Page images
PDF
EPUB

ror for

every thing that can hurt us, and endanger our being or happiness. Now, the greatest danger is from the greatest power; for where we are clearly over-matched, we cannot hope to make opposition nor resistance with security and success, to rebel with safety: now, he that apprehends God to be near him, and present to him, believes such a being to stand by him as is possessed of an infinite and irresistible power, and will vindicate all contempt of the divine Majesty, and violation of his laws. If we believe God to be always present with us, fear will continually take hold of us, and we shall say of every place, as Jacob did of Bethel, Surely God is in this place, how dreadful is this place! when we have at any time provoked God, if we believe the just God is at hand to revenge himself, and if we believe the power of his anger, we shall say with David, Pfal. Ixxvi. 7. Thou, even thou, art to be feared, and who may stand before thee when thou art angry? Psal. cxix. 120. My flesh trembleth because of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments:

Sinners, consider this, it is a fearful thing to fall inte the hands of the living God; and every time you fin, you are within his reach. Let then the confideration of God's presence deter us from sin, and quicken us to our duty. The eye and presence of a superior will lay a great restraint upon men; the eye of our prince, our master, or our father, will make us afraid or alhamed to do any thing that is foolish or unseemly: and will we do that under the eye of God, which we should blush to do before a grave or wise person, yea, before a child of a fool? Did but men live under this apprehension, that God is present to them, that an holy and all-seeing eye beholds them, they would be afraid to do any thing that is vile and wicked, to profane and pollute God's glorious name, by a trifling use of it in customary swearing and cursing. Whenever you fin, you affront God to his face, and provoke omnipotent justice, which is at the door, and ready to break in upon you.

And the conlideration of this should especially deter us from secret fins. This is the use the Pralmift here makes of it. If we believe that God searcheth us, and knows us, that he knows our down-fitting, and our up-rising, and understands our thoughts afar of; that he compalleth our path, and our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways; that there is not a word in our tongue, but be knows it altogether; that he hath befet us behind and before; that the darkness hideth not from him, but the night shineth as the day, and the darkness and light are both alike : I say, if we believe this, how should we live in an awful sense of the majesty which is always above us, and before us, and about us, and within us, and is as inseparable from us, as we are from ourselves, whose eye is upon us from the beginning of our lives to the end of our days! Did men believe that God is always with them, that his eye pierceth the darkness, and secs through all those clouds with which they hide and muffle themselves, and pries into the most secret recesses of their hearts ; how would this check and restrain them from devising mischief in their hearts, or in their bed-chamber! The holy presence, and the pure eye of God would be to us a thousand times more than to have our father, or our master, or our prince, or him whom we most revere, to stand by us. Did but men repræfentare sibi Deum, “ make God present to them,” by living under a continual sense of bis presence, they would, as the expresfion of the wise man is, be in the fear of the Lord all day. Magna /pes peccatorum tollitur, fi peccaturis teftis adfiftat: aliquem habeat animus quem vereatur, cujus auctoritate etiam fecretum fuum fan&tius facit ; " The main hope of

finners is to remain undiscovered; let but fome-body be privy to their designs, and they are utterly disappointed: it is fit for the mind of a man to have an

awe of some being, whose authority may render even " its privacy more folemn.” This is the character of wicked men, Psal. lxxxvi. 14. That they have not God before their eyes. One great cause of all the wickedness, and violence, and looseness that is upon the earth, is, they do not believe that God is near them, and stands by thein.

And as the confideration of God's presence should deter us from fin, so it should quicken and animate us to our duty. It is ordinarily a great encouragement to meix to acquit themselves handsomely, to have the eyes of men upon them, especially of those whose applause and approbation they value. God alone is amplum theatrum,

he

he is “ a greater theatre” than the world; and it should be more to us that he stands by us, than if the eyes of all the world were fixed upon us.' Seneca adviseth it as an excellent means to promote virtue, to propound to ourselves, and set before our eyes some eminently virtuous person, as Cato or Lælius, Ut fic tanquam illo Spectante vivamus, do omnia tanquam illo vidente faciamus; “That we may live just as if he were looking upon

us, and do all things just as if he beheld us.” How much greater incitement will it be to us, to think that God looks upon us, and sees us, and really stands by us, than faintly to imagine the presence of Lælius or Cato?

This should have an influence upon all the duties we perform, and the manner of performing them, that we do it to him who stands by us, and is familiarly acquainted with us, and is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. This Cic. in l. 2. de leg. looks upon as a great principle of religion, Sit igitur hoc perfuafum civibus, do qualis quisque fit, quid agat, quid in se admittat, qua mente, qua pietate religiones colet, deos' intueri, do piorum impiorumque rationem habere: “Let men be tho

roughly persuaded of this, that the Gods observe both “ the disposition and the actions of every particular “ man, what he consents to, what he allows himself in, “ particularly with what meaning, with what degree of “ inward devotion be performs his religious worship; " and that they distinguish between the pious and the u impious.”

II. To encourage our faith and confidence in him. When we are in straits, and difficulties and dangers, God is with us; when trouble is near to us, God is not far from us; where ever we are, how remote soever from friends and companions, we cannot be banished from God's presence; if we dwell beyond the utmolt parts of the sea, ihere his hand leads us, and his right hand holds us. Psal. xvi. 8. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be movet. The confideration of God's presence is the great stay and support of our faith. Pfal xlvi. 1. 2. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.

In the greatest commotions, and the most imminent and threatening dangers, this should charm and allay our fears, that God is a present help.

This was the support of Moses his faith in his sufferings, as the Apostle tells us, Heb. xi. 27. He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

To conclude all, whenever we are under any pressure or trouble, we should rebuke our own fears, and challenge our anxious thoughts with David, Pfal. xlii. 11. Why art thou cast down, O my foul, and why art thou fo di quieted within me ? Truftslill in God; believe that God is with thee, and that omnipotent goodness ftands by thee, who can and will support thee, and relieve thee, and deliver thee when it seems best to his wisdom.

S E R M 0 N

CLV.

The eternity of God.

T

PSAL. XC. 2. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou bedst formed the earth and the world, even from everlafling to everlasting thou art God.

HE immensity and eternity of God are those attributes which relate to his nature, or man

ner of being. Having spoken of the former, I proceed to consider the latter, from these words.

The title of this pfalm is, The prayer of Mofes, the mon of God. He begins his prayer with the acknowledgment of God's providence to his people from the beginning of the world; Lord, thou has been our duellingplace from all generations ; in generation and generation ; so the Hebrew. He was well acquainted with the history of the world, and the providence of God from the beginning of it; and as if he had spoken too little of God, in saying, that his providence had been exercised in all the ages of the world, he tells us here in the text, that he was before the world, and he made it; he was from

all

all eternity, and should continue to all eternity the same. Before the mountains were brought forth, the most firm and durable parts of the world, the most eminent and conspicuous; Or ever thou had t formed the earth and the world; before any thing was created; from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. In fpeaking of this attribute, I shall,

1. Give you the explication of it.

2. Endeavour to prove that it doth belong to God, and ought to be attributed to the divine nature.

3. Draw some corollaries from the whole.

First, For the explication of it. Eternity is a duration without bounds or liinits : now, there are two limits of duration, beginning and ending ; that which hath always been, is without beginning; that which always shall be, is without ending. Now, we may conceive of a thing always to have been, and the continuance of its being now to cease, though there be no such thing in the world : and there are fome things which have had a beginning of their being, but shall have no end, shall always continue, as the angels and spirits of inen. The first of these the schoolmen call eternity à parte ante, that is, “ duration without beginning;” this latter eternity à parte post, “ a duration without ending." But eternity, absolutely taken, comprehends both these, and fignifies “ an infinite duration, which had no beginning,

nor shall have any end;" fo that whien we say God is eternal, we mean that he always was, and shall be for ever; that he had no beginning of life, nor shall have any end of days; but that he is from everlasting to everlasting, as it is here in the text.

It is true indeed, that as to God's eternity, à parte ante, as to his having always been, the scripture doth not give us any solicitous account of it ; it only tells us in general, that God was before the worid was, and that he created it: 'it doth not defcend to gratify our curiosity, in giving us any account of what God did before he made the world, or how he entertained himself from all eternity: it doth not give us any distinct account of his infinite duration ; for that had been impoflible for our finite understandings to comprehend ; if we should have ascended upward millions of ages, yet we should

« PreviousContinue »