Obrazy na stronie

nal act extends, there are few duties perhaps which he will not consent to perform. But, when he is driven from the outworks, he only retires to the chief fortress of sin. Still self is worshipped in a different form; and, though he sees that it cannot possess the throne by violence, yet he hopes that it may be able to purchase it with a price. Thus the homage that was paid to sinful self, is only transferred to righteous self; and now the idol which was formerly black as hell, being white-washed, and decked with some forms of godliness, is permitted to wield the sceptre in peace, till either grace or vengeance wipe off the false colouring, and stripping the deceiver of his gorgeous apparel, cast him down to the ground, and put a final period to his usurped domination.

Of all the parts of mortification, self-denial is by far the most painful and difficult; indeed all the rest are virtually contained in it. Were it only riches or honours, or even the fruit of the body for the sin of the soul, a carnal mind, stung with remorse, and terrified with the prospect of impending wrath, might be brought to part with them; but to part with his all, with his life, with his self, this indeed is a hard saying, and more than enough to make him go away sorrowful.

Now herein appeareth the end and the neces. sity of such humiliation as I endeavonred to describe. This layeth the whole load upon self, and breaketh the very heart of the old man; it

setteth the house on fire, in which we both trusted and delighted, and maketh us not only to see, but to feel that it is time for us to abandon it, lest we be consumed. This then is the first office of humiliation, to hide pride from our eyes, by showing us that we are our own destroyers, and giving us such discoveries of our guilt and pollution, that we are made to abhor ourselves in dust and in ashes, and to cry out with the publi. can, God be merciful to us sinners. This leads me to mention a

Second, and more salutary end of humiliation, which indeed may be called its ultimate end, because the self-annihilation I have been speaking of, derives its chief importance from its tendency to promote it, and that is, true humiliation prepares the soul for the honourable reception of Christ

and his grace.

I say, for the honourable reception of Christ ; it is not meet that he should come into an unhumbled heart; for, though his errand be to heal us, yet he must have the welcome that is due to a physician. He comes indeed to save us, but he comes at the same time to be honoured in our salvation. Though his grace be free, yet he will not expose it to contempt, but have the fulness and the freedom of it acknowledged and glorified. Faith indeed accepts the gift, but then it must be a humble faith that is sensible of its worth; a thankful faith, that magnifieth the Giver; and an

obedient faith, that will practically improve the mercy bestowed. Christ hath no grace so free as to save those who neither feel their need of it, no know its worth. Christ's benefits are not appled in the same way they were purchased. When he came to ransom us, he consented to be a sufferer; for then he bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows; the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him, as the substitute and surety of guilty man; but when he comes, by his saving grace, into the soul, he will not then be entertained with contempt. He came in the flesh on purpose to be humbled; but, when he comes in the spirit, it is that he may be exalted. On the cross he was reputed a sinner, and bore the punishment that was due to sin; but, in the soul, he is the conqueror of sin, and comes to take

pus. session of his own, and therefore must be treated according to his dignity. It was the hour and power of darkness while he suffered; but, when he enters into the heart by his quickening spirit, that is the hour of triumph, and the prevailing power of heavenly light; and, therefore, though in the flesh he submitted to contempt and reproach, yet he will not endure to be slighted in the soul. No; there he must be enthroned in our most reverend esteem, and crowned with our highest gratitude and love. The cross must there be the portion of his enemies. The crown and sceptre which he purchased must be yielded to

him; and every thought must be captivated to the obedience of his will.

This is the end of humiliation, to employ the soul for the fuller entertainment of the Lord that bought it; to prepare the way before him; to whip the buyers and sellers out of the living temples of our hearts, that they may become holiness to the Lord, a fit habitation for the King of Glory.

From this account of the nature and use of humiliation, you may be able to judge what measure of it is absolutely necessary. It must at least go so deep as to undermine our pride, and bring us so low, that the blood of Christ, and the favour of God, shall become more precious in our esteem, than all the riches, and honours, and plea: sures of a present world. At the same time, we must beware of ascribing to our own humiliation any part of the office of Christ, or of the honour that is due to him. We must not think that we can recommend ourselves to the favour of God by the worth of our sorrows, though we should weep even tears of blood. It is not true humiliation, if it lead us not wholly beyond ourselves, to seek pardon and life from Christ alone ; and, therefore, it would be a plain contradiction, if humiliation should assume the place of satisfaction and merit, or be in any degree relied upon instead of the Saviour, or so much as associated with him in procuring our salvation.

Hence likewise we learn, that humiliation becomes excessive, and counteracts its chief end, when it confines our attention so entirely to our own'unworthiness, as to darken our views of gospel grace, and prevent or obstruct our application to Christ. But as few, comparatively speaking, err upon this side, I shall rather take occasion, from what has been said, to point out some of the symptoms of the opposite extreme, and then call upon those whose humiliation, upon trial, shall appear to be defective, to beg of God the blessing of a broken and contrite heart, which is the professed design of our assembling together this day.

1st, then, They may certainly conclude that they are not sufficiently humbled, who suffer their hearts to be lifted up with their duties or attainments, and are not suitably affected with those imperfections and blemishes which necessarily čleave to their best performances. The true Christian grows downward in humility, in the same proportion that he abounds in the fruits of righteousness. The nearer he approaches to a holy God, the more clearly he discovers his own guilt and pollution. Thus holy Nehemiah, after he had been recounting, to the praise of divine grace, the many eminent services he had been enabled to do for the church, addresses to God this humble prayer, “O spare me, according to the greatness of thy mercy!"

« PoprzedniaDalej »