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is in heaven. This sin is an imitation of the devil, whose first sin
upon earth was envy, as his first sin in heaven was pride. It is a
wishing that to ourselves, which the devil asserted as his right, to
give the kingdoms of the world to whom he pleased :'" it is an anger
with God, because he hath not given us a patent for government. It
utters the same language in disparagement of God, as Absalom did
in reflection on his father: If I were king in Israel, justice should be
better managed ; if I were Lord of the world, there should be more
wisdom to discern the merits of men, and more righteousness in dis-
tributing to them their several portions. Thus we impose laws upon
God, and would have the righteousness of his will submit to the cor-
ruptions of ours, and have him lower himself to gratify our minds,
rather than fulfil his own. We charge the Author of those gifts
with injustice, that he hath not dealt equally ; or with ignorance,
that he hath mistook his mark. In the same breath that we censure
him by our peevishness, we would guide him by our wills. This is
an unreasonable part of atheism. If all were in the same state and
condition, the order of the world would be impaired. Is God bound
to have a care of thee, and neglect all the world besides ? " Shall
the earth be forsaken for thee ?"i Joseph had reason to be displeased
with his brothers, if they had muttered because he gave Benjamin a
double portion, and the rest a single. It was unfit that they, who
had deserved no gift at all, should prescribe him rules how to dis-
pense his own doles; much more unworthy it is to deal so with
God ; 3^et this is too rife.

5. It is evidenced in corrupt matter or ends of prayer and praise.
When we are importunate for those things that we know not whether
the righteousness, holiness, and wisdom of God can gi-ant, because he
hath not discovered his will in any promise to bestow them, we would
then impose such conditions on God, which he never obliged himself
to grant ; when we pray for things not so much to glorify God, which
ought to be the end of prayer, as to gratif^^ ourselves. We acknowl-
edge, indeed, by the act of petitioning, that there is a God; but we
would have him ungod himself to be at our beck, and debase himself
to serve our turns. When we desire those things which are repug-
nant to those attributes whereby he doth manage the government of
the world; when, by some superficial services, we think we have

' Jonah iv. 2. " Luke iv. 6. ■ Job xviii. 4.

ON peactical atheism. 133

gained iuclulgence to sins, whicli seems to be tlie tliought of tlie
strumpet, in her paying her vows, to wallow more freely in the mire
of her sensual joleasures — "I have peace-offerings with me; this day
I have paid my vows, I have made my peace mth God, and have
entertainment for thee ;"" or when men desire God to bless them in
the commission of some sin, as when Balak and Balaam offered sacri-
fices, that they might prosper in the cursing of the Israelites (Numb.
XXV. 1, &c.) So for a man to pray to God to save him, wiiile he
neglects the means of salvation appointed by God, or to renew him
when he slights the word, the only instrument to that purpose ; this
is to unpose laws upon God, contrary to the declared will and wisdom
of God, and to desire him to slight his own institutions. When we
come into the presence of God with lusts reeking in our hearts, and
leap from sin to duty, we would imjDOse the law of our corruption
on the holiness of God. While we pray "the will of God may be
done," self-love wishes its own will may be performed, as though God
should serve our humors, when we will not obey his precepts. And
when we make vows under any affliction, what is it often but a secret
contrivance to bend and flatter him to our conditions? We will
serve him if he will restore us; we think thereby to compound the
business with him, and bring him down to our terms.

6. It is evidenced in positive and bold interpretations of the judg-
ments of God in the world. To interpret the judgments of God to
the disadvantage of the sufferer, unless it be an unusual judgment,
and have a remarkable hand of God in it, and the sin be rendered
plainly legible in the aiBiction, is a presmnption of this nature.
When men will judge the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled
with the sacrifices, greater sinners than others, and themselves right-
eous, because no drops of it were dashed upon them ; or when
Shimei, being of the house of Saul, shall judge according to his own
interest, and desires David's flight upon Absalom's rebellion to be a
punishment for invading the rights of Saul's family, and depriving
him of the succession in the kingdom,? as if he had been of God's
privy council, when he decreed such acts of justice in the world.
Thus we would fasten our own wills as a law or motive upon God,
and interpret his acts according to the motions of self. Is it not too
ordinary, when God sends an affliction upon those that bear ill-will
to us, to judge it to be a righting of our cause, to be a fruit of God's
concern for us in revenging our wrongs, as if we "had heard the
secrets of God," or, as Eliphaz saith, "had turned over the records
of heaven ?" (Job xv. 8.) This is a judgment according to self-love,
not a divine rule ; and imposeth laws upon heaven, implying a secret
wish that God would take care only of them, make our concerns his
own, not in ways of kindness and justice, but according to our fan-
cies ; and this is common in the profane world, in those curses they
Bo readily spit out upon any affront, as if God were bound to draw
his arrows and shoot them into the heart of all their offenders at
their beck and pleasure.

7. It L3 evidenced, in mixing rules for the worship of God with
those which have been ordered by him. Since men are most prone

Frov. vii. 14. P 2 Sam. xvi. 5.


to live by sense, it is no wonder that a sensible worship, which affects
their outward sense with some kind of amazement, is dear to them,
and spiritual worship most loathsome. Pompous rites have been the
great engine wherewith the devil hath deceived the souls of men,
and wrought them to a nauseating the simplicity of divine worship,
as unworthy the majesty and excellency of God/i Thus the Jews
would not understand the glory of the second temple in the presence
of the Messiah, because it had not the pompous grandeur of that of
Solomon's erecting. Hence in all ages men have been forward to
disfigure God's models, and dress up a brat of their own ; as though
God had been defective in providing for his own honor in his insti-
tutions, without the assistance of his creature. This hath always
been in the world ; the old world had their imaginations, and the
new world hath continued them. The Israelites in the midst of
miracles, and under the memory of a famous deliverance, would
erect a calf. The Pharisees, that sate in Moses' chair, would coin
new traditions, and enjoin them to be as current as the law of God.""
Papists will be blending the christian appointments with pagan cere-
monies, to please the carnal fancies of the common peojDle. " Altars
have been multiplied" under the knowledge of the law of God.* In-
terest is made the balance of the conveniency of God's injunctions.
Jeroboam fitted a worship to politic ends, and posted up calves to
prevent his subjects revolting from his sceptre, which might be oc-
casioned by their resort to Jerusalem, and converse with the body
of the people from whom they were separated. ^ Men will be putting
in their own dictates with God's laws, and are unwilling he should
be the sole Governor of the world without their counsel ; they will
not suffer him to be Lord of that which is purely and solely his con-
cern. How often hath the practice of the primitive church, the cus-
tom wherein we are bred, the sentiments of our ancestors, been owned
as a more authentic rule in matters of worship, than the mind of
God delivered in his Word ! It is natural by creation to worship
God ; and it is as natural by corruption for man to worship him in a
human way, and not in a divine ; is not this to impose laws upon
God, to esteem ourselves wiser than he ? to think him negligent of
his own service, and that our feeble brains can find out ways to ac-
commodate his honor, better than himself hath done ? Thus do men
for the most part equal their own imaginations to God's oracles : as
Solomon built a high place to Moloch and Chemoch, upon the Mount
of Olives, to face on the east part Jerusalem and the temple ;" this
is not only to impose laws on God, but also to make self the standard
of them.

8. It is evidenced, in suiting interpretations of Scripture to their
own minds and humors. Like the Lacedemonians, that dressed the
images of their gods according to the fashion of. their own country,
we would wring Scripture to serve our own designs, and judge the
law of God by the law of sin, and make the serpentine seed in us to
be the interpreter of divine oracles : this is like Belshazzar to drink
healths out of the sacred vessels. As God is the author of his law

q 2 Cor. xi. 3. ■■ Matt. xiii. 6. • Hos. viii. 12.

• 1 Kings xii 27. " 1 Kin^a xi. 7.


and word, so lie is the best interpreter of it ; the Scripture having an
impress of divine wisdom, holiness, and goodness, must be regarded
according to that impress, with a submission and meekness of spirit
and reverence of God in it ; but when, in our inquiries into the word,
we inquire not of God, but consult flesh and blood, the temper of the
times wherein we live, or the satisfaction of a party we side withal,
and impose glosses upon it according to our own fancies, it is to put
laws upon God, and make self the rule of him. He that interprets
the law to bolster up some eager appetite against the "will of the law-
giver, ascribes to himself as great an authority as he that enacted it.

9. In falling off from God after some fair compliances, when his
will grateth upon us, and crosseth ours. They will walk with him
as far as he pleaseth them, and leave him upon the first distaste, as
though God must observe their humors more than they his will.
Amos must be suspended from prophesying, because the " land could
not bear his words," and his discourses condemned their unworthy
practices against God."^ The young man came not to receive direc-
tions from our Saviour, but expected a confirmation of his own rules,
rather than an imposition of new.y He rather cares for commenda-
tions than instructions, and upon the disappointment turns his back ;
" he was sad," that Christ would not suffer him to be rich, and a
Christian together ; and leaves him because his command was not
suitable to the law of his covetousness. Some truths that are at a
further distance from us, we can hear gladly ; but when the con-
science begins to smart under others, if God will not observe our
wills, we will, with Herod, be a law to ourselves.^ More instances
might be observed. — Ingratitude is a setting up self, and an imposing
laws on God. It is as much as to say, God did no more than he was
obliged to do ; as if the mercies we have were an act of duty in God,
and not of bounty. — Insatiable desires after wealth : hence are those
speeches (James iv. 13), " We will go into such a city, and buy and
sell, &c. to get gain ;" as though they had the command of God, and
God must lacquey after their wills. When our hearts are not con-
tented with any supply of our wants, but are craving an overplus for
our lust ; when we are imsatisfied in the midst of plenty, and still
like the grave, cry. Give, give. — Incorrigibleness under affliction, &c.

II. The second main thing : As man would be a law to himself,
so he would be his own end and hap|)iness in opposition to God.
Here four things shall be discoursed on. 1. Man would make him-
self his own end and happiness. 2. He would make anything his end
and happiness rather than God. 3. He would make himself the end
of all creatures. 4, He would make himself the end of God.

First, Man would make himself his own end and happiness. As
God ought to be esteemed the first cause, in point of our dependence
on him, so he ought to be our last end, in point of our enjoyment
of him. When we therefore trust in ourselves, we refuse him as the
first cause ; and when we act for ourselves, and expect a blessedness
from ourselves, we refuse him as the chiefest good, and last end,
which is an undeniable piece of atheism ; for man is a creature of a
higher rank than others in the world, and was not made as animals,

' Amos Tii. 10. y Mark x. 17. 22. » Mark vi. 20. 9.1.


plants, and other works of the divine power, materially to glorily
God, but a rational creature, intentionally to honor God by obedience
to his rule, dependence on his goodness, and zeal for his glory. It
is, therefore, as much a slighting of God, for man, a creature, to set
himself up as his own end, as to regard himself as his own law. For
the discovery of this, observe that there is a three-fold self-love.

1. Natural, which is common to us by the law of nature -with
other creatures, inanimate as well as animate, and so closely twisted
with the nature of every creature, that it cannot be dissolved but
with the dissolution of nature itself. It consisted not with the wis-
dom and goodness of God to create an unnatural nature, or to com-
mand anything unnatural, nor doth he ; for when he commands us
to sacrifice ourselves, and dearest lives for himself, it is not without
a promise of a more noble state of being in exchange for what we
lose. This self-love is not only commendable, but necessary, as a
rule to measure that duty we owe to our neighbor, whom we cannot
love as ourselves, if we do not first love ourselves. God having
planted this self-love in our nature, makes this natural principle the
measure of our affection to all mankind of the same blood with our-

2. Carnal self-love : when a man loves himself above God, in oppo-
sition to God, with a contempt of God ; when our thoughts, affec-
tions, designs, centre only in our own fleshly interest, and rifle God
of his honor, to make a present of it to ourselves : thus the natural
self-love, in itself good, becomes criminal by the excess, when it would
be superior and not subordinate to God.

3. A gracious self-love : when we love ourselves for higher ends
than the nature of a creature, as a creature dictates, viz. in subser-
viency to the glory of God. This is a reduction of the revolted
creature to his true and happy order ; a Christian is therefore said to
be " created in Christ to good works." =*^ As all creatures were created,
not only for themselves, but for the honor of God ; so the grace of
the new creation carries a man to answer this end, and to order all
his operations to the honor of God, and his well-pleasing. The first
is from nature, the second from sin, the third from gTace ; the first
is implanted by creation, the second the fruit of corruption, and the
third is by the powerful operation of grace. This carnal self-love is
set up in the stead of God as our last end ; like the sea, which all the
little and great streams of our actions run to and rest in. And this
is, 1. Natural. It sticks as (^lose to us as our souls ; it is as natural
as sin, the foundation of all the evil in the world. As self-abhor-
rency is the first stone that is laid in conversion, so an inordinate
self-love was the first inlet to all iniquity. As grace is a rising from
self to centre in God, so is sin a shrinking from God into the mire
of a carnal selfishness ; since every creature is nearest to itself and
next to God, it cannot fall from God, but must immediately sink
into self ;^ and, therefore, all sins are well said to be branches or
modifications of this fundamental passion. What is wrath, but a
defence and strengthening self against the attempts of some real or
imaginary evil? Whence springs envy, but from a self-love, grieved

• Eph. i 10. ^ More, Dial. 2. § 17. p 274.


at its own wants in the midst of another's enjoyment, able to supply
it? "What is impatience, but a regret that self is not provided for
at the rate of our wish, and that it hath met with a shock against
supposed merit ? What is pride, but a sense of self- worth, a desire
to have self of a higher elevation than others ? What is drunken-
ness, but a seeking a satisfaction for sensual self in the spoils of rea-
son ? No sin is committed as sin, but as it pretends a self-satisfac
tion. Sin, indeed, may well be termed a man's self, because it is,
since the loss of original righteousness, the form that overspreads
every part of our souls. The understanding assents to nothing false
but under the notion of true, and the will embraceth nothing evil
but under the notion of good ; but the rule whereby we measure the
truth and goodness of proposed objects, is not the unerring Word,
but the inclinations of self, the gratifying of which is the aim of our
whole lives. Sin and self are all one : what is called a living to sin
in one place, *= is called a living to self in another : " That they that
live should not live unto themselves."*^ And upon this account it
is that both the Hebrew word, yan, and the Greek word, dun^iuint^,
used in Scripture to express sin, properly signify to miss the mark,
and swerve from that white to which all our actions should be direct-
ed, viz. the glory of God. When we fell to loving ourselves, we fell
from loving God ; and, therefore, when the Psalmist saith (Psalm
xiv. 2), there were none that sought God, viz. as the last end ; he
presently adds, " They are all gone aside," viz. from their true mark,
and therefore become filthy. 2. Since it is natural, it is also univer-
sal.e The not seeking God is as universal as our ignorance of him.
No man in a state of nature but hath it predominant ; no renewed
man on this side heaven but hath it partially. The one hath it
flourishing, the other hath it struggling. If to aim at the glory of
God as the chief end, and not to live to ourselves, be the greatest
mark of the restoration of the divine image, ^ and a conformity to
Christ, who glorified not himself, » but the Father ;'» then every man,
wallowing in the mire of corrupt nature, pays a homage to self, as a
renewed man is biassed by the honor of God. The Holy Ghost
excepts none from this crime (Phil. ii. 21) : " All seek their own."
It is rare for them to look above or beyond themselves. Whatsoever
may be the immediate subject of their thoughts and inquiries, yet
the utmost end and stage is their profit, honor, or pleasure. What-
ever it be that immediately possesses the mind and will, self sits like
a queen, and sways the sceptre, and orders things at that rate, that
God is excluded, and can find no room in all his thoughts (Psalm x.
4): " The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek
after God ; God is not in all his thoughts." The whole little world
of man is so overflowed with a deluge of self, that the dove, the glory
of the Creator, can find no place where to set its foot ; and if ever it
gain the favor of admittance, it is to disguise and be a vassal to some
carnal project, as the glory of God was a mask for the murdering his
servants. It is from the power of this principle that the difiiculty
of conversion ariseth : as there is no greater pleasure to a believing

• Rom. vi. ^ 1 Cor. v. 15. " Psalm xiv. 1.

« 1 Cop. v. 15. « Heb. i. 5. •• John xvii. 4.


BOiil than the giving itself up to God, and no stronger desire in him,
than to have a fixed and unchangealDle will to serve the designs of
his honor ; so there is no greater torment to a wicked man, than to
part with his carnal ends, and lay down the Dagon of self at the feet
of the ark. Self-love and self-opinion in the Pharisees waylaid all
the entertainment of truth (John v. 44) : " They sought honor one
of another, and not the honor which comes from God." It is of so
large an extent, and so insinuating nature, that it winds itself into
the exercise of moral virtues, mixeth with our charity (Matt. vi. 2),
and finds nourishment in the ashes of martyrdom (1 Cor. xiii. 8).

This making ourselves our end will appear in a few things.

1. In frequent self-applauses, and inward overweening reflections.
Nothing more ordinary in the natures of men, than a dotage on their
own perfections, acquisitions, or actions in the world: " Most think
of themselves above what they ought to think (Eom. xii. 3, 4.) Few
think of themselves so meanly as they ought to think : this sticks as
close to us as our skin ; and as humility is the beauty of grace, this
is the filthiest soil of nature. Our thoughts run more delightfully
upon the track of our own perfections, than the excellency of God ;
and when we find anything of a seeming worth, that may make us
ghtter in the eyes of the world, how cheerfully do we grasp and
embrace ourselves! When the grosser profanenesses of men have
been discarded, and the floods of them dammed up, the head
of corruption, whence they sprang, will swell the higher within, in
self-applauding speculations of their own reformation, without ac-
knowledgment of their own weaknesses, and desires of divine assist-
ance to make a further progress. " I thank God I am not like this
publican ;"' a self-reflection, with a contempt rather than compassion
to his neighbor, is frequent in every Pharisee. The vapors of self-
affections, in our clouded understandings, like those in the air in
misty mornings, alter the appearance of things, and make them look
bigger than they are. This is thought by some to be the sin of the
fallen angels, who, reflecting upon their own natural excellenc}''
superior to other creatures, would find a blessedness in theii' own
nature, as God did in his, and make themselves the last end of their
actions. It is from this principle we are naturally so ready to com-
pare ourselves rather with those that are below us, than with those
that are above us ; and often think those that are above us inferior
to us, and secretly glory that we are become none of the meanest
and lowest in natural or moral excellencies. How far were the
gracious penmen of the Scripture from this, who, when possessed
and directed by the Spirit of God, and filled with a sense of him, in-
stead of applauding themselves, publish upon record their own faults
to all the eyes of the world ! And if Peter, as some think, dictated
the Gospel which Mark wrote as his amanuensis, it is observable
that his crime in denying his Master is aggravated in that Gospel in
some circumstances, and less spoken of his repentance than in the
other evangelists: "When he thought thereon, he wept ;"k but in
the other, " He went out and wept bitterly."^ This is one part of

* Luke xviii. 11. ' Mark xiv. 72. ' Matt. xxvi. 75. Luke xxii. 62.


atneism and self-idolatry, to magnify ourselves witli the forgetfulness,
and to tlie injury of our Creator.

2, In ascribing the glory of what we do or have to ourselves, to
our own wisdom, power, virtue, &c. How flaunting is Nebuchad-
nezzar at the prospect of Babylon, which he had exalted to be the
head of so great an empire ! (Dan. iv. 30): " Is not this great Baby-
lon that I have built? For," &c. He struts upon the battlements
of his palace, as if there were no God but himself in the world, while
his eye could not but see the heavens above him to be none of his
own framing, attributing his acquisitions to his own arm, and refer-
ring them to his own honor, for his own delight ; not for the honor
of God, as a creatui*e ought, nor for the advantage of his subjects,
as the duty of a prince. He regards Babylon as his heaven, and
himself as his idol, as if he were all, and God nothing. An example
of this we have in the present age. But it is often observed, that
God vindicates his own honor, brings the most heroical men to con
tempt and unfortunate ends, as a punishment of their pride, as he
did here (Dan, iv. 31): " While the word was in the king's mouth,
there fell a voice from heaven," &c. This was Herod's crime, to
suffer others to do it :'» he had discovered his eloquence actively, and
made himself his own end passively, in approving the flatteries of
the people, and offered not with one hand to God the glory he re-
ceived from his people with the other." Samosatenus is reported to
put down the hymns which were sung for the glory of God and
Christ, and caused songs to be sung in the temple for his own honor.

Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God → online text (page 18 of 82)