Page images

every one that fayeth unto me, Lord, Lord,

shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.' How awful a reflection this! How dreadful a disappointment to discover our misery only when there is no more hope of escaping it! Is there not a pofibility of this being the case with many of you, my brethren; and dol you not tremble at the thought ? I would not with any, in general, to give way to a spirit of bondage, or flavish fear; but the best of the children of God have often discovered this holy jealousy of themselves. Who

can understand his errors? Cleanse thon me

from secret faults Keep back thy fervant also ' froin presumptuous fins ; let them not have do' minion over me, then shall I be upright, and I • shall be innocent from the great tranfgreffion.' And again : Search me, O God, and "heart ; try me, and know my thoughts; and ' see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead 'me in the way everlasting.?

This leads me naturally to add upon this subject, that we ought to pray for prefervation from felfdeceit, as to particular branches of our character and conduct, as well as our general state.-Many, even upon the whole, good men, are occasionally and insensibly brought, for a season, under the direction of finful passions. They may be indulging themselves without suspicion, in what is, notwithstanding, really provoking to God, injurious or offensive to others, and, in the issue, hurtful to their own peace. They may be making an enjoy


F 2

ment, a talent, a relation, an idol, when they think they are keeping within the bounds of duty. They may be indulging a sinful resentment, when they think they are promoting the glory of God. Many an excufe for neglecting commanded duty, from prudence or difficulty, satisfies ourselves, which will not stand in the day of trial. What reason for the Prophet's prayer in the sense just nonx affigned, 'Remove far from me vanity and


4. In the next place, this request impijes adefire to be preserved from pride and self-conceit, upon any subject. There is not any thing that affords a strongerevidence of our being unacquainted with ourselves and our own state, than that propensity to pride and vanity, which is fo common to us all. It is thought by many, that pride was the fin of the angels, that cast them down to hell. It is plain, that pride was the main ingredient in the first fin of man. And perhaps it is a just and proper description of all sin as such, that it is a dethroning of God, and setting up self to be loved, honoured and served in his room, This fin is by no means confined to the worst of men, in whom it hath an absolute dominion; but retains and discovers an unhappy infiuence in the very best. Every thing may be the fuel of pride ; our persons, our performances, our relations, our poffeffions; nay, so pliable, and at the same time fo preposterous is this disposition, that men are found sometimes proud of their very vices and


defects. But how ill do pride and vanity suit such poor mortals as we are, who seem born but to die !-Who, after paffing through a longer or shorter series of weaknesses, disappointments and troubles, muft at last be laid in the filent grave, to moulder in the dust.

We are dependent creatures, who have nothing, and can have nothing but what we receive from the unmerited favour of God. We are unwise and ignorant creatures, who know nothing to the bottom, and therefore are Xiable to continual mistakes in our conduct. Thofe among us, who have the greateft comprehension of mind, and know most; as it serves to Thew the comparative ignorance of the bulk of mankind, so it ferves to convince themfelves how little they do know, and how little they can know after all, compared with what is to them. umsearchable.

But, above all, we are sinful creatures, who have rendered ourselves, by our guilt, the just objects of divine difpleasure. Is there any who dares to plead exemption from this character? And do pride and vanity, become those to whom they manifestly belong ? Can any thing be more foolish than indulging such dispositions ? There is a very just expression of one of the apocryphal writers : « Pride was not made for man, nor a high look • for him that is born of a woman. Indeed they are so evidently unsuitable to our state and circumstances, that one would think we should need no higher principle than our own reason and ob



fervation to keep us free from them. We do however, need the most earneft and affiduous addreffes to the throne of grace, to have all pride and vanity removed from us. How hateful is pride to God! We are told, he refifteth the

proud.' On the contrary, no disposition is more amiable in his fight than huinility. He giveth grace to the humble.' And again : "To this

man will I look, even to him that is poor and ' of a contrite fpirit, and trembleth at my word.

For thus fayeth the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whofe name is holy; I

dwell in the high and holy place, with him also. • that is of a contrite and humble fpirit ; to revive 'the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'

It must, therefore, be the duty and interest of every good man, not only to refift pride and vanity, but to make it a part of his daily fupplication to God, that he may effectually be delivered from both.

5. In the last place, this request implies a defire to be delivered from fraud and diffimulation of every kind. It is one of the glorious attributes of God, that he is a God of truth, who will not, and who cannot lie. He also requires of all his fervants, and is delighted with truth in the inward parts. But there seems to be fome difficulty in this part of the subject, more than in the others. Some will say, why pray to be delivered from fraud and diffimulation ? This might be an exhor

tation to the finner, but cannot be the prayer of the penitent. If they are sincere in their prayer it seems impoffible there can be any danger of fraud. Fraud implies deliberation and defign, and though it may be concealed from others upon whom it is exercised, it can never be concealed from the person in whom it dwells, and by whom it is contrived. This is the very language of fome reasoners, who infer from it; that though there are many other fins to which a man may be liable without knowing it, yet this can never be the case with diffimulation. 'sati

But, my brethren, if we consider how apt men are, upon a sudden temptation of fear or shame, or the prospect of some advantage to themselves, to depart from strict veracity, and even to justify to their own minds, fome kinds and degrees of deceptions, we shall fee the abfolute neceffity of making this a part of our prayer to God. Nay, perhaps I may go further and say, that we are as ready to deceive ourselves in this point as in any other.

Upon this important fübject, there is one con fideration to which I earnestly intreat your attention. Thorough fincerity, fimplicity and truth, upon every subject, have, in the world, fo much the appearance of weaknefs , and on the contrary, being able to manage and over-reach others, has so much the appearance of superior wisdom, that men are very liable to temptation from this quarter. It is to be lamented that our language itself,


« PreviousContinue »