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But for the Scriptures, we should now have the same views, which have been spread over the whole heathen world; and might this day have been prostrating ourselves before stocks and stones, and looking to drunkenness, prostitution, and the butchery of human victims as the means of obtaining a happy immortality. How inexpressibly deplorable is this ignorance ! How humble the character of those of whom it can be truly predicated!
For our exemption from all these errors, we are indebted solely to the Bible. But with this invaluable book in our hands we reluctantly admit, in many cases, even its fundamental truths : truths of supreme importance to the establishment of virtue in our minds, and to the acquisition of eternal life beyond the grave : truths which are the glory of the Revealed System, and which have been the means of conducting to heaven a multitude which no man can number. In the place of these, what absurdities have not been imbibed! absurdities immeasurably disgraceful to the understanding, and absolutely ruinous to the soul. How long these absurdities have reigned! How widely they have spread! What innumerable mischiefs they have done!' How strongly they discover a violent tendency in our nature to reject truth and welcome error! Who with this picture before him can doubt that on this account we have abundant reason for humility ? In addition to these things, we are sinful creatures.
The heart, says the Prophet Jeremiah, is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. He who reads the three first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, or peruses the history of mankind, or at. tentively considers the conduct of himself and his fellow-men, will without much hesitation adopt the decision of the Prophet. It is wonderful that sinful beings should be proud of their eharacter; and remarkable that pride is indulged by no other beings. Of what shall we be proud? In our conversation and in our writings we charge each other endlessly with impiety, profaneness, perjury, irreligion, injustice, fraud, falsehood, slander, oppression, cruelty, theft, lewdness, sloth, gluttony, and drunkenness. The charges are either true or false. If they are false, they are in themselves abominable wickedness. If they are true, those on whom they rest are abominably wicked. What an unhappy foundation is here furnished for pride!
If we look into our own hearts, and into our own lives, and perform this duty faithfully, we shall find ample reason for selfcondemnation; we shall see that our own hearts, at least, answer to the declaration of Jeremiah; we shall see ourselves alienated from God, revolted from his government, opposed to his law, ungrateful for his blessings, distrustful of his sincerity, and discontented with his administrations. With all these sins before us, we shall find ourselves slow of heart to believe or repent.
God has provided for us, and proffered to us, deliverance from our sins, and from the punishment which they have merited. He Vol. II.
has sent a Saviour into the world to redeem us from under the curse of the law, and that by the effusion of his own blood; but we reject him. He has sent his Spirit to sanctify us, and to make us his children; but we resist his influence. He has offered to be reconciled to us: but we refuse to be reconciled to him. We might be virtuous, we might be happy; but we will not.
What causes for humiliation are here presented to our view!
Finally. We are miserable creatures. In the present world we are, to a great extent, unhappy: Cold and heat, hunger and thirst, anxiety, disappointment, toil, poverty, loss of friends, disgrace, sorrow, pain, disease, and death, divide among them a great part of our days, and leave us scarcely more than a few transient gleams of ease, comfort and hope. How often are most of these evils doubled and tripled by similar sufferings of such as are dear to us in the bonds of nature and affection! How truly does Job declare that Man, who is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble!
From these calamities our only way of escape conducts us to the grave. Beyond that dreary mansion stands the last tribunal, at which our eternal doom will be irreversibly fixed. But the only reward of sin is perdition, perdition final and irremediable. This is the deplorable end of the sins and miseries, which so extensively constitute our character and our allotments in the present world.
Look now at the description which has been given, and tell me for which of these things we shall be proud. Is it our origin, our dependence, the precariousness of our life and its enjoyments, our ignorance, our errors, our sins, or our miseries?
In the mean time, let it be remembered, that this very pride is one of our grossest sins; whether it be pride of birth, of wealth, of beauty, of talents, of accomplishments, of exploits, of place, of power, or of moral character. A proud look, from whatsoever source derived, is an abomination to the Lord. Angels by their pride lost heaven. Our first parents by their pride ruined the world.
That the view which has been here given of the state and character of man is just, will not, because it cannot, be questioned. Conformed to it are all the views entertained of the same subjects by every man possessing the humility of the Gospel. On these very considerations, especially as applied to himself, is his humility founded.
2dly. Humility involves a train of affections accordant with such a sense of our character and conditions.
"It involves that candour and equity, which dispose us to receive and acknowledge truth, however humbling to our pride, or painful to our fears, in preference to error, however soothing or flattering. The humble man feels assured, also, that it is his true interest to know and feel the worst of his situation; that a just sense of his
condition may be the means of rendering it more hopeful and more desirable; that false conceptions of it, on the contrary, cannot possibly do him any good, and will in all probability do him much harm; that truth is a highway, which may conduct him to heaven; but that error is a labyrinth in which he may be lost for ever.
Equally disposed is he to do justice to the several subjects of his contemplation. Cheerfully is he ready to feel and to acknowledge that he is just such a being as he actually is ; that he is no wiser, no better, no more honourable, and no more safe, but just as lowly, as dependent, as ignorant, as guilty, and as much in danger, as truth pronounces him to be. With the humiliation, dependence, and precariousness of his circumstances he is satisfied, because they are ordained by his Maker. His guilt he acknowledges to be real; and, at the sight of it, willingly takes his place in the dust. His sufferings he confesses to be merited, and therefore bows submissively beneath the rod. Claims he makes none, for he feels that there is nothing in himself to warrant them; and, although he wishes ardently to escape from his sin and misery, he never thinks of demanding it as a right; but, so far as he is permitted, humbly hopes it as a gift of free grace, as a mere blessing derived from the overflowing mercy of his Creator.
Among the subjects which his situation forces upon his mind, the means of expiating his guilt become one of primary importance. After surveying it on every side, he pronounces the attempt hopeless; and sees with full conviction, that, if God should mark iniquity, it would be impossible for him to stand. In this melancholy situation he does not, like the man of the world, rise up in haughty rebellion against God; he does not say, Who is the Almighty, that I should serve him; and what profit shall I have, if I pray unto him? He does not insolently exclaim, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will ? On the contrary, in the language of Job, he modestly cries out, Behold I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. With Daniel he sets his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fastings, and sackcloth, and ashes; and he prays unto the Lord his God, and makes his confession, and says, O Lord, the great and dreadful God! keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love thee, I have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.
But, although in himself he sees no means of deliverance or escape, he finds in the Scriptures of truth, ample provision made for both. The provision is complete. An expiation is there made for the sins of men ; and a deliverance from the miseries, to which they were destined, effectuated; which involve all that the most sanguine mind can wish concerning both. Still, the scheme involves an absolute humiliation of human pride ; for it represents
man as totally destitute of any thing in his native character, or in his efforts, which can recommend him to God, or which can be regarded by the final Judge as any ground of his justification. It is a scheme of mere mercy; and every one, who is to receive the blessings of it, must come in the character of a penitent, supplicating for pardon through the righteousness of a Redeemer.
Nothing can be more painful to pride than this schéme of deliverance; but nothing can be more welcome to the heart of genuine humility. God in the great work of forgiving, redeeming, and sanctifying man, appears to the humble penitential mind, invested with peculiar glory, excellence, and loveliness. God, says St. Paul, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. In the work of Redemption, accomplished by this Divine person, the character of God is seen by the sanctified mind in a light entirely new, and more honourable to him than that which is presented by any other work either of Creation or Providence. His benevolence shines, here, in the exercise of mercy towards the apostate children of men, in a manner which is new and singular, a manner in which it has been displayed to the inhabitants of no other part of the Universe. Here, especially, it is discerned that God is Love; and the humble penitent is so deeply affected with the kindness manifested in expiating and forgiving sin, and renewing the soul, that he is ready to exclaim with the Psalmist, Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but to thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. In the midst of his astonishment that such mercy should be extended to him, a poor, guilty, miserable wretch, unworthy in his own view of the least of all mercies, the pride even of self-righteousness is for a while at least laid asleep; and his thoughts and affections, instead of being turned towards himself, are absorbed in the condescension and goodness of his Father, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
It is impossible for the man, in whom this attribute is found, not to turn his thoughts from time to time to the perfect purity of God. No subject of contemplation can more strongly impress upon the mind a sense of its own impurity. In his sight the heavens themselves are not clean, and the angels before him are charged with folly. How much more abominable and filthy to the eye of the penitent must man appear, who drinketh iniquity like water! In the sight of this awful and most affecting object, he will almost necessarily exclaim, with Job, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee! Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. When
ch a man contemplates the character of his Christian brethren, emotions of the same general nature will necessarily occupy his mind. St. Paul has directed Christians to forbear one anOther in all lowliness and meekness of mind, and to esteem others bet
ter than themselves. This precept, which to a man of the world appears absurd and incapable of being obeyed, involves no difficulty in the eye of him who is evangelically humble. The sins of other Christians are of course, imperfectly known to him. Their sins of thought are all hidden from his eyes : their sins of action he rarely witnesses; and of those, which are perpetrated in his presence, he cannot know either the extent, or malignity. His own sins, in the mean time, both of heart and of life, are in a sense always naked before him; and he can hardly fail to discern, in some good degree, their number, their aggravations, and their guilt. Hence other Christians will, in a comparative sense, appear to him to be clean ; while himself will seem unsound and polluted, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. In this situation, the difficulty of esteeming others better than himself vanishes. Impossible as it would be for a proud man to think in this manner; the only difficulty to the humble man is to think in any other.
Such at all times, with the exceptions for which the human character always lays the foundation, will be the emotions naturally imbibed and strongly cherished by Christian humility. But there are certain seasons, in which they will be excited in a peculiar degree. Such will be the case in the house of God. Here he is brought immediately into the presence of his Maker; here he appears in the characier of a sinner and of a suppliant for mercy; here he draws nigh to his Maker in the solemn ordinances of the Sanctuary ; here the character and sufferings of the Redeemer are set before him in the light of heaven; here he witnesses all the wonders of redeeming, forgiving, and sanctifying love. What God is, and what he himself is, what he has done to destroy himself, and what God has done to save him from destruction, are here presenta ed to his eye, and brought home to his heart, in the most affecting manner. In this solemn place, also, he is in the midst of his fellowChristians, uniting with them in their prayers and praises, and sitting with them at the table of Christ to celebrate his sufferings, and the love wherewith he loved us and gave himself for us. In such a situation, how great and good must his Father, Redeemer, and Sanctifier appear! How little, how unworthy, how sinful! How strange must it seem, that he, who is unworthy of the least, should thus be put into the possession of the greatest of all mercies! How naturally, how often, and how anxiously, will he inquire, whether it can be proper, for such a being as himself, to unite with the followers of the Redeemer in their worship, share in their privileges, and participate in their hopes, and in their joys !
Feelings of the same general nature will also be awakened, and often in an equal degree, when he retires to his closet to pray to his Father who is in secret. Here he withdraws entirely from the world, and meets his Maker face to face. The Divine character, and his own, must be brought before his eyes in the strongest light, while he is employed in confessing his sins, and supplicating pardon and