Upon a Looking Glass
What is that which commends this glass? Is it the pearl and other precious stones that the frame is set in, is richly decked and enameled? Or is the impartial and just representation that it makes according to the face everyone who beholds himself bring unto it? Surely the ornaments are wholly foreign and contributing no more to its real worth than the case does onto the goodness of the wine into which it is put; or the richness of the plate [silver] to the cordial in which it is administered?
That for which the glass is to be esteemed is the true and genuine resemblance it makes of the object which is seen in it, when it neither flatters the face by giving any false beauty to it, nor yet injures it by detract ought [anything] from it.
To slight [think less than proper of] then or neglect the glass for the meanness [lowliness, lack of ornaments] of its case, and to value it only for its gaiety [beauty, appearance] is no better than the folly of children or the brutish ignorance of those who judge a book by its cover and not by the learning that is in it.
For quarreling with a glass for its returning a most exact and absolute likeness of the face that is seen in it is to despise it for its excellency and come from no other ground than a conscious of some guilt [here, a fault, not necessarily a moral failing].
Is it not for this very respect that beautiful persons both prize it and use it happily too much? It being the only means whereby they come to be acquainted with their own comeliness [beauty] and to understand what it is that allures the hearts and eyes of all toward them.
Who then but those who features nature has drawn with a coal rather than a pencil, or whom age and sickness have robbed them of what they formerly prided themselves in, shun the familiar use of it [use a mirror regularly]. Or be angry when they look into it, as if it upbraided them [rebuked them], rather than resemble them.
Phyrnethe famous harlot throws passionately away her glass saying, As I am, I will not; as I was, I cannot behold myself. And yet is this not anger against the glass causeless [without a reason]? Does it make gray hears upon the head? Or the pock-marks and wrinkles upon the face? Or does it discovery only what age and disease have done? And let them see what they cannot conceal from others?
Now what does all this argue but an averseness in men to understood the truth of their condition and a willingness through self-flattery to deceive themselves in thinking of what ever they have above what is meet [appropriate, fitting]? Great must be the impatience against truth, when the silent elections of the glass that vanish as soon as it is turned from, kindle such dislikes in the breast as to make it cast them from them [one anger throwing the mirror] for doing only the same to them which it does to others.
Here methinks [I think] we may find the ground that carnal men [one who is in the flesh, and does not have the Spirit of God] are offended at the Word, both in putting scorn and contempt upon it by the low and mean [base, foul] thoughts they have of it; or else by the anger they express against it, in throwing this blessed mirror from them in as great, though not so good, a heat as Moses did the tables which he brake beneath [at the foot of] the Mount [Ex. 32:19].
Some pick a quarrel with the plainness of the Word, as if it wholly wanted [lacked] those embroideries of wit and art that other writings and discourses abound with, and had none of those quaint expressions that might win the affections of them that converse [here, read] with it.
But is not this to make such use of the Word as young children do the glass, more to behold the babies in their own eyes, than to make any observance of themselves.
Is the Word writ or preached to have its reflections upon the fancy [vain imagination] or upon the conscience? Is it to inform only the head or reform the heart? If the inward man be the proper subject of it, the simplicity of conduces to that great end than the contemperation [accommodation] of it with humane mixtures [adding or mixing in something which would make it accommodating to “polite” speech].
It is not the painted but crystal glass by which the object is best discerned.
Others again are not a little displeased with the Law or the Word of God, because when they look into it both their persons and their sins are represented in a far differing manner from those conceptions they ever had of one or the other. In their own eyes, they are as Absaloms without any blemish; but in this glass they are as deformed lepers and spread with a uniform uncleanness: and who can bear it to see himself thus suddenly transformed into a monster?
Now their sins which they judged to be as little as the motes [a mote is a speck of dust] in sunbeams, appear in amazing dimensions, and it is to them not a looking glass but a magnifying glass. Thoughts of the heart, glances of the eye, words of the lips, irruptions of the passions are all censured by it as deserving death, and there is nothing can escape it, which as a rule it will not guide or as a judge condemn.
O how irksome this must needs be to carnal and unregenerate men who abound with self-flattery and presumptions of their own innocence and righteousness who can as with little patience endure the convincing power of the Word as sore eyes the severe searchings of the light.
We need not wonder that the Word has so many adversaries who take part with Nature against Grace, setting their works on wits by distinctions and blended interpretations to make it as a glass breathed and blown upon, which yields nothing but dim and imperfect reflections.
Is there anything that the Word does more clearly assert than the loathsome condition of Man’s nature with which comes into the world? Is it not expressed by the filthiness of the birth every child is encompassed with when it breaks forth from the womb? Is it not resembled to the rottenness and stench of the grave into which Man is resolved when he is said to be dead in sins and trespasses?
And yet how many when they view themselves in this glass give out to the world that they can see no such thing?
Celestius of old [a follower of the heretic Pelagius, 5th century] thought the original sin was matter [of the substance] of dispute rather than faith. And some have been so bold of late as to call it [original sin] Austin’s figment [a figment of Augustine’s imagination].
But the more injurious to this divine mirror of truth, the more it behooves every good Christian to be studious in vindicating it from the scorns of such as despise it for its simplicity [clarity] and from the impieties of others that seek to corrupt its purity; and to show for what cause others hate it, he [the Christian] most affectionately loves and prizes it.
Thy Word is very pure, says David, therefore thy servant loves it. [Ps. 119:140]. Can you do God better service, while you honor his Word which he has magnified above all his Name? [Ps. 138:2] Or can you do yourselves more right than to judge yourselves by that which is so pure that it can neither deceived nor be deceived.
What though it present you with sad spectacle of your sins, which may justly fill you with shame and self-abhorrence; does it not also show you your Savior, who is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. And cannot this joyful sight raise you more than the other sight can cast you down?
O fear not to see your sin, when you may at the same time behold your Savior. A mourning heart is the best preparation for a spiritual joy, and serves to intend the height of it, as dark colors do set off the gold that is laid upon them.
Give me, therefore, O Lord a broken and relenting heart
That sin may be my sorrow
And Christ may be my joy;
Let my tears drop from the eyes of faith
That I may not mourn without hope
Nor yet rejoice without trembling.
Let me see my sins in the glass of the Law
To humble me,
And my Savior in the glass of the Gospel
To comfort me
Yea, let me with open so behold his glory
As to be changed into the same image
From glory to glory.