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"of him." The reason is obvious. The man who feels himself to be a sinner, forms no expectations of being saved on account of his present character; but feels, of course, that a new and better one must be attained before he can hope for salvation. The man who is religious in his own conceit, will, on the contrary, be satisfied with his present character; and, feeling secure of the favour of God, will seek for no other foundation of hope. The danger of this situation I need not
How different is the language of Scripture concerning the humble: Thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, "I dwell in the high and holy place, yet to this "man will I look; even to him, who is of a humble and con"trite spirit; and to revive the spirit of the humble, and to "revive the spirit of the contrite." "God," saith St. James, "resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” “Be"fore honour," saith Solomon, "is humility." "By humility are riches, honour, and life."
But the point on which I would here especially insist, at the present time, is the dangerous nature of spiritual pride, and the absolute necessity of a humble spirit to our safety. It is impossible for God to accept him who comes into his presence with the declaration: "God, I thank thee that I am not as "other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this "publican; I fast twice a-week; I give tithes of all that I "possess." The first step towards acceptance into the favour of this glorious and awful being, is to assume the spirit of the publican; a spirit, prompting us to stand afar off; regarding it as presumption to lift up even our eyes unto heaven; disposing us to smite upon our breasts, and to say, "God be "merciful to us sinners."
How preposterous is it for a being, born yesterday of the same dust with the worms, and destined soon to become their prey, and return again to the same dust, to be proud! How impious is it for a sinner to present this lofty character in the presence of God! How dangerous, to add this sin to all his other guilt; a sin, existing every moment, and always increasing; a sin, which disturbed the peace of heaven, and ruined
the world! It is impossible for the man of spiritual pride to
IV. These considerations powerfully compel us to exercise charitable thoughts towards others.
When we are indulging pride and self-righteousness; when we are exalting ourselves, and regarding and treating others as objects of scorn, derision, and hatred; when we are branding them as heretics and reprobates; when we are looking down upon them as the dirt and scum of the universe, how profitable might be the remembrance, that these men may hereafter sit down in the kingdom of God, and we ourselves be thrust out! Who are we, that thus intruding into the seat of judgment, condemn another man's servant, and forget that, to his own master, he standeth or falleth? We are those, who are ourselves to be judged; whose cause is yet to be tried; whose character is yet to be settled, and whose reward is yet to be measured out. If they are Christians, our contempt and hatred of them, so long as they are indulged, will of course prevent us from becoming like them; if we are, they will prevent them from becoming like us.
There is perhaps no folly, and no sin to which we are more prone, than to this. Nor is there any, to the existence and operations, of which we are more blind. It is always pleasant to prefer ourselves to others. That the preference is just the pride which creates it, does not permit us to entertain a doubt. The judgment is formed of course, and admitted with pleasure, and there is none to call it in question. Yet all men, though blind to this folly and sin in themselves, discern intuitively, that the decision in most instances is false, although, in his own cause, each is sure that it is true. The cause of this unreasonable and unhappy conduct lies not in the understanding, but in the heart. To the heart, therefore, must the remedy be applied, if we would hope for a cure. Should each one of
us solemnly realize, that the very man whom he condemns and derides may not improbably be admitted, with an open entrance, into the kingdom of God, and he himself be shut out for ever; that the object of his scorn will, at the final day, be raised to immortal glory and immortal joy, and himself be driven, with supreme disgrace and woe, from the presence of his Judge; it would seem, that he could hardly fail to contract his pride, lay his hand upon his mouth, and his mouth in the dust, and take his only safe and proper station at the foot of the cross. Here he would make it his business to pray for others, and to judge himself.
This consideration may be eminently useful to Christians. Even they, it is not to be denied nor concealed, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not always wise. Perhaps there is scarcely a precept, which respects our fellow-men, which Christians ordinarily find it more difficult to obey, than that which requires us to esteem others better than ourselves. The precept, however, is in itself divinely wise, and was never obeyed without the most solid advantage. At the same time, its foundation is laid deep in facts. Every Christian, if not grossly unfaithful to himself, knows incomparably better his own unworthiness than that of others. Hence he is furnished with complete proof, and proof which exists in no other case, that his own station ought, if he is rewarded according to his works, to be very low. Surely this consideration is more than enough to balance all those defects, whether real or imaginary, on the ground of which he forms uncharitable opinions of others; censures them with severity; and perhaps denies them a place in the favour of God. Surely his own sins will weigh more in the scale, which should determine the moral character, than the trifling peculiarities of the sect, class, or church, to which others may belong; or any differences in religious doctrine, which are not absolutely essential, or which do not involve in themselves plain and gross criminality. How many persons, of whom we have thought hardly, will make a brighter and better appearance than ourselves at the great day!
Boerhaave, a man who rendered himself immortal by his
talents and labours, and who, there is the best reason to believe, has become immortal in a far higher sense by his beneficence and piety, is reported to have said, when present at the execution of a criminal, "Perhaps that poor guilty wretch is, "in the sight of God, less guilty than I am." How few persons, have we reason to believe, entertain such just views of the guilt of sin, and the heinousness of their own sins, as this great and good man! By thus humbling himself, how highly is he exalted in the view of every person present. How greatly would pride and self-righteousness have lowered him in our estimation? How exact a counterpart is he of that first of all men, that greatest of the Apostles, who, after being endued with wonderful inspiration, after being caught up to the third heaven, after having converted half the known world, could say, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, " is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles "the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Imitate then, I beseech you, these glorious examples. Make it your business, not to applaud, but to know; not to flatter, but to amend yourselves. Open your eyes daily on your errors and your sins, and labour earnestly, not to justify, but to renounce them. Remember always, that God will hereafter judge both you and your fellow-men, and that his judgment will be according to truth. Ask yourselves, day by day, how you will appear in his eye, and what sentence he will pronounce upon your conduct in this life; and remember, that you cannot obtain his favour, nor be received into his kingdom, unless you essentially resemble that glorious Redeemer, who, although the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, has declared his own character in these remarkable words, "I am meek, and lowly of heart."
THE HARVEST PAST.
JEREMIAH VIII. 20.
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
To understand the import of these words it will be useful to consider the state of the people in whose name they were uttered by the prophet. The Jews were at this period on the eve of destruction. Their temporal prosperity was from the first suspended on their obedience to God. Secular good was more frequently promised, as a reward to their obedience, than that which is eternal, and secular evil more frequently threatened, as a penalty for their disobedience. Every corrupted nation may be justly considered as hastening to its fall in the natural progress of things; but the nation of the Jews, of which God was the sovereign, was taught to expect this fall as an immediate judgment from heaven, as the punishment denounced against rebellion in the constitution of their government. Their sins were known, overt acts of treason against their supreme ruler, and as such were to be punished with peculiar severity.
A short time previous to the period when the text was written, Josiah was on the throne of Judah. The reformation, begun by him, was the last before the final ruin of the kingdom.