THE DA GER OF SELF-DECEPTIO BY THE REV. HAMILTO VERSCHOYLE, A.M.
GALATIA S, vi. 3. " If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."
Among merchants, there is a system of mutual accommodation. Men engaged in trade are liable to reverses — they experience dispppointments and losses, and hence they are often cast on the friendly assistance of their more prosperous fellows. Christians, dear brethren, are spiritual merchantmen — they are subject to many changes — they have their castings down, as well as their liftings up ; they often fail, and hence they require to have that love which " beareth all things," exercised towards them ; hence the rule laid down in the 2nd verse, " Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." It was a wise and a good saying of a certain man of God, when he heard of the grievous fall of a brother, " he fell yesterday, and I may fall to-day." But if a man imagine that he is lifted up out of the reach of these reverses — if he think that his mountain stands so strong, that he does not require the forbearance of his brethren, and therefore, that he himself need show no forbearance towards others, you have a description of that man in
the text, " if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." This is the connexion of the text, with what goes before. Self-deception, my dear brethren, is very extensively practised. Every man is a dupe of it, who has not been taught by the Spirit of God to know himself. We know well that all men are very watchful against impostors, and are very indignant if others practice deceit on them. What folly would it be, if we would passively submit to be deceived by ourselves ; and the more so, because if others deceive us, this for the most part affects only our temporal interests, but if we deceive ourselves our souls are ruined — ruined for ever. ow, while we are preaching, and while you are hearing, oh ! let us remember, that " if any man thing himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself;" — let me remember that I am nothing, and therefore that, without God's Holy Spirit helping me and working with me, I can say nothing to your profit, in the way of detecting
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and exposing the impositions we are apt to practice on ourselves; and remember also, dear brethren, that you are nothing — that you can receive no profit — that you can understand nothing to any purpose — that you can lay nothing to heart, so as really to have your souls benefited, without the continual operation of God's Holy Spirit, who worketh all in all. We deceive ourselves then, because we are in the habit of using false weights — false balances — false measures in judging of ourselves : and thus, a man often comes to the conclusion, that he is something, when in truth he is nothing. ow, let us stop for a moment to enquire the meaning of that word in its connexion — nothing. What is meant when a ma» is said to be nothing? For an explanation we look to the 1st epistle to the Corinthians, viii. 4, " As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one." There, an idol is said to be nothing. But an idol, in a certain sense, is something — it is wood or stone, or gold or silver ; but it is nothing to the purpose for which it is used — nothing to the man who worships it — it does him no good, and in that sense it is nothing. Man, indeed, may be something ; he may be, in the common sense of the word, good — a good citizen — a good father — a good master ; he may have worldly substance, intellect, learning, and
yet he may be nothing as regards the kingdom of God — he may have no interest in, or fitness for the glorious and eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and then, in the Scripture sense, he is nothing, whatever he thinks of himself. Having offered this explanation of the word nothing, let us seek, with God's help, to detect and expose some of the methods by which men impose on themselves. The first we shall observe on is this •. men deceive themselves by .com-
paring themselves with their fellows. ow, this, St. Paul testifies to be a foolish thing, 2nd Corinthians x. 12, " We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves amongst themselves are not wise." What does their folly consist in? They look abroad into the world, which lies in wickedness, and see the vices of men — they see murder, drunkenness, uncleanness, envy, strife, railing, sabbath-breaking, and all other prevailing abominations ; and then they come home to themselves and say, " thank God, I am not as other men," I am no gross sinner — no extortioner — no drunkard — nor unclean person ; and then they congratulate themselves, because the comparison issues in their own favour. But is that any evidence that they are right with God ? The thief
may say, thank God, I am not a murderer, but is he the lessamenabletothelaw ? A man in fever may say, thank God, I have not the plague, and yet is he less in danger? And thus, I say, men may be comparing themselves with others who are more openly vicious than themselves, and come to the conclusion that it is all right with them ; but can any reasonable man say, that this is a safe standard, or a safe measure? A dim sighted man, if he be in the midst of persons perfectly blind, may suppose himself to be very discerning, but this is no test of his quick sightedness. Oh ! dear brethren, be not deceived, do not be satisfied with measuring yourselves by the standard of man, but come home to the standard of God — come and examine yourselves in the light of truth. II. Another way, by which men impose on themselves is by comparing themselves with what they once were. You were once a swearer, you have given up the habit — you were once a drunkard, but now you totally abstain — I you were once a sabbath-breaker, now.
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you no longer work your horses or ser-
vants on the Lord's day unnecessarily ; you once totally neglected the bible and prayer, now you are in the habit of reading it daily, and of daily being on your knees, and this satisfies you — you are better than you once were, and you conclude that it is well with you, Oh ! you may be awfully deceived. You may be another man — quite a different person — and yet not a new creature in Christ Jesus, and unless you are a new creature in Christ Jesus, you are as entirely under condemnation and the wrath of God as you were in the days when you were openly profane ; your case is like that person in consumption who sometimes feels that he has made a rally, and thinks he is getting well, when his disease is still consuming his vitals. Sin unpardoned, and sin unmodified, is destroying your poor soul, while there is an outward amendment, your state is most dangerous, the more dangerous because you are less likely to be aroused to a sense of your danger : you deceive yourselves — Oh ! may God undeceive you. Another false measure or balance by which men deceive themselves is the estimation they are held in by others. I do not mean to say that a good name is to be despised ; the Scripture tells us that it is " better than precious ointment ;" that is, when a man has a good reputation, it sheds a sweeter savour around him than precious ointment ; and so important is it, that Saint Paul tells us that a man is not to be employed as a Minister in the Church of God unless he has a good report among those that are
without. But then it is possible for him to be well reported of by others while a heavy woe may be hanging over his head, " Woe to you when all men shall speak well of you." Therefore, he should not be satisfied with the good opinion of others, he should take care to be like Demetrius — 3d Epistle of John, 12 — " Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself." He is well
reported of, not by man only, but by God ; if man has signed him, God has countersigned him ; and unless God countersign our state, character, and name, my dear brethren, we will never pass in the judgment. We are warned sufficiently against this delusion in Psalm xlix. 18. where the Psalmist is describing the man who has deceived himself by his own estimate of himself, and by the estimate that others formed of him — " Whilst he lived he blessed his soul, and men will praise thee when thou dost well to thyself." But what follows ? " He shall go to the generation of his fathers ; they shall never see light,'' — his wicked fathers who died in sin. The man who basked in the sunshine of his own approbation, and of all around him, as soon as he dies, goes down to the blackness of darkness for ever. He is perhaps still praised where he is not, he is tormented where he is. What an awful fall is this ! — and this is the result of a man measuring himself by his own standard, and the standard of others, instead of the standard of the sanctuary.
Lastly — Men weigh themselves in false balances when they weigh themselves not by the spirit, but by the letter of God's law. This was the balance in which the rich young ruler, whom we read of in the Gospel of St. Mark weighed himself, (x. 17.) He came to Jesus and asked, " Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life ? and Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the commandments, do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, all these have I observed from my youth." The man weighed himself in the balance of the letter of the law ; and yet this man came short ; being weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, he was found wanting. One thing he lacked, and that was the one thing needful, with-
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out which he could not enter into life ; he had no real faith, no real love. ow, it is thought by some, that this young ruler was no other than Saul of Tarsus. However this may be, we know that Saul
of Tarsus was precisely in the same state of mind before his conversion. He tells us in Romans, vii. 9. — (it is a remarkable verse) — " I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came sin revived, and I died." That seems strange. How could Paul be without the law ? Surely he was under the law, and surely he knew the law ; he was a man acquainted with the Scriptures, and yet he says he was alive without the law ! Why does he speak so ? Because, my dear brethren, the mere letter of the law without the spirit, is not the law. If the dead body of a man is brought into a house, you do not say the man is come into the house ; the spirit is gone, and there is nothing but the body ; you do not say the man is there ; and so Paul carried the letter of the law written on his phylacteries, and yet the law was not there ; but he said when the living commandment came, the commandment in the spirit, then sin revived, I was " weighed in the balances and found wanting." When he discovered the law was spiritual, then he says " I am carnal ;" the moment you discover that the law is spiritual, you cry out " I am carnal, sold under sin," I that was comely in my own eyes, now I am black when I view myself in the glass of God's holy law. This is the right standard. But to bring this standard before you more distinctly, I would say, that the example of the Lord Jesus Christ is a personification and full expression of all the holiness of the spirtual law of God : and perhaps there is no way in which we
can discover our own utter short coming more fully, than when we look at ourselves in the light of the example of our blessed Saviour. We might, by the means of the rules of art discover the defects of a painting, but if we could set a
perfect painting beside it, this would discover the defects of the picture still more distinctly. ow, if you set that perfect Lord Jesus Christ by your side, you see what a vile wretch you are — what a thing of nought you are, when you look at him who is clothed with righteousness from head to foot — who is adorned with all the beautiful ornaments of the grace of the Holy Ghost, Oh ! then you see how short you come in every respect ; you will no longer appear anything in your own eyes. But, what wondrous grace is here, that while the spotless purity of the Lord Jesus condemns us, at the same time we see something in him to justify us freely from all our offences, and make us rejoice in his perfect righteousness, for it is written of him 1st John v. — " This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ, not by water only," water, emblematical of his spotless purity, " but with water and blood ;" he came with blood, he is not only white but ruddy, and this blood speaks pardon and peace to every believing soul, so that the very holy example which condemns the sinner, as soon as it is apprehended by faith, is seen to be a means of justifica-
tion ; for it was by this holiness that Jesus was the Lamb without blemish and without spot, and without that spotless purity he could not have made a full satisfaction for sin. But yet, my dear brethren, even after God has taught us by his Holy Spirit to renounce our own righteousness altogether, and to cleave unto the righteousness of Christ, even after we have been convicted by God's holy and spiritual law of our total depravity and corruption, and inability to present to God any righteousness of our own, even after we have closed with the offer of the Gospel, and received adoption into the family of God and been made his dear children — I say, after we have gone on by the grace of God to do some duties in his service, and to mortiiy some of these evils that dwell
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in our evil hearts, even then this self-deception pursues us, and if we are not on the watch, we shall be deceived again to think ourselves something when we are nothing. Against this device of Satan our Lord warns and guards us in St. Luke xvii. JO, " So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are
commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do." Our Lord and Master has never gained any thing by our services — we have never made him our debtor. But when we have gained some victory over our spiritual enemies, and have been employed a little in his service, we begin to imagine that we have some strength and goodness of our own, Oh ! how sadly do we there deceive ourselves. There is nothing that detects this spirit so much as that very thing we were speaking of in the commencement ; when we see an unfruitful or fallen brother, we are ready to take up stones and cast them at him : oh ! this discovers the pride and self-sufficiency of our vile hearts ; — the right spirit to be in, is that which is beautifully and scripturally expressed in the following verse : Perhaps for his name, Poor worm as I am, Some works I shall finish with glad loving aim ; 1 then, which is best, Shall at his dear breast, As at the beginning, find pardon and rest. Oh, this is to come out of self, which should be the continual aim and effort of the child of God while serving his Master, that he may, with St. Paul, " Serve the Lord with all humility of mind." We would just observe, in conclusion, that these views of himself do not ex-
clude the Christian from the privilege of knowing that he is a child of God. The men of this world, who are something in their own eyes — who are boasting themselves in their own righteousness, would think it the greatest presumption possible for a man to believe, that he is
a child of God. But, do you suppose, that the holy Apostle St. John, that pattern of meekness and humility, was uttering a vain boast with respect to himself and others, when he writes, in his first epistle, iii. I, 2, " Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God ; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God ; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but [we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." There is then perfect consistency between man sincerely regarding himself as nothing, and yet knowing assuredly that he is a son of God, an heir of glory, honor, and immortality. Further, a man may be conscious of his integrity in the service of Christ his Master, and yet, all the time, esteem himself nothing ; for in 2nd Corinthians i. 12, we find St. Paul declaring, " our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the
world." Here is no glorying in self, but in the grace of God, who worketh all in all. And farther still, a man may form a sober estimate of the gifts and graces that God has bestowed on him, and yet not look on himself as any thing, as we find the same Apostle in 2nd Corinthians, xii. 11, "For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing." Oh ! my dear brethren, let us learn this lesson — let us learn it experimentally — let it be engraven on the tables of our hearts — that we are nothing, and that Jesus Christ is all in all. Paul had learned it well when he wrote, " But God forbid that I should glory, save in tne cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Thus, in the faithful servant of Christ is fulfilled the
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word of the prophet, Jer. iv. 2, " Thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory." Oh ! let me ask you, this day, in
whom are you blessing yourselves ? Do you feel any satisfaction with yourselves, and with jour own attainments ? In whom is it that you feel satisfaction ? Is it in Jesus? — is it in Christ Jesus that you are glorying ? Oh ! remember the case referred to in the Psalm : there was a man who blessed his soul without any
regard to a covenant God and Mediator, and the curse of God was upon him all the time, and the curse of God overtook him. But if you are blessing yourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be blessed indeed, for God is waiting to bless you — he will increase and multiply blessings on your head — he will bless you with the blessing of heaven above — blessings of the deep that lieth under, with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, and at last will bless you with eternal joy and felicity at his right hand.
" I cannot but think, with what unspeakable joy old Simeon died, when, after long waiting for the consolation of Israel, he had now seen the Lord's Christ ; when I hear him say, 'Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word ; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Methinks I should see his soul ready to fly out of his mouth, in a heavenly ravishment ; and even then upon its wing towards its glory ; for now his eyes saw, and his arms embraced, in
God's salvation his own, in Israel's glory his own. How gladly doth he now see death, when he hath the Lord of Life in his bosom ! Or -how can he wish to close up his eyes with any other object? Yet, when I have seriously considered it, I cannot see wherein our condition comes short of his. He saw the child Jesus but in his swathing bands, when he was but now entering upon the great work of our redemption; we see him after the full
accomplishment of it, gloriously triumphing in heaven - He saw him buckling on his armour, and entering into his lists : we see him victorious : ' Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah ? this, that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save ?' He could only say, ' To us a child is born, to us a son is given ;' we can say, ' Thou hast ascended on high ; thou hast led captivity captive ; thou hast received gifts for men.' It is true, the difference is, he saw his Saviour with bodily eyes, we with mental ; but the eyes of our faith are no less sure and unfailing, than those of sense. Lord, why should not I, whose eyes have no less seen thy salvation, say, ow let thy servant depart, not in peace only, but in a joyful sense of my instant glory?" — Hall's Century of Divine Breathings.
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