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this cursed heart of mine, &c. Such expressions are very often used, not with a heart broken, not with spiritual mourning, not with the tears of her that washed Jesus' feet with her tears, not as remembering and being confounded, and never opening their mouth more because of their shame, when God is pacified, (Ezek. xvi. 63.) but with a light air, with smiles in the countenance, or with a pharisaical affectation. We must believe that they are thus humble, and see themselves so vile, upon the credit of their say so; for nothing appears in them of any savour of humility, in the manner of their deportment and deeds. There are many full of expressions of their own vileness, who yet expect to be looked upon as eminent and bright saints by others, as their due; and it is dangerous for any, so much as to hint the contrary, or to carry it towards them any otherwise, than as if we looked upon them some of the chief of Christians. Many are much in exclaiming against their wicked hearts, their great short-comings, and unprofitableness, and in speaking as though they looked on themselves as the meanest of the saints; who yet, if a minister should seriously tell them the same things in private, and should signify, that he feared they were very low and weak Christians-and thought they had reason solemnly to consider of their great barrenness and unprofitableness, and falling so much short of many others-it would be more than they could digest; they would think themselves highly injured; and there would be danger of a rooted prejudice in them against such a minister.
Some are abundant in talking against legal doctrines, legal preaching, and a legal spirit, who do but little understand the thing they talk against. A legal spirit is a more subtle thing than they imagine, it is too subtle for them. It lurks, and operates, and prevails in their hearts, and they are most notoriously guilty of it, at the same time, when they are inveighing against it. So far as man is not emptied of himself, and of his own. righteousness and goodness, in whatever form or shape, so far he is of a legal spirit. A spirit of pride of a man's own righteousness, morality, holiness, affection, experience, faith, humiliation, or any goodness whatsoever, is a legal spirit. It was no pride in Adam before the fall, to be of a legal spirit; because of his circumstances, he might seek acceptance by his own righteousness. But a legal spirit in a fallen sinful creature, can be nothing but spiritual pride; and reciprocally, a spiritually proud spirit is a legal spirit. There is no man living lifted up with a conceit of his own experiences and discoveries, and upon the account of them glisters in his own eyes, but what trusts in his experiences, and makes a righteousness of them. However he may use humble terms, and speak of his experiences as of the great things God has done
for him, and it may be calls upon others to glorify God for them; yet he that is proud of his experiences, arrogates something to himself, as though his experiences were some dignity of his. And if he looks on them as his own dignity, he necessarily thinks that God looks on them so too; for he necessarily thinks his own opinion them to be true, and consequently judges that God looks on them as he does; and so unavoidably imagines that God looks on his experiences as a dignity in him, as he looks on them himself; and that he glisters as much in God's eyes, as he does in his own. And thus he trusts in what is inherent in him, to make him shine in God's sight, and recommend him to God. With this encouragement he goes before God in prayer; this makes him to expect much; to think that Christ loves him, and that he is willing to clothe him with his righteousness; because he supposes that he is taken with his experiences and graces. And this is a high degree of living on his own righteousness; and such persons are in the high road to hell. Poor deluded wretches, who think they look so glistering in God's eyes, when they are a smoke in his nose, and are many of them more odious to him, than the most impure beast in Sodom, that makes no pretence to religion! To do as these do, is to live upon experiences, according to the true notion of it: and not to do as those who only make use of spiritual experiences as evidences of a state of grace, and in that way receive hope and comfort from them.
There is a sort of men, who indeed abundantly cry down works, and cry up faith in opposition to works, and set up themselves very much as evangelical persons, in opposition to those that are of a legal spirit, and make a fair shew of advancing Christ and the gospel, and the way of free grace; who are indeed some of the greatest enemies to the gospelway of free grace and the most dangerous opposers of pure humble Christianity*.
There is a pretended great humiliation, being dead to the law, and emptied of self, which is one of the most elated things in the
*Take not every opinion and doctrine from men or angels, that bears a fair shew of advancing Christ; for they may be but the fruits of evangelical hypocrisy and deceit; that being deceived themselves, may deceive others too; Matt. vii 15. Beware of them that come in sheep's clothing;' in the innocency, purity, and meekness of Christ and his people; but inwardly are wolves, proud, cruel, censorious, speaking evil of what they know not. By their fruits ye shall know them.' Do not think, beloved, that Satan will not seek to send delusions among us. And do you think these delusions will come out of the Popish pack, whose inventions smell above ground here? No, he must come, and will come with more evangelical fine-spun devices. It is a rule observed amongst Jesuits, to this day, if they would conquer religion by subtlety, never oppose religion with a cross religion; but set it ag. inst itself. So oppose the gospel by the gospel. And look, as churches pleading for works, had new invented devised works; so when faith is preached, mea will have their new inventions of faith. I speak not this against the doctrine of faith, where it is preached; but am glad of it; not that I would have men content themselves with every form of faith; for I believe that most men's faith needs confirming or trying. But I speak to prevent danger on that hand." (Shepard's Parable, Part 1. p. 122.)
world. Some there are, who have made great profession of experience of a thorough work of the law on their own hearts, and of being brought fully off from works whose conversation has savoured most of a self-righteous spirit, of any that ever I had opportunity to observe. Some, who think themselves quite emptied of themselves, confident that they are abased in the dust, are full as they can hold with the glory of their own humility, and lifted up to heaven with an high opinion of their abasement. Their humility is a swelling, self-conceited, confident, showy, noisy, assuming humility. It seems to be the nature of spiritual pride to make men conceited and ostentatious of their humility. This appears in that first-born of pride, among the children of men, that would be called his holiness, even the man of sin, that exalts himself above all that is called God or is worshipped; he styles himself servant of servants; and to make a shew of humility, washes the feet of a number of poor men at his inauguration.
For persons to be truly emptied of themselves, poor in spirit, and broken in heart, is quite another thing, and has other effects, than many imagine. It is astonishing how greatly many are deceived about themselves as to this matter, imagining themselves most humble, when they are most proud, and their behaviour is really the most haughty. The deceitfulness of the heart of man appears in no one thing so much, as this of spiritual pride and self-righteousness. The subtlety of Satan appears in its height, in his managing of persons with respect to this sin. And perhaps one reason may be, that here he has most experience: he knows the way of its coming in; he is acquainted with the secret springs of it; it was his own sin.-Experience gives vast advantage in leading souls, either to good or evil.
But though spiritual pride be so subtle and secret an iniquity, and commonly appears under a pretext of great humility; yet there are two things by which it may (perhaps universally and surely) be discovered and distinguished.
The first is this; he that is under the prevalence of this distemper, is apt to think highly of his attainments in religion, as comparing himself with others. It is natural for him to fall into that thought of himself, that he is an eminent saint, that he is very high amongst the saints, and has distinguishingly good and great experiences. That is the secret language of his heart, Luke xxviii. 11. God, I thank thee that I am not as other men. And Is. lxv. 5. I am holier than thou. Hence such are apt to put themselves forward among God's people, and as it were to take a high seat among them, as if there was no doubt of it but it belonged to them. They, as it were, naturally do that which Christ condemns, Luke xiv. 7. &c. take the highest room. This they do, by being forward to take upon them the place and business of the
chief; to guide, teach, direct and manage; They are confident that they are guides to the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, instructors of the foolish, teachers of babes, Rom. ii. 19, 20. It is natural for them to take it for granted, that it belongs to them to do the part of dictators and masters in matters of religion; and so they implicitly affect to be called of men, Rabbi, which is by interpretation Master, as the Pharisees did, Matth. xxiii. 6, 7. i. e. they are apt to expect that others should regard them, and yield to them, as masters, in matters of religion*.
But he whose heart is under the power of Christian humility, is of a contrary disposition. If the scriptures are at all to be relied on, such an one is apt to think his attainments in religion to be comparatively mean, and to esteem himself low among the saints, and one of the least of saints. Humility, or true lowliness of mind, disposes persons to think others better than themselves; Phil. ii. 3. In the lowness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves. Hence they are apt to think the lowest room belongs to them; and their inward disposition naturally leads them to obey that precept of our Saviour, Luke xiv. 10. It is not natural to them to take it upon them to do the part of teachers; but on the contrary, they are disposed to think that they are not the persons, that others are fitter for it than they; as it was with Moses and Jeremiah, (Exod. iii. 11. Jer. i. 6.) though they were such eminent saints, and of great knowledge. It is not natural to them to think that it belongs to them to teach, but to be taught they are much more eager to hear, and to receive instruction from others, than to dictate; Jam. i. 19. Be ye swift to hear, slow to speak. And when they do speak, it is not natural to them to speak with a bold, masterly air; but humility disposes them rather to speak, trembling. Hos. xiii. 1. When Ephraim spake, trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. They are not apt to assume authority, and to take upon them to be chief managers and masters; but rather to be subject to others; Jam. iii. 1, 2. Be not many masters. 1 Pet. v. 5. All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility. Eph. v. 21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Some persons' experiences naturally make them think highly of their experiences; and they often speak of them as very great and extraordinary; they freely speak of the great things they have met with. This may be spoken and meant in a good sense. In one sense, every degree of saving mercy is a great thing: it
"There be two things wherein it appears that a man has only common gifts, and no inward principle; 1. These gifts ever puff up, and make a man something in his own eyes, as the Corinthian knowledge did; and many a private man thinks himself fit to be a minister." (Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 181, 182.)
is indeed a thing great, yea, infinitely great, for God to bestow the least crumb of children's bread on such dogs as we are in ourselves; and the more humble a person is that hopes God has bestowed such mercy on him, the more apt will he be to call it a great thing that he has met with, in this sense. But if by great things which they have experienced, they mean comparatively great spiritual experiences, or great compared with others' experiences, or beyond what is ordinary, which is evidently oftentimes the case; then for a person to say, I have met with great things, is the very same thing as to say, I am an eminent saint, and have more grace than ordinary. To have great experiences, if the experiences be true and worth telling, is the same thing as to have great grace: there is no true experience, but the exercise of grace; and exactly according to the degree of true experience, is the degree of grace and holiness. The persons that talk thus about their experiences, when they give an account of them, expect that others should admire them. Indeed they do not call it boasting to talk after this manner about their experiences, nor do they look upon it as any sign of pride; because they say, they know that it was not they that did it, it was free grace, they are the great things that God has done for them, they would acknowledge the great mercy God has shown them, and not make light of it. But so it was with the Pharisee, Luke xviii. He in words gave God the glory of making him to differ from other men; God, I thank thee, says he, that I am not as other men*. Their verbally ascribing it to the grace of God, that they are holier than other saints, does not hinder their forwardness to think so highly of their holiness, being a sure evidence of the pride and vanity of their minds. If they were under the influence of an humble spirit, their attainments in religion would not be so apt to shine in their own eyes, nor would they be so much in admiring their own beauty. The Christians that are really the most eminent saints, and therefore have the most excellent experiences, and are greatest in the kingdom of heaven, humble themselves as a little child, Matth. xviii. 4. because they look on themselves as but little children in grace, and their attainments to be but the attainments of babes in Christ. They are astonished at, and ashamed of the low degrees of their love, their thankfulness, and their little knowledge of God. Moses, when he had been conversing with God in the mount, and his face shone so bright in the eyes of others as to dazzle their eyes, wist not that his face shone. Some persons go by the name of high
* Calvin in his Institutions, B. III. chap. xii. § 7. speaking of this Pharisee, observes, "That in his outward confession, he acknowledges that the righteousness that he has is the gift of God: but (says he) because he trusts that he is righteous, he goes away out of the presence of God, unacceptable and odious.”