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We are now come to the latter part of our subject, -the question, how far the Scripture allows us to desire or to care for the good opinion of our neighbours ? Now, in the first place, it is most clear that to gain a good character with men must never be our chief object; if it is, then the praise and esteem of men will be our only reward ; and we shall fall short of the kingdom of Heaven. Christ has told us this expressly with regard to two of the greatest of virtues, piety and alsmsgiving; he has said, that if we either pray to God or do good to our neighbour for the sake of gaining a character of piety and charity amongst men, we have no reward to look to from our Father which is in Heaven. There is an age doubtless at which the desire of pleasing our parents is the only one which we are able to understand; the approbation of its father and its mother is to a young child what the approbation of God is to older persons,-it is a motive which God himself has sanctioned. But I am sure that it is the duty of every parent to begin by times in teaching his child to know more fully whose he is, and whom he must serve; and to accustom him to desire above all things the favour and approbation of his Maker.
If this be once secured as the master-principle of our conduct, all will surely be right: a child will know that in trying to please his parents he is obeying the will of God; and that as he is commanded to honour them, so he may receive with delight their praise and their good opinion, as a sort of earnest of the favour of God. And besides our parents, the approbation and praise of good and wise men is to be received with thankfulness and pleasure, just as we should value their friendship or their love. This is one of those earthly blessings which if sought for only in its due order, as coming after our great object, may be lawfully desired and thankfully enjoyed by every Christian. But it is only the approbation of the wise and good; in other words, of those who are Christ's true servants, of whom this can properly be said. In lesser matters, the praise of other men may be given with as true a judgment as that of Christians. Of our skill in any trade, or art, or science, or profession; of the rudeness or elegance of our manners, of the power or weakness of our understandings, bad men can judge as well as good, worldly men as well as Christians. But in all that constitutes worth or vileness ; in all points of moral conduct, in all questions of right and wrong, which in their importance are indeed all in all, no opinion but that of a Christian is worthy of
an instant's notice : no praise but his is of the slightest value, no blame but his is other than contemptible. There are many virtues which are naturally amiable, and many vices which are as naturally hateful ; in many points, therefore, the notions of the world and those of Christians will agree in praising and condemning the same things. But even here, they will each praise and condemn on different grounds; and in every case the opinion of the Christian is the only one really to be valued ; whether it happen that the voices which join in his sentence be few or many. Not that any one set of men are entitled to any natural superiority over the rest; but because true Christians have the mind of Christ, and their praise or censure is only the faithful interpreter of the secret judgment passed upon our every action by our Maker and our Saviour. For it is to this judgment of God that all our thoughts should anxiously be turned, and from its decree alone is honour to be looked for, or shame dreaded. The best of Christians are fallible; and we should remember that it was to Christians that St. Paul was writing when he used the words in the text, “ With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment.” So then we must learn to act simply according to the word of God, and in the hope of the honour that cometh from God only. By so doing, we shall indeed most generally win the love and approbation of good Christians, and may thankfully receive this earthly reward over and above, as godliness hath the promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come. Or, if we see our conduct blamed by the good, it may justly make us fear that if they condemn us, God who is greater than they will condemn us also; and it affords us strong cause for examining our ways, and comparing them carefully with the word of God, that we may see wherein we have offended. It is a part of humility to think that as we belong to Christ, so do others also: and that they who are guided by the same law and the same spirit, may judge more justly of our conduct than we can ourselves. But for those who have not our law, and who cannot receive that Spirit, nor have any practical knowledge of him; who are they that judge another man's servant ? To our own master we stand or fall, and to him alone; they have neither part nor lot in the matter, for their hearts are not right in the sight of God; and their favour or reproach, considered in themselves, and unless where they happen to agree with the law of God, are neither to be coveted nor dreaded.
2 SAMUEL xxiv. 14.
Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies
are great, and let me not fall into the hand of man.
The subject on which I spoke last Sunday is one of so great extent, and leads to so many considerations connected with it, that it could not be wholly comprehended within the limits of a single sermon.
propose now, therefore, to continue it, and to examine particularly the different effects produced by the fear of God, and the fear of man, in the case of sorrow for sin in ourselves; and of the manner in which we behave to others, when they have sinned; and then to state on what grounds we ought to be cautious of incurring the ill opinion of others, although in itself we ought to be very indifferent to it.
It is plain, in the first place, that the fear of man may and does very commonly prevent the commission of those greater crimes which are punished by human laws; and that it reaches exactly that very class of persons who would