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utterly abhor all false and evil ways. And we shall implore the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit to be vouchsafed us for this purpose.
The first of the precepts contained in the Epistle for this day is, Be not wise in your own conceits. We are here warned against setting up our own opinion, and particularly on religious subjects, so as to think meanly of every person who differs from us, as if all others were, ignorant in comparison with ourselves. From hence have arisen all the schisms and divisions which have appeared in the church of Christ. Against this spirit the apostle admonishes the Philippians, Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.89 It may also condemn a setting up of our own judgment above the word of God; which is done when we do not bow with submission to all that is revealed in the holy scriptures for our instruction and direction. It is our wisdom at all times to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.90 His wisdom is infinite; and what He has been pleased to reveal to us is made known in order that we may be made wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus. We should keep this in mind, that we may receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save our souls.91
89 Philip. ii. 3.
90 1 Peter v.
5, 6. 91 James i. 21.
It is by the indulgence of vain speculations on religious subjects, instead of giving diligence to make our own calling and election sure, that the spirit of self-conceit is nurtured.
As this spirit is calculated to stir up a feeling of contempt in those who are exposed to its influence, in order that such a feeling may at once be repressed, the apostle exhorts, Recompense to no man evil for evil. Christianity is a religion of universal good-will and benevolence. It is contrary to all kinds of malice and wickedness. It permits no resentment to be harboured in the breast, and no injurious treatment of others. It is also open and undisguised in all its conduct. It requires of those who are under its influence to provide things honest in the sight of all men. All deceit and dishonesty is contrary to its injunctions. How then can those persons imagine themselves to be Christians who practise them? Yet how many who are called religious persons act in opposition to this precept. What complaints are made of the impositions of tradespeople, and the dishonesty of servants. How those who make a profession of being believers in Christ, can answer it to their own consciences to be guilty of deliberate acts of dishonesty, is unaccountable, except on the principle of self-deception. Dishonest practices are most disgraceful to a profession of Christianity. They occasion religion to be evil spoken of by those who are
ignorant of its principles; and they afford full proof that such persons, though they may have a name that they live, are in truth dead to God, dead in trespasses and sins, and have not been quickened to newness of life, however well they may talk on religious subjects.
Again, as the religion of Christ is a religion of peace, the apostle exhorts, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. It is very difficult to live peaceably with some people. They are so irritable, so perverse, that they stir up the same evil tempers in all around them; for evil tempers operate like wild fire, inflaming others wherever they appear, setting on fire the course of nature, as St. James says.92 If Christians are placed in such circumstances that it is their duty to live with persons of this unhappy disposition, it becomes them earnestly to seek grace from God, to enable them to submit to the dispensations of His providence, and to profit by them. Let them learn to exercise forbearance; and think how God has borne with their frowardness. If He had been as ready to take offence with us, as we are with each other, what would have become of us? He would long ago have banished us for ever from His blissful presence. But He is long-suffering toward us,93 and therefore it becomes us to bear with our
92 James iii. 6.
93 2 Peter iii. 9.
fellow-creatures, that we may be imitators of Him. Let the suffering children of God be instant in prayer for patience in tribulation, and they may be assured that in God's own time He will give them relief; if not in the way which might be most pleasing to themselves, yet in that which will be most for His glory. Let them commit their cause and their way to the Lord, and beseech Him to sanctify their trials, and to wean their attachment from this vain world, and all its concerns; and to set their affection on things above. In many cases, people can avoid having intercourse with those who are not peaceably disposed towards them; but there are circumstances in which this cannot easily be done. In such cases it becomes the Christian to cast all his care upon God, and to be assured that His overruling providence will cause all things to work together for good to them that love and fear Him.
The natural desire of the human mind in such circumstances, however, is to be revenged on those who occasion it disquietude and trouble. The apostle therefore says, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. What an affectionate address is this! It intimates that those who suffer according to the will of God are dearly beloved by Him. They are to give place unto wrath, to give way before
it, not to oppose it in the same spirit, not to resist or resent it, but to let it have its course, that it may spend itself, and come to an end the sooner. Instead of resenting it, pray for those who indulge these evil dispositions, that the Lord would have mercy upon them, and deliver them from the dominion of the enemy of their souls, who incites them to the exercise of these evil passions. And for yourselves, lay open your trials and troubles to the Lord. Pray that the process may be effected in them, which the apostle describes, that they may prove that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience; and experience, hope,95 and then you will enjoy sweet peace and consolation in every trouble to which you may be exposed. Remember also, that whatever you may be called to suffer in this life, you deserve it all as a sinner against God, and ten thousand times more than you can suffer on earth, even everlasting misery in hell. This will make the sufferings of this present time9 appear to be light afflictions, however grievous they may seem for the moment; and you will be enabled to look beyond them to the glory which shall be revealed to the children of God in His eternal kingdom.
But further, Christians are to endeavour to return acts of kindness for wrath and injury.
94 1 Peter iv. 19. 95 Romans v. 34. 96 Romans viii. 18.