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ever builds the superstructure of vital holiness. And Peter, we see, pursues the same plan: pointing out the duty of of church officers in particular, as in the beginning of this chapter; and of church members in general, as in this verse. Recommending universal holiness; particular graces, and relative duties; as obedience to civil government, patience, fortitude, sobriety, and watchfulness; love, hospitality, enduring persecution; and here, in the text, humility. Let us consider,
First, The general nature of that grace which the Apostle here recommends. Be clothed with humility.
The main object of his exhortation in the text, is humility, or lowliness of mind; which radically consists in a sense of littleness, meanness, and dependence on God; for which every creature has infinite reason, but especially sinful creatures, who are saved by sovereign grace. No religion recommends this virtue like the religion of Jesus. Pagans despised it. False religions omit or discourage it. No view of Christianity tends to promote it like the genuine doctrines of grace; which represent man as apostatized from God, guilty, inexcusable, and totally depraved. We are indebted to sovereign mercy for all hope of salvation; too bad to be received into favor without an atonement of infinite value, made by a Mediator, who is the incarnate Son of God. And then, you were too depraved to be willing to be indebted to him, unless efficacious grace had been exerted, to induce you to comply with the call of the gospel. So that, though every other obstacle to your salvation had been removed by the death of Christ, but what arose from your own groundless and voluntary aversion to the appointed method of reconciliation ; yet you would have perished at last, were it not for the powerful influences of the Holy Spirit. Nor, even when made willing, and brought to Christ, could your perseverance have been secured, but by an absolute promise to keep you from apostasy. You need that God should keep you every moment.
What reason, then, have we for humility, beyond those who deny the atonement and divinity of Christ, or the efficacious operations of the Holy Spirit. Yea, and beyond those who represent original sin as excusing actual sin; or at least
as exempting the unregenerate from obligation to any thing truly good. Or who deny the call of the gospel to be addressed to any besides the chosen ; who can hardly bear to hear of the obligations of men, the spirituality of the law, the justice of condemnation, or the duty of believers : who, though they profess to admit the sovereignty of grace, yet treat it rather as founded on caprice, than on the previous justice of condemning the disobedient. And who, though they talk of the work of the Spirit, yet do not want him to do much; but merely to suggest their safety, and excuse their negligence, supposing his work to be inconsistent with exhortation, or any idea of their duty. But oh what reason have true believers for humility. The fall did not make
not make you like blameless stocks and stones, but like fallen angels in disposition, though inferior in natural faculties. And you needed grace, not to give you greater powers, but better dispositions; not to impart new heads, but to produce new hearts.
SecondLY: Some principal effects and evidences of this gracious temper.
Will it not cause you to lie low before God, and acknowledge your obligation to infinite grace? Will it not render self-righteousness odious and abominable to you; and at the same time greatly endear obedience? Will you not be kept from opening your mouth by way of boasting, even when assured that God is pacified ? Will you not admire and extol his glorious grace? Will you not think your obligations to be very great, and that all your returns are exceedingly small ? Will it not promote daily repentance, and the life of faith? increasing tenderness of conscience, and exciting you to long after growth in grace? If you are deeply abased in the sight of God, can you be very assuming before your fellow-men? Though you dare not justify others in their opposition to God, yet will you not be led sincerely to pity them, and earnestly long to see God glorified in their salvation? Having nothing but what you have received, will you dare to boast, as though you had not received, but had made yourself to differ? Will you not be ready to hope that others are better than yourself? If you know your own heart at all, you must know worse of yourself than of others. Will you
not respect those who have been called to office in the church, and have closely attended to the duties of their station, or who have known Christ longer than you? Will you not be more severe in judging yourself than in judging others ? Will you not think it an honor to imitate Christ, by readily becoming the servant of all? Instead of contending who is the greatest, surely there is more room to dispute who is the least, and the most indebted to divine mercy.
THIRDLY : The motives by which the Apostle enforces the exhortation. Be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Be inwardly adorned. The phrase implies that true humility is a lovely ornament, a becoming dress for a saved sinner: but it consists not in outward show, or mere words, but in an inward sense of unworthiness, influencing the whole conduct.
God resisteth the proud, we are assured. Pride is abominable in any creature. It directly opposes God's government, and his gospel. If a proud man should pretend to embrace the gospel, he will exceedingly disgrace and contradict it. God will surely mortify pride in all whom he saves; and will awfully crush all those in whom it reigns. If it prevail partially in Christians, it will be the likeliest thing in the world to prevent their usefulness. It is probable God will sooner suffer them to fall into any other sin, than to persist in this. Pride is God's worst enemy in the human heart.
He giveth grace to the humble. James uses the same expression. Jas. iv. 6. “He giveth more grace;" for the humble feel their need of more grace, and will importunately solicit it; nor shall they ask in vain. The most humble want more humility: they are not yet brought low enough. They will pray also for more faith, love, patience, fortitude, resignation, spiritual mindedness, &c. O seek for still more, all your days. Never think, like the Laodiceans, that you are rich, increased in goods, and have need of nothing. God will look to the humble, dwell with them, support them, vindicate them, and exalt them in due time.
Dear brethren, seek much of this grace. It will make you a united, happy, loving people. It will prevent conten
tion, which cometh only by pride. It will induce you to bear one another's burdens, and pity each other's infirmities; to delight in each other, and prize each other's prayers. Confess your faults to one another, and readily forgive one another, as God, for Christ's sake, forgave you.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
1 John i. 7. We have fellowship one with another. The subject assigned me this evening, is mentioned, you may remember, as an important article of faith, in what is called the Apostles' Creed. The church of Rome has made too much of that form of sound words, setting it upon a level with the Holy Scriptures ; and some of the Popish divines have not only affirmed, without evidence, that it was composed by the Apostles themselves, but pretend to specify the separate clauses which each of the twelve contributed. Many persons, in other communions, have rated it rather too high ; and some individuals have shown their ignorance by considering it as a prayer. We think the Protestant Dissenters do well, to keep a wide distinction between the inspired word of God and all human compositions. Yet this creed is respectable, as a very ancient and scriptural summary of Christian doctrine, though not a perfect compendium of divine truth-(omitting some truths of great importance, and including others of less ;)—for it does not touch, except by implication, on the fallen state of man, which is so necessary to be known ; while we cannot think a person's salvation would be endangered if he were unacquainted with the name of the Roman governor who sentenced our Lord to crucifixion. While we admit the truth of all the other articles of this Creed (except that one is ambiguously expressed, to which we should yield or deny our assent, according as the phrase " he descended into hell" should be explained,) so we would be ready at all times to avow our
belief of “the communion of saints;" desiring to have this truth constantly impressed upon our minds, that there is a holy, universal church, to which every one belongs who is really sanctified ; and that all true Christians are in Christ Jesus; and, as they have one common interest, so are they bound to have fellowship one with another. then inquire,
First, On what does this fellowship, or communion of saints depend?
Not in our connexion with any visible head upon earth; least of all with him who is the man of sin, the chief antichrist—the Bishop of Rome; who pretends to be the vicar of Christ. Though we doubt not many true saints were connected with that church after it was greatly corrupted ; and some after the errors had accumulated to a very dreadful degree; who really trusted in the atonement of Christ, and were sanctified by his Spirit, and knew not the depths of Satan; though their own comfort was greatly impeded, their conscience kept in bondage, and their minds prejudiced against those who had better light than themselves.
Very few in any other church would presume to say theirs was the catholic church, out of whose communion there could be no salvation. And if they dare make such an affirmation, it would make us fear more for them, than for the objects of their censure.
It depends, not on any external circumstances, nor on any forms or modes of worship in which bad men may unite, or concerning which it is possible for good men to differ in opinion. But it depends, as the text and context plainly teach us, upon such things as the following:
Upon divine illumination; and that, such an illumination as influences the general course of life. “ If we walk in the light.” Some true saints may have weak capacities, may be ill-informed, may entertain some wrong notions, may be much mistaken in several points; while some unrenewed men may have acute parts, much information, much speculative knowledge. But every true saint has some spiritual light, by which he sees so much of the divine glory as induces him to walk with God; he loves to set the Lord ever