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xxvi. 7.) The life of faith doth set us so much above the fear of man, and shew us the weakness and nothingness of mortal worms, and the faithfulness and all-sufficiency of God, that one would think the frowns and threatenings of a man should signify nothing to us, when God stands by, and giveth us such ample promises and security for our confirmation and encouragement: and yet what base dejectedness, and sinful compliances are many brought to, through the fear of man, that before the hour of this temptation,' could talk as courageously as any! This was the case of Peter, before-mentioned, and of many a one that hath a wounded conscience, and wronged their profession by too cowardly a disposition; which if it where foreknown, wel might do more for our confirmation, and should betake ourselves in time to Christ, in the use of means for strength. Few turn their backs on Christ, or a good cause in time of trial, that are jealous of themselves beforehand, and afraid lest they should forsake him: Few fall that are afraid of falling but the self-ignorant and self-confident are careless of their way, and it is they that fall.
6. Another instance that I may give you, is, in the un-` expected appearances of pride in those that yet are truly humble. Humility speaks in their confessions, aggravating their sin, and searching heart and life for matter of self-accusation: they call themselves "Less than the least of all God's mercies." They are ready, with the woman of Canaan, (Matt. xv. 27,) even to own the name of dogs, and to confess themselves unworthy of the children's crumbs, and unworthy to tread upon the common earth, or to breathe in the air, or to live upon the patience and provisions of God: they will spend whole hours, and days of humiliation, in confessing their sin, and bewailing their weaknesses and want of grace, and lamenting their desert of misery. They are often cast down so much too low, that they dare not own the title of God's children, nor any of his special grace, but take themselves for mere unsanctified, hardened sinners; and all that can be said, will not convince them that they have any saving interest in Christ, nor hinder them from pouring out unjust accusations against themselves. And all this is done by them in the uprightness of their hearts, and not dissemblingly. And yet would you think, that with all this humility, there should be any pride? and that the same persons
should lift up themselves and resist their helps to further humiliation? Do they think in their dejections, that it is in their hearts so much to exalt themselves? I confess many of them are sensible of their pride, even to the increase of their humility; and as it is said of Hezekiah, "do humble themselves for the pride of their hearts, so that God's wrath doth not come upon them." (2 Chron. xxxii. 26.) But yet too few are so well acquainted with the power and rootedness of this sin at the heart, and the workings of it in the hour of temptation, as they should be. Observe it but at such times at these, and you will see that break forth, that before appeared not. 1. When we are undervalued and slighted, and meaner persons preferred before us; and when our words and judgments are made light of, and our parts thought to be poor and low; when any blot or dishonour is cast upon us, deserved or undeserved; when we are slandered or reproached, and used with despite: What a matter do we make of it, and how much then doth our pride appear in our distaste, and offence, and impatience! So that the same person that can pour out words of blame and shame against himself, cannot bear half as much from others, without displeasure and disquietness of mind. It would help us much to know this by ourselves, in the time of our humility, that we may be engaged to more watchfulness and resistance of our pride.
2. When we are reproved of any disgraceful sin, how hardly goes it down, and how many excuses have we! How seldom are we brought to downright penitent confessions! What secret distaste is apt to be rising in our hearts, against the reprover! And how seldom hath he that hearty thanks, which so great a benefit deserves! And would any think in our humiliations and large confessions unto God, that we were so proud! To know this by ourselves, would make us more suspicious and ashamed to be guilty of it.
3. When any preferment or honour is to be given, or any work to be done that is a mark of dignity, how apt are we to think ourselves as fit for it as any, and to be displeased, if the honour or employment do pass by us ! 1
4. When we are admired, applauded, or excessively esteemed and loved, how apt are we to be too much pleased with it! which sheweth a proud desire to be somebody in the world; and that there is much of this venom at the bot
tom in our hearts, even when we lay ourselves in the dust, and walk in sackcloth, and pass the heaviest judgment on ourselves.
7. Another instance of our unacquaintedness with our hearts, and the latent, undiscerned corruption of them, is our little discerning or bewailing those secret master-sins, which lie at the root of all the rest, and are the life of the old man, and the cause of all the miscarriages of our lives. As, 1. Unbelief of the truth of the Holy Scriptures, of the immortality of the soul, and the life of joy or misery hereafter, and the other articles of the Christian faith. What abundance of Christians are sensible of their unbelief, as to the applying acts of faith that tend to their assurance of their own salvation, that are little sensible of any defect in the assenting act, or of any secret root of unbelief about the truth of the Gospel revelations! And yet, alas, it is this that weakeneth all our graces: it is this that feedeth all our woe! O happy men, were we free from this! What prayers should we put up! What lives should we lead! How watchfully should we walk! With what contempt should we look on the allurements of the world! With what disdain should we think on fleshly lusts! With what indignation should we meet the tempter, and scorn his base, unreasonable motions, if we did but perfectly believe the very truth of the Gospel, and world to come! How careful and earnest should we be, to make our calling and election sure! How great a matter should we make of sin, and of helps and hindrances in the way to heaven! How much should we prefer that state of life that furthereth our salvation, before that which strengtheneth our snares by furthering our prosperity and pleasure in the world, if we were not weak or wanting in our belief of the certain verity of these things! Did we better know the badness of our hearts herein, it would engage us more in fortifying the vitals, and looking better to our foundation, and winding up this spring of faith, which must give life to all right motions of the soul.
2. How insensible are too many of the great imperfection of their love to God! What passionate complaints have we of their want of sorrow for their sin, and want of memory, and of ability to pray, &c. when their complaints for want of love to God, and more affecting knowledge of him, are so cold and customary, as shews us they little observe the
greatness of this sinful want! This is the very heart, and sum, and poison of all the sins of our soul and life. So much as a man loves God, so much he is holy: and so much he hath of the Spirit and image of Jesus Christ: and so much he hath of all saving graces: and so much he will abhor niquity; and so much he will love the commands of God. As love is the sum of the law and prophets, so should it be the sum of our care and study through all our lives to exercise and strengthen it.
3. How little are most Christians troubled for want of love to men; to brethren, neighbours and enemies! How cold are their complaints for their defects in this, in comparison of other of their complaints! But is there not cause of as deep humiliation for this sin, as almost any other? It seems to me that want of love is one of the most prevalent diseases among us, when I hear it so little seriously lamented. I often hear people say, O that we could hear more attentively and affectionately, and pray more fervently, and weep for sin more plenteously: But how seldom do I hear them say, O that we did love our brethren more ardently, and our neighbours and enemies more heartily than we do, and set ourselves to do them good! There is so little pains taken to bring the heart to the love of others, and so few and cold requests put up for it, when yet the heart is backward to it, that makes me conclude that charity is weaker in most of us than we observe. And indeed it appeareth so when it comes to trial: to that trial which Christ will judge it by at last. (Matt. xxv.) When love must be shewed by any self-denial, or costly demonstration, by parting with our food and raiment to supply the wants of others, and by hazarding ourselves for them in their distress, then see how much we love indeed! Good words cost little: So cheap an exercise of charity as is mentioned. James ii. 15, 16, “Depart in peace, be warmed, and filled," is an insufficient evidence of the life of grace, and will do as little for the soul of the giver, as for the body of the receiver. And how little hazardous or costly love is found among us, either to enemies, neighbours, or to saints! Did we better know our hearts, there would be more care and diligence used to bring them to effectual, fervent love, than to those duties that are of less importance; and we should learn what this meaneth, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice," (Matt. ix. 13; xii. 7,)
which Christ sets the Pharisees twice to learn. More instances of greatest duties extenuated I might add, but I proceed.
8. Another instance of unobserved corruption of the heart, is, the frequent and secret insinuations of selfishness in all that we do towards God or man: When we think we are serving God alone, and have cleansed our hearts from mixtures and deceit, before we are aware, self-interest, or self-esteem, or self-conceit, or self-love, or self-will, or selfseeking, do secretly creep in and mar the work. We think we are studying, and preaching, and writing purely for God, and the common good, or the benefit of souls; and perhaps little observe how subtlely selfishness insinuates, and makes a party, and biaseth us from the holy ends, and the simplicity and sincerity which we thought we had carefully maintained: So that we are studying, and preaching, and writing for ourselves, when we take no notice of it.
When we enter upon any office, or desire preferment, or riches, or honour in the world, we think we do it purely for God, to furnish us for his service, and little think how much of selfishness is in our desires.
When we are doing justice, or shewing mercy, in giving alms, or exhorting the ungodly to repent, or doing any other work of piety or charity, we little think how much of selfishness is secretly latent in the bent and intention of the heart.
When we think we are defending the truth and cause of God, by disputing, writing, or by the sword; or when we think we are faithfully maintaining on one side order and obedience against confusion and turbulent, disquiet spirits, or the unity of the church against division; or on the other hand, that we are sincerely opposing Pharisaical corruptions and hypocrisy, and tyranny, and persecution, and are defending the purity of divine worship, and the power and spirituality of religion; in all these cases we little know how much of carnal self may be secretly unobserved in the work.
But above all others, Christ himself, and the Holy Ghost that searcheth the hidden things of the heart, hath warned one sort to be suspicious of their hearts; and that is, those that cannot bear the dissent and infirmities of their brethren in tolerable things, and those that are calling for fire from