On Self-Conceit
2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,…

Sometimes in our imagination we assume to ourselves perfections not belonging to us, in kind or degree. Sometimes we make vain judgments on the things we possess, prizing them beyond their true worth and merit, and consequently overvaluing ourselves on their account. There is indeed no way wherein we do not thus impose on ourselves, either assuming false, or misrating true advantages, so that our minds become stuffed with fantastic imaginations, instead of wise and sober thoughts, and we misbehave ourselves towards ourselves.

1. We are apt to conceit ourselves on presumption of our intellectual endowments or capacities, whether natural, or acquired, especially of that which is called wisdom, which in a manner comprehends the rest, and manages them: on this we are prone to pride ourselves greatly, and to consider that it is presumption, hardly pardonable to contest our dictates: yet this practice is often prohibited and blamed in Scripture. "Be not wise in thine own eyes," saith the wise man; and "Be not wise in your own conceits," saith the apostle. If we do reflect either on the common nature of men, or on our own constitution, we cannot but find our conceits of our wisdom very absurd; for how can we take ourselves for wise, if we observe the great blindness of our mind, and feebleness of human reason, by many palpable arguments discovering itself? if we mark how painful the search, and how difficult the comprehension is of any truth; how hardly the most sagacious can descry any thing, how the most learned everlastingly dispute, about matters seeming most familiar and facile; how often the most wary and steady do shift their opinions; how dim the sight is of the most perspicacious, and how shallow the conceptions of the most profound; how narrow is the horizon of our knowledge, and how immensely the origin of our ignorance is distended; how imperfectly and uncertainly we know those few things to which our knowledge reacheth. If also a man particularly reflected on himself, the same practice must needs appear very foolish; for that every man thence may discover in himself peculiar impediments of wisdom; every man in his condition may find things apt to pervert his judgment, and obstruct his acquisition of true knowledge. Such conceitedness therefore is very absurd, and it is no less hurtful; for many great inconveniences spring from it, such as gave the prophet cause to denounce "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes." It hath many ways bad influence on our souls, and on our lives; it is often our case, which was the case of Babylon, when the prophet said of it, "Thy wisdom and thy knowledge hath perverted thee; for thou hast said in thy heart, I am, and none else beside me." It is a great bar to the receiving instruction about things; for he that taketh himself to be incomparably wise, will scorn to be taught. It renders men in difficult cases unwilling to seek, and unapt to take advice; hence he undertaketh and easily is deceived, and incurreth disappointment, damage in his affairs. It renders us very rash in judging; for the first show of things, or the most slender arguments, which offer themselves, being magnified, do sway our judgment. Hence also we persist incorrigible in error; for what reason can be efficacious to reclaim him whose opinion is the greater reason? It renders men peevish; also insolent in imposing their conceits on others. Hence they become censorious of those who do not agree with their notions.

2. Again, we are apt to prize highly and vainly our moral qualities and performances, taking ourselves for persons of extraordinary goodness, without defects or blemishes; which practice is both foolish and mischievous. It is very foolish; for such is the imperfection and impurity of all men, even of the best, that no man who strictly searches his heart can have reason to he satisfied with himself or his doings. Every man is in some degree sinful; conceit therefore of our virtue is very foolish; and it breeds great mischiefs. Hence springs a great carelessness of correcting our faults, a contempt of any means conducive to our amendment, such as good advice and wholesome reproof. It breeds arrogance even in our devotions to God, like that of the conceited Pharisee; also a haughty contempt of others: it disposes men to expect more than ordinary regard from others; and as it causes a man to behave himself untowardly to them, so thence he behaves unseemingly towards himself, of whom he becomes a flatterer, and profane idolater.

3. Self-conceit is also frequently grounded on other inferior advantages: on gifts of nature, or of fortune; but seeing that these things are in themselves of little value, and serving no great purpose; seeing they are not commendable, as proceeding from chance; seeing they are not durable or certain, but easily may be severed from us, the vanity of self-conceit founded on them is so notorious, that it need not be more insisted on.

(Isaac Barrow.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

WEB: For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Natural Affection
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