Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

either way.

that other world, whence thou shalt never return? take my staff; for I am not guilty of any such folly as this.”

And, indeed, there cannot be a greater folly, or madness rather, than to be so wholly taken up with an eager regard of the e earthly vanities, which we cannot hold; as to utierly neglect the care of that eternity, which we can never forego. And, consider well of it, upon this moment of our life depends that eternity,

My Dear Brethren, it is a great way to heaven; and we have but a little time to get thither. God says to us, as the angel said to Elijah, l'p, for ihou hast a great journey to go: and if, as I fear, we have lotered in the way, and trifled away any part of the time in vain impertinencies, we have so much more need to gird up our loins, and to hasten our pace. Our hearts, our false hearts are ready, like the Levite's servant, to show us the world; and to say: as he did of Jebus, Come, I pray you, let us turn into the city of the Jebusiles, and lodge there : Ch, let us have his master's resolute answer ready in our mouthis; Ile will not turn aside into a city of strangers, neither will we leave, till we have got the gates of God's city upon our backs; Judges xix. 11, 12.

Time is that, whereof many of us are wont to be too prodigal. We take care how to be rid of it; and, if we cannot otherwise, we cast it away : and this we call Pass-time. W herein we do dan. gerously mistake ourselves; and must know, that time is, as the first, so one of the most precious things that are: insoinuch as there are but two things, which we are charged to redeem, Time and Truth.

I find that, in our old Saxon language, a Gentleman was called an Idle-man : perhaps, because those, who are born to fair estates, are free from those toils and hard labours, which others are forced to undergo. I wish the name were not too proper to over-many in these days; wherein it is commonly seen, that those of the bet. ter rank, who are born to a fair inheritance, so carry themselves, as if they thought themselves privileged to do nothing, and made for mere disport and pleasure. 'But, alas! can they hope, that the Great God, when he shall call them to give account of the dispensation of their time and estate, will take this for a good reckoning: Item; So many hours spent a dressing and trimming; so many, in idle visitings; so many, in gaming ; so many, in hunting and hawking; so many, in the playhouse; so many, in the tavern; so many, in vain chat; so many, in wanton dalliance ? No; no; iny Dear Brethren: our hearts cannot but tell us, how ill an audit we shall make, upon such a woeful computation; and how sure we are to hear of a Serve nequam, Thou evil servant, and unfaithful ; and to feel a retribution accordingly.

Let us, therefore, in the fear of God be exhorted to recollect ourselves; and, since we find ourselves guilty of the sinful mispense of our good hours, let us, while we have space, obtain of ourselves to be careful of redeeming that precious time we have lost. As the widow of Sarepta, when she had but a little oil left in her cruse, and a little meal in her barrel, was careful of spending that to the best advantage: so let us, considering that we have but a little sand left in our glass, a short remainder of our mortal life, be sure to employ it unto the best profit of our souls, so as every of our hours may carry up with it a happy testimony of our gainful improvement: that so, when our day cometh, we may change our time for eternity ; the time of our sojourning, for the eternity of giory and blessedness.

Thus much for the Time of our sojourning. · III. Now, as for the PASSAGE of this time, I shall spare any further discourse of it: though this is a matter well worthy of our thoughts. And, indeed, we, that live within the smoke of the city, have our ears so continually inured to the noise of passingbells, that it is a wonder we can think of any thing but our passing away, together with our time: unless it be with us, as with those that dweil near the cataract of Nilus, whom the continual noise of that loud waterfall is said to make deaf.

But, since we are fallen upon the mention of this subject, give leave, I beseech you, to a word of not unseasonable digression. I have noted it to be the fashion here amongst you, that, when a neighbour dies, all his friends, in several parishes, set forth their bells, to give a general notice of his departure. I do not dislike the practice: it is an act of much civility, and fair respect to the deceased. And, if the death of God's Saints be, as it is, precious in his sight, there is great reason it should be so in ours; and therefore well worthy of a public notification. But, let me tell you, that, in other well-ordered places where I have lived, it is yet a more commendable fashion, that, when a sick neighbour is draw. ing towards his end, the bell is tolled, to give notice of his dying condition : that all within hearing may be thereupon moved, to pour out their fervent prayers for the good of that departing soul; suing for mercy and forgiveness, and a clean passage of it to the approaching glory: If there be civility and humanity in the former course, there is more charity and piety in this. But this, by the way.

This term of our passage, is but an English expression: the original word is dvaspábyte, which signifies rather our conversing.

IV. Passing this, therefore, let us meditate upon the Modification of this passage of our time; which it is said must be in FEAR.

Fear is an unwelcome and unpleasing word; and the thing more: for we commonly say, That only evil is the object of fear; and, That whom we fear we hate. And, perhaps, the authors and abettors of the uncomfo table doctrine of diffidence and uncertaint, of resolution in the spiritual estate of our souls, would be g ad of such an overture for the maintenance of those disheartening positions, which they have broached unto the world to this purpose: but their mouths are soon stopped, with the addition of the name of a Futher; which is abundantly sufficient to sweeten this harsh sound of fear.

So as this clause of the Text may seem to be clearly commented upon, by that of Romans viii. 15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whe: ehy we cry, Abbá, Father.

There are, indeed, Terrores Domini, the Terrors of the Lord; 2 Cor. v. 11: for, such is the Dreadful Majesty of the Infinite God, that his presence, even when he desires to appear most amiable, overlays our weakness. Yea, so awfully glorious is the sight of one of his angels, that Manoah and his wife thought they should die of no other death; Judges xiij. 22. Yea, and sometines, bke a displeased Father, he knits his brows upon his dearest, if otlending, children: the man after his own heart could say, Thy terrors have I suffered with a troublet mind : thy fierce wraih goeth over me ; Psalm Ixxxviii. 15, 16. which he speaks, not only out of a true sense of his own misery, but as a just type of him, who, in the bitterness of his agony, diá sweat drops of blood; and, with hin, cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Who yet reas heard in that which he feared; heard and freed, heard and crowne i. Thus sad may be the condition of the best of Saints in the pangs of their trials; which yet can be no other than safe, while, with their Captain and Saviour, they can say, My God, my God; and may hear God say unto them, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name ; thou art mine ; Isaiah xliii. 1.

That we may see, then, what fear it is, which is here recommended to us, as an inseparable companion in this our pilgrimage, know, that there is a base kind of fear incident into the worst of men; yea, beasts; yea, devils : The devils believe, and tremble ; saith the Apostle: and we know the dog fears the whip, and the horse the switch, and the slave fears the lash of his cruel master. This is, therefore, called a Slavish Fear; which, though it be not good in itself, yet, may have this good effect in wicked men, to restrain thein from those villainies, which they would otherwise commit: and, certainly, were it not for this, there were no living amongst men : earth would be hell.

There is, besides, a Distrustful Fear, in unsettled hearts; which is an anxious doubt, lest God will not be so good as his word, and perform those promises which he hath made to us. This is highly sintul in itseif, and infinitely dishonourable and displeasing unto God: for, it an honest man cannot endure to be distrusted, how heinously must the God of Truth needs take it, that his fidelity should be called into question by false-hearted men.

The fear, that we must ever take along with us, is double: a fear of Reverence; and a fear of Circumspection.

The First is that, whereof Mal. i. 6. A Son honourcth his father, and a serrant his master: if then I be your Faiher, where is my honour ? and if I be your Aðaster, where is my fear ? And this fear consists, in our awful and trembling acknowledgment of his dread presence; in our reverential and adoring thoughts of his infiniteness; in our humble and holy desires to be allowed of him in all things. This is that, which wise Solomon, more than once, tells us is the beginning, or, as the word rather signifies, the chief point of wisdom; and which the Psalmist truly tells is accompanied with blessedness.

The Latter, which I call a fear of circumspection, is a due and tender regard to all our ways; not without a holy jealousy over ourselves, in all our actions, words, and thoughts, lest we m gat do, say, or think any thing, that might be displeasing to the Majesty of our God : whereof Solomon, Blessed is the man, that feareth always ; but he, that hardeneth his heart, shall fall into mischief ; Prov. xxviii. 14.

Now, these two fears are as twins, that are joined together in the bulk of the body, inseparal·le; and are so comprehensive, that all religion is expressed by the name of Fear; and eucaßris is rendered by timoratus.

Indeed, where this fear is, there can be no other than a gracious heart : for this will be sure to work in a man true humility, the mother of virtues. When he shall compare his dust and ashes, with the glorious Majesty of God; when he sees such a heaven rolling over his head, such an earth and sea under him ; how can he but say, Lord, what is man? This will make him think himself happy, that he may be allowed to love such a God; that such a worm as he may be admitted to have any interest in so Infinite a Majesty. This will render him carefully conscionable in all his ways; that he would not, for a world, do any thing, that might offend such a God. Yea, it will make him no less fearful of sin, than of hell. See God's own connection, when he gives a character of his servant Job: A perfect and an upright man ; one, that feareth God and escheweth evil; Job i. 8.

Lo, he, that fears God, will therefore eschew evil; will not dare to sin. If Satan shall lay all the treasures of the world at his feet, he will say, in a holy scorn, Thy gold and thy silver perish with thee. If all the filtres and wanton allurements of a great and beautiful mistress shall lay siege to him, he will say, with good Joseph, How can I do this great wickedness and sin against Gou? Genesis xxxix. 9.

But, O God, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? Is there such a thing, as the Fear of the Lord amongst men ? Can we think, that the common sins of the times can stand with the least scruple of the Fear of the Almighty? Woe is me, what rending and tearing of the Sacred Name of God in pieces, with oaths and blasphemies, do we meet with every where! what contempt of his holy Ordinances and Ministers! what abominable sacrileges! what foul perjuries! what brutish and odious drunkenness, and epicurean excess! what fraud and cozenage in trading! what shameful uncleanness! what merciless and bloody oppressions! Oh where, then, where is the Fear of a God to be found the while ? Yea, to such a height of atheous boldness and obduration are the rufhans of our time grown, that they boast of it as their greatest glory, To fear nothing; neither God

nor Devil. They feast, without fear; they fight, without fear; they sin, without fear.

But hear this, ye Careless and Profane Epicures, that say, Tush, doth God see it? Is there knowledge in the Most High? Hear this, ye Formal Hypocrites, that can fashionably bow to him, whose face you can be content to spit upon; and whom ye can abide to crucify agaie by your wicked lives. Hear this, ye Godless and Swaggeing Roarers, that dare say, with Pharaoh, Il'ho is the Lord ? You, that now bid defiance to fear, shall, in spite of you, learn the way to lear; yea, to tremble; yea, to be confounded ; at the terrors of the Alighity. Those kiiees, that are now so stiff, that they will not bow to God, shall once knock together: those teeth, through which your blasphemies have passed, shall gnash: those hands, that were iift up against heaven, shall shake and languish. If ye were as strong as mountains, before his presence the mountains fiel, and the bills were mores: if as firm as rocks, who can stand before his wrath ? Ilis wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken before him ; Naham i. 6: if, as the whole earth, whose title is, That camoi be moved ; The earth trembled and quaked, because he wus angry; saith the Psalmist : yea, if as wicked as Devils, even they believe and tremble. And if, when he doth but thunder in his clouds, the stoutest atheist turns pale, and is ready to creep into a bench-hole ; what shall become of them, when he shall put forth the utmost of his fury and revenge upon his enemies? Lo then, ye, that now laugh at fear, shall yell and howl, like hell-hounds, in eternal torments: and God shall laugh, when

your fear cometh. Ye, that would not now so much as with Felix quake at the news of a Judgment, shall irrecoverably shiver in the midst of those flames, that can never be quenched.

But for us, Dear and Beloved Christians, far be it from us, to be of that iron disposition; that we should never bow, but with the fire. No; we have other, more kindly grounds of our fear: Great is thy mercy, saith the Psalmist, that thou mayest be feared. Lo, it is the amiableness of mercy, that must attract our fear. It is a thing that mainly concerns us, to look where and how our fears are placed. Far be it from us, to bring upon ourselves the curse of wicked 0. es, To four where no fear is ; as this is the common cona dition of men. Alas! we are apt to fear the censures and disa pleasure of vain greatness; whereas, that may be a means to in. gratiate us with God: shame of the world; whereas, that may be a means to save us froin everlasting confusion : poverty ; whereas, that may possess us of a better wealth : death ; whereas, to the faithful soul that proves the necessary harbinger to eternal rest and glory. In the mean time, the same men are no whit afraid of the displeasure of God, and their own perdition : wherein they are like to foolish children, who run away from their parents and best friends, if they have but a mask or scarf over their faces; but are. no whit afraid of fire or water. Away with all these and the like. weak misprisions; and, if we tender our own safety, let it be our main care, to set our tears right : which shuil be done, if we place

« PredošláPokračovať »