« הקודםהמשך »
humble; and, by the fame means, we become more self-knowing. By considering how far we fall short of our rule and our duty, and how vastly others exceed us, and especially by a daily and diligent study of the word of God, we come to have meaner thoughts of ourselves; and, by the very same means, we come to have a better acquaintance with ourselves.
A proud man cannot know himself. Pride is that beam in the eye of his mind, which renders him quite blind to any blemishes there. Hence nothing is a surer sign of self-ignorance than vanity and oftentation.
Indeed true self-knowledge and humi·lity are so necessarily connected, that they depend upon, and mutually beget each other. A man that knows himself knows the worst of himself, and therefore cannot but be humble ; and a humble mind is frequently contemplating its own faults and weaknesses, which greatly improves it in self-knowledge. So that self-acquaintance makes a man humble; and humility gives him ftill a better acquaintance with himself.
(2.) An openness to conviction is no less pecessary to self-knowledge than humility. As nothing is a greater bar to true S 3
knowledge than an obstinate stiffness in opinion, and a fear to depart from old notions, which (before we were capable of judging perhaps) we had long taken up for the truth, so nothing is a greater bar to self-knowledge, than a strong aversion to part with those sentiments of ourselves which we have been blindly accustomed to, and to think worse of ourfelves than we are used.
And such an unwillingnefs to retract our sentiments in both cases proceeds from the same caufe, viz. a reluctance to self-condemnation. For he that takes up a new way of thinking, contrary to that which he hath long received, therein co:demns himself of having lived in an era ror; and he that begins to see faults in himfelf he never saw before, condemns himself of having lived in ignorance and fin. Now this is an ungrateful business, and what felf-flattery gives us a strong averfion to.
But such an inflexibility of judgment, and hatred of conviction, is a very unhappy and hurtful turn of mind. And a man that is resolved never to be in the wrong, is in a fair way never to be in the right. As infallibility is no privilege of the
human nature, it is no diminution to a man's good sense or judgment to be found in an error, provided he is willing to retract it. He acts with the same freedom and liberty as before : whoever be his monitor, it is his own good sense and judge ment that still guides him; which thines to great advantage in thus directing him againft the bias of vanity and self-opinion. And in thus changing his fentiments, he only acknowledges that he is not, what no man ever was, incapable of being miltaken. In short, it is more merit, and an argument of a more excellent mind, for a man freely to retract when he is in the wrong, than to be overbearing and positive when he is in the right *.
A man then must be willing to know himself before he can know himself. He must open his eyes, if he desires to fee; yield to evidence and conviction, though
* E. Tis ME they too, xui wapashtoi poi, oło 8x opdws υπολαμβανω η πρασσω, δυναται, χαιρων μεγαθησομαι ζηλω γαρ την αληθειαν υφ ης εδεις οωποτε βλαβη βλαπτεται δε ο επιμενων επι της εαυτο απατης και αγνοιας. M. Aur. lib. 6. § 21. - If any one can convince me that I um wrong in any point of sentiment or practice, I will alter it with all my beart: For it is truth I feek; and that can burt noborty. It is only perdiying in error or ignorance that con burt us.
it be at the expence of his judgment, and to the mortification of his vanity.
CHAP. VI. To be fenfible of our false Knowledge, a good
Step to Self-Knowledge. VI. “ W OULD you know yourself,
“ take heed and guard a« gainst falfe knowledge.”
See that the light that is within you be not darkness; that your favourite and lead, ing principles be right. Search your furniture, and see what you have to unlearn. For oftentimes there is as much wisdom in casting off fome knowledge which we have, as in acquiring that which we have not; which perhaps was what made Themistocles reply, when one offered to teach him the art of memory, that he had much rather he would teach him the art of forgetfulness.
A scholar that hath been all his life collecting of books, will find in his library at last a great deal of rubbish ; and as his taste alters, and his judgment improves, he will throw out a great many as trash and lumber, which, it may be, he once valued and paid dear for, and replace
them with such as are more folid and use. ful. Just so should we deal with our understandings; look over the furniture of the mind, separate the chaff from the wheat, which are generally received into it together; and take as much pains to forget what we ought not to have learned, as to retain what we ought not to for. get. To read froth and trifles all our life, is the way always to retain a flashy and juvenile turn; and only to contemplate our first (which is generally our worst) knowledge, cramps the progress of the understanding, and is a great hinderance to a true self-knowledge. In short, would we improve the understanding to the va." luable purposes of self-knowledge, we must take as much care what books we read, as what company we keep. .“ The pains we take in books or arts, « which treat of things remote from the « use of life, is a busy idleness. If I stu. “dy (says Montaigne) it is for no other “ science than what treats of the know“ ledge of myself, and instructs me how “ to live and die well *.”,
It is a comfortless speculation, and a plain proof of the imperfection of the hu
* Rule of Life, pag. 82, 90.