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and comprehensive observation. It becomes the majesty of his character to deliver the principles of right conduct in few and weighty words : his precepts are Laws; and his observations, Oracles : it is for others to speculate upon them with curiosity, and draw them out into systems.

THIRDLY, sometimes the very address of a writer leads him to generalize his observations. It is, when a more direct and pointed manner would press too closely on the mind, and, by making the application necessary, indispose us to conviction ; whereas, when a reproof presents itself in this form, less offence is likely to be given by it, the application being left, in a good degree, to ourselves.

This last, we shall find, was the case of St. Paul in the text; in whose behalf, therefore, we need not, in the present instance, plead the necessity, the convenience, or the dignity of this method of instruction ; though these reasons, we see, might, on other occasions, be very justly alledged.

For; to come now to the aphorism in the text - If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself -as

trivial as this general truth may appear at first sight, we shall perceive, by turning to the context, that the inspired writer applies it with infinite address to mortify the pride of some persons, against whom the tenour of his discourse is there directed. For certain false teachers, it seems, had very early crept into the churches of Galatia, who arrogated a superior wisdom to themselves, and, on the credit of this claim, presumed to impose the yoke of Jewish ordinances on the Gentile converts : in direct opposition to the injunctions of the Apostle, who had lately planted these churches; and in manifest violation of Christian charity, which forbad those grievous burthens to be laid on the consciences of believers.

One natural feature in the character of these vain-glorious boasters, was the contempt with which they treated the more infirm Christians, and the little consideration they had for such of their brethren as happened to be overtaken with any fault. This proud, unchristian temper he therefore takes upon him to correct Brethren, says he, if any man be overtaken with a fault, you, that are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted : Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law

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of Christ. And then follows the observation of the text - for, if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself: leaving the conceited Doctors and their admirers to apply these general words, as they saw fit ; but clearly enough pointing to some persons among them, who took themselves to be something, and yet miserably deceived themselves, in that, indeed, they were nothing. In what respects their conduct shewed them to be so, he leaves to their own sagacity, quickened by the poignancy of this covert reproof, to find out.

Such is the Apostle's address in this divine admonition; and such the force (the greater, for the address) of the reprehension conveyed in it!

But now, what those RESPECTS are, in which these sufficient men shewed themselves to be nothing, though St. Paul thought it not fit to specify them to the Galatians, it may be useful to us, as it certainly is left free for us, to inquire.

FIRST, then, their very Conceit was a certain argument of their Folly. For, what surer indication of a weak and shallow man, than his proneness to think highly of himself! Wise men understand themselves at another rate. They are too conscious of their own infirmities; they know their judgment to be too fallible, their apprehension too slow, their knowledge too scanty, their wills too feeble, and their passions too strong, to give way to this insolent exultation of heart, to indulge in this conceit of their own importance, and much less to form injurious comparisons between themselves and others. They understand, that the only question is concerning the different degrees of weakness and imperfection ; and that, where the best come far short of what they should be, all pretence of boasting is cut off.

SECONDLY, these superior airs of importance were unsuitable to the nature of their religion, and shewed how little proficiency they had made in it; BECAUSE, as Christians, whatever light and knowledge they laid claim to, they must needs confess was not their own, but derived to them from above. All, these spiritual men could pretend to know of divine things, had been freely and solely revealed to them by the Spirit of God; a distinction, which ought indeed to fill their hearts with gratitude, but could be no proper foundation of their pride or vain-glory. For, as the Apostle himself argues in another place, Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou, which thou didst not receive ? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it a ?

Whatever temptation, therefore, there might be to a poor vain heathen to pride himself in his pittance of knowledge or virtue, a CHRISTIAN should, by the very principles of his religion, be more modest, and ascribe his

proficiency in either, not to himself, but to the indulgent favour and good pleasure of God.

THIRDLY, these boasters betrayed themselves by the fruits, which this self-importance produced, namely, their contemptuous and unfeeling treatment of their brethren under any instance of their weakness and frailty. Such behaviour was doubly ridiculous: first, as it implied an ignorance of their own infirmity, and liableness to temptation ; and, then, as it argued a total want of Charity, the most essential part of their religion, without which a man is nothing, whatever gifts and graces of other kinds he may possess

b.

a 1 Cor. iv, 7.

f I Cor. xiii.

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