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eyes, and felt our real insignificance, we should avoid false humility as much as mere obvious vanity; but we seldom dwell on our faults except in a general way, and rarely on those of which we are really guilty. We do it in the hope of being contradicted, and thus of being confirmed in the secret good opinion we entertain of ourselves. It is not enough that we inveigh against ourselves, we must in a manner forget ourselves. This oblivion of self from a pure principle would go further towards our advancement in Christian virtue than the most splendid actions performed on the opposite ground.
That self-knowledge which teaches us humility teaches us compassion also. The sick pity the sick. They sympathize with the disorder of which they feel the symptoms in themselves. Self-knowledge also checks injustice by establishing the equitable principle of shewing the kindness we expect to receive; it represses ambition by convincing us how little we are entitled to superiority; it renders adversity profitable by letting us see how much we deserve it; it makes prosperity safe, by directing our hearts to him who confers it, instead of receiv ing it as the consequence of our own desert.
We even carry our self-importance to the foot of the throne of God. When prostrate there we are not required, it is true, to forget ourselves, but we are required to remember HIM. We have indeed much sin to lament, but we have also much mercy to adore. We have much to ask, but we have likewise much to acknowledge: Yet our infinite obligations to God do not fill our hearts half as much as a petty uneasiness of our own; nor His infinite perfections as much as our own smallest want.
The great, the only effectual antidote to selflove is to get the love of God and of our neighbour firmly rooted in the heart. Yet let us ever bear in mind that dependence on our fellow creatures is as carefully to be avoided as love of them is to be cultivated. There is none but God on whom the principles of love and dependence form but one duty.
ON THE CONDUCT OF CHRISTIANS IN THEIR INTERCOURSE WITH THE IRRELIGIOUS.
THE combination of integrity with discretion is the precise point at which a serious Christian must aim in his intercourse, and especially in his debates on religion with men of the opposite description. He must consider himself as not only having his own reputation but the honour of, religion in his keeping. While he must on the one hand" set his face as a flint" against any thing that may be construed into compromise or evasion, into denying or concealing any Christian truth, or shrinking from any commanded duty, in order to conciliate favour; he must, on the other hand, be scrupulously careful never to maintain a Christian doctrine with an unchristian temper. In endeavouring to convince he must be cautious not needlessly to irritate. He must
distinguish between the honour of God and the pride of his own character, and never be pertinaciously supporting the one under the pretence. that he is only maintaining the other. The dislike thus excited against the disputant is at once transferred to the principle, and the adversary's unfavourable opinion of religion is augmented by the faults of its champion. At the same time the intemperate champion puts it out of his power to be of any future service to the man whom his offensive manners have disgusted.
A serious Christian, it is true, feels an honest indignation at hearing those truths on which his everlasting hopes depend, lightly treated. He cannot but feel his heart rise at the affront offered to his Maker. But instead of calling down fire from heaven on the reviler's head, he will raise a secret supplication to the God of heaven in his favour, which, if it change not the heart of his opponent, will not only tranquillize his own, but soften it towards his adversary; for we cannot easily hate the man for whom we pray.
He who advocates the sacred cause of Christianity should be particularly aware of fancying that his being religious will atone for his being disagreeable; that his orthodoxy will justify his uncharitableness, or his zeal make up for his indiscretion. He must not persuade himself that
he has been serving God, when he has only been gratifying his own resentment; when he has actually by a fiery defence prejudiced the cause which he might perhaps have advanced by temperate argument, and persuasive mildness. Even a judicious silence under great provocation is, in a warm temper, real forbearance. And though "to keep silence from good words" may be pain and grief, yet the pain and grief must be borne, and the silence must be observed.
We sometimes see imprudent religionists glory in the attacks which their own indiscretion has invited. With more vanity than truth they apply the strong and ill chosen term of persecution, to the sneers and ridicule which some impropriety of manner or some inadvertency of their own has occasioned. Now and then it is to be feared the censure may be deserved, and the high professor may possibly be but an indifferent moralist. Even a good man, a point we are not sufficiently ready to concede, may have been blameable in some instance, on which his censurers will naturally have kept a keen eye. On these occasions how forcibly does the pointed caution recur, which was implied by the divine moralist on the mount, and enforced by the Apostle Peter, to distinguish for whose sake we are calumniated.