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nature, on account of a righteousness not their own. Such doctrines may be adopted into the creed of a proud man, but there is nothing short of a humbled spirit which will give them a cordial reception. Were the Christian's heart perfectly humble, he would be altogether disgusted with doctrines of an opposite character; since they imply a sufficiency or worthiness in fallen man, which a heaven-born spirit is prepared to say does not exist.
The certain perseverance of the saints in holiness, effected by the agency of the Spirit, and secured by the promises made in Christ, is a doctrine adapted to please him who is truly humble. Though it sup. poses great and persevering efforts, on the part of the saints, to be ab. solutely necessary to their salvation, still it represents the grace of God in Christ to be the only thing which insures such efforts, and crowns them with success. This doctrine drives us out of all dependence on our own strength and good resolutions, and teaches us to depend on God alone. With this, and no other view of things, does humility ac. cord. A humble spirit is not averse to exertion, but it sees no foundation on which to rest its hopes, except the promise of the all-sufficient God.
There is a harmony between the spirit of humility and the thirteenth doctrinal Article. No man, save one whose pride has been subdued, can be willing to appear at the judgment bar, and there have his char. acter disclosed. Without a perfection of humility, such a disclosure would be distressing, even to those who have escaped condemnation. Neither could the saints, without humble hearts, bear that high honor which will be conferred on them in being admitted to reign with Christ in glory.
Between humility and the last Article in the doctrinal series, there is an entire agreement. The doctrine exhibited in that Article does not ascribe to God any more absolute control of the universe, than what is willingly ascribed to him by all such as are imbued with a humble spirit
. It is the language of pride, Let me be consulted—let me plan-let me direct and execute. But humility not only consents 10, but rejoices in, God's supremacy, both in planning and executing ; saying, Let Him work all things after the counsel of his own will.
Secondly. Humility is in harmony with all the other parts of the experimental system.
It was shown that pure benevolence, the first Article in Christian experience, reduces self to its own place, and gives a new importance to its neighbor's welfare. With an affection so disinterested and ami. able, the feelings of the humble man are in perfect accordance.
Delight in holy characters is the subject of our second experimental Article. Let humility be mingled with the love of complacency, and it will lead us to esteem others better than ourselves, and to prefer them in honor, when they manifest a greater degree of holiness.
Our third experimental Article displays the excellency of a recon. ciled, submissive spirit; and such a spirit is manifestly humble, and not proud. In scripture, submission and humility are so nearly synon. ymous terms, that the one is sometimes used for the other. When we are exhorted to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we are, in effect, exhorted to exerciso submission to his holy will; and this we shall not fail to do, if we become humble.
The next Article in the experimental series relates to repentance. Between that grace and humility there is so great an affinity, that they are very commonly classed together. God is said to " dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isa. Ivii. 15. See also Isa. lxvi. 2.
Faith, which comes next in our series, is that branch of a Christian's experience, in which, renouncing all self-dependence, he relies solely on God for strength and righteousness; and surely, to enable him thus to do, requires a spirit of humility.
Hope and humility are not discordant graces. The Christian may, without any inconsistency, feel that he deserves the lowest hell, and yet hope, yea expect, to be received to the highest heaven; since he has for his encouragement, the promise of that God who is rich in grace and glorious in power.
1. In view of the contrast which has been drawn between pride and humility, who can avoid seeing that every proud creature in the uni. verse ought immediately to become humble? Had Pharaoh not been proud, he would not, when required to let Israel go, that they might serve the Lord their God, have replied, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice, to let Israel go?” If Haman had not been proud, he would not have plotted the destruction of the whole Jewish nation, because one of their number refused to do him reverence. Had Herod not been proud, he would not have massacred all the infants in Bethlehem, in order to rid himself of one who, he imagined, might one day dispute with him the title to regal authority. Who can help but see, in such cases as these, the unreasonableness and unspeakable vile. ness of pride ? Were not these proud men under obligations to possess an entirely different spirit? And why should not all the proud abase themselves before God? The mass of men have not such an opportu. nity of acting out their pride, as had those individuals to whom I have just referred. But God may see a Pharaoh, a Haman, or a Herod, in many a man who never sat on, or even saw a throne. And in his sight pride has the same hateful nature, whether in peasant or prince.
2. An acquaintance with the nature of humility will enable us to see why it is, that he who has made the greatest attainments in holi. ness, has the deepest sense of his own littleness and ill-desert. The eminent Christian has a more thorough knowledge of God's character and his own, than one of inferior piety has ; and this serves to apparently widen the distance between himself and God, and thus to deepen his humility. Could all believers have those clear discoveries of the excellent greatness of Jehovah, which Job had when he said, “but now mine eye seeth thee,” they would have a far less exalted opinion of themselves.
Too much pains can not be taken to cultivate a humble spirit.
Through the valley of humility lies the Christian's safest path to heav.
În my youth, I heard a godly minister, when speaking on this subject, utter a sentiment which I have never forgotten. Said he, “What a barren thing is pride!—and nothing is so fruitful as humility.” Could the Christian always preserve a humble frame of mind, he could pray without ceasing; he could, without interruption, hold high converse with Heaven. There is, probably, no one thing which more frequently interrupts his communion with God, than pride. Often will he apply to his own case, those lines of Watts :
" 'Tis pride, that busy sin,
Spoils all that I perform;
And swells a haughty worm.'
3. Is there not reason to believe, that the humility of a redeemed sinner will exceed that of an angel? He not only has two motives for its exercise where the angel has but one, but the motive which is peculiar to him, is much the stronger of the two. The saint and the angel are both creatures, infinitely inferior to their Creator, and wholly dependent on him for all they have and are. This constitutes a reason for humility, which is common to both. But the saint has a reason peculiar to himself; he was once a rebel, in arms against the Majesty of heaven. He once possessed a character indescribably vile, and which rendered him justly obnoxious to the torments of hell. The recollection of this, (a recollection to which an angel must forever be a stranger,) will cause him to exercise humility more profound, prob. ably, than that of angels. He, in whose view there is a peculiar blessednegs in humility, will rejoice in this result, however undesirable and (on bis part) blameworthy have been the means of producing it. It was doubtless in view of the great advantage, in point of humility, which the redeemed will have over angels, that a certain mother in our Amer. ican Israel (as I have been iuformed) was heard to say, “ I had rather be a sinner saved by Jesus Christ, than to be a holy angel.”
A HUNGERING AND THIRSTING AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS, OR A DESIRE FOR INCREASED ATTAINMENTS IN HOLINESS, IS EXPERIENCED BY ALL
HUNGER and thirst imply the existence of appetite; and whatever the appetite craves is desired, not only for the sake of its salutary effects, but also for the pleasure it gives lo the sense of tasting. The mind has appetite as well as the body; and the mental, no less than the physical appetite, relishes the objects of its desire. A hunger and thirst after righteousness supposes that moral good, by whatever name it may be called, is the food which the heart relishes for its intrinsic deliciousness—its perfect adaptation to gratify the spiritual taste. This appetite for moral good, is never felt by unregenerate men. Such may indeed have an intellectual apprehension of the superior excellence and safety of holiness, as compared with sin : they may even mani. fest a great desire to obtain religion; but they are strangers to that relish for holiness which the Christian experiences they do not hunger and thirst after righteousness. Their desire for religion, instead of resem. bling a hungry man's desire for food, may be compared to a sick man's anxiety to take medicine, the taste of which he hates, but without the operation of which, he feels that he must die.
Nor does a relish for holiness have any place in the religion of false converts. Some of them, satisfied with their supposed conversion, make no effort to obtain, in their subsequent experiences, evidence of its genuineness. Others, who are equally destitute of grace, may de. sire a continuance of their religious experiences ; for if men can receive the word with joy, when in reality it has taken no root in their hearts, they may also desire to have that joy continued and augmented. But this is certain, that no false convert ever had or can have, the least appetite for holiness. Nature never thirsts after grace ; for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. They whose hearts the Spirit has renovated, are the only ones in our world that truly hunger and thirst after righteousness. Among these, there is a difference as to the keenness of their relish for holiness, and the intensity of their desires after greater attainments in it; but such a relish and such desires are common to them all. To establish the truth of this part of the experimental system, viz. that a hungering and thirsting after righteousness is one characteristic of all the truly religious, we need only to consider the following things:
1. There are none of the subjects of grace on earth, who attain to sinless perfection; there is therefore ample room for increasing attain. ments. As this position is, to some extent, disputed, I shall here en. deavor to establish its correctness.
1st. That none of the saints on earth attain to a sinless state, is proved by direct assertions of scripture. Not only does it say,
“There is no man that sinneth not;” but what is more directly in point, it asserts that “there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” The question that it puts, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin ?” amounts to as full a proof that no one can with truth say this, as if it had made a direct asser. tion to that effect. 1 Kin. viii. 46. Eccl. vii. 20. Prov. xx. 9.
2d. The sacred biography very naturally leads us to the conclu. sion, that none of the subjects of grace, while on earth, attain to sinless perfection. Abraham, the father of all them that believe, is not represented as a sinless character. See Gen. xii. 13; xx. 16. What a distinguished saint was Moses. He was favored with the most inti. mate communion with God, and is declared to have been meek above all other men : but this grace, in which he excelled, he did not possess to perfection. At the waters of strife, he was even 80 angered, that he
spake unadvisedly with his lips. Ps. cvi. 32, 33. The apostles, those eminently holy men, are represented as sinfully defective, both before and after the ascension of their Lord. Luke ix. 41, 46, 54, 55. Acts xv. 39. Gal. ii. 11–13.
3d. The case of Paul deserves a distinct notice. It is of itself a sufficient proof, that there is no man on earth that sinneth not. He was not a whit behind the very chiefest of the apostles. The script. ures represent him as a saint of the very first magnitude.
Nor are we led to think more meanly of his attainments, on account of his styling himself less than the least of all saints. And what did this pre-eminently pious man say of himself, touching the point in ques. tion? “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Rom. vii. 23. Again he said, “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." Phil. iii. 12. It was more than thirty years after his conversion, that he told the Phil. ippians he was not already perfect. Had he afterwards attained to perfection, he doubtless would have informed his brethren of the fact; for unless he did so, they would be very apt to construe what he had said into an apostolic assertion, that no saints, while on earth, are wholly without sin.
4th. The language which the scriptures hold concerning the char. acter of their religion, who imagine they have attained to perfection, is full proof that none actually attain to that state. Job declares, “If I say I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse." With this agree the words of the apostle John: “If we say that we have no sin, we de. ceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. “ There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness. They say, “Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou : these are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.” Job ix. 20. 1 John, i. 8. Prov. xxx. 12. Isa. lxv. 5. From the passages now cited, it is evident that all those who lay claim to perfection are perverse; that the truth is not in them; that they are not washed from their filthiness; but are proud, self-conceited hypocrites.
5th. The contrast which the scriptures make between the earthly and heavenly states of the saints, is another proof of the imperfection of their earthly state. “ The path of the just," says the Spirit of in. spiration, “is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. iv. 18. The changes of darkness and light which are every day made by the revolution of the earth, are here in. troduced to illustrate the Christian's progress in religion. His unre. generate state is illustrated by the total darkness of night; his regene. ration, by the dawn of morning; and his heavenly state, by the risen sun, the perfect day. The time that elapses between the dawn and the perfect day, during which the darkness is gradually diminishing, represents the whole of his religious course upon earth. Never is it perfect day with him, until he arrives in heaven. In accordance with this representation, the apostle calls the souls of believers in their heavenly state, “the spirits of just men made perfect ;” intimating that while they were embodied, they were not made perfect.