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Hence nothing is a surer sign of self ignorance than vanity and ostentation.
Indeed true self knowledge and humility are so necessarily connected, that they depend upon, and mutually beget each other, that knows himself, knows the worst of himself, and therefore cannot but be humble ; and a humble mind is frequently contemplating its own faults and weaknesses, which greatly improves it in self knowledge. So that self acquaintance makes a man humble, and humility gives him still a better acquaintance with him. self.
2. An openness to conviction is no less ne. cessary to self knowledge than humility,
As nothing is a greater bar to true knowledge than an obstinate stiffness in opinion, and a fear to depart from old notions, which (before we were capable of judging, perhaps) we had long taken up for the truth; so nothing is a greater bar to self knowledge, than a strong aversion to part with those sentiments of ourselves, which we have been blindly accustomed to, and to think worse of ourselves than we are wont to do.
And such an unwillingness to retract our sentiments in both cases proceeds from the same cause, viz. a reluctance to self condemnation. For he that takes up a new way of thinking, contrary to that which he hath long received, therein condemns himself of having lived in an errour ; and he that begins to see faults in himself he never saw before, condemns himself of
having lived in ignorance and sin. Now this is a most ungrateful business, and what self Aattery can by no means endure.
But such an inflexibility of judgment, and hatred of conviction, is a very unhappy and hurtful turn of mind. And a man that is resolved never to be in the wrong, is in a fair way never to be in the right.
As infallibility is no privilege of the human nature, it is no diminution to a man's good sense or judgment to be found in an errour, provided he is willing to retráct it. with the same freedom and liberty as before, whoever be his inonitor ; and it is his own good sense and judgment that still guides him ; which shines to great advantage in thus directing him against the bias of vanity and self opinion. And in thus changing his sentiments, he only acknowledges that he is not (what no man ever was) incapable of being mistaken. In short, it is more merit, and an argument of more ex. cellent mind, for a man freely to retract when he is in the wrong, than to be overbearing and positive when he is in the right.
A man then must be willing to know him. self, before he can know himself. He must open his eyes, if he desires to see ; yield to evidence and conviction, though it be at the expense of his judgment, and to the mortification of his vanity
To be sensible of our false knowledge a good step to
VI. WOULD you know yourself
, take heed and guard against false knowledge.
See that the light that is within you be not darkness ; that your favourite and leading principles be right. Search your furniture, and consider what you have to unlearn. For oftentimes there is as much wisdom in casting off some knowledge which we have, as in acquiring that which we have not.
Which perhaps was what made Themistocles reply, when one offered to teach him the art of memory, that he had much rather he would teach him the art of forgetfulness.
Å scholar that hath been all his life collecting books, will find in his library at least a great deal of rubbish. And as his taste alters, and his judgment improves,' he will throw out a great many as trash and lumber, which, it may be, he once valued and paid dear for ; and replace them with such as are more solid and useful. Just so should we deal with our understandings ; look over the furniture of the mind ; separate the chaff from the wheat, which are generally received into it together ; and take as much pains to forget what we ought not to
have learned, as to retain what we ought not to forget. To read froth and trifles all our life, is the way always to retain a flashy and juvenile turn ; and only to contemplate our first (which is generally our worst) knowledge, cramps the progress of the understanding, and makes our selfsurvey extremely deficient. In short, would we improve the understanding to the valuable purposes of self knowledge, we must take as
books we read, as what company we keep.
"The pains we take in books or arts, which treat of things remote from the use of life, is a it is for no other science than what treats of the knowledge of myself, and instructs me how to live and die well."
It is a comfortless speculation, and a plain proof of the imperfection of the human under standing, that upon a narrow scrutiny into our furniture, we observe a great many things we think we know, but do not ; i and many which we do know, but ought not ; that a good deal of the knowledge we have been all our lives collecting, is no better than mere ignorance, and some of it worse; to be sensible of which is a very' necessary step to self acquaintance, 91337
VII. WOULD you know yourself, you must very carefully attend to the frame and emotions of your mind under some extraordinary incidents.
Some sudden accidents which befal you when the mind is most off its guard, will better discover its secret turn and prevailing disposition than much greater events you are prepared to meet. e.
1. Consider how you behave under any sudden affronts or provocations from men. "A fool's wrath is presently known,'* i. e, a fool is presently known by his wrath,
If your anger be soon kindled, it is a sign that secret pride lies lurking in the heart; which, like gunpowder, takes fire at every spark of provocation that lights upon it. For whatever may be owing to a natural temper, it is certain that pride is the chief cause of frequent and wrathful resentments. For pride and anger are as nearly allied as humility and meekness.
Only by pride cometh contention." And a man would not know what mud lay at the bottom of his heart, if provocation did not stir it up. * Proy. nii. 16.
+ Prov. xii. 10.