Page images

darkened with the impostures of sin, how comfortless a task must he have in preparing an offering to God from among such a lame and diseased herd. “Remember therefore now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, ere the evil days come, and the years draw nigh in which thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. Amen.


Preached on a Day of Humiliation before Celebrating the Lord's


LUKE xviii. 19.

-He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

As man fell by pride, it is reasonable to conclude that he can only rise again by humility: and here we are taught that this is the express ordination and appointment of God; for thus saith the faithful and true Witness, “ Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” I cannot therefore employ your time to better purpose, especially upon such an occasion as this, than in opening the nature of true humiliation, and endeavouring to illustrate the necessity and use of it, to prepare our hearts for those enriching communications both of mercy and grace, which our Saviour, in this passage, encourageth us to expect.

I begin with opening the nature of true humiliation. This takes its rise from spiritual discoveries of the evil of

sin, as the transgression of a law which is holy, just, and good; as an act of outrageous and unprovoked rebellion against the mildest, as well as the most righteous administration; as the basest ingratitude to our kindest Benefactor, the Author of our being, and of all that we possess; and especially as it renders us unlike to him who is not only the standard but the source of perfection, and consequently incapable of any friendly correspondence with the Father of our spirits, the Fountain of light, of life, and of joy.

These spiritual discoveries of the evil of sin, produce a fixed and solid apprehension of our own ill deserving because of it. We see the justice of the sentence which condemns us, and cannot help acknowledging that we are unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies, and liable to that tremendous wrath which is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. Hence arise grief and shame, and all that inward distress which necessarily attend the consciousness of guilt, the present sense of forfeited happiness, and the fearful prospect of that unknown misery which awaits trans. gressors in the world to coine.

To all which must be added, such a deep conviction of our utter inability to do any thing that can be effectual for our own recovery, as issues in a despair of relief from every other quarter but the free mercy of God, extended to sinners through Jesus Christ, and the effectual operation of his renewing grace. We are not truly hum. bled till we feel ourselves wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, equally destitute of righteousness and strength, incapable of making any satisfaction for past offences, and having no power of our own to rectify that fatal disorder in our frame, which is the bitter fruit of our apostacy from God.



Such was the state of the publican's mind, who is presented to our view in the foregoing parable, as an approved example for our imitation; whilst the Phari. see, who trusted in himself that he was righteous, stand. ing apart from his fellow-worshippers, as one who dis- 1. dained to hold communion with them, boldly addressed h the Divine Majesty, and, under the specious form of thanksgiving, poured forth the pride and uncharitable. ness of his heart. The publican, we are told, stood afar off; and, though his face was turned towards the mercy. seat, yet, conscious of bis unworthiness, he would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smiting upon his breast, as the seat of his disease and pain, from whence he despaired of fetching any relief, he as it were flies from himself to the God of all grace, and gives vent to his penitent and humble bope, in these few but emphatical words, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But the nature of true humiliation will more fully appear from the salutary purposes for which it is intended, which was the

Second thing I proposed to illustrate; and hence likewise we shall discover how necessary it is, in order to th our regaining that happiness we have forfeited. And,

th I. It is of use to disgrace and mortify carnal self, that usurping idol which sits on the throne of God, and reigns in the heart of every natural man. Herein lies 0 the essence of man's apostacy. He is fallen from God by to self. Dissatisfied with the rank which God bad assigned him, he attempted to break loose from the Allthor of his being, and to seize upon knowledge, immortality, and happiness, without any dependance upon the hand that formed him. This my brethren, is the original disease of our nature; in this consisteth the sinfulness and the misery of man. He loveth himself supremely,


he liveth to himself ultimately: the genuine language of his heart is, “ Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?"

He begins indeed to alt@ his tone, when conviction, like an armed man, forceth its way into bis soul; then he feels his dependance, and wisheth to be at peace with that Being whom he finds he is unable to resist. For this end he will part, at least for a season, with many of the members of the body of sin. Nay, so far as the exterval act extends, there are few duties perhaps which he will not consent to perform. But, when he is driven from the outworks, be only retires to the chief for. tress of sin. Still self is worshipped in a different form; and, though he sees that it cannot possess the throne by violence, yet he hopes that it may be able to purchase it with a price. Thus the homage that was paid to sinful self, is only transferred to righteous self; and now the

idol which was formerly black as hell, being whitei washed, and decked with some forms of godliness, is permitted to wield the

sceptre in

peace, till either or vengeance wipe off the false colouring, and stripping the deceiver of his gorgeous apparel, cast him down to the ground, and put a final period to his usurped domi. nation.

Of all the parts of mortification, self-denial is by far the most painful and difficult; indeed all the rest are vir. tually contained in it. Were it only riches or honours, or even the fruit of the body for the sin of the soul, a carnal mind, stung with remorse, and terrified with the prospect of impending wrath, might be brought to part with them; but to part with his all, with bis life, with his self, this indeed is a hard saying, and more than enough to make bim go away sorrowful.

Now herein appeareth the end and the necessity of

till either grace

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors][merged small]

such humiliation as I endeavoured to describe. This layeth the whole load upon self, and breaketh the very heart of the old man; it setteth the house on fire, in which we both trusted and delighted, and maketh us not only to see, but to feel that it is time for us to abandon it, lest we be consumed. This then is the first office of humiliation, to hide pride from our eyes, by showing as that we are our own destroyers, and giving us such discov eries of our guilt and pollution, that we are made to abhor ourselves in dust and in ashes, and to ery out with the publican, God be merciful to us sippers. This leads me to mention a

Second, and more salutary end of humiliation, which indeed may be called its ultimate end, because the selfannihilation I have been speaking of, derives its chief importance from its tendency to promote it, and that is, true humiliation prepares the soul for the honourable re

. ception of Christ and his grace.

I say, for the honourable reception of Christ; it is not meet that he should come into an unbumbled heart; for, though his errand be to heal us, yet he must have the welcome that is due to a pbysician. He comes indeed to save us, but he comes at the same time to be honoured in our salvation. Though his grace be free, yet he will not expose it to contempt, but have the fulness and the freedom of it acknowledged and glorified. Faith indeed accepts the gift, but then it must be a humble faith that is sensible of its worth; a thankful faith, that magnifieth the Giver; and an obedient faith, that will practically improve the mercy bestowed. Christ hath no grace so free as to save those who neither feel their need of it, por know its worth. Christ's benefits are not applied in the same way they were purchased. When he came to ran. som us, he consented to be a sufferer; for then he bore


« PreviousContinue »