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ON THE COMPARISON OF OURSELVES WITH
2 Cor. x. 12.
“ We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves : but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
The disposition to measure ourselves by the standard of our fellows, however natural, is most pernicious. We may not form our estimate of human worth or of human capability by the character of man as it actually is, but by the revelation which has announced to us what the character ought to be. Whether we consider man in his unconverted state, “ walking according to the
course of this world,” or in that condition in which, under a deep conviction of his sinfulness, his anxious inquiry is, “ What must I do to be saved ?" or whether, in the third place, we consider him as now turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,-in each of these several conditions we may easily arrive at the conclusion of the apostle in my text, that they who measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves, are not wise.
I. Take the first of these conditions, that of the men who, in abandonment of their baptismal privileges, are living without God in the world.” It is the habit of measuring and comparing themselves among themselves which, to those who answer to this character, ministers so deep and fatal a security, and establishes in their hearts so determined a resistance to the humiliating doctrines of God's word. When charged with their habitual alienation from the life of God, and either the consequent denunciations of the law are brought to bear upon their hearts, or the gracious overtures of the Gospel knock for admittance there, the delusive thought which fortifies their mind against both the one and the other is, that they are not worse than those around them, they are as good as others.
Now, that you rise as high as, or perhaps higher than, the average standard of your neighbours, may constitute a character such as will suffice for the demands of human society ; it may procure you a fair name in the sphere in which you are now moving ; but “ to the law and to the testimony,"1 how shows your Christianity when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary? when tested by the touchstone of the word of life? when measured by the standard prescribed to you in the law of God? Of what character will it be pronounced to be in that most awful day when judgment shall be laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; when every refuge of lies shall be swept away, and every hiding-place of a false security be laid open ? 2 O it is possible for you to occupy a lofty position in the esteem of your fellow-sinners, while, nevertheless, both you and they are lying under the condemnation of your God, and are exiles from his presence.
In the days of Noah, the whole world had broken loose from all allegiance to the Lord. The inspired word teaches us that “ God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” But shall we suppose that these outcasts from his favour retained no standard of right and wrong among themselves?
1 Isa. viii. 20.
2 Isa. xxviii. 17. 3 Gen. vi. 12.
Doubtless they had their scales of character still recognized in their own society; doubtless they had their standard of morality, their maxims of honour and of dishonour, and accordingly their varied distribution of reverence and applause. But while, from the habit of measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, they derived encouragement in the self-complacency which they were cherishing, the condemnation of their God was overhanging their devoted heads, and the fell storm was gathering around them which should soon overwhelm the accursed race beneath its devastation.
And, again, shall we not think that it was even thus in the days of Lot also ; and when, as the inspired word tells us," he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law,"4 in bidding them arise and get them out of Sodom, for that the Lord would destroy that city, think you they were not able to point to their upright and honourable men, their prudent counsellors, their tender parents, their faithful husbands, their loving and obedient children? Doubtless there was much that appeared to them lovely and amiable in their compeers; doubtless there were many quarters in
4 Gen. xix. 14.
which they could award the just meed of praise ; and it must needs, they thought, be in sheer mockery that Lot raised his outcry, and affirmed that the divine vengeance was even now brooding over their city. The event has proved that, in thus" measuring themselves by themselves,” they were “not wise."
Or, to come to the third era in the history of the past, which, likewise, was typical of these latter days ;-consider the destruction of Jerusalem. What was the state of that unhappy city when this event took place ? Did they all feel self-condemned ? Did they confess, both of themselves and others, that there was none righteous, no, not one? Far from it. While their national privileges placed them on vantage-ground for the attainment of a knowledge of the truth, they considered the high station which they occupied above the surrounding heathen as in itself a subject whereof to glory. Multitudes were, like the unconverted Saul of Tarsus, having confidence in the flesh. They regarded themselves, as touching the law, blameless; and could boast that after the straitest sect of their religion they lived Pharisees. They paid tithe of mint and anise and cummin; they rigidly observed the ceremonial traditions of their forefathers; and upon a survey of their
5 Luke xvii. 26, 28; Matt. xxiv. 3.