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be reproved," (John iii. 19, 20.) And thus while men are so tender of themselves, that they will do nothing that troubleth or hurteth them at the present, they venture upon all the miseries that they are forewarned of.
Direct. 2. Be not unreasonably tender of a little disturbance at the present, nor unbelievingly careless of the misery to come. Cannot you endure to know your sin and misery, and yet can you endure to bear it? Will you go to hell for fear of knowing that you are in the way? Must you not know it with everlasting woe and vengeance when you come thither, if by knowing your danger you prevent not your coming thither? Is it easier to bear God's wrath for ever, than to find at present that you have offended him? Sirs, the question is, Whether you are under the condemnation of the law, or not? Whether you are regenerate and justified, or yet in your sin? If you are justified, far be it from me to persuade you to think that you are under condemnation: I leave that to Satan and the malicious world, who are the condemners of those that Christ doth justify. But if you are unregenerate and unjustified, what will you do at death and judgment? Can you stand before God, or be saved upon any other terms? You cannot; if God be to be believed, you cannot: and if you know the Scriptures, you know you cannot! And if you cannot be saved in an unrenewed, unjustified state, is it not needful that you know it? Will you cry for help before you find yourselves in danger? or strive to get out of sin and misery, before you believe that you are in it? If you think that you have no other sin than the pardoned infirmities of the godly, you will never so value Jesus Christ, and pray and strive for such grace as is necessary to them that have the unpardoned, reigning sins of the ungodly. If it be necessary that you be saved, it is necessary that you value and seek salvation; and if so, it is necessary that you know your need of it, and what you must be and do if you will obtain it! It is a childish or brutish thing, below a man of reason, to stick at a little present trouble, when death cannot otherwise be prevented: If you can prove that ever any was converted and saved by any other way than by coming to the knowledge of their sin and misery, then you have some excuse for your presumption : but if Scripture tell us of no other way, yea, that there is no other way, and you know of none that ever was saved by any
other, I think it is time to fall to work, and search and try your hearts and lives, and not to stop at a straw when you are running for your lives, and when damnation is as it were at your backs. You should rather think with yourselves, If we can so hardly bear the forethoughts of hell, how shall we be able everlastingly to bear the torments?
And consider, that Christ hath made the discovery of your sin and misery to be now comparatively an easy burden, in that he hath made them pardonable and curable: If you had not had a Saviour to fly to, but must have looked on your misery as a remediless case, it had then been terrible indeed; and it had been no great mistake to have thought it the best way to take a little ease at present, rather than to disquiet yourselves in vain. But through the great mercy of God, this is not your case; you need not despair of pardon and salvation, if you will but hear while it is called to-day. The task that you are called to, is not to torment yourselves as the damned do with the thought of unpardonable sin, and of a misery that hath no help or hope; but it is only to find out your disease, and come and open it to the physician, and submit to his advice, and use his means, and he will freely and infallibly work the cure. It is but to find out the folly that you have been guilty of, and the danger that you have brought yourselves into, and come to Christ, and with hearty sorrow and resolution to give up yourselves unto his grace, to cast away your iniquities, and enter into his safe and comfortable service. And will you lie in hell and say, We are suffering here, that we might escape the trouble of foreseeing our danger of it, or of endeavouring in time to have prevented it! We died for fear of knowing that we were sick! We suffered our house to burn to ashes for fear of knowing that it was on fire! O, sirs, be warned in time, and own not, and practise not such egregious folly, in a business of everlasting consequence. Believe it, if you sin, you must know that you have sinned: and if you are in the power of Satan it cannot long be hid. Did you but know the difference between discovering it now while there is hope, and hereafter when there is none, I should have no need to persuade you to be willing to know the truth, whatever it should cost you.
Hind. 3. Another great impediment of the knowledge of ourselves, is, that self-love so blindeth men that they can see no great evil in themselves or any thing that is their own:
It makes them believe that all things are as they would have them be; yea, and better than they would have them: for he that would not indeed be holy, is willing by himself and others to be thought so: did not the lamentable experience of all the world confirm it, it were incredible that self-love could so exceedingly blind men. If charity think no evil of another, and we are very hardly brought to believe any great harm by those we love; much more will self-love cause men to see no evil by themselves, which possibly they can shut their eyes against, it being more radicated and powerful than the love of others. No arguments so cogent, no light so clear, no oratory so persuading, as can make a self-lover think himself as bad as indeed he is, till God by grace or terror shall convince him. When you are preaching the most searching sermons to convince him, self-love confuteth or misapplieth them; when the marks of trial are most plainly opened, and most closely urged, self-love doth frustrate the preacher's greatest skill and diligence: When nothing of sense can be said to prove the piety of the impious, and the sincerity of the formal hypocrite, yet self-love is that wonderful alchymist, that can make gold not only of the basest metal, but of dross and dirt. Let the most undeniable witness be brought to detect the fraud and misery of an unrenewed soul, self-love is his most powerful defender. No cause so bad which it cannot justify; and no person so miserable but it will pronounce him happy, till God by grace or wrath confute it. Self-love is the grand deceiver of the world.
Direct. 3. Subdue this inordinate self-love, and bring your minds to a just impartiality in judging. Remember that self-love is only powerful at your private bar; and it is not there that your cause must be finally decided: it can do nothing at the bar of God; it cannot there justify, where it is condemned itself: God will not so much as hear it, though you will hear none that speak against it. Self-love is but the vicegerent of the grand usurper, that shall be deposed, and have no show of power, at Christ's appearing, when he will judge his enemies.
And here it will be a helpless cause, to see your own sin and misery in others: and put the case as if it were theirs, and then see how you can discern the evil of it. O how easy is it with the most, to see and aggravate the faults of others! How safe were we, if we were as impartial to ourselves!
And also it will be very useful to desire often the help of more impartial judgments than your own: Fit enim nescio quomodo (inquit Cicero) ut magis in aliis cernamus, quam in nobis met ipsis, siquid delinquitur.' Others can quickly spy our faults, as we can quickly find out theirs: Therefore as poets and painters do expose their works before they finish them, to the common view, that so what is blamed by many may be considered and amended; so should we, in order to the judging of ourselves, observe both what our friends and enemies say of us, and the more suspiciously try what others blame. But especially have some near, judicious friends, that will prudently and faithfully assist you. A true friend is an excellent looking-glass. Saith Seneca, 'Deliberate well first in the choosing of a friend, and then with him deliberate of all things.'
And if you would have the benefits of friendship, discourage not plaindealing. 'Magis amat objurgator sanans (inquit August.) quam adulator dissimulans.' I know a reprover should be wise, and love must be predominant if he will expect success: for if he speak 'lacerato animo,' as Augustine saith, it will seem but 'punientis impetus,' and not corrigentis charitas.' But we must take heed of judging that we are hated, because we are reproved; that is, that a friend is not a friend, because he doth the office of a friend. Of the two, it is fitter to say of a reproving enemy, ‘He dealeth with me like a friend,' than of a reproving friend, 'He dealeth with me like an enemy:' for, as Augustine saith, 'Accusare vitia officium est bonum, quod cum mali faciunt, alienas partes agunt.' It is a good office to speak ill of vice, which when bad men do, they play another's part. It is a happy enmity that helpeth you to deliver you from sin and hell; and a cruel friendship that will let you undo your soul for ever, for fear of displeasing you by hindering it.
There are two sorts that deprive themselves of the saving benefit of necessary reproof, and the most desirable fruits of friendship: the one is the Hypocrite, that so cunningly hideth his greatest faults, that his friend and enemy never tell him of them: he hath the happiness of keeping his physician unacquainted with his disease, and consequently of keeping the disease. The other is the Proud, that can better endure to be ungodly than to be told of it, and to live in many sins, than to be freely admonished of one.
Consider therefore, that it will prove self-hatred in the effect, which is now called self-love: and that it would seem but a strange kind of love from another, to suffer you to fall into a coal-pit, for fear of telling you that you are near it; or to suffer you to fall into the enemy's hands, lest he should affright you, by telling you that they are near. If you love another no better than thus, you have no reason to call yourself his friend: and shall this be your wisest loving of yourselves? If it be love to damn your souls for fear of knowing your danger of damnation, the devil loveth you. If it be friendship to keep you out of heaven, for fear of disquieting you with the light that should have saved you, then you have no enemies in hell. The devil himself can be content to grant you a temporal quietness and ease, in order to your everlasting disquietness and woe. Let go your hopes of heaven, and he can let you be merry awhile on earth; while the strong armed man keepeth his house, the things that he possesseth are in peace. If it be not friendship, but enmity, to trouble you with the sight of sin and danger, in order to your deliverance, then you have none but enemies in heaven: for God himself doth take this course with the dearest of his chosen. No star doth give such light as the sun doth no minister doth so much to make a sinner know himself, as God doth. Love yourselves therefore in the way that God loveth you: be impartially willing that God and man should help you to be thoroughly acquainted with your state: love not to be flattered by others, or yourselves. Vice is never the more lovely, because it is yours: and you know that pain is never the more easy or desirable to you, because it is yours. Your own diseases, losses, injuries, and miseries, seem the worst and most grievous to you: and why should not your own sins also be most grievous? You love not poverty or pain, because it is your own; O love not sin, because it is your own!
Hind. 4. Another impediment to self-acquaintance, is, that men observe not their hearts in a time of trial, but take them always at the best, when no great temptation puts them to it. A man that never had an opportunity to rise in the world, perhaps doth think he is not ambitious, and desireth not much to be higher than he is, because the coal was never blown. When a little affront doth ferment their