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bountifully, and effectually expose the malice, and rectify the mistakes of those, who thought and spoke amiss of things, that deserved a more candid interpretation. So true is that in point of reputation too, which St. Peter speaks of other evils of persecution: 'If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;' i. e. Be not discouraged from persevering even in that good for which ye suffer. wrongfully. 'But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:' i. e. Show that you do it for his sake, and are well content with his single approbation, though all the world should defame and condemn you.
III. Thirdly, What a mortifying reflection ought this to be to all ungodly hypocrites, that a day is coming, when all their lurking corruptions shall be brought out in their open light; all their cunning disguises pulled off; and even those sins, in which they most affected secrecy, displayed in their blackest colours, and published in the hearing of all mankind. What a world of falsehood and treachery, of dissimulation and craft, will then appear plainly! What treasons and murders; what perverting of laws and justice; what abominations and deeds of darkness and horror, will then cover the face of them, who have imposed upon their easy or their charitable brethren,—to see their long successful artifices detected; their counterfeit zeal for God and the public good; their specious pretences of right and religion, which have been taken up purely to serve their ambition or vain glory, to pursue a private interest, or execute designs of baseness, and malice, and villany! What a check should this be to them, who indulge themselves in secret sins, to think that their closets, and their beds, the thickest walls, and the darkest nights, cannot shut out that • eye, which is in every place,' and to which the ' darkness and light are both alike I' How senseless is it, to be awed with the fear of men; and not to consider that public infamy and contempt, which shall be poured upon them, when their most scandalous practices shall be brought forth, and no contrivance left to varnish them over! Consider this, thou poor, deluded sinner: and, if thou wouldst blush, and even die with, shame, to have thy own family or neighbourhood, nay but a servant or a child, witness to thy hidden works of dishonesty, hold thy hand, man, and flatter not thyself with a false imagination, that these shall always lie hid; but be assured, thy God,
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thy judge, discerns them at the very instant of acting: and, that acquaintance and strangers, friends and enemies, all the men that ever did, and all that ever shall, live upon earth, will certainly, one day, partake in this discovery. What a warning should this be to every one of us, not only to govern our actions, and to set a watch upon our words; but even to keep a strict and constant guard upon our thoughts, to cherish no malice or envy, no injustice or uncleanness, even there; to practice no manner of dissimulation or double-dealing with either God or man; since the secrets of every kind are sure to be disclosed, every heart to be weighed in the balance, and sifted to the very bottom; and nothing will abide the strictness of that test, but undissembled holiness, and perfect sincerity. In a word, whatsoever it be, that we would not do, or say, or think, were our breasts transparent; were all the world to stand by and look on; were they that wish us worst, to examine every corner of our hearts, and report what they find there; all that, the Scripture now before us produces an undeniable reason, why we should not allow ourselves in: for it assures us, that, how cunningly soever we may carry our wickedness at present, all will be sure to come out at last, to our eternal punishment and indelible reproach. This leads me to the last inference from this discourse of St. Paul at present; and that is,
IV. Fourthly, Humility, and a holy jealousy over ourselves, necessary even for the best men. For to this reflection that declaration leads us, Ver. 3, 4: * Yea, I judge not my own self, for I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord.' Had these words fallen from some one, who soothed himself up in a false security, and took no pains to search into things, which, when found and known, were like to give him trouble, they had not deserved our so particular regard. For many such there are, who in affliction, upon sick beds, or other solemn seasons of examination and repentance, 'know nothing by themselves,' and are much exalted with the quiet and clearness of their own consciences: and yet it often happens, that the faults and failings of these very persons have been so numerous, so notorious, that every impartial stander-by can show them to themselves of a complexion far different from that, with which their own false glasses flatter them. But when a person so circumspect in his conduct, so zealous in his ministry, so severe a searcher of his conscience, as St. Paul,—supported too by so clear a testimony, did not yet dare to rely upon this issue, but appeals to a higher and more discerning judge—how shall any, how the best and most wary of us, presume to answer our hearts before that tribunal? It is true, as St. John says, 'if our hearts condemn us not, then we have confidence towards God.' But, it is as true which St. John reminds us of at the same time, c that God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.' [1 John in. 20, 81.] If our conscience condemn us, we may be sure that God will do so too; because we cannot know more of ourselves, than he knows of us; but if that condemn us not, it will not follow from hence, that we have nothing which deserves to be condemned: because God knows more of us, than we know of ourselves. The peace of conscience, which arises from a due enquiry, and comfortable answer, concerning the state of our souls, may be allowed indeed to give us confidence; that is, a good degree of hope that God will accept our sincerity, and overlook many things for the sake of his Son, and in consideration of our constant care never wilfully to do anything amiss: but can we be confident too, that we have not really done anything amiss? No, God help us! no such matter. Alas! how many opportunities of doing good have been slipped and neglected, even by them who are watchful not to do evil! And yet for sins of omission only, not for doing evil, but for not doing good, it is, that we read ' the goats on the left hand are sentenced to everlasting . punishment.' 'The unprofitable servant was cast into utter darkness for not improving his talent;' and do we not usually account it a great commendation not to have wasted, or grossly misemployed ours? But further yet, allowing a conduct prudent and unblamable even in innocent matters; who is he, that hath not multitudes of faults committed in passion and surprise, never attended to, when they were committed; and more, which he did attend to, but through prejudice or mistake, considered them as no faults; and more still, which when done, and stinging him with remorse, he assuaged by pouring false balm into the wound, with partial extenuations; and most of all, which he knew to be faults, and for a while was touched with sorrow for them, but hath now absolutely for
gotten them, as if they had never been? Now of all these there is a faithful register in heaven; a full and critical account, where every fact is entered, its quality truly stated, each of its aggravating circumstances charged down to us, not one overlooked, not one misrepresented. And to persons mindful of this, it cannot, I think, seem strange, that St. Paul does not insist upon the testimony of his own breast, for the final issue, upon which the great reckoning was to be adjusted. And, if the case stood thus with so eminent an apostle, well sure may we lay our mouths in the dust, and cry out with David, ' If thou, Lord, shouldst be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? But there is mercy with thee, therefore shalt thou be feared.' And indeed herein lies the inestimable comfort of an honest mind, that it entitles us to mercy; but still mercy is our last, our only refuge: for by a judgement without mercy, no flesh living, not the most holy, nor the most circumspect, can be justified. And therefore the brightest virtue sets no man above awful apprehension of this dreadful tribunal; because the brightest virtue is still but human virtue. As human, it must be debased with a great allay of frailty, and manifold imperfections. It can have nothing to claim, as a strict and adequate reward; but much, very much, which needs forgiveness and a kind construction at the hands of Almighty God. Happy then are they, and they only, who, in that last and most important juncture, shall be * found in Jesus Christ, not having their own righteousness which is of works, but that righteousness which is of God by faith:' [Phil. iii. 9.] such a faith as trusts not in its own unworthy performances, but relies entirely on the merits and mediation of Him, who is not only our Judge, but our Saviour, our Peace, and our Propitiation.
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
THE BAPTISTS MESSAGE TO JESUS.
St. Matth. xi. 3.—Art Thou He that should come? or do we look for
[Text taken from the Gospel of the Day.}
At this time of Advent, particularly dedicated by the Church to a devout commemoration of our Saviour's coming in the flesh, and set apart to prepare us for a worthy celebration of the approaching Feast of his Nativity; it may be no unsuitable entertainment to your thoughts, to suggest to you some reflexions on this passage of Scripture, and those others which introduce, accompany, and explain it.
'When John had heard in prison' (says the Evangelist) 'the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou He that should come? or do we look for another?' That is, " Art thou the Messiah, the great Redeemer of Israel, whose coming was foretold by the prophets, and is now expected with great impatience by the whole body of the Jews, and before whom I am sent, as his forerunner and harbinger ?"—' Jesus answered, and said unto them, Go, and show John again those things, which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me!'—As if he had said, " Judge ye yourselves, by the works which I now perform, whether I am the Messiah or not; or what reason there can be to doubt of my divine mission and authority.""
This transaction will afford much useful matter to our reflexions, in relation both to the enquiry made by the Baptist, and the answer returned by our Lord to that enquiry.
I. And First, as to the enquiry itself, it may be matter of just surprise to us, that the Baptist should, so long after he had continued discharging the office of Christ's harbinger,