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put upon themselves.
They that cotheir sins shall not prosper," Prov. xxviii. 13. It is dangerous self-flattery to give soft and smoothing names to fins, in order to disguise their nature. Rather lay your hand upon your heart, and thrust it into your bofom, though it come out (as Moses's did) leprous as snow, Exod. iv. 6*.
And to find out our most beloved fin, let us consider what are those worldly objects or amusements which give us the highest delight : this, it is probable, will lead us directly to some one of our darling iniquities, if it be a fin of commif
Initium est falutis, notitia peccati: nam qui peccare se nescit, corrigi non vult. Deprehendas te oportet, antequam emendes. Quidam vitiis gloriantur. Tu existimas aliquid de remedio cogitare, qui mala fua virtutum loco numerant? Ideo quantum potes teipfum coargue: Inquire in te: Accufatoris primum partibus fungere, deinde judicis, novissime deprecatoris. Aliquando te offende. Sen. Epift. 28.-" The “ knowledge of fin is the first step towards amend. " ment; for he that does not know he hath offended “ is not willing to be reproved. You must therefore “ find out yourself, before you can amend yourself. “ Some glory in their vices. And do you imagine " they have any thoughts about reforming, who “ place their very vices in the room of virtues ? “ Therefore reprove thyself: search thyself very nar. “ rowly. First, turn accuser to thyself, then a judge, " and then a fuppliant: And dare for once to dis. “ please thyself.”
fion; and what are those duties which we read or hear of from the word of God, to which we find ourselves most disinclined: and this, in all likelihood, will help us to detect some of our peculiar fins of omisfion, which, without such previous examination, we may not be sensible of. And thus may we make a proficiency in one considerable branch of self-knowledge *
Et hoc ipsum argumentum est in melius tranflati animi, quod vitia fua, quæ adhuc ignorabat, videt. San. Epift. 6.-." It is a good argument of a reformed “ mind, that it sees those vices in itself which it was • before ignorant of."
A man's predominant fin usually arises out of his predominant passion; which, therefore, he should diligently observe. The nature and force of which is beautifully described by a late great master of Englila verse.
On different senses different objects strike.
Pope. Effay on Man. CHAP. VIII.
The Knoruledge of our most dangerous Temp
tations necesary to Self-knowledge. VII. “A MAN that rightly knows him
“ self is acquainted with his “ peculiar temptations ; and knows when, a and in what circumstances, he is in the “ greatest danger of transgressing."
Reader, if ever you would know yourfelf, you must examine this point tho. roughly. And if you have never yet done it, make a pause when you have read this chapter, and do it now. Consider in what company you are most apt to lose the posfeffion and government of yourself; on what occasions you are apt to be most vain and unguarded, most warm and precipitant. Flee that company, avoid those occasions, if you would keep your conscience clear. What is it that robs you most of your time and your temper? If you have a due regard to the improvement of the one, and the preservation of the other, you will regret such a loss, and fhun the occasions of it, as carefully as you would a road beset with robbers. But especially must you attend to the occasions which most usually betray you into
occasions enemy • Principiis obfta : sero medicina paratur Cum mala per longas invaluere nioras. Ovid.
your favourite vices; and consider the spring from whence they arise, and the circumstances which most favour them. They arise, doubtless, from your natural temper, which strongly disposes and inclines you to them. That temper then, or particular turn of desire, must be carefully watched over as a most dangerous quarter. And the opportunities and circumstances which favour those inclinae tions must be resolutely avoided, as the strongest temptations. For the way to subdue a criminal inclination is, first, to avoid the known occafions that excite it, and then to curb the first motions of it *, And thus having no opportunity of being indulged, it will of itself in time lose its force, and fail of its wonted victory,
The surest way to conquer, is sometimes to decline a battle ; to weary out the enemy, by keeping him at bay. Fa. bius Maximus did not use this stratagem more successfully against Hannibal, than a Christian may against his peculiar vice, if he be but watchful of his advantages. It is dangerous to provoke an unequal
enemy to the fight, or to run into such a situation, where we cannot expect to efcape without a disadvantageous encoun
It is of unspeakable importance, in order to self-knowledge and self-government, to be acquainted with all the accesses and avenues to sin, and to observe which way it is that we are oftenest led to it; and to fet reason and conscience to guard those passes, those usual inlets to vice, which, if a man once enters, he will find a retreat extremely difficult *.
“ Watchfulness, which is always nes cessary, is chiefly fo when the first af« faults are made; for then the enemy is. “ moft easily repulsed, if we never fuffer u him to get within us, but upon the very “ first approach draw up our forces, and
fight him without the gate. And this -“ will be more manifest, if we observe by “ what methods and degrees temptations
grow upon us. The first thing that presents itself to the mind, is a plain,
- me vestigia terrent