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pensions to the wilful neglect of duty are opposed and conquered, the more feldom will they return, or the weaker they will grow ; till.at last, by Divine Grace, they will be wholly overcome; and in the room of them will succeed' an habitual readiness to every good work *, and a very sensible delight therein : a much happier effect than can be expected from the severest exercises of selfdenial, in the instances before mentioned.
(2.) A man that knows himself will fee an equal necessity for self-denial, in order to check and controul his inclinations to finful actions : to fubdue the rebel within ; to refift the folicitations of sense and appetite ; to fummon all his wisdom to avoid the occafions and temptations to fin, and all his strength to oppose įto
All this (especially if it be a favourite constitutional iniquity) will cost a man great pains and mortification. For instance, the subduing a violent passion, or taming a fenfual inclination, or forgiving an apparent injury and affront. It is evident, such a Self-conquest can never be attained without much Self-knowledge, and Self-denial. Selfdenial that is exercised this way, as it will
be * Tit, iii, 1.
be a better evidence of our sincerity, so it will be more falutary and ornamental to the interest of religion, than the utmost zeal in those duties which are most suitable to our natural tempers, or than the greatest austerities in some particular instances of mortification, which are not so necessary, and porsibly not so difficult or disagreeable to be observed by us.
To what amazing heights of piety may some be thought to mount, (raised on the wings of a flaming zeal, and distinguished by uncommon preciseness and severity about little things) who cannot perhaps, govern one paffion, and yet appear ignorant of, and slaves to, their darling iniquity! thro' an ignorance of themselves, they misplace their Self-denial; and, by that means, blemish their characters with a vifible inconitancy (1):
(9) A pious zeal may be attive and yet not pernicious, and shine without burning. Intemperate zeal is like Sirius in Homer. Λαμπρότατος μεν όν εςι,κακον δέ τι σημα τέτυκαι Και' τε φέρει πολλο» πυρείον δειλοιςι βοήoισι: Ille quidem clarâ, sed sævâ luce coruscat, Et morbos æftusque adfert mortalibus ægris.
Pious zeal is like the gentle flame in Virgil. Ecce levis subito de vertice visus Jüli.
CH A P. VIII.
Self-Knowledge promotes our Usefulness in the
VIII. H E more we know of ourselves,
the more useful we are like to be, in those stations of life in which Providence hath fixed us.
When we know our proper talents and capacities, we know in what manner we are capable of being useful; and the confideration of our characters and relations in life, will direct us to the proper application of those talents ; show us to what ends they were given us, and to what purposes they ought to be improved.
• Many of those who set up for wits, ' and pretend to a more than ordinary
fagacity, do notwithstanding spend their • time unaccountably; and live away whole
days, weeks, and sometimes months together, to as little purpose, (tho' it may
Fundere lumen apex, tactuque innoxia mollis
• be not so innocently) as if they had been
asleep all the while. But if their parts • be so good as they would have others
believe, certainly they are worth improv• ing; if not, they have the more need ' of it. Greatness of parts is so far from • being a dispensation from industry, that · I find men of the most exquisite fenfe, ' in all ages, constantly the more esteemed " the value of their time. And therefore,
very much fufpect the excellency of • those men's parts, who, are dissolute and careless mispenders of it (r).'
It is melancholy to observe, how miserably some men debase and prostitute their capacities. Those gifts and indulgences of nature, whereby they outshine many others, and by which they are capable of doing real fervice to the cause of virtue and religion, and of being eminently useful to mankind, they either neglect or shamefully abuse, to the dishonour of God, and the prejudice of their fellow-creatures, by encouraging them in the ways of vice and vanity ; for the false glare of a profane wit will fometimes make such strong impressions on a weak, unsettled mind, as to overbear the
principles (-) Norris's Mifc. p. 120.
principles of reason and wisdom, and give it too favourable sentiments of what it before abhorred: whereas the same force and sprightliness of genius would have been very happily and usefully employed in putting sin out of countenance, and in rallying the follies, and exposing the inconsistencies of a vicious and profligate character. The more talents and abilities, men are blessed with, the more pains they ought to take. – This is St. Chryfoftom's observation : and the reason is obvious; because they have more to answer for, than other men, which I take to be a better reason than what is assigned by this father, viz. because they have more to lose (s).
When a man once knows where his strength lies, wherein he excels or is capable of excelling, how far his influence extends in that station of life wherein Providence hath fixed him, and the duties of that station : he then knows the talents he ought to cultivate, in what manner and to what objects they should be applied, in order to shine and be useful in that station.
This (5) "Ώσε τους σοφοίροις, μαλλών, και τοις αμαθεσερoις, μειζων ο πονος ουδε γαρ υπερ των αυθων και ζημια, αμελεσι τετοις κάκεινοις.
De Sacred. l. v, C, 5.