But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
~ Galatians 2:6
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
~ 2 Corinthians 3:5
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
~ 1 Corinthians 3:18
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
~ Psalm 26:2
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
~ Proverbs 14:14
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
~ Luke 18:11
I. the LORD, search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
~ Jeremiah 17:10
The Mischiefs of Self-Ignorance, by Richard Baxter. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Two of his work, “The Mischiefs of Self Ignorance, and the Benefits of Self-Acquaintance: Opened in Divers Sermons at St. Dunstan’s West, and Published in Answer to the Accusations of Some, and the Desires of Others”.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.
— Galatians vi. 3-5
Chapter II. The Mischiefs of Self-Ignorance.
2. He that knoweth himself, may certainly know that there is another life of happiness or misery for man, when this is ended. For he must needs know, that his soul is capable of a spiritual and glorious felicity with God, and of immaterial objects, and that time is as nothing to it, and transitory creatures afford it no satisfaction or rest; and that the hopes and fears of the life to come, are the divine engines, by which the moral government of the world is carried on; and that the very nature of man is such, as that, without such apprehensions, hopes, and fears, he could not, in a connatural way, be governed, and brought to the end, to which his nature is inclined and adapted; but the world would be as a wilderness, and men as brutes. And he may well – know that God made not such faculties in vain, nor suited them to an end which cannot be attained, nor to a work which would prove but their trouble and deceit; he may be sure that a mere probability or possibility of an everlasting life, should engage a reasonable creature in all possible diligence, in piety and righteousness, and charity to attain it: and so religious and holy endeavours become the duty of man as man; there being few such infidels or atheists to be found on earth, as dare say, they are sure there is no other life for man; and, doubtless, whatsoever is by nature and reason made man’s duty, is not delusory and vain : nor is it reasonable to think that falsehood, frustration, and deceit, are the ordinary way by which mankind is governed by the most wise and holy God. So that, the end of man may be clearly gathered from his nature; forasmuch as God doth certainly suit his works to their proper use and ends. It is, therefore, the ignorance of ourselves, that makes men question the immortality of souls; and, I may add, it is the ignorance of the nature of conscience, and of all morality, and of the reason of justice among men, that makes men doubt of the discriminating justice of the Lord, which is hereafter to be manifested.
3. Did men know themselves, they would better know the evil and odiousness of sin. As poverty and sickness are better known by feeling than by hearsay; so also is sin. To hear a discourse, or read a book of the nature, prognostics, and cure of the plague, consumption, or dropsy, doth little affect us, while we seem to be sound and safe ourselves : but when we find the malady in our flesh, and perceive the danger, we have then another manner of knowledge of it. Did you but see and feel sin as it is in your hearts and lives, as oft as you read and hear of it in the law of God, I dare say sin would not seem a jesting matter, nor would those be censured as too precise, that are careful to avoid it, any more than they that are careful to avoid infectious diseases, or crimes against the laws of man, that hazard their temporal felicity or lives.
4. It is want of self-acquaintance that keeps the soul from kindly humiliation : that men are insensible of their spiritual calamities, and lie under a load of unpardoned sin and God’s displeasure, and never feel it, nor loathe themselves for all the abominations of their hearts and lives, nor make complaint to God or man with any seriousness and sense. How many hearts would be filled with wholesome grief and care, that now are careless and almost past feeling! and how many eyes would stream forth tears that now are dry, if men were but truly acquainted with themselves! It is self-knowledge that causeth the solid peace and joy of a believer, as conscious of that grace that warranteth his peace and joy : but it is self-deceit and ignorance that quieteth the presumptuous, that walk as carelessly, and sleep as quietly, and bless themselves from hell as confidently, when it is ready to devour them, as if the bitterness of death were past, and hypocrisy would never be discovered.
5. It is unacquaintedness with themselves that makes Christ so undervalued by the unhumbled world : that his name is reverenced, but his office and saving grace are disregarded. Men could not set so light by the physician, that felt their sickness, and understood their danger. Were you sensible that you are under the wrath of God, and shall shortly and certainly be in hell, if Christ, received by a hearty, working, purifying faith, do not deliver you, you would have more serious, savoury thoughts of Christ, more yearnings after him, more fervent prayers for his healing grace, and sweet remembrance of his love and merits, example, doctrine, and inestimable benefits, than lifeless hypocrites ever were acquainted with. Imagine with what desires and expectations the diseased, blind, and lame, cried after him for healing to their bodies, when he was on earth. And would you not more highly value him, more importunately solicit him for your own souls, if you knew yourselves ?
6. It is unacquaintedness with themselves that makes men think so unworthily of a holy, heavenly conversation ; and that possesseth them with foolish prejudices against the holy care and diligence of believers. Did men but value their immortal souls, as reason itself requireth them to do, is it possible they should venture so easily upon everlasting misery, and account it unnecessary strictness in them that dare not be as desperately venturous as they, but fly from sin, and fear the threatenings of the Lord ? Did men but consider the worth and concern of their souls, is it possible they should hazard them for a thing of naught, for the favour of superiors, or the transitory pleasures and honours of the world ? Could they think the greatest care and labour of so short a life to be too much for the securing of their salvation ? Could they think so many studious careful days, and so much toil, to be but meet and necessary for their bodies, and yet think all too much that is done for their immortal souls? Did men but practically know that they are the subjects of the God of heaven, they durst not think the diligent obeying of him to be a needless thing, when they like that child or servant best, that is most willing and diligent in their service. Alas ! were men but acquainted with their weakness, and sinful failings, when they have done their best, and how much short the holiest persons come of what they are obliged to by the laws and mercies of the Lord, they durst not make a scorn of diligence, nor hate or blame men for endeavouring to be better, that are sure, at best, they shall be too bad. When · the worst of men, that are themselves the greatest neglecters of God’ and their salvation, shall cry out against a holy life, and making so much ado for heaven, (as if a man that lieth in bed should cry out against working too much or going too fast,) this shows men’s strangeness to themselves. Did the careless world but know themselves, and see where they stand, and what is before them, and how much lieth on this inch of time; did they but know the nature and employment of a soul, and why their Creator placed them for a little while in flesh, and whither they must go when time is ended, you should then see them in that serious frame themselves, which formerly they disliked in others : and they would then confess, that if any thing in the world deserved seriousness and diligence, it is the pleasing of God, and the saving of our souls.
7. It is for want of acquaintance with themselves, that men are so deceived by the vanities of the world; that they are drowned in the love of pleasures and sensual delights; that they are so greedy for riches, and so desirous to be higher than those about them, and to waste their days in the pursuit of that which will not help them in the hour of their extremity. Did the voluptuous sensualist know aright that he is a man, he would not take up with the pleasures and felicity of a brute, nor enslave his reason to the violence of his appetite. He would know that there are higher pleasures which beseem a man; even those that consist in the well-being and integrity of the soul, in peace of conscience, in the favour of God, and communion with him in the Spirit, in a holy life, and in the forethoughts and hopes of endless glory.
Did the covetous worldling know himself, he would know that it must be another kind of riches that must satisfy his soul, and that he hath wants of another nature to be supplied : and that it more concerneth him to lay up a treasure in heaven, and think where he must dwell for ever, than to accommodate this perishing flesh, and make provision with so much ado, for a life that posteth away while he is providing for it: he would rather make him friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, and lay up a foundation for the time to come, and labour for the food that never perisheth, than to make such a stir for that which will serve him so little a while; that so he might hear “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” &c. rather than “ Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?”
Self-knowledge would teach ambitious men, to prefer the calmest, safest station before the highest; and to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and to please him most carefully that hath the keys of heaven and hell; and to be content with food and raiment in the way, while they are ambitious of a higher glory. It would tell them, that so dark and frail a creature should be more solicitous to obey than to have dominion ; and that large possessions are not the most congruous or desirable passage to a narrow grave; and that it is the highest dignity to be an heir of heaven. – Would men but spend some hours in the study of themselves, and seriously consider what it is to be a man, a sinner, a passenger to an endless life, an expectant of so great a change, and withal to be a professed believer, what a change would it make in their cares, and their desires and conversations ! “ What strive you for, O worldlings? what is here but a brittle glass full of dangers ? and by how many dangers must you come to greater dangers ? Away with these vanities and toys, and let us set ourselves to see the things that have no end.”-Augustine.
8. It is for want of self-acquaintance that any man is proud. Did men considerately know what they are, how quickly would it bring them low! Would corruptible flesh, that must shortly turn to loathsome rottenness, be stout and lordly, and look so high, and set forth itself in gaudy ornaments, if men did not forget themselves ? Did rulers behave themselves as those that are subjects to the Lord of all, and have the greatest need to fear his judgment, and prepare for their account: did great ones live as men that know that rich and poor are equal with the Lord, who respects not persons; and that they must speedily be levelled with the lowest, and their dust be mixed with the common earth, what an alteration would it make in their deportment and affairs ! and what a mercy would it prove to their inferiors and themselves! If men that swell with pride of parts, and overvalue their knowledge, wit, or elocution, did know how little indeed they know, and how much they are ignorant of, it would much abate their pride and confidence. The more men know indeed, the more they know-to humble them. It is the novices, that, “ being lifted up with pride, do fall into the condemnation of the devil.” They would loathe themselves if they knew themselves.
9. It is self-ignorance that makes men rush upon temptations, and choose them, when they customarily pray against them. Did you know what tinder lodgeth in your natures, you would guard your eyes and ears, and appetites, and be afraid of the least spark; you would not be indifferent as to your company, nor choose a life of danger to your souls, for the pleasing of your flesh; to live among the shares of honour, or beauty and bravery, or sensual delights; you would not wilfully draw so near the brink of hell, nor be looking on the forbidden fruit, nor dallying with allurements, nor hearkening to the deceiver or his messengers. It is ignorance of the weakness and badness of your hearts, that maketh you so confident of yourselves, as to think that you can hear any thing, and see any thing, and approach the spare, and treat with the deceiver without any danger. Self-acquaintance would cause more fear and self-suspicion.
If you should escape well a while in your self-chosen dangers, you may catch that at last that may prove your woe. Temptation puts you on a combat with the powers of the earth, and flesh, and hell! And is toil and danger your delight? “ Danger is never overcome without danger,” saith Seneca. It is necessary valour to charge through all which you are in; but it is temerarious fool-hardiness to seek for danger, and invite such enemies, when we are so weak. Goliath’s “ give me a man to fight with,” is a prognostic of no good success. Rather foresee all your dangers to avoid them; understand where each temptation lieth, that you may go another way if possible.’ ” Chastity is endangered in delights; humility in riches; piety in business; truth in too much talk; and charity in this world.”-Bernard. – Alas! did we but think what temptations did with a Noah, a Lot, a David, a Solomon, a Peter, we would be afraid of the enemy and weapon that such worthies have been wounded by, and of the quicksands where they have so dangerously fallen. When Satan durst assault the Lord himself, what hope will he have of such as we? When we consider the millions that are blinded, and hardened, and damned by temptations, are we in our wits if we will cast ourselves into them?
10. Self-acquaintance would confute temptations, and easily resolve the case when you are tempted. Did you considerately know the preciousness of your souls, and your own concerns, and where your true felicity lieth, you would abhor allurements, and encounter them with that argument of Christ, “ What shall it profit a man, if he win the world and lose his soul ? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” The fear of man would be conquered by a greater fear, as the Lord commandeth : “ And I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do: but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear ; fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
11. It is unacquaintedness with themselves, that makes men quarrel with the word of God, rejecting it when it suits not with their deceived reason, and to be offended with his faithful ministers, when they cross them in their opinions or ways, or deal with them with that serious plainness, which the weight of the case, and their necessity doth require. Alas, sirs ! if you were acquainted with yourselves, you would know that the holy rule is straight, and the crookedness is in your conceits and misapprehensions; and that your frail understandings should rather be suspected than the word of God; and that your work is to learn and obey the law, and not to censure it; and that quarrelling with the holy word which you should obey, will not excuse, but aggravate your sin; nor save you from the condemnation, but fasten it, and make it greater. You would know that it is more wisdom to stoop than to contend with God; and that it is not your physicians, nor the medicine, that you should fall out with, but the disease.
12. Self-acquaintance would teach men to be charitable to others, and cure the common censoriousness, and envy, and malice of the world. Hath thy neighbour some mistakes about the disputable points of doctrine, or doubtful modes of discipline or worship? Is he for the opinion, or form, or policy, or ceremony, which thou dislikest? Or is he against .those which thou approvest ? Or afraid to use them, when thou thinkest them laudable? If thou know thyself, thou darest not break charity or peace for this. Thou darest not censure or despise him : but wilt remember the frailty of thy own understanding, which is not infallible in matters of this kind; and in many things is certainly mistaken, and needs forbearance as well as he. Thou wouldst be afraid of inviting God or man to condemn thyself, by thy condemning others; and wouldst think with thyself: If every error, of no more importance, in persons that hold the essentials of religion, and conscientiously practise what they know, must go for heresy, or make men sectaries, or cut them off from the favour of God, or the communion of the church, or the protection of the magistrate, and subject them to damnation, to misery, to censures, and reproach ; alas, what then must become of so frail a wretch as I, of so dark a mind, of so blameable a heart and life, that am like to be mistaken in matters so great, where I least suspect it! It is ignorance of themselves, that makes men so easily think ill of their brethren, and entertain all hard or mis-reports of them, and look at them so strangely, or speak of them so contemptuously and bitterly, and use them so uncompassionately, because they are not in all things of their opinion and way. They consider not their own infirmities, and that they teach men how to use themselves. The falls of brethren would not be over-aggravated, nor be the matter of insult or contempt, but of compassion, if men knew themselves. This is implied in the charge of the Holy Ghost : “ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted: bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” The Pharisee, that seeth not the beam of formality and hypocrisy in his own eye, is most censorious against the motes of tolerable particular errors in his brother’s eye. None more uncharitable against the real or supposed errors or slips of serious believers, than hypocrites, that have no saving, serious faith and knowledge, but place their religion in opinion and show, and wholly err from the path of life.
13. It is ignorance of themselves that makes men divide the church of Christ, and pertinaciously keep open its bleeding wounds, and hinder concord, and disturb its peace. How far would self-acquaintance go to the cure of all our discords and divisions ! Is it possible that the Pope should take upon him the government of the antipodes, even of all the world, (and that, as to spiritual government, which requireth more personal attendance than secular,) if he knew himself, and consequently his natural incapacity, and the terror of his account for such a usurped charge? Self-acquaintance would depose their inquisitions, and quench their flames; and make them know what spirit they are of, that inclineth not to save men’s lives, but to destroy them. Did they know themselves, the Papists durst not multiply new articles of faith, and ceremonies, and depart from the ancient simplicity of the Gospel, and turn the Creed or Scripture into all the volumes of their councils, and say, “ All these decrees or determinations of the church are necessary to salvation;” and so, make the way of life more difficult, if not impossible, (had they indeed the keys,) by multiplying their supposed necessaries. Did they but know themselves aright, it were impossible they should dare to pass the sentence of damnation on the far greater part of the Christian world, because they are not subject to their pretended Vice-Christ. Durst one of the most leprous, corrupted sort of Christians in the world upchurch all the rest that will not be as bad as they, and condemn all other Christians as heretics or schismatics, either for their adhering to the truth, or for errors and faults, far smaller than their own ? Did they know themselves and their own corruptions, they durst not thus condemn themselves, by so presumptuous and blind a condemnation of the best and greatest part of the Church of Christ, which is dearest to him, as purchased by his blood. If either the Protestants, or the Greeks, or the Armenians, Georgians, Syrians, Egyptians, or Ethiopian Churches, be in as bad and dangerous a case, as these usurping censurers tell the world they are, what then will become of the tyrannous, superstitious, polluted, blood-thirsty Church of Rome?
What is it but self-ignorance that perverteth the unsettled among us, and sends them over to the Roman tenets ? No man could rationally become a Papist, if he knew himself. Let me prove this to you in these four instances:
1. If he had but the knowledge of his natural senses, he could not take them to be all deceived, (and the senses of all others as well as his) about their proper object; and believe the priests, that bread is no bread, or wine no wine, when all men’s senses testify the contrary.
2. Some of them turn Papists because they see some differences among other Christians, and hear them call one another by names of contumely and reproach; and therefore they think that such can be no true Churches of Christ: but if they knew themselves, they would be acquainted with more culpable errors in themselves, than those for which many others are reproached; and see how irrational a thing it is to change their religion upon the scolding words or slanders of another; or, which is worse, upon their own uncharitable censures.
3. Some turn to the Papists, as apprehending their ceremonious kind of religion to be an easier way to heaven than ours: but if they knew themselves, they would know that is a more solid and spiritual sort of food that their nature requires, and a more searching physic that must cure their diseases; and that shells and chaff will not feed, but choke and starve their souls.
4. All that turn Papists, must believe that they were unjustified and out of the catholic church before, and consequently void of the love of God and special grace: for they receive it as one of the Romish articles, that out of their church there is no salvation. – But if these persons were indeed before ungodly, if they knew themselves, they would find that there is a greater matter necessary, than believing in the Pope, and turning to that faction; even to turn to God profession can save them. But if they had the love of God before, then they were justified, and in the church before; and therefore Protestants are of the true church, and it is not confined to the Roman subjects: so that if they knew this, they could not turn Papists without a palpable contradiction.
The Papists’ fugitives tell us, we are no true ministers, nor our ministry effectual and blessed of God. What need we more than imitate Paul, when his ministry was accused, and call them to the knowledge of themselves, “ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith? Prove yourselves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ?” If they were ungodly, our ministry, no wonder if they turn Papists. For it is just with God, that those that “receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved, be given over to strong delusions to believe a lie.” But if they received themselves the love of God in our churches by our ministry, they shall be our witnesses against themselves.
And others as well as Papists would be kept from church divisions, if they did but know themselves. Church governors would be afraid of laying things unnecessary, as stumbling-blocks before the weak, and of laying the unity and peace of the church upon them; and casting out of the vineyard of the Lord, and out of their communion, all such as are pot, in such unnecessary or little things, of their opinion. The words of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, so plainly and fully deciding this matter, would not have stood so long in the Bible, as utterly insignificant, in the eyes of many rulers of the churches, if they had known themselves, as having need of their brethren’s charity and forbearance. “ Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations: for one believeth that he may eat all things, another, that is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not, (much less destroy hin, or excommunicate him,) and let not him which eateth not, judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth; yea he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike: let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” “ Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his brother’s way,” ” For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “ For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” “We then that are strong, ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” ” Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” Self-acquaintance would help men to understand these precepts; and be patient with the weak, when we ourselves have so much weakness, and not to vex or reject our brethren for little or unnecessary things, lest Christ reject or grieve us that have greater faults.
Self-acquaintance, also, would do much to heal the dividing humour of the people; and instead of separating from all that are not of their mind, they would think themselves more unworthy of the communion of the church, than the church of their’s.
Self-acquaintance makes men tender and compassionate, and cureth a censorious, contemptuous mind. It also silencerb passionate, contentious disputes, and makes men suspicious of their own understandings, and therefore forbiddeth them intemperately to condemu dissenters. It also teacheth men to submit to the faithful directions and conduct of their pastors; and uot to vilify, forsake, and disobey them, as if they were above them in understanding, and fitter to be guides themselves; so that in all these respects, it is ignorance of themselves that makes men troublers of the church, and the knowledge of themselves would much remedy it.
14. And it is ignorance of themselves also, that makes men troublers of the state. A man that doth not know himself, is unfit for all society: if he be a ruler, he will forget the common good, and instead of clemency and justice, will violently exercise an imperious will. If he be a subject, he will be censuring the actions of his rulers, when distance and unacquaintance makes him an incompetent judge.
He will think himself fitter to rule than they, and , whatever they do, he imagineth that he could do it better. And hence comes suspicions and murmurings against them, and Corah’s censures, “ Ye take too much upon you: are not all the people holy ?” Were men acquainted with themselves, their weaknesses, and their duties, they would rather inquire whether they obey well, than whether their superiors rule well; and would think the lowest place to be most suitable to them; and would quiet themselves in the discharge of their own duty, “ making supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” It would quiet all the seditions and tumults of the world, if men were well acquainted with themselves.
15. Self-acquaintance would end abundance of controversies, and very much help men to discern the truth. In the controversy of free-will, or human power; to know ourselves as we are men, would be to know that we have the natural power and freedom consisting in the self-determining faculty and principle. To know ourselves as sinful, would inform us how much we want of the moral power which consisteth in right inclinations, and the moral liberty, from vicious dispositions and habits. Would time permit, I might show it in the instances of original corruption, of the nature of grace, of merit, the cause of sin, and many other controversies, how much error is promoted by the ignorance of ourselves.
16. Self-acquaintance maketh men both just and merciful. One cannot be so much as a good neighbour without it, nor yet a faithful friend. It will teach you to put up with injuries, and to forgive; · as remembering that you are likely to be injurious to others, and certainly are daily so to God. It is · such only that “ with all lowliness, and meekness, and long-suffering, forbear one another in love,” and “ recompense to no man evil for evil,” and “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” He that is drawn to passion and revenge, is overcome when he seems to overcome by that revenge. It teacheth us to forgive, to know that much is forgiven us by Christ, or at least, what need we have of such forgiveness. “ Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice ; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake bath forgiven you.” O that this lesson were well learned !
17. Self-acquaintance will teach us the right. estimate of all our mercies: when we know how unworthy we are of the least, and what it is we principally need; it will teach us thankfulness for all, and teach us which of our mercies to prefer. Men know not themselves and their own necessities, and therefore they slight their chief mercies, accounting them burdens, and are unthankful for the rest.
18. Self-acquaintance is necessary to the solid peace and comfort of the soul. Security and stupidity may quiet the ungodly for a while, and self-flattery may deceive the hypocrite into a dream of heaven; but he that will have a durable joy, must find some matter of joy within him, as the effects and evidence of the love of God, and the prognostics of his endless love. To know what Christ hath suffered, and done, and merited, and promised, is · to know the general and principal ground of our rejoicing; but something is wanting to make it peace and joy to us, till we find the fruits of his Spirit within us, without which no man can be his. “ If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” The seal, and witness, and beginnings of life, must be within you, if you will kŋow that you are the heirs of life.
19. Self-ignorance causeth men to misinterpret and repine at the providence of God, and to be froward under his most righteous judgments. Because men know, not what they have deserved, and what is good for them, they know not the reason and intent of Providence; and therefore they quarrel with their Maker, and murmur as if he did them wrong: when self-acquaintance would teach them to justify God in all his dealings, and resolve the blame of all into themselves. The nature of man doth teach all the world, when any hurt is done to societies or persons, to inquire by whose will, as well as by whose hands, it was perpetrated; and to resolve all the crimes that are committed in the world into the will of man, and there to leave the guilt and blame, and not excuse the malefactors upon any pretence of the concourse or predetermination of the first or any superior cause: and to justify the judge and executioner that takes away men’s lives, or estates, as long as themselves are proved to deserve it. And surely the knowledge of the nature and depravity of man should teach us to deal as equally with God, and finally resolve all guilt and blame into the free and vitiated will of man. Humbling self-knowledge maketh us say, with Job, “ Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth:” and when God is glorifying himself on our relations, or ourselves, by his judgments, it teacheth us, with Aaron, to hold our peace, and to say, with Eli, “ It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” And with David, “ If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord he will bring me again, and show me it, and his habitation : But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him.” And as the afflicted church, “ I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” Even a Pharaoh, when affliction hath taught him a little to know himself, will say, “ The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” When Rehoboam and his princes are humbled, they say, “ The Lord is righteous.”
20. Lastly, it is for want of the knowledge of ourselves, that precious time is so much lost, and coming death no more prepared for. Did we carry still about us the sensible knowledge of our mortality, and the inconceivable change that is made by death, we should then live as men that are continually waiting for the coming of their Lord; and as if we still beheld our graves. For we carry about us that sin and frailty, such corruptible flesh, as may tell us of death as plainly as a grave or a skeleton. So great, so unspeakably necessary a work, as the serious, diligent preparation for our end, could not be so sottishly neglected by the ungodly, did they thoroughly and feelingly know what it is to be a mortal man; what it is to have an immortal soul; what it is to be a sinner; and what it is to pass into an endless life of joy or misery.