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bitters them with more exquisite sensibility, irritated by disappointment, and the ingratitude which he experiences. Thus" all is vanity;" and we are taught to despair of happiness from ourselves and the world, and to seek it from God alone.
2. We may hence learn to do good from higher motives, than the expectations of gratitude, respect, praise, or kindness from man: viz. out of love to God, gratitude to the Author of all our mercies, disinterested benevolence, and an expectation of the gracious recompence to be conferred at the resurrection of the just. Thus we shall "not "be weary of well-doing," which otherwise we shall be, first or last, through the perverseness and ingratitude of mankind.
3. We are taught to watch and pray against such a perverted judgment, as is here stigmatized. It is very common to judge of the action by the person, not the person by the action; and to neglect, nay despise and condemn, the very same things in one, which we affect to admire in another. External prosperity, greatness, or reputation, give a splendour to trivial actions; and it becomes fashionable, and even creditable, to applaud; in so doing men consult their own reputation, and endeavour to obtain admiration by being admirers of an admired character. But
poverty and obscurity cloud and degrade even what is really excellent; and he who can confer no eclat, must expect few to notice him. But this is a very unreasonable prejudice, looks very ill in the example before us, is condemned by St. James,▾ and should be avoided by the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus.
4. We are taught to prefer solid usefulness, to empty praise. The poor wise man's services, though forgotten by man, are recorded with honour in holy writ. We are all greatly beset with the temptation of preferring the approbation of men to real usefulness; but we should remember that however now neglected, the latter will be" found to praise, and honour, and glory;" when the former shall end in shame and everlasting contempt.
Lastly, We are taught to beware of forgetting our benefactors, especially such inferiors as have been serviceable to us; who are liable to be neglected in proportion as they need our grateful assistance. Had a rich and prosperous person been thus forgotten, it had been of less consequence, but the case of the poor man was very hard. Perhaps we have some poor benefactor concerning whom we may ask, as Ahasuerus of Mordecai, what hath been done to him for this ser* James ii. 3—5.
vice? and perhaps conscience may answer, Nothing. This hint may have its use.
These lessons we may learn from the plain meaning of this scripture; and though they do not decide any question about justification, effi cacious grace, or the believer's privileges, (which are abundantly declared in other scriptures ;) yet they are of important use in forming the christian's judgment, and directing his conduct. And I would gladly know by what authority any man, overlooking these plain useful instructions, by the help of a warm imagination, sets himself to find gospel mysteries in this passage? We should not a priori have looked for a delineation of doctrinal truth in such a subject as Solomon is treating of. We can scarcely by fair interpretation, find one explicit word of the distinguishing doc trines of grace in the whole book; and it would puzzle the most ingenious of these fanciful expositors fairly to accommodate the circumstances of this story to the work of redemption. Two purposes indeed, such as they are, may be answered by such interpretation.
1. Loose professors are encouraged in their vain confidence, by hearing that none of the redeemed are more mindful of, or thankful to their Saviour than themselves, "No man remembered that same
poor man:" In diametrical opposition to the whole current of scripture, which declares, that
"the love of Christ constrains them to live to "him." And,
2. It is a powerful engine in the hands of vainglorious men, by which to catch the attention, and excite the admiration of injudicious multitudes; who ignorantly admire the sagacity of the man that finds deep mysteries, where their more sober pastors perceived nothing but unrelishing, practical instruction. Thus they draw them off from the pure unadulterated milk of the word, by which they might grow in grace; to feed them with that "knowledge which puffeth up, "instead of love, which edifieth:" and of what use this is to St. James's pure and undefiled religion, I leave others to determine What mischiefs have arisen from this source are too evident. Divisions, contentions, mutual contempt and reproach, dreadful scandals, and every thing destructive of vital godliness, and tending to disgrace the very doctrines contended for.
I have heard many sensible and pious persons lament this sort of explication of scripture, as an évil of the first magnitude: and I am more and more convinced it is so. At this rate you may prove any doctrine from any text; and you can form no position so absurd or pernicious, but a scriptural proof may plausibly be adduced. Thus the flood-gate is opened for all heresies and enthusiasm: Every thing is reduced to uncertainty,
as if the scripture had no determinate meaning, till one was arbitrarily imposed by the imagination. of man; a faculty that is indeed vague and reducable to no rules. Thus different men impose opposite interpretations; and all appears an incoherent confusion of jarring fancies, whilst the bewildered enquirer, despairing of satisfaction, gives over the vain attempt, and sits down, perhaps in scepticism and infidelity. The most important doctrines of the gospel seem to lose their beauty and glory, along with their simplicity, in the midst of such useless encumbrance: and the most conclusive arguments lose their effect, and become suspected by the company which they keep: whilst the sophistical proof is detected, the opposer is emboldened to treat the rest as equally capable of refutation.
Thus, at the same time that the extravagant perversion gains the admiration of our own party, our precious doctrines, and even the blessed Bible itself is exposed to the contempt of discerning persons, who are of different sentiments in religion. Many, with whom I have conversed, can join with me in saying that such arguments, and such expositors, have formed our chief prejudice against the very doctrines themselves; and though, by the grace of God, we have got over this hindrance, yet we remember how it once was with us, and regret the case of thousands, who are yet stumbling, and like to stumble, at this stumbling-stone.