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tion ? He hath acted according to his nature in what he hath done ; but I have not acted ac. cording to my reason, in laying myself so open to him. I knew him ; why did I not shun him, as I would any other dangerous animal that does mischief by instinct? If I must needs put my finger into a wasp's nest, why should I blame them for stinging me ?-Or, 4. If I could not avoid his company, why did I not arm myself? Why did I venture defenceless into so much danger ? -Or, 5. Suppose he hath done me a real and undeserved injury, without my fault or provocation ; yet does not my discontent aggravate it? Does it not appear greater to me, than it does to any body else? Or than it will to me, after the present ferment is over ? —And lastly, after all, must I never forgive ? How shall I be able to repeat the Lord's Prayer, or read our Saviour's com, ment upon it, Matt. vi. 14, 15. with an unforgiving temper? Do I not hope to be forgiven ten thousand talents , and cannot I forgive my fellow servant thirty pence? When I know not but he hath repented, and God hath forgiven him, whose forgiveness I want infinitely more than my greatest enemy does mine.
Such considerations are of great use to soften our prejudices against persons; and at once to discover the true spring, and prevent the bad effects of them. And happy would it be for a christian, could he but call to mind and apply to his relief, half the good things which that ex.
cellent heathen emperour and philosopher, Marcus Antoninus, could say upon this subject. Some of which I have, for the benefit of the English reader, extracted, and thrown into the margin.
3. The mind is apt to be prejudiced against or in favour of certain things and actions, as well as certain sentiments and persons.
Do you not sometimes find dull, disagreeable ideas annexed to certain places, seasons, or employments, which give you a secret aversion to them? These arise from the remembrance of some unpleasing incidents you have heretofore met with, and which you apprehend may again befal you on such occasions.
But they are nothing more than the mere misrepresentations of fancy; and ought to be repelled, because they will be apt to lead you to neglect the duties of your character.
If therefore you find in yourself a secret disinclination to any particular action or duty, and the mind begins to cast about for excuses and reasons to justify the neglect of it, consider the matter well : Go to the bottom of that reluctance ; and search out what it is that gives the mind this aversion to it. Whether it be the thing, or action itself, or some discouraging circumstances that may attend it ; or some dis. agreeable consequences that may possibly flow from it ; or your supposed unfitness for it at present. Why, all these things may be only imaginary. And to neglect a plain and positive
duty upon such considerations, shows that you are governed by appearances more than realities, by fancy more than reason, and by inclination more than conscience.
But let fancy muster up all the discouraging circumstances, and set them in the most formidable light, to bar your way to a supposed duty ; for instance, It is very difficult; I want capacity, at least am so indisposed to it at present, that I shall make nothing of it ;' and then it will be attended with danger to my person, reputation, or peace ; and the opposition I am like to meet with is great,' &c. But after all, is the call of providence clear? Is the thing a plain duty ? Such a reason, conscience, and scripture, your office, character, or personal engagements, call upon you to discharge : If so, all the aforesaid objections are vain and delusive ; and you have nothing to do but to summon your courage, and, in dependence on divine help, to set about the business immediate ly and in good earnest, and in the best and wisest manner you can ; and you may depend upon it you will find the greatest difficulty to lie only in the first attempts ; these frightful appearances to be all visionary, the mere fig. ments of fancy, turning lambs into lions, and mole-hills into mountains ; and that nothing but sloth, folly, and self indulgence thus set your imagination on work to deter you from a plain duty.
Your heart would deceive you,
but you have found out the cheat, and do not be imposed upon. Again, suppose the thing done ; consider
dan past; and whatever pains it may cost you, think whether it will not be abundantly recompensed from a consciousness of having acted right. It certainly will.
And the difficulties you now Aread, will enhance your future satisfaction. But think again how you will bear the reflections of your own mind, if you wilfully neglect a plain and necessary duty; whether this will not occasion you much more trouble than all the pains you might be at in performing it. And a wise man will always determine himself by the end; or by such a retrospective view of things, considered as past.
Again, on the other hand, if you find a strong propension to any particular action, examine that with the like impartiality. Perhaps it is what neither your reason nor conscience can fully approve. And yet every motive to it is strongly urged, and every objection to it slighted. Sense and appetite grow importunate and clamourous, and want to lead, while reason remonstrates
But turn not aside from that faithful and friendly monitor, whilst with a low, still voice, she addresses you in this soft but earnest language :
-Hear me, I beseech you, but this one word more. The action is indeed out of character ; what I shall never ap,
prove. The pleasure of it is a great deal overrated ; you will certainly be disappointed. It is a false appearance that now deceives you. And what will you think of yourself when it is past, and you come to reflect seriously on the matter? Believe it, you will then wish
your counsellor, instead of those enemies of mine, your lusts and passions, which have so often misled you, though you know I never did.'
Such short recollections as these, and a little leisure to take a view of the nature and consequences of things or actions, before we reject or approve them, will prevent much false judgment and bad conduct ; and by degrees wear off the prejudices which fancy has fixed in the mind, either for or against any particular action; teach us to distinguish between things and their appearances ; strip them of those false colours that so often deceive us ; correct the sallies of the imagination, and leave the reins in the hand of reason.
Before I dismiss this head, I must observe, that some of our strongest prejudices arise from an excessive self esteem, or too great a complacency in our own good sense and understanding. Philautus in 'every thing shows himself well satisfied with his own wisdom; which makes him very impatient of contradiction, and gives him a distaste to all who shall presume to oppose their judgment to his, in any thing. He had rather persevere in a nistake than retract it,