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whether we be equally removed from both, let us endeavour to improve in spirituality and holiness. Then will the wisdom of God, in appointing such a variety of states, be made manifest : and the collective virtues of the different classes will then shine with combined lustre, and, like the rays of the sun, display the glory of Him from whom they sprang.]
THE SELF-DECEIVER EXPOSED.
Prov. xxx. 12. There is a generation that are pure in their
own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. MEN of themselves are very backward to form an unfavourable estimate of their own character. Hence arises the necessity of accurate discrimination and undaunted fidelity in ministers, whose office is to “separate the precious from the vile," and to give to every one his portion in due season. The Scriptures draw a broad line of distinction between the righteous and the wicked; and this, not in their actions only, but in their dispositions and habits; by which the different characters may be as clearly discerned as by their outward conduct. The generation of selfdeceivers is very numerous: multitudes there are who stand high in their own estimation, whilst in God's eyes they are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Amongst these we must number, I. The decent formalistHe is “ pure in his own eyes” —
[He is punctual in the observance of outward duties, both civil and religious. He will attend constantly at the house of God, and even at the table of the Lord: he will also establish worship in his family: and in respect of his dealings with men, he will be all that is amiable and lovely: he will be honest, sober, just, temperate, benevolent: as far as the letter of the law
goes, may be blameless. In such a state, what wonder is it if he be pure in his own eyes? He understands not the spirituality of the law, and can judge of himself only by the defective standard of heathen morality. By the world he is admired, and held up as a pattern of all excellence: and seeing that he stands high in the esteem of others, he almost of necessity entertains a high opinion of himself.]
But he “ is not washed from his filthiness” —
[Much filthiness there is in the heart of every man by nature; and there is a filthiness which every person may properly call his own, as being congenial with his own feelings, and particularly connected with his own character. With the character before us there is a very abundant measure of pride, venting itself in a constant habit of self-confidence and selfcomplacency. Combined with this are impenitence and unbelief: for how is it possible that he should repent and believe, when he knows not the extent of his guilt and danger ? “ Being whole, he feels no need of a physician” --- He is altogether under the dominion also of worldly-mindedness. When he has performed his religious duties, he goes to worldly company, without feeling any want, or being sensible of any danger. The friendship of the world is what he delights in as his chief good, never once suspecting, that this very disposition proves and constitutes him an enemy of Goda. Thus, though there is nothing in him that the world disapproves, and nothing that seems to call for self-reproach, he is under the habitual and allowed dominion of evils, which render him abominable in the sight of Godb. He has somewhat of the form of godliness, but none at all of its powerc” -]
Amongst this generation we must also number,
much farther than the decent formalist[He is convinced of the truth and excellence of Christianity, and wishes to be a partaker of its benefits. He will vindicate the faithful servants of God against the accusations brought against them by the ungodly world; and will actually comply with many things which the Gospel requires
From this partial change in himself he begins to think that he is a Christian indeed. His constrained approbation of the Gospel appears to him to be a cordial acceptance of it: and his slender performances of its duties are in his estimation like an unreserved obedience.] But, like him, he deceives his own soul
[He will not renounce all for Christ. When our Lord says, “ Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow me,” he departs sorrowful, like the Rich Youth, and chooses the world in preference to Christ. He draws back also from the cross, which he will not bear. He is ashamed of Christ, even at the very time that he shews some regard both for his word and ministers. He will not come out from the world and be separate;" but still remains conformed to it, to its maxims, its habits, its spirit, and its company. Of the true Christian, our Lord says, " Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of the world :" but of the almost Christian, the very reverse is true: he strives to reconcile the inconsistent services of God and Mammon: and if this cannot be done, he will forego his eternal interests, rather than sacrifice his worldly interests, and subject himself to the scorn and hatred of the ungodly.
a Jam. iv. 4. b Luke xvi. 15. c 2 Tim. iii. 5.
Thus, though pure in his own eyes, he is yet in bondage to the fear of man; and gives a decided preference to this world, before the preservation of a good conscience, and the approþation of his God.]
To the same class belongs also, III. The inconsistent professor-
Who more confident of the goodness of his state, than he who professes to believe in Christ?
[The man who has felt some conviction of sin, and some hope in Christ, and has been hailed by others as a sound convert to the Christian faith, is ready to conclude that all is well: his successive emotions of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, are to him a sufficient evidence, that his conversion is unquestionable. If he have some ability to talk about the Gospel, and some gift in prayer, he is still further confirmed in his persuasion, that there exists in him no ground for doubt or fear. More especially, if he have views of the Covenant of grace, as "ordered in all things and sure," and have adopted a crude system of religion that favours a blind confidence, he concludes at once that he is, and must be, a child of God.] But who more open to self-deception ?
[Professors of the Gospel are very apt to forget that rule of judging which our Lord himself has prescribed, “By their fruits ye shall know them d.” But this is the only safe criterion whereby to judge of our state before God. Yet, when brought to this test, how low do many religious professors appear! They can talk of the Gospel fluently; but, if their spirit and temper be inquired into, they are found to be under the habitual dominion of some besetting sin, as they were before they ever thought of religion. It is lamentable to think what “ filthiness there is both of flesh and spirit," from which many who profess the Gospel have never yet been “washede:" yet an inspired Apostle declares, that “if a man seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, he deceiveth himself, and his religion is vain f.” What then must be the state of those who yet remain proud and passionate, worldly-minded and covetous, d Matt. vii. 16.
e Tit. i. 16.
f Jam. i. 26,
false and dishonest, impure and sensual, yea, and grossly defective in all the duties of their place and station ? Truly, of all the people belonging to the generation spoken of in our text, these are in the greatest danger, because their confidence is founded in the idea, that they have already bathed in the fountain which alone is able to cleanse them from their sin.] ADDRESS,
1. Those who, though pure in their own eyes, are not washed
(Happy would it be if men would relax the confidence which they are ever ready to maintain of the safety of their state before God. Every one conceives, that whatever others may do, he deceives not his own soul: yet behold so great is the number of self-deceivers, that they constitute “ a generation!” Beloved, learn to try yourselves by the only true test, your conformity to the will of God, and to the example of Christ It is in the balance of the sanctuary, and not in your own balance, that you are to weigh yourselves; for in that shall you be weighed at the last day; and if you are found wanting in that, the measure of your deficiency will be the measure of your condemnation -]
2. Those who, though not pure in their own eyes, are really washed from their filthiness
[Blessed be God! there is a generation of these also. Many who once wallowed in all manner of filthiness, are now washed from it, even as the Corinthian converts were . Yet they are not pure in their own eyes : on the contrary, they are of all people most ready to suspect themselves", and to “lothe themselves” for their remaining imperfections. See how strikingly this is exemplified in the very chapter before us: Agur was a man of unquestionable piety: yet, under a sense of his great unworthiness, he complained, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man'." This may appear to many to be extravagant: but it is the real feeling of many a child of God; I may add too, it is their frequent complaint before God. Such were the feelings of Job, of Isaiah, and of Paulk - If it be asked, Whence arises this, that such holy and heavenly persons should be so far from being pure in their own eyes? the reason is, that they try themselves by a more perfect standard, and from their clearer discoveries of the path of duty are more deeply conscious of their aberrations from it. Their love of holiness also makes them now to abhor themselves more for their want of conformity
8 1 Cor. vi. 9-11. h Matt. xxvi. 21, 22.
to the Divine image, than they once did even for the grossest sins. To you then, dearly Beloved, I would address myself in the language of consolation and encouragement. It is well that you see and lament your vileness, provided you make it only an occasion of humiliation, and not of despondency. The more lowly you are in your own eyes,
the exalted you are in God's, who has said, that “ he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Let your sense of your remaining imperfections make you plead more earnestly with your God that reviving promise, “From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you!.” And remember, that you are not to wash yourselves first, and then to lay hold on the promises, but to embrace the promises first, and then by means of them to cleanse yourselves from the defilements you lament. This is the order prescribed in the Gospel"; and, if you will adhere to it, you shall have increasing evidence that it is the destined path of purity and peace.]
1 Ezek. xxxvi. 25. 1 John i. 9. m 2 Cor. vii. 1.
USEFULNESS OF SCHOOLS OF INDUSTRY. Prov. xxxi. 10. Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price
is far above rubies. WHILE we rejoice in the progress of civilization, we cannot but regret the loss of primitive simplicity. In former days, women of the highest rank did not disdain to employ themselves in the most common offices of lifea King Lemuel, supposed by some to be Solomon himself, was exhorted by his inspired mother to select for his wife a woman who was not ashamed to occupy herself in domestic duties. The description here given of a queen, is, alas! but ill suited to the refinement of the present age. It is rather calculated for the lower classes of the community. With a more immediate view therefore to their benefit, we shall consider it, and shew, I. The character of a virtuous woman
There is no other character so fully drawn in Scripture as this. She is described by, 1. Her industry
a Gen. xvii. 6.