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SERMON V I.
· TRUE HONOR.
JOHN V. 44.
How can ye believe, which receive honor one of
another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?
Next to a being perfectly holy, there is nothing so indefatigable as a mind given to wickedness. Let the life of Jesus Christ supply the proof. From the beginning to the end of his public course, he encountered the contradiction of sinners; walked among their snares; and sustained, in
every shape, ceaseless conflict with their hatred and hostility. That they were invariably foiled, exposed, disgraced, did not in the least deter them
from repeating the same hopeless experiment. In fact, having all shared in their turns the same fate, the ignominy of their defeat was too much divided to be a reproach. The Pharisee could not point at the Sadducees, nor these at the Herodians, because the finger of scorn could be pointed back again. There was no public opinion which they regarded, to frown them into decency. It came to be a practical maxim with them, that to be defeated and silenced by Jesus Christ, was no disgrace; and they were too closely united in the brotherhood of guilt to suffer any abatement of their rancor. (The professing world' affords, so far as I know, but one parallel of their malevolence and persecution ; and that is to be found among the self-styled rational and philosophical Christians.) They seized the occasion of his curing the impotent man on the Sabbath-day, to accuse him as a breaker of God's laws; and when he vindicated himself on this principle, My Father worketh hitherto and I work, they heightened their accusation into a charge of blasphemy, and sought the more to kill him, because he had not only broken the Sabbath, but said that God was his father, making himself equal with God. What wrongs and insults did the Lord Jesus endure at the hands of these ancient Unitarians ! (Wrongs and insults to be surpassed only by those from the heirs of their unbelief, the modern Unitarians.) Their im
putation of blasphemy he repels, by claiming such prerogatives, powers, and honors, as are proper to God only; and winds up his defence, by giving these hypocrites a sensible proof that he was all what they deemed it blasphemy in him to pretend to be; gave them this sensible proof by breaking open the recesses of their hearts, bringing into light their secret principles of action, and proving to their faces the base and abominable motives of their conduct. The applause of men lay at the bottom of their zeal for God, and effectually excluded all love for him, and all faith in his testimony. How can ye believe who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only.
This rebuke to pharisaical pride, and explanation of pharasaical unbelief, contains a principle of universal application: the inconsistency of receiving honor from men, with the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are such eternal opposites, that they cannot live in the same heart. Whoever cleaves to the one must let the other go. We cannot, indeed, determine the existence in this matter of a corrupt propensity with the precision of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor could any of his apostles; because we have not, nor had they, like him, the faculty of searching the heart. But availing ourselves of his declarations, and pursuing the path which his spirit has marked out for us in
the word, we shall, by his grace, be enabled to assist others in the important and difficult work of searching their own hearts. Let us therefore, try to fix by this rule, the reigning principles of men who receive honor one of another; and why they produce an impediment, amounting to an absolute impossibility, of believing on our Lord Jesus Christ?
I. What are the reigning principles of men who receive honor one of another!
A good name, saith the scripture, is rather to be chosen than great riches. He who has once discarded it from the number of his inestimable things—who is at no pains to keep it up-who would as soon commit an act from which his character is sure to lose as one from which it is as sure to gain, has found his place among the offscourings of human nature, and is one of the most dangerous enemies to human peace. It is a false indulgence, a pernicious liberty, which permits a man to go at large who has forgotten to blush. We should sadly mistake the Redeemer's meaning, if we supposed that he intends to untie the bands of civil society, or those ruffian hands which would gladly engage in the detestable work. His own people guard their characters with the utmost vigilance, and are the foremost to cultivate whatsoever things are of good report. To have therefore a good name to be well reported of for good