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Do not therefore shut your eyes against your darling, fin, or be averse to find it out, Why should you study to conceal or excuse it; and fondly cherish that viper in your bosom ?– Some men deal by their sins, as
fome ladies do by their persons. When
their beauty is decayed, they seek to hide ' it from themselves by false glasses, and : from others by paint. So, many seek to
hide their fins from themselves by false glosses, and, from others by excuses, or
false colours (z) : but the greatest cheat they put upon themselves : * They that cover their fins shall not profper. It is dangerous felf-flattery to give soft and finoothing names to sins, in order to disguise their nature. Rather lay your hand upon your heart, and 4 thrust it into your bofom, though it come out (as Moses's did) leprous as snow (a).
into myself, I cannot endure myself : if I look not into myself, I cannot know myself. If I confider myself, my own face affrights me : if I consider not myself, my damnation deceives me. If I see myself, my horror is intolerable : if I fee not myself, death is unavoidable.
Anfelme. (z) Baxteri * Prov. xxviii, 23.
+ Exod. iv. 6. (a) Initium eft falutis, notitia peccati : nam qui peccare se nefcit, corrigi non vult. Deprehendas te oportet, antequam emendes. Quidam vitiis gloriantur. Tu exiltimas aliquid de remedio cogitare, qui mala sua virtutum loco numerant? Ideo quan
And to find out our most beloved sin, let us consider what are those worldly objects or amusements which give us the highest de light; this, it is probable, will lead us directly to some one of our darling iniquities, if it be a sin of commission : and what are those duties which we read or hear of from the word of God, to which we find ourselves most disinclined ? And this, in all likelihood, will help us to detect some of our peculiar sins of omission; which, without such previous examination, we may not be sensible of. And thus we may make a proficiency in one considerable branch of selfknowledge (b).
C H A P.
tum potes teipsum coargue : inquire in te ; accufatoris primum partibus fungere, deinde judicis, noviflimè deprecatoris. Aliquando te offende. Sen. Epift. 28. -The knowledge of fin is the first step towards amendment : for he that does not know he hath offended, is not willing to be reproved. You must therefore find out yourself, before you can amend yourself. Some glory in their vices. And do you imagine they have any thought about reforming, who place their very vices in the room of virtues ? there fore reprove thyself : search thyself very narrowly. First turn accufer to thyself, then a judge, and then a fuppliant: and dare for once to displeafe thyself.
(6) Et hoc ipfum argumentum eft in melius translati animi, quod vitia fua, quæ adhuc ignorabat, videt. Sen. Epift. 6.- It is a good argument, of a reformed mind, that it sees those vices in itself which it was before ignorant of
C: H A P. VIII.
The Knowledge of our most dangerous Tempta
tions, necessary to Self-Knowledge. VII. A
MAN that rightly knows himself,
is acquainted with his peculiar temptations; and knows when, and in what circumftances, he is in the greatest danger of tranfgreffing.
Reader, if ever you would know yourself, you must examine this point thoroughly : and if you have never yet done it, make a
A man's predominant fin usually arises out of his. predominant passion ; which therefore he should diligently observe. The nature and force of which is beautifully described by a late great master of English verse.
On different senses different objects strike, Hence different passions more or less inflame, As strong or weak, the organs of the frame ; And hence one master-passion in the breast, Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest. Nature its mother, Habit is its nurse; Wit, Spirit, Faculties, but make it worse ; Reason itself but gives it edge and power, As Heaven's blest beam turns vinegar more sour. Ah! if she lend not arms as well as rules, What can she more than tell us we are fools? Teach us to mourn our Nature, not to mend, A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend!
Pope's Esay on Man,
do it now.
Consider in what company you are most apt to lose the possession and government of yourself; on what occasions you are apt to be most vain and unguarded, most warm and precipitant : flee that company, avoid those occasions, if you would keep your
conscience clear. What is it that robs you most of your time and your temper? If you have a due regard to the improvement of the one, and the preservation of the other, you will regret such a loss; and shun the occasions of it, as carefully as you would a road beset with robbers.
But, especially, must you attend to the occasions which most usually betray you
favourite vices; and consider the spring from whence they arise, and the circumstances which most favour them.
They arise, doubtless, from your natural temper, which strongly disposes and inclines you to them : that temper, then, or particular turn of desire, must be carefully watched over as a most dangerous quarter ; and the opportunities and circumstances which favour those inclinations must be resolutely avoided, as the strongest temptations. The way to fubdue a criminal inclination is, first, to avoid the known occasions that excite it; and then, to
curb the first motions of it (c). And thus, having no opportunity of being indulged, it will, of itfelf, in time lose its force, and fail of its wonted victory.
The surest way to conquer, is fometimes to decline a battle; to weary out the enemy, by keeping him at bay: Fabius Maximus did not use this stratagem more successfully against Hannibal than a Christian may against his peculiar vice, if he be but watchful of his advantages. It is dangerous to provoke an unequal enemy to the fight, or to run into such a situation, where we cannot expect to escape without a disadvantageous encounter:
It is of unspeakable importance, in order to jelf-knowledge and self-government, to be acquainted with all the accesses and avenues to fin, and to observe which way it is that we ourselves too often approach it; and to fet reason and conscience to guard those passes, those usual inlets to vice, from which, if a man once enters, he will find a retreat extremely difficult (d).
i Watchfulness, (c) Principiis obfta: ferò medicina paratur Cum mala per longas invaluere moras,
Ovid. (d) - me veftigia terrent Omnia te adversum spectantia, nulla retrorsum.
Hor. Facilis descensus averni. Sed revocare gradum, 3c.