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cerning yourselves that you have to know. If yet you say that you have no sin, you deceive yourselves. If yet you think you are past all danger, your danger is the greater for this mistake. As much as you have been humbled for sin; as much as you have loathed it; as often as you have confessed it, lamented it, and complained and prayed against it, yet it is alive: though it be mortified, it is alive. It is said to be mortified as to the prevalency and reign, but the relics of it yet survive: were it perfectly dead, you were perfectly delivered from it, and might say, you have no sin: but it is not yet so happy with you. It will find work for the blood and Spirit of Christ, and for yourselves, as long as you are in the flesh. And, alas, too many that know themselves to be upright in the main, are yet so much unacquainted with their hearts and lives, as to the degrees of grace and sin, as that it much disadvantageth them in their Christian progress. Go along with me in the careful observation of these following evils, that may befal even the regenerate by the remnants of self-ignorance.
1. The work of mortification is very much hindered, because you know yourselves no better, as may appear in all these following discoveries.
(1.) You confess not sin to God or man so penitently and sensibly as you ought, because you know yourselves no better. Did you see your inside with a fuller view, how deeply would you aggravate your sin! how heavily would you charge yourselves! repentance would be more intense and more effectual; and when you were more contrite, you would be more meet for the sense of pardon, and for God's delight. (Isa. li. 15; lxvi. 2.) It would fill you more with godly shame and self-abhorrence, if you better knew yourselves. It would make you more sensibly say with Paul, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" (Rom. vii. 23, 24.) And with David, "I will declare my iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. They are more than the hairs of my head. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." (Psal. xxxviii. 18; xl. 12; xxxii. 5.) Repen
tance is the death of sin: and the knowledge of ourselves, and the sight of our sins is the life of repentance.
(2.) You pray not against sin, for grace and pardon, so earnestly as you should, because you know yourselves no better. O that God would but open these too-close hearts unto us, and anatomize the relics of the old man, and show us all the recesses of our self-deceit, and the filth of worldliness, and carnal inclinations that lurk within us, and read us a lecture upon every part; what prayers would it teach us to indite! That you may not be proud of your holiness, let me tell you, Christians, that a full display of the corruptions that the best of you carry about you, would not only take down self-exalting thoughts, that you be not lifted up above measure, but would teach you to pray with fervour and importunity, and waken you out of your sleepy indifference, and make you cry, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me!" If the sight of a lazar, or cripple, or naked person, move you to compassion, though they use no words: if the sight of a man that is gasping for want of your relief, will affect you: surely the sight of your own deformities, wants and dangers, would affect you if you saw them as they are. How many a sin do you forget in your confessions that should have a particular repentance! And how many wants do you overlook in prayers, that should have particular petitions for a merciful supply! And how many are lightly touched, and run over with words of course, that would be earnestly insisted on, if you did but better know yourselves! O that God would persuade you better to study your hearts, and pray out of that book whenever you draw nigh to him, that you might not be so like the hypocrites, that draw near to him with the lips, when their hearts are far from him. To my shame I must confess, that my soul is too dry and barren in holy supplications to God, and too little affected with my confessed sins and wants: but I am forced to lay all in a very great measure upon the imperfect acquaintance that I have at home: I cannot think I should want matter to pour out before the Lord in confession and petition, nor so much want fervour and earnestness with God, if my heart and life lay open to my view, while I am upon my knees.
(3.) It is for want of a fuller knowledge of yourselves that you are so negligent in your Christian watch, that you do
no better guard your senses; that you make no stricter a covenant with your eyes, your appetites, your tongues: that you no more examine what you think, affect and say: what passeth in your heart and out of it: that you call not yourselves more frequently to account; but days run on, and duties are carelessly performed as of course, and no daily or weekly reckoning made to conscience of all. The knowledge of your weaknesses, and readiness to yield, and of your treacherous corruptions that comply with the enemy, would make you more suspicious of yourselves, and to walk more "circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,” (Eph. v. 15,) and to look under your feet, and consider your ways before you were too bold and venturous. It was the consciousness of their own infirmity, that should have moved the disciples to watch and pray. "Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. xxvi. 41.) And all have the same charge, because all have the same infirmity and danger. "What I say to you, I say unto all, Watch." (Mark xiii. 37.) Did we better know how many advantages our own corruptions give the tempter, that charge of the Holy Ghost would awake us all to stand to our arms and look about us: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith: quit you like men, be strong." (1 Cor. xvi. 13.) "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil: for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," &c. (Eph. vi. 11–14.) When men know not whose legs they stand upon, they grow heedless of their way, and quickly slide.
The knowledge of ourselves doth show us all the advantages of the tempter: what he hath to work upon, and what in us to take his part, and consequently where he is most likely to assault us: and so puts us into so prepared a posture for defence, as very much hindereth his success. But so far as we do not know ourselves, we are like blind men in fencing, that the adversary may hit in what part he please: we have so many hidden enemies in our houses, as will quickly open the door to more. What sin may not Satan tempt a man into, that is not acquainted with the corruptions and frailties of his own heart!
(4.) It is for want of self-acquaintance that we make not
out for help against our sin to ministers or other friends that could assist us: and that we use the confirming ordinances with no more care and diligence. All the abilities and willingness of others, and all the helps of God's appointment, will be neglected, when we should employ them against our sins, so far as self-ignorance doth keep us from discerning the necessity of them.
(5.) It is for want of a fuller knowledge of ourselves, that many lie long in sins unobserved by themselves and many are on the declining hand, and take no notice of it. And how little resistance or mortifying endeavours we are likely to bestow upon unknown or unobserved sins, is easy to conceive. How many may we observe to have notable blemishes of pride, ostentation, desire of pre-eminence and esteem, envy, malice, self-conceitedness, self-seeking, censoriousness, uncharitableness, and such like, that see no more of it in themselves, than is in more mortified men! How ordinarily do we hear the pastors that watch over them, and their friends that are best acquainted with them, lamenting the miscarriages, and the careless walking and declining of many that seem religious, when they lament it not themselves, nor will be convinced that they are sick of any such disease, any more than all other Christians are! Hence comes the stiffness of too many such, against all that can be said to humble and reform them and that they are so impatient of reproof, and think reprovers do them wrong; and it is well if it abate not Christian love, and procure not some degree of hatred or displeasure. Like a man that is entering into a consumption, and takes it for an injury to be told so, till his languishing and decay convince him. Hence it is that we have all need to lament in general our unknown sins, and say with David, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults." (Psal. xix. 12.) Hence it is that we can seldom tell men of the most discernible faults, but they meet us with excuses, and justify themselves.
There are few of us, I think, that observe our hearts at all, but find both upon any special illumination, and in the hour of discovering trials, that there were many distempers in our hearts, and many miscarriages in our lives, that we never took notice of before. The heart hath such secret corners of uncleanness, such mysteries of iniquity, and depths of deceitfulness, that many fearing God, are strangely
unacquainted with themselves, as to the particular motions and degrees of sin, till some notable providence, or gracious light assist them in the discovery. I think it not unprofitable here to give you some instances, of sin undiscerned by the servants of the Lord themselves that have it, till the light come in that makes them wonder at their former darkness.
In general, first observe these two. 1. The secret habits of sin, being discernible only by some acts, are many times unknown to us, because we are under no strong temptation to commit those sins. And it is a wonderful hard thing for a man that hath little or no temptation to know himself, and know what he should do, if he had the temptations of other men. And O, what sad discoveries are made in the hour of temptation! What swarms of vice break out in some, like vermin, that lay hid in the cold of winter, and crawl about when they feel the summer's heat! What horrid corruptions which we never observed in ourselves before, do show themselves in the hour of temptation! Who would have thought that righteous Noah had in the ark such a heart, as would by carelessness fall into the sin of drunkenness! Or that righteous Lot had carried from Sodom the seed of drunkenness and incest in him! Or that David, a man so eminent in holiness, and a man after God's own heart, had a heart that had in it the seeds of adultery and murder! Little thought Peter, when he professed Christ, (Matt. xvi. 16,) that there had been in him such carnality and unbelief, as would so soon have provoked Christ to say, "Get thee behind me Satan, thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men," (ver. 22, 23.) And little did he think when he so vehemently professed his resolution rather to die with Christ than deny him, that there had been then in his heart the seed that would bring forth this bitter fruit. (Matt. xxvi. 74, 75.) Who knows what is virtually in a seed, that never saw the tree, or tasted of the fruit?
Especially when we have not only a freedom from temptations, but also the most powerful means to keep under vicious habits, it is hard to know how far they are mortified at the root. When men are among those that countenance the contrary virtue, and where the vice is in disgrace, and where examples of piety and temperance are still before their eyes: if they dwell in such places and company, where au