« PreviousContinue »
has made no provision. When warned of his danger, he only replies with the Pharisees, "Am I blind also ?" Hence he falls into a pit, which, if he would have opened his eyes, he might have shunned, and is entangled in snares, which men more modest and cautious easily escape.
In all the religious cases which I have specified the evil is still more certain, as well as more dreadful. False schemes of religion are of course fatal schemes. To trust in them is to trust in refuges of lies, which the hail shall sweep away. Truth only can conduct us to heaven, or to God; and human schemes of religion are of course not true. God will accept us on his own terms only, if at all; and these terms man cannot discover.
Besides, a self-sufficient proud spirit is pre-eminently odious to God. Pride was the sin of the fallen angels. It was the sin of our first parents. It is the sin of us, their children. It turned those angels out of heaven. It ruined Adam and his posterity. It will not, therefore, restore us to the favour of God.
1. From these observations we learn that humility is a prime duty and interest of man.
Humility is merely a just sense of our character and circumstances, and a disposition conformed to it, a willingness to believe and to feel that we are what we really are. Think, then, I beseech you what we are. We sprang from the dust yesterday, to-morrow go to the grave. Our knowledge is limited to a few, a very few, objects, and bounded by a span. At the same time it is mingled with a multitude of errors, always mischievous, and very often fatal. Truth is invariably one and the same thing. But how widely diverse from one another are human opinions, and how widely diverse, of course, except a single system of opinions, from truth. That all but this system are erroneous is mathematically certain. Whether that system is true is yet to be determined.
Such is the state of our boasted reason. Our disposition is even more unhappy than our intellect. Ourselves we abuse, corrupt, and destroy. Our fellow-men we envy, hate, deceive, defraud, and oppress. God we either absolutely forget, or insult with impiety, ingratitude, and rebellion. Thus our character is odious, shameful, and sinful, in his sight, and in our He has most mercifully offered to restore us to piety, and to endless life, through the redemption of his Son, and the benevolent agency of his Holy Spirit. But we reject the offer, disbelieve his Son, and resist the influence of his Spirit. Our life, in the meantime, is a course of frailty, disease, pain, sorrow, and disappointment. The world is a vale of tears leading to the grave, to the judgment, and to everlasting woe. Of what then shall man be proud? Of his origin, his ignorance, his errors, his guilt, his misery, or his end? What greater folly can be conceived than this? How plainly ought such beings to be humble? How loudly do their character and their circumstances demand of them humility?
Humility renders us lovely. It recommends us to God; it secures us the esteem of our fellow-men; it reconciles us to ourselves. Every eye which looks on, perceives its beauty; every heart responds to its excellence.
At the same time, it is immeasurably profitable. It prepares us to perceive and welcome truth, evangelical truth, truth of infinite importance to us; breaks down our most obstinate and dangerous prejudices; makes us willing to perform our duty, and fits us for endless life. Humility, therefore, is true wisdom, indispensable to our well-being in time and eternity.
II. These observations teach us the chief origin of infidelity and heresy.
St. Paul long since styled infidelity philosophy and vain deceit,―a Hebraism to express a vain and deceitful philosophy. Arrogance began this scheme of thinking, and arrogance has brought it down to the present time. The whole body of infidels have ever been distinguished by their self-conceit from all other classes of men. Pride rises as a scum on all their books, and on all their conversation. The vanity which
they discover in their treatment of the Scriptures, and of their fellow-men, is rank and fetid. Contempt, insolence, ridicule, and sneers are the weapons with which they attack truth and Christianity, and with which they arm themselves against God. Who would suspect that beings who lift so lofty a crest were worms, just ushered into existence, creeping through the little day of life, and returning at night to the dust from which they sprung. Who would suspect that they were poor, and miserable, and naked, and blind, and in want of all things. Who would imagine, that all this loftiness of character, these boasts of self-conceit belong to creatures putrid with sin, loathsome in the sight of God, and destined to perdition.
Almost all the ancient heretics, says Dr. Lardner, were philosophers. Such, to an equal extent, have been those of modern times. These men now, as in all preceding periods, professedly receive the Scriptures, and then set them aside; make a system of religion, and then attribute it to God. Deplorable impiety! Wonderful lunacy! How few of the scenes of bedlam exhibit so entire a destitution of reason, or so bewildered a domination of the passions of the human heart.
III. We learn from these observations one of the principal sources of the practical unbelief, and the final ruin of sinners who speculatively believe the Gospel.
All these men trust in their own hearts, and are fools in this confidence. Most of them, perhaps every one intend ultimately to obey the Scriptures, and turn to God. Now, however, they are not ready, but the golden season is on the wing, is in full view, and is daily approaching, in which all things will be perfectly prepared for the accomplishment of this great purpose, acknowledged even by them to be indispensable. It is a day, formed in the womb of time, with auspices peculiarly happy; the very contrast to the day of Job's birth, as it appeared to his distempered imagination. It has been named by God himself, as they would fondly believe, the accepted time, and the day of salvation. Every sinner has such a day, which his Maker has especially destined to his own use; a day, in which all the obstacles to his repentance will
be removed. To this delightful paradisaical period he refers, and feels that he may safely refer, the momentous concern of providing for the immortal life of his own soul. How melancholy is it, that this Elysian season never arrives; that no sinner ever finds it; that on it no sinner ever repented; that, if his repentance be delayed in expectation of it, it is delayed for ever, unless God should arrest him in his progress, and awake him out of the delirious slumbers of procrastination.
This conduct has been the ruin of millions of our race, and will but too probably be the ruin of millions more who might otherwise be saved. The broad and crooked path, which leadeth to destruction, groans under the crowd of procrastinators. The confidence which they feel in their future sufficiency to repent, has destroyed more than the sword, the famine, or the pestilence. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil; and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON.
LUKE XV. 11-17.
"And he said, a certain rich man had two sons; and the
younger of them said to his father, Father give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself he said, 'How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough, and to spare, and I perish with hunger !'”
THIS parable is naturally capable of a two-fold construction. The first, and probably that which it was intended especially to have, is, that it is an exhibition of the comparative state of the Jews and the Gentiles, and of the dispensations of God to both. The second supposes it to be an account of persons externally and regularly obedient to the law of God, and there