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sins of equal turpitude and malignity do appear to him, if he hath but a strong inclination to the one, and none at all to the other. That which he hath an inclination to, is always dressed up in all the false beauty that a fond and busy imagination can give it; the other appeareth naked and deformed, and in all the true circumstances of folly and dishonour. Thus, Stealing is a vice that few gentlemen are inclined to ; and they justly think it below the dignity of a man to stoop to so base and low a sin; but no principle of honour, no workings of the mind and conscience, not the still voice of mercy, not the dreadful call of judgment, nor any considerations whatever, can put a stop to that violence and oppression, that pride and ambition, that revelling and wantonness, which we every day meet with in the world. Nay, it is easy to observe very different thoughts in a man of the sin that he is most fond of, according to the different ebbs and flows of his inclination to it. For, as soon as the appetite is alarmed, and seizeth upon the heart, a little cloud gathereth about the head, and spreadeth a kind of darkness over the face of the soul, whereby it is hindered from taking a clear and distinct view of things; but no sooner is the appetite tired and satiated, but the same cloud passeth away like a shadow; and a new light springing up in the mind of a sudden, the man seeth much more, both of the folly and of the danger of the sin, than he did before.
And thus, having done with the several reasons why man, the only creature in the world that can reflect and look into himself, is so very ignorant of what passeth within him, and so much unacquainted with the standing dispositions and complexions of his own heart: I proceed now, in the
Third and last place, to lay down several advantages, that do, most assuredly, attend a due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves. And,
First, One great advantage is, that it tendeth very much to mortify and humble a man into a modest and low opinion of himself. For, let a man take a nice and curious inspection into all the several regions of the heart, and observe every thing irregular and amiss within him: for instance; how narrow and short sighted a thing is the understanding! upon how little reason do we take up an opinion, and upon how much less sometimes do we lay it down again ! how weak and false ground do we often walk upon, with the biggest confidence and assurance ! and how tremulous and doubtful are we very often, where no doubt is to be made! Again : how wild and imper-, tinent, how busy and incoherent a thing is the imagination, even in the best and wisest men ; insomuch, that every man may be said to be mad, but every man doth not show it! Then, as to the passions ; how noisy, how turbulent, and how tumultuous are they! how easily are they stirred and set a going, how eager and hot in the pursuit, and what strange disorder and confusion do they throw a man into ; so that he can neither think, nor speak, nor act, as he should do, while he is under the dominion of any one of them !
Thus, let every man look with a severe and impartial eye into all the distinct regions of the heart; and no doubt, several deformities and irregularities, that he never thought of, will open and disclose themselves upon so near a view; and rather make the man ashamed of himself than proud. Secondly, A due improvement in the knowledge
of ourselves doth certainly secure us from the sly and insinuating assaults of Aattery. There is not in the world a baser and more hateful thing than flattery; it proceedech from so much falseness and insincerity in the man that giveth it, and often discovereth so much weakness and folly in the man that taketh it, that it is hard to tell which of the two is most to be blamed. Every man of common sense can demonstrate in speculation, and may be fully convinced, that all the praises and commendations of the whole world, can add no more to the real and intrinsic value of a man, than they can add to his stature. And yet, for all this, men of the best sense and piety, when they come down to the practice, cannot forbear thinking much better of themselves, when they have the good fortune to be spoken well of by other persons.
But the meaning of this absurd proceeding seemeth to be no other than this; there are few men that have so intimate an acquaintance with their own hearts, as to know their own real worth, and how to set a just rate upon themselves; and therefore they do not know but that he who praises them most, may be most in the right of it. For, no doubt, if a man were ignorant of the true value of a thing he loved as well as himself, he would measure the worth of it according to the esteem of him who biddeth most for it, rather than of him that biddeth less.
Therefore, the most fallible way to disentangle a man from the snares of flattery, is, to consult and study his own heart; for whoever does that well, will hardly be so absurd as to take another man's word, before his own sense and experience.
Thirdly, Another advantage from this kind of study is this, that it teacheth a man how to behave
himself patiently, when he has the ill fortune to be censured and abused by other people. For a man, who is thoroughly acquainted with his own heart, doth already know more evil of himself than any body else can tell him: and when any one speaketh ill of him, he rather thanketh God that he can say no worse : for, could his enemy but look into the dark and hidden recesses of the heart, he considereth what a number of impure thoughts he might there see brooding and hovering, like a dark cloud
the face of the soul; that there he might take a prospect of the fancy, and view it acting over the several scenes of pride, of ambition, of envy, of lust, and revenge ; that there he might tell how often a vicious inclination hath been restrained, for no other reason, but just to save the man's credit or interest in the world; and how many unbecoming ingredients have entered into the composition of his best actions. And now, what man in the whole world would be able to bear so severe a test ? to have every thought and inward motion of the heart laid open and exposed to the views of his enemies? But,
Fourthly, and lastly; another advantage of this kind is, that it maketh men less severe upon other people's faults, and less busy and industrious in spreading them. For a man, employed at home, inspecting into his own failings, hath not leisure to take notice of every little spot and blemish that lieth scattered upon others; or, if he cannot escape the sight of them, he always passes the most easy and favourable construction upon them. Thus, for instance, does the ill he knoweth of a man proceed from an unhappy temper and constilution of body ? he then considereth with himself, how hard a thing it
is, not to be born down with the current of the blood and spirits; and accordingly layeth some part of the blame upon the weakness of human nature, for he hath felt the force and rapidity of it within his own breast; although perhaps, in another instance, he remembereth how it rageth and swelleth by opposition; and, although it may be restrained, or diverted for a while, yet it can hardly ever be totally subdued.
Or, has the man sinned out of custom? he then, from his own experience, traceth a habit into the very first rise and imperfect beginnings of it; and can tell by how slow and insensible advances it creepeth upon the heart; how it worketh itself by degrees into the very frame and texture of it, and so passeth into a second nature ; and consequently he hath a just sense of the great difficulty for him to learn to do good, who hath been long accustomed to do evil.
Or, Lastly, Hath a false opinion betrayed him into a sin ? he then calleth to mind what wrong apprehensions he hath made of some things himself; how many opinions, that he once made no doubt of, he hath, upon a stricter examination, found to be doubtful, and uncertain ; how many more to be unrea-' sonable and absurd. He knoweth farther, that there are a great many more opinions that he hath never yet examined into at all, and which, however, he ştill believeth, for no other reason, but because he hath believed them so long already without a reason.
Thus, upon every occasion, a man intimately acquainted with himself consulteth his own heart, and maketh every man's case to be his own, and so puts the most favourable interpretation upon it. Let every man therefore look into his own heart, before he beginneth to abuse the reputation of another; and then Vol. X.