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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. " 'T'HE- more we know of our-*- "selves, the more useful we "are like to be in those stations ot lise in "which Providence hath sixed 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 lise 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 ^oing real service to the cause of virtue
\ religion, and of being eminently useful ful to mankind, they either entirely neglect, or shamefully abuse, to the dishonour of God, and the prejudice of their sellow-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 sentiments of what.it before abhorred, whereas, the fame force and' fprightlinefs of genius ,would have been very happily and usefully employed in putting sin out of countenance, and in rallying the follies, and exposing the inconsistences 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 sixed 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 fhine in that station, and be useful in it. This will keep him even and steady in his pursuits and views, consilient with himself, uniform in his conduct, and useful t'd^
mankind; and will prevent his shooting at a wrong mark, or missing the right mark he aims at, as thousands do for want of this necessary branch of self-knowledge See Part I. Chap. V.
Self-Ktwwledge lends to a Decorum and Conftftency of Character.
IX," A MAN that knows himsels, ,**, "knows how to act with dis(s cretion and dignity in every ftation and "character."
Almost all the ridicule we see in the world takes its rise from self-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 himstlfK Affectation is die spring of all ridicule, and self-ignorance the true source of affectation. A man that does not know his proper character, ncr what becomes it, cannot act suitably to it. He will often affect a character which does not belong to him; and will either act above or beneath himself, which will make him equally contemptible in the eyes of them that know him.
A man of superior rank and character that knows himself, knows that he is but a man ; subject to the same sicknesses, frailties, disappointments, pains, passions, and sorrows, as other men; that true honour lies in those things in which it is possible for the meanest peasant to exceed him, and therefore he will not be vainly arrogant. He knows that they are only transitory and accidental things that set him above the rest of mankind; that he will soon be upon a level with them; and therefore learns to condescend: and there is a dignity in this condescension, it does not sink, but exalts his reputation and character.
A man of inferior rank that knows himself, knows how to be content, quiet, and thankful in his lower sphere. As he has not an extravagant veneration and esteem for those external things which raise one man's circumstances so much above another's, so he does not look upon himself as the worse or the less valuable man for not having them ; much less does he envy them that have them. As he has not their advantages, so neither has he their temptations; he is in that state of lise, which the great arbiter and disposer of all things hath allotted him, and he is satisfied: tissied : but as a deserence is owing to external superiority, he knows how to pay a proper respect to those that are above him, without that abject and servile cringing which discovers an inordinate esteem for their condition. As he does not overesteem them for those little accidental ad-' vantages in which they excel him, so neither does he over-value himself for those things in which he excels others.
Were hearers to know themselves, they 'would not take upon them to dictate to their preachers, or teach their ministers how to teach them; (which, as St. Austin observes *, is the fame thing as if a patient, when he sends for a physician, should prescribe to him what he would have him prescribe); 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 ivere so, Acts xvii. Ii.
And were ministers to know themselves, they would know the nature and duty of their ossice, and the wants and insirmities,
* Norit medicus quid faliitiserum, quidve coritrarium petat ægrotu?. Ægroti ellis, nolite ergo diebitc quæ vobis mediLamina velit opponcre.