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man to entertain a good opinion of himself, and therefore he is not apprehensive of danger in trusting to himself. Why should he be afraid to put confidence in one whom he views with so much esteem?
This spirit is interwoven with man's whole soul, and discovers itself in the common affairs of life. Accordingly we find that men in general give the preference to their own understanding ; and are all attention while others are lavish of their praises. Why, but because they are fond of themselves, and think they deserve to be
ally esteemed by others ? On the other hand, with what difficulty do persons under the influence of this fondness for themselves brook an af. front? They are ready to think, if they do not say so, that men of their importance deserve better treatment. Is thy servant a dög, said Hazael to Elisha, that he should do this great thing? No, verily; Hazael is a better man, as if he had said, than to bring such calamities on Israel; and thou, Elisha, the man of God, art surely mistaken in his character : yet soon after he did it.
Could this spirit be confined to temporal things, the hazard that men run would be infinitely less ; though in this case, he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. But when it is introduced and prevails in those things in which men have to do with Jehovah, they run the dreadful risk of losing their souls; for a self-righteous Pharisee will be as surely damned as an openly profane sinner. This harsh saying, as some may deem it, is sufficiently proved by the text, and by all those passages of scripture which denounce woes against Pharisees. Paul knew that his confidence in the
flesh would have terminated in his loss of heaven, if the Lord had not brought him to see the insufficiency of his own righteousness, and enabled him to fly for refuge to the hope set before him. Hence he counted all but loss, that he might win Christ, and be found in him.
But nothing can be more to the purpose, than our Lord's conduct toward the self-righteous Phar, isees, in the days of his flesh. He places them in the same class with scribes and hypocrites; and eight times in the course of one chapter (Matt. xxiii.) addresses them with, Wo unto you; which he concludes with these awful words, Ye serpents, je generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
But such is human depravity, that mankind universally, considered in unbelief, entertain this fondness for themselves. It is what they soonest discover, and part with latest. We see our children, as soon as they learn to distinguish good from evil, ready to place great confidence in some supposed goodness. They are not guilty of this evil and the other, and are not so bad as some who are within the circle of their acquaintance ; and hence are ready to infer the goodness of their state. Neither is this to be confined to the follies of childhood and youth ; verily, it is the folly of men of every age. Under its influence Paul be. came a noted zealot ; for all his religion was founded on this principle. This he frankly confesses.
There are many things that might be mentioned, to prove the universality of this fatal temper.
1. The general drift of the holy scriptures. Every man who does not wilfully shut his eyes,
must observe, that one manifest design of the word of God is to lead mankind to form a proper estimate of their own character, and thereby prevent their putting confidence in themselves. Accordingly the corruption of the world is represented as extending to every individual of the race of Adam, and to every power and faculty of the human soul. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy ; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that everr mouth may be stopped, and ALL the world may become guilty before God. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Passages of the same import are numerous, all tending to prove that the WHOLE WORLD is become GUILTY before God.
Now that corruption which extends to all man. kind, is proved by the same infallible volume to reach to all the faculties of the souls of men. Attend to the following scriptures. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that everr imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Note, every imagination was evil, and that continually. We also read that the carnal mind is enmity against God; that the understanding is darkened, the will obstinate, the affections inordinate. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness unto him. He is represented dead in sins, alienated from God; an enemy in his mind by wicked works. St. Paul declares, that they that are in the flesh cannot please. God. And Christ assured Nicodemus, that that which is born of the flesh is flesh. By being in the flesh, nothing less is meant than the
totally corrupt condition of every man before regeneration. In this state he is by nature :' for he is born of the flesh, and he is flesh; yea, he is all flesh, i. e. wholly carnal, depraved in every part.
The living oracles abound with passages imme. diately designed to prove that human nature is in a state of total corruption, of which those above cited are only a specimen.
From hence I would observe, that the infinitely · great God, knowing the propensity that there is in man to think well of and to trust in himself, saw it necessary thus to exhibit his dreadful character in its true light.
2. That this principle is both general and dangerous, may be learned from the whole tenor of the gospel. The gospel of Christ is calculated to bring down the lofty looks of man, that the Lord alone may be exalted. It is good news to sin ners; yea, to the chief of sinners. It considers all men on a level; that is, lost, guilty, and helpless; as in debt ten thousand talents, and having nothing to pay. One cannot plead the privileges of his birth, as giving him the preference. Another cannot introduce the obedience of his life, as a reason why mercy should first be exercised towards him. On the contrary, all who are saved according to the riches of grace, are brought, as with one voice, to plead guilty, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. The salvation that the
gospel sets before us, is altogether sovereign and unmerited; consequently one man has no more right to it than another. The Lord will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. So then it is not of bim that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God
that sheweth mercy. Thus the grace of God, which is most illustriously displayed in the gospel, destroys all boasted distinctions among men.
There was a remarkable distinction, long kept up between Jews and Gentiles. The former treated the latter with contempt ; while they conclud. ed that they alone were God's peculiar people. But this glorious gospel immediately tended to annihilate this distinction ; by teaching the converted Jews, That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise of God in Christ.
From the premises I remark, That it is necessarily supposed in the doctrines of Christ, that mankind are universally apt to trust in themselves. For why should the Lord reveal such a gospel to us, which in its very nature tends to debase the sinner, and to destroy self-confidence, if men were not in danger of being led away by
3. We farther learn this melancholy truth from the ministry of the apostles. Sensible that it was one grand end of the gospel, to eradicate this temper, they invariably pointed all their artillery against it. To prove this observation by quotations from the epistles of the several apostles, would lead me unavoidably to trespass on your patience. Neither is it necessary, seeing they all adopted the same plan of preaching, and were of one mind as to the leading truths of the gospel. Therefore when you hear one of them, in a sense you hear the rest. They all unite in describing the corruption of human nature, and the redemption that we have in Christ : doctrines that are entirely opposite to the carnal mind; and which,