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be thoroughly persuaded that all this prime energy in producing that fear seeming attentiveness to the preaching towards God which is not according of the word, results from a hearty ap to his word. We allude to the opipreciation of the worth of the ordi- nion of merit, the attachment of worth nances, we should be warranted in to this or that action, which is ordientertaining such an opinion of piety, narily described as self-righteousness. as would be a noble balance against | You may see at once that any supthe mass of national degeneracy. Now posed method of justification, which is we cannot but be aware, that an army not in the strictest sense scriptural, of motives which have no connection can be based only on precepts which with godliness conspire to produce are altogether human. If I were to this crowding of our churches. It look unto God as the glorious Being would be beside our purpose, and in- from whom I have been alienated by consistent with our subject, to dwellsin, both original and actual; and if I on the power that particular preaching will contemplate him as having reconmay possess to draw together multi- ciled me to himself through Jesus the tudes, who come only to be fascinated Mediator ; and if, conscious of the total by the rhetoric of the speaker ; but incapacity of restoring myself to the apart from this, and the like cause of forfeited possession, I will thankfully close attendance upon public worship, receive, as the produce of the blood suppose that it could be computed and righteousness of the Saviour, that how many come to church because it boon which is unattainable by all the is customary_because they have been might of human strength, then the brought up in the habit-because it is Bible from beginning to end is my counted respectable-because it sets warrantry, that there shall be the putan example to inferiors—and think ye ting away all my transgressions from not the number who fall under such the sight of the Creator; and being description would make a large addi- admitted into membership with Christ, tion in the sum total of church fre- there should be no condemnation to quenters of England ? What is to be me for my countless misdoings : and said of that fear of God which seems from this reception of pardon through to discover itself in its attention to or the work of the Redeemer, applied dinances, but which is only dictated by faith to myself, will spring that by habit—or respect for appearances fear of God, which alone he apor concern for religion as an engine proves in the children of men, deof state? If we could mark each indi- scribed in the Psalmist's address, vidual, as he enters the house, who is “there is forgiveness with thee; that only brought hither by custom-by thou mayest be feared.” But if on the feeling that it is decorous to come the other hand, I attempt, either in -by the sense that it is right that old whole, or in part, to justify myself; institutions should be upheld, why and if I throw in, what I count, the since in the whole assemblage of such weight of human performance against motives there is no real recognition of the weight of divine requirement, then the authority of Jehovah, we should be it is morally impossible that I can bound to say of all those who thus have such a fear of God as he derender to God a spurious and inferior mands from his creatures, the conhomage, that their fear towards him sciousness being wanting of what was“ taught by the precept of men.” God has done for me, and, therefore,
Now you will observe, up to this also the sentiment which should be point we have taken no account of the awakened in return. And whether it motive or sentiment which is the be our attention to ordinances, or the
honourable bearing of our conduct in bath observances, or foremost in ob-" society, or the strictness of our mora- servances of religion, or scrupulously lity, or the freedom of our almsgiving upright in all the dealings of life, they that we look with a self-righteous hear the Creator saying to them in complacency, it is undeniable that we the language of stern condemnation, substitute the precepts of men for the “ Their fear towards me is taught by precepts of God; justification being the precept of men.” set forth as a thing of grace, whereas We thus perceive that it must be we proceed on the assumption that it both an easy thing and a common, is a thing of debt.
that there should be a fear of God to So, then, it is easy to have some which man's precept is teacher. It sort of awe and reverence to the Al- needs only that we have a garbled mighty, and to regard him as mysteri- system of theology, that we depart ous, and his greatness thrown around from the plain sense of Scripture, and him as tremendous; but if our fear introduce the pride of a fallen nature, of God allows the harbourage of the and there will quickly be admiring thought, that we can make our own partizans who shall set themselves to peace with God, by whom are we fear God according to rules so congetaught this fear? Shall not God's nial to their feelings. And thus we word by his prophet be applicable to may have thronged churches, and acourselves ? “Woe to the rebellious tive societies, and well disciplined children that take counsel, but not of levees, and the aspect of the commume, and a cover to cover them, but not 'nity may, to a certain extent, be that of my Spirit.” Self-righteousness takes which will follow on the prevalence of counsel, but not of God; and self- true God-fearing principles; but forrighteousness covers with a covering, asmuch as the opinion of merit is but not of God's Spirit. We turn either lost, or avowedly opposed to ourselves to human systems—and we those who thus act on a false view of follow the banner of a pharasaical justification, their fear of God must leader—and we listen to the sugges- be a totally different fear to that which tions of our proud heart—and so we looks to him as unapproachable, exput far from us the beautiful truth, cept through a Surety-totally differ“ By grace are ye saved through faith; ent from the fear the Bible inculcates; and that not of yourselves: it is the and, therefore, not being that which gift of God: not of works, lest any the Bible teaches, it can only be that man should boast.” And whatsoever which men's precept teaches. be the fear of God, which accompa- Now, we think that the cases of the nies or results from this infidel endea- fear towards God, which is taught by vour to work out our own justification, the precept of men, might be further it cannot be the fear which throbs in multiplied. If you went the round the breast of the penitent when he of even the religious world, you would feels that he is healed by the stripes find much of a restless endeavour to of his Surety ; and it cannot, there- bring down godliness to something of fore, he the fear taught by the pre- the human standard. The men who cept of God; and must, therefore, profess piety will, oftentimes, manifest be the fear taught by the precept of an over-weening anxiety to keep piety
And we may look around on within such limits that it shall not those who plume themselves on some raise the dislike of a fashionable passing excellence; and while they neighbourhood—they will be scrupuquestion not, they have the right fear lous as to what the men around them of God, seeing they are rigid in Sab- count enthusiasm—they will not push
religion to such an extreme as that | Our simple business is, therefore, to.
that the fear must be a defecputting forth exaggerated portraits of tive fear. If you take your standard its requirements ; you may all per- from aught else than the Bible, you ceive the risk is considerable in guard- will necessary have a standard which ing against their being over much is low and imperfect; and although righteousness. We may fall fatally you may act unflinchingly up to this into a defective practice, and so fall standard, where it the standard of rastly under the mark in our careful- other men's opinions, or long practice Dess to avoid shooting above it ; and or custom, you stand accountable for wherever in their endeavours to re- the adoption of the standard. The most commend religion, and make it ac- rigid conformity to a rule furnishes no ceptable in the eyes of unrighte- excuse for the wrongness displayed in ousness, they may set themselves to choosing that rule; and, therefore, if calculate how far the world will allow we entertain in full measure such a them to go, rather than how far the fear towards God, as shall have been Bible requires them to go to deter- bound on us by human instruction, it mine the point at which the irreligious is nevertheless certain, that we have will be disgusted, rather than the not the fear of which God himself appoint up to which God must be served, proves ; the standard being necessabeyond all question they are taking rily a defective standard, therefore the their fear of God from the precept of fear which comes up most rigidly to men, seeing that the boundary line of it, must still necessarily be a defective this fear lies where the world will be fear. Oh, if God requires of us that offended in place of agreed, in all we fear him as so hating sin, and so where God must be obeyed.
loving man that he spared not his own But we leave it to yourselves to de- Son, but gave him up for an expiation; termine other instances of fear towards and if into our fear he would have us God taught by the precept of men. to gather the elements of holiness—all We have advanced enough to make the awe which cannot overlook inigood our position, that the case sup- quity, and a dread of vengeance which posed in our text may exist among impiety to the last despises and reourselves as well as the Jews. We viles, and a horror of transgression so proceed, therefore, briefly, in the Se- grievous to the Being who hath loved cond place, to examine into the fact, with a love which human thought can
TOWARDS God, not compass—then if we bring to him BY MAN'S PRECEPT, 18 a fear which possesses none of these MOST OFFENSIVE IN THE SIGHT OF properties, it is at least only slavish THE ALMIGHTY. We conclude the and never filial—it is just extracted fact of the offensiveness from God's from the idea that God can punish express determination of punishing but man can merit—it is compounded the Jews with a signal punishment of ingredients fetched from the schools
of philosophy, rather than the cross we had free access to the Spirit of the of Calvary—it bows to God as weild- Almighty; and one of the most favouring the thunderbolts, but shows able conclusions is made insupposable, him no homage as bruising and put- of God's fear being taught by man's ing to grief his only beloved Son. And precept, and yet no neglect, and no this is the highest stretch of human contempt having been shown towards teaching. Human teaching is fetched the disclosures of revelation. up from Gethsemane. Oh, if we take But the instant we arrive at this this meagre
and shrivelled and prison- conclusion, there opens before us an house fear, and offer it instead of that immensity of reasons, why a humanly exalted and generous sentiment which taught fear should excite God's anger. throbs to God as a Father, and burns Of all the boons which God has be. to God as a deliverer, what shall we stowed on this apostate and fallen expect but that the Almighty will be creation, we are bound to say that the roused to indignation at the sentiment, Bible is the most noble and most preand bid us away from his presence cious. We bring not into comparison “with a fear taught by the precepts with this illustrious donation, the glo. of men.”
rious sunlight, nor the rich sustenance Secondly, not only is this fear in that is poured forth from the storeitself a defective fear, and, therefore, houses of the earth, nor that exist. offensive to God, but it involves also ence itself by which we soar into coma contempt of revelation ; and on this panionship with angels. The Bible is account as well as on the former most the unfolding of man's immortality, peculiarly incurs the wrath of Jeho- the guide which informs him how he vah. It was noble declaration of may move off triumphant from the Chillingworth, that the Bible—and the contract of temporary sin, and grasp Bible only—is the religion of Protest destinies of unbounded splendour-his ants. If we would adhere to the prin- home, Heaven—and his lifetime, eterciples of the Reformation, Scripture in- nity. It is the Bible which tells us terpreted in its plain grammatical sense, that this rebellious section of God's would be our sole guide in all that unlimited empire is not excluded from has reference to the service of God. the compassions of our Maker ; but And whatever the variety of conflict that the creatures which move on its ing theories, which may have been surface, though they have basely wrung from the pages of inspiration, sepulchred the magnificence of their we are bold to say, that all which has Creator in their corruption, are so dear to do with the fear of the Lord is in their ruin to him who formed them, written as with a sunbeam; and that that he hath bowed down the heavens no man who bringeth a pure and in order that he may open their graves. teachable spirit to the perusal, shall Oh, you have only to think what a fail of attaining the characteristics of change would pass on our race if the that fear. But if the case shall arise Bible were withdrawn, and all its rein which fear towards God is taught vealings swept away, and you arrive by the precept of men, then there must at some faint notion of the worth of be evidently a setting aside of the teach the volume! Take from Christendom ing of the Bible; human precept must the Bible, and you take away the have been, at least, so far substituted moral chart by which alone its pofor divine, that we have received some pulation can be guided. Ignorant of man's statements without bringing the nature of God, and of their own them to the toutchstone of truth, or immortality, tens of thousands would put faith in a motley interpreter when be as mariners beating on the ocean
without the pole-star and the com- would, therefore, wind up our subject pass; and when the tornado of death with one brief word of admonition. In rushed across the waters there should a day when there is no lack of spiritual be heard nothing but the long wild partisanship, be ye diligently careful shriek which tells of the desperate that ye call no man “ Master.” So far shipwreck. It were to shroud the
as you have the opportunity of reearth with more than Egyptian dark- search, take not you theology secondDess—it were to dry up the fountains hand. You have access to the Bible of human happiness-it were to take for yourselves, and the Spirit is ready the tides from the waters and leave to interpret it to yourselves. We them stagnant-and the stars from would have you yield a close and our heavens and leave them in sack- prayerful attention to what you hear cloth-and the verdure from our val from the pulpit, but we would have leys and leave them in barrenness—you then carry it to the closet and and the future all hopelessness, the there examine it by the light of revemaniac's revelry, and then the fiend's lation. God forbid that any one imprisonment–if you would annihi- among you should pin his faith upon late that precious Volume which tells his minister. If he teach nothing but 18 of God and of Christ, and opens the truth, you would lie open to the up to us immortality, and instructs us charge of being taught by the precepts in duty, and moves us to glory. And of men; if he teach error, he shall be if there be this worth in the Bible, reckoned with for having delivered a and if amid all the gifts of our Maker false message, and you condemned for there be none so wondrous, and none having received it without examinaso inestimable as the Bible, shall it be tion, believing man without appealing questioned, that to show contempt of to God. We bid you, therefore, be the Bible, is calculated to excite more much in the study of Scripture. than ordinary indignation in the Ye will not exhaust Scripture. It is Author of every good and perfect gift? a mine into which he who has dug Oh, then, if he who learns God's fear the deepest will be sure to think himfrom the precepts of men, must have self the farthest from the bottom. undervalued this splendid donation, Compare what you hear with what shall we marvel that the Almighty you read; and then there shall be no should mark him out for especial ven- fear of the precepts of men usurping geance; and that burthened, as he it over the precepts of God. And must be, with the crushing sin of the may the Lord guide you into the contempt of revelation, this should be knowledge of all truth ; may he take a reason for the outpouring of wrath, you instruction into his own hands; "his fear toward God was taught by and whether or no he honoureth the the precept of men.”
minister by enabling him to open to Now on the two accounts thus ex- your the mysteries of the Word, may plained, having shown you, that a he lead you by the Spirit to a clear humanly taught fear is peculiarly of understanding of his will, and to the fensive to God, there remains no rich discovery of the glory of his other point for discussion ; and we kingdom.-Amen.