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will be ever so much of self-love in a man, as to draw a flattering likeness of one of the parties ; and 'tis well, if he has not so much malignity too, as to give but a coarse picture of the other,--finished with so many hard strokes, as to make the one as unlike its original as the other.
Thus the pharisee, when he entered the temple, -no sooner saw the publican, but that moment he formed the idea to himself of all the vices and corruptions that could possibly enter into the man's character,—and with great dexterity, stated all his own virtues and good qualities over against them. His abstinence and frequent fastings-exactness in the debts and ceremonies of the law ; not balancing the account as he ought to have done, in this manner :- What ! though this man is a publican and a sinner, have not I my vices as well as he ? 'Tis true, his particular office exposes him to many temptations of committing extortion and injustice ; but then,-am not I a devourer of widows' houses, and guilty of one of the most cruel instances of the same crime? He possibly is a profane person, and may set religion at nought ;--but do not I myself, for a pretence, make long prayers, and bring the greatest of all scandals upon religion, by making it a cloak to my ambitious and worldly views ?-if hey lastly, is debauched and intemperate,-am not I conscious of as corrupt and wanton dispositions ; and that 'a fair and guarded outside is my best pretence io the opposite character ?'
If a man will examine his works by a comparative view of them with others, this, no doubt, would be the fairer, and least likely to mislead him.-But as this is seldoin the method this trial has gone
through ;-in fact, it generally turns out to be as treacherous and delusive to the man himself, as it is uncandid to the man who is dragged into the comparison ; and whoever judges of himself by this rule, --so long as there is no scarcity of vitious characters in the world, 'tis to be feared he will often take the occasions of triumph and rejoicing, -where, in truth, he ought rather to be sorry and ashamed.
A third error in the manner of proving our works, is what we are guilty of when we leave out of the calculation the only material parts of them ;-I mean, the motives and first principles from whence they proceeded. There is many a fair instance of gene. rosity, chastity, and self-denial, which the world may give a man the credit of ;-which, if he would give himself the leisure to reflect upon, and trace back to their first springs,-he would be conscious, proceeded from such views and intentions as, if known, would not be to his honour..The truth of this may be made evident by a thousand instances in life :and yet there is nothing more usual than for a man when he is going upon this duty of self-examination,-instead of calling his own ways to remembrance, to close the whole enquiry at once, with this short challenge" That he defies the world to say
ill of him.” If the world has no express evidence, this indeed may be an argument of his good luck ; but no satisfactory one of the real goodness and innocence of his life. A man may be a very bad man,—and yet, through caution-through deeplaid policy and design, may so guard all outward appearances, as never to want this negative testi. mony on his side, That the world knows no evil
6 of him,'-how little soever he deserves it.-Of all assays upon a man's self, this may be said to be the slightest ; this method of proving the goodness of our works, differing but little in kind from that unhappy one, which many unwary people take in proving the goodness of their coin ;-who, if it happent to be suspicious,-instead of bringing it either to the balance or the touchstone to try its worth,they ignorantly go forth, and try if they can pass it upon the world :-if so, all is well, and they are saved all the expense and pains of enquiring after and detecting the cheat.
A fourth error in this duty of examination of men's works is, that of committing the task to others :-an error into which thousands of well-meaning creatures are ensnared in the Romish church by her doctrines of auricular confession, of works of supererogation, and the many lucrative practices raised
upon that capital stock :-the trade of which is carried to such a height in popish countries, that if you was at Rome or Naples now, and was disposed, in compliance with the apostle's exhortation in the text, to set about this duty, to ve you works,—'tis great odds whether you would be suffered to do it yourself, without interruption : and you might be said to have escaped well, if the first person you consulted upon it did not talk you out of your resolution, and possibly your senses too at at the same time. Prove your works !-For heaven's sake, desist from so rash an undertaking What !-trust your own skill and judgment in a matter of so much difficulty and importance,--when there are so many whose business it is, who understand it so well, and who can do it for you with so much safety and advantage !
If your works must be proved, you would be advised by all means to send them to undergo this operation with some one who knows what he is about; either some expert and noted confessor of the church,—or to some convent,-or religious society, who are in possession of a large stock of good works of all kinds, wrought up by saints and confessors, where you may suit yourself, and either get the defects of your own supplied, or be accommodated with new ones ready proved to your hands, sealed, and certified to be so by the Pope's commissary and the notaries of his ecclesiastick court. There needs little more to lay open this fatal error,-than barely to represent it : so I shall only add a short remark,That they who are persuaded to be thus virtuous by proxy, and will prove the goodness of their works only by deputies--will have no reason to complain against God's justice, if he suffers them to go to heaven only in the same manner; that is by deputies too.
The last mistake which I shall have time to men. tion is, that which the Methodists have revived, for 'tis no new error,—but one which has misled thousands before these days, wherever enthusiasm had got footing ;-and that is, the attempting to prove their works by that very argument which is the greatest proof of their weakness and superstition ; I mean that extraordinary impulse and intercourse with the Spirit of God which they pretend to, and whose operations (if you trust them) are so sensibly felt in their hearts and souls, as to render at once all other proofs of their works needless to themselves. This, I own, is one of the most summary ways of proceeding in this duty of self-exam:
ination; and, as it proves a man's works in the gross, it saves him a world of sober thought and inquiry after many vexatious particulars.
Indeed, if the premises were true,the inference is direct ;- for when a man dreams of these inward workings—and wakes with the impression of them strong upon his brain, 'tis not strange he should think himself a chosen vessel,sanctified within, and sealed up unto the perfect day of redemption ; and so long as such a one is led captive by this error,—there is nothing in nature to induce him to this duty of examining his own works in the sense of the prophet :-for however bad they are,--so long as his credulity and enthusiasm equal them, 'tis impossible they should disturb his conscience, or frighten him into a reformation. These are some of the unhappy mistakes in the many methods this work is set about—which, in a great measure, rob us of the fruits we expected,—and sometimes so entirely blast them, that we are neither the better nor wiser for all the pains we have taken.
There are many other false steps which lead us the same way ;-but the delineation of these, however, may serve at present, not only as so many land-marks to guard us from this dangerous coast which I have described, but to direct us likewise into that safe one, where we can only expect the reward the Gospel promises ;-for if, according to the first recited causes, a man fails in examining his works, from a disinclination to reform them,-from partiality of comparisons,-from flattery to his own motives, and a vain dependence upon the opinion of the world, the conclusion is unavoidable,--that he must search for the qualities the most opposite to