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Such should be the subject of diligent and frequent examination to every professing Christian.
HUMILIATION should follow examination.
The act of humbling and abasing ourselves before God, is a part of the duty-not only of sinners, when they make their first application to the mercyseat for pardon-but of believers, through every successive stage of their Christian career. As long as we are the subjects of sin, we ought also to be the subjects of contrition. We may, through sovereign grace, have been justified by faith, and have been brought into a state of peace with God; but this does not render a very humbling sense and confession of our sins an exercise inappropriate to our state, any more than it is inconsistent with the relationship of a child to humble himself before his father, for those defects in his obedience, which, though they do not set aside his sonship, are unworthy of it. "If we say we have no sin," says the Apostle, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This language applies to believers, and not merely to unconverted sinners; and so does that which follows-"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The most perfect assurance of hope does not release us from the duty of abasing ourselves before God; and if an angel were sent to assure us that we are in a state of acceptance with heaven, we should still lie under obligation to cultivate a contrite and penitential frame of mind. Sin, and not merely punishment, is the ground of humiliation. It is the most detestable
selfishness to imagine, that, because we are freed from the penal consequences of sin, we are under no obligation to lie low in the dust. With what unutterable disgust we should look upon the individual who, because his life had been spared by royal clemency, when it might have been taken by national justice, acted, after his pardon, as if that very pardon had entitled him to forget his crime, and to live as carelessly and as confidently as he would have done had he never sinned. A pardoned sinner-and no believer is anything more-should ever be a humble and self-abased creature in the sight of God.
The subject we are now upon shows us what cause there is for humiliation before God. This frame of mind should not be founded upon, or produced, by mere general views of our depraved nature, but by particular apprehensions in reference to sinful practice: as long as our confessions are confined to mere acknowledgments of a depraved nature, our convictions of sin are not likely to be very deep, nor our sorrow for it very pungent. Such confessions will usually sink into mere formal and sorrowless acknowledgments of transgressions. It is by descending to details; it is the lively view and deep conviction of specific acts of transgression, or defects in virtue ;-that awakens and sharpens the conscience, and brings the soul to feel that godly sorrow which worketh repentance. One distinctly ascertained defect or transgression-especially if it be much dwelt upon in its extent, and influence, and aggravations-will do more to humble the soul, than hours spent in mere general confessions of a depraved nature.
There are many things, on the ground of which no self-basement can be felt by the Christian who is walking in any degree of religious consistency. He cannot confess that which he has really not been guilty of: he cannot be humbled on account of any act of open immorality, for he has committed none. In reference to actual vice, he is to be thankful, not humble he is to he humble, indeed, that he has a nature capable of it, if left of God; but he is to be thankful that he has not been permitted thus to disgrace himself. It is sometimes to be regretted that good people, in their public confessions of sin, are not more definite than they are, and that they do not express the particular sins for which they seek forgiveness of God. Without using language that seems applicable to adultery, and robbery, and drunkenness, our defects in all Christian graces are so numerous and so great, that there is no degree of humiliation which is too deep for those defects and omissions of which the holiest man is guilty before God. And we have no need to go beyond the subject of this treatise, to find how exceedingly sinful and vile we must all be in the sight of God. Let us only call to remembrance the truly sublime description which the Apostle has given us of the divine nature, and to which, of necessity, we have so often referred,-" God is love,"-infinite, pure, and operative love; let us only recollect his wonderful patience, his diffusive kindness, his astonishing mercy even to his enemies ;-and then consider that it is our duty to be like him-to have a disposition which, in pure, patient, and operative benevolence, ought to resemble his; that this was once our
nature, and will be again, if we reach the celestial state: and surely, in such a recollection, we shall find a convincing proof of our present exceeding sinfulness.
Let it not be replied, that this is subjecting us to too severe a test. By what test can we try our hearts, but the law of God? What a proof is it of sin, when we find that the instances in which we have committed it are so numerous, that we want to get rid of the law by which it is proved and detected? Oh! what a fallen nature is ours, and how low has it sunk! We are not now examining it in its worst state, as it is seen among Pagans and savages, or even the best of the heathen; nor as it is seen in the worst parts of Christendom; nor as it appears in the best of the unrenewed portions of mankind;-no; but as it is exhibited in the Church of Christ, in the enlightened and sanctified portions of the family of man.
Must we not, after this survey, exclaim with the Psalmist " Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults!" Who can carry in his bosom a proud heart, or on his brow a lofty mien? Who can look with complacency upon his poor starveling graces, and doat with fond and pharisaic eyes upon his own righteousness? Who is not stripped at once, in his own view, of all his imperfect virtues; and presented to his own contemplation in the naked deformity of a poor, sinful, and imperfect creature, who has no ground for pride, but most ample and abundant cause for the deepest humiliation? Let the men who value themselves so highly on the ground of their moral dignity, and who are regarded by others as almost sinless characters, and
who feel as if they had little or no occasion for the exercise of a penitential frame of mind; who pity as fanaticism, or scorn as hypocrisy, those lowly confessions which Christians make at the footstool of the divine throne;-let them come to this ordeal, and try themselves by this standard, that they may learn how ill grounded is their pride, and how little occasion they have to boast of their virtue! Would they like that any human eye should be able to trace all the movements of their hearts, and see all the workings of envy, and suspicion, and wrath, and selfishness, which the eye of Deity so often sees there? Say not that these are only the infirmities of our nature, to which the wisest and the best of the human race are ever subject in this world of imperfection; because this is confessing how deeply depraved is mankind, even in their best state. Can envy, and pride, and selfishness, and suspicion, and revenge, be looked upon as mere peccadilloes, which call for neither humiliation nor grief? Are they not the germs of all those crimes which have deluged the earth with blood, filled it with misery, and caused the whole creation to groan together until now? Murders, treasons, wars, massacres, with all the lighter crimes of robberies, extortions, and oppressions, have all sprung up from these passions.
What need, then, have we all of that great sacrifice which beareth away the sin of the world? and what need of a perpetually recurring application, by faith and repentance, to that blood which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, and which cleanseth from all sin? What cause have we to repair nightly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy;