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portantoints of Christian practice, devoutly performing the necessary duties they are most averse to, and resolutely avoiding the known fins they are most inclined to, under the direction of scripture, they would soon become more folid, judicious, and exemplary Christians : And did they know themselves, they would easily see that herein there is occasion and scope enough for self-denial, and that to a degree of greater severity and difficulty than
there is in those little corporal abstinences · and mortifications they enjoin themselves.
(1.) Self-knowledge will direct us to the necessary exercises of self-denial, with · regard to the duties our tempers are most averse to.
There is no one, but, at some times, finds a great backwardness and indisposition to some duties which he knows to be seasonable and necessary. This then is a proper occasion for self-discipline. For to indulge this indisposition is very dangerous, and leads to an habitual neglect of known duty; and to resist and oppose it, and prepare for a diligent and faithful difcharge of the duty, notwithstanding the many pleas and excuses that carnal dispcfition may urge for the neglect of it, this requires no small pains and self-denial, 0 2
and yet is very necessary to the peace of conscience.
And for our encouragement to this piece of self-denial, we need only remember, that the difficulty of the duty, or our unfitness for it, will, upon the trial, be found to be much less than we apprehended; and the pleasure of reflecting that we have discharged our consciences, and given a fresh testimony of our uprightness, will more than compensate the pains and difficulty we found therein. And the of tener these criminal propensions to the wilful neglect of duty are opposed and overcome, the seldomer will they return, or the weaker will they grow, till at last, by divine grace, they will be wholly vanquished, and in the room of them will fucceed an habitual readiness to every good work, Tit. iii. 1. and a very sensible delight therein ; a much happier effect than can be expected from the severest exercises of self-denial in the instances before mentioned.
(2) A man that knows himself will see an equal necessity for self-denial, in order to check and controul his inclinations to linful actions; to subdue the rebel within; to resist the solicitations of sense and appetite; to summon all his wisdom to ac
void the occasions and temptations to fin, and all his strength to oppose it.
All this (especially if it be a favourite or a constitutional inquiry) will cost a man pains and mortification enough; for instance, the fubduing a violent passion, or taming a fensual inclination, or forgiving an apparent injury and affront. It is evident such a felf-conquest can never be attained without much self-knowledge and self-denial. :
And that self-denial that is exercised this way, as it will be a better evidence of our sincerity, so it will be more helpful and ornamental to the interests of religion, than the greatest zeal in those particular duties which are more suitable to our natural tempers, or than the greatest austerities in some particular instances of mortification, which are not so necessary, and perhaps not so difficult or disagreeable to us as this.
To what amazing heights of piety may fome be thought to mount, (raised on the wings of a flaming zeal, and distinguished by uncommon preciseness and severity 2bout little things), who all the while, perhaps, cannot govern one pasion, and appear yet ignorant of, and flaves to, their darling iniquity! Through an ignorance
of themselves, they misapply their zeal, and misplace their self-denial, and by that means blemish their characters with a visible inconsistency.
Self-Knowledge promotes our Usefulness in
. the World.
VIII.“ THE more we know of our
1“ felves, the more useful we or are like to be in those stations of life in or 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 consideration 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 cultivated and improved.
It is a fad thing to observe, how miserably some men debase and prostitute their capacities. Those gifts and indulgencies of nature, by which they outshine many others, and by which they are capable of doing real service to the cause of virtue
religion, and of being eminently use.
ful to mankind, they either entirely neglect, or shamefully abuse, to the dishonour of God, and the prejudice of their fellow-creatures, by encouraging and emboldening them in the ways of vice and vanity. For the false glare of a profane wit will sometimes make such strong impressions on a weak unsettled mind, as to overbear the principles of reason and wisdom, and give it too favourable sentiment: of what it before abhorred, whereas, the fame 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 inconäistences of a vicious and profligate character.
When a man once knows where his strength lies, wherein he excels, or is capable of excelling, how far his influence extends, and in what station of life providence hath fixed him, and the duties of that station, he then knows what talents he ought to cultivate, in what manner, and to what objects they are to be particularly directed and applied, in order to shine in that station, and be useful in it. This will keep him even and steady in his pursuits and views, consistent with himlelf, uniform in his conduct, and ufeful tor