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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 there are
once stirred, there wants nothing but “ the affent of the will, and then the
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 eafily beset them, fo they have their particular temptations, which do most eafily overcome them. That
may 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, fo he usually draws them by degrees into temptation. As he disguises the sin, so he conceals the temptation to it; well knowing, that, were they but once sensible of their danger of fin, they would be ready to be
upon * Stanhope's Thomas à Kempis, pag. 22.
be a very
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 fin; for those things which lead us into temptations are to be confidered 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 ; c. 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.
Self-knowledge discovers the secret Prejudices
of the heart, VIII.
ANOTHER important branch of
self-knowledge is, for a man to be acquainted with his own prejudices, or those secret prepoflessions of his heart, which, though so deep and latent that he may not be sensible of them, are often fo strong and prevalent, as to give a mighty, but imperceptible bias to the mind.
And in this the great art of self-knowledge confifts, more than in any one thing again. It being therefore a matter of fuch mighty consequence, and at the same time a point to which men in general are too inattentive, it deserves a more particular discuslion.
These prejudices of the human mind may be considered with regard to opinions, perfons, and things.
(1.), With regard to opinions.
It is a common observation, but well exprefled by a late celebrated writer, “that “ we set out in life with such poor begin“ nings of knowledge, and grow up under such remains of superstition and ig
“ norance, such influences of company 56 and fashion, such insinuations of plea« fure, &c. that it is no wonder if men get
habits of thinking only in one way, “ that these habits in time grow rigid and « confirmed, and so their minds come to “ be overcast with thick prejudices, fcarce ç penetrable by any ray of truth, or light " of reason *."
There is no man but is more fond of one particular set or scheme of opinions in philosophy, politics, and religion, than he is of another, if he hath employed his thoughts at all about them. The question we should examine then is, How come we by thefe attachments ? whence are we so fond of these particular notions ? did we come fairly by them? or were they imposed upon us, and dictated to our ea fy belief, before we were able to judge of them? This is most likely. For the impressions we early receive generally grow up with
and are those we least care to part with. However, which way foever we came by them, they must be re-examined, and brought to the touch-stone of sound sense, solid reason, and plain scripture. If they will not bear this after hard
rubbing * See Religion of Nature Delin. pag. 129.
rubbing, they must be discarded as no genuine principles of truth, but only courterfeits of it.
And as reason and fcripture must discover our prejudices to us, so they only car help us to get rid of them. By these are we to rectify, and to these are we to conform all our opinions and sentiments in religion, as our only standard, exclusive of all other rules, light, or authority whatfoever.
And care must further be taken that we do not make fcripture and reason bend and buckle to our notions, which will rather confirm our prejudices than cure them. For whatever cannot evidently be · made out, without the help of overstrained metaphors, and the arts of fophiftry, is much to be suspected; which used to make Archbishop Tillotson fay, Non ama argutias in theologia, " I do not love sub<< tilties in divinity." But,
(2.) The human mind is very apt to be prejudiced either for or against certain perfons, as well as certain sentiments. And as prejudice will lead a man to talk very unreasonably with regard to the latter, so it will lead him to act very unreasonably with regard to the former.
What is the reason, for inftance, that