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pel, and such as if they do not encourage Men to, yet at least furnish them with Pleas and Excuses for their Wickedness; I am sure it is our Interest no less than our Duty, if we sincerely love God and our Souls, and have any real Desire of our own or others Wel. fare, faithfully to adhere to that Church we have the Happiness to be Members of, and vigorously to maintain and defend it.
SE R M ON
The FOURTH SERMON.
ROM. XII. 16.
Be not wife in your own Conceits.
HERE is hardly any Vice that Men do so readily condemn in others, and
yet so easily overlook and excuse in themselves, as this of Self-conceit, or a fond Opinion of their own great Wisdom and Understanding. None of us can endure that another should assume to himself continually to prescribe to us, or usurp so far upon us, as to be always imposing on us his own private Customs, Humours or Manners; as if we had no Wit or Judgment of our own, whereby to govern and order our own Affairs: and yet it
is to be feared, most of us, who call this in tolerable Pride in another, are so deeply in love with our felves and our own ways, that we cannot forbear to censure and despise, to charge with Folly and Ignorance all that do not believe and practise just as we our selves do: Every one thus in his own vain Imagination presuming himself wise and good enough to set a Pattern, and give Law to all round about him.
It is the Observation of the great French Philofopher, That the most equal Distribution God hath made of any thing in this World, is of Judgment and Understanding, because every Man is content with his own, and thinks he hath enough : And though as to the outward Gifts of Nature or Fortune, he be willing to yield to others, yet he doubts not but he himself is as far removed from a Fool, hath as large a share of Reason and Discretion, is as able to manage himself and his own Business, as any other whatever. Whence it is that all Men are apt fo confidently to lean unto, and rely upon their own Understandings, so peremptorily to trust to and follow their own Judgments, fo resolutely and inflexibly to adhere to their firft Choices and Determinations, scorning and taking it in great snuff and dudgeon, to be taught, advised, check'd or controlled by any
Now this is to be wise in our own Conceits, against which the Apostle here in my Text
cautions us. When
Man hath a vast and undue Opinion of his own Powers and Faculties, and thinks of himself above what is meet; when he will hearken to none o. ther, nor believe any one but just himself; when he knows all things, does all things, is all things to himself, and within himself alone, not needing (at least in his own big Thoughts) any one's Help, Counsel or al sistance: In short, when he rates and values himself above his true Worth, and despises others, and judges meanly of his Betters, then a Man may be said to be wise in his own Conceit. Which Self-conceit undoubtedly lies at the bottom, and is the original Cause of all Atheism and sceptical Disputes against Providence and Religion, of all undutiful Carriage towards Governours and Superiours, and of all those uncharitable Separations and unchristian Divisions that are lo rife amongst us, and do so fadly threaten the Ruin both of our Church and State.
Whereas on the other side, the great Foundation of all true Religion and civil Order, the only effectual Means of procuring and advancing Peace, real Wisdom and Truth amongst Men, is an humble and lowly Esteem of our selves, a modest Diffidence of our own Apprehensions, a hearty and serious Acknowledgment of our own Defects, and a Willingnels to be instructed, directed, ruled and governed by others, who are better and wiser than our felyes.
I shall at this time propound to you some plain Instances, wherein this fort of Pride or Self-conceit doth fhew it felf, particularly in Matters of Religion, together with the Folly and Mischiefs of it.
I. This Self-conceit shews it self in be. ing confident and positive about things which we do not understand, and intermeddling with Affairs which do not belong to us.
II. In being obstinate and pertinacious in some singular Fancies and Opinions, tho upon never so slight Grounds at first believed and entertained.
III. In affecting to impose our own Humours and Conceits upon others, and in despising and condemning all that are not in every thing just of our own Mind and Persuasion.
1. This Self-conceit appears in being confident and positive about things which we do not understand, and in intermeddling with Affairs which do not belong to us : When we reject every thing as false which we cannot presently comprehend, and damn every thing of which we cannot easily give a satisfactory Account; when we speak evil of those things which we know not, as St. Jude fays of some in his days; when nothing shall escape us which we do not straight arraign and bring to the Bar, nor any thing pass with us for wise, good or decent, but what is exactly fitted to our own Palate,