« הקודםהמשך »
CHAP. VIII. The Knowledge of our most dangerous Tempo
tations necesary to Self-knowledge. VII.“ A MAN that rightly knows him
^ «self is acquainted with his « peculiar temptations; and knows when, « and in what circumstances, he is in the « greatest danger of transgressing."
Reader, if ever you would know your self, you muft examine this point thoroughly. And if you have never get 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 posfession 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 occasions which most usually betray you into 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 cir. cumstances which favour those inclinations must be resolutely avoided, as the strongest temptations. For the way to subdue a criminal inclination is, first, to avoid the known occasions 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 some, times to decline a battle ; to weary out the enemy, by keeping him at bay. Fabius 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 e-' fcape without a disadvantageous encounter.
enemy • Principiis obita : sero medicina paratur Cum mala per longas invaluere nioras. Duid.
It is of unspeakable importance, in or. der 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 ofteneft 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 ne
cessary, is chiefly so when the first af« faults are made; for then the enemy is, “ most easily repulsed, if we never suffer w him to get within us, but upon the very “ first approach draw up our forces, and ar fight him without the gate. And this -“ will be more manifest, if we observe by << what methods and degrees temptations 56 grow upon us.--The first thing that so presents itself to the mind, is a plain,
- me vestigia terrent : Omnia te adversum fpectantia, nulla retrorfum.
Hor. - Facilis descensus averni. Sed revocare gradum, Si.
• single thought; this straight is improve « ed into a strong imagination; that again “ enforced by a sensible delight; then fol• low evil motions; and when these are « once stirred, there wants nothing but « the assent of the will, and then the of work is finished. Now the first steps « of this are seldom thought worth our “ care, sometimes not taken notice of; “ so that the enemy is frequently got close “ up to us, and even within our trenches, “ before we observe him *.
As men have their particular fins, which do moft easily befet them, fo they have their particular temptations, which do moft eafily overcome them. That may be a very great temptation to one, which is none at all to another. And if a man does not know what are his greatest temptations, he must have been a great stranger indeed to the business of self-employment.
As the subtle enemy of mankind takes care to draw men gradually into sin, so he usually draws them by degrees into temptation. As he disguises the fin, so he conceals the temptation to it, well knowing, that, were they but once sensibie of their danger of fin, they would be ready to be
upon • Stanhope's Thomas à Kempis, pag. 22.
upon their guard against it. Would we know ourselves thoroughly then, we must get acquainted not only with our most usual temptations, that we be not unawares drawn into fin, but with the previous steps and preparatory circumstances which make way for those temptations, that we be not drawn unawares into the occafons of sin; for those things which lead us into temptations are to be considered as temptations, as well as those which immediately lead us into sin. And a man that knows himself will be aware of his remote temptations, as well as the more immediate ones; e. g. If he find the company of a passionate man is a temptation (as Solomon tells us it is, Prov. xxii. 24, 25.), he will not only avoid it, but those occasions that may lead him into it. And the petition in the Lord's prayer makes it as much a man's duty to be upon his guard against temptation as under it. Nor can a man pray from his heart that God would not lead him into temptation, if he take no care himself to avoid it.