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sight of God. He shews a warmth of zeal against the sins of other men, but is not zealous to repent of his own. He attaches himself to a particular religious sect, and has charity for no others. He is industrious to gain proselytes; but when his proselytes have joined his party, he is indifferent how they live, and how he lives himself, except so far as is necessary to keep up his party. He talks much about principles and forms; about orthodoxy and heresy; but his religion consists chiefly in the talk of the lips; in finding fault with other people; in condemning their opinions and ceremonies, and commending his own. His religion is speculative, superficial and ostentatious; it mends not his heart; it makes him not at all more humble, meek, peaceable, condescending and charitable ; but rather the reverse. He glories in himself, and despises others.
But after all of his spiritual pride and vain boasting, there is an inward self-distrust. If ever he sits down seriously to examine his character, and compare it with the word of truth, there will
eye of his own reason, appears too light and chaffy to satisfy himself.
This leads us to observe,
III. As there is a difference between sincerity and hypocrisy, so there is an answerable difference between the hope which results from the former, and that which results from the latter. The one is wheat, and the other is chaff.
The sincere christian hopes; but hopes humbly. He serves the Lord with fear, and rejoices with trembling. He retains a serious concern to know his real state, that if it be good, he may enjoy it; and may rectify it, if it be evil. He consults the sacred oracles, that he may understand the christian character; and 'examines himself, that he may know whether this character be his own. Convinced of the natural disposition of depraved mortals
gerous bias, like Paul, who said, “ It is a small thing for me to be judged of men; yea, I judge not my own self;" I dare not hastily confide in my own judgment; “for he that judgeth me is the Lord.” In his examinations he implores Divine direction, adopting the language of the Psalmist; “Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” He proves his works, and brings them to the light, that they may be made manifest, and he may see whether they are wrought in God.
He acquires hiš hope, not suddenly by immediate impression, but gradually by experience of the operation and fruits of the christian temper. He forms his opinion of himself more by the permanent effects of religion on his heart and life, than by occasional exercises, or transient feelings. When he has gained a degree of hope, he observes how it operates in him; whether it makes him more secure and negligent, or more humble and watchful. The former, he knows, is a deceitful; the latter only is a sound hope. “Every man who has this hope, purifieth himself as Christ is pure.” Thus he gives diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end. Like the apostle, he keeps under his body to bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after all his hope, he should be a castaway. He fears lest a promise being left him of entering into the eternal rest, he should finally come short of it. He endeavors to make his calling sure, not so much by recurring to former works, as by adding one christian attainment to another, knowing, that if the graces and virtues of the gospel are in him and abound, he shall never fall, but an entrance will be ministered to him abundantly into the kingdom of Christ.
A hope acquired in this manner is solid and substantial ; sweet and refreshing. It may, indeed, through the imperfection of grace in the heart, and through the influence of remaining corruptions, suffer abatements, and give room to painful doubts. But in such a case the good christian will labor to recover his former comfort by careful self-examination, by renewed repentance of sin, by greater watchfulness over himself, by increased activity in the dua ties of religion, and by fervent prayer for the enlivening influence of Divine grace. Thus by walking in the fear of God, he will walk in the comforts of the Holy Ghost.
Very different from this is the hope of the hypocrite. He may gain a hope, such as it is. Yea, he may rise high in his boasting, and assume a degree of confidence, which the sincere and humble christian dares not pretend. But his hope will fail, because, like a house on sand, it has no solid basis. Like the spider's ·
The hypocrite has no real love to religion itself. But he believes that there is such a thing, and that this will be the only security of mortals when they die. He wishes for this security. He thinks he could enjoy himself and the world better, if the apprehension of misery after death were removed. He is solicitous to gain a hope which will release him from this troublesome ap
banish his painful fears.
He entertain's partial and superficial notions of religion. He flatters himself, that he has enough of it to answer his necessities, and he does not wish for more. He examines himself under the influence of prejudice; extenuates his corruptions; excuses his transgressions; and observes and magnifies in himself every thing which looks like virtue. He makes much of the good things which he has done, but attends not to the motives which governed him. If conscience tells him, he has offended, he pleads infirmity and temptation, not considering, that a temptation invited is an aggravation of guilt, and an infirmity indulged is a wilful sin. He relies much on some past seasons of seriousness, but regards not the manner in which he has since lived. He banishes the remembrance of former iniquities, because, he trusts, he has balanced them by repentance, or by some equivalent good works. He gains his hope hastily without waiting the tedious process of experience. A hope once gained he holds fast, for the saints are kept by the power of God unto salvation. Conscious that his life corresponds not with his profession, and that his works are not meet for repentance, he comforts himself with the thought, that the principle of grace may remain, when the exercise of it is suspended--that good men may in many things offend—that he is
committed so great crimes, as are recorded of eminent saints:
Thus he flatters himself, that his hope will not make him ashamed, when, if he would be honest with himself, he might see, that it makes him a worse man.
His hope may at times rise to confidence and boldness ; but after all, it is too artificial to feel like that humble hope, which spontaneously issues from an honest and good heart. It is gained by deception and maintained by flattery ; not by impartial inspection of the heart, and distinct knowledge of the character. The hope of the hypocrite does best in prosperous seasons; for in times of trouble conscience charges him partiality and unfairness; and excites a jealousy that all is not sound at the bottom. The honest christian proves himself, whether he be in the faith. The hypocrite, distrustful of his case, glides over it superficially. Like a man of suspicious worldly circumstances, he is afraid to look deeply into his affairs, lest he should find them worse than he chooses to believe. His hope springs from ignorance of himself, and will issue in painful disappointment.
IV. The difference of these characters in their final result, the Psalmist relates to us. “He that delighteth in the law of the Lord, shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which bringeth forth its fruit in season. His leaf shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but they are like the chaff, which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
The improvement of our subject is taught by John the baptist, who preached in the wilderness of Judea, and whose preaching is recorded by St. Matthew. “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Flee from the wrath to come. Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.” Trust not in a pious ancestry, in external forms, in any thing short of real repentance manifested by its proper fruits. “Behold, now the axe is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire. I indeed minister to you the baptism of repentance. But one, mightier than I, will come. He will baptize you with a purifying wind and with fire. His fan is in his hand; he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather the wheat into his granary, but will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire."
What then will be the chaff to the wheat? The wheat will be safely stored; but the chaff will be given to the wind and flames. In that day we shall discern between truth and error-between hypocrisy and sincerity-between sound hope and proud confidence
-between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not. Of them who fear God, he says, “ They shall be mine, when I gather in my treasures. For behold the day cometh which shall burn as an oven ; and all the proud and all that do wickedly shall be as stubble, and the fire shall consume them.”
Let it be our care to know the truth and embrace it. Do you ask, how we shall distinguish between truth and error in a time when they are mingled together in confusion. Say, how you distinguish wheat from chaff. There is as real and palpable a difference in one case as in the other. If you are in doubt whether a doctrine proposed to you, be true, bring it to experience; apply it to practice. If the doctrine in question tends to make you vain, proud, self-confident, uncharitable, indifferent to sin, negligent of duty, inattentive to your eternal interest; it is chaff, which will be blown away with the wind, and consumed with the fire. If the doctrine tends to purity and virtue ; if, in the belief and under the influence of it, you become more humble, pious, prayerful, contented, peaceable and benevolent, and, in all respects, better men; it is a doctrine according to godliness; it is sound speech which cannot be condemned. It is pure and solid wheat.
The upright christian needs not much to concern himself in religious controversy. If he will keep up an acquaintance with himself and his bible, he may, in matters which relate to his duty and salvation, judge from himself and from his bible what is truth and what is error.
A real concern to know and do the will of God will supersede many controversies in religion, as love to our country will super
guide in judgment, and the meek he will teach his way."