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This will keep him steady in his pursuits ; consistent with himself, uniform in his conduct, and useful to mankind; and it will prevent his shooting at a wrong mark, or missing the right one he aims at; as thousands do, for want of this necessary branch of Self-knowledge. [Sçe Part I. Chap. V.]
CH A P. IX.
Self-Knowledge leads to a Decorum and Con
sistency of Character.
how to act with discretion and dignity in every station and charakter.
Almost all the ridicule we see in the world takes its rise from felf-ignorance : and to this mankind, by common assent, ascribe it ; when they say of a person that acts out of character, he does not know himself. Affectation is the spring of all ridicule, and felf-ignorance the true source of affectation. A man that does not know his proper character, nor what becomes it, cannot act fuit
He will often affect a character' that does not belong to him ; and will either act above or beneath himself, which
ably to it.
will make him equally contemptible in the eyes of these who know him (t.)
A man of fuperior rank and character, who knows himself, knows that he is but a man ; subject to the same sicknesses, frailties, disappointments, pains, passions and forrows, as other men ; that true honour lies in those things, in which it is poflible for the meanest peasant to excel him ; and therefore he will not be vainly arrogant, He knows they are only transitory and accidental things, which set him above the rest of mankind ; that he will soon be upon a level with them; therefore he learns to condescend : and there is a dignity in this condescension ;, it does not sink, but exalt, his reputation and character.
A man of inferior rank, that knows himself, knows how to be contented and thankful, in his lower sphere : as he has not an extravagant esteem for those outward things which raise one man's circumstances so much above another's, so he does not look upon himself as the worse or less valuable man, because he has them not ; much less does he envy those who have them : he does not
possess (t) Omnique in re posse quod deceat facere, artis et naturæ est ; scire, quid, quandoqe decat, prudentiæ. Cic. de Orat, l. 3. § 55.
possess neither has he their temptations : he is in that state of life, in which the great Disposer of all things hath allotted him; and he is fatisfied. But, as a deference is owing to external fuperiority, he knows how to pay a proper respect to thofe who are above him, without that abject and servile cringing, which discovers an inordinate esteem for their condition. As he does not over-esteem them for those little accidental advantages in which they excel him, fo neither does he over-value himself for those things in which he excels others.
Were hearers to know themselves, they would not presume to dictate to their preachers; or teach their ministers how to instruct them ; (which, as St. Austin observes, (u) is the fame thing as if a patient, when he sends for a physician, should order what he would have him prefcribe ;) but, if they happen to hear something not quite agreeable to their former sentiments, would betake themselves more diligently to the study of their Bibles, to know whether those things were fo *.
(u) Norit medicus quid falutiferum, quidve contrarium petat ægrotos. Ægroti eftis, nolite ergo dic. tare quz vobis medicamenta velit opponere.
* Afts xvii, 11.
Were Ministers to know themselves, they would understand the nature and duty of their office, and the wants and infirmities of their hearers better, than to domineer over their faith, or to shoot over their heads, and seek their own popularity, rather than their benefit. They would be more solicitous to edify, than to obtain the applause of men ; (the most palatable food is not always the most wholesome ;) and, like faithful physicians, they would earnestly endeavour to promote their good, altho' in a way they may not like ; and rather risk their own characters with weak and capricious men, than with-hold any thing that is needful for them, or be unfaithful to God and their own consciences. Patients must not al. ways expect to be pleased, nor physicians to be always applauded.
CH A P. X.
Piety the Effect of Self - Knowledge. X. EL F-KNOWLEDGE tends
greatly to cultivate a spirit of true Piety. Ignorance is so far from being the Mother of Devotion, that nothing is more destructive of it; and, of all ignorance, none is a greater bane to it than self-ignorance. This,
indeed, is very consistent with superstition, bigotry and enthusiasm, those common counterfeits of piety, which, by weak and credulous minds, are frequently mistaken for it. But true piety and real devotion can only spring from a juft knowledge of God and ourselves ; the relation we stand in to, and the dependence we have upon, Him. For when we consider ourselves as the creatures of God, whom he made for his honour, as creatures incapable of any happiness, but what results from his favour; and as entirely and continually dependent upon him for every thing we have and hope for; and whilst we bear this thought in minds, what can induce or prompt us more to love and fear and trust him, as our God, our Father, and all-fufficient Friend and Helper ?
Self-Knowledge teaches us rightly to perform
the Duties of Religion. XI. ELF-KNOWLEDGE will SE
be a good help and direction to us in many of our Devout and Christian Exercifes. Particularly,