« הקודםהמשך »
“ employ them more on thyself and thy i God”
Now, then, let us resolve, that, henceforth, the study of ourselves shall be the business of our lives; that, by the blessing of God, we may arrive at such a degree of self-knowledge, as may secure to us the excellent benefits before mentioned: To which end we would do well to attend diligently to the rules laid down in the following chapters.
CHAP. I. Self-Examination neceffary to Self-Know
ledge. I. “ THE first thing necessary to self
- I “ knowledge is felf-inspection.”
We must often look into our hearts, if we would know them. They are very deceitful; more so than any man can think, till he has searched, and tried, and watched them. We may meet with frauds and faithless dealings from men; but, after all, our own hearts are the greatest cheats, and there are none we are in greater danger from than ourselves.
We * Baxter's Mischief of Self-Ignorance.
We must first suspect ourselves, then examine ourselves, then watch ourselves, if we expect ever to know ourselves. How is it possible there should be any felf-acquaintance without self-converse ?
Were a man to accustom himself to such self-employment, he need not live till thirty before he suspects himself a fool, or till forty before he knows it *.
Men could never be so bad as they are, if they did but take a proper care and scope in this business of self-examination t. If they did but look backwards to what they were, inwards to what they are, and forwards to what they shall be.
And as this is the first and most necefsary step to self-acquaintance, it may not be amiss to be a little more particular in it. Therefore,
(1.) This business of self-scrutiny must be performed with great care and diligence, otherwise our hearts will deceive us even whilst we are examining them. “ When 66 we fer ourselves to think, fome trifle or “ other presently interrupts and draws us
* See the Complaint, or Night Thoughts, part i. pag. 28.
+ Hoc nos peffinos facit, quod nemo vitam fuam relpicit. Quid facturi fimus, cogitamus, et id raro: quid fecerimus, non cogitamus. Sen. Epiß. 84.
“ off from any profitable recollection, “ Nay, we ourselves fly out, and are glad s to be diverted from a severe examina6c tion into our own state; which is sure; “ if diligently pursued, to present us with cc objects of shame and sorrow, which 66 will wound our fight, and foon niake 6s us weary of this necessary work *.”
Do not let us flatter ourselves, then, that this is a mighty easy business; much pains and care are necessary sometimes to keep the mind intent, and more to keep it impartial; and the difficulty of it is the reason that so many are averse to it, and care not to descend into themselves t.
Readet, try the experiment; retire now into thyself, and see if thou canst not strike out foine light withiri, by closely urging such questions as these. " What to am I? for what was I made and to ko what ends have I been preserved so long t by the favour of my Maker ? do I re
member, or forget thofe ends ? have I « answered, or perverted them? What 66 have I been doing since I came into
the world? what is the world or mye 66 self the better for my living so many
“ years • Stanhope's Tho. à Kempis, pag. 166 1 Ut nento in fefe tentat defcendere! Perf. Sat. 4,
“ years in it? what is my allowed course « of actions ? am I sure it will bear the “ future test ? Am I now in that state “ I shall wish to die in? and, O my soul, “ think and think again what it is to die? " Do not put that most awful event far “ from thee; nor pass it by with a super“ ficial thought. Canst thou be too well “ fortified against the terrors of that day? “ and art thou sure that the props which « support thee now will not fail thee " then ? What hopes haft thou for eter“ nity? hast thou, indeed, that holy, god“ like temper, which alone can fit thee “ for the enjoyment of God? Which « world art thou most concerned for? ♡ what things do most deeply affect thee? « O my soul, remember thy dignity; « think how soon the scene will shift. “ Why shouldst thou forget thou art ima mortal ?”
(2.) This self-excitation and scrutiny must be very frequently made.--They who have a great deal of important business on their hands should be often looking over their accounts, and frequently adjust them, left they should be going backwards, and not know it ; and custom will soon take off the difficulty of this duty, and turn it into delight.
In our morning retreat, it will be proper to remember that we cannot preserve hroughout the day that calm and even temper we may then be in; that we shall very probably meet with some things to ruffle us, fome attack on our weak fide. Place a guard there now. Or however, if no incidents happen to discompose us, our tempers will vary; our thoughts will: flow pretty much with our blood ; and the dispositions of the mind be a good deal governed by the motions of the ani. mal spirits ; our fouls will be serene or cloudy, our tempers volatile or phlegmatic, and our inclinations sober or irregular, according to the briskness or sluggishness of the circulation of the animal fluids, whatever may be the cause or immediate occasion of that; and therefore we must resolve to avoid all occasions that may raise any dangerous ferments there, which, when once raised, will excite in us very different thoughts and difpofitions from those we now have; which, together with the force of a fair opportunity and urgent temptation, may overset our reason and resolution, and betray us into those sinful indulgences which will wound the conscience, ftain the soul, and create bitQ 2