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ON SELF-EXCUSING

That which I am now to persuade you to, namely, the not excusing of yourselves, causes a great confusion in me.  For it is a very perfect quality and of great merit; and I ought far better to practise what I tell you concerning this excellent virtue.  I confess myself to be but little improved in this noble duty.  For it is a mark of the deepest and truest humility to see ourselves condemned without cause, and to be silent under it.  It is a very noble imitation of our Lord.  Were I truly humble, I would desire disesteem, even though having in the matter in hand given no real offence.  Here no bodily strength is needed, my daughters, nor any one’s assistance, but God’s.  How well is this written, and how ill is it practised by the writer!  Indeed, I never could make trial of this grace in any matter of consequence, because I never heard of any one speaking ill of me, but I immediately saw how far short he came of the full truth.  For, if he was wrong or exaggerated in his particulars, I had offended God much more in other matters that my detractor knew nothing about.  And, methought, God favoured me much in not proclaiming my secret sins to all men.  And, thus, I am very glad that my detractor should ever report a trifling lie about me, rather than the terrible truth.

O my Lord, when I remember in how many ways Thou didst suffer detraction and misrepresentation, who in no way deserved it, I know not where my senses are when I am in such a haste to defend and excuse myself.  Is it possible that I should desire any one to speak any good of me, or to think it, when so many ill things were thought and spoken of Thee!  What is this, O Lord; what do we imagine to get by pleasing worms, or being praised by them?  What about being blamed by all men, if only we stand at last blameless before Thee!

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