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after this experiment. Yet what says Saint Paul. “ If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” No man's pretensions to glory were greater, yet, before God, they were nothing.
By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, lest any man should boast.” Eph. ii. 8, 9. Here you perceive distinctly, that, speaking of salvation, with reference to its cause, it is by grace; it is an act of pure favour ; it is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; it is not of works; and that this representation was given, lest any man should boast, that is, expressly for the purpose of beating down and humbling all sentiments of merit or desert in what we do ; lest they in. duce us, as they will induce us, to think less gratefully, or less piously, of God's exceeding love and kindness towards us. There is no proportion between even our best services and that reward, which God hath in reserve for them that love him. Why then are such services to be so rewarded ? It is the grace of God; it is the riches of his grace; in other words, his abounding kindness and favour; it is his love ; it is his mercy. In this manner the subject is constantly represented in Scripture : and it is an article of the Christian religion. And to possess our minds with a sense, an adequate sense, so far as it is possible to be so, of this truth, is a duty of the religion. But to be ruminating and meditating upon our virtues, is not the way to acquire that
Such meditations breed opinions of merit and desert; of presumption, of pride, of superciliousness, of self-complacency; tempers of mind, in a word, not only incompatible with humility, but also incompatible with that sense of divine love and mercy towards us, which lies at the root of all true religion, is the source and fountain of all true piety.
71.425 TL Teard of the term righteous69 din in the writings and discourses
+ 2H25 of Christians, and always accom2 Sead serere expressions of censure
Esse torn mean the habit of conSorines, and not our vices; or a strong L-216 gation thereto, I agree with those
Sut that it is a disposition, a turn of Vit stuury resisted, and restrained, and re** I the term mean any other way of riewing
to character, so as to diminish or lower our sense Si God Almighty's goodness and mercy towards us, in
us the tender of a heavenly reward, then also I wth them in condemning it, both as erroneous in
ple, and highly dangerous in its effects. If the iron mean something more than, or different from, it is bere stated, and what has been enlarged upon in tes discourse, then I profess myself not to underand its meaning:
TO THINK LESS OF OUR VIRTUES, AND MORE OF
PSALM LI. 3.
My sin is ever before me.
To think well is the way to act rightly: because thought is the source and spring of action. When the course and habit of thinking is wrong, the root is corrupt; “ and a corrupt tree bringeth not forth good fruit :” do what you will, if the root be corrupt, the fruit will be corrupt also. It is not only true, that different actions will proceed from different trains of thought; but it is also true, that the same actions, the same external conduct, may be very different in the sight of God, according as it proceeds from a right or a wrong, a more or less proper principle and motive, a more or less proper disposition. Such importance is attached to the disposition ; of such great consequence is it that our disposition in religious matters be what it should be. By disposition is meant, the bent or tendency of our inclinations; and by disposition is also meant, the train and habit of our thoughts, two things which are always nearly connected. It is the latter sense, however, in which I use the word; and the particular lesson which I am inculcating, for the conduct of our thoughts, is to think more of our sins, and less of our
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And, first, there is no occasion whatever to recine upon our sintun and good qualities. We may eate them to themselves. We need not fear that they w either be forgotten or undervalued. “God is not unrighteous to forget your works and labour of love:” lieb. vi. 10. He will remember them; we need not. They are set down in his book; not a particle will be lost. Blessed are they who have much there; but we need not count them up in our recollection ; for, whatever our virtues are or were, we cannot make them better by thinking of them afterwards. We may make them better in future by thinking of their imperfections, and by endeavouring to encounter, to lessen, or remove those imperfections hereafter ; but then this is to think, not upon our virtues, but upon our imperfections. Thinking upon our virtues, as such, has no tendency to make them better, be they what they will. But it is not the same with our sins. Thinking upon these af. terwards may make a very great alteration in them, because it may lead to an effectual repentance. As to the act itself, what is past cannot be recalled; what is done
cannot be undone: the mischief may possibly be irrevocable and irreparable. But as to the sin, it is different. Deep, true, sincere penitence may, through the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, do away that. And such penitence may be the fruit of meditation upon our sins -cannot possibly come without it. Nay, the act itself may be altered. It is not always that an injury is irreparable. Wrong indeed has been received at our hands; but restitution and compensation may be in our power. When they are so, they are the surest proofs of penitence. No penitence is sincere without them, if they be practicable. This benefit to those whom we have injured, and an infinitely greater benefit to ourselves than to them, may be the effect of seeing our sins in their true light; which that man never does, who thinks only, or chiefly, or habitually, upon his virtues. Can a better reason be given for meditating more upon our sins, and less upon our virtues, than this ; that one train of thought may be profitable to salvation, the other is profitable for nothing?
It is an exceedingly good observation, that we may safely leave our virtues and good qualities to themselves. And, besides the use we have made of it in showing the superfluity, as well as the danger of giving in to the contemplation of our virtues, it is also a quieting and consoling reflection for a different, and, in some degree, an opposite description of character, that is to say, for tender and timorous consciences. Such are sometimes troubled with doubts and scruples about even their good actions. Virtue was too easy for them, or too difficult ; too easy and pleasant to have any merit in it; or difficult by reason of fleshly, selfish, or depraved propensities, still existing unsubdued, still struggling in their unregenerated hearts. These are natural, and, as