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96 TO THINK LESS OF OUR VIRTUES, only useless, but delusive. Let us leave, as I have already said, our virtues to themselves, not engaging our minds in appreciating either their intrinsic or comparative value; being assured that they will be weighed in unerring scales. Our business is with our sins.
Again, the habit of contemplating our spiritual acquirements, our religious, or moral excellences, has, very usually, and, I think, almost unavoidably, an unfavourable effect upon our disposition towards other men. A man who is continually computing his riches, almost in spite of himself, grows proud of his wealth. A man, who accustoms himself to read, and inquire, and think a great deal about his family, becomes vain of his extrac. tion. He can hardly help becoming so. A man, who has his titles sounding in his ears, or his state much before his eyes, is lifted up by his rank. These are effects, which every one observes; and no inconsiderable degree of the same effect springs from the habit of meditating upon our virtues. Now humble-mindedness is å Christian duty, if there be one. It is more than a duty; it is a principle. It is a principle of the religion ; and its influence is exceedingly great, not only upon our religious, but our social character. They, who are truly humble-minded, have no quarrels, give no offence, contend with no one in wrath and bitterness : still more impossible is it for them to insult any man, under any circumstances. But the way to be humble-minded is the way I am pointing out, viz, to think less of our virtues, and more of our sins. In reading the parable of the pharisee and the publican, if we could suppose them to be real characters, I should say of them, that the one had just come from ruminating upon his virtues, the other from meditating upon his sins. And mark the difference: first, in their behaviour : next, in their acceptance with God. The pharisee is all loftiness, and contemptuousness, and recital, and comparison ; full of ideas of merit; views the poor publican, although withdrawn to a dis
AND MORE OF OUR SINS.
Think then less of your virtues; more of your
dience to the law of God what it ought to be, or what it might be? The first commandment of that law is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Is there, upon the subject of this com mandment, no matter for thought, no room for amendment? The second commandmentis,'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Is all with us, as it should be, here! Again, there is a spiri. tuality in the commands of Christ's religion, which will cause the man, who obeys them truly, not only to govern his actions, but his words ; not only his words, but his inclinations, and his disposi. tions, his internal habits, as well as external life "Ye have heard that it hath been said of old time Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say un you, He that looketh on a woman to last af
Luke xvill. 14
this words, but hiclions, but his wem truly, not
tance from him, with eyes of scorn. The publican, on the contrary, enters not into competition with the pharisee, or with any one. So far from looking round, he durst not so much as lift up his eyes; but casts himself, hardly indeed presumes to cast himself, not upon the justice, but wholly and solely upon the mercies, of his Maker; “God be merciful to me a sinner.” We know the judge ment which our Lord himself pronounced upon the case ; "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other."* The more therefore we are like the publican, and the less we are like the pharisee, the more we come up to the genuine temper of Christ's religion.
Think then less of your virtues; more of your sins. Do I hear any one answer, I have no sins to think upon ? I have no crimes, which lie upon my conscience? I reply, that this may be true with respect to some, may with respect to many persons, according to the idea we commonly annex to the words, sins and crimes; meaning thereby acts of gross and external wickedness. But think farther : enlarge your views. Is your obedience to the law of God what it ought to be, or what it might be? The first commandment of that law is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Is there, upon the subject of this commandment, no matter for thought, no room for amendment? The second commandmentis, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Is all with us, as it should be, here? Again, there is a spiri. tuality in the commands of Christ's religion, which will cause the man, who obeys them truly, not only to govern his actions, but his words ; not only his words, but his inclinations, and his dispositions, his internal habits, as well as external life. “ Ye have heard that it hath been said of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery : but I say unto you, He that looketh on a woman to lust after
* Luke xviii. 14
98 TO THINK LESS OF OUR VIRTUES. her;" that is, he who voluntarily indulges, and entertains in his mind an unlawful desire, « hath committed adultery with her already in his heart," is by the very entertainment of such ideas, instead of striving honestly and resolutely to banish them from his mind, or to take his mind off from them, a sinner in the sight of God. Much the same kind of exposition belongs to the other commandments; not only is murder forbidden, but all unreasonable, intemperate anger and passion; not only stealing, but all hard and unfair conduct, either in transacting business with those, who are upon a level with us, or, where it is more to be feared, towards those who are in our power. And do not these points open to us a field of inquiry, how far we are concerned in them? There may not be what, strictly speaking, can be called an act or deed, which is scandalously bad; yet the current of our imaginations, the bent of our tempers, the stream of our affections, may all, or any of them, be wrong, and may be requiring, even at the peril of our salvation, stronger control, a better direction,
Again; There may not be any action, which, singly and separately taken, amounts to what would be reckoned a crime; yet there may be actions, which we give in to, which even our own consciences cannot approve; and these may be so frequent with us, as to form a part of the course and fashion of our lives.
Again; It is possible, that some of the miscarriages in conduct, of which we have to accuse ourselves, may be imputable to inadvertency or sur• prise. But could these miscarriages happen so often as they do, if we exercised that vigilance in our Christian course, which not only forms a part of the Christian character, but is a sure effect of a sincere faith in religion, and a corresponding solicitude and concern about it? Lastly, unprofitableness itself is a sin. We need not do mischief in order to commit sin ; uselessness, when we might be useful, is enough to make us sinners be
AND MORE OF OUR SINS. 99
conclude, that he has not thought seriously con:
Let our sins, then, be ever before us; if not war crimes, of which it is possible, that, according o the common acceptation of that word, we may not have many to remember: let our omissions, teiciencies, failures, our irregularities of heart nad affection, our vices of temper and disposition, surcourse and habit of giving in to smaller offences, meaning, as I do mean, by offences, all those things which our consciences cannot really appovre; our slips, and inadvertencies, and sur. grises, much too frequent for a man in earnest abont salvation Let these things occupy our attertion ; let this be the bent and direction of our thoughts; for they are the thoughts, which will tring us to God evangelically; because they are the thoughts, which will not only increase our tigilance, but which must inspire us with that humility as to ourselves; with that deep, and abiding, and operating sense of God Almighty's love, and kindness, and mercy towards us, in and through Jesus Christ our Saviour, which is ever one great aim and end of the gospel, and of those, who preached it, to inculcate upon all, who came to take hold of the offer of grace.
bare God. The fig-tree in the gospel was cut
wwn, not because it bore sour fruit, but because bore none. The parable of the talents* is point
expressly against the simple neglect of facul. Lies and opportunities of doing good, as contradis
nguished from the perpetration of positive crimes. Are not all these topics fit matters of meditation, in the review of our lives? Upon the whole, when I hear a person say, he has no sins to think upon, Iconclude, that he has not thought seriously con cerning religion at all.
Let our sins, then, be ever before us; if not our crimes, of which it is possible, that, according to the common acceptation of that word, we may Lot have many to remember: let our omissions, deficiencies, failures, our irregularities of heart and affection, our vices of temper and disposition. our course and habit of giving in to smaller offences, meaning, as I do mean, by offences, all those things, which our consciences cannot really approve; our slips, and inadvertencies, and sur. prises, much too frequent for a man in earnest about salvation Let these things occupy our attention ; let this be the bent and direction of our thoughts; for they are the thoughts. which will bring us to God evangelically; because they are the thoughts, which will not only increase our vigilance, but which must inspire us with that humility as to ourselves; with that deep, and abiding, and operating sense of God Almighty's love, and kindness, and mercy towards us, in and through Jesus Christ our Saviour, which is ever one great aim and end of the gospel, and of those, who preached it, to inculcate upon all, who came to take hold of the offer of grace.
· * Matt. XXV. 14
SERMON XII. SALVATION FOR PENITENT SINNERS. Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.-Luke vii. 47.
It has been thought an extravagant doctrine, that the greatest sinners were sometimes nearer to the kingdom of heaven, than they, whose offences were less exorbitant, and less conspicuous : yet I apprehend the doctrine wants only to be rationally explained, to shew that it has both a great deal of truth, and a great deal of use in it; that it may be an awakening religious proposition to some, whilst it cannot, without being wilfully misconstrued, delude or deceive any
Of all conditions in the world the most to be de. spaired of is the condition of those, who are altogether insensible or unconcerned about religion ; and yet they may be, in the mean time, tolerably regular in their outward behaviour; there may be nothing in it to give great offence; their character may be fair; they may pass with the common stream, or they may even be well spoken of; nevertheless, I say, that whilst this insensibility remains upon their minds, their condition is more to be despaired of than that of any other person. The religion of Christ does not in any way apply to them ; they do not belong to it; for are they to be saved by performing God's will! God is not in their thoughts; his will is not before their eyes. They may do good things; but it is not from a principle of obedience to God, that they do them. There may be many crimes which they are not guilty of : but it is not out of regard to the will of God, that they do not commit them. It does not, therefore, appear, what just hopes they can entertain of heaven, upon the score of an obedience, which they not only do not perform, but do not attempt to perform. Then, secondly, if they are to hope in Christ for a forgive
PENITENT SINNERS. 101
There is likewise another cause, which has a
keep men 00s, may, in
sious phunds, without