« PreviousContinue »
take them for excellences, and yield them applause; what is this but folly and dotage, tempered with iniquity ? and if it be such in regard to another, it is no less such in respect to ourselves.
If to any person we should wish things suitable, commodious, and advantageous, by obtaining which he, without any wrong or prejudice to others, might be considerably benefited, we shall herein act humanely, and like good friends; but if we desire things to him, which do not become or befit him, which will do him mischief, or which he cannot have without injury and damage to others, are we not herein notoriously unkind or unjust? The case is the same transferred to ourselves.
If we should observe any man by occurrences happening to him well improved in his condition, thriving in an honest way, prosperous in good undertakings, growing in worthy accomplishments of soul, to find satisfaction therein would be greatly laudable; and so it would be to condole, if we should see any man to fall into any grievous disaster or calamity; but should we behold a man (although in false appearance bettered, yet really) prejudiced and endamaged, (as when one is enriched by cozenage or rapine, is advanced by flattery or sycophantry, is famed for base or vain exploits, is immersed into care and trouble, is exposed to danger and temptation, is fallen into the enchantments of pleasure,) are we not, if we take pleasure therein, very silly, or very cruel ? and if we should observe good physic administered to a sick neighbor, or that he is engaged in painful exercise for his health, should it not be absurd for us to be sorry thereat? For the same reasons we are blameable if we do rejoice when that we prosper in bad courses, or enjoy sinful pleasures, or fall into dangerous temptations; if we distaste the wholesome physic of adversity dispensed by providence, or dislike the needful exercises of duty by God prescribed to us.
If we do yield our advice and aid to our neighbor, in furtherance of any design which is honest and beneficial to him, we then unquestionably do well; but if we do abet or encourage him in unjust or mischievous enterprises; if we render ourselves panders to his unlawful desires, factors for his unjust profits, complices of his wicked practices, advocates of his sins; is this
true love, is this faithful friendship? No surely; nor is it such toward ourselves, when we employ our faculties in contrivance or achievement of any unlawful designs, however satisfactory to our desires.
If we should indifferently (without regard to the laws of piety, justice, humanity, or decency) espouse the interests of any person, so that for the promoting his designs, advancing his profit, gratifying his humor or pleasure, we should violate the commands of God, we should neglect the public good, we should work injury or mischief to our neighbor ; would this dealing be allowable ? Neither would it be so, if for our own sake, in regard to our private interest, we should thus behave ourselves.
2. If we do affect to hold free, sincere, cheerful, kind conversation with any person, for mutual instruction and comfort, this is sociable and friendly; but if we maintain frothy, foul, malicious, anywise pestilent discourse, apt to corrupt, or to annoy him, this is loathsome: and so it is, if we keep such intercourse with ourselves, harboring vain, impure, unjust, uncharitable thoughts in our minds.
If we should defer regard to any man, answerable to his worth, we should thereby practise according to the good rules of humanity : but should we so affect or fancy any man that we should care for no man else, should pay no due respect, or perform any office of kindness otherwhere ; should take no man's word, or mind any man's opinion beside, nor care to converse with any other; would this be love, would it not be ridiculous fondness? It is no less, if in regard to ourselves we are so morose, surly, or neglectful.
If we should comply with any man's reasonable desire, this were fair and courteous; if we should confide in the probable assistance of any person, this were modest prudence: but if we should intirely conform our practice to the will or humor of another, against the dictates of our own reason, and to the harm of ourselves or others; would this be love, would it not rather be vile and pitiful slavery? If we should without any ground, yea against plain reason, rely on the help or direction of another, would this be love, would it not rather be wild presumption ? The same therefore it must be in us, if we in like
manner are devoted to our own will, or confident in our own ability.
If we should commend any man for good qualities or good deeds, this is honest; if we should encourage him in good undertakings, this is charitable : but to applaud his defects, to bolster him in ill practice, this is flattery and treachery; and in so doing toward others, we are not friends to ourselves, but traitors and parasites.
By such reflexions and comparisons we may, I think, competently understand the nature of that bastard self-love, which is so vicious in itself, and productive of so many vices: but more fully to display, and withal to dissuade us from this vice, I shall particularly insist on the common sorts thereof, showing the peculiar unreasonableness of each, and the mischiefs consequent from it. They are indeed usually combined and complicated in practice, and have much affinity both in their nature and fruit; but I shall, as well as I can, abstract them one from the other, and so treat on them distinctly; they are these : self-conceit, self-confidence, self-complacence, self-will, selfinterest. These I shall handle in the following discourses.
SUMMARY OF SERMON LXI.
II TIMOTHY, CHAP. III.-VERSE 2.
The first and most radical kind of self-love is self-conceitedness : this consists in several acts or instances.
Sometimes in our imagination we assume to ourselves perfections not belonging to us, in kind or degree : this point enlarged on.
Sometimes we make vain judgments on the things we possess, prizing them beyond their true worth and merit, and consequently overvaluing ourselves on their account. There is indeed no way wherein we do not thus impose on ourselves, either assuming false, or misrating true advantages, so that our minds become stuffed with fantastic imaginations, instead of wise and sober thoughts, and we misbehave ourselves towards ourselves, &c. ; which will appear more plainly if we consider the several objects or matters in which self-conceit is exercised : there are especially three; intellectual endowments; moral qualities; advantages of body, fortune, and outward state.
We are apt to conceit ourselves on presumption of our intellectual endowments or capacities, whether natural, or acquired, especially of that which is called wisdom, which in a manner comprehends the rest, and manages them : on this we are prone to pride ourselves greatly, and to consider that it is presumption, temerity, and rudeness hardly pardonable to contest our dictates: yet this practice is often prohibited and blamed in Scripture. Be not wise in thine own eyes, saith the wise man; and be not wise in your own conceits, saith the Apostle. The
great reasonableness of which precepts will appear by considering the absurdity and inconveniences of the practice which
If we reflect either on the common nature of men, or on our own constitution, we cannot but find conceit of our wisdom to be very absurd ; for how can we take ourselves for wise, if we observe the great blindness of our mind, and the feebleness of human reason by many palpable arguments discovering itself ? if we mark how painful is the search, and how difficult the com-, prehension of any truth; bow narrow is the horizon of our knowlege, and how answerably to all this it is declared in holy writ, that the Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity ; &c. If also a man particularly reflects on himself, the same will appear; for every man will discover in himself peculiar impediments to wisdom ; things apt to pervert his judgment, and obstruct his acquisition of true knowlege; so that if any man conceiteth himself to be very wise or intelligent, it is a plain sign that he is very ignorant, and understands little to any purpose. So it is if we consider ourselves singly; and it is more so in comparison with others : for what ground can a man have for arrogating to himself a peculiarity of wisdom or judgment, when all men have the same parts and faculties of soul, the same means and opportunities of improvement, &c.? This point enlarged on.
Such conceit therefore is very absurd, and produces great inconveniences.
It is a great bar to the acquiring true wisdom, to the receiving instruction and right information about things; for he that takes bimself to be incomparably wise, will scorn to be taught. It renders men in doubtful or difficult cases unwilling to seek, and unapt to take advice. It renders them very rash and precipitate in judging: whence also they persist obstinately and incorrigibly in error ; for what reason can be efficacious to reclaim him whose opinion is the greater reason? It renders