« السابقةمتابعة »
about ourselves, is to disquiet rather than to edify ourselves; and to turn a great and necessary duty into a great unnecessary trouble.
Consider, 1. That we have many other matters of great importance to study and know when we know ourselves. We must chiefly study God himself, and all the books of Scripture, Nature, and Governing Providence, which make him known. What abundance of great and excellent truths have we in all these to study! What time, what industry is necessary to understand them! And should we lay out all this time about our own hearts and actions, which is but one part of our study? What sinful omissions should we be guilty of in the neglecting of all these! It is indeed but the burying of our talent of understanding, to confine it to so narrow a compass as ourselves, and to omit the study of God, and his word and works, which are all with delight and diligence to be studied.
We have also Christ and his Gospel mysteries and benefits to study. We have the church's ease, its dangers, sufferings, and deliverances to study: we have the state of our neighbours and brethren to consider of: the mercies, and dangers, and sufferings both of their souls and bodies: we have our enemies to think of with due compassion: and our duty to all these.
2. And as it is negligence and omission to be all at home, and pass by so great a part of duty; so is it a double frustration of our labour, and will make even this study of ourselves to be in vain. (1.) We cannot come by all our study to the true knowledge of ourselves, unless we also study other things besides ourselves: For we are related to God, as his creatures, as his own, as his subjects, and as his dependent children, as his redeemed, and his sanctified ones, (or such as should be such.) And if we know not God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; as our Owner, Ruler and Benefactor; and know not what his creation, redemption, sanctification, his title, government, and benefits mean, it is not possible that we should know ourselves. Mutual relations must be known together, or neither can be known.
(2.) And if we could know ourselves, and know no more, it were but to know nothing, and lose that knowledge: for this is but the entrance into wisdom, and the means and way
to higher knowledge. This learning of our alphabet or primer is lost, if we learn no farther; you are therefore to study and know yourselves, that you may advance to the knowledge of Christ and his grace, and be acquainted with the remedy of all that you find amiss at home: and that by Christ you may be brought unto the Father, and know God as your happiness and rest; you are not your own ultimate ends, and therefore must go farther in your studies than yourselves.
3. We shall never attain to rectitude or solid comfort and content, unless our studies go farther than ourselves: for we are not the rule to ourselves, but crooked lines! And cannot know what is right and wrong, if we study not the rule as well as ourselves. And alas, we are diseased, miserable sinners. And to be always looking on so sad a spectacle, can bring no peace or comfort to the mind. To be still looking on the sore, and hearing only the cry of conscience, will be but a foretaste of hell. When we would be humbled and have matter of lamentation, we must look homeward, where the troubling thorns and nettles of corruption grow. But if we would be comforted and lift up, we must look higher, to Christ and to his promises, and to everlasting life : our garden beareth no flowers or fruits that are so cordial.
This much I have spoken by way of caution. 1. That you may not think I am driving you into the extreme of solitude, and confining or imprisoning you at home. 2. Because some scarcely know how to avoid a fault, without running into another on the other side of the way: nor how to understand the right use of a doctrine, but are turning it into an abuse, and building sin upon the foundation of righteousness.
Two sorts of persons have great need of this caution, that they dwell not too much on themselves. One is poor melancholy people, that can think of almost nothing else: their distemper disposeth them to be always poring on themselves, and fixing their thoughts on their sin and misery, and searching into all their own miscarriages, and making them worse than indeed they are: you cannot call off their thoughts from continual self-condemning, and musing on their own misdoings and unhappiness. They have a God, a Christ, a heaven, a treasure of precious promises to meditate on : and they cannot hold their thoughts to these, (unless as they
aggravate their sin and sorrows) but live as if they had nothing to think on but themselves, and were made to be their own tormentors: day and night, even when they should labour, and when they should sleep, they are busy in a fruitless vexation of themselves. These poor afflicted souls have need to be called from the excessive study of themselves.
Another sort is, those Christians that are wholly taken up in inquiring, whether they have saving grace or not; while they neglect that exercise of their grace, in doing all the good they can to others, and following on the way of faithful duty, which might do more to their assurance than solitary trials.
The former sort by overdoing in this one part of their work, disable themselves to all the rest: they tire and distract their minds, and raise such fears as hinder their understandings, and cast their thoughts into such confusion, that they quite lose the command of them, and cannot gather them up for any holy work: yea, while they study nothing but themselves, they lose even the knowledge of themselves: they gaze so long upon their faults and wants, till they can see nothing else, and know no apprehensions but dark and sad; and wilfully unlearn the language of thanksgiving and praise; and the burden of all their thoughts and speeches, is Miserable and Undone; as if there were for them no mercy, no help, no hope, but they were utterly forsaken and cast off by God.
The other sort do so exceed in the measure of that self-love, which in itself is good, that they neglect the study of the love of God, and are still thinking what they are and have been, when they should consider what they must be. They spend so much time in trying their foundation, that they can make but little progress in the building: they are like musicians, that will spend all the day in setting instruments in tune; or like a mower that spends most of his time in whetting. They are all day preparing their tools, while they should be working! and putting on their armour, and preparing their weapons, when they should be fighting: and inquiring which is the way, while they should be travelling. They leave undone too much of their work without doors, while they confine themselves to that within: and that within goes on the worse, because they neglect that without doors,
which should further it. When they should instruct the. ignorant, exhort the obstinate, confirm the weak, or comfort the afflicted, they are complaining of their own ignorance, obstinacy, weakness, or affliction; and help not others, because they feel such need of help themselves; as if they were like beggars, that had nothing to give, but must live by asking and receiving. They understand not that it is one of the mysteries of godliness, that teaching others doth inform themselves, and the light which they bring in for others, will serve themselves to work by; and that reproving others doth correct themselves; and exhorting others doth prevail with themselves; and persuading the obstinate wills of others, doth tend to bend and resolve their own; and that comforting others doth tend to revive and raise themselves: their own spirits may be a little revived, by the very smell of the cordials they prepare for others. In this case, giving is both begging and receiving. Doing good is not the least effectual kind of prayer; and that we may be so employed, is not the smallest mercy. Many a one hath thus grown rich by giving many a one hath convinced himself, by confuting his own objections from another: and many a one hath raised and comforted himself, by offering comfort to others that have the same infirmities; and have banished their own excessive doubts and fears, by frequent compassionate answering the same in others, whose sincerity they have less suspected than their own.
None thrive more than they that grow in the sunshine of God's blessing and God blesseth those most that are the most faithful in his work and the work of love is the work of God. To do good, is to be most like him: and they that are most like him, do best please him: In subordination to Christ, in whom we are accepted, we must, by his Spirit, be made thus acceptable in ourselves: we must be amiable if we will be loved. And those that God loveth best, and is most pleased with, are like to receive most plenteously from his love. It is necessary therefore to our own safety, and holiness, and consolation, that we look much abroad at the necessities of others, and study our brethren and the church of God, as well as ourselves: that we "look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," (Phil. ii. 4.)
There may be somewhat of inordinate selfishness even
about our souls; and sinful selfishness is always a losing. course. As he that will be a self-saver, in point of estate, or honour, or life, taketh the ready way to lose them, (Matt. xvi. 15,) so he that for the saving of his soul, will confine all his care and charity to his own soul, taketh not the way indeed to save it. We keep not ourselves; we quicken not, we comfort not, we save not ourselves; but only as agents under Christ, manuring the land, and sowing the seed, to which he alone can give the blessing: it is not therefore our inordinate self-studying that will do it: With all our care, without his blessing, we cannot add one cubit to the stature of our graces: therefore it must needs be our safest course, to be as careful and faithful as we can in duty, and lay out most of our study to please him; and then if we come not to assurance of his love, or discern not his image and grace upon us, yet we must trust him with our souls, and leave the rest to his care and goodness, that hath undertaken that none shall be losers by him, nor be ashamed or frustate of their hopes, that wait upon him: "Let us commit the keeping of our souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator." (1 Peter iv. 19.) " As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters- so our eyes (in a way of duty) must wait upon the Lord our God, till he have mercy upon us." (Psal. cxxiii. 1, 2.) And though we
grow weary of crying, and our throat be dried, and our eyes fail while we wait for God," (Psal. lxix. 3,) yet" our hope is only in him, and therefore we must continue to wait upon him." (Psal. xxxix. 7.) "And they that wait for him shall not be ashamed." (Isa. xlix. 23.)
It is not the pretended necessity of one work, that will excuse him that hath many as necessary to do; especially when they are conjunct in nature and necessity, and must go together, to attain their end. Concerning God, as we may well say that we must love and serve him only, and none but him, because we must love nothing but for his sake, and as a means to him the end of all; and so while it is God in all things that we love, we are more properly said to love God than the creature by that act, because he is the ultimate first intended end, and principal object of that love; and as the means, as a means, hath its essence in its relation to the end; so the love of the means, as such, is accordingly