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of apology or excuse: so we are told by St. Paul: SERM. Every censurer (πãçó «pívwv) is, saith he, inexcusable; for that in arraigning another he condemns him- Rom. ii. 1. self: guilty he is of inexcusable folly, or impudence; of folly and blindness, if he see not; of extreme impudence, if, seeing his own obnoxiousness, he will not abstain from judging others for that, of which himself is guilty in the same kind, or equivalently in some other. You know how David was 2 Sam. xii. caught by Nathan, and unwarily adjudged himself to death and so may every man expose himself, that is rigorous in censure toward others, without reflecting upon himself, and considering his own heart; wherein he shall find so much ground and matter of being angry with, and judging himself". If we will be fierce and keen, it is reason we should be so first, and chiefly there, where our greatest enemies do abide, whence most mischief ariseth to us; where there is fittest matter, and justest cause of passion: thus is this practice a most proper and effectual remedy for those baneful vices of pride and peevishness in ourselves, of malignity and fury toward others. But further,
6. The observation of our heart yieldeth great advantage, in being very conducible to render men truly wise and prudent, in those things especially, which most nearly concern them; giving them to see before them, and to understand what they do; and to proceed without security; as contrarily the neglect thereof rendereth men unadvised and un
< Si volumus æqui rerum omnium judices esse, hoc primum nobis suadeamus, neminem esse nostrum sine culpa. Sen. de Ir. Συγγνώμην ἔφη διδόναι πᾶσι τοῖς ἁμαρτάνουσι, πλὴν ἑαυτοῦ. Cato Maj. Plut. p. 624.
SERM. certain in their doings. A main point of prudence XLV. consisteth in suiting a man's undertakings to his
powers and capacities; in not attempting things surpassing his ability or fitness; and in not declining such useful or beneficial attempts as he may well compass. Some are overbold and rash in setting upon things beyond their strength to accomplish, or skill to manage; whence commonly with shame and sorrow they are defeated in their enterprises; others are overbackward and diffident, so as not to adventure upon what they may with good advantage, or perhaps ought to perform; thence depriving themselves of the benefits they might obtain, or omitting the duties which they are obliged to; both which inconveniences usually do proceed from the not looking into and studying the heart; for the most and greatest impediments of action do lie there; being grounded upon inward indispositions, or disagreeableness of men's temper, capacity, inclination to the matters, to which they apply themselves. A tender foot will be galled and lamed, if you set it going in rugged paths; a weak head will turn, if you place it high, or upon the brink of a precipice; a soft spirit cannot well comport with boisterous employment; he that naturally affects calm and quiet must not hope to come off well, if he engage himself upon affairs exposed to abundance of care and tumult; nor will he, if he be well studied this way, and rightly understand himself, adventure thereupon. It was as well according to wisdom as modesty that Ps. cxiii. 1. David could say, My heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. In every undertaking two things occur to be consider
ed: what of difficulty is found therein, and what of SERM. temptation; whether it can be done, and whether it should be done. It is a folly to spend our care and pains upon that which is too hard for us to effect; and it is worse than so to adventure upon that which most probably will bring us into sin, and hurt our souls; only the study of ourselves, weighing our power, and trying our temper, will prevent both he that doeth this may commonly foresee what, the case being put, he shall do; that if such a temptation doth assault him in such circumstances, his inclinations will be apt to comply therewith, and he shall scarce be able to resist; that, for instance, he shall wax haughty in a state of dignity, become luxurious in abundance of wealth, be distracted with care in a busy employment; and therefore he will not be so forward to engage himself upon such occasions, danger and mischief being so vividly prerepresented to his sight. But he that pondereth not his own heart is ready to presume, that, be the business what it will, he shall come off well; and so unadvisedly rusheth into the snare: he assumes unwieldy burdens upon his shoulders, which he soon feeleth sorely to oppress and pain him; which he can neither bear with ease, nor put off with convenience. When, for instance, the prophet told Hazael what cruelties and rapines should, when he got power and opportunity, be committed by him; you see how he was startled at the report: Am I a dog? 2 Kings xii. saith he; that is, Can I be so vile and base? Yes, he might himself have perceived that he should in likelihood be so; the probability of his doing as the prophet said, had been no great news to him, if he had observed his own inclinations. Good Agur on
SERM, the other side did better understand himself, when XLV. he prayed, Give me neither poverty nor riches, but Prov. xxx. feed me with food convenient for me. He was conscious of natural infirmity, and therefore afraid of being in a condition that might prevail upon it; of great wealth, lest it should tempt him to forgetfulness and neglect of God; (lest, saith he, I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?) of extreme want, lest it should put him upon unjust, dishonest, and impious courses to maintain his life, (lest, adds he, I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.) He saw, by looking into himself, that self-love (the root of pride and injustice) was potent in him, and formidable, when occasion should favour it, and therefore, by imploring divine aid, he strove to decline the advantages and occasions of it. It was good counsel which Xenophon tells us the oracle gave Croesus, consulting about the success of his attempt against CyDe Cyri In-rus, Σαυτὸν γινώσκων εὐδαίμων Κροῖσε περήσεις· Knowing thyself, thou shalt pass on happily, (in the course of thy life and undertakings.) Had he, considering his own ability, in relation to the dubious event of things, (that as he could not promise himself good fortune, so he did not know how he should comport with bad; being not sure that he should overcome either his enemies or himself)—thus, I say, had he complied with the oracle's advice, he might have escaped the loss and sorrow which befell him. So is it with us: if we know not the burden of our vessel, we shall either put more sail to it than it can bear, or less than will suffice to carry it on; it will be overladen, or want fit ballast. If we are ignorant of our capacities, we shall either soar too high with
a dangerous confidence, or grovel below in a slug- SERM. gish listlessness: studying ourselves will help to preserve us in a middle pitch, will direct us in a moderate course, wherein we may proceed with sufficient courage and alacrity; with a prudent foresight, or at least with a comfortable hope of good success.
7. Near to that lies another considerable benefit, attending this practice, which is, that it will help to render us expedite in our resolutions, and constant to them; consistent with ourselves, and uniform in our proceedings; whence will arise both great convenience to ourselves and satisfaction to others with whom we deal or converse: as on the contrary side, from the neglect thereof, we shall become slow in deliberation, doubtful in resolution, and unstable in performance. When any occasion of acting is presented, we shall be ready to close with what is agreeable to our inclination, and not repugnant to our judgment, if by due study and experience we are acquainted with them: that acquaintance is a certain preparation to a speedy choice; and we shall upon the same grounds constantly adhere to our choice, standing upon so firm a base; and so shall neither discompose ourselves, nor disappoint others by our irresolution and inconstancy. But he that skills not his own heart, first will dwell long upon consultation, (not feeling perfectly whither his inward bias doth draw him ;) and when he seems, upon some superficial reason, to have determined on one side, some discordance to his own inclination, or some latent prejudice soon discovering itself, he wavers, and at length falls off; finding that he hath promised to himself, or others, what he is unable or unwilling to perform; so, like