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excel in one thing to imagine they may excel in every thing; and, not content with that fhare of merit which every one allows them, are still catching at that which doth not belong to them. Why should a good orator affect to be a poet? "Why .must a celebrated divine set up for a politician? or a statesman affect the philosopher? or a mechanic, the scholar? or a wise man labour to be thought a wit? This is a weakness that flows from selfignorance, and is incident to the greatest men. Nature seldom forms an universal genius, but deals out her favours in the present state with a parsimonious hand.— Many a man by this foible hath weakened a well-establifhed reputation *.
CHAP, CHAP. VI.
- versate din quid serre recufant
Quid valeant humeri.
Hur. it Art. Pat. "He that takes up a burden that is too heavy for '* him is in a fair way to break his back."
xa.t rnv rfhp]y fvsrm.xot1afiu4tt ti cvvxrett Parowui. Epict. Jircliir. cap. 36.
•* in every business, consider, sirst, what it is you "are about; and then, youi own ability, whether it "be sufficient to carry you through it."
• non omnia poflumus omnes. Virg.
Cxcilius, a famous rhetorician of Sicily, who lived
in the time of Augustus, anc] writ a treatise on the
We mitfl be well acquainted with our Labilities, and those Things in which ive are naturally deficient, as ivell as those in •which we excel.
V. '* Ws^ must, in order to a thorough *» "self-acquaintance, not only <' cpnfider our talents and proper abilities, ** but have an eye to our frailties and de"sciences; that we may know where our "weakness, as well as our strength lies." —Otherwise, like Samson, we may run ourselves into insinite temptations and troubles.
Every man hath a weak side. Every wise man knows where it is, and will be sure to keep a double guard there.
There is some wisdom in concealing a
Suhllme (which is censured by Lopginus in the beginning of his), was a man of a hasty and enterprising spirit, and very apt to overshoot himself on all occasions; and, particularly, ventured far out of hi< depth in his Comparison of Demosthenes and Clar*. Whereupon Plutarch makes this sage and candid remark: " If (faith he) it was a thing obvious and cs"fy for every man to know himself, possibly that "saying, ywtt ruttirn, had not passed for a divins *' oracle." J'iut. Z/v. Fcl. vii. fag. 347 .
weakness. This cannot be done, till it be sirst known ; nor can it be known witht put a good degree of self-acquaintance.
It is strange to observe what pains some men are at to expose themselves ; to signalize their own folly; and to set out to the most pjiblic view those things which they ought to be ashamed to think mould ever enter into their character. But so it is; some men seem to be ashamed of those things which should be their glory, whilst others "glory in their shame," Phil. iii.
The greatest weakness in a man is to
publish his weaknesses, and to appear fond to have them known. But vanity will often prompt a man to this, who, unacquainted with the measure of his capacities, attempts things out of his power, and beyond his reach, whereby he makes the world acquainted with two things to his disadvantage, whkh they were ignor rant of before, viz. his deficiency, and his Jelf-ignorance in appearing so blind to it.
It is ill judged (though very common) to be less ashamed of a want of temper, than understanding. For it is no real dishonour or fault in a man to have but a small ability of mand, provided he hath not the vanity to set up for a genius, (which £ would would be as ridiculous, as for a man (Sf small strength and stature of body to set up for a champion), because this is what he cannot help. But a man may in a good measure correct the fault of his natural temper, if he be well acquainted with it, and duly watchful over it. And therefore to betray a prevailing weakness of temper, or an ungoverned passion, diminishes a man's reputation much more than to discover a weakness of judgment or understanding.—But what is most dishonourable of all is, for a man at once to discover a great genius and an ungoverned mind; because that strength of reason and understanding he is master of, gives him a great advantage for the government of his passions *, and therefore his suffering himself notwithstanding to be governed by them fhows, that he hath too much neglected or misapplied his natural talent, 'and willingly fubmited to the tyranny of those lusts and passions, over which nature had furniflied him with abilities to have secured an easy conquest.
A wise man hath his foibles as well as a fool. But the difference between them is, that the foibles of the one are known :o himself, and concealed from the world; the foibles of the other are known to the
world. world, and concealed from himself. The wise man sees those frailties in himself, which others cannot; but the fool is blind to those blemifhes in his character, which are conspicuous to every body else. Whence it appears that self-knowledge is that which makes the main difserence between a wise man and a fool, in the moral sense of that word.
Concerning the Knowledge of our Constitutional Sins,
VI. «« OELF-ACQUAINTANCE shows *,* "a man the particular sins he "is most exposed and addicted to; and '* discovers not only what is ridiculous, but "what is criminal, in his conduct and *' temper."
The outward actions of a man are generally the plainest index of his inward dispofitions; and by the allowed sins of his lise you may know the reigning vices of his mind. Is he addicted to luxury and debauch? sensuality then appears to be his prevailing taste. Is he given to revenge and cruelty? choler and malice then reign in his heart. Is he consident, bold, E a and