Page images
PDF
EPUB

Amidst all your guilt and self-abhorrence, you should respect yourself." There are three powerful reasons for self-respect, even in the vilest of inen.

1. The first is on account of what man was in his original state. Persons whose families once were great and renowned, though they themselves are in obscurity, feel a sort of respect for themselves on that account, which often keeps them from sinking lower, and sometimes animates them to recover the hunour of their name. The description given us in the Sacred Scriptures of the dignity and happiness of man in his first estate is with a similar design. It is that we may consider what we were, and be excited to the desire to regain what we have lost. Man was not formed for his present sorrowful and mortal condition. He was formed for purity and bliss. He should estimate, therefore, his proper place in the scale of being, not by what he now is, but by what he once was. There are fragments of his original greatness still in man, which, like the many pieces of broken columns scattered over a heap of ruins, confirm the history of his former state. If we inquire into the feelings which the sight of such ruins generally inspires, we shall find them to consist of reverence, mingled with sorrow-of revererice, in consideration of what they once were, and of sorrow for what they have now become. Thus should every man look upon himself. He should reverence himself for what he once was, while he loathes liimself for what he has now becoine. We show respect to the body of a deceased friend. We look upon it with veneration and love, and pay it funereal honours. Why? Not on account of what it now is, but on account of what it once was. Respect is due to that which, though now loathsome and corrupt, was once animated by a kindred soul, and united with us in all the concerns and endearments of life. Granting, then, that the soul is unlike to what it was when living in righteousness and true holiness, yet respect is due to that nature which once was in the innage of God, and in close cominusion with him. Man, though wofully fallen, is still man.

II. The second reason for which inan should have some respect for himself, even in his present degradation, is, on account of the portion of his original greatness which still remains. Self-respect is due to all the fragments of former glory which are left among the ruins of the fall; and it is due to the relation in which we still stand, as rational and accountable agents, to the Divine Being. These two are more closely allied than may at first sight appear. Beneath the disorder of the moral nature, the natural powers of man reinain uninjured. These are indestructible and eternal. The soul, in the most iguoraat and abandoned, remains entire. The gold is become

SELF-RESPECT.

but the metal is the same. Mind is degraded and lost, but it is mind still. Every inan still has an imninortal soul; and He “ who knew all things,” thus teaches the respect which man should have for himself on that account : “ What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”

The continuation of these natural powers is the ground of the moral relation in which we still stand to the Divine Being, as rational and accountable agents. We are treated by God with the respect due to immortal creatures, though fallen. Are we not addressed by him, throughout the Scriptures, as intelligent and voluntary beings ? Are not his appeals made to the understanding, to the will, to the conscience, to the affections of men? Is not the poor degraded woinan of Samaria reasoned with by the Son of God with the utmost condescension, to induce her to confide in him as a well of living waters? Not only is this method of dealing with man employed by God in his word, but every other means is openly disclaimed. The regard which God has thus displayed to man, as a rational and responsible being, shows the respect which man owes tu himself on that account.

III. Every man should respect himself for what he may yet become. Great as the respect is which is due to ourselves in this life, on account of what man originally was, and on account of that part of his original greatness which still remains, all selfrespect must cease if there be no prospect of recovery, but only of deeper degradation and ruin. The same book, however, which teaches us how hopeless our condition is by nature, and what reason we should have had for self-abhorrence on that account, had we been left to ourselves, reveals a greater cause for selfrespect, in the opportunity it sets before us, through Divine grace, of more than recovering all that was originally lost. Men indeed are fallen; but to them God has determined to show mercy. For men, a salvation has been graciously provided in the gospel of Christ. Fallen men are thus addressed : “ Unto you, O men, I call; and iny voice is to the sons of men.”

Reader! are you a man-a man in ruins — a sinful and lost man? Still are you a mån. Then are you one for whom this salvation is prepared, to whom it is offered, and who is capable of all the privileges and blessedness it consers. Should you not say, “Has God so loved the human race, as to send his own Son in their nature to redeein them froin endless woe? Has he deterinined to raise man to the enjoyment of his favour, and to the highest bliss ? Has he concluded all under sin, that he might have mercy upun all, of every class and character and aye, that look to himn for pardon and eternal life? Ilas he offered it, as a free gift, to the most helpless and the most vile ? | I also am a man; I am one of that race. I even, therefore, may

be saved. I may attain to everlasting glory and felicity, through the unmerited mercy of my God and Saviour."

Think what man has become, after sinking to the lowest degree of misery in this life! What must have been the history of the dying thief, who, amidst the agonies of crucifixion, confessed the justice of his sentence; and yet from that awful state was raised, on the same day, by faith in Christ, to be with him in paradise! He felt, though dying as a malefactor, and despised by his fellow men, that some importance belonged to him as an immortal beirg, and this led to his prayer for mercy to an ear that is ever open to our cry. We read of some Corinthians in the times of the apostles, who had been “ fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners;" but they were “washed, they were sanctified, they were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Instances, without number, have since occurred, of men being raised, by faith in the gospel of Christ, from the greatest degradation, to holiness and happiness in this life, and to a triumphant entrance into life everlasting. What they are now in heaven, you, reader, may become. They were once what you are, and you may become what they are. Your nature, though corrupt, is not abandoned to anguish and despair, or to be thrown away as utterly useless : adored be the riches of Divine grace that the Son of God himself has taken that nature, and died on the cross, in order to raise it to everlasting glory and happiness.

You are a man, at any rate. You belong to the race of man. You are a part of the whole world that God so loved, as to give his own Son for its redemption. Nay, you are of that part to whom the offer of salvation has been individually made. Be of good cheer, then! Only believe, and feel yourself to be worth saving, and that Christ can save you; and success is certain.

“ The Saviour calls ; let every ear

Attend the heavenly sound :
Ye doubting souls, dismiss your fear;

Hope smiles reviving round.

“ Ye sinners, come; 'tis mercy's voice;

The gracious call obey :
Mercy invites to heavenly joys,

And can you yet delay zo

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors]

“ The king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request ?" Esth. v. 2, 3.

"I MAKE NO PROFESSION.” “ The heart," says the prophet Jeremiah, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jer. xvii. 9. Every day's experience, both within and around, brings sad proof of the truth of these solemn words. In nothing, perhaps, is its deceitfulness, as well as desperate wickedness, more seen than in the excuses men make for neglecting God, and the feeble thread on which they are content to hang all their hopes for eternity. Tell them of God's wrath, exhort them to flee from eternal ruin, they will remind you of the sins of others; and say, for their part, they make no profession. Such an expression is a mere excuse. For having once said this, they seem to feel fully justified in sinking down into quiet indifference, as if all were safe for the future. Can no profession rescue them from hell? Will no profession bring them to heaven? Will God bestow on them the reward of his faithful servants, because they boldly assert that they do not even pretend to serve him? Will an earthly master forgive disobedience, because it is bold and daring? Yet when God says, “My son, give me thy heart," these men refuse to give it, and expect to be forgiven by God, because they never | professed to obey him. What utter folly is this !

ES

“ I make no profession.” Is this true of any man? Surely not. There are but two masters in the world, each has his owu livery; and those who make no profession to serve God, do make a most bold and open profession that they are the servants of Satan. Not in words,- for it suits the father of lies best, to deceive even his own servants; but by doing diligently, though perhaps unknown to themselves, their master's work. What is Satan's work? To ruin souls, and lead them captive to hell. The road to hell is to forget God, Psalm ix. 17. Those who make no profession of serving him, are walking upon it, and doing all that example can do, to lead others on in the same road. They are ruining their own souls, and helping to ruin those of others; that is, they are doing Satan's work, and they expect to receive God's wages. It cannot be. Each earthly city has its own road leading to it, and heaven and hell too have each its own road, ·and no man can reach the one by taking the road to the other.

We see from Psalm ix. that the road to hell is to forget God, and that no profession is the bold ayowal of having chosen it. Now, hear from God's word what is the road to heaven :“ With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Rom. x. 10. It does not, you see, begin with profession; but profession there must be. It does not rest in mere profession, without faith ; but it does demand that profession should be joined with faith. How should it be otherwise ? A man feels he is a sinner. God's wrath hangs over him; he recollects some short hours of sharp suffering on earth, and shudders when he thinks of never-ending, terrible suffering in hell; he thinks of the various sorrows he has passed through on earth, and trembles to think that they are as nothing compared to eternal misery. He says, “ God is so great, his wrath against sin is so fearful and I am such a sinner, that I cannot escape." He feels godly sorrow for sin, and hears the sweet voice of mercy: “ Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," Isa. i. 18. With the heart he believes it; he had no righteousness, he was all sin, but he believes that the sin is taken away; he believes the gracious words, “ In the Lord have I righteousness and strength," Isa. xlv. 24. Thus with the heart he believes unto righteousness. He becomes "a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Can he stop there? His heart must be full of joy; it must boumd lightly now such a weight is gone; is it likely that no words of praise should burst from his lips? But this mighty deliverance was procured for him by the agony and death of the Son of God. Jesus took himself the punishment which had filled his soul with terror: surely love to his Deliverer will rise in that man's heart; he must speak of the goodness of

« PreviousContinue »