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even necessity of sinners exercising such humility or self-abasement, in order to obtain divine mercy. For,
1. God cannot consistently receive them into his favour before they voluntarily humble themselves for their transgressions in his sight. They have hated, disobeyed, and opposed him, without a cause. They have despised and rejected the Son of his love. They have grieved and quenched his holy Spirit. They have abused his goodness and forbearance, and rendered themselves objects of his holy displeasure. He cannot, therefore, consistently with the purity of his nature and the dignity of his character, receive them into his special favour, until they freely and of their own accord abase themselves before him. Though Christ has made atonement for their sins, so that justice may be displayed in their forgiveness; yet God cannot forgive them, consistently with his honour and dignity, until they freely and voluntarily take their proper places before their righteous and injured Sovereign. This is agreeable to the common sentiment of mankind, in regard to the proper conduct of the offended towards offenders. The prince will not forgive the subject, the superior will not forgive the inferior, nor will any person forgive another, until the offender manifest humiliation and self-abasement. And it much less becomes the supreme Majesty of heaven, to forgive the transgressor, until he humbles himself before him, and sincerely cries like the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” If God should return to sinners before they return to him, he would humble himself before them, instead of their humbling themselves before him. He cannot deny himself nor give his glory to another. He can no more act below his dignity, than he can act contrary to his wisdom, holiness, or justice. There is, there
to and explain what the Apostle says concerning the humiliation of Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It was indeed a glori. ous act of condescension in Christ, who was equal with the Father, to obey his will, and suffer and die, not for his own sins, but for the sins of the world. Though divine condescension and human condescension are the same species of holy affection; yet neither divine nor human condescension is the same species of affection, as self-abasement. Strict and proper humility, therefore, may not be ascribed to God or Christ, but only to penitent and self-abased sinners.
2. If humility consists in self-abasement, we may clearly see how low sinners must lie before God, in order to obtain his pardoning mercy. It is generally believed, that they must humble themselves in some measure; but it is a serious and interesting question, how low they must fall before their injured and offended Sovereign. Some evangelical and experimental writers have maintained, that they ought to lie as low as their sins deserve, and to be willing that God should treat them according to their demerit. But it seems to be the more common opinion of great and pious divines, that sinners are not obliged to lie so deeply abased before God. These two opinions are not only diverse from, but directly opposite to each other, because there is no medium between sinners being willing, or unwilling, to suffer the due punishment of their sins. The plain and important question now is, which
as the condition of pardoning mercy, is not an arbitrary, but an indispensable condition. It is founded in the character of sinners, and cannot be separated from them. Their guilt calls for humility, and they cannot be released from exercising it, if they are eventually saved. Mercy cannot come to them in any other channel, than that of humility, because God cannot grant, and they cannot receive mercy, before their hearts are humbled. And there is no humility but. that which consists in self-abasement; which can prepare them to receive mere mercy from the hand of God, who may in strict justice doom them to everlasting destruction.
İMPROVEMENT. 1. If humility essentially consists in self-abasement for sin; then we may safely suppose, that neither God the Father, nor the Lord Jesus Christ ever exercised any affection, which may be strictly called humility. These divine persons never had the least occasion of humbling themselves for any unwise, or unholy, or improper conduct towards any created or uncreated object in the universe. David, indeed, under a lively and solemn sense of the divine Majesty, exclaims, “Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high! Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” These expressions naturally convey the idea of condescension, which is stooping; but not the idea of humility, which is degrading: It becomes the supreme Being to condescend or stoop to his creatures, but not to abase or degrade himself before them. And as it was the design of the Psalmist to exalt, and not to degrade the Deity, we ought to interpret his expressions agreeably to his plain and obvious meaning. These observations will equally apply
necessary, in order to accept of pardoning mercy, and, indeed, in order to enjoy the happiness of heaven. For how could they be happy in seeing God treat other sinners according to their deserts, if they were never willing that he should treat them in the same manner? Or how could they say, “Amen, Alleluia," while they saw the smoke of the torments of the damned ascending forever and ever," if they were never willing to lie down in everlasting sorrow?
Judas and Paul were once both sinners and deserved to be destroyed; Judas for betraying Christ; and Paul for persecuting him in his followers. But Paul was saved and Judas was rejected. Suppose, these wo remarkable persons should meet, and Judas should ask Paul, whether he was ever willing that God should cast him off, and treat him according to his deserts? What answer can we suppose, that Paul would give to this pertinent and solemn question? He must say, either thąt he was, or that he was not, willing that God should cast him off forever. If he should say, that he never was willing that God should cast him off forever; would not Judas reply, Paul, you and I are perfectly agreed in our sentiments and feelings upon this solemn subject, for I was never willing, that God should cast me off forever. There is only a cir. cumstantial difference between us. Let God only put me in your place, and you in my place, and I shall love and praise him as you do, and you will hate and blaspheme him as I do. Could Paul deny these consequences of being unwilling to be cast off forever? But if Paul should say to Judas, I remember the time, when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. I then said, the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. And ever since that time, I have delighted in the law of God after the inward
man; and I still delight in it, and would, with my present feelings, delight in it, if I were fixed in your place forever. My heart is essentially different from what it was once, and what yours always was and always will be. I know what it was to be in a condemned state, and to love God for condemning me, I can therefore love God for condemning you as he condemned me, and for casting you off forever, as he might have justly cast me off forever. It is because I have thus cordially accepted the punishment of my iniquity, that I can say, that it is by the grace of God, that I am what I am, and where I am. Su low Paul abased himself, and so low must every one abase himself, in order to be finally exalted.
3. If humility consists in a free and voluntary selfabasement for sin, then it is the most amiable and shining exercise of a holy heart. The truly humble person lies as low as he deserves to lie, and takes his proper place, as a sinner, freely and of his own accord. This is exercising a more amiable and selfdenying spirit, than any innocent creature ever did, or evei can exercise. It appears amiable and beauti. ful in the principalities and powers above to fall down in cheerful and unreserved submission before the supreme Majesty of heaven and earth; but it appears much more beautiful and amiable in Adam, Abraham, Moses, Samuel and the prophets, Paul and the Apostles, to fall down in cheerful self-abasement before the throne of divine grace, and ascribe their salvation wholly to Him who was slain, and redeemed them unto God by his blood. The humility of all who finally reach the kingdom of glory, will be the most beautiful trait in their character, and render them the most amiable in the eyes of all the pure and innocent spirits, who