Page images
PDF
EPUB

we cannot love our neighbour, since the latter is the resulting and certain effect of the former, and thus united in one, form the principle of charity, which is the gift of the Holy Ghost. And unless we have received this new principle, “although we should speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though we have all faith, so that we could remove mountains ;we are nothing, and are become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.Woe, therefore, to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria.” Tremble, ye women, that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones.'

This principle of self is the grand instrument of Satan, who causes it to assume an endless variety of shapes, so as often to deceive even the elect children of God. If then, the subjugation of this principle be the whole tendency of the Gospel, and the most important work of the Spirit, it is of the greatest consequence to discover and lay open some of the subtle forms, which this anti-christian spring of action so constantly assumes. And let me entreat you, dear brethren, to try and examine yourselves on the instances I adduce; lifting up your hearts in prayer to God, that He may enable you to detect and mortify self under every form. By self, I wish to convey the idea of selflove corrupted by the fall.

* This principle of self may be traced, when we feel mortified at any disrespect or neglect we may receive; although the opposite disregard often proceeds from the influence of a fancied self-importance.-. When we feel the risings of anger and revenge at some injury, slander, or slight, and a desire of retort and retaliation. When we manifest impatience at contradiction, and regard those opinions of others which are opposed to our own, with neglect or contempt.- When we feel a reluctance to acknowledge our faults and errors.—When we are unwilling to yield to the will and inclination of others.- When we manifest a dislike to be dictated to or found fault with; although the opposite extreme may likewise proceed, from the pride of self-importance and fancied superiority.-When we in any manner or under any circumstances, neglect an inferior or court our superiors, from the influence of pride or self-consequence; although condescension likewise generally proceeds from great pride.-- When we are prejudiced against those, who in any way manifest their dislike towards us, or have told us of some faults and frailties. When we in any way seek for the praise and applause of man, unless to receive it for promoting the glory of God.—When we do good to others from motives of selfinterest, or for the gratification of natural benevolence: for one person may put himself to great personal inconvenience, to relieve the distresses of a fellow-creature, from the influence of a natural benevolence of disposition; and another may commit murder, to gratify the feeling of revenge ; yet the former, as far as regards his justification, would not be less guilty in the sight of God than the latter. Both actions would proceed from a selfish principle, and self is sin. We may say of the former, “verily he has his reward,' from the consequent feelings of selfcomplacency. *

* The ideas on the development of self-love, in this and a following paragraph, in part, are taken from an article in the good Samaritan,” entitled, “a looking-glass for the heart." Vide Appendix A.

The smallest sin, though finite in itself, becomes infinite in guilt, when considered as committed against the infinite holiness and dignity of Jehovah. It is partly on this account, that he who breaks the law in one point, is guilty of a breach of the whole moral law, as stated by St. James. The truth of the example I have adduced will also appear more evident, if we consider the probable results in these two cases.

* Vide Appendix B.

The self-complacency of the benevolent man would induce feelings of selfrighteousness; while the self-condemnation of the murderer might approximate to the broken and contrite heart. Thus then, “what is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God;' and, on the converse, those crimes at which man would shudder, may often be less odious in His sight, than those actions which men commend. Yes! the outcast criminal often obtains the favour and mercy of the Omniscient Judge; while the worldly moralist of mental sincerity, meets only the frown of incensed Justice. Contrite frailty will obtain mercy; while the hardened impenitence of self-righteousness meets the justice it provokes. The use of the moral law is to discover and to condemn sin; since it is only by the evil that we can discern the good. And because the law is spiritual, or relates to the spirits or thoughts of man, it is impossible that he can keep the law; and one transgression, in the heart only, without the overt

« PreviousContinue »