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The Searching of the Heart.
LUKE xviii. 11.
In heavenly things there is in truth no 'enough:' he who thinks that he has enough, has, in fact, nothing: for he has nothing as he ought to have it. Not to advance, is, in itself, to fall back; it shows that we have no value for the good land of promise, if we content ourselves without entering further and further into it; it shows that we have no idea of true holiness, if we think that we have acquired it. The only safe, the only Christian proceeding, is that of St. Paul. He thought not that he had yet attained the measure at which he aimed: he thought not that “he was yet perfected; but pressed forward, that he might apprehend that for which he had been apprehended of Christ Jesus ;' that is, that he might lay hold of that prize for the attainment of which he, as we all have, had been laid hold of, or rescued by Christ from his perilous condition: he, therefore, did not count that he had yet attained this object; “but forgetting those things which were behind,”—that is, all the progress which he had already made,—" and reaching forth unto those things which were before,”—that is, to all that holiness and that excellency which he had not yet reached,—" he pressed towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." When St. Paul spoke and thought thus of himself, who among us would venture to act as if he had advanced far enough?
Humility is the very foundation of our love to God: but the character of the Pharisee in the parable is condemned, because it is at variance with all the qualities which God requires of us, as
members of his kingdom here, to fit us for his presence in the kingdom of glory. Had he no sins to repent of? Had he, indeed, kept the whole law? If his outward actions had been thus correct, had his thoughts been always pure? In the long retrospect of the past, was there nothing done which ought to have been undone ? nothing undone which God commanded to be done? Did he dread no secret or unobserved sins, which man forgets as soon as committed, but which are written in God's book? Of all this there is nothing. Or had he no spiritual enemies to fear? Were there no temptations to which he felt liable? Was there no assistance of God which he needed ? no further progress
which he desired ? Again there was nothing, nothing ! nought but the cold confession, 66 God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” He stands a guilty creature before his Judge, and boasts his innocence: he stands sick and diseased before his Physician, and boasts his health: he stands before a merciful Father, ready to forgive, and will not ask forgiveness ! The selfrighteous cannot repent as sinful man ought: he cannot embrace God's mercy as he ought: he cannot love him as redeemed man should endeavour to love him: cannot pray for future aid; cannot really wish for advances in holiness. Repentance, the means of pardon, love of God, spiritual assistance in weakness, are all at once cut off from him: and in whatever degree any of us approach to his character, as long as we remain so, they are cut off from us.
66 I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” Now, what should have been his feelings, and what should be ours, when we hear or read as in this sinful world we must--of the grievous sins of others ? The first is that of sorrow; that one for whom Christ died, a member of the body of Christ, should thus have fallen. “If one member suffers, ' says St. Paul, “ all the members suffer with it,”(1 Cor. xii. 26): “for we,” he says again, “ being many, are
one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”—(Rom. xii. 5.) Were
it our friend, or our brother, or sister, or son, should we thank God that we were not as they ? Should we not rather, while we prayed for them, humble ourselves before God ? Should we not feel ashamed that one of our family had thus sinned? Should we blazon it abroad, or talk of it to others, or exult over him ? Before God we are all brethren-brethren by creation, brethren much more by redemption: we all form one family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed: and as we should mourn and feel shame ourselves for one of our family who went astray, so ought we also for one of the great family, for whom Christ shed his blood.
One of the most pious, and the greatest of the ancient Christians, said, that the sins of others always made him the more humble, because he found in himself a disposition to the like things.' We have cause of shame, indeed, if we look into our own hearts, and search whether there be not in us any thing of the same evil disposition, which in our brother broke out into sin. 66 Thou art inexcusable, Oman," says St. Paul, “ whosoever thou art, that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.”—(Rom. ii. 1.) Thou, then, who judgest another, judgest thou not thyself? Thou dost not, as the heathen, take other gods beside the Lord: well— but can you say that you love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”—(Mark xii. 30.) Thou dost not worship a graven image: but do you set up no idol in your heart? Is there nothing which you love more than God, or which turns away your affections from God?—You swear not-you are not perjured: but have you always spoken the truth from your heart? Have you always spoken and thought of God with reverence ? Has his name never been on your lips, while your
heart was far from him?-You profane not the Lord's day: but has each Lord's day found you advancing the work of your salvation ?—Have you always honoured your father and your mother? You have not openly despised your father, nor set light by your mother: but have you “obeyed them in all things ? for this is,” says the apostle, “well-pleasing unto the Lord.”--(Col. iii. 20.) Did you always listen to their instructions, and not forsake their advice? Have you in little, as well as in great things, in your thoughts, as in your words, felt respect unto them? Have you honoured those who are as your father and your mother, the hoary head: and in your youth reverenced the face of the old man? You have not committed murder;-few, blessed be God, do so :-but have you always remembered that " whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” -(1 John iii
. 15.) Have you never borne malice; -never let the sun go down on your wrath ;-never borne ill-will ?-Have you freely forgiven your brother, as fully as you pray God to forgive you your trespasses-forgiven him, if need be, seventy times seven? and are you as ready to do him good as though he had never offended you ?—You have not committed adultery: but have your thoughts, as well as your actions, been always pure? Have
you never committed adultery in your heart ?-You have not stolen: but have you never defraudednever coveted ?-You have not borne false witness : -would to God more could say this !--but have you never spread an evil report of your neighbours, of the truth of which you were not certain ?-If you have not been free from all these things, and yet judgest your brother harshly, then, while you condemn the self-righteous or the Pharisee, “thou art thyself the man!" If you are conscious that you are also a sinner, then thank not God that
you are not as the poor publican; but humble yourself before him for your own sins: and if you
have not committed his, or any like his, thank God for having hitherto preserved you, and pray that you also be not tempted. “ He that is without sin among you," says our blessed Saviour, “let him first cast a stone.”—(John viii. 7.) 66 Brethren,” says St. Paul, “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual,”—ye which are really endeavouring to live after the Spirit,—“ restore such an one in the Spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself: but let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."-(Gal. vi. 1, 3, 4.) That is, let every man try his own conduct by the law of God, and by constant watchfulness conform himself to it, and then he shall have cause for joy in his own improvement, not that he is better than another.
One quality was wanting in the Pharisee-humility: one quality alone weighed down all the rest, and made them worthless-spiritual pride. The error of the self-righteous is one natural to