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common consent of all the
wrong, they reject the only means that can set
1. Then one part of that rule which God hath given us, to judge of ourselves by, is right reason. By which I do not mean the reason ing of any particular man, which may be very different from the reasoning of another particular man ; and both, it may be, very different from right reason ; because both may be influenced not so much by the reason and nature of things, as by partial prepossessions and the power of passions. But by right reason I mean those common principles, whieh are readily allowed by all who are capable of understanding them, and not notoriously perverted by the force of prejudice ; and which are confirmed bynthe part of mankind; and may be easily learned by the light of nature. Therefore, if any doctrine or practice, though supposed to be founded in,
or countenanced by revelation, be nevertheless apparently repugnant to these doctrines of right reason, or evidently contradict our natural notions of the divine attributes, or weaken our obligations to universal virtue, that, we may be part of our rule would clash with and be opposite to the other. And thus reason was designed to be our guard against a wild and extravagant construction of scriptuie.
2. The other part of our rule is the sacred scriptures, which we are to use as our guard against the licentious excursions of fancy, which is often imposing itself upon us for right reason. Let any religious scheme or notion then appear ever so pleasing or plausible, if it be not established on the plain principies of seripture, it is forthwith to be discarded : and that sense of scripture, that is violently forced to bend towards it, is very much to be suspected. .
It must be very surprising to one who reads and studies the sacred scriptures with a free, unbiassed mind, to see what elaborate, fine spun, flimsy glosses men will invent to put upon some texts, as the true and genuine sense of them ; for no other reason, but because it is most agreeable to the opinion of their party, from which, as the standard of their ortliodoxy, they durst never depart ; who, if they were to write a critique in the same manner on any Greek or Latin author, would make themselves extremely ridiculous in the eyes of the learned
world. But if we would not pervert our rule, we must learn to think as scripture speaks, and not compel that to speak as we think.
Would we know ourselves then, we must of ten view ourselves in the glass of God's word. And when we have taken a full survey of ourselves from thence, let us not soon forget what manner of persons we are.** If our own image do not please us, let us not quarrel with our mirrour, but set about mending ourselves.
5. The eye of the mind, indeed, is not like that of the body, which can see every thing else but itself ; for the eye of the mind can turn itself inward and survey itself
. However, it must be owned, it can see itself much better when its rour? And it is
And it is by this only that we can comme at the bottom of our hearts, and discover those secret prejudices and carnal prepossessions, which self love would hide from us.
This then is the first thing we must do in order to self knowledge, we must examine, scrutinize, and judge ourselves diligently, leisurely, frequently, and impartially ; and that not by the false maxims of the world, but by the rules which God hath given us, reason and scripture ; and take care to understand those rules, and not set them at variance,
* James i. 23, 24.
Constant watchfulness necessary to self knowledge.
II.' WOULD we know ourselves, we must be very watchful over our hearts and lives.
1. We must keep a vigilant eye upon our hearts, i. e. our tempers, inclinations, and passions. A more necessary piece of advice, in order to self acquaintance, there cannot be than that which Solomon gives us, * 'keep your heart with all diligence, or as it is in the original, above all keeping.?.q.d. Whatever you neglect or overlook, be sure you mind your heart. Narrowly observe all its inclinations and aversions, all its motions and affections, together with the several objects and occasions which excite them. And this precept we find in scripture enforced with two very urgent reasons. The first is, because out of it are the issues of life. iie. As our heart is, so will the tenour of our life and conduct be. As is the fountain, so are the streams; as is the root, so is the fruit.t And the other is, because it is deceit. ful above all things. And therefore, without a constant guard upon it, we shall insensibly run into many hurtful self deceptions. 'To which I may add, that without this careful keeping of the lreart we shall never be able to
† Matt. vii. 18. Jer. xvii. 9.
* Prov. iv. 23.
acquire any considerable degree of self acquaintance or of self government.
2. To know ourselves, we must watch our life and conduct as well as our hearts. And by this the heart will be better known; as the root is best known by the fruit. We must at tend to the nature and consequences of every action we are disposed or solicited to, before we comply ; and consider how it will appear in a future review. We are apt enough to observe and watch the conduct of others : A wise man will be as critical and severe upon his own. For indeed we have a great deal more to do with our own conduct than that of other men; as we are to answer for our own, but not for theirs. By observing the conduct of other men we know them ; by carefully observing our own, we must know ourselves.
IVe should have some regard to the opinions of others
concerning us, prarticularly of our enemies.
III. WOULD we know ourselves, we should not altogether neglect the opinion which others may entertain concerning us.
Not that we need be very solicitous about the censure or applause of the world, which are generally very rash and wrong, and proceed from the particular humours and prepossessions