Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in the creation and direction of the natural world; so remarkable the interposition of his providence in the revolutions of kingdoms; that he who cannot thence infer the necessity of fearing him, and the wisdom of being subject to him, has neither the faith of a Christian, nor the understanding of a man. And now, if to the foregoing considerations we add this, the last and greatest of all; that the same God who visits us here in this life, is to judge us in another; all other fear will resolve itself into the fear of him; according to that precept of our blessed Saviour, I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him. But then you are to understand with all this, that our religion is not intended Jo make life melancholy and miserable, but rather to make us happier by making us wiser, and to keep us in safety by bringing us nearer unto God. It teaches the necessity of a reasonable fear; the wisdom of a voluntary subjection; a fear which brings security, and a subjection which leads to liberty.

If, after what I have said, there should be any here present, who have not the fear of God, and will not be persuaded to it; I ,must warn them of one thing, which perhaps they have not considered. I give them to know, then, that no man born into this world can live without fear. If he does not fear God, he shall not escape fearless, as he thinks; for he shall certainly fear something else. The fear of God would do him good, and make him happy: but if he does not fear God, he shall fall into some other fear, which will do him no good at all, but haunt him like an evil spirit, to make his enjoyments worthless, and his life miserable.

You are to observe, then, that he who does not fear God, shall fear death. When God is banished from the mind, the hope of immortality goes with him, and the fear of death prevails: and death being an enemy whom no man can cheat, or conquer, or avoid; the mind- that is apprehensive of him falls under a sort of bondage, for which the whole world has no remedy.

When a man does not fear God, he is possessed with a servile fear of the world; he becomes the slave of fashion, in his mind, his body, and his morals: he dreads nothing so much as to be thought little and insignificant, by those who give laws to the fashionable part of society. He looks up to the opinion of the world with all that anxious reverence with which a Christian looks to the word of God. How many do we meet with, who are miserable, unless they are seen where the world is, and go where the world goes! How many renounce their judgment, ox conceal it, and that with respect to the greatest subjects, if it contradicts the current of the day!

You are to consider farther, that he who does not fear God shall fear poverty. The fear of God gives a man the hope of an inheritance in another world; therefore he is easy if he has but little propeity in this. But where this world is all a man hath, and all he is to expect, he will fly from poverty with the loss of his conscience, and at the hazard of his soul, if he is in the higher class of life: if he is. a profligate of the lowest order, he will expose himself daily to the iron hand of justice, for the sake of some stolen possession, and all his enjoyments are embittered with the terrors of the halter and the gibbet.

All cases are not equally bad: yet I may venture to pronounce, that although many do not entirely forget God, yet, in proportion as the fear of God is wanting in the heart, in that same proportion will these other fears enter in and dwell there: and a thoughtful and sensible person can no more enjoy himself in such company, than if he were daily beset with ruffians and murderers. All the base passions which murder a man's soul, murder his peace at the same time: and this is what he gets by a dislike to the fear of God. Therefore, as it is the worst of folly to live without the fear of God, it must be the beginning of wisdom to have it, and be directed by it. But folly in this world leads to misery in another; which is the most dreadful consideration of all. Who can express or conceive the amazement of those, who have lived here without the fear of God, when they shall see the day of vengeance approaching, and all the terrors of the last judgment gathering round about them! Then shall that fear of God come upon them, which now for a while they can put away: and the hearts of those, who now seem to care for nothing, shall sink and melt away within them. What would they then give, if they had but been wise enough to attend to instruction while the day of grace lasted? What will then become of their proud speeches, and their looks of defiance? when they shall remember their folly in the bitterness of their souls, and be afraid to lift up their heads towards heaven, where their Judge is now revealed to every eye, no longer to be despised and insulted, but attended with-millions of the heavenly host; seated on a throne, rendered majestic and terrible, with dark clouds and flames of fire,

For the present hour, we talk of these things, as distant from us; yet when they shall be displayed before our sight, the interval between,this time and that will seem but as a moment. What are we then to do, but to set the Lord alway before us; who, jf he is our fear now, he will be our defence then: and in the mean time, we shall find our fears of all other things lessening every day, and our hopes increasing; till an acquaintance with God shall give us a foretaste of the peace and liberty of that glorious kingdom, in which we shall serve him without fear% in holiness and fight eousness.

SERMON VII.

HONOUR THE KIXG. 1 PETER l\. 17.

X HE precept in the text, which at this time deserves the serious consideration ofall Christian people in this kingdom, is founded on that common doctrine of the Scripture, that kings and rulers have their authority from God, and that upon this account they are to receive honour from men.

To prevent all mistakes, give me leave to observe, in the first place, that it can never hurt kings and rulers to tell them so. Are the clergy the worse men, when they consider themselves as the servants of God? May they do as they please, because they are the ministers and stewards of a Master, who is no respecter of persons, and from whom, if they fail, they will receive the greater condemnation: That would be a strange inference: and the same observation is applicable to civil governors. All power being originally inherent in God as his own property, power is a talent committed by him to man: and as the abuse of this is more extensive in its ill effects than the abuse of any private endowment, it must be strictly accounted for; therefore this doctrine can do no harm: there is no flattery in it; it is a fearful consideration. With respect to ourselves, the consequence is plain;

« AnteriorContinuar »