Page images
PDF
EPUB

divine justice required for the sins of mankind, affected me in a manner so powerful and moving, that I thought •myself obliged in gratitude to dedicate my whole life to him, who in the tenderest compassion had given himself for me. Another time, an extremely painful illness shewed me the absurdity of my course of life ; filled me with a keenness of remorse, that seemed an anticipation of hell ; put me on beseeching God to grant me a few years more of his patience; and brought ine to a solemn adjuration that I would employ the remaining part of my life in repairing the past. All these have been fruitless; all these means have been useless; all these promises have been false; and yet I may have access to a throne of grace. What love! What mercy!.

This long suffering of God with impenitent sinners will be one of the most terrible subjects they can think of when the avenging moment comes ; when the fatal hour arrives in which the voice of divine justice shall summon a miserable wretch to appear, when it slmall bind him to a death-bed, and suspend him over the abyss of hell.

But to a poor sinner, who is awaking from his sin, who, having consumed the greatest part of his life in sin, would repair it by sacrificing the world and all its glory, were such a sacrifice in his power: to a poor sinner, who, having been for some time afraid of an exclusion from the mercy of God, revolves these distressing thoughts in his mind, Perhaps the days of my visitation may be at an end; henceforth perhaps my sorrows may be superfluous, and my tears inadmissable: to such a sinner, what an object, what a comfortable object, is the treasure of the forbearance and long-suffering of God that leadeth to repentance. My God, saith such a sinner, I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies! Gen. xxxii. 10. My God, I am tempted to think that to doubt of my interest in thy favour is the rendering of a proper homage to thy mercy, and my unbelief would arise from iny veneration for thy majesty! But let me not think so; I will not doubt of thy mercy, iny God, since thou hast condescended to assure me of it in such a tender mariner ! I will lose myself in that ocean of love, which thou, O God infinitely good! still discoverest to me, I will persuade myself thou dost not despise the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart, and this persuasion I will oppose to an alarmed conscience, to a fear of hell that anticipates the misery of the state, and to all those formidable executioners of condemned men, whom I behold ready to seize their prey!

My My brethren, the riches of the goodness and forbear. ance, and long-suffering of God, are yet open to you: they are open, my dear brethren, to this church, how un. grateful soever we have been to the goodness of God; how much insensibility soever we have shewn to the invitations of grace; they are open to the greatest sinners, nor is there one of my hearers who may not be admitted to these inexhaustible treasures of goodness and mercy.

But do you still despise the riches of the long-suffering of God? What! because a spåce to repent is given, Rev. ii. 21. will you continue in impenitence? Ah! were Jesus Christ in the flesh; were he walking in your streets, were he now in this pulpit preaching to you, would he not preach to you all bathed in sorrows and tears? He would weep over you as he once wept over Jerusalem, and he would say to this province, to this town, to this church, to each person in this assembly, yea to that wicked hearer, who affects not to be concerned in this sermon, O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! Luke xix. 42. What am I saying! he would say thus! He doth say thus, my dear brethren, and still interests himself in your salvation in the tenderest and most vehement manner. Sitting at the right hand of his Father, he holds back that avenging arm which is ready to fell us to the earth at a stroke ; in our behalf he interposeth his sufferings and his death, his intercession and his

cross; and from the top of that glory to which he is elevated he looks down and saith to this republic, to this church, to all this assembly, and to every sinner in it: 0 that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace !

My brethren, the patience of God, which yet endures, will not always endure. The year, which the master of the vineyard grants, at the intercession of the dresser, to try whether a barren fig-tree can be made fruitful, will expire, and then it must be cut down, Luke xiii. 6. Do not deceive yourselves, my brethren, the long-suffering of God must produce in the end either your conversion or your destruction. Omay it prevent your destruction by producing your conversion! The Lord grant you this favour! To him, the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit, be honour and glory for ever. Amen.

SERMON SERMON XII.

GOD THE ONLY OBJECT OF FEAR.

PART 1.

JEREMIAH X. 7.

Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? For to

thee doth it appertain.

THE

HE Prophet aims, in the words of the text, to inspire

us with fear, and the best way to undertand his meaning is to affix distinct ideas to the term. To fear God is an equivoca! phrase in all languages; it is generally used in three senses in the holy scriptures.

1. Fear sometimes signifies terror; a disposition, that makes the soul consider itself only as sinful, and God chiefly as a Being who hateth and avengeth sin. There are various degrees of this fear, and it deserves either praise, or blaine, according to the different degree to which it is carried.

A man, whose heart is so void of the knowledge of the perfections of God, that he cannot rise above the little idols which worldlings adore; whose notions are so gross, that he cannot adhere to the purity of religion for purity's sake ; whose taste is so vitiated that he hath no relish for the delightful union of a faithful soul with its God; such a man deserves to be praised, when he endeavoureth to restrain his sensuality by the idea of an avenging God. The apostles urged this motive with success, knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade nien, 2 Cor. v. 11. Of some have compassion, saith St. Jude to the ministers of the VOL.I. I i

gospel, gospel, making a difference ; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, ver. 22, 23. Such a disposition is, without doubt, very imperfect, and were a man to expect salvation in this way, he would be in imminent danger of feeling those miseries, of which he is afraid. No casuists, except such as have been educated in an infernal school, will venture to affirm, that to fear God in this sense, without loving him, is sufficient for salvation. Nevertheless this disposition is allowable in the beginning of a work of conversion, it is never altogether useless to a regenerate man, and it is of singular use to him in some violent temptations, with which the enemy of his salvation assaults him

When a tide of depravity threatens, in spite of yourselves, to carry you away, recollect some of the titles of God; the scripture calls him the mighty and the terrible God; the furious Lord; a consuming fire, Neh. ix. 32. Nahum i. 2. Heb. xii. 29. Remember the terrors, that your own consciences felt, when they first awoke from the enchantment of sin, and when they beheld, for the first time, vice in its own colours. Meditate on that dreadful abode, in which criminals suffer everlasting pains for momentary pleasures. The fear of God, taken in this first sense, is a laudable disposition.

But it ceaseth to be laudable, it becomes detestables, when it goeth so far as to deprive a sinner of a sight of all the gracious remedies, which God hath reserved for sinners, I heard thy voice, and I was afraid, and I hid myself, said the first man, after his fall: but it was because he was naked, Gen. iii. 10. it was because he had lost the glory of his primitive innocence, and must be obliged to prostrate himself before his God, to seek from his infinite mercy

the proper remedies for his maladies, to pray to him, in whose image he had been first formed, Gen. i. 26. to renew him after the image of him that created him, Col. iii. 10. and to ask him for habits, that the shame of his nakedness might not appear, Rev. iii. 18. Despair should not dwell in the church, hell should be its only abode. It should be left to the devils to believe and tremble, James ii. 19. Time is an economy of hope, and only those, whom the day of wrath overwhelmeth with horrible judgments, have reason to cry to the mountains and rocks, Fali on us, and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb, Rev. vi. 16. Toq great a degree of fear, then, in this first sense of fear, is a detestable disposition.

Fear

Fear is no less odious, when it giveth us tragical descriptions of the rights of God, and of his designs on his creatures: when it maketh a tyrant of him, whom the text calleth, the king of nations ; of him, who is elsewhere described as having on his thigh the stately title of KING OF KINGS, Rev. xix. 16. of him, whose dominion is described as constituting the felicity of his subjects, The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, Psal. xcvii. 1. Far be such descriptions of God from us! They represent the Deity as a merciless usurer, who requireth an account of talents, which we have not received; who requireth angelical knowledge of a human intelligence, or philosophical penetration of an uninstructed peasant. Far from us be those systems, which

pretend to prove, that God will judge the heathens by the same laws by which he will judge the Jews, and that he will judge those, who lived under the law, as if they had lived under the gospel ! Away with that fear of God, which is so injurious to his majesty, and so unworthy of that throne, which is founded on equity! What encouragement could I have to endeavour to know what God hath been pleased to reveal to mankind, were I pre-possessed with an opinion, that, after I had implored, with all the powers of my soul, the help of God to guide me in seeking the truth ; after I had laid aside. the prejudices that disguise it; after I had suspended, as far as I could, the passions that deprave my understanding; even after I had determined to sacrifice my rest, my fortune, my dignity, my life, to follow it; I might fall into capital errors which would plunge me into everlasting woe? No, no, we have not so learned Christ, Eph. iv. 20. None but a refractory servant fears God in this manner. It is only the refractory servant, who, to exculpate himself for neglecting what was in his power, pretends to have thought that God would require more than was in his power: Lord, saith he, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed, Matt. xxv. 24. I knew ! And where didst thou learn this ? What infernal body of divinity hast thou studied? What demon was thy tutor? Ah! Thou art a wicked servant, ver. 26. and, at the same time, a slothful servant ; slothful, not to forin the just and noble resolution of improving the talent I committed to thee; wicked, to invent such an odious reason, and to represent me in such dismal colours. Thoua oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers, and then I should have received mine own with usury, ver. 27. Ii2

Thou

« PreviousContinue »