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fain be another? Whence, I say, but from an ignorance of themselves,
the rank of life they are in, and of the part and character which properly belong to them?
It is a just observation, and an excellent document of a moral heathen, that human life is a' Drama, and mankind the actors, who have their several parts assigned them by the master of the theatre, who stands behind the scenes, and observes in what manner every one acts. Some have a short part allotted them, and some a long one ; some a low, and some a high one.
It is not he that acts the highest or most shining part on the stage, that comes off with the greatest applause : but he that acts his part best, whatever it be. To take care then to act our respective parts in life well
, is ours; but to choose what part in life we shall act, is not ours, but God's. But a man can never act his part well, if he does not attend to it; does not know what becomes it ; much less, if he "affect to act another, which nature never designed him. It is always self ignorance that leads a man to act out of character.
O CIK910? Is it a mean and low station of life thou art in ? Know then, that providence calls thec'to the exercise of industry, contentment, submission, patienice, hope, and humblé dependence on him, and a respectful deference to thy superiours. In this way thou mayestshine through thine "obscurity and render thyself amiable in the sight of God and man. And not
No, 611' Dair
only, so, but find more satisfaction, safety, and self enjoyment, than they who move in a higher sphere, from whence they are in danger of falling
But hath Providence called thee to act in a more publick character, and for a more exten. sive benefit to the world?
-Thy first care then ought to be, that thy example, as far as its influence reaches, may be an encouragement to the practice of universal virtue. to shine in those virtues especially which best adorn thy station; as benevolence, charity, wisdom, moderation, firmness, and inviolable integrity; with an undismayed fortitude to press through all opposition in accomplishing those ends which thou hast a prospect and probability of attaining for the apparent good of mankind.
And as self acquaintance will teach us what part in life we ought to act, so the knowledge of that will show us whom we ought to imitate and wherein. We are not to take example of conduct from those who have a very different part assigned them from ours; unless in those things that are universally ornamental and exemplary, If we do, we shall but expose our affectation and weakness, and ourselves to contempt for acting out of character. For what is decent in one may be ridiculous in another. Nor must we blindly follow those who' move in the same sphere, and sustain the same character with ourselves ; but only in those things that are bene. fitting that character. For it is not the person,
but the character; we are to regard; and to imitate him no farther than he keeps to that.
This caution particularly concerns youth, who are apt to imitate their superiours very implicitly, and especially such as shine in the profession they themselves are intended for ; but for want of judgment to distinguish what is fit and decent, are apt to imitate their very foibles ; which a partiality for their persons makes them deem as excellences: And thereby they become doubly ridiculous, both by acting out of character themselves, and by a weak and servile im. itation of others in the very things in which they do so too. To maintain a character then with decency, we must keep our eye only upon: that which is proper to it.
In fine, as no man can excel in every thing, we must consider what part is allotted us to act, in the station in which providence hath placed us, and to keep to that, be it what it will, and seek to excel in that oply.
Every man should be well acquainted with his own talents
and capacities ; and in what manner they are to be exercised and improved to the greatest advantage.
IV. A MAN, cannot be said to know himself, till he is well acquainted with his proper talents and capacities ; knows-for-what-ends he
received them, and how they may be niost fitly applied and improved for those ends.
A wise and self understanding man, instead of aiming at talents he hath not, will set about Cultivating those he hath ; às the way in which providence points out his proper usefulness.
As, in order to the edification of the church, the spirit of God at first conferred upon the ministers of it a great variety of spiritual gifts, * so, for the good of the community, God is pleased now to confer upon men a great variety of natural talents; and every one hath his proper gift of God; one after this manner, another after that.'t And every one is to take care not to neglect, but “to stir up the gift of God which is in him.'t Because it was given him to be improved. And not only to abuse, but the neglect of it must hereafter beaceounted for. Witness the doom of that unprofitable servant, who 'laid up his single pound in a napkin ;) and of him who went and hid his talent in the earth.'
It is certainly a sign of great self ignorance, for a man to venture out of his depth, or attempt any thing he wants opportunity or capacity to accomplish. And therefore a wise man will consider with himself, before he undertakes any thing of consequence, whether he hath abilities to carry him through it, and whether the issue
† 1 Cor. vii. 7.
Matt. xxv. 25, 30. 1
* 1 Cor. xii. 8-10.
of it is like to be for his credit ; lest he sink under the weight he lays upon himself, and incur the just censure of rashness, presumption, and folly. See Luke xiv, 28–32. ,
It is no uncommon thing for some who excel in one thing, to imagine they may excel in every thing. And not content with that share of merit which every one allows them, are still catching at that which doth not belong to them. Why should a good orator wish to be thought a poet ? Why must a celebrated divine set up for a politician? Or a statesman affect the philosopher ? Or a mechanick the scholar? Or a wise man labour to be thought a wit ? This is a weakness that flows from self ignorance, and is incident to the greatest men. Nature seldom forms an universal genius ; but deals out her favours in the present state with a parsimonious hand. Many a man by his foible hath weakened a well established reputation.
We must be well acquainted with our inabilities, and those
things in which we are naturally deficient, as well as those in which we excel.
V. WE must, in order to a thorough self acquaintance, not only consider our talents and proper abilities, but have an eye to our frailties and deficiencies, that we may know where our