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A SAINT’S VIEWS OF HIMSELF
Proverbs 30:1-2. The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal, Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
THE sayings of the wise and good have in all ages been regarded with veneration, and been treasured up in the minds of men as a kind of sacred deposit, for the enriching and instructing of future generations. We have here a very remarkable saying of Agur the son of Jakeh; to which I would now call your attention. It does indeed, we must confess, appear, at first sight, a rash expression, savouring rather of intemperance than of sound discretion. But as it was delivered to “Ithiel and Ucal,” who were probably his disciples; and as it was introduced with the word, “Surely,” which marks it as the result of his deliberate judgment; and, above all, it being called “a prophecy,” which determines it to have been inspired of God; we should calmly inquire into it, and examine its import. That such an expression may be uttered by persons widely differing from each other in their moral and religious habits, I readily admit: and therefore, in order to prevent any misapprehension, I shall consider the text,
As the language of passion—
Sin, however fondly cherished in the heart of fallen man, is no other than folly and madness. So it is described by Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “I applied mine heart to know and to search, and to seek out wisdom and the reason of things; and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:25.].” And again: “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; madness is in their heart while they live; and after that they go to the dead [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:3.].” When a person, who has been led captive by it, comes to discern somewhat of its true character, he is apt to feel indignation against himself, and to reproach himself in strong terms for the folly he has committed. We may well conceive of him as saying, in the language of our text, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.” But this indignation against himself may be the mere language of passion, and not of genuine humiliation: and it may be distinguished from that which is the fruit of piety,
In its object—
[An ungodly man may feel strongly, whilst he has no real humility: he may hate his actions and himself on account of them. But it is not sin that he hates, so much as the consequences of his sin. Nor does he hate all its consequences: he hates it not as defiling to his soul, as offensive to his God, as injurious to his eternal interests; but as destructive of his peace, as degrading him in the eyes of his fellow-men, and as ruinous to his present welfare. A gamester, who has staked his all upon the cast of a die, and has thereby reduced himself and his family from affluence to want, curses his folly with the most indignant feelings; and so hates himself for it, that he can scarcely endure his very existence. But, if his money were restored, he would do the same again: or, if taught wisdom by experience, he would not refrain from his former habits on account of any regard for God or his own soul, but only on account of the injury that was likely to accrue from them in a temporal view. The same may be said respecting the votaries of dissipation. When their fortune is wasted by extravagance, and their constitution ruined by excess, they may be strongly impressed with the folly and madness of their past ways; whilst, if they could be restored to their former affluence and vigour, they would run the very same career again. Under all the painful consequences of his licentious habits, the libertine can scarcely avoid those reflections which Solomon represents as arising in his mind: “Thou wilt mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly [Note: Proverbs 5:11-14.].” Nor can we doubt, but that in hell those reflections will be both universal and exceeding bitter: for the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” which will be there experienced, will arise, in no small degree, from the consideration of the opportunities once enjoyed, but now irrecoverably and for ever lost [Note: Matthew 13:42.].]
In its operation—
[The indignation of an ungodly man is sudden and transient; and is always accompanied with a crimination of those who have been in any measure accessary to the evils that have come upon him. But, in a man of piety, they are the fruit of deep reflection, dwelling habitually in the mind, and always attended with self-reproach. We may see in the Prodigal Son a just exhibition of that which arises from genuine repentance. He does not, under the pressure of his distress, cry out with vehement exclamations, designating his conduct by every term that an embittered spirit can suggest; but he adopts a resolution to return to his father’s house, and there, in measured and contrite language, confesses, “I have sinned against heaven and before thee; and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Generally speaking, the more violent the expressions are, the less genuine is the contrition from which they flow. The exercise of deep and just feeling is rather in a way of temperate meiosis, than of vehement and fluent exaggeration. The two kinds of indignation may be easily distinguished by their attendant feelings: the one is the fruit of wounded pride, and the root of every thing that is unhallowed, whether in word or deed; the other is the offspring of deep contrition; and either the parent or the child of genuine conversion to God.]
Having discriminated, we hope, sufficiently between the expressions of our text as used by persons of opposite characters, and shewn how to distinguish them when uttered as the language of passion, we proceed to notice them,
As the language of piety—
We know assuredly that indignation is a fruit of godly sorrow: for St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “Behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:11.]!” And we have seen it operate precisely as in the text, when, according to common apprehension, there would appear to be but little occasion for it. David, seeing the prosperity of the wicked, and not duly adverting to their end, had envied them: and in the review of his conduct he exclaims, “So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was even as a beast before thee [Note: Psalms 73:3; Psalms 73:17; Psalms 73:22.].” Nor are such views uncommon to the saints: or rather, I should say, there is no true saint who does not on some occasions apply them to himself.
If it be asked, ‘How can such expressions fall from the lips of a real saint?’ I answer, they necessarily spring,
From a view of the law under which we live—
[Whilst ignorant of the spirituality and extent of God’s Law, we take credit to ourselves for our external conformity to its precepts; and are ready to imagine, that, “touching the righteousness of the Law we are blameless [Note: Philippians 3:6.].” But when we come to see how “broad the commandment is [Note: Psalms 119:96.],” that it reaches to the inmost thoughts of the soul, prohibiting even so much as an inordinate desire, and requiring us to “love and serve our God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength,” we are struck dumb; our towering “imaginations are cast down;” and, like the Apostle Paul, we feel the sentence of death gone forth against us [Note: Romans 7:9.], and attaching to us no less for our best deeds, than for the most sinful action of our lives [Note: Job 9:2-3.].” Then we become observant of our defects: and, O! how lothesome are we then in our own eyes [Note: Ezekiel 36:31.], in the view of that very obedience of which we once thought so highly! It is no wonder, if, with this augmented new of his own deformity, the saint speak of himself in very humiliating and degrading terms. A person coming into a room at night with a lighted taper, would see but little: if he returned at the dawn of day, he would have a clearer view of all the objects that before were scarcely visible: but, if he entered when the sun was shining forth in its strength, he would discern the smallest specks of dirt, and even the very motes in the air. But would he then conclude that all the dust and dirt which he now beheld had been cast in since his first entrance? No: he would know to what he must ascribe the change in his views, even to the increased light by which he was enabled to take the survey. And so a clearer view of God’s holy Law will give us a deeper insight into our own deformity, and turn the gloryings of self-esteem into the mournings of humiliation and contrition.]
From a view of that God against whom we have sinned—
[The least knowledge of God is sufficient to abase us before him: but the more we behold his glorious perfections, the more shall we stand amazed at the coldness of our love to him, and our want of zeal in his service. Job, previous to his troubles, was considered as “a perfect man” even by God himself. But when God had revealed himself more fully to his soul, how base did this holy man appear in his own eyes! “Behold, I am vile!” says he. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes [Note: Job 40:4; Job 42:5-6.].” This will be the effect of all God’s manifestations of himself, whether in a way of providence or of grace. It is impossible to behold his goodness, his patience, his forbearance, and not stand amazed at our own insensibility. “The ox and the ass” do not appear so brutish as we [Note: Isaiah 1:3.]; nor “the stork or crane or swallow” so unobservant of the things which we are most concerned to notice [Note: Jeremiah 8:7.]: and our only wonder is, that it should be possible for God to endure with such long-suffering our great and multiplied iniquities.]
From a view of the obligations we lie under—
[Our Lord has said, that our love to God will bear proportion to the sense we have of the extent of his mercy towards us in forgiveness [Note: Luke 7:47.]. But, when we reflect on the means he has used, in order to open a way for the exercise of his mercy towards us, what shall we not account his due? When we consider that he has “not spared even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,” what bounds will there be to our gratitude; or rather, what bounds will there be to our humiliation for the want of gratitude? It will be impossible for us then ever to satisfy our own desires: if we had a thousand lives, we would devote them all to him, and at his call be ready to sacrifice them all for him. The services which we once thought sufficient will then appear little better than a solemn mockery; so entirely will our souls be absorbed in wonder at the thought of an incarnate God, a crucified Redeemer.]
From a view of the interests we have at stake—
[If only the life or death of our bodies were at stake, we should feel deeply interested in the event: but, when heaven end all its glory, or hell and all its misery, are the alternatives before us, one would suppose that every temporal consideration should be swallowed up, and vanish as the light of a star before the meridian sun. But the saint is not always so indifferent to the things of time and sense as he would wish to be. There are times, when every thing below the sun is in his eyes lighter than vanity itself: but there are, also, times when he finds his heart yet cleaving to the dust, and when his progress heavenward is slow and imperceptible. On such occasions he he is amazed at himself: he can scarcely conceive it possible that, with such prospects before him, he should be so stupid and brutish as he feels himself to be. Truly, at these seasons the language of our text will be often in his heart, and in his mouth too, especially if he find an Ithiel, or an Ucal, that is capable of understanding it.]
After viewing this subject, we shall be at no loss to understand,
Whence it is that saints are often dejected in their minds—
[None are at all times alike joyful. St. Paul says, that “they who have the first-fruits of the Spirit,” no less than others, sometimes “groan within themselves, being burthened [Note: Romans 8:23. 2 Corinthians 5:4.].” And so it ought to be. In the review of their past lives they should be humbled, even as Paul was, when he designated himself as “a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor, and the very chief of sinners [Note: 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:15.].” And under a sense of their remaining infirmities, it becomes them to lie low before God. Behold St. Paul, when he had preached the Gospel above twenty years, yet felt so much corruption within him, that he cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me [Note: Romans 7:24.]?” The image which he here uses is that which has often been realized. He refers to a punishment sometimes inflicted on criminals, by chaining them to a dead corpse, and constraining them to bear it about with them, till they died through the offensiveness of its noxious odours. Such was his in-dwelling corruption to him, even at that advanced period of his life: and such it should be felt by every saint on earth. In truth, there should not enter so much as a ray of comfort into the soul, but from a view of the Sun of Righteousness. It is He alone that can, or ought, to “arise upon us with healing in his wings.” And therefore the Apostle, after the lamentation just mentioned, adds, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 7:25.].” Let not this, then, prove a stumbling-block to any: nor let it be supposed, that, because a pious person uses, in reference to himself, terms which a worldly person would not deign to use, he must of necessity have committed any greater sin than others. His humiliation, as we have seen, arises out of the views which he has obtained of holy things: and the nearer his intercourse with heaven is, the move ready will he be to exclaim with the Prophet, “Woe is me, I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips, dwelling in the midst of a people of unclean lips;” that is, a leper, in the midst of a leprous and ungodly world [Note: Isaiah 6:5.].]
How far they are from piety who are filled with self-complacent thoughts—
[Persons who have been exemplary in their conduct, and punctual in their religious observances, are, for the most part, filled with a conceit of their own goodness, and confident of their acceptance with God on account of it. But little do they know how odious they are in the sight of God, whilst they are righteous in their own eyes. It is the Publican, and not the Pharisee, that will be justified before God: and “the sick, not the whole,” that will experience “the Physician’s” aid. Christianity is not a remedial law, lowered to the standard of our weakness; but a remedy, by which the soul that is sick unto death may be effectually healed. Christ is a Saviour; but he is so to those only who feel themselves lost, and renounce every other hope but him. Bear this, then, in remembrance. Bear in remembrance, that there are no terms too humiliating to express the real state of your souls before God. You have lived as without God in the world, unconscious of his eye upon you; and his address to you is, “Understand ye brutish among the people; and ye fools, when will ye be wise [Note: Psalms 94:8.]?” This may be offensive to our proud hearts; but it is such an address as we merit, and such a one as it becomes an holy God to deliver. The particular ground of Agur’s self-abasement was, that “he had not learned wisdom, or attained the knowledge of the Holy One [Note: ver. 3.].” And have not many amongst you the same ground for self-abasement? Yes, “There are many amongst you who have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:34.].” Many amongst you have never yet walked in the ways of true wisdom. Humble yourselves, therefore, for your more than brutish stupidity: and now, as the Psalmist says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him [Note: Psalms 2:12.].”]
Proverbs 30:7-9. Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
IT is the privilege of man to make known his requests to God in prayer, and to solicit from him whatever may conduce to his real good. Even temporal things may be asked, provided it be in subserviency to our spiritual interests, and with entire submission to the Divine will. Who Agur was, we cannot certainly determine; but he was evidently an inspired person [Note: His words are called “prophecies.” ver. 1.]; and his prayer in reference to his condition in this world is an excellent pattern for our imitation. He entreated the Lord with very great earnestness; yet he considered his condition in this world as altogether subordinate to his eternal welfare; and therefore in what he asked for his body, he consulted only the good of his soul.
We propose to consider,
Some interpret the former of his petitions as expressing a wish to be kept from error and delusion in spiritual matters; but we apprehend that the things which he requested were,
A removal from the temptations of an exalted state—
[He justly characterizes the pomp and splendour of the world as “vanity and lies;” “vanity,” because they are empty and unsatisfying; and “lies,” because they promise happiness to their possessors, but invariably disappoint them. In this light they are frequently represented in Scripture [Note: Psalms 119:37; Psalms 62:9.]; and they who have been most competent to judge respecting them, have been most forward to declare them mere vanity and vexation of spirit [Note: Ecclesiastes 2:11.].
Agur doubtless beheld them in this view, and therefore rather deprecated them as evils, than desired them as objects of his ambition.]
A mediocrity of state and condition—
[He did not, through a dread of wealth, desire to be reduced to poverty: he wished rather to stand at an equal distance from each extreme; and to enjoy that only which God should judge “convenient for him.” It is not easy for us to say precisely what a competency is; because it must vary according to men’s education and habits; that being poverty to one, which would be riches to another: yet the line drawn by Agur, seems to mark the limits most agreeably to the mind of God, because it exactly corresponds with the views of patriarchs [Note: Genesis 28:20.], of prophets [Note: Jeremiah 45:5.], of Apostles [Note: 1 Timothy 6:8-10.], and particularly with the prayer which our blessed Lord himself has taught all his followers to use [Note: Mat 6:11 and the first clause of ver. 13. between which and Agur’s prayer there is a remarkable agreement.].]
In urging his request, Agur manifested great zeal and earnestness: his whole soul appeared to be engaged in it: we are therefore interested in inquiring into,
The reasons with which he enforced it—
He was not actuated by any carnal motives, though he was praying about carnal things. It was not the incumbrances of wealth, or the hardships of poverty that he dreaded; he considered only the aspect of the different states upon his spiritual advancement; and deprecated them equally on account of the temptations incident to both.
On account of the snares of wealth—
[Riches foster the pride of the human heart, and engender a haughty and independent spirit. This was the effect of opulence on God’s people of old [Note: Deuteronomy 32:15.Hosea 13:6; Hosea 13:6.]; and the same baneful influence is observable in our day. The great consider it almost as an act of condescension to acknowledge God. Scarcely one of them in a thousand will endure to hear his name mentioned in private, or his will propounded as the proper rule of his conduct. The atheistical expressions in the text are indeed the language of his conduct, if not also of his lips [Note: See Exodus 5:2.Psalms 12:4; Psalms 12:4.]. It is on this, as well as other accounts, that our Lord has spoken of riches as rendering our salvation difficult, yea impossible, without some signal interposition of divine grace [Note: Matthew 19:23-26.]. And therefore every one who values his soul may well deprecate an exalted state.]
On account of the snares of poverty—
[Poverty has its snares no less than wealth: where its pressure is felt, the temptations to dishonesty are exceeding great. Even those who are in ease and affluence are too easily induced to deviate from the paths of strict integrity, especially when there appears but little probability of detection: how much more strongly then may a dishonest principle be supposed to operate, when called forth by necessity and distress! God appointed that a person suspected of theft should clear himself by an oath before a magistrate [Note: Exo 22:7-12 and 1 Kings 8:31.]; but this was a feeble barrier against dishonesty; for he that will cheat, will lie; and, if urged to it, will rather perjure himself to conceal his crime, than expose himself to shame by confessing it. Thus one sin leads to another; and a soul, that is of more value than ten thousand worlds, is bartered for some worthless commodity. Justly then may that state also be deprecated, which exposes us to such tremendous evils.]
This subject may teach us,
Contentment with our lot—
[Whatever be the means used, it is God alone that fixes our condition in the world: and, if we be Christians indeed, we may be sure that our lot is that which, all things considered, is most for the good of our souls. If any variations in it have taken place, such changes have been sent to teach in that contentment, which St. Paul so richly experienced, and which it is no less our privilege than our duty to learn [Note: Philippians 4:11-12.]. If we have that which is best for our souls, then we have that which is really best.]
Watchfulness against our besetting sins—
[Every situation of life has its peculiar temptations. Youth or age, health or sickness, riches or poverty have their respective snares. It is our wisdom to stand on our guard against the difficulties to which we are more immediately exposed [Note: 2 Samuel 22:24.]; and rather to seek for grace that we may approve ourselves to God in the station to which he has called us, than to desire a change of circumstances, which will change indeed, but not remove, our trials.]
Solicitude for spiritual advancement—
[It was sin, and sin only, that Agur feared: and doubtless sin is the greatest of all evils. Let the same mind then be in us that was in him. Whether we have poverty or riches, or whether we be equally removed from both, let us endeavour to improve in spirituality and holiness. Then will the wisdom of God, in appointing such a variety of states, be made manifest: and the collective virtues of the different classes will then shine with combined lustre, and, like the rays of the sun, display the glory of Him from whom they sprang.]
THE SELF-DECEIVER EXPOSED
Proverbs 30:12. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
MEN of themselves are very backward to form an unfavourable estimate of their own character. Hence arises the necessity of accurate discrimination and undaunted fidelity in ministers, whose office is to “separate the precious from the vile,” and to give to every one his portion in due season. The Scriptures draw a broad line of distinction between the righteous and the wicked; and this, not in their actions only, but in their dispositions and habits; by which the different characters may be as clearly discerned as by their outward conduct. The generation of self-deceivers is very numerous: multitudes there are who stand high in their own estimation, whilst in God’s eyes they are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Amongst these we must number,
The decent formalist—
He is “pure in his own eyes”—
[He is punctual in the observance of outward duties, both civil and religious. He will attend constantly at the house of God, and even at the table of the Lord: he will also establish worship in his family: and in respect of his dealings with men, he will be all that is amiable and lovely: he will be honest, sober, just, temperate, benevolent: as far as the letter of the law goes, he may be blameless.
In such a state, what wonder is it if he be pure in his own eyes? He understands not the spirituality of the law, and can judge of himself only by the defective standard of heathen morality. By the world he is admired, and held up as a pattern of all excellence: and seeing that he stands high in the esteem of others, he almost of necessity entertains a high opinion of himself.]
But he “is not washed from his filthiness”—
[Much filthiness there is in the heart of every man by nature; and there is a filthiness which every person may properly call his own, as being congenial with his own feelings, and particularly connected with his own character. With the character before us there is a very abundant measure of pride, venting itself in a constant habit of self-confidence and self-complacency. Combined with this are impenitence and unbelief: for how is it possible that he should repent and believe, when he knows not the extent of his guilt and danger? “Being whole, he feels no need of a physician” — — — He is altogether under the dominion also of worldly-mindedness. When he has performed his religious duties, he goes to worldly company, without feeling any want, or being sensible of any danger. The friendship of the world is what he delights in as his chief good, never once suspecting, that this very disposition proves and constitutes him an enemy of God [Note: James 4:4.]. Thus, though there is nothing in him that the world disapproves, and nothing that seems to call for self-reproach, he is under the habitual and allowed dominion of evils, which render him abominable in the sight of God [Note: Luke 16:15.]. He has somewhat of “the from of godliness, but none at all of its power [Note: 2 Timothy 3:5.]” — — —]
Amongst this generation we must also number,
The almost Christian—
He goes much farther than the decent formalist—
[He is convinced of the truth and excellence of Christianity, and wishes to be a partaker of its benefits. He will vindicate the faithful servants of God against the accusations brought against them by the ungodly world: and will actually comply with many things which the Gospel requires — — —
From this partial change in himself he begins to think that he is a Christian indeed. His constrained approbation of the Gospel appears to him to be a cordial acceptance of it: and his slender performances of its duties are in his estimation like an unreserved obedience.]
But, like him, he deceives his own soul—
[He will not renounce all for Christ. When our Lord says, “Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow me,” he departs sorrowful, like the Rich Youth, and chooses the world in preference to Christ. He draws back also from the cross, which he will not bear. He is ashamed of Christ, even at the very time that he shews some regard both for his word and ministers. He will not “come out from the world and be separate;” but still remains conformed to it, to its maxims, its habits, its spirit, and its company. Of the true Christian, our Lord says, “Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of the world:” but of the almost Christian, the very reverse is true: he strives to reconcile the inconsistent services of God and Mammon: and if this cannot be done, he will forego his eternal interests, rather than sacrifice his worldly interests, and subject himself to the scorn and hatred of the ungodly.
Thus, though pure in his own eyes, he is yet in bondage to the fear of man; and gives a decided preference to this world, before the preservation of a good conscience, and the approbation of his God.]
To the same class belongs also,
The inconsistent professor—
Who more confident of the goodness of his state, than he who professes to believe in Christ?
[The man who has felt some conviction of sin, and some hope in Christ, and has been hailed by others as a sound convert to the Christian faith, is ready to conclude that all is well: his successive emotions of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, are to him a sufficient evidence, that his conversion is unquestionable. If he have some ability to talk about the Gospel, and some gift in prayer, he is still further confirmed in his persuasion, that there exists in him no ground for doubt or fear. More especially, if he have views of the Covenant of grace, as “ordered in all things and sure,” and have adopted a crude system of religion that favours a blind confidence, he concludes at once that he is, and must be, a child of God.]
But who more open to self-deception?
[Professors of the Gospel are very apt to forget that rule of judging which our Lord himself has prescribed, “By their fruits ye shall know them [Note: Matthew 7:16.].” But this is the only safe criterion whereby to judge of our state before God. Yet, when brought to this test, how low do many religious professors appear! They can talk of the Gospel fluently; but, if their spirit and temper be inquired into, they are found to be under the habitual dominion of some besetting sin, as they were before they ever thought of religion. It is lamentable to think what “filthiness there is both of flesh and spirit,” from which many who profess the Gospel have never yet been “washed [Note: Titus 1:16.]:” yet an inspired Apostle declares, that “if a man seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, he deceiveth himself, and his religion is vain [Note: James 1:26.].” What then must be the state of those who yet remain proud and passionate, worldly-minded and covetous, false and dishonest, impure and sensual, yea, and grossly defective in all the duties of their place and station? Truly, of all the people belonging to the generation spoken of in our text, these are in the greatest danger, because their confidence is founded in the idea, that they have already bathed in the fountain which alone is able to cleanse them from their sin.]
Those who, though pure in their own eyes, are not washed—
[Happy would it be if men would relax the confidence which they are ever ready to maintain of the safety of their state before God. Every one conceives, that whatever others may do, he deceives not his own soul: yet behold so great is the number of self-deceivers, that they constitute “a generation!” Beloved, learn to try yourselves by the only true test, your conformity to the will of God, and to the example of Christ — — — It is in the balance of the sanctuary, and not in your own balance, that you are to weigh yourselves; for in that shall you be weighed at the last day: and if you are found wanting in that, the measure of your deficiency will be the measure of your condemnation — — —]
Those who, though not pure in their own eyes, are really washed from their filthiness—
[Blessed be God! there is a generation of these also. Many who once wallowed in all manner of filthiness, are now washed from it, even as the Corinthian converts were [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.]. Yet they are not pure in their own eyes: on the contrary, they are of all people most ready to suspect themselves [Note: Matthew 26:21-22.], and to “lothe themselves” for their remaining imperfections. See how strikingly this is exemplified in the very chapter before us: Agur was a man of unquestionable piety: yet, under a sense of his great unworthiness, he complained, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man [Note: Proverbs 30:0; Proverbs 2:0.].” This may appear to many to be extravagant: but it is the real feeling of many a child of God: I may add too, it is their frequent complaint before God. Such were the feelings of Job, of Isaiah, and of Paul [Note: Job 40:4; Job 42:6. Isaiah 6:5.Romans 7:18; Romans 7:18; Romans 7:24.]— — — If it be asked, Whence arises this, that such holy and heavenly persons should be so far from being pure in their own eyes? the reason is, that they try themselves by a more perfect standard, and from their clearer discoveries of the path of duty are more deeply conscious of their aberrations from it. Their love of holiness also makes them now to abhor themselves more for their want of conformity to the Divine image, than they once did even for the grossest sins. To you then, dearly Beloved, I would address myself in the language of consolation and encouragement. It is well that you see and lament your vileness, provided you make it only an occasion of humiliation, and not of despondency. The more lowly you are in your own eyes, the more exalted you are in God’s, who has said, that “he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Let your sense of your remaining imperfections make you plead more earnestly with your God that reviving promise, “From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you [Note: Ezekiel 36:25. 1 John 1:9.].” And remember, that you are not to wash yourselves first, and then to lay hold on the promises, but to embrace the promises first, and then by means of them to cleanse yourselves from the defilements you lament. This is the order prescribed in the Gospel [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.]; and, if you will adhere to it, you shall have increasing evidence that it is the destined path of purity and peace.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 30". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany