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Athenodorus, the philosopher, by reason of his old age, begged leave to retire from the court of Augustus, which the emperour granted him ; and in his compliments of leave, “Remember (said he) Cæsar, whenever you are angry, you say or do nothing before you have distinctly repeated to yourself the four and twenty letters of the alphabet.' Whereupon Cæsar catching him by the hand, 'I have need (says he) of your presence still ;' and kept him a year longer. This is celebrated by the ancients as a rule of excellent wisdom, but a christian may prescribe to himself a much wiser, viz. When you are a
angry, answer not till you have repeated the first petition of the Lord's prayer—' Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.' And our Saviour's comment upon it For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you : But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.?* briei : 7,9
It is a just and seasonable thought, that of Marcus Antoninus upon such occasions 2 A man misbehaves himself towards me what is that to me? The action isi his; and the will: that sets him upon it is hisz and therefore léty him look to it. The fault and injury belong to him, not to me. As for me, I am in the condition providence would have me, and am doing what becomes me.?....
* Matt. vi. 14, 15,
of 168 But after all, this amounts only to a philosophical contempt of injuries ; and falls much beneath the dignity of a christian forgiveness, to which seff knowledge will happily dispose us. And therefore, "in order to judge of our improvements therein, we must always take care to examine and ubserve, in what manner we are affected in such circumstanceset erort 12. How do you behave under a severe and unexpected affliction from the hand of provi. dence? Which is another circumstance, where. in we have a fair opportunity of coming to a
right knowledge of ourselves. Art tot If there be an habitual discontent or impatience lurking within us, this will draw it forth, especially if the affliction le attended with any of those aggravating circumstances which accumulated that of Job, ; Ji 1 Afictions are often sent with this intent, to *** teach us to know ourselves; and therefore ought to be carefully improved to this purpose. our heavenly Father is seen by a serious and attentive mind, not only in proportioning the degrees of his corrections to his children's strength, but in adapting the kinds of them to their tempers afilieting one in one way, another in another, according as he knows they are most easily wrought upon, and as will be most for their advantage. By which means a small affliction of one kind may as deeply affect
us, and be of more advantage to us, than a much greater of another. i
It is a trite but true observation, that a wise man receives more benefit from his enemies, than from his friends ; from his afflictions than from his mercies; by which means his enemies become in effect his best friends, and his afflietions his greatest mercies. Certain it is, that a man never has an opportunity of taking a more fair and undisguised view of himself, than in these circumstances. And therefore, by diligently observing in what manner he is affected at such times, he may, make an improvement in the true knowledge of himself, very much to his future advantage, though perhaps not a little to his present mortification. For a sudden
provocation from man, or a severe affliction from God, may detect something which lay latent and undiscovered so long at the bottom of his heart, that - He never once suspected it to have had any place there. Thus the one excited wrath in the meekest man,* and the other passion in the most patient.
By considering then in what manner we bear the particular afflictions God is pleased to allot us, and what benefit we receive from them, we may come to a very considerable acquaintance with ourselves.
3. What is our usual temper and disposition in a time of peace, prosperity, and pleasure, when the soul is generally most unguarded ? * Psal. cvi. 33.
† Job iii. 3.
y This is the warm season that nourishes and impregnates the seeds of vanity, self confidence, and a supercilious contempt of others. If there be such a root of bitterness in the heart, it will be very apt to shoot forth in the sunshine of uninterrupted prosperity ; even after the frost of adversity had nipped it, and, as we thought, killed it.), bls
) om op Prosperity is a trial as well as adversity; and is commonly attended with more dangerous temptations. And were the mind but as seriously disposed to self reflection, it would have a greater advantage of attaining a true knowl edge of itself under the former than under the latter. But the unhappiness of it is, the mind is seldom rightly turned for such an employ, ment under those circumstances. - It has something else to do, has the concerns of the world to mind ; and is too much engaged by the things without it, to advert to those within ; and is more disposed to enjoy than examine itself. However, it is a very necessary season for self examination, and a very proper time to acquire a good degree of self acquaintance, if rightly improved.ov (JUOVI
Lastly How do we behave in bad company? w/ And that is to be reckoned bad company in which there is no probability of our doing or getting any good, but apparent danger of our doing orgetting much harm; I mean, our giving offence to others, by an indiscreet zeal,or incurring guilt to ourselves by a criminal compliance.
Are we carried down by the torrent of vanity and vice? Will a flash of wit, or a brilliant fancy make us excuse a profane expression ? If so, we shall soon come to relish it, when thus seasoned, and use it ourselves. * This is a time when our zeal and wisdom, our fortitude and firmness are generally put to the most delicate proof; and when we may too often take notice of the unsuspected escapes of folly, fickleness, and indiscretion. lampa
At such seasons as these, then, we may often discern what lies at the bottom of our hearts, better than we can in the more even and cus
nary scenes of life, when the passions are all calm and still. And therefore, would we know ourselves, we should be very attentive to our frame, temper, disposition, and conduct upon such occasions. ristes obert JA TULEE JO CHAP. VIII. 1.4 To know ourselves, we must wholly abstract from ex
Un ternal appearances. VIII. WOULD you know yourself, Huence of exteriours, or a merè outward show. K: A man is, what his heart is. The knowledge of himself is the knowledge of his heart, which is entirely an inward thing to the knowledge of which, then, outward things (such as a man's condition and state in the world) can contribute