Have you faith? have it to yourself before God. Happy is he that comdemns not himself in that thing which he allows.…
I. THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE CAUTION IN THE TEXT IS BUILT.
1. There are some things which are in themselves indifferent, but are sinful by accident.
(1) When they are indulged to excess; when we spend too much time about them; or indulge them to a degree that is injurious to the health of body or peace of mind.
(2) Indifferent things may become unlawful by being unseasonable. Not only the beauty and success, but the very lawfulness of an action often depends upon opportunity.
(3) Another way whereby an indifferent action may become sinful is its giving offence to others,
2. There are other kinds of actions which some men inadvertently carry into common practice that are not only circumstantially but essentially evil in themselves. And the great danger of contracting any habits of this kind lies here, that they wear off a sense of the evil of them.
II. IN WHAT MANNER THIS HAPPINESS IS TO BE ATTAINED.
1. Let us see in what manner bad habits are originally contracted.
(1) Sometimes by implicitly following the examples of others; especially their superiors; especially if these have been distinguished for their wisdom and piety.
(2) Another thing that often draws men unawares into a sinful course of actions is precipitancy or inattention to the nature and consequences of them. Before we indulge in any kind of temper or conduct that is like to become a habit, we should ask ourselves three questions.
(a) What is it? is it in its own nature good, bad, or indifferent?
(b) Whither does it tend? what influence will it have on the temper of my mind or the health of my body?
(c) Where will it end? how will it appear in the review? and what will be the certain consequence if it settle into a habit?
(3) Men are often betrayed into an unlawful conduct by venturing boldly on the very verge of vice or going to the utmost bounds of what is lawful. The precise limits of virtue and vice are indiscernible; or, rather, the passage from the one to the other is through so easy and gradual a shade that men oftentimes insensibly slide out of the former into the latter, and are got far into the regions of vice before they are aware. And the danger of this appears still greater when we consider the nearer approach we make to a sinful object, the stronger is its attraction.
(4) Another common source of wrong conduct, and what frequently betrays men into bad habits, is the undue influence of the appetites and passions, in opposition to the dictates of conscience and reason.
(5) Another thing that deceives some unwary minds into a wrong course of conduct is the false names that are given to sinful actions, whereby the evil of them is concealed and their deformity disguised.
(6) The most common reason that men so generally condemn themselves in the things which they allow, is because they forget to form their judgment by the principles and their lives by the rules of Christianity.
2. How they are to be conquered.
(1) The difficulty of the attempt. The reason that men so seldom succeed in their attempt to break off a bad habit is because they do not set about it in good earnest or in a right way.
(2) If we would succeed in it we must often renew and reinforce our resolutions to persevere.
(a) As all bad habits are contracted by frequent repetition of bad actions, so they are conquered by a frequent repetition of the opposite good ones.
(b) Temptations are more weakened by declining than opposing them.
(c) To suppress the first motions and avoid the remote occasions of sin is the easiest way to conquer it.
(d) Let us especially beware of indolence, self-confidence, in a time of prosperity. For when we are least apprehensive of danger it is then oftentimes the nearest.
III. ILLUSTRATE THE TRUTH OF THE PROPOSITION CONTAINED IN THE TEXT, AND SHOW WHEREIN THE HAPPINESS HERE MENTIONED DOTH CONSIST. This happiness may refer both to the present and future world.
1. With regard to the present world the man who condemns not himself in the thing which he alloweth is happy in two respects especially.
(1) This gives him the best evidence he can have of his security. One who takes so much care to please God must have the fear of Him before his eyes and the love of Him in his heart.
(2) This constant care to keep our heart and conduct conformable to the Word of God will inspire us with great freedom and comfort of mind when we have access to Him in prayer. And what more comprehensive happiness can we conceive than this?
2. This happiness reaches beyond the bounds of time, and will attend us in the world of spirits, where we shall be happy beyond all that words can paint or thought conceive. Conclusion:
1. How well is Christianity adapted to promote the happiness of civil society! If it does not permit us, even in matters of indifference, to do anything that would unnecessarily offend our neighbour, this implies our duty to cultivate the greatest tenderness and good-will towards him.
2. We see that, considering the condition of our natures as frail beings and our connection with creatures as imperfect as ourselves, we are under an indispensable necessity of exercising continual circumspection and frequent self-denial and patience in order to keep our conscience clear.
3. Let us take care, then, what habits we contract, and diligently examine those we have already contracted.
(J. Mason, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.