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despised others; and thus he threw away at a single stroke all the blessings which God might else have had in store for his abstinence, his purity, his justice, his attention to the religion of his Father; and by a little foolish self-love, and by a little ill-natured comparison of himself with his neighbour, made vain the endeavours of, perhaps, a long life, and, while he thought that he was standing firmly, made that very flattering thought the occasion of a dismal fall!

Is it necessary that I should go on to explain and vindicate the justice of such a sentence? Will not the common sense of those who hear me, teach them that for even the best of men to boast himself before his Maker, must be to that Maker most offensive, inasmuch as, however good he may be, it is God to whom he owes it all ?

The pharisee himself, indeed, acknowledged this. He was not so vain, he was not so silly as to be ignorant that of himself he was able to do nothing; and he therefore gives, in words at least, the glory to God, and thanks Him that he was not like other men, an extortioner, unjust, or adulter

But in this very enumeration of God's favours to him, he shows that he allowed himself to take a pride in them; that, instead of endeavouring after a further progress, he was idly amusing himself with viewing the progress which he had already made ; unconscious all the while how much ground his rivals in the race were gaining on him. How much more blameable then, how much more ridiculous (if any thing could be a matter of ridicule in which the souls of men are concert

erned), must their pretensions be who reckon up their own good deeds, not as reasons for thankfulness to God, but as claims to reward or pardon from Him; who talk of the good which they have done, or the harm which they have not done, as if, by its own value, it gave them a title to Heaven, and to come into the presence of their Maker not like His servants but His creditors !

Let us examine this matter a little further! Whoever prides himself on his own good deeds in the sight of God, must suppose one or both of two things ; either that those good deeds have of themselves some power to gratify or

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benefit God, so as that God owes him Heaven in payment for the advantage which He has received from him, or that those actions for which he expects rewards were, at least, in his own choice to perform or to neglect, and such as if he had neglected them God could have had no reason for punishing him. But how different from the truth are both these suppositions ! In the first instance, so highly exalted is God above all our actions and their consequences, that it is plain He needs none of our services : that the obedience of such worms as we are is as nothing in His sight, whom all the cherubim and seraphim serve in their bright and burning stations, who “ hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hands," and to whose call the lightnings answer, here we are."* It is only from His love to us, for our own sakes, and in order to our happiness, that He has made us at all, or bas laid any commands upon us. He bids us love each other, and do good to each other, because, by this means, we each of us shall make the other happy or relieve the other's distress. He bids us be sober, be honest, be chaste, be industrious, because it is by an obseryance of these rules alone that we can keep ourselves in health, in cheerfulness, in plenty, and worldly prosperity. He bids us pray to Him, and give Him thanks, and serve Him, because He thus opens to us a fresh source of strength for the discharge of our duties ; of hope and comfort under our necessary calamities; of that spirituality of mind and acquaintance with Heavenly things, which is the purest pleasure a man can meet with here, and the necessary introduction to still purer and brighter happiness hereafter. But in Himself God, needs us not! had we never been born, our songs would never be missed in the full chorus of angels; and, were we all now to perish, He could raise up from the dust beneath our feet a better and a worthier race of creatures than we are.

Who then are we, and what are our good deeds, that we should venture to praise them in His presence ?

But further, all these things in the performance of which we pride ourselves are, after all, no more than our duty.

* Isaiah xl. 12. Job xxxviii. 35.

We are commanded to do them ; we are threatened most severely if we neglect them. All the good deeds which we have done are, therefore, in fact, nothing more than so many instances in which we have not done evil; and who shall say that our not deserving hell, supposing it to be true, would be, in itself an equitable claim on such a vast reward as Heaven: or that our best actions, being such as they are, would not be overpaid by the life and health and happiness of a single day, though we were immediately after to sink into dust and be forgotten? Who then can hope that such good actions as we can perform can reasonably be placed in the balance against our many evil deeds, or free us from the punishment which these last so loudly call for?

For this is another and a still more awful reason for disclaiming all human merit, and placing our only hopes of pardon in the great mercy of God, by which also the publican in the parable sought and found it. It is not merely the worthlessness of our good deeds, but the number and greatness of our evil deeds, which should fill us with humility and fear in the presence of God; and lead us, instead of claiming reward, to acknowledge ourselves worthy of the severest punishment. We have all sinned, it is in vain to seek to hide it from ourselves, we have all sinned most grievously; if not in those particulars, which the pharisee of whom we have read mentioned, yet in many others which, if less thought of by mankind, are no less strictly forbidden by the Almighty; we are all God's debtors to an infinite amount; and being so, it is surely fitter far to cast ourselves on His mercy altogether, than to set off our own pitiful balance of good deeds, or supposed good deeds, as a reason why judgment should not be passed on us.

But further, it may not be useless to remark the disguises under which pride and self-conceit will sometimes enter into our hearts; and the manner in which men are led to form high thoughts of themselves, while they suppose that they are giving the glory to God alone, and ascribing to Him alone all the work of their salvation. The pharisee was ready enough to confess that it was of God alone that he was less wicked than other men. And I have met with many serious persons who not only acknowledged this, but affected to lay an exceeding stress on the doctrine, who yet were strangely proud of their own supposed place in God's favour as His elect, His chosen, His brands plucked forth from the burning, and no less. ready than the pharisee to make comparisons between themselves and other men, and bless God that they were more strict in their lives, more holy in their hearts, than such or such poor lost creature, who never attended church or meeting, or who was altogether uninformed or unconvinced of certain doctrines in which, whether truly or falsely, they placed the sum and substance of Christianity.

How offensive such conduct must be to God, a moment's consideration will convince us. 66 What hast thou to do with thy neighbour's guilt or innocence ?” “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth."* " Yea he shall be holden up if he acknowledges his sin and endeavours to forsake it; when thou, with all thy greater advantages and greater proficiency, mayst mourn, perhaps too late, thy own presumption and want of charity."

There is a history told in one of the eastern writers, which, for the moral which it affords, is here not unfit to be mentioned, of a certain youth who gave himself up to severe devotion, and passed whole nights in the study of the Scriptures and in prayer. “ Behold," he said to his father, “ how these have forgotten their God, while I alone am waken to His word and to His service !” “Alas, my son," was that wise father's reply," it were better that thou hadst slept till the day of judgment than that thou shouldst thus wake to trust in thyself that thou art righteous, and to speak evil of thy brethren.” He was a Mahometan who spake thus; but from him it were well if very many Christians would learn that, do all they may, it is not for them to institute comparisons with the weakest and most unhappy of God's creatures.

Yet a few words to the occasion for which we have

• Romans xiv. 4.

many of us, I trust, during the last week, been making preparation. Do we come, like this pharisee, trusting in ourselves? Do we come, like this pharisee, inclined to condemn our neighbours ? Or do we come in the deep sense of our own weakness, in the sorrowful recollection of our own misdeeds, in the earnest desire to forsake our evil ways, and in the hope, a sure and certain hope, that on us who acknowledge ourselves sinners, the Lord will show abundant mercy? We have a more painful know. ledge than even the publican described by our Lord could possess of the danger of sin, and its great offensiveness-in the

eyes of our Maker; inasmuch as we know, which he could not, that to obtain pardon for the sins of the world, it was necessary that God Himself should give us His beloved Son to be offered as a bloody sacrifice. We have a more certain and blessed hope than this penitent publican enjoyed; inasmuch as that atonement, which he only knew through figures and prophecies, we have known and felt as a historical and spiritual certainty ; so that not only by the blood of bulls and of goats, but by the pure and sinless blood of the blessed Jesus, we look to have our sins done away, and our pardon sealed, and a more blessed strength to be hereafter given us to the forsaking of every

and the purifying of our conscience towards God. Let us only not be wanting to ourselves; let us only seek His grace through its appointed channels, and bending low before His altar, and receiving with deep humility the pledges of His peace, let us renounce all hope but in Him alone, and cry out each of us in our hearts to Him who is ready to hear and to save, God be merciful to me a sinner.

evil way,

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