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men peevish and morose; also insolent and imperious in dictating, and in imposing their conceits on others. Hence they become censorious of those who do not agree with their notions, and also intolerably pragmatical by obtruding their advice on others.
2. Again, we are apt to prize highly and vainly our moral qualities and performances, taking ourselves for persons of extraordinary goodness, without defects or blemishes; which practice is both foolish and mischievous.
It is very foolish; for such is the imperfection and impurity of all men, even of the best, that no man who strictly searches his heart can have reason to be satisfied with himself or his doings.
Who, it may be asked, loves God with all his soul, so as to place in him his whole delight, and do all things to his honor, and for his love? This topic enlarged on. There have been some sects (such as the Novatians and Pelagians) who have pretended to perfection of purity: these shown to have formed very false notions of themselves, or of Scripture. Every man is in some degree bad and sinful; conceit therefore of our virtue is very foolish; and it breeds great mischiefs.
Hence springs a great security and carelessness of correcting our faults: hence also a contempt of any means conducive to our amendment, such as good advice and wholesome reproof, &c.
It breeds arrogance and presumption even in our devotions or addresses to God, like that of the conceited Pharisee also a haughty contempt of others, venting itself in a supercilious demeanor it disposes men to expect more than ordinary regard from others; and as it causes a man to behave himself untowardly to them, so thence he behaves unseemingly towards himself, of whom he becomes a minion, flatterer, and profane idolater. Farther,
3. Self-conceit is also frequently grounded on other inferior
advantages; on gifts of nature, or of fortune: but seeing, as it has been before observed, that these things are in themselves of little value, and serving no great purpose; seeing they are not commendable, as proceeding from chance; seeing they are not durable or certain, but easily may be severed from us, the vanity of self-conceit founded on them is so notorious, that it needed not be more insisted on. Conclusion.
II TIMOTHY, CHAP. III.-VERSE 2.
For men shall be lovers of themselves, &c.
I. THE first and most radical kind of vicious self-love is self-conceitedness; that which St. Paul calleth rò væepppoveiv, to overween, or to think highly of one's self, beyond what he ought to think.' This doth consist in several acts or instances.
Sometimes we in our imagination assume to ourselves perfections not belonging to us, in kind or in degree; we take ourselves to be other men than we are; to be wise, to be good, to be happy, when we are not so; at least to be far wiser, better, and happier than we are. The pleasure naturally springing from a good opinion of ourselves doth often so blind our eyes and pervert our judgment, that we see in us what is not there, or see it magnified and transformed into another shape than its own; any appearance doth suffice to produce such mistakes, and having once entertained them, we are unwilling to depose them; we cannot endure by severe reflexion on ourselves to correct such pleasant errors; hence commonly we presume ourselves to be very considerable, very excellent, very extraordinary persons, when in truth we are very mean and worthless: so did St. Paul suppose when he said, If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself;' such was the case of that church in the Apocalypse; Thou sayest I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of
nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable;' they were like men in a dream, or in a frenzy, who take themselves for great and wealthy persons, when indeed they are in a sorry and beggarly condition: into the like extravagances of mistake we are all likely to fall, if we do not very carefully and impartially examine and study ourselves.
Again; sometimes we make vain judgments on the things we do possess, prizing them much beyond their true worth and merit; consequently overvaluing ourselves for them; the most trivial and pitiful things (things which in themselves have no worth, but are mere tools, and commonly serve bad purposes; things which do not render our souls anywise better, which do not breed any real content, which do not conduce to our welfare and happiness) we value at a monstrous rate, as if they were the most excellent and admirable things in the world. Have we wit? how witless are we in prizing it, or ourselves for it; although we employ it to no good end, not serving God, not benefiting men, not furthering our own good, or anywise bettering our condition with it; although we no otherwise use it, than vainly to please ourselves or others, that is, to act the part of fools or buffoons. Have we learning or knowlege? then are we rare persons; not considering that many a bad, many a wretched person, hath had much more than we, who hath used it to the abuse of others, to the torment of himself; that hell may be full of learned scribes and subtile disputers, of eloquent orators and profound philosophers; who when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened;' not considering also how very defective our knowlege is, how mixed with error and darkness; how useless and vain, yea how pernicious it is, if not sanctified by God's grace, and managed to his service. Have we riches? then are we brave men, as fine and glorious in our conceit as in our outward attire; although the veriest fools, the basest and most miserable of men, that go on the ground, do exceed us therein; although, as Aristotle saith, Most either not use it, or abuse it;' although our wealth affordeth us no real benefit or comfort, but exposeth us to numberless snares, temptations, and mischiefs; although it hath no stability, but easily may be taken from us.
Have we reputation? how doth that make us highly to repute ourselves in a slavish imitation of others! yet nothing is less substantial, nothing is less felt, nothing is so easily lost, nothing is more brittle and slippery than it; a bubble is not sooner broken, or a wave sunk, than is the opinion of men altered concerning us. Have we power? what doth more raise our minds! yet what is that commonly but a dangerous instrument of mischief to others, and of ruin to ourselves; at least an engagement to care and trouble? What but that did render Caligula, Nero, and Domitian so hurtful to others, so unhappy themselves? what but that hath filled the world with disasters, and turned all history into tragedy? Have we prosperous success in our affairs? then we boast and triumph in our hearts; not remembering what the wise man saith, The prosperity of fools destroyeth them ;' and that experience showeth, prosperity doth usually either find or make us fools; that the wisest men (as Solomon) the best men (as Hezekiah), have been befooled by it: thus are we apt to overvalue our things, and ourselves for them.
There is no way indeed wherein we do not thus impose on ourselves, either assuming false, or misrating true advantages: the general ill consequences of which misdemeanor are, that our minds are stuffed with dreams and fantastic imaginations, instead of wise and sober thoughts; that we misbehave ourselves toward ourselves, treating ourselves like other men than we are, with unseemly regard; that we expect other men should have like opinions, and yield answerable deferences to us; and are, if we find it otherwise, grievously offended; that we are apt to despise or disregard others, demeaning ourselves insolently and fastuously toward them; that we are apt to seek and undertake things, which we cannot attain or achieve; that we neglect the succors needful to help or comfort us, and the like which will appear more plainly by considering the several objects or matters in which self-conceit is exercised; they are especially three: intellectual endowments; moral qualities; advantages of body, fortune, and outward state.'
1. We are apt to conceit highly of ourselves on presumption of our intellectual endowments or capacities, whether natural (as wit, fancy, memory, judgment) or acquired, (as learning, skill, experience,) especially of that which is called