« הקודםהמשך »
In that treatise of Plutarch here referred to, there are a great many excellent things pertinent to this subject; and therefore I thought it not improper to throw a few extracts out of it into the margin *.
• The foolish and inconsiderate spoil the very friendships they are engaged in; but the wise and prudent make good use of the hatred and enmity of men against them.
Why should we not take an enemy for our tutor, who will instruct us gratis in thofe things we knew not before? For an enemy sees and understands more in matters relating to us than our friends do: ben cause love is blind; but Ipite, malice, ill-will, wrath, and contempt, talk much, are very inquisitive and quick-lighted.
Our enemy, to gratify his ill-will towards us, acquaints himself with the infirmities both of our bo. dies and minds, sticks to our faults, and makes his invidious remarks upon them, and spreads them abroad by his uncharitable and ill-natured reports. Hence we are taught this ufeful lefion for the direc. tion and management of our conversation in the world, viz. That we be circumspect and wary in every thing we speak or do, as if our enemy always food at our elbow, and overlooked our actions.
These persons whom that wisdom hath brought to live soberly, which the fear and awe of enemies hath infused, are by degrees drawn into a habit of living fo, and are composed and fixed in their obedience to virtue by custom and use. : When one akcd Diogenes how he might be aven. ged of his enemies, he replied, “ To be yourself a is good and honest man." *
Antisthenes spake incomparably well; “ That, if a man would live a safe and unblameable life, it was
It is the character of a very diffolut: mind, to be entirely insensible to all that
« necessary that he should have very ingenuous and “ faithful friends, or very bad enemies; because she « first by their kind admonitions would keep him 6 from finning, the latter by their invectives."
He that hath no friend to give him advice, or reprove him when he does amiss, must bear pati ntly the rebukes of his enemies, and thereby lcarn to mend the errors of his ways; considering seriously the object which thele severe censures aim at, and not what he is who makes them. For he who de: signed the death of Promotheus the Theffalian, in. stead of giving him a fatal blow, only opened a swel. ling which he had, which did really la ve his life. I ft so may the harsh reprehensions of enemies cure some distempers of the mind, which were before either not known or neglected; though their angry specches do originally proceed from malice or ill-will."
If any man with opprobrious language objects to you crimes you know nothing of, you ought to in. quire into the causes or reasons of such false accufde tions; whereby you may learn to take heed for the future, left you should unwarily commit those offences which are unjustly inputed to you.
Whenever any thing is spoken against you that is not true, do not pass it by, or despise it because it is falfe; but forthwith examine yourself, and consider what you have said or done that may administer a juft occasion of reproof.
Nothing can be a greater instance of wisdom and humanity, than for a man to bear filently and quietly the follies and revilings of an enemy, taking as much care not to provoke him as he would to fail fafely by a dangerous rock. 3
It is an eminent piece of humanity, and a manifest token of a nature truly generous, to put up the afthe world says of us; and shows such a confidence of self-knowledge as is usually a fure sign of self-ignorance. The most knowing minds are ever least presumptuous. And true self-knowledge is a science of so much depth and difficulty, that a wise man would not choose to be over-confi. dent that all his notions of himself are sight, in oppofition to the judgment of all mankind; some of whom perhaps have better opportunities and advantages of knowing him (at some seasons especially) than he has of knowing himself, because they never look through the same false medium of self-flattery.
CHAP. IV. Frequent Converse with Superiors, a Help to
self-Knowledge. IV. « ANOTHER proper means of
11,66 self-knowledge, is to con66 verse as much as you can with those
“who fronts of an eneny, at a time when you have a fair opportunity to revenge them.
"Let us carefully observe those good qualities wherein our enemies excel us; and endeavour to excel them, by avoiding what is faulty, and imitating what is excellent in them. Plut. Mor. Vol. i. pag. 265. e* feg.
“ who are your superiors in real excel“ lence.”
He that walketh with wise men, hall be wife, Prov. xiii. 20. Their example will not only be your motive to laudable pursuits, but a mirror to your mind ; by which you may possibly difcern fome fail. ings, or deficiencies, or neglects in yourfelf, which before escaped you. You will see the unreafonableness of your vanity and self-sufficiency, when you observe how much you are surpassed by others in knowledge and goodness. Their proficiency will make your defects the more obvious to you. And by the lustre of their virtues you will better see the deformity of your vices; your negligence, by their diligence; your pride, by their humility; your paffion, by their meekness; and your folly, by their wisdom.
Examples not only move, but teach and direct much more effectually than precepts; and show us not only that such virtues may be practised, but how; and how lovely they appear when they are. And therefore, if we cannot have them always before our eyes, we should endeavour to have them always in our mind; and especially that of our great head and pattern, who hath set us a lovely example of the
most innocent conduct under the worft and most disadvantageous circumstances of human life *.
CHAP. V. , Of cultivating such a Temper as will be the
best Disposition to Self-Knowledge. V. “JF a man would know. himself, he
1 “must with great care cultivate " that temper which will best dispose him “ to receive this knowledge."
Now, as there are no greater hinderances to self-knowledge than pride and obftinacy, so there is nothing more helpful to it than humility and an openness to conviction.
(1.) One who is in quest of self-knowledge must above all things seek humility. And how near an affinity there is between these two appears from hence, that they are both acquired the same way. The very means of attaining humility are the properest means for attaining self-knowledge. By keeping an eye every day upon our faults and wants, we become more
* Qui pleniflime intelligere appetit qualis fit, tales debet afpicere qualis non est; ut in bonorum forma, matiatur quantum deformis eit. Greg.