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Chapter XXXIII.

God Has No Respect To The Works Of Any One; But Judges Of Works According To The Heart.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but the Lord pondereth the hearts.Prov. 21:2.

When the prophet Samuel, by the commandment of God, went to anoint David king, he entered the house of Jesse, and offered to anoint his first-born: but the Lord said to him: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him. For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7.

2. By this example God declares, on the one hand, that he has no regard to any man's person, be he ever so great and eminent, when his heart is destitute of piety, love, faith, and humility; and on the other, that he esteems persons and works according to the inward spirit and intention of the mind, and thence allows or disallows them, according to Prov. 21:2. Moreover, all gifts and endowments, how considerable soever they be, and how admirable, great, and glorious they may appear in the eyes of men, in nowise please the Lord, unless they be accompanied with a pure heart, a heart that has a steady respect to the honor of God and the profit and edification of our neighbor; and which, at the same time, is freed from pride and arrogance, from self-love, and self-interest, and any of those sinister views which are apt to mingle with the works of a Christian.

3. Consider the example of Lucifer, the fairest and most glorious angel which heaven contained. No sooner did he stain the gifts of God with self-love and self-honor (not considering that he was bound to advance thereby the glory of God, who had conferred them upon him), than he was transformed into a devil, and, being cast down from heaven, was shut out from the glorious presence of God.

4. If ever, therefore, our works shall be acceptable to God, they ought to proceed from pure faith towards God, and sincere love to our neighbor, being cleared from the spots of self-love, self-honor, and self-interest, as much as possibly can be in this state of infirmity. To this end St. Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1): that is, I am altogether vain and unprofitable. In truth, God regards not fluency of speech, but an humble heart; not arts, learning, wit, or ability, but he weighs the spirit of a man, whether it be bent upon promoting its own honor and interest, or the glory of God and the profit of men. Nor does God regard a faith by which mountains might be removed, and the eyes of the beholders be attracted from all sides, if a man seek thereby his own honor and glory. But the Lord looks with the greater affection upon him who “is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at his word.” Isaiah 66:2. In short, if a man distribute 109 all that he has to the poor, or give up his body to be burned, it will be all to no purpose, if the act be sullied with self-honor and self-complacency. It is the heart only and the inward intention of the mind, which the Lord regards. This fully appears from many instances recorded in Scripture.

5. Both David and Saul attended the service of God, but with a different effect. 1 Sam. 15:9; 2 Sam. 24:25. David, Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:13), Nebuchadnezzar, and Peter, after repentance, obtained mercy; Saul, Pharaoh, and Judas, on the contrary, fell short of it, on account of the different principle which swayed their minds. Pharaoh (Exod. 9:27) and Saul (1 Sam. 15:24), no less than Manasseh, used the same prayer, “Lord, I have sinned!” but they received different rewards. The prayer of Hezekiah, Joshua, and Gideon (Isa. 38:7; Josh. 10:12; Judg. 6:37), by which they required a sign from heaven, is approved and praised; the Pharisees doing the same are rejected and reproved. Matt. 12:38; 16:4. The Publican and the Pharisee prayed both in the temple; but both are not approved. Luke 18:14. The Ninevites fasted (Jonah 3:5, 10); the Jews and Pharisees did the same (Matt. 6:16): but the former were received, and the latter rejected. “Wherefore (say they) have we fasted, and thou seest not?” Isa. 58:3. The poor widow, who cast into the treasury but two mites, is praised by Christ; whereas, he that gave more is not. Luke 21:3. Herod and Zaccheus both rejoice at the sight of Christ; but they had most different rewards. Luke 19:6; 23:8.

6. All this proceeds from no other cause than the heart, and that moving principle by which it is swayed, and which God chiefly regards. He accepts those works only which flow from unfeigned faith, sincere love, and true humility; for whatever our gifts or works may be, if pride, self-love, and the contagion of filthy lucre, infect them, they are at once rejected by the Lord.

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