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Where else should it rest, while it resides in the hearts of sinners? It is in the nature of sin to make us insensible to the degradation it occasions. Like a vile sorceress, she blinds the eyes
of those whom she ensnares, to her own deformity. But could we see, as hereafter doubtless, we shall see, the true glory of a pure and righteous God; could we behold the love, and order, and felicity, and beauty which reign with a serene and cloudless lustre through his happy empire; could we contemplate fully, and feel justly, the nameless abominations, the hopeless confusion, the shame, and desolation, and misery which sin has wrought wherever its influence has extended; who is there that would not hide his head in the dust at the recollection of his past offences? It may happen, indeed, and probably it does often happen, that the first entrance on the paths of piety is attended with a delight so lively, as to subdue and swallow up every other emotion. Such appears to have been pretty generally the case among the first converts to Christianity. It may happen too, and I trust it does often happen, that they, who have received the Gospel “with joy of the Holy Ghost,” so continue to tread faithfully in the paths of heavenly wisdom, as to experience, even to the end of their lives, “thạt her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” But whether our entrance into that holy land be darkened with storms or cheered with sunshine; whether the winding road of our pilgrimage conduct us along the green pasture or the barren wilderness; the same convictions, the same feelings, the same dispositions must reside in the bosom of every Christian. All must be sensible that they are sinners; all must feel a deep abhorrence of sin; all must be humbled to the renunciation of every
claim and every hope, that rests not on the merits and the mercy of their Redeemer. Without humility there is no faith, without faith there is no salvation.
We are too apt to consider faith as merely an act of the understanding. But it is impossible to read even a few pages of the New Testament, without perceiving, that the belief which it requires, and the importance of which it labours unceasingly to exalt, is allied to, and implies, an appropriate temper of mind, a peculiar state of the sentiments and dispositions. When the Apostle declares, that he testified unto all men "repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ," is it not manifest, that the first is supposed to be the necessary precursor to the second? And what is the uniform language of our blessed Redeemer? “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?” “Ye judge after the flesh.” “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil; for he is a liar, and the father of it; and because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." "He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” “For judgment I am come into this
I world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.” “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine; ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” Faith is promised as the reward of obedience: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” Infidelity is denounced as a judgment on the disobedient: “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes,
nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”
There is a truth connected with what has just been remarked, too awful to be mentioned without pain, yet far too important to be wholly omitted; a truth, of a nature to awaken in every serious mind a spirit of humble and anxious self-examination. Our Saviour did not confine his charge of unbelief to those who openly rejected or opposed him: he directed it even against his own disciples, and clearly included in it one who constantly heard and followed him, till within a few days of his death. “When Jesus knew in himself, that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? there are some of you that believe not;—for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” Nay, which is, if possible, yet more striking, he accuses the Jews of the disbelief of their own Scriptures;Feven those very Jews who taught them in their synagogues; who quoted them in their assemblies; who bound them as phylacteries upon their garments; who were consumed by the most flaming zeal for their honour; who were ready to stone and crucify their Saviour, because they said he had spoken blasphemy against them. “It is my Father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, that he is your God, yet ye have not known him." “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust: for had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” Let us not imagine, that a blind assent to truths which we have inherited with our name and country, or even a passionate eagerness for a few favourite dogmas, will be mistaken by our all-seeing Judge for that holy principle to which the promises of the Gospel belong; which is a principle of conversion as well as of justification; and which is uniformly allied to that serious, humble, gentle, and grateful disposition, which the precepts and example of our Saviour inculcated, and which therefore can alone expect his final approbation and acceptance.
It is of the essence of an evangelical faith, that it draws off our regards from ourselves and fixes them on our Redeemer. Men do not naturally look upwards; they love to survey themselves; and they examine to applaud. It is perfectly astonishing what contemptible frivolities we are capable of admiring, so that they belong only to ourselves. Not only parts and wit and intellectual attainments, but a gilt spur, a ribbon, a bracelet, a coach-andfour; “Quantulacunque adeo est occasio, sufficit.” The same principle operates powerfully in religion. Self-love rarely finds much difficulty in settling the moral account. Like the old juggler, she has all the rogueries of optics at her command, and applies them as she pleases. Every fault is seen in miniature; every fair disposition is set in that light where its proportions seem the most graceful; and our very defects appear to be the germs of excellencies. This tendency to self-approbation is undoubtedly innate in us all; but it remained for the corruptions of Christianity to shew to what an excess of folly and profaneness it was capable of growing. Would it have been credible, if the history of past ages had not placed the matter beyond controversy, that men should seriously think it possible for us so much to over-do our appointed parts in life, and to accumulate by our exertions such a
surplus of merits, as to be able safely to transfer a portion to our poor neighbours, just as children sell their fish at cards when they have made up their stake? I remember formerly, in a grotto dedicated to a lady-saint of high reputation, to have seen the picture of an old friar, who perhaps may be in the calendar himself. It was a sad daub, but the countenance spoke the highest degree of self-complacency; and underneath were written two Latin lines, which expressed in substance; “What is it that God required of me? To endure penances, to perform acts of merit. I have endured them; I have performed them.” The sentiment was expressed with that haughty conciseness which characterises the language of the old Romans. And yet it is probable that this poor, vain, silly, ignorant Creature had consumed the life of which he was so proud, in eating eggs, and counting beads, and illuminating the Lives of the Saints. But thus it is in some measure with us all. The standard of principle and the standard of action generally find means to meet. As the weather
grows foul, the quicksilver descends; but we are busy with our concerns, and shift the index without much observing where it points. Few ever discover occasion for anxiety by merely contemplating their own hearts and lives; * Measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, they are not wise." But faith opens our senses to new and higher objects; it removes the “veil from the heart;" and while it reveals to us our naturally depraved and degraded condition, points to that holy Saviour who is indeed “the Lord our Righteousness.” There we behold at once the proof of our corruption and its remedy; and whilst we survey with grateful admiration the living image of excellence to which hence