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community, God is pleased now 'to confer upon men a great variety of natural talents; and every one hath his proper gift of God; one after this manner, another after that *. And every one is to take care not to neglect, but to ftir up the gift of God which is in him ť; because it was given him to be improved. And not only the abuse, but the neglect of it, must hereafter be accounted for : witness the doom of that unprofitable fervant, who laid up his fingle pound in a napkin I; and of him who went and hid his talent in the earth $.
It is certainly a sign of great self-ignorance, for a man to venture out of his depth, or attempt any thing he wants opportunity or capacity to accomplish. And therefore a wise man will consider with himself, before he undertakes any thing of consequence, whether he hath abilities to carry him through it, and whether the issue of it may probably redound to his credit; left he sink under the weight he lays upon himself, and incur the just censure of rashness, presumption and folly. See Luke xiv. 28,-32. (s).
1 Cor. vii. 7. :
2 Tim, i, 6. I Luke xix. 20, 24. . Mat. xxv. 30.
Buccæ Noscenda eft menfura tuæ, fpectandaque rebus In fummis, minimis,
Juv. Sat, 11.
It is no uncommon thing for some who i excel in one thing, to imagine they may excel in every thing.
And not content with + that share of merit which every one allows i them, are still catching at that which doth
not belong to them. Why should a good orator wish to be thought a poet ? Why must a celebrated divine set up for a politician ? or a statesman affect the philosopher ? or a mechanic the scholar? or a wise man labour to be thought a wit ? this is a weakness that flows from self-ignorance, and is incident to the greatest men.
Nature seldom forms an universal genius; but deals out her favours, in the present state, with a parsimonious hand. Many a man, by this foible, hath weakened a well-established reputation (1).
C H A P.
versate diu quid ferre recusant Quid valeant humeri.
Hor, de Art, Poet, He that taketh up a burden that is too heavy for him, is in a fair way to break his back,
Ανθρωπε, σρωον επισκεψαι, οποιον εσι το πραγμα" εια και την σεαυ% φυσιν καλαμαθε, ει συνασαι βας ασαι.
Epift. Enchir. cap. 36. In every bufness confider, first, what it is you are about ; and then your own ability, whether it be sufficient to carry you through it. (t) non omnia.possumus omnes. Virg.
Cæcilius (a famous rhetorician of Sicily, who lived in the time of Auguftus, and wrote a treatise
We must be well acquainted with our Inabili
ties, and those Things in which we are narally deficient, as well as thofe in whick we
excel. V. E muft, in order to a thorough self
acquaintance, not only consider our tolents and proper abilities, but have an eye to our frailties and deficieneies, that we may know where our weakness as well as our strength lies: -otherwise, like Sampfon, we may run ourfelves into infinite temptations and troubles.
Every man hath a weak fide : every wise man knows where it is, and will be sure to keep a double guard there.
There is some wisdom in concealing a weakness: this cannot be done, till it be first known, nor can it be known without a good degree of self-acquaintance.
on the fublime, which is censured by Longinus in the beginning of his) was of a hasty and enterprising spirit, and very apt to over-íhoot himself on all occasions; he particularly ventured out of his depth in his Comparijon of Demosthenes and Cicero: whereupon Plutarch makes this fage and candid remark.
If, (faith he) it was a thing obvious and • easy for every man to know himself, possibly " that saying, 786 61 0 6xulou, had not passed for 6a divine oracle.' Plut. Liv, vol. vii. pag. 347
It is strange to observe what pains some men are at to expose themselves ; to signalize their own folly ; and to set out to the most public view those things which they ought to be ashamed to think should ever enter into their character. But so it is; some men seem to be ashamed of those things which would be their glory, whilst others glory in their fhame *
The greatest weakness in a man is to publish his weaknesses, and to appear fond to have them known: but vanity will often prompt a man to this; who, unacquainted with the measure of his capacity, attempts things out of his power, and beyond his reach ; whereby he makes the world acquainted with two things to his disadvantage, which they were ignorant of before, viz. his deficia ency, and his felf-ignorance in appearing so blind to it.
It is ill-judged, though very common, to be less ashamed of a want of temper than understanding : for it is no real dishonour or fault in a man to have but a small ability of mind, provided he have not the vanity to set up for a genius, (which would be as ridiculous as for a man of small strength and stature of body, to set up for a cham
* Phil, iii, 19.
pion) because this is what he cannot help. But a man may in a good measure correct the fault of his natural temper, if he be well acquainted with it, and duly watchful over it: and therefore to betray a prevailing weakness of temper, or an ungoverned passion, diminishes a man's reputation much more than to discover a weakness of judgment or understanding. — But the most dishonourable of all is, for a man at once to discover a great genius and an ungoverned mind : because that strength of reason and understanding, which he is master of, gives him a great advantage for the government of his passions: and therefore his suffering himself, notwithstanding, to be governed by them, shows that he hath too much neglected or misapplied his natural talent; and willingly submitted to the tyranny of those lufts and passions, over which nature had furnished him with abilities to have secured an easy conquest.
A wise man hath his foibles as well as a fool : but the difference between them is, that the foibles of the one are known to himself, and concealed from the world ; the foibles of the other are known to the world, and concealed from himself. The wise man sees those frailties in himself, which