopes and joys centre here, it is a mortifying thought, that we are every day departing from our happiness; but if they are fixed above, it is a joy to think that we are every day drawing nearer to the object of our highest wishes.
Is our main care to appear great in the eye of man; or good in the eye of God?
(c) Norris's Misc. p. 18.
if the former, we expose ourselves to the pain of a perpetual disappointment. For it is extraordinary if the
men, do not rob us of some part of our just praise, or if our vanity will be content with that portion of it they allow us. If the latter be our main care, if our chief view is to be approved of God, we are laying up a fund of the most lasting and solid fatisfactions : not to say that this is the truest way to appear great in the eye of men; and to conciliate the esteem of all whose praise is worthy of our desires.
• Be this then, O my soul, thy wise and fteady pursuit ; let this circumscribe • and direct thy views ; be this a law to " thee, from which account it a fin to de
part, whatever disrespect or contempt it may expose thee to from others (d); be this the character thou refolveft to live up to, and at all times to maintain,
(d) Οσα σρολιθε]αι, τεοις ως νομείς, και ως ασεζησων αν παραβης τι τεθεν εμμενα. ofi dar EPU TIS Epe 08 jun 1 IT IS PE08. Epięt. Enchir. cap. 74. What you
have once wisely proposed adhere to, as a law not to be violated without guilt. And mind 1200 what others say of you,