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“ nary falls. To judge of a bad man by “ his best hours, and a good man by « his worst, is the way to be deceived in " them both *.” And the fame way may you be deceived in yourself.Pharaoh, Ahab, Herod, and Felix, had all of them their softenings, their transitory fits of goodnefs; but yet they remain upon record under the blackest characters.
These then are all wrong rules of judge ment; and to trust to them, or try ourselves by them, leads to fatal self-deception. Again,
(6.) In the business of self-examination, you must not only take care you do not judge by wrong rules, but that you do not judge wrong by right rules. You must endeavour then to be well acquainted with them. The office of a judge is not only to collect the evidence and the circumstances of facts, but to be well skilled in the laws by which those facts are to be examined.
Now the only right rules by which we are to examine, in order to know ourselves, are reason and scripture. Some are for setting aside these rules, as too severe for them, too stiff to bend to their perverseness, too straight to measure their crooked ways;
are * Baxter's Directo pag. 876.
are against reason, when reason is against them; decrying it as carnal reason; and, for the same cause, are against scripture too, depreciating it as a dead letter. And thus, rather than be convinced they are wrong, they despise the only means that can set them right.
And as some are for setting aside each part of their rule, so others are for setting them one against the other; reason against scripture, and scripture against reason; when they are both given us by the God of our natures, not only as perfectly confiftent, but as proper to explain and illustrate each other, and prevent our mis. taking either; and to be, when taken together, (as they always should) the most complete and only rule by which to judge both of ourselves, and every thing belonging to our salvation, as reasonable and fallen creatures.
(1.) Then, One part of that rule which God hath given us to judge of ourselves by is right reason: by which I do not mean the reafoning of any particular man, which may be very different from the reasoning of another particular mail, and both, it may be, very different from right reason; because both may be influenced not so much by the reason and nature of things, as by
partial prepossessions and the power of pafa sions : but by right reafon, I mean those common principles, which are readily allowed by all who are capable of understanding them, and not notoriously perverted by the power of prejudice, and which are confirmed by the common consent of all the sober and thinking part of mankind, and may be easily learned by the light of nature. Therefore, if any doctrine or practice, though supposed to be founded in or countenanced by revelation, be nevertheless apparently repugnant to these dictates of right reafon, or evidently contradict our natural notions of the divine attributes, or weaken our obligations to universal virtue, that, we may be sure, is no part of revelation, because then one part of our rule would clash with, and be opposite to the other. And thus reafon was designed to be our guard against a wild and extravagant construction of fcripture.
(2.) The other part of our rule is the Sacred scriptures, which we are to use us our guard against the licentious excursions of fancy, which is often imposing itself upon us for right reason. Let any religious scheme or notion then appear ever so pleafng or plausible, if it be not established on
the plain principles of scripture, it is forthwith to be discarded ; and that sense of scripture that is violently forced to bend towards it, is very much to be suspected.
It must be very surprising to one who reads and studies the sacred scriptures with a free unbiased mind, to see what elaborate, fine spun, and flimsy gloffes men will invent and put upon some texts as the true and genuine fenfe of them, for no other reason, but because it is most agreeable to the opinion of their party, from which, as the standard of their orthodoxy, they durft never depart; who, if they were to write a critic in the same manner on any Greek or Latin author, would make themselves extremely ridicu. lous in the eyes of the learned world, But, if we would not pervert our rule, we must learn to think as scripture speaks, and not compel that to speak as we think. Would we know ourselves then, we must often view ourselves in the glass of God's word. And when we have taken a full survey of ourselves from thence, let us not foon forget what manner of persons we are, Jam. i. 23, 24. If our own image do not please us, let us not quarrel with our mirror, but set about mending ourselves. The eye of the mind indeed is not like
that of the body, which can see every thing else but itself; for the eye of the mind can turn itself inward, and survey itself. However, it must be owned, it can see itself much better when its own image is reflected upon it from this mirror. And it is by this only that we can come at the bottom of our hearts, and discover those secret prejudices and carnal prepoffeffions, which self-love would hide from us.
This then is the first thing we must do in order to self-knowledge. We must examine, scrutinize, and judge ourselves, diligently, leisurely, frequently, and impartially; and that not by the false maxims of the world, but by the rules which God hath given us, reason and fcripture; and take care to understand those rules, and not set them at variance. The next importanţ step to felf-knowledge is the subject of the following chapter.
CHAP. II. Constant Watchfulness, necessary to Self
Knowledge. II. “.W OULD we know ourselves, we
" must be very watchful over “ our hearts and lives.”