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stand upon a level with the meanest wretches, and be accountable to the high and everlasting Judge, for their management of his vicegerency.
There is nothing men value themselves more than upon the account of their understandings ; “ knowledge puffs up.” But how little do we know? Pride is the effect of great presumption, and little knowledge. Suppose one by experimental curiosity and inquiries could know all things in the latitude of the sensible creation, this were but a refined kind of vanity, and could not afford satisfaction to an immortal spirit. In short; suppose a person eminently endowed with divine qualities, wherein the resemblance of God consists, there cannot be the least reason of pride, for they are all graces dispensed from the sovereign unaccountable pleasure of God, who makes the most excellent saint to differ from others.
2. It will be an excellent means to cure pride, to convince the minds of men, what is true honour, and direct their desires to it.
The wisest of kings has told us, “ that before honour is humility.” Pride is a degenerous passion, * debases a man, and brings him into miserable bondage, enslaves him to the ignorant multitude. Dependance upon the opinion and applause of the people, whose humours are very changeable, is so uneasy, that the ambitious often bite their heavy chains, though sometimes they kiss them because they are gilded. But humility preserves the true and noble freedom of the mind of man, secures his dear liberty, and peaceful dominion of himself. This is the effect of excellent wisdom.
3. Humility is the most precious ornament in God's sight: and to be approved by the divine mind, and accepted by the divine will, is the highest honour, most worthy of our ambition. It is like the precious balm, that mixed with other liquors sinks to the bottom : but then it is visible, and most amiable in the eyes of God. The apostle's ambitious labour was, “ whether present or absent to be accepted of him.” Now what is the vain esteem and fading breath of men, compared with the acceptance of God? Doth a learned man value the praise of the ignorant given to his composures, and disregard the approbation of the learned, the proper judges of it? Is worldly honour a certain indication of real worth, or can it satisfy the desires of the soul ? A piece of rotten wood shines in the dark; but when the daylight appears, forfeits its lustre: so in the darkness of this world, titles of honour seem glorious, but in the morning of eternity they lose their flaming brightness, and vanish for ever. It is true magnanimity, to despise the praise of men, and to seek and value the honour that comes from God only. After this short life, men are dead for ever to the pleasure of their fame.
* Quam quidem laudem sapientiæ statoo esse maximam, non aliunde pendere, non extrinsecus aut bene aut male faciendi suspensas habere rationes. Cic, l. 5, Ep. 13.
+ Nibil humilitate sublimius apud Deum. Hier.
I shall conclude this part of our subject with observing, that humility is a virtue not known to the philosophers, who thought it to be opposite to magnanimity : but it is especially recommended in the gospel as a most amiable and excellent grace. We are commanded to “ do nothing through strife or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Phil. 2. 3. This may seem an unreasonable lesson, and inconsistent with sincerity. But although the difference between men in civil things, and intellectual perfections be clear; yet in moral qualities, we knowing our own defects and secret faults, may prefer others, whose concealed excellencies are visible to God, before ourselves. The apostle Paul though he so excellently“ represented the King of saints in his life,” acknowledged himself to be the chief of sinners. It is observable that St. Peter in the account of his fall and repentance, recorded by St. Mark, who wrote the gospel by his direction, aggravates his sin more than is expressed in the gospel of St. Luke and St. John, where his denial is related, but not his cursing and swearing, saying, " I know not the man :" and his repentance is not so fully declared : for the other evangelists tell us," he wept bitterly" in the reflection upon his denial of Christ, but it is only said in Mark, when she thought on it he wept."
Many excellent promises are made to the humble. They are declared blessed by our Saviour, who are not rich in treasures, “ but poor in spirit: God will revive the spirit of the humble : he will give grace to the humble, and hear their prayers." We are assured though the Lord be high, yet he has a respect to the
lowly: he sets his esteem and love on them, regards and relieves them: humility attracts the eye and heart of God himself. Job was never more accepted of God than when he abhorred himself.
I shall add this consideration, that should be of infinite weight with us: the Son of God came down from heaven, to set before us a pattern of humility. He does in a special manner instruct us in this lesson: “ learn of me, I am meek and lowly.” Never could glory ascend higher than in his person, nor humility descend lower than in his actions. There are the deepest imprinting passages of humility in the whole course of his despised life and ignominious sufferings. What can be more honourable than to imitate the humble King of Glory?
Infidelity, hypocrisy, envy, are in a special sense pollutions of the spirit.
The unreasonableness of infidelity. Hypocrisy considered : it sometimes proceeds from ignorance and error. Sins are bid under the appearance of virtues. The steadfast belief of God's pure eye, an effectual means to cure it, Envy at the good of others, with malice wishing them evil. The necessity of regeneration evident from the consideration of inward defilements. Motives to cleanse the spirit. God is highly dishonoured by them. They are more easily contracted, and more frequently committed, than those that are acted by the sensitive faculties. They are more incurable, The injections of satan distinguished from those sinful thoughts that arise from the hearts of men. They are our iufelicities,
I shall now proceed to consider some other sins, that in a special sense, are the pollutions of the spirit. It has been observed already, that in carnal sins, the spirit is the principal agent, but of other sins it is the subject. Such are infidelity, hypocrisy, envy and malice, by which the mind becomes dark and impure.
1. Infidelity, whether proceeding from secret atheism, or open deism, rejects revealed religion, as unnecessary and groundless. But the arguments that are drawn from the clear and living springs of nature to prove the being of God, are of such convincing evidence, that none but those whose interest it is, that there were no supreme Lawgiver and Judge to call them to an account for their actions, can doubt of his eternal existence. Now that there is a God, being proved, the necessary consequence from that principle is, that he must be honoured and served according to his own will, and that it becomes his wisdom and goodness to reveal his will to men, the rule of their duty, and that this be done in the most instructive and permanent way, in writing, that is less liable to corruption than oral tradition, and that the Holy Scripture has in it such conspicuous characters of its descent from heaven, besides the most undoubted testimony that it was written by men divinely inspired, and infallible, that without violating the rules of sound discourse we must yield our assent to its divine authority, and supernatural doctrines revealed in it. I shall not here amplify and illustrate these particulars, having in some discourses, formerly published, on the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, and the divinity of the christian religion, manifested how desperate the cause of the atheists and deists is to unprejudiced minds.
Now though the deduction specified, be according to the true rule of ratiocination, yet there are some that account it a slavery to fix their belief upon any authority, but will be free in believing as they are in their actions. I will therefore briefly produce some proofs of the truth of christian religion, that carry an uncontrolable evidence in them: the abolishing idolatry in the Pagan world, in the time foretold by the prophets, is a palpable proof that christian religion was from the true God. The instruments of this great work, were a few fishermen, that had neither learning, nor arms, nor treasures: patience was their strength, poverty their choice, disgrace their honour : that without any force, but of illumination and persuasion, of humility and charity, and enduring the most terrible sufferings, they should vanquish the pride of philosophers, the tyrannous power of princes, the rebellious opposition of men's carnal lusts, is not conceivable without the assistance of divine strength, that convinced the most obstinate enemies that the doctrine was divine, by the miracles done in confirmation of it. Besides, that which the wise men in all ages were searching for, that is, the perfection of the law of nature, (at first engraven in the hearts of men by the Author of it) but in vain : for although philosophy affords some notices of good and evil, sufficient to check many notorious vices, yet it is not sufficient to direct men in their universal duty towards God, others, and themselves : but the gospel is an instructive light of our full duty: it speaks to the heart, and changes its thoughts and affections, and reforms the life according to the pure and perfect rule revealed in it. Now could an imposture produce such a perfection of virtue in the wicked world? The true interpretation of the moral law in the gospel is from God alone. Vox hominem non sonat. Could such a change be made without visible miracles? If the christian religion was planted and propagated without the confirmation of miracles, it were a transcendent miracle. And though we saw not the miracles done by the apostles, yet we see the permanent effects of them, in the belief and lives of true christians. Infidels are apt to reply, if they saw miracles performed to assure them of the divinity of the christian religion, they would believe it. It is a vain pretence that men would submit to the power of God declared by miracles, who deny his authority made known in that eminent degree of evidence in his word. Abraham answered the rich man, who desired a messenger from the dead might be sent to convert his brethren, " they have Moses and the prophets, and if they hear not them, they would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”
In short, those who resist so strong a light as shines in the scripture, the delusion of their mind is from their depraved hearts. Speculative truths obtain the present and easy assent of the mind; but truths directive of practice, if opposite to men's husts, though their evidence be unexceptionable, yet the carnal mind is very averse from receiving them. This account is given of the pharisees' infidelity, “they repented not that they might believe in him.” Mat. 21. 32. When the will is engaged in the love of sin, and rebels against the sanctity and severity of the gospel commands, it is congruous to reject it. The corrupt affections hinder the due application of the mind to consider the motives of credibility, and stain the mind that it does not sincerely judge of them. Though infidels pretend to be the only