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SERM. the face of his soul; so that he quickly taketh up XLV. opinions, and soon layeth them down, and often
turneth from one mistake unto another; how unsettled his resolutions are, especially in the pursuance of the best goods, and what corrupt mixtures cleave to his best purposes; who taketh notice how backward he is unto, and how cold in, devotions toward God; how little sensible of his goodness, or fearful of his displeasure, or zealous for his honour, or careful of performing his duty toward him; how little also it is that he desireth or delighteth in the good, that he pitieth and grieveth at the evil of his neighbour; how sluggish also and remiss he is in the pursuance of his own best affairs and highest concernments; he that doth, I say, frequently with heedfulness regard these imperfections and obliquities in his own heart, how can he be ravished with self-love? How can he be much taken with himself? Can any man dote upon such deformity, admire such weakness and naughtiness? No surely that men are so amorous of themselves, so haughty and arrogant in their conceits, doth constantly arise from hot reflecting on their own hearts; not beholding themselves wistly enough in that mirror; not considering, according to just representation there, how little lovely or worthy they are: if they did practise that, they would see reason, and thence become inclinable, rather to despise, to loathe, to pity themselves.
Leniter ex merito
2. Upon that advantage is consequent, that this quicquid practice will dispose us with equanimity and patience to bear all crosses and grievances befalling us; so Ovid. Ep.5. producing not only an excellent virtue, but a consi
patiare ferendum est.
derable solace to us; for the being conscious of so much unworthiness, which observation of our heart
will necessarily discover, will not only justify the SERM. providence, (so removing all just cause of complaint,) but will commend the benignity of God unto us, (so administering good matter of thanks.) It will prompt us heartily to confess with those in Ezra, that our Ezra ix. 13. punishments are less than our deservings; to join in acknowledgment with the Psalmist, that God Ps. ciii. 10. hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities; to say with Jeremy, It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, Lam. iii.22. because his compassions fail not; with Jacob, I am Gen. xxxii. less than any of thy mercies.
3. Particularly this practice will fence us against immoderate displeasure occasionable by men's hard opinions, or harsh censures passed on us: for he, that by inquiry into himself perceives so many defects in himself, will not so easily nor so greatly be offended, if some of them (or some like to them) be objected to him; since he finds himself truly liable to many more, and greater. Epictetus's advice is, when you are told that any man speaks ill of you, that you should not apologize, but answer only, that he was ignorant of many other faults of yours, or he would not only have mentioned those. To be disposed, without dissembling or affection, to follow his counsel, would argue a man very intelligent of himself, and well prepared to endure happily and handsomely encounters of this kind, which every man shall be sure to meet with. None indeed can so contentedly brook reproach, or blame, as he that by intimate acquaintance with his own heart doth know the censure passed on him to be in effect mild and favourable; as finding himself a witness of more faults, than any adversary can accuse him of; as being a stricter ex
SERM. aminer and severer judge of himself, than the most enXLV. vious eye or disaffected mind can be. It is also some comfort, that, if censures be very outrageous, a man by knowledge of himself (by knowing his own dispositions, if his person be disfigured by a very ill character; by knowing his own purposes, if his actions be grievously aspersed) is certain they are such; that he can be as well a faithful witness, and just judge for himself, as against himself.
4. Likewise this practice will defend us, as from the discomforts of harsh censure, so from the mistakes and miscarriages to which the more favourable opinions of men, or their flattering expressions, (those luscious poisons,) may expose usa.
-Nihil est quod credere de se
It is not only true of great men, but even of all men :
a Index ipse sui se totum explorat ad unguem,
ternal weights, but keepeth himself equally poised SERM. in a just consistence by his own well-informed conscience; that neither his heart is exasperated with the bitterest gall of reproach, nor his head intoxicated with the sweetest wine of flattery, is an invaluable convenience of life; or rather, it is a virtue arguing a most strong and healthful constitution of soul. How great a levity of mind, how great a vanity is it, saith a good father, setting aside a man's own conscience, to follow other men's opinion, (and even that feigned and forged,) to be snatched away by the wind of false praise, to rejoice in being circumvented, and to receive being mocked for a benefit! From being thus abused, this practice alone can secure us if we know ourselves well, we cannot so easily be deluded by the mistakes of others concerning us, on either hand.
5. Likewise, further upon the same, this practice will conduce to qualify our opinions, and moderate our passions toward others; so that without intemperate anger, or bitterness, we may bear the faults, errors, and infirmities of our brethren; that we shall be benign in our carriage, and gentle in our censures even toward them who do not behave themselves so well and wisely as they should do. St. Paul thus admonisheth the Galatians: Brethren, if a man be Gal. vi. 1. overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual (the more spiritual, whether in truth, or in our own esteem, the more especially are we obliged hereto) restore such
b Quæ hæc tanta levitas est animi, quæ tanta vanitas relicta propria conscientia alienam opinionem sequi, et quidem fictam atque simulatam; rapi vento falsæ laudationis, gaudere ad circumventionem suam, et illusionem pro beneficio accipere? Hier. (vel Paulinus) ad Celant.
SERM. an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyXLV. self, lest thou may be also tempted: σкоTY σEAUTÒV, σκοπῶν σεαυτὸν, looking upon, or spying into thyself; such considering ourselves, taking notice of our own infirmity within, perceiving how subject we are to the impressions of temptation, and that hence it may be our own case to fall and falter, if occasion concur Marc. Ant. With our weakness; discerning this, I say, as it will be a reason obliging, so it may be an instrument conducing to a mitigation of spirit toward those, whom we see overtaken with mistake, or overborne Matt. vii. 2. by frailty. Why dost thou see a mote in thy brother's eye, but dost not consider the beam in thine own eye? is our Saviour's question. Why a man should do so, there cannot, as he implies, any good reason be assigned; it is a very unreasonable and inexcusable miscarriage: but whence a man doeth so is obvious and plain; it is because he curiously pries into other men's doings, and carelessly neglecteth the observation of his own heart. Did we reflect our sight inwards, we should be more apt to mark our own faults, and less ready to discover those of others; or, however, we should be more gently affected in regard to them: for he that knows himself a beggarly wretch, will he reproach poverty to another? he that consulting the glass doth find himself ill-favoured, will he upbraid another for want of grace or beauty? he that perceives that the dart will rebound, and thereby wound himself, will he not be careful of flinging it? will a man be forward in pronouncing a heavy sentence against another, who considers himself by plain consequence involved in the condemnation thereof? Should a man do so, he doth at least render himself uncapable