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them from violating the duties they owe
Would we know ourselves then, we must consider ourselves as creatures, as Christians,
and as men; and remember the obliga. tions, which, as such, we are under to God, to Chrift, and our fellow-men; in the several relations'in which we stand to them: in order to maintain the propriety, and ful, fil the duties, of those relations. .
We must duly consider the Rank and Station
of Life in which providence hath placed us, and what it is that becomes and an
dorns it. III. A MAN " that knows himself, will
11 « deliberately consider and at“ tend to the particular rank and station $ in life in which providence hath placed
him; and what is the duty and decorum s of that station : what part is given him “ to act; what character to maintain; and os with what decency and propriety he « acts that part or maintains that cha6 racter."
For a man to assume a character, or aim at a part that does not belong to him, is affectation. And whence is it that affecation of any kind appears fo ridiculous, nd exposes men to universal and juft
contempt, but because it is a certain indication of self-ignorance? Whence is it that many seem so willing to be thought Something when they are nothing, and seek to excel in those things in which they cannot, whilst they neglect those things in which they might excel ? Whence is it that they counteract the intention of nature and providence, that when this intended them one thing, they would fain be another ? Whence, I say, but from an ignorance of themselves, the rank of life they are in, and the part and character which properly belongs to them?
It is a just observation, and an excellent document of a moral heathen, that human life is a “ drama, and mankind the “ actors, who have their several parts af« signed them by the master of the theatre, « who stands behind the scenes, and ob“ serves in what manner every one acts. « Some have a short part allotted them, " and fome a long one, some a low, and “ fome a high one. It is not he that acts “ the highest or most shining part on the “ stage, that comes off with the greatest « applause; but he that acts his part best, ~ whatever it be. To take care then to 66 act our respective parts in life well, is
D3 « ours;
« ours; but to choose what part in life « we shall act, is not ours, but God's *,”
But a man can never act his part well, if he does not attend to it; does not know what becomes it; much less, if he affect to act another which does not belong to him. It is always felf-ignorance that leads a man to act out of character.
Is it a mean and low station of life thou art in ?--Know then, that providence calls thee to the exercise of industry, contents ment, submission, patience, hope, and humble dependence on him, and a respectful deference to thy superiors. In this way thou mayest shine through thy obscurity, and render thyself amiable in the fight of God and man; and not only so, but find more satisfaction, safety, and self-enjoy ment, than they who move in a higher sphere, from whence they are in danger of falling.
But hath providence called thee to act in a more public character, and for a more
# Epiętet. Enchir, cap. 23.-Quomodo fabula, fic vita: non quam diu, sed quam bene acta fit refert. Sen. Ep. 69. ad fin. « Life is a stage play; it matters * not how long we act, so we act well."-Non eft bonum vivere, fed bene vivere. Id. de Benef. Lib. 3. al. ?I. “It is not life, but living well,” that is the bort fling
expensive benefit to the world ?-Thy first care then ought to be, that thy example, as far as its influence reaches, may be an encouragement to the practice of universal virtue. And next, to shine in those virtues especially which best adorn thy fta. tion; as benevolence, charity, wisdom, moderation, firmness, and inviolable integrity, with an undismayed fortitude to press through all appofition, in accomplishing those ends which thou hast a prospect and probability of attaining, for the apparent good of mankind,
And as felf-acquaintance will teach us what part in life we ought to act, so the knowledge of that will show us whom we ought to imitate, and wherein. We are not to take example of conduct from those who have a very different part ailigned them from ours, unless in those things that are universally ornamental and exemplary. If we do, we shall but expose our affectation and weakness, and ourlelves to contempt, for acting out of character; for what is decent in one, may be ridiculous in another. Nor must we blindly fol. low those who move in the same sphere, and sustain the same character with ourselves, but only in those things that are