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OF VAIN-GLORY, ARROGANCE, TALKING AND THINKING OF ONE'S SELF.
II TIMOTHY, CHAP. III.-VERSE 2.
For men shall be lovers of themselves, &c.
WHEN a regard to the opinion or desire of the esteem of men is the main principle from which their actions do proceed, or the chief end which they propound to themselves, instead of conscience of duty, love and reverence of God, hope of the rewards promised, a sober regard to their true good, this is vainglory. Such was the vain-glory of the pharisees, who fasted, who prayed, who gave alms, who did all their works that they might be seen of men,' and from them obtain the reward of estimation and applause: this is that which St. Paul forbiddeth; Let nothing be done out of strife or vain-glory.'
When men affect and delight in praise from mean or indifferent things; as from secular dignity, power, wealth, strength, beauty, wit, learning, eloquence, wisdom, or craft: as, There are many,' saith the psalmist, that boast themselves in the multitude of their riches.' Nebuchadnezzar was raised with the conceit of having built a palace for the glory of his majesty, Herod was puffed with applause for his oration, the philosophers were vain in the esteem procured by their pretence to wisdom, the Pharisees were elevated with the praise accruing from external acts of piety, (fasting twice a week, making long
prayers, tithing mint and cumin ;) all which things being in themselves of little worth, the affecting of praise from them is manifestly frivolous and vain. Honor should be affected only from true virtue and really good works.
Those who seek glory from evil things, (who glory in their shame,') from presumptuous transgression of God's law, (hectorly profaneness and debauchery,) from outrageous violence, from overreaching craft, or from any bad quality, are not only vain-glorious, but impudent.
When men affect praise immoderately, not being content with that measure of good reputation which naturally doth arise from a virtuous and blameless life.
As all other goods, so this should be affected moderately. It is not worth industry, or a direct aim.
When they are unwilling to part with the esteem of men on any account, but rather will desert their duty than endure disgrace, prizing the opinion of men before the favor and approbation of God; as it is said of those rulers, who believed in our Lord, but because of the pharisees did not confess him, that they might not be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the glory of men, rather than the glory that is of God;' and those to whom our Saviour said, How can ye believe, who receive glory from one another, but do not seek the glory that is of -God?'
When they pursue it irregularly, are cunning and politic to procure it, hunt for it in oblique ways, lay gins, traps, and baits for it; such are ostentation of things commendable, fair speeches, kind looks and gestures, devoid of sincerity, &c. Such ways ambitious and popular men do use. This practice is on many accounts vain and culpable, and it produceth great inconvenience.
1. It is vain, because unprofitable. Is it not a foolish thing for a man to affect that which little concerneth him to have, which having he is not considerably benefited? Such manifestly is the good opinion of men; how doth that reach us?
feel the commotions of their fancy? doth their breath blow us any good?
2. It is vain, because uncertain. How easily are the judg ments of men altered! how fickle are their conceits! the wind
of heaven is not more fleeting and variable than the wind of popular air. In a trice the case is turned with them; they admire and scorn, they approve and condemn, they applaud and reproach, they court and persecute the same person, as their fancy is casually moved, or as fortune doth favor a person. Histories are full of instances of persons who have been now the favorites of the people, presently the objects of their hatred and obloquy.
3. It is vain, because unsatisfactory. How can a man be satisfied with the opinion of bad judges; who esteem a man without good grounds, commonly for things not deserving regard; who cannot discern those things which really deserve esteem, good principles and honest intention? These only God can know, these only wise and good men can well guess at: it is therefore vain much to prize any judgment but that of God and of wise men, which are but few. Praise becometh not the mouth of a fool.'
How also can a man rationally be pleased with the commendation of others, who is sensible of his so great defects, and conscious to himself of so many miscarriages? which considering, he should be ashamed to receive, he should in himself blush to own any praise.
4. It is vain, because fond. It is ugly and unseemly to men; they despise nothing more than acting out of this principle. It misbecometh a man to perform things for so pitiful a reward, or to look on it as a valuable recompense for his performances, there being considerations so vastly greater to induce and encourage him; the satisfaction of conscience, the pleasing God, and procuring his favor; the obtaining eternal happiness.
5. It is vain, because unjust. If we seek glory to ourselves, we wrong God thereby, to whom the glory thereof is due. If there be in us any natural endowment considerable, (strength, beauty, wit,) it is from God, the author of our being and life: is there any supervenient or acquisite perfection, (as skill, knowlege, wisdom;) it is from God, who gave us the means and opportunities of getting it, who guided our proceeding and blessed our industry is there any advantage of fortune belonging to us, (as dignity, power, wealth;) it is the gift of God, who dispenseth these things, who disposeth all things by his
providence: is there any virtuous disposition in us, or any good work performed by us; it is the production of God, who worketh in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure:' have we any good that we can call our own, that we have independently and absolutely made or purchased to ourselves; if not any, why do we assume to ourselves the glory of it, as if we were its makers or authors? it is St. Paul's expostulation : 'Who made thee to differ? what hast thou, which thou didst not receive? and if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?'
This is that which maketh this vice so odious to God, who is sensible of the injury done him, in robbing him of his due honor how sensible he is he showed in that great instance of smiting Herod with a miraculous vengeance; because he did not give the glory to God,' but arrogated glory to himself, receiving with complacence the profane flatteries of the people. He hath said, I will not give my glory to another.'
6. It is vain, because mischievous. It corrupteth our mind with a lewd pleasure, which choketh the purer pleasures of a good conscience, spiritual joy and peace.
It incenseth God's displeasure, who cannot endure to see us act out of so mean and base a principle.
It depriveth us of the reward due to good works, performed out of pure conscience, and other genuine principles of piety. Απέχουσι τὸν μισθὸν ‘They have their reward.
7. It is vain, because unbeseeming us. It is observable, that the word
signifieth to praise or
applaud, and also to infatuate or make mad.
Glory doth sit unhandsomely on us, who are so weak and frail, who are so impure and sinful, who are so liable to reproach and blame it is like purple on a beggar-a panegyric on a fly. When all is said that can be well of us, we are ridiculous, because a thousand times more might be said to our disparagement and disgrace. For one good quality we have many bad, for one good deed we have done numberless evil. The best things we have or do, yield greater matter of dispraise than commendation, being full of imperfection and blemish.
Absolutely so; comparatively much more; what are we in comparison to God; whose excellency if we consider, and our
distance from his perfections, how can we admit commendation? how can we take any share of that which is wholly his due?
If we consider even the blessed angels and saints, and how far short we come of them; what can we say, but praise them who are so worthy, and abhor ourselves who are so vile?
Seeing there are such objects of praise, how can it be conferred on a mortal, vile, wretched creature?
When a man (puffed up with conceit of his own abilities, or unmeasurably affecting himself) doth assume to himself that which doth not belong to him; (more than in reason and justice is his due in any kind, more honor, more power, more wisdom, &c.)
When he encroacheth on the rights, invadeth the liberties, intrudeth into the offices, intermeddleth with the businesses, imposeth on the judgments of others. When he will be advising, teaching, guiding, checking, controlling others, without their leave or liking.
When he will unduly be exercising judgment and censure on the persons, qualities, and actions of his neighbor.
These are instances and arguments of vicious self-love. He that doth rightly understand and duly affect himself will contain himself within his own bounds, will mind his own affairs, will suffer every man undisturbedly to use his own right and liberty in judging and acting.
The effects of this practice are, dissensions, dissatisfactions, grudges, &c. for men cannot endure such fond and unjust usurpations on their rights, their liberties, their reputations.
OF TALKING OF ONE'S SELF.
Пepiauroλoyia, talking about one's self is an effect and manifest sign of immoderate self-love.
It may seem a very slender and particular matter, but is of great use to be considered and corrected.
To talk much of one's self, of his own qualities, of his concernments, of his actions, so as either downrightly to commend one's self, or obliquely to insinuate grounds of commendation;