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ing and regarding those good
good qualities, which a person believes to belong to himself, or those good actions, which he remembers to have performed. The precept much. better accords with a mind, anxious, fearful, and apprehensive, and made so by a sense of sin. But a sense of sin exists not, as it ought to do, in that breast, which is in the habit of meditating chiefly upon its . virtues. I can very well believe, that two persons of the same character in truth, may, nevertheless, view themselves in very different lights, according as one is accustomed to look chiefly at his good qualities, the other chiefly at his transgressions and imperfections; and I say, that this latter is the disposition for working out our salvation agreeably to St. Paul's rule and method, that is, “ with fear and trembling:" the other is not.
But further; there is upon this subject a great deal to be learnt from the examples, which the New Testament sets before us.
Precepts are short, necessarily must be so, take
up but little room, and, for that reason, do not always' strike with the force, or leave the impression, which they ought to do; but examples of character, when the question is concerning character, and what is the proper character, have more weight and body in the consideration, and take up more room in our minds, than precepts. Now, from one end of the New Testament to the other, you will find the evangelical character to be contrition. You hear little of virtue or righteousness; but you
hear perpetually of the forgiveness of sins. With the first christian teachers,“ repent, repent” was the burthen of their exhortations; the almost constant sound of their voice. Does not this strain of preaching shew, that the preachers wished all, who heard them, to think much more of offences than of merits? Nay further, with respect to themselves, whenever this contemplation of righteousness came in their way, it came in their way only to be renounced, as natural, perhaps, and also grateful, to human feelings, but as inconsistent and irreconcileable with the christian condition.
It might do for a heathen, but it was the reverse of
every thing, that is christian.
The turn of thought, which I am recommending, or, rather, which I find it necessary to insist upon, as an essential part of the christian character, is strongly seen in one particular passage of St. Paul's writings; namely, in the third chapter to the Philippians. “ If any other man thinketh whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more; circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” These were points, which, at that time of day, were thought to be grounds of confidence and exultation. But this train of thought no sooner rises in his mind, than the Apostle checks it, and turns from it to an anxious view of his own deficiencies. “ If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." These
are the words of an anxious man.
then he proceeds, “not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” In this passage, you see, that, withdrawing his mind from all notions of perfection, attainment, accomplishment, security, he fixes it upon his deficiencies. Then he tells you, that forgetting, that is, expressly putting ont of his mind and his thought the progress and advance, which he had already made, he casts his eyes and attention upon those qualities, in which lie was short and deficient, upon what remained for him yet to do; and this I take to be the true christian way of proceeding. Forget those things that are behind," put out of your thoughts the attainments and progress you have already made, in order to see fully your defects and imperfections,
In another passage, found in a chapter, with which all are acquainted, the 15th of the Corinthians, our Apostle, having occasion
to compare his situation with that of the other Apostles, is led to say: “I laboured more
6 abundantly than they all.” St. Paul's labours in the gospel, labours, which consumed his whole life, were surely what he might reflect upon with complacency and satisfaction.
If such reflections were proper in any case, they were proper in his. Yet observe how they are checked and qualified. The moment he had said, “I laboured more abundantly than they all,” he added, as it were correcting himself for the expression, “ Yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me.” He magnifies not himself, but the grace of God, which was with him. In the next place you will observe, that, though the consciousness of his labours, painful, indefatigable labours, and meritorious labours, if ever man's were so I say, that though the consciousness of these was present to his mind at the time, yet it did not hinder him from feeling, with the deepest