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gerous; for who is in more danger than he that is blind and will be blind? that is willing to be cheated by Satan, and himself. This is the patient. Now what his disease is, and the dangerousness of it, the apostle tells us: "He thinks himself to be something, and he is nothing." This is the patient to be cured, and that is his disease, than which none more common: for there is not the worst of men, but will say, I thank God I am something, and I am not half so bad as the preacher would make me, I have some good thing in me.
Now this his disease stands in two things.
1. That he is nothing.
2. That he thinks himself to be something.
1. He is nothing. And for a man to be brought before God's judgment-seat, and have nothing to answer, how will it fare with him then? But yet this man cannot but think, he is something: well then, something he is, but nothing to the purpose: as we say of an idol, An idol is nothing in the world: that is, nothing that can help, or succour those that bow to it, and adore it, nothing that can relieve the worshipper of it. An idol is something indeed, for it is silver, or gold, or brass, or stone, &c. But it is nothing that can plead for a man when he holds up his hand at God's bar.
2. "He thinks himself to be something, though he be nothing:" He thinks he shall come to heaven, though he be not in the way; as the foolish virgins, that thought they should be let in, feared not the contrary, till they came to the marriage chamber doore. So these men walk in their way all their life, and yet fear not entrance into heaven, till they receive sentence to the contrary. If these men knew themselves to be nothing, they would seek something for themselves; but now they are nothing, though they think themselves something. This is the disease.
2. The remedy is in the next verse, "Let him prove his own work.' Let him view himself in a true glass, and
e Matth. chap. 25. ver. 11.
that is the point we shall insist on. If then we provide, that Satan shall not delude us in deferring, and putting off our repentance; so let us also provide, that he deceive us not with a false conceit of our ways and estate; that we may not make ourselves something, when we are nothing. Therefore let us see what false glasses they are, that men get to themselves. If Satan bring us to have a good opinion of ourselves, and our condition, and persuade us, that it is not with us, as precise preachers tell us; that it is no such matter to go to heaven, but that it may be done with less pains and more ease: when, I say, Satan lulls a man asleep with such plausible things as these, he hath him where he would have him. Why then no marvel, if this man like his ways, when he looks upon them with false glasses.
1. The first false glass is self-love, and the property of love is to make the good things in the party it loves very great, and the vices very little, self-love represents nothing in its true shape. The apostle speaking of the latter days, saith, "There' shall be perilous times:" and wherein lieth the peril? "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." As if he had said, that is one of the worst perils, for a man to have a great conceit of himself. If one be sick of this disease, it will so blind him, that he shall never see a thing in its right place: we may see it by the contrary in the want of love. Suppose it in the case of a malignant neighbour, for example; he that is full of malice and envy towards his neighbour, (consider what a false glass this is,) will never want matter of quarrel against him. The man that wants love, see how the good and bad deeds of his neighbour shew themselves to him: when he looks on the good actions of his neighbour, they appear but very small, he is always abridging and contracting his virtues and good things, making them seem less than indeed they are. On the other side, all things he sees amiss in him, this want of love makes them far greater than they are. Love breeds the contrary; when
2 Tim. chap. 3.
a man loves himself, his good things seem very great, and his evil things very small, those he abridges and contracts; and hereupon is that instance brought of the Jews. "Thinkest thou, O man, that judgest them that do such things, that thou shalt escape," &c. When such a man looks upon his own sins, they appear small to him; but when on the infirmities of others, they seem very great. With one eye he looks on himself, with another on his neighbour. This man perchance is a drunkard as well as his neighbour, covetous, as well as him, yet he concludes them great evils in his neighbour, but extenuates them within himself: self love causes this difference. As long as this sways us, that we love things, because they are our own, we shall never be able to guess at our own condition. If another man should look on you both, would he not account thee partial? If a man hath a son or daughter, though they be not so wise or beautiful as another man's, yet he delights in them as much as if they were, he loves them because they are his own. man be born in a barren country, he will praise it most, not because there is none so good, but because he loves it best, it is his own country. Thou wilt never be a good judge of thine own estate if thou viewest thyself in this false glass, for it will easily deceive a man.
True, I know self love is a deceitful glass, and looking therein, a man will be favourable to himself, and so deceive himself, for it renders things in a bigger shape than in truth and reality they are. But
2. I thank God, my neighbours also, and all others that know me, speak well of me. I have not only a good conceit of myself, but every man about me can speak well of me, cannot say, "black is mine eye." I have a good report of all men. But if this were enough and sufficient to assure thee of the goodness of thy estate, it were well, but it is not enough. True it is, a good report from men for fair and honest dealing is not to be despised; yet it will do no good, unless thou have it from God. It was
Rom. chap. 2. ver. 3.
one of the happinesses of our Saviour, that he was in favour with God and men; it was with God too as well as men. When both meet together, it is well indeed. Demetrius, in John, chap. III. ver. 12. we read, "had a good report of all men, and of the truth itself." To have a good report from men, and also from the truth, is an happy thing; but having it not from the truth, "Wo to us, when all men speak well of us." What folly is it to rest upon a good report from men, when I have it not from the truth? The like madness it is, as for a man to trust in the absolution of his fellow-prisoners, when the law of the land condemns him. Shall a sick man be so mad as to say he is well, because others say so? as if we should seek ourselves out of ourselves. No, "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself and not in another." "He is a Jew, which is one inwardly, whose praise is not of men but of God." Not as if this did discommon, or turn out the praise of men; but it is comparatively spoken, and it is meant, whose praise is not so much of men as of God. So that this is the second false glass, when a man concludes himself to be in a good estate because men praise him, thinks it well with him, because others think so, and say so. He hath a good opinion of himself, but that is not all, other men give him a good report too. And this follows the former: for a man needs never fear flattery from others, that doth not flatter himself.
But these are not my only grounds that I have so good an opinion of myself, and that others speak well of me, but when I compare myself with others and I find wherein I may rejoice. So that this is the
3. Third glass, when a man compares himself with others, and himself.
1. When he compares himself with others. I thank God, saith he, I am better than twenty of my neighbours; I know this man that follows such courses, and another lives in such a foul sin. Sure, saith he, I am not such a
Rom. chap. 2. ver. 29.
sinner as these, therefore I am happy, and I doubt not room in heaven. This is the cause that the Pharisee went home unjustified, because, looking on other men, he justified himself: "God I thank thee I am not as other men, no extortioner," &c. This fellow is so far from begging any thing of God, that he fills up his time with thanksgiving, he thinks he wants nothing, and that is his error; he looks on other men, and compares himself with them, and thence concludes he is well enough, because he is not so bad as this or that man. This is the common deceit, when men take this for a rule, that because they are not so bad as the off-scouring of the world, but are better than the ordinary sort of men, therefore they suppose they are very well, or as well as they need to be. As if a sick man should say, I am not so sick as such a man, who is at the point of death, therefore I am very well. I would desire such men, that as they look on those that are under them, so they would a little cast up their eyes on those that are above them. When you look on the publican, this and that man, and bless yourselves, because you are not so bad as these, who perchance are before you in points of morality: if you stand on comparisons, look on those that are above you, that go beyond you in grace and zeal, and look not so much on the sins of others as your own: another man's sins may condemn him, they cannot save thee. When a thief and a murderer are both arraigned at the bar for their lives, will the thief say to the murderer thy sin is the greater, thy fault is of an higher nature, therefore I shall be saved, because mine is not heinous, when they both are punishable with death? The fault of another will not make thy case better. It is no point of justification, thus to deceive thyself, and to conclude because another is worse than thee, that therefore thy estate is blessed. So we see the degrees of false glasses. Self love, or self conceit: then a good opinion of men and conferring a man's self with some others. He is better than they, therefore his estate is good. An absurd conclusion; the devil will mightily insult over such as he can so easily deceive.