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PERSONS, APPARENTLY SELF-RIGHTEOUS, AND
“Behold, I am vile! what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." Job xl. 4. Where shall I place myself among the servants of God? Above Job, or below him? If I come in any degree near him, it must be, to confess, from the heart, "I abhor myself."
O Lord, reveal to me, by thy Spirit, how holy thou art! how thou didst not spare even thine own Son, when he stood betwixt Thee and my sins! Then, I shall abhor myself.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs xiv. 12.
Then, let me suspect my own understanding. Human reason cannot find the way to heaven: mere human wisdom cannot even understand the way, laid down in the Bible.-Have you received the gift of the Spirit, in answer to fervent, humble, believing prayer? Oh, beware lest you should be walking the road to death, with an open Bible before you, but a Bible not prayed over!
"There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness." Proverbs xxx. 12.
Not washed in the blood of Jesus; because you are not thoroughly humbled, so as to feel your need of Him. Not sanctified by the Spirit, and not made a new creature; because you fancy you are such, sufficiently, already.
And does the spirit of contempt rise sometimes in your mind? Do you despise, or affect to pity, the "enthusiasm," as you call it, of those who truly are born of God? This is no hopeful mark of your
"He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Isaiah xliv. 20.
This is said of idolaters: but it is not a whit less true of those who idolize Self, and build on any righteousness of their own, for acceptance with God. It is a miserable interpretation of the Gospel, worse than Paganism, that sends a man to Self.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart: I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Jeremiah xvii. 9, 10.
Such is the picture of man's heart, as drawn by God himself. Some persons have endeavoured to explain the words away, as being too severe but this only serves to prove the very thing the words say; namely, that the heart is deceitful above all things. The heart would rather be deceived, than know the worst of itself.
Say now, Do you love the Truth? Do you like to be told, fairly and honestly, what the Truth is, and what you are? Do you not try to slip away from plain dealing? Do you not try to smother the convictions of your own mind?
When you behold Jesus, the wise Physician, offering to heal this diseased heart, will you not let Him tell you, how diseased it is? If he came, only upbraiding you, you might be hardened against him. But he comes, declaring, "I will take away the heart of stone, and will give you an heart of flesh." Suffer him, then, to break your heart: entreat him to do so: it will be well for you, in the end.
"If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matthew vi. 23. Confident, that you are in the right in your religious opinions!-But, (suffer me to ask,) were they gained by prayer, as well as study? If not, all is wrong.
"God be merciful to me a sinner!" Luke xviii. 13.
This is the prayer to be used, not now and then, but constantly. In answer to this prayer, offered through Jesus, God justifies the ungodly. It is a prayer for the lips of the holiest saint.
Whoever prays this prayer, will not despise others he will be too broken-hearted to do that. How merciful is God, to furnish us with so short a prayer; easy to be remembered, by the ignorant, the sick and dying!
"Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke xviii. 14.
As this is the rule, according to which God deals with men; so is it the rule according to which men should deal with God. We see what we are to have, when we exalt ourselves, and when we humble ourselves.
"I had not known sin, but by the Law: for I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Romans vii. 7.
St. Paul, before his conversion, was perfectly satisfied with himself; and his friends were more than satisfied with him. Neither he, nor they, understood the Law, in which they gloried, and by which they expected to be saved. As soon as the Spirit of God caused the Apostle to understand the
words, "Thou shalt not covet," he renounced all hope of saving himself. So shall we, when we know our own desperate corruption of heart. We shall welcome the doctrine of free grace, and desire only to be "found in Christ.”
"God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." 1 Peter v. 5.
What can that man expect, who will not allow Jesus, the Redeemer, to perform his own work? It is the work of Jesus alone to pardon, justify and sanctify a sinner. If the sinner intermeddle, he must expect to find God thwarting, perplexing, and confounding him for his presumption. If the sinner will implore grace, as a free gift, he shall receive it; and grace for grace.
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased
with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. Revelation iii. 17, 18.
O self-satisfied man! didst thou but know, of