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CH A P. VIII.
To know ourselves, we must wholly abftract from
external Appearances. VIII. OUL-D you know yourself,
you must, as far as poffible, get above the influence of exteriors, or a mere outward show.
The knowledge of a man is the knowledge of his heart, which is entirely an inward thing; to the knowledge of which, outward things (such as a man's condition and state in the world) can contribute nothing : But it is too often a great hinderance in his pursuit to Self-Knowledge.
(1.) Are your circumstances in the world cafy and prosperous, take care you do not judge of yourself too favourably on that
These things are without you, and therefore never
can be the measure of what is within ; and however the world may respect you for them, they do not make you a wiser or more valuable man.
In forming a true judgment of yourself, you must wholly reject the consider
ation of your estate or family ; your wit,
A man may be good and happy without these things, and a bad and wretched man with them. Nay, he may possess all these, and be the worse for them. They are so far from being valuable in themselves, that we often fee Providence bestow them upon the vileft of men, and in kindness deny them to some of the best. They are frequently the greatest temptations, and put a man's faith and wisdom to the most dangerous trial.
(2.) Is your condition in life mean and distressful ? Do not judge the worse of yourself for not having those external advantages which others pofless.
None will disesteem you for wanting them, but those who think the better of themselves for having them : these are
(6) Si perpendere te voles, fepone pecuniam, domum, dignitatem, intus te ipse consule. Sen.
Nam genus, et proavos, et que non fecimus ipfi,
Ovid. Met. lib. xiii. 140.
(TQ EX eq nuiv) things entirely without us, and out of our power ; for which a man is neither the better nor the worfe, but according as he uses them: hence you ought to be as indifferent to them as they are to you. A good man shines amiably, even thro’ the obscurity of his low fortune; and a wicked man is an insignificant wretch, in the midst of all his grandeur (c).
Were we to follow the judgment of the world, we should, otherwise efteem these things ; and consequently be led into a wrong notion of ourselves. But we have a better rule, and if we adhere to it, the confideration of our external situation in life, whatever it be, will have no undue influence on the mind in its search after Selfknowledge.
С НА Р.
(c) Parvus pumilio, licet in monte constiterit ; colorfus magnitudinem fuam fervabit, etiamfi fteterit in puteo. Sen. Epist. 77.
“ Pygmies are Pygmies still, tho' plac'd in Alps; “ And Pyramids are Pyramids in Vases.
CH A P. IX.
The Practice of Self-Knowledge, a great Means
to promote it. IX. ET all your Self-knowledge be re
duced into practice. The right improvement of that knowledge we have, is the best way to attain more.
The great end of Self-knowledge is selfgovernment; without which it is but an useless speculation. And, as all knowledge is valuable in proportion to its end, so this is the most excellent, only because the practice of it is of the most extensive use to mankind.
• Above all other subjects (says an ancient writer) Itudy thine own self.–For no • knowledge, that terminates in curiofity or
speculation, is comparable to that which • is of utility ; and the most useful know
ledge consists in a due care and just notions • of ourselves. This study is a debt which
every one owes himself. Let us not then · be so lavish, so unjust, as not to pay • this debt; by spending some part, at least,
of our time and care upon that which
• has the most indefeasible claim to it. Go. • vern your passions; manage your actions • with prudence ; and where false steps ' have been made, correct them for the • future. Let nothing be allowed to grow
headstrong and disorderly ; but bring all • under discipline. Set all your faults be• fore your eyes ; and pass sentence upon
yourself with the fame severity as you . would do upon another, for whom no partiality hath biassed your judgment (d).'
What will our most diligent self-researches avail us, if, after all, we sink into indolence and floth? Or what will it signify to be convinced that we are amiss in our deportments and dispositions, if we remain contentedly under that conviction, without taking one step towards a reformation? It will certainly encrease our guilt in the fight of God. And how deplorable will it be to have our Self-knowledge hereafter rise
up in judgment against us !
Examination is the way to correction " and amendment. We abuse it and our
selves, if we rest in the duty without looking farther. We are to review our daily
(d) St. Bernard's Medit, chap. 5.