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DIVERSITY OF CHARACTER
CORRECTING THE DEFECTS IN OUR CHARACTER,
COUNTERACTING DEFECTS OF OUR OWN CHARACTER, it is of chief importance that we really intend to ascertain the truth.
The intention is extremely defective in us all. The man, who thinks he has such honest intention, yet has it very imperfectly. He says -“ Touch me: but touch me like a Gentleman. Do not intrude on the delicacies of society. The real meaning of which is, that he has no intention of hearing the truth from you. A man, who has a wound to be healed, comes to the surgeon with such an intention to get it healed, that if he suspected his skill or his fidelity he would seek another.
Intention, or a man's really desiring to know the truth concerning himself, would produce
ATTENTION. He would soon find, that there is little close business in a man, who does not withdraw from the world.
He will begin with self-suspicion. “ Perhaps I am such or such a man. I see defects in all my friends, and I must be a madman not to suppose that I also have mine.. I see defects in my friends, which they not only do not themselves see; but they will not suffer others to shew these defects to them. I must, therefore, take it for granted' that I am a more foolish and pragmatical fellow than I can conceive.”
If he begin thus, then he will be willing to proceed a step further: “ Let me try if I cannot reach these defects :" I have found out myself by seeing my picture in another man. I would choose men of my own constitution ; other men would give me no proper picture of myself. In such men, I can see actions to be ridiculous or absurd, when I could not have seen them to be so in myself. We may learn some features of our portrait from enemies : an enemy gives a hard feature probably, but it is often a truer likeness than can be obtained from a friend. What with your friend's tenderness for you, and your own tenderness for yourself, you cannot get at the true feature. We should, moreover, encourage our friends.
You cannot, in one case in ten, go to a man on a business of this nature, without offending him. He will allege such and such excuses for the defect, and fritter it away to nothing. This shews the hypocrisy—the falsehood
the self-love--and the flattery of the heart. This endeavour to conceal or pålliate defects, instead of a desire to discover them, grows up with us from infancy. There is something so deceitful in sin! A man is brought to believe his own lie! He is so accustomed to hide himself from himself, that he is surprised when another detects and unmasks him. Hazael verily believed himself incapable of becoming what the prophet foretold.
Many motives urge us to attempt a rectification of our defects. Consider the importance of character: he, who says he cares not what men think of him, is on a very low form in the school of experience and wisdom: character and money effect almost every thing. It should be considered, too, how much we have smarted for want of attending to our defects: nineteen out of twenty of our smarting times, arise from this cause.
In counteracting our defects, however, we should be cautious not to blunder by imitation of others. There are sich men in the world as Saint-Errants. One of these men takes up the history of Ignatius Loyola; and nothing seems worthy of his endeavour, but to be just such a man in all the extravagancies of his character and conduct. We should search till we find where our character fails, and then amend it-not attempt to become another man.
A wise man, who is seriously concerned to learn the truth respecting himself, will not spurn it even from a fool. The great men, who kept fools in their retinue, learnt more truth from them than from their companions. A real self-observer will ask whether there is any truth in what the fool says of him. Nay, a truth, that may be uttered in enyy or anger, will not lose its weight with him. The man, who is determined to find happiness, must bear to have it even beaten into him. No man ever found it by chance, or “ yawned it into being with a wish.” When I was young, my mother had a servant whose conduct I thought truly wise. A man was hired to brew; and this servant was to watch his method, in order to learn his art. In the course of the process, something was done which she did not understand. She asked him, and he abused her with the vilest epithets for her ignorance and stupidity. My mother asked her when she related it, how she bore such abuse. “ I would be called,” said she, worse names a thousand times, for the sake of the information which I got out of him,"
If a man would seriously set himself to this work, he must retire from the crowd. He must not live in a bustle. If he is always driving through the business of the day, he will be so in harness as not to obserye the road he is going. . He must place perfect standards before his eyes. Every man has his favourite notions; and, therefore, no man is a proper standard. The perfect standard is only to be found in Scripturo. Elijah ineets Ahab, and holds up the perfect standard before his eyes, till he shrinks into himself.* I have found great benefit in being sickened and disgusted with the false standards of men. I turn, with stronger convictions, to the perfect standards of God's Word.
He should also commune with his own heart upon his bed—“How did I fall, at such or such a time, into my peculiar humours! Had any other man done so, I should have lost my patience with him.”
Above all, he must make his defects matter of constant prayer--Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Men are to be estimated, as Johnson says, by the
A block of tin may have a grain of silver, but still it is tin; and a block of silver may have an alloy of tin, but still it is silver. The mass of Elijah's character was excellence; yet he was not without the alloy. The mass of Jehu's character was base: yet he had a portion of zeal which was directed by God to great ends. Bad men are made the same use of as scaffolds :
MASS OF CHARACTER.
* 1 Kings xviii. 17, &c.