Page images
PDF
EPUB

their spiritual affections, they are apt to imagine, that they are all pure and holy. All these affections, however, are distinguishable, and growing christians learn by experience to distinguish them. The more they increase in knowledge and grace, the more clearly they discern the difference between holy affections, and all others which bear the nearest resemblance of gracious exercises.

By growing in grace, they experience a growing sense of their constant and absolute dependence upon the divine Spirit for all right affections. They lean less to their own understanding; trust less to their own hearts; and depend less upon their own resolutions and strength. They find more sensibly, that they are not sufficient of themselves to think any thing as of themselves; but that their sufficiency is of God. They are convinced by experience, that the preparation of their beart and the answer of their tongue is of the Lord. They feel more and more disposed to acknowledge God in all their ways, and to rely upon his gracious aid and influence in every duty.

Their growth in grace gives them a growing sense of their vileness and unworthiness in the sight of God. The more holy they are, the more clearly they discern the beauty of holiness and the deformity and turpitude of sin. As Job grew in grace by passing through the furnace of affliction, he felt an increasing sense of his moral imperfection and vileness in the sight of God, to whom he said, “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.” A clear view of the holiness and majesty of God, had a similar effect upon the holy heart of Isaiah, who said, “Wo is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of

unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts.” The apostle Paul, while pressing forward towards sinless perfection, had a deep and growing sense of his remaining depravity, and moral turpitude. “O wretched man that I am, said he, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” David often sighed and groaned under a sense of his sin and guilt. Though growing saints really increase in holiness; yet the more grace they have, the more clearly they discern their remaining corruptions, and the more they loath and abhor themselves for them.

Hence growing christians have a growing sense of the grace of God in their salvation. The more they grow in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the clearer views they have of the divine character, and of the divine law, and of the difference between nature and grace, the more they are astonished at the great things which have been done for them. They are ready to adopt the grateful language of the apostie, “By the grace of God, we are what we are.” They are astonished at the grace of God, in providing a Saviour; at the grace of Christ in dying for them; and atthe

grace of the holy Spirit in subduing their stubborn hearts, and continuing to carry on a work of sanctification in them. The whole scheme of redemption appears to be full of the riches of divine grace.

Hence growing christians have a growing desire to bring forth fruits of righteousness. Io whatever station they are fixed; in whatever business they are employed; in whatever condition they are placed; they feel more and more disposed to lay out themselves, to promote the glory of God and the good of mankind. The growth of grace produced this effect in Abraham, who left his country and friends, and offered up his Son, for the glory of God; it produced this effect in

Moses, who gave up the most promising prospects, in obedience to God, and for the good of his people; and it produced the same effect in the apostles and primitive christians, who suffered the loss of all things, to promote the cause of Christ, and diffuse the blessings of the gospel through the world. Growing christians are not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. They bring forth fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold.

These are some of the happy effects of the growth of grace, which all growing christians may discover in their own hearts, and which may give them satisfactory evidence, that they are born of God, and are ripening for heaven. But declining christians carry about with them the marks of their declension. Their own hearts testify against them, that they have been cold and backward in duty; that they have abused the word and ordinances of the gospel; and that they have grieved the holy Spirit, and provoked him to withdraw his gracious and comforting influence from them. Their unhappy and dangerous case calls upon them, to remember from whence they are fallen, to repent, and to do their first works. It is their immediate duty to make their calling and election sure, by growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. As new-born babes, let them desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. God has promised to give his holy Spirit to them that ask him. Let them wait upon the Lord, and they shall renew their strength; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

out sinking or degrading themselves in the least degree.

Furthermore, humility is something different from condescension which is the part of a superior, and consists in stooping to an inferior. Thus the Creator may condescend to a creature, the prince to a subject, the rich to the poor, and the aged to the young. But though condescension is stooping, yet it is by no means degrading. Real condescension always displays a noble and amiable spirit. I may now safely say, that humility essentially consists in self-abasement, which is self-degradation, or a voluntary sinking not only below others, but below ourselves. It is therefore, wholly founded in guilt. None but guilty creatures have any cause or reason for abasing themselves. But every guilty creature ought to abase himself, whether he is willing or unwilling to perform the mortifying duty. For sin is of a degrading nature, and always sinks the sinner below himself. Sin degraded Satan from the highest to the lowest creature in the universe. The moment he rebelled against his Maker, he lost his original rank in creation, and sunk below himself and all the holy angels. Sin degraded Adam, and his first offence sunk him below the lowest creature on earth. Sin has had the same effect upon all his posterity, and made them more vile and abominable than the beasts that perish. The higher and nobler any intelligent creatures are by nature, the lower and meaner they become by sin.

Hence the humility, which sinners ought to exercise, consists altogether in self-abasement. They ought voluntarily to sink down to that place, which their sins deserve, or to be willing to lie as much below themselves and others, as their guilt can sink them. This is totally different from mere abasement. They

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

may be abased, and abased as low as they deserve to be abased involuntarily, and while they are actually aspiring to rise above themselves and others; but there is no humility in such constrained and involuntary abasement. Satan is the subject of this kind of abasement while his heart is full of pride and self-exaltation. But when the guilty are heartily willing to lie as low as their sins deserve, then they really abase themselves and exercise true humility. This is the feeling which all sinners ought to have, and which every one must have, who is finally raised to the king. dom of glory. And this is only feeling according to truth. Sin has degraded every sinner, and he must be willing to degrade himself, and voluntary take the place, which justly belongs to him. Such self-abasement is the very essence of that humility which all men ought to exercise. As there is nothing but sin, that can really degrade us, so there is nothing but sin, that calls for real humility. It belongs not to innocent, but only to guilty creatures, to humble themselves. Sinners have forfeited their natural rank among the creatures of God, and ought to abase themselves before him. This always appears perfectly proper to true penitents, who are sensible of their ill desert, and have correspondent feelings towards themselves, and towards God, whom they have injured and offended.

And now, if we look into Scripture, we shall find humility there represented as founded in guilt, and consisting in self-abasement. In the twenty sixth chapter of Leviticus, God said concerning Israel in case they should prove disobedient and forfeit his favour, “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they accept the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »