Page images

tell us that the first change they perceived in their minds, was the love of benevolence to every person they saw, and the love of complacency to all good men in particular; and then, love to the goodness or benevolence of God, which shone in every person, creature and object around them. But though every convert may not accurately distinguish the difference that actu. ally existed in his first holy exercises, yet it is very certain that his love of benevolence was prior to his love of complacency towards God. But whether the first exercises of the renewed heart follow one another in this order or not, it is certain that those who are destitute of true love to men, are destitute of true love to God. The apostle John has decided this point. " Whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" And again he says, “ If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?” The Priest and Levite were undoubtedly as destitute of love to God, as they were of love to the poor miserable object they saw, who ought to have excited their bowels of compassion and beneficence. I know it has been said that love to men flows from love to God; but the truth is, love to God flows from love to men, or the love of complacency flows from the love of benevolence. Men are as proper and direct objects of benevolence, as God, is the proper and direct object of complacency. He, therefore, who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, and who is a proper object of benevolence, cannot love God whom he has not seen, and who is the supreme object of complacency. Pure, disinterested, universal benevolence is a plain and infallible criterion, by which men may determine whether they truly love God or not. By this criterion, the Priest and Levite might have easily determined that the love of God was not in their hearts; and by the same criterion, the good Samaritan might have determined that his heart was right with God. And where is the person that cannot understand this rule of trial, and apply it, and draw the just consequence from it?

If I should now ask every individual here present, Which of these three men in the parable, thinkest thou, acted the kind, friendly, benevolent, neighborly part towards the man that fell among the thieves ? every one would answer, The good Samaritan. Let me then urge you to go and do likewise. Every person you see or meet, whether rich or poor, high or low, good or bad, suffering or rejoicing, is a proper object of benevolence. God is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; and you ought to be merciful as your Father in heaven

is merciful. There are weighty motives to live in the constant exercise of universal benevolence. This duty is enjoined by the law of love. The exercise of general benevolence tends to diffuse general happiness every where; in families, in neighborhoods, in parishes, in towns, countries and kingdoms. How happy would the world be, if all would feel and act like the good Samaritan! The same benevolent spirit would produce universal complacency towards God, and cause all to rejoice in his character, in his laws and government. It would give every one good evidence that he is walking in the strait and narrow path to eternal life; and it is the only way to obtain it, as Christ told the man who desired to be directed in the only sure and certain way to heaven. And it is a perfectly easy way to obtain the favor of God and man, and the enjoyment of all good. It was as easy for the Priest and Levite to exercise true

nevolence, as for the Samaritan. And it is as easy for every man to exercise true benevolence, as it was for him who pitied and relieved the poor, wounded, suffering, hopeless man. Why will you not immediately go and do likewise? You can gain nothing by delaying, but may gain much by the immediate exercise of pure, universal benevolence. It will give you the purest and greatest present happiness. It will instantly give you that inward peace, which passeth all understanding. For it is more blessed to give than to receive. How pleasantly did the benevolent Samaritan go on his way, after he had felt and expressed pure benevolence! Only do as he did, and


shall be as happy as he was. Amen.

[blocks in formation]



And he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. — LUXE, xviii. 14.

Our Saviour spake this parable to certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. He meant to convince such self righteous and self deceived sinners of their guilty and dangerous situation. And nothing could be better adapted to answer this benevolent and important purpose, than to represent their inward views and feelings as diametrically opposite to the views and feelings of a true penitent. “ Two men,” said he, "went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I

I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell


this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." This last clause in the parable naturally leads us, in the first place, to consider the nature of humility; and in the second place, the necessity of it, in order to obtain divine mercy.

I. We are to consider the nature of humility. There is the more occasion for describing this gracious exercise of heart with peculiar accuracy and precision, because mankind are naturally disposed to misunderstand and misrepresent it. Mr. Hume scrupled not to say, that “ humility ought to be struck off from the catalogue of virtues, and placed on the catalogue of vices.This must have been owing to his gross ignorance, or extreme malignity. The most charitable supposition is, that he really mistook a mere selfish and painful sense of natural inferiority for true humility.

This leads me to observe, that a man's humbling himself is something very different from his having a mistaken and reluctant sense of his own inferiority in relation to his fellow mortals. Though men generally think too highly of themselves in respect to their inferiors, yet they as generally think too meanly of themselves in comparison with their superiors. The truth is,

. mankind are much more upon a level, in point of natural excellences and imperfections, than many are willing to acknowledge. The depressing sense which some entertain of their natural inferiority, is greatly owing to their ignorance. But knowledge, and not ignorance, is the mother of both humility and devotion. Those who know the most of God, of themselves, and of their fellow men, may be the most humble and devout persons in the world. There is a meanness and criminality in that voluntary humility, which the apostle mentions and condemns.

Humility is likewise different from submission, which seems to resemble it. Submission is the respect which an inferior justly owes to a superior. The child owes submission to the parent, the subject to the prince, and the creature to the great Creator. But inferiors manifest no humility in submitting to their superiors. They only take their proper place, without sinking or degrading themselves in the least degree.

Farthermore, humility is something different from condescension, which is the part of a superior, and consists in stooping to an inferior. Thus the Creator may condescend to a creature, the prince to a subject, the rich to the poor, and the aged to the young. But though condescension stoops, yet it is by no means degrading. Real condescension always displays a noble and amiable spirit. I may now safely say that hurnility essentially consists in self abasement, which is self degradation, or a voluntary sinking, not only below others, but below ourselves. It is, therefore, wholly founded in guilt. None but guilty creatures have any cause or reason for abasing themselves. But every guilty creature ought to abase himself, whether he is willing or unwilling to perform the mortifying duty. For sin is of a degrading nature, and always sinks the sinner below himself. Sin degraded Satan from the highest to the lowest creature in the universe. The moment he rebelled against his Maker, he lost his original rank in creation, and sunk below himself and all the holy angels. Sin degraded Adam, and his first offence sunk him below the lowest creature on earth. Sin has had the same effect upon all his posterity, and made them more vile and abominable than the beasts that perish. The higher and nobler any intelligent creatures are by nature, the lower and meaner they become by sin.

Hence, the humility which sinners ought to exercise, consists altogether in self abasement. They ought voluntarily to sink down to that place which their sins deserve, or to be willing to lie as much below themselves and others, as their guilt can sink them. This is totally different from mere abasement. They may be abased, and abased as low as they deserve to be abased, involuntarily, and while they are actually aspiring to rise above themselves and others; but there is no humility in such constrained and involuntary abasement. Satan is the subject of this kind of abasement, while his heart is full of pride and self exaltation. But when the guilty are heartily willing to lie as low as their sins deserve, then they really abase themselves, and exercise true humility. This is the feeling which all sinners ought to have, and which every one must have who is finally raised to the kingdom of glory. And this is only feeling according to truth. Sin has degraded every sinner, and he must be willing to degrade himself, and voluntarily take the place which justly belongs to him. Such self abasement is the very essence of that humility which all men ought to exercise. As there is nothing but sin that can really degrade us, so there is nothing but sin that calls for real humility. It belongs not to innocent, but only to guilty creatures, to humble themselves. Sinners have forfeited their natural rank among the creatures of God, and ought to abase themselves before him. This always appears perfectly proper to true penitents, who are sensible of their ill desert, and have correspondent feelings towards themselves, and towards God, whom they have injured and offended.

And now, if we look into the scripture, we shall find humility there represented as founded in guilt, and consisting in self abasement. In the twenty sixth chapter of Leviticus, God said concerning Israel, in case they should prove disobedient and forfeit his favor, “ If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land." It appears from this divine declaration, that humility is occasioned by guilt, and consists in self abasement, or the voluntary accepting of the punishment due to sin. To such a spirit God always brings sinners, when he renews their hearts and prepares them for mercy. The prophet speaking of a time of general reformation


« PreviousContinue »