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... SERMON XV.
PROV. xxx. 12. Ibere is a generation thr: are pure in their own eyes, and yet
is not washed from their filthinessi
[Tlie eiglith Sermoni on tliis Text.]
THE greatest step towards Heaven, is to step out
1 of our own door, and over our own threshold; to go wholly out of ourselves, and wholly in to Christ. Inliead of going abroad, and out of ourselves, by self denial, we naturally. stay at home, by self-conceit and proud imagination of our own excelleney: “ There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes; and yet is not washed from their filthiness.'
It is idolatry to worship an holy angel, as well as a cursed devil. To make our virtues our God, is idola. try, as well as to make our belly our God: nay; it ra. ther adds to the idolatry ; because that is used to rob him of his glory, which should have brought him in the greatest revenue of glory. If a man boasts of his vices and fins, he pulls down the throne of God, and wor. Tips a devil: if a man boasts of his virtues and graces, he pulls down the throne of God with that wherewith he should build it up; and worships a golden image, a golden calf: yea, worships himself, while he trusts in his own beauty and purity. “ There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes ; and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”
Having prosecuted the two first observations we took notice of from these words, we now proceed to the third proposition which we observed from them, namely, Doct. 3. That self-conceit is incident to a multitude
of professors. , Many, who are most impure, look upon themselves as pure ; and labour under a fad a woful delusion, a
gross and damnable millake, about the state and case of their immortal fouls.
The method we lay down, for profecuting this obfer: vation, through divine affiítance, Mhall be the following.
1. To prove and clear the truth of the doctrine.;
finfulness and danger of it.
· I. The first thing then to be eslayed, is, To prove and clear the truth of the doctrine, viz. That self-conceit is incident to a multitude of professors. This point is evident both from scripture and experience.
1. It is clear from a multitude of scriptures. Not only the words of the text, but many other fcripture passages confirm it; such as, Isa. lxv. 5. “Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near, for I am holier than thou. Chap. lviii. 2, 3. They seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forfook not the ordinances of their God: they ask of me the ordinance of justice; they take delight in ap. proaching to God. Wherefore have we fafted, and thou feest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, ard thou takest no knowledge ? They were much in duty; much more than the generality of professors in our day : but they had an high conceit of themselves and their duties. Self-conceit is felf-deceil; “ For if a man think himself to be fomething, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself," Gal. vi. 3.: or, he that conceiveth of himself highly, deceiveth himfelf greatly. “ How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim ? See thy way in the valley; know what thou haft done,” &c. Jer. ii. 23. They said they were not polluted; and yet they are called to see their way in the valley. It is observed by the prophet Hofea, chap. viii. 2, 3. concerning Israel, that they cry, “ My God, we know thee;" and yet they cast off the thing that is good. Why are you saying, “ My God, we know thee ?" You are all miltaken, faith God; you have neither part nor portion in
me. me. If you consult the parable of the ten virgins, Mat. xxv. you will there see, that the foolish virgins had an high profession, and very high preiensions to religion : they entertained an high opinion of themielves and their lamps; tho' yet they had no oil in their vessels. Yea, it is told of many, Mat. vii. -22..that they thall say, “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophefied in tay name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many won. derful works?” To whom Christ will say, “I never knew you, depart from me.” And here it is plainly implied, that they will expect to be rewarded with eter. nal bliss for the same. We are cautioned to this purpose; “Let no man deceive himself: if any man among you seemeth to be wife in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise,” i Cor. iii. 18. If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know, chap. viii. 2. If any man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiyeth himself,” Gal. vi. 3. All which supposes that many think something of themselves, who yet are nothing, and are but cheating their own souls; and of all deceit this is the most terrible.-In a word, we find a whole church labouring under this foul-ruining diseale and distemper, namely, the church of Laodicea; “ Thou sayît, I am rich, and increaled with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowelt not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," Rev. iji. 17.-Is it not plain from these scriptures, that many look upon them. felves to be pure, who yet were never washed from their filthiness? But, • 2. Let us next compare there fcriptures with experi. ence. We may fee this doctrine abundantly clear from experience. Are we not exceeding ready to judge our: felves better than indeed we are? And to magnify ourfelves, our states, our virtues, above what they are ? We act very differently in respect of our good things, from what we act with respcct to our evil. As to our fins and evils, we have a trick of extenuation, that though our fins be exceeding many, yet we can, like the unjust steward, write down fifty instead of an hun. dred. Though our fins be great, we can lessen them.
But, But, on the contrary, in our good things or graces, whether real or fuppofed, we have a trick of aggravation, to make them greater and more than they are; here we write an hundred for fifty. And here we have the art of multiplication. It is with many, as it was with Simon Magus ; they deceive themselves, as he deceived the people of Samaria, Asts viii. 9, 10. · He made then believe that he was some great man; yea, that he was the great power of God; whereas, indeed, he was but a base forcerer; and one that wrought lying niracles by the power of Satan. So, many conceit themselves to be great men, to be the dear children of God, and that the power of Christ dwelleth in thein ; when, indeed, they are nothing but Satan's vassals.
Is it not evident from experience, that many are dreaming that matters are well enough with them? They have a good heart, they think; and they trust in God, they say; and hope to be saved as well as others, that seem to be more itrict. Is it not evident from experience, that there are more proud professors than poor converts? And hence, in a day of trial, multitudes of professors apoftatise : they are offended at Christ and his cross; they fall off from the faith, like leaves from the trees, in the time of harvest. They had only an high pretence to devotion, and an high conceit of themselves ; but were never truly washed from their filthiness.
II. The fecond thing proposed was, To touch a little at the nature of this felf-conceit, Why, in general, * It is a falfe apprehension, whereby a man hath an " over-weaning and over-valuing of himself, and his “ actions ; judging of himself more highly than he “ ought to do.” This self-conceit may be considered, either as it takes place in the godly, who may apprehend themselves to be in a better condition than they are ; or as it takes place in the wicked, who may judge them. selves to be in a good condition, when yet they are in a bad one.'
1. It may be confidered, I say, with respect to the godly; they may imagine themselves better than indeed, they are, when they think their smoaking flax is a blaz.
ing flame; when they look at their graces through a magnifying glass, and think them great, when indeed they are but small. They may look upon their own graces, as parents upon their own children, and think them the fairest of all others; James and John seem to be thus affected, when Christ tells them, “ Are ye able to drink of my cup, and to be baptized with my baptism?” Mat. xx. 22. Yea, say they, “ We are able:" While yet, alas! they were scarce able to see Christ drink that cup; and therefore fled away when it was coming near. Thus Peter also seems to be too high minded, i about his grace and strength, when he said, “Why can. not I follow thee now? Yea, Though all men forsake thee, yet will not l.”
2. It may be considered with respect to the unregene. rate, and all the wicked and ungodly, who judge them. felves to be in a good siate, when indeed they are in a bad one. And here this felf-conceit hath especially these two parts, or two things in it. I. When men appre. hend that they want that evil, which indeed they have. 2. When they imagine they have that good which in. deed they want. . [1.] When men fuppose that they want that evil, which indeed they have; or think they are not so bad as indeed they are. Thus the Pharisee talks how free he is of common vices, Luke, xviii. II.; that he is not unjuft, nor an extortioner: and yet our Lord Jesus, who could not be deceived, charges that whole tribe with manifold enormities, Matth. xiii. 4,439. Luke si. 29, ---44, and elsewhere ; how they devoured widows' houses, through colour of long prayers; by teaching their children to starve their own parents, to offer to the altar; which, in effect, was just to fill their purse. Here was injustice and extortion; and yet, because it was more covertly carried on, and not so evident as that of the publicans and common thieves; therefore they bless themselves, as if they had been no extortioners, no unjust persons. Thus many will free themselves of pride: Why? Because they do not exceed in their apparel; and yet they may be swelled with pride and self-conceit; and discover it in many other respects. Thus