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weakness, as well as our strength lies. Other wise, like Samson, we may run ourselves into infinite temptations and troubles.
Every man hath a weak side. Every wise man knows where it is, and will be sure to keep a double guard there.
There is some wisdom in concealing a weakness. This cannot be done, till it be first known“; nor can it be known, without a good degree of self acquaintance. : It is strange to observe what pains some men are at to expose themselves; to signalize their own folly ; and to set out to the most publick view those things which they ought to be ashamed to think should ever enter into their character. But so it is ; some men seem to be ashamed of those things which would be their glory, whilst others glory in their shame.'*
The greatest weakness in man is to publish his follies, and to appear fond to have them known. But vanity will often prompt a man to this ; who, unacquainted with the measure of his capacities, attempts things out of his power and beyond his reach ; whereby he makes the world acquainted with two things to his disadvantage, which they were ignorant of before, viz, his deficiency and his self ignorance in appearing so blind to it.
It is ill judged (though very common) to be less ashamed of a want of temper than understanding- For it is no real dishonour or fault
* Phil. ij. 19. ita
in a man to have but a small ability of mind, provided he have not the vanity to set up for a genius, (which would be as ridiculous, as for a man of small strength and stature of body to set up for a champion) because this is what he cannot help. But a man may in a good measure correct the fault of his natural temper, if he be well acquainted with it, and duly watchful over it. And therefore to betray a prevailing weakness of temper, or an ungoverned passion, diminishes a man's reputation much more than to discover a weakness of judgment or understanding. But what is most dishonourable of all is, for a man at once to discover a great genius and an ungoverned mind ; because that strength of reason and understanding he is master of, gives him a great advantage for the government of his passions. And therefore his suffering himself notwithstanding to be governed by them, shows, that he hath too much neglected or misapplied his natural talent ; and willingly submitted to the tyranny of those lusts and passions, over which nature hath furnished him with abilities to have secured an easy conquest.
A wise man hath his foibles as well as a fool. But the difference between them is, that the foibles of the one are known to himself, and concealed from the world; the foibles of the other are known to the world, and concealed from himself. The wise man sees those frailties in himself, which others cannat ; but the fool is blind to those blemishes in his character,
which are conspicuous to every body else. Whence it appears, that self knowledge is that which makes the main difference between a wise man and a fool, in the moral sense of that word.
Concerning the knowledge of our constitutional sins.
VI. SELF acquaintance shows a man the particular sins he is exposed and addicted to ; and discovers not only what is ridiculous, but what is criminal, in his conduct and temper.
A man's outward actions are generally the plainest index of his inward dispositions. And by the allowed sins of his life, you may know the reigning vices of his mind. Is he addicted to luxury or debauch? Sensuality then appears to be his prevailing taste. Is he given to revenge and cruelty ? Choler and malice then reign in his heart. Is he confident, bold, and enterprising ? Ambition appears to be the secret spring. Is he sly and designing, given to intrigue and artifice ? You may conclude there is a natural subtilty of temper
him to this ; and this secret disposition is criminal, in proportion to the degree in which these outward actions, which spring from it, transgress - the bounds of reason and virtue.
Every man hath something peculiar in the turn or cast of his mind, which distinguishes him as much as the particular constitution of his body. And both these, viz. his particular turn of mind, and constitution of body, not only incline and dispose him to some kind of sins, more than to others, but render the practice of certain virtues much more easy.
Now these sins to which men are commonly most inclined, and the temptations which they have the least power to resist, are, and not improperly, called their constitutional sins ; their peculiar frailties ; and in scripture, their own iniquities,'* and the sins which do most easily beset us.'t
*As in the humours of the body, so in the vices of the mind, there is one predominant'; which has an ascendant over us, and leads and governs us. It is in the body of sin, what the heart is in the body of our nature ; it begins to live first, and dies last. And whilst it lives, it communicates life and spirit to the whole body of sin ; and when it dies the body of sin expires with it. It is the sin to which our constitution leads, our circumstances betray, and custom enslaves us ; the sin to which not our virtues only, but vices too, lower their topsail, and submit; the sin, which when we would impose upon God and our consciences, we excuse and disguise with all imaginable artifice and sophistry ; but, when we are sincere with * Psalm xviii. 32.
+ Heb. xii. 1.
both, we oppose first, and conquer last. It is, in a word, the sin which reigns and rules in the unregenerate, and too often alarms and disturbs (ah! that I could say no more) the regenerate.?
Some, are more inclined to the sins of the flesh ; sensuality, intemperance, uncleanness, sloth, self indulgence, and excess in animal gratifications. Others to the sins of the spirit ; pride, malice, covetousness, ambition, wrath, revenge, envy, &c. And I am persuaded there are few, but, upon a thorough search into themselves, may find that some one of these sins hath ordinarily a greater power over them than the rest. Others often observe it in them, if they themselves do not. And for a man not to know his predominant iniquity is great self ig. norance indeed ; and a sign that he has all his life lived far from home; because he is not acquainted with that relating to himself, which every one who is but half an hour in his com. pany, perhaps, may be able to inform him of. Hence proceeds that extreme weakness which some discover in censuring others, for the very same faults they are guilty of themselves, and perhaps in a much higher degree ; on which the apostle Paul animadverts, Rom. ii. 1.
It must be owned, it is an irksome and disagreeable business for a man to turn his own accuser ; to search after his own faults, and keep his eye upon that which gives him shame and pain to see. It is like tearing open an old wound ; but it is better to do this, than to let