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trust that man again, although we still continue to trust our own fears, against reason and against experience.
This indeed is a dangerous deceit enough, and will of course betray all those well-meaning persons into sin and folly, who are apt to take religion for a much easier thing than it is. But this is not the only mistake we are apt to run into; we do not only think sometimes that we can do more than we can do, but sometimes that we are incapable of doing so much: an error of another kind indeed, but not less dangerous, arising from a diffidence and false humility. For how much a wicked man can do in the business of religion, if he would but do his best, is very often more than he can tell.
Thus nothing is more common than to see a wicked man running headlong into sin and folly, against his reason, against his religion, and against his God. Tell him, that what he is going to do will be an infinite disparagement to his understanding, which, at another time, he setteth no small value upon; tell him, that it will blacken his reputation, which he had rather die for than lose; tell him, that the pleasure of sin is short and transient, and leaveth a vexatious kind of sting behind it, which will very hardly be drawn forth; tell him, that this is one of those things for which God will most surely bring him to judgment, which he pretendeth to believe with a full assurance and persuasion : and yet, for all this, he shutteth his eyes against all conviction, and rusheth into the sin like a horse into battle; as if he had nothing left to do, but, like a silly child, to wink hard, and to think to escape a certain and infinite mischief, only by endeavouring not to see it.
And now, to show that the heart hath given in a false report of the temptation, we may learn from this; that the same weak man would resist and master the same powerful temptation, upon considerations of infinitely less value than those which religion offereth ; nay, such vile considerations, that the grace of God cannot, without blasphemy, be supposed to add any manner of force and efficacy to them. Thus, for instance, it would be a hard matter to dress up a sin in such soft and tempting circumstances, that a truly covetous man would not resist for a considerable sum of money; when neither the hopes of heaven, nor the fears of hell, could make an impression upon him before. But can any thing be a surer indication of the deceitfulness of the heart, than thus to show more courage, resolution, and activity, in an ill cause, than it doth in a good one? and to exert itself to better purpose, when it is to serve its own pride, or lust, or revenge, or any other passion, than when it is to serve God upon motives of the gospel, and upon all the arguments that have ever been made use of to bring men over to religion and a good life? And thus having shown that man is wonderfully apt to deceive and impose upon himself, in passing through the several stages of that great duty, repentance, I proceed now, in the
Second place, To inquire into the grounds and reasons of this ignorance, “and to show whence it comes to pass that man, the only creature in the world that can reflect and look into himself, should know so little of what passeth within him, and be so very much unacquainted even with the standing dispositions and complexion of his own heart.” The prime reason of it is, because we so
very seldom converse with ourselves, and take so little notice of what passeth within us : for a man can no more know his own heart, than he can know his own face, any other way than by reflection: he may as well tell over every feature of the smaller portions of his face without the help of a looking-glass, as he can tell all the inward bents and tendencies of his soul, those standing features and lineaments of the inward man, and know all the various changes that this is liable to from custom, from passion, and from opinion, without a very frequent use of looking within himself.
For our passions and inclinations are not always upon the wing, and always moving toward their respective objects; but retire now and then into the more dark and hidden recesses of the heart, where they lie concealed for a while, until a fresh occasion calls them forth again : so that not every transient oblique glance upon the mind, can bring a man into a thorough knowledge of all its strength and weaknesses; for, a man may sometimes turn the eye of the mind inward upon itself, as he may behold his natural face in a glass, and go away,
and straight forget what manner of man he was.” But a man must rather sit down and unravel every action of the past day into all its circumstances and particularities, and observe how every little thing moved and affected him, and what manner of impression it made upon his heart; this, done with that frequency and carefulness which the importance of the duty doth require, would, in a short time, bring him into a nearer and more intimate acquaintance with himself.
But when men, instead of this, do pass away months and years in a perfect slumber of the
mind, without once awaking it, it is no wonder they should be so very ignorant of themselves, and know very little more of what passeth within them than the very beasts which perish. But here it may not be amiss to inquire into the reasons why most men have so little conversation with themselves.
And, first, Because this reflection is a work and labour of the mind, and cannot be performed without some pain and difficulty: for, before a man can reflect upon himself, and look into his heart with a steady eye, he must contract his sight, and collect all his scattering and roving thoughts into some order and compass, that he may be able to take a clear and distinct view of them; he must retire from the world for a while, and be unattentive to all impressions of sense; and how hard and painful a thing must it needs be to a man of passion and infirmity, amid such a crowd of objects that are continually striking upon the sense, and soliciting the affections, not to be moved and interrupted by one or other of them ! But,
Secondly, Another reason why we so seldom converse with ourselves, is, because the business of the world taketh up all our time, and leaveth us no portion of it to spend upon this great work and labour of the mind. Thus twelve or fourteen years pass away before we can well discern good from evil; and of the rest, so much goes away in sleep, so much in the proper business of our callings, that we have none to lay out upon the more serious and religious employments. Every man's life is an imperfect sort of a circle, which he repeateth and runneth over every day; he hath a set of thoughts, desires, and inclinations, which return upon him in their proper time and order,
and will very hardly be laid aside to make room for any thing new and uncommon: so that call upon him when you please, to set about the study of his own heart, and you are sure to find him pre-engaged; either he has some business to do, or some diversion to take, some acquaintance that he must visit, or some company that he 'must entertain, or some cross accident hath put him out of humour, and unfitted him for such a grave employment. And thus it cometh to pass, that a man can never find leisure to look into himself, because he doth not set apart some portion of the day for that very purpose, but foolishly deferreth from one day to another, until his glass is almost run out, and he is called upon to give a miserable account of himself in the other world. But,
Thirdly, Another reason why a man doth not more frequently converse with himself, is, because such conversation with his own heart may discover some vice, or some infirmity lurking within him, which he is very unwilling to believe himself guilty of. For can there be a more ungrateful thing to a man, than to find that, upon a nearer view, he is not that person he took himself to be? that he had neither the courage, nor the honesty, nor the piety, nor the humility, that he dreamed he had ? that a very little pain, for instance, putteth him out of patience, and as little pleasure softeneth and disarmeth him into ease and wantonness? 'that he hath been at more pains, and labour, and cost, to be revenged of an enemy, than to oblige the best friend he hath in the world? that he cannot bring himself to say his prayers, without a great deal of reluctancy; and when he doth say them, the spirit and fervour of devotion evaporate in a very short time; and he can scarcely hold out a prayer of ten lines, without a num