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many natural men think themselves free of many fins and gross immoralities, which take place in the genera. tion; and so, who more 'religious than they? They think they have not such and such corruptions, because they feel not the powerful operation of them ; and it is only God's reltraining hand, but no renewing grace, that makes it fo ; but a lion is no less a lion, when in furters, than when he is loose.
Tais felf-conceit; whereby men judge that they are not so bad as they are, it looks not only thus to prefent circumstances, but it looks sometimes backward, to for. mer times, saying with the Pharisees, “ If we had lived in the days of our fathers; we would not have murdered the prophets,” Matth. xxiii. 30. when yet their bloody persecution of Christ, discovered the same spirit to be in them: Even so, many will say, “ Fy upon the persecu. is ting high prielts; that crucified Christ! Fy upon Jus “ das that betrayed him! if we had been living, we ts would have taken Christ's part against the Jews; we it would have taken the Martyrs part against their perá " fecutors.” And yet their spiteful and malicious mind against the people of God, whom they mistake, reproach and misrepresent, shews that they would have been as ready, as the forwardest, to execute all these villanies and butcheries. If one had asked Herod, concerning the conduct of Ahab and Jezebel towards Élias; and what he would have done, in the like cafe; no doubt. he would have condemned them į and declared, he would never have been guilty of the like ; and yet he did the same thing to the new Elias, (viz. John, the Baptist,] that came in the spirit and power of Elias ; and so discovered that he would have done the same thing to the old Eliag... · Again, Sometimes it looks forward to future times, saying, with Hazael, when the prophet told him he would cruelly rip'up the women with child, and dash their chil. dren against the stones; 2 Kings viii. 13. " What! am I a dog ?” He thought better of himself than that ever he should break out into such wickedness. All the fons of Adam are, in their vitious qualities, worse than dogs, bears, and tygers, and there is no sin fo odious, to Ff2
which we are not inclinable ; for, original fin hath in it the seed of all other fins: hence it is, that Christ adreffes that adinonition, even to disciples, that they take heed of surfeiting and drunkennels, Luke xxi. 24. For they had in them the co'mnion poison of nature; and so were obnoxious, even to the most shameful and reproachful evils: and yet many think themselves far enough from these and such like enormous sins. What! ain I a dog, to do so and fo! Men persuade themselves, through self-conceit, that their nature is not so far ve. nomed, that it fhould break forth into such wickedness. Indeed, there may be some fins that we are not so much tempted to as others: fo Luther faid of himself, “That • he never was tempted to covetoufness.' Yet there is no fin but we may both be tenipted to, and, through temptation, even fall into, if the everlafting arms do not under-prop; this is supposed in that notive adduced, Gal. vi. I. " Brethen, if any man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are fpiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, left thou also be tempted.” We need to suspect-our own hearts, if we knew our nature; however they may be tamed by education, civility, good example, and the like. As you would readily suspect a bear, or wolf, or lion, or any fuch like beat, and be loth to trust himself to it, though never so well tamed, knowing its natural voracious dila position: even so, “He that trulleth in his own heart, is a fool; and he that leaneth to his own understanding, is not wise.” Fear even those fins which ye least sufpect, and to which you find not yourselves fo pronely carried.
[2.] Another part of self-conceit is, when they suppose they have that good, which indeed they want; and when they imagine themselves in a good state, when they are in a very bad, miserable one. This is a very fad deceit; “ He that thinketh himself to be fomething, when he is nothing, deceiveth himself,” Gal. vi. 3. And, as was formerly observed, self-conceit is felf deceit. And here we might condescend on a variety of persons who thus deceive themselves.
(1.) The rich worldling deceiveth himself, because of ( his outward prosperity : but,' though riches be the gift of Gx, yet we must confiler with what God reaches, them; whether with the right hand, in his love, or with the left-hand in his anger. I have read of a king that heaped up riches upon those whoin he molt heated; that, together with their riches, he night crush the.n with a heavy burden of cares. God puts some in10 fat pastures, that he may feed them for a day of flaughter.
(2.) Civilians deceive then selves, and think their state good, becaule they live honeitly without scandal, saying, Whose os or afs have I itolen? Wnom have I wronged? But, what fort of a religion is that, wliich confils only in hovelly towards men, while there is not allo devoti. on towards God? A negative and external religion, without something positive and internal, will never bear a person out in the light of God: “ Except your righte. ousnels exceed the righteousnels of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
(3.) Libertines deceive themselves; even these who turn the grace of God into wantonnels, and apprehend their case to be good. Why, they have been born in the church, and enjoy the privileges thereof; they have been wallıed with holy water, and fed with the spiritual manna of the word and facraments; they cry, “ The. temple of the Lord:” we have gone to church and heard fermons; yea, we believe, say they ; though yet the means of faith, the word, and powerful miniitry thereof,, are what they despile.
(4) Tne temporary believer deceives himself with a falle faith, repentance, and obedience ; apprehending it to be true faith, true repentance, true religion ; nay, hence concludes he fhall be saved ; and this is more dangerous than the former, because he thinks his argument is certain, and agreeable to the word. And, indeed, his graces may be so like the true believer's, that the most discerning Christian cannot distinguish between them; although in fact his faith fails both in the knowledge and application of it. It fails in the knowledge of it, in that it is not grounded and rooted in the testimony of the word and Spirit: and in experience, in that it is
not a heating and warming knowledge, working love in the heart to the truth known; and in that it is not humble and abasing, making him to loath and abhor him'elf. Yea, his faith fails in the application of it; in that the application of it is not mutual; the believer takes hold of Christ, because Christ takes hold of him. True faith conflicts with unbelief; the believer fiads much ado to believe, and to live by faith. The hypocrite finds it very ea!y : Satan doth not try his faith ; for he begat that prefump?uous faith in him. The true believer believes against fenfe ; and, like the woman of-Canaan, can pick comfort out of the reproachful name of a dog; and with Jonah, even in the whale's belly, look towards God's holy temple : can fee heaven in the very extremity of misery. But, in such a cale, the temporary believer's jolly confidence fails him. And so I might instance how · his repentance and obedience fail him. But however, herein the man apprehends his state good, while yet he is in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity. ;'.
There are two extremes of judging of ourselves. Some judge their state worse than it is; as when the children of God judge theinfelves to be Satan's; and their faith to be no faith, their repentance lo be no repentance, Some again, are in the other extreme, and judge better of themselves than they are, even to be the children of God, when they are Satan's; to have faith, when it is but preluinption; to have religion, when it is but hy. pocrisy. So men may be puffed up with a conceit of knowledge ; as of faith, repentance, love, and other graces : and surely, of these two, the last is molt dan. gerous, as well as the most common deceit and error. It is better for a good man to think he hath no faith, no religion; than, on the contrary, for an ill man to judge that he hath them : for, to judge the worst of ourselves, is a mean to awaken us out of security, and to stir us up to make our calling and election sure; but to judge we have grace, when we have none, this lulls us asleep, and sends us securely to hell. .
III. The third thing propofed was, To speak of the grounds, causes, and springs of this self-conceit. The
grounds of this great and epidemical distemper are many ; such as,
1. The deceitful and desperately wicked temper of the heart; for, “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and defperately wicked,” Jer. xvii. 9. , As Jacob cheated Elau out of his earthly inheritance; fo doth the hearts of the children of inen cheat them out of their eternal inheri. tance. There are many deceitful things in the world ; riches are deceitful, favour is deceitful, beauty is de. ceitful, ene:nies, are deceitful ; but the heart is deceit. ful above all things; yea, above the devil himself: and this doth in nothing more palpably appear, than in making people believe that they are going to heaven, when they are going the straight road to hell. O Sirs, do not trust your own hearts.
2. Ignarance is another cause of self-conceit. Many, through ignorance, cannot. distinguish between good and evil; but take common grace lor saving grace, as Saul took the devil for Samuel. . Many do not know or con. fider what it is that brings the soul to heaven; that they must be born again, and go thro' the paigs of the new birth, and the hardships of mortification. We must not think to lie in Delilah's lap all our days; and then betake ourselves to Abraham's bolom when wę die. Ignorance is so far from being the mother of devotion, as the Panitis affirm, that it is the mother of pride and preluniption, ļ. Thou thoughtest that thou wait rich, and increased in goods: Why? Thou knewest not that thou art poor, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked,? Rev. jij. 17. Men are proud, because they know not their inisery ; it is impoffible that a man, who truly knoweth his misery should be proud. True, the apolle faith, “ Knowledge pufferh up;'? that is, unsanctified koowledge, notional knowledge; but true knowledge humbleth ; and none more proud and arrogant than the brutishly ignorant man. I will get you an ignorant man, that will truly imagine. he can keep the whole law: " All these things have I done from my youth up; what lake I yet?”,'
3. Negligence and sloth is another cause of pride and felf-conceit. Many are at no pains to consider where their landing shall be, when the fhadows of the everlastFf4