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your estate, your dwelling, &c. too pleasing to your flesh and fancy.' Remember that it killeth by pleasing, rather than by seeming unlovely and displeasing.
Direct. 10. Turn Satan's temptations to worldliness against himself.' When he tempteth you to covetousness give more to the poor than else you would have done. When he tempteth you to pride and ambition, let your conversation shew more aversation to pride than you did before. If he tempt you to waste your time in fleshly vanities, or sports, work harder in your calling, and spend more time in better things; and thus try to weary out the tempter.
Direct. 11. Take heed of the hypocrite's designs, which is to unite religion and worldliness, and to reconcile God and mammon;' and to secure the flesh and its prosperity here, and yet to save the soul hereafter. For all such hopes are mere deceits.
Direct. 12. Improve your prosperity to its proper ends.' Devote all entirely and absolutely to God; and so it will be saved from loss, and you from deceit and condemnation.
How to be poor in Spirit. And how to escape the Pride of Prosperity.
THOUGH no man is saved or condemned for being either rich or poor; yet it is not for nothing that Christ hath so often set before us the danger of the rich, and the extraordinary difficulty of their salvation: and that he began his sermon, Matt. v. 3. with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the kingdom of heaven." The sense of which words, is not as is commonly imagined, Blessed are they
that find their want of grace.' For, 1. So may a despairing person. 2. The text compared with Luke xvi. where simply the poor and rich are opposed, doth plainly shew another sense; agreeing with the usual doctrine of Christ. And whereas expositors doubt whether Christ spake that sermon to his disciples, or to the multitude, the text maketh plain,
that he spake it to both, viz. that he called his disciples to him, and as it were pointed the finger at them, and made his text on which he preached to the multitude; and the sense is contained in these propositions; as if he had said, " See you these followers of me: you take them to be contemptible or unhappy, because they are poor in the world; but I tell you, 1. That poverty maketh not believers miserable: 2. Yea, they are the truly blessed men, because they shall have the heavenly riches: 3. And the evidence of their right to that, is that they are poor in spirit, that is, their hearts are suited to a low estate, and are saved from the destructive vices of riches and prosperity. 4. And their outward poverty is better suited and conducible to this deliverance, and this poverty of spirit, than a state of wealth and prosperity is.' All these four propositions are the true meaning of the text.
That we may see here what is the special work of faith, we must know which are the special sins of prosperity, which riches and honours occasion in the world. And though the apostle tells us, (1 Tim. vi. 10.) that "the love of money is the root of all evil," I will confine my discourse to that narrower compass, in the enumeration of the sins of Sodom, in Ezek. xvi. 49. PRIDE, FULNESS of bread, IDLENESS: and of these but briefly, because I have spoken more largely of them elsewhere (in my Christian Directory).
And first of the pride of the rich and prosperous.
PRIDE is a sin of so deep radication, and so powerful in the hearts of carnal men, that it will take advantage of any condition; but riches and prosperity are its most notable advantage. As the boat riseth with the water; so do such hearts rise with their estates. Therefore saith the apostle, 1 Tim. vi. 17. "Charge the rich that they be not highminded." Highmindedness is the sin that you are first here to avoid. In order whereunto I shall give you now but these three general directions.
Direct. 1. Observe the masks or covers of highmindedness or pride, lest it reign in you unknown.' For it hath many covers, by which it is concealed from the souls that are infected, if not undone and miserable by it.
For instance: 1. Some think that they are not proud, because that their parts and worth will bear out all the
estimation which they have of themselves. And he that thinketh of himself but as he really is, being in the right, is not to be accounted proud.
But remember that the first act of pride is the overvaluing of ourselves: and he that is once guilty of this first act, will justify himself both in it, and all that follow. So that pride is a sin which blindeth the understanding, and defendeth itself by itself, and powerfully keepeth off repentance. When once a man hath entertained a conceit, that he is wiser or better than indeed he is, he then thinketh that all his thoughts, and words, and actions, which are of that signification, are just, and sober, because the thing is so indeed. And for a man to deny God's graces, or gifts, and make himself seem worse than he is, is not true humility, but dissimulation or ingratitude.
But herein you have great cause to be very careful, lest you should prove mistaken: Therefore, 1. Judge not of yourselves by the bye as of self-love; but, if it be possible, lay by partiality, and judge of yourselves as you do by others, upon the like evidences. 2. Hearken what other men judge of you, who are impartial and wise, and are near you, and thoroughly acquainted with lives. It is possible they may think better or worse of you than you are: but if they judge worse of you, than you do of yourselves, it should stop your confidence, and make you the more suspicious, and careful to try lest you should be mistaken.
2. And remember also that you are obliged to a greater modesty in judging of your own virtues, and to a greater severity in judging of your own faults, than of other men's; though you must not wilfully err about yourselves, or any others, yet you are not bound to search out the truth about the faults of another, as you are about your own. We are commanded to "prefer one another in honour;" Rom. x. 21. And ver. 3. "For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly, than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
2. Another cloak for pride is, the reputation of our religion, profession or party, which will seem to be disgraced by us, if we seem not to be somewhat better than we are. If we should not hide or extenuate our faults, and set out
our graces and parts to the full, we should be a dishonour to Christ, and to his servants, and his cause.
But remember, 1. That the way by which God hath appointed you to honour him, is, by being good, and living well, and not by seeming to be good, when you are not, or seeming better than you are: The God of truth, who hateth hypocrisy, hath not chosen lying and hypocrisy to be the means by which we must seek his honour. It is damnable to seek to glorify him by a lie; Rom. iii. 7, 8. We must indeed cause our light so to shine before men that they may see our good works, and glorify our heavenly Father; Matt. v. 16. But it is the light of sincerity and good works, and not of a dissembling profession that must so shine.
2. And the goodness of the pretended end doth greatly aggravate the crime: as if the honour of God and our religion must be upheld, by so devilish a means as proud hypocrisy.
3. And, though it be true, that a man is not imprudently without just cause, to open his sins before the world, when it is like to tend to the injury of religion, and any way to do more hurt than good; yet it is as true, that when there is no such impediment, true repentance is forward to confess, and when the fault is discovered, defending and extenuating it, is then the greatest dishonour to religion. (As if you would father all on Christ, and make men believe that he will justify or extenuate sin as you do.) And then it is a free self-abasing confession, and taking all the shame to yourselves (with future reformation) which is the reparation which you must make of the honour of religion. For what greater dishonour can be cast upon religion, than to make it seem a friend to sin? Or what greater honour can be given it, than to represent it as it is, as an enemy to all evil; and to take the blame, as is due, unto yourselves?
3. Another cloak for pride, is the reputation of our offices, dignities and places. 'We must live according to our rank and quality: all men must not live alike. The grandeur of rulers must be maintained, or else the magistracy will fall into contempt. The pastor's office must not by a mean estate, and low deportment, be exposed to the people's scorn.' And so abundance of the most ambitious practices, and hateful enormities of the proud, must be veiled by these fair pretences.
Answ. 1. We grant that the honour of magistrates must be kept up by a convenient grandeur; and that a competent distance is necessary to a due reverence: but goodness is as necessary an ingredient in government, as greatness is; and to be great in wisdom and goodness, is the principal greatness and goodness is loving, and humble, and condescending, and suiteth all deportments to the common good, which is the end of government. See then that you keep up no other height, but that which really tendeth to the success of your endeavours, in order to the common good.
2. And look also to your hearts, lest it be your own exaltation which you indeed intend, while you thus pretend the honour of your office: for this is an ordinary trick of pride. To discover this, will you ask yourselves these questions following?
Quest. 1. How you came into your offices and honours? Did they seek you, or did you seek them? Did the place need you, or did you need the place? If pride brought you in, you have cause to fear, lest it govern you when you are there?
Quest. 2. What do you in the place of honour that you are in? Do you study to do all the good you can, and to make men happy by your government? And is this the labour of your lives? If it be, we may hope that the means is suited to this end. But if you do no such thing, you have no such end and if you have no such end, you do but dissemble, in pretending that your grandeur is used but as a means to that end which really you never seek. It is then your own exaltation that you aim at, and it is your pride that playeth all your game.
Quest. 3. Are you more offended and grieved when you are crossed and hindered in doing good, or when you are crossed and hindered from your personal honour?
Quest. 4. Are you well contented that another should have your honour and preferment, if God and the Sovereign Power so dispose of it, so be it, it be one that is like to do more good than you?
By these questions you may quickly see if you are willing, whether your grandeur be desired by your pride for self-advancement, or by Christian prudence to do good.