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was lost, when he entered upon the work of our restoration, he began at the very point where he knew we had failed; and this he did, by endeavoring to bring the soul of man back to its original temper of humility; so that his first public address from the Mount, began with a declaration of blessedness to the poor in spirit, and almost his last exhortation in the text, was to copy the fair original he had set them of this virtue, and to learn of him to be meek and lovly in heart.
It is the most unanswerable appeal that can be made to the heart of man, and so persuasive, and accommodated to all Christians, that, as much pride as there is still in the world, it is not credible but that every believer must receive some tincture of this character, or bias towards it, from the example of so great, and yet so humble a master, whose whole course of life was a particular lecture to this one virtue; and, in every instance of it, showed, that he came, not to share the pride and glories of life, or swell the hopes of ambitious followers, but to cast a damp upon them for ever, by appearing himself rather as a servant than a master, coming, as he continually declared, not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and, as the prophet had foretold in that mournful description of him, to have no form or comliness, nor any beauty that they should desire him.The voluntary meanness of his birth, —the poverty of his life, the low offices in which it was engaged, in preaching the gospel to the poor the inconveniences which attended the execution of it, in having no where to lay his head,
all spoke the same language, That the GOD of truth should submit to the suspicion of an imposture His humble deportment under that, and a thousand provocations of a thankless people, still raises his character higher; and, what exalts it to its highest pitch is the tender and pathetic
proof he gave of the same disposition, at the conclusion and great catastrophe of his suffering, when a life full of so many instances of humility, was crowned with the most endearing one, of humbling himself even to the death of the cross; the death of a slave, a malefactor, dragged to Calvary without opposition, insulted without complaint.
Blessed JESUS!-How can the man who calls upon thy name, but learn of thee to be meek and lowly in heart? How can he but profit, when such a lesson was seconded by such an example ?
If humility shines so bright in the character of CHRIST, SO does it in that of his religion ;- -the true spirit of which, tends all the same way.Christianity, when rightly explained and practised, is all meekness and candor, and love and courtesy; and there is no one passion our SAVIOUR rebukes so often, or with so much sharpness, as that one, which is subversive of these kind effects, and that is pride, which, is in proportion as it govern us, necessarily leads us on to a discourteous opinion and treatment of others.—I say, necessarily because it is a natural consequence, and the progress from the one to the other is unavoidable.
This our SAVIOUR often remarks, in the character of the Pharisees :-They trusted in themselves, it was no wonder, then, they despised others.
This, I believe, might principally relate to spiritual pride, which, by the way, is the worst of all pride; and, as it is a very bad species of a very bad passion, I cannot do better than conclude the discourse with some remarks upon it.
In most conceits of a religious superiority, there has usually gone, hand in hand with it, another fancy, which, I suppose, has fed it-and that is, a persuasion of some more than ordinary aids and illuminations from above. Let us examine this matter. VOL. III.
That the influence and assistance of God's Spirit, in a way imperceptible to us, do enable us to render him an acceptable service, we learn from scripture :-In what particular manner this is effected, so that the act should still be imputed ours -the scripture says not: We know only the account is so: But, as for any sensible demonstrations of its workings, to be felt as such within us -the word of God is utterly silent; nor can that silence be supplied by any experience. We have none; unless you call the false pretences to it such suggested by an enthusiastic or destempered fancy. As expressly as we are told, and pray for the inspiration of GoD's Spirit, there are no boundaries fixed, nor can any be ever marked, to distinguish them from the efforts and diterminations of our own reason: And as firmly as most Christians believe the effects of them upon their hearts, I may even venture to affirm, that since the promises were made, there never was a Christian, of a cool head, and sound judgment, that, in any instance of a change of life, would presume to say, which part of his reformation was owing to divine help, or which to the operations of his own mind; or who, upon looking back, would pretend to strike the line, and say, "Here it was "that my own reflections ended," and at this point the suggestions of the Spirit of God began to take place.
However backwards the world has been in former ages, in the discovery of such points as GOD never meant us to know, we have been more successful in our own days: Thousands can trace out, now, the impressions of this divine intercourse in themselves, from the first moment they received it, and with such distinct intelligence of its progress and workings, as to require no evidence of its truth.
It must be owned, that the present age has not
altogether the honor of this discovery; there were too many grounds given to improve on, in the religious cant of the last century; when the in-com ings, in-dwellings, and out-lettings of the Spirit, were the subjects of so much edification; and when, as they do now, the most illiterate mechanics, who, as a witty divine said of them, were much fitter to make a pulpit, than get into one, were yet able so to frame their nonsense to the nonsense of the times, as to beget an opinion in their followers, not only that they prayed and preached by inspiration, but that the most common actions of their lives were set about in the Spirit of the Lord.
The tenets of the Quakers (a harmless quiet people) are collateral descendants from the same enthusiastic original; and their accounts and way of reasoning upon their inward light and spiritu al worship, are much the same; which last they carry thus much farther, as to believe the holy Ghost comes down upon their assemblies, and moves them, without regard to condition or sex, to make intercessions with unutterable groans.
So that, in fact, the opinions of Methodists, upon which I was first entering, is but a republication, with some alterations, of the same extravagant conceits; and as enthusiasm generally speaks the same language in all ages, it is but too sadly verified in this: For tho' we have not yet got to the old terms of the in-comings and in-dwell ings of the spirit, yet we have arrived to the first feelings of its entrance, recorded with as particular an exactness, as an act of filiation, so that numbers will tell you the identical place, the day of the month, and the hour of the night, when the Spirit came in upon them, and took possession of their hearts.
Now, there is this inconvenience on our side, that there is no arguing with a frenzy of this kind: For unless a representation of the case be
a confutation of its folly to them, they must for ever be led captive by a delusion, from which no reasoner can redeem them: For if you should inquire, upon what evidence so strange a persuasion is grounded? they will tell you, "They feel it is so." If you reply, That this is no conviction to you, who do not feel it like them, and therefore, would wish to be satisfied by what tokens they are able to distinguish such emotions, from those of fancy and complexion? they will answer, That the manner of it is incommunicable by human language; but it is a matter of fact; they feel its operations as plain and distinct, as the natural sensations of pleasure, or the pains of a disordered body. And since I have mentioned a disordered body, I cannot help suggesting, that, amongst the more serious and deluded of this sect, it is much to be doubted, whether a disordered body has not oft-times as great a share in letting in these conceits, as a disordered mind.
When a poor disconsolated drooping creature is terrified from all enjoyment,prays without ceasing, till his imagination is heated,-fasts, and mortifies, and mopes, till his body is in as bad a plight as his mind; is it a wonder, that the mechanical disturbances and conflicts of an empty belly, interpreted by an empty head, should be mistook for workings of a different kind from what they are? or that, in such a situation, where the mind sits upon the watch for extraordinary occurrences, and the imagination is pre-engaged on its side, is it strange if every commotion should help to fix him in this malady, and make him a fitter subject for the treatment of a physician than a Divine?
In many cases, they seem so much above the skill of either, that unless GOD in his mercy rebuke this lying spirit, and call it back,-it may go on, and persuade millions to their destruction.