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This fear of offending God, which caused such forbearance and fortitude in the good men of old, and which has produced the same effects in a higher degree among the faithful followers and witnesses of Christ, be it your anxious care to cherish in
your breasts. Without it you will never stand the test of any strong temptation, nor feel a sufficient restraint when an opportunity offers of indulging a favourite passion.
There are many transgressions which, in all probability, you will avoid for the sake of your worldly interest, and lest the scorn or punishment of man should overtake you. These, as the danger and the evil are immediate, may act as checks more powerful, than the better motives of faith and duty. But there are also other transgressions, which, as they may be concealed from the eye of man, and are such as human laws cannot visit, you will be strongly tempted to commit. These are the trials which will chiefly prove whether you will serve God or not. These are opportunities, constantly occurring, of showing that the sense of piety is deeply impressed upon your souls, and that you will not enjoy an immediate pleasure, with the certainty before you of remote pain, but will sacrifice a present gratification for the sake of future blessing
It is your duty to fear God more than Men, and what is your duty, be assured, is always your interest. Man may kill the body; take from you by injustice, violence, or fraud, your property and possessions ; cast with malicious purpose undeserved imputation on your names ; oppress, persecute, insult over you, and pour into your cup of life the bitter ingredients of pain and sufferings. But this is all the mischief he can do
His power extends not to the soul. His cruelty cannot disturb the pious independence of the mind. His malice cannot reach you beyond the confines of the grave. His enmity cannot pursue you into the regions of peace. Fear not him, therefore, so as to permit his threats and terrors to fright you from the path of duty, or cause you to sacrifice the dictates of Conscience and the will of Heaven to his wicked and arbis
* 6 Fear
trary pleasure. But God is Omnipotent. He has absolute power over the soul as well as the body. He can visit you
with his judgments, vex you with his sore displeasure, afflict you with mental and corporal suffering, bring upon you the sword, pestilence, and famine, and punish you with everlasting destruction. him, therefore, which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.'
When you commit a wrong action, it may be done with so much cunning of heart, and under so thick a veil of privacy, that the world may know nothing of it. It may be concealed by the darkness of the night. It may
in the secret chamber of your own breasts. But God sees, hears, knows every thing. His eye penetrates the darkest shade, and views what is passing in the deepest re
+ " The darkness is no darkness with him; but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to him are both alike. He is about your path, and about your bed, and spieth out all your ways. If you climb up into Heaven he is there ; if you go down to Hell he is there also,” To him “ all hearts are open, all desires known, and from him no secrets are hid.” To suppose that you are safe, because you feel satisfied that no mortal
* Matt. X. 28,
+ Psalm cxxxix. 2, 7, 11,
eye has seen your sin, no mortal creature has knowledge of it; to think that there is nothing to fear, because all apprehensions of human detection and punishment are banished from the mind ; to imagine that evil doings have no other record than the memory, no other retribution than the reproaches of Conscience, is a vanity which the extreme of folly only can indulge, a delusion which none but guilty and obdurate bosoms can admit.
In the end, when the judgment shall be set, when all people, and nations, and kindreds, gathered from the four quarters of the earth, shall stand before the tribunal of their Judge, God *“ will make manifest the counsels of the hearts,” open every avenue which was thought closed up for ever, drag to light the hidden creature of sin, and justify his final decisions before Angels and Men by the full disclosure of recorded guilt. Knowing, therefore, that there is not
*.1 Cor. iv, 5.
any creature that is not manifest in his sight,” and that “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” always consider yourselves as living in his presence, as watched by him in every motion of your hearts, and in every action of your lives, and as accompanied by him, an all-seeing and invisible witness, in all your ways and wanderings, at home and abroad, in light and in darkness, in the house of mourning, and in the house of feasting, in the hour when you are lurking in secret places to offend, and in the day when you go forth to obey and bless.
Let this awful sense of his presence and spirit be so deeply impressed upon your hearts, and so frequently indulged in your meditations, that it may act as a constant check upon your thoughts, words, and works. Let the fear of offending him be so carefully cherished in your breasts, as
Heb. iv. 13.