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and even of a progress in the practice of piety, is almost unavoidable, and is not without its use, inasmuch as it supplies a motive to gratitude, and a source of consolation; but the moment he finds himself drawing a self-complacency from such a retrospect, the enlightened christian is alarmed, nor will he suffer himself to dwell long upon an object, the survey of which is so replete with danger. He hastens to check himself in that delusive train of reflection, and to recall to his [mind the persuasion] that he has “ not yet attained, nor is already perfect.” The recollection that he is a fallen creature, exposed to righteous indignation ; that his sins, though remitted, can never cease to be his, nor to retain all their turpitude and demerit; and that he is, whatever his attainments, still a child of disobedience, and a pensioner on mercy ;--the constant remembrance of these solemn and momentous truths, is sufficient to preserve a perpetual humiliation in the sight of God.
2. Humility before God will have a beneficial influence on the mind in which divine truth is contemplated, and its discoveries received. He who is humble before God, will be so conscious of his utter insufficiency to explain the mysteries of religion, that he will be inexpressibly thankful for divine communications. He will feel and recognize his absolute need of a guide in the momentous concerns of eternity. In the obscurity of reason, heightened by the perplexities of guilt,
he will distinctly perceive his entire dependence upon Heaven for every ray of information respecting the great concern of reconciliation with the offended Deity; and while he disclaims all pretension to a title to the divine favour, he will be instantly convinced, that to solve the problem, “ How man shall be just with God,” must ever surpass the powers of finite reason.
Humility is the best preparation for studying the oracles of God, by destroying our confidence in every other teacher.
. “ The meek will he guide in judgement: the meek will he teach his way.
It is scarcely possible to conceive a greater presumption than those are guilty of who decide beforehand what it is fit and proper for revelation to communicate, and pertinaciously reject every doctrine, however clearly and unequivocally asserted, which is repugnant to their previous anticipations; as though we possessed some independent source of information sufficiently clear and determinate to limit and control the supernatural suggestions of divine truth. The supposition on which this conduct proceeds is utterly false and preposterous. Independently of revelation, we have no data from which we can infer the purposes of God, or the method of his dealing with fallen creatures. “ For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or, being his counsellor, hath instructed him ?” of None knoweth “ the things of God, but the Spirit of God.” I
* Ps. xxv.9. + Rom. xi. 34. 1 Cor. ii. 16. I 1 Cor. ii. 11.
On the supposition we
are combating, what necessity is there for revelation at all, since the pretension of being able to ascertain the contents of revelation beforehand, implies a previous degree of knowledge, which makes the illumination of scripture come too late? The necessity of revelation is founded on the supposition of insuperable ignorance; the power of ascertaining its subsequent discoveries is founded on knowledge; and the two suppositions destroy each other.
The usual pretence for rejecting some of the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel is, their mysterious nature; or, in other words, the impossibility of comprehending them in their full extent. That nothing that is repugnant to the plain dictates of reason can claim belief, is readily admitted, because impossibilities are not the objects of power, even supposing it to be infinite; but the mysteries of the gospel are not of this nature. They include, it is true, something which we cannot fully comprehend; but they contain nothing which the legitimate exercise of reason perceives to be absurd : they surpass the limits of reason, without doing violence to its dictates. And what is more natural to expect than that the communications of Infinite Wisdom should unfold objects to our view, which, in all their bearing and extent, transcend the feeble powers of a worm; or that assertions respecting the mode of divine existence, and the counsels of eternity, will be found, in the volume of revelation, most remote from our previous
conjectures? The grandeur of God, the awful unfathomable depths of his wisdom, and the mysteriousness of his essence, would lead rather to a contrary supposition. Humility in the sight of God will at once scatter these chimeras, and bow the mind to the profoundest submission to divine teaching. He who knows himself will be prostrate in the presence of Infinite Majesty, and say, in the language of an eminent saint,“ Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Far from measuring the communications of heaven by the standard of a preconceived hypothesis, he will attend, with childlike simplicity, to the oracles of God, and endeavour to subject “ every thought and imagination to the obedience of Christ.” He will abandon himself, with the utmost alacrity, to the directions of an infallible guide. He will permit things of God” to be unfolded by that Spirit which alone is able to search them, conscious that in the concerns of eternity“ the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” *
With a mind truly humble, the great principle which pervades the gospel will be found peculiarly congenial; and what is this but the principle of grace? The whole system of the gospel is emphatically “ the gospel of the grace of God.”p It is an exhibition of unmerited favour to a guilty and perishing world; and all the blessings which it
proposes to bestow, all the hopes it inspires, are ascribed to this as its origin. Every idea of human * 1 Cor. i. 25.
Acts xx. 24.
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desert is anxiously excluded, while the whole provision which it makes for the wants, the whole relief it affords to the misery of man, is ascribed solely to this source. To [exhibit] to the view “ of principalities and powers in heavenly places” the riches of divine grace, is its avowed end and purpose. If he has“ raised us up together with Christ, and made us to sit down with him in heavenly places,” it is “ that he may shew forth to the ages to come the surpassing riches of his grace in his kindness toward us by Jesus Christ.”* In every stage of the stupendous undertaking, “ grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.”+
It is the triumph and preeminence of grace that forms the distinguishing character of the christian system, and which produces that insuperable disgust with which it is contemplated by those who,
going about to establish their own righteousness, refuse to submit themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
Hence the attempts are, in many instances, too successful, which are daily witnessed, to disguise this its obnoxious feature, and by certain extenuations and refinements, to accommodate it to the pride of the sinful and unsanctified heart. Hence the deplorable infatuation of multitudes, who choose rather to perish in their sin, than to be so entirely and deeply indebted to unmerited favour as the system of the gospel implies. But to a mind truly humbled, nothing is more welcome, nothing is more delightful, than the contemplation * Ephes. ii. 6, 7.
† Rom. v. 21.