Page images

that the Fear of Man lays a greater Restraint upon us, than the Fear of God, because we dare not venture to do that in the Presence of our FellowCreatures, which we presume to do in the Sight of our great Creator. Again, when we affect to appear to the World religious and virtuous, but, instead of taking Care to be what we appear, put on the Sheep's Cloathing only to hide the Wolf, or the Fox, or the Goat, that lurks within, we then shew, that the Fear of Man has greater Efficacy upon us, than the Fear of God; since the one is strong enough to make us Hypocrites, but the other has not Power to make us inwardly and fincerely good. Again, when we are ashamed of owning the Principles of our Religion, though we really do believe them, and, for fear of incurring the Censure of Preciseness and Singularity, affect to appear worse than we really are, we then likewife Thew, that the Fear of Men awes' us more, than the Fear of God; since the former causes us to smother that open Profession, which the latter requires, but cannot prevail with us to make. Again, when we fall in with the unwarrantable Curtoms of the World, and comply with the modish Follies and Vices of the Age, or Place, wherein we live, purely for Fear of being thought unfashionable, or ill-bred; this undue Compliance is another Proof of our fearing Men more than God; since our Conformity to the World is the Effect of the one, whilst the other has not Efficacy enough to make us be transformed, by the renewing of our Mind, to do what is the good, and acceptable, and perfeet Will of God. Once more ; when Tribulation or Persecution ariseth because of the Word, and, by and by, many are offended ; when Men abjure their Religion, to save their Fortunes, or their Lives, and, to avoid a present Trouble, run headlong into such pernicious Practices, as will render


them obnoxious to everlasting Perdition, it is undeniable, that, in this Instance, they are under greater Apprehensions from Man than God; since bodily Death, which is the utmost that Men can threaten, seems so formidable, that, to escape it, they run the Risque of that'eternal Death, which shall be the final Lot of those, who, denying Christ before Men, shall be denied by him, before his Father, which is in Heaven.

As evident therefore as it is, that Men commit those Sins in secret, which they dare not commit openly, and take more Care to appear, than really to be devoạt; that, in a loose and licentious Age, they chuse rather to break the Laws of God, than to be out of Fashion, and to disown themselves under the Influence of Religion, than incur the Imputation of Singularity; that, in Times of Perfecution, they fall away from the Truth, and make Shipwreck of their Faith, when Storms arise ; fo evident it is, that, in the Conduct of their Lives, they are more swayed by the Fear of Man, than they are by the Fear of God. But now what Reafon can be given for this unreasonable and extravagant Conduct ? The best that can be given, is but a bad one ; but the best, as I take it, is this,

- That we generally look upon Men, as implacable in their Resentments, but God, as gracious, and merciful, and apt to forgive.

- Should “ we therefore offend Men by a ftiff and unfeason• able Virtue, we might incur the Effects of their " Displeasure, and, should they once be angry with “ us, we might not be able, with all our Care, to « recover their good Graces; or should an ill © Opinion be formed, or an ill Character once « spread abroad of us, it might, perhaps, be out “ of our Power to regain a good one : The Dan

ger therefore of offending Men being so great, 6 and the Mischief of it so irretrievable, we can


“ not be too careful to avoid it. But, on the “ other Hand, if we should, by any sinful Com“ pliance, offend God, besides that the Punish“ ment is at a greater Distance, we have sufficient " Grounds to believe, that we can prevent it by “ Repentance : For be will not deal with us after

our Sins, if we renounce them, nor reward us according to our Iniquities, if we are reclaimed from “ them; as the Heaven is high above the Earth, so

great is bis Mercy above the Mercy of Men: As far as the East is from the West, so far, upon our

Repentance, will be remove our Transgressions from " us :" And therefore, since God is so flow to Anger, and so ready to forgive ; fince Men are fo easy to be offended, and so difficult to be intreated ; this exceeding Mercy of God, which the Psalmist thought a good Ground for his being feared, is often the Reason why Man is more dreaded than God.

The Prophet, however, has, in a very lively Manner, both confuted and exposed this wicked and unreasonable Conduct; Who art thou, that thou fhouldest be afraid of Man, that shall die, and of the Son of Man, which fall be made as Grass, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that bath stretched forth the Heavens, and laid the Foundations of the Earth? Who art thou? If thou be a rational Creature, as God designed thee, think if there be any Manner of Equality between the two Objects, between him, that created the whole Universe out of nothing, and him, whose Breath is in bis Nostrils, and that Breath no longer there, than his Creator is pleased to lend it ; and, if thou art ashamed of the Comparison, then fear not the strongest Confederacy of Men, as the same Prophet excellently exhorts, nor be afraid ; but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be thy Fear, and let him be thy Dread.


The Observation, which Solomon has made, is a very true one, that the Fear of Man bringeth a Snare, expofes us to Temptations, and makes us liable to be seduced from our Duty ; but whoso putteth his Trust in the Lord, mall be safe. For, how shocking must the Frowns and Menaces of great Men be to such, as are destitute of this Armour of Proof, which fortifies the Mind, and works it to a Firmness, like that of the three Israelites in Babylon, who, when the Question was put, whether they would worship the Image, or be cast into the Furnace, replied, with all Composedness, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee about this Matter ; i. e. in an Instant we can resolve what we are to do in this case, because we were resolved, long ago, to suffer any Thing, rather than God's Displeasure ? How galling muft the Fears, about the Things of this Life, be to one, who carries no Eye to the Blessings of another ? How must every cross Accident grieve him, and every Night Amiction wound him to the Heart ? But he, that fears God, has a Preservative against every Thing of this kind : Before they come, he fears them not, because he is secure of the good Providence of God on his Side ; and, when they are come, he has wherewithal to break their Blow, because he has Assurance of Recompence, at least, if not of Relief. But, above all, how amazing must the Fear of Death be to him that fears noc God ? Death! that, like a dark Passage to a comfortless Prison, puts an End to all that he would have, and a Beginning to all that he would not. What Agonies of Dread and Horror must every Reflection upon this inject into his guilty Soul ? But he that lives under the Sense and Fear of God, has prepared his Mind, before-hand, to meet the Prince of Terrors, and, seeing it is appointed for all Men once to die, pays this last Debt of Nature with


Chearfulness, and leaves the Stage of Life, as one that is affured of his Passage to a blessed Eternity. : Well therefore might holy Job say, that the Fear of the Lord, that is Wisdom; since it not only makes us easy, by curing our other Fears, while we are here, but happy likewise, by securing our chief Concern and Interest hereafter. " This then is “ Wisdom, not in Semblance, but in Deed; not “ Parcel-Wisdom, but Wisdom entire ; not Wif“ dom for the bye, but Wisdom for the main ; “ not Wisdom for a Day, but Wisdom for ever." All our other Attainments will avail us nothing. Our Knowledge of Arts and Sciences, of Laws and Policies, of Trade and Business, will never make us wise, till the fear of God presides over that Knowledge, and directs it to the Purposes of an holy Life. And therefore we may well be allowed to enquire, where is the Place of this Wisdom? And by what Means shall we poffels our Souls with this beneficial Passion ?

1. The Royal Psalmist has told us his own Practice, and therein given us a very wholefome Admonition ; I have set the Lord always before me, had a continual Sense of his presence with, and Inspection over me, and therefore, when I consider, I ans afraid of him. And, indeed, if the Confideration of never fo mean a Person's being present with us is sometimes sufficient to restrain us from a sinful or indecent Action, how much more careful ought we to be of our Behaviour, before that Holy and Divine Majesty, who fills Heaven and Earth, and whose Notice nothing can efcape? Do we then really consider what it is to have an eternal God a constant Witness and Observer of all our Actions, and even of all our Thoughts and Intentions ; that a perfect Account of them is kept, that they are entered down in a Book, which, we are told, will be opened at the great Day of Accounts, and out


« PreviousContinue »