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a living branch in the true vine, a living member of Christ's body. For of his fulness we all receive, and grace for grace. For he and all the members of his body are one, not only one relatively, but one in heart, one in spirit, the same spirit which dwells in Christ being communicated to them. For ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the spirit of Christ dwells in you. In regeneration and conversion, these views and affections begin to take place, and from year to year, as with open face, they behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord; so they are more and more changed into the same image from glory to glory, till all come to be one with him, as he and his Father are one.
But on the contrary, if, as some plead, pardon is granted to the impenitent sinner, while such, a belief of which is the foundation of his love and of all his religion ; then in the application of redemption, God and his law are dishonoured, the import of Christ's death is denied, sin is justified, the sinner's self-justifying spirit is gratified, and the grace of the Gospel kept out of view. For this is the native language of such a sinner's heart, “there is no loveliness conceivable in the divine nature, but what results from bis love to me, and it is impossible I should love God from any other motive, nor is it my duty, nor is the Gospel designed to bring me to it, nor am I to blame that I do not, nor do I need the alonement of Christ in the case, or pardon for not loving God for the loveliness of his own nature. For there is no loveliness in his nature, but as he loves me, and designs to save me.” Thus the absolutely perfect, tbe infinitely glorious and amiable Being, who is by nature God, in himself, let me be saved or damned, infinitely worthy of supreme love, and bonour, and universal obedience, according to the united import of the divine law, and of the cross of Christ, is at once stripped of all the original, independent, eternal, immutable glories of his Godhead, the divine law is virtually pronounced tyrannical, the import of Christ's death impiously denied, his atonement pronounced needless, and himself virtually declared to be an impostor, our being dead in sin justified, our disaffection to the divine character declared to be no crime, or reconciliation to be no duty, no pardon, no atonement, no
sanctifier needed in the case. “ No, for we are right, God and his law are wrong; if God will repent and make restitution ; if God will deliver us from the curse of the law, and give us heaven, we will forgive him, feel no more heart-risings toward him, but love him if he will thus love us. Otberwise, it is impossible we should love him, impossible but that. we should hate him and his law. For there is no loveliness conceivable in his nature, unless he will love and save me.” Thus the impenitent, proud, haughty wretch, ungods the Deity, condemus his law, blasphemes the cross of Christ, justifies himself, denies his sin, his need of atonement, of regeneration, of repentance, of pardon, and is filled with love and joy in a firm belief that God Almighty looks upon things as he does. And this impious, blasphemous love and joy, he calls by the sacred name of Christian piety.
The nature and effects, the cause and cure, of a self-righteous
THE nature and effects, the cause and cure of a selfrighteous spirit, might have been collected from the principles laid down and proved in the other sections of this Essay, by the judicious reader ; but for the sake of weaker capacities, it may not be amiss, if these things are briefly stated. And the rather, as it is of great importance this subject be well understood. In general, then,
A self-righteous spirit consists in a disposition to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. And so, it is pride. And it stands in opposition to humility, which is to think soberly of ourselves, and as we ought to think, as St. Paul defines it. Rom. xii. 3. And a self-righteous spirii arises from blindness to the divine glory, and ignorance our true character and state, as they appear in the sight of God, and as they really are, compared with his holy law. The spiritual knowledge of God and bis law, and a view of
ourselves in contrast with God and his law thus known, is the cure of a self-righteous spirit. When the divine character, as exhibited in his law, begins to appear in its infinite glory, our character will begin to appear in its infinite odiousness. And this begets a disposition to think soberly of ourselves and as we ought to think. And so we, through the law, become dead to the law, that we may live to God. But to be more particular,
1. A self-righteous spirit consists in a disposition to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. How we ought to think of ourselves hath been already stated, Sect. III. p. 371,,372. When a man thinks more highly of himself than be ought to think on the account of his fine clothes, he is called by the odious name of fop. But when in the exercise of the same temper, he thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think, upon religious accounts, he is called by the more odious name of a self-righteous man. Luke xviii. 9. 14. The saine spirit of pride, which leads one to be proud in a view of his fine clothes, inclines another to be proud in a view of his large estate, or honourable parentage, or good bodily features, or superior genius, or great acquired mental accomplishments. And it is the same spirit which leads all mankind in general to think more bighly of themselves than they ought to think in religious respects. For a self-righteous spirit is common to mankind in general, although in different men it operates differently; and in some more than in others. It reigns in all unregenerate men: and it is mortified in saints no further than they are sanctified, and will not be entirely eradicated out of their hearts until they become perfectly holy. It operates differently in different men.
In the profane, it operates to keep them secure, to fortify them against the fears of death and hell, and guard them against the terrors of the divine law; that they may take their full swing in sinful pleasures unmolested. For thus it inclines them to think, “I can break off my sins when I please. And whenever I break off, God will be obliged to forgive
Herein he thinks more highly of binself' than be ought to think, in two respects. First, he thinks his heart to be much better than it is, even that he can find in his heart to give up all sin and turn to God. But if he would make a thorough trial, he would find it to be a mistake. He would find that sin has full power of his soul. That be loves it so entirely, that it is not in his heart to be inclined to forsake it. To forsake sin, in general, I mean ; for he may be inclined to change one lust for another, turn out a black devil and take in a white one, leave protaneness, and become a civil, sober, self-righteous hypocrite. But to turn from all sin in general, and to turn onto the Lord, is not in his heart. For the carnal mind is enmity against God; is not subject to his law, neither inderd can be. And, secondly, he thioks too highly of himself in another respect, viz. that there will be so mach virtue in his repentance and reformation, as to atone for all his past wickedness, and entitle him to the favour of God. Whereas, according to the divine estimation, there is so much blame and ill-desert in one wilful transgression, as to make an eternal forfeiture of his soul, and plunge him into a hopeless, remediless state, according to a rule of strict justice. So that if he had no more interest in Adam's sin tban in Noah's; yet, after one transgression, he is a lost creature, liable to die and go to hell in a moment; and God absolute ly unobliged, if he lives, to grant him any assistance of bis Spirit, or ever to regard any of his prayers. For if one transgression exposes a man to the curse of the law, according to Gal. iii. 10. then the transgressor may be justly sent to hell iminediately. And therefore God is unobliged to show him any favour of any kind. And it is entirely owing to pride and self-conceit, that sinners are inclined to view things in another light. They think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. And ihis, which is natural to profane sinners, has a great influence to keep them secure in sin.
In awakened sinners it operates to incline them, by their reformations, prayers, tears, &c. to go about to establish their own righteousness. For being so terrified with the thoughts of eternal destruction, that they can no longer go on quietly in their sinful pleasures, they now go about to pacify the Deity by their amendment and fervent prayers. And thus they thiuk; “ If I repent and reform, if I bumble myself before God, and pray, and do as well as I can, he is obliged to show me mercy: for it would be hard and unjust in God to require more of his poor creatures than they can do, and then damn them for not doing." And perhaps thousands and ten thousands build their hopes for heaven on this foundation, and live and die upon it. Not considering, that if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Not once reflecting, that if their best doings ought in reason to recommend them to the divine favour, there was no occasion for the incarnation and death of the Son of God. And that therefore, if they are right, the whole Gospel is overthrowo. Their pride absolutely blinds their eyes, that they cannot see; and stops their ears, that they cannot hear; and hardens their hearts, that they cannot understand. Or, if some men, of more penetration, perceive that this way of thinking does in fact overthrow Christianity, they will sooner give up the whole of divine revelation, than give up their pride. And from this source it is, that Great-Britain is so filled with infidels. And from this source it is, that infidelity begins to creep into New England, which, if divine grace prevents not, may in half a century make great progress. For as the Pharisees would sooner believe, that Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub, than that they were serpents and a generation of vipers, worthy of the damnatian of hell; even so it is here. But meanwhile,
In Antinomian converts, to extricate themselves out of these embarrassments, a self-righteous spirit prompts and einboldens them, to take a short and easy method, to think well of God and of themselves both at once, and so their pride and religion become perfectly harmonious ; in the belief of these two maxims, (Ist.) God lotes me, impenitent as I am. (20.) To believe that God thus loves me, and to love him merely in this belief, is the sum of religion. For in the belief of these two articles, the divine law, which stands prepared to slay the self-righteous sinner, is set aside, and turned out of doors; the curse, by the first; the command, by the second ; and so the divine law being cashiered by this belief, the self-righteous sinner stands completely self-justified. He believes, or rather imagines himself into the love of God, and out of the reach of the law; and so into a good opinion of the Deity, and of him