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raged him to persist in preaching that gospel which he had received in trust from God. It was this which ren. dered the first Christians superior to adversity in all its frightful forms; and it is the same divine principle, which, if once it got the entire possession of our hearts, would be a constant spring of holy obedience, and enable us, by the blessing of God, to follow the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, through the most rugged paths of virtue, untainted with that meanness and'inconstancy of behaviour which are the reproach of so many professing Christians in our days.
I propose, therefore, through divine assistance, 1st, To open the nature and extent of the divine principle mentioned in my text; 2dly, To represent the happy effects which would flow from our being animated with this steady and prevailing desire. After which I shall conclude with a practical improvement of the subject.
I BEGIN with opening the nature and extent of the divine principle mentioned in the text. And to prevent any mistakes on this head, it may be needful to observe, that our making the approbation of God our principal aim, does not exclude all regard to the opinion or judgment of our fellow.creatures. We are certainly bound by that great law of our religion, " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” to make the pleasing of our bre. thren, by every lawful means, an object of attention, and a subordinate end of our conduct. And as our neighbour is commanded to love us as himself, both reason and religion teach us to render ourselves as amiable to him as we can, that so we may facilitate his performance of that important duty.
Neither, on the other hand, are we wholly to disregard the censures of men, or be altogether unconcerned, when our reputation is blackened by injurious calomnies. VOL. II.
“ A good pame is better than precious ointment.” It is a special blessing which we are to receive with thank. fulness from the hand of God; and it is our duty to preserve it as carefully as we can. Without a good name, no man can be useful in the world. To neglect it therefore, where it does not proceed from a consciousness of guilt, is certainly in most cases a very culpable indifference. Thus far, then, the judgment of men is to be regarded : but then we must please our brethren only so far as it is pleasing to God. In every case we must state the matter thus: Whether it is wiser to obey God or man? to fear those who, after they have killed the body, have no more that they can do? or to fear him who, af. ter he hath killed, can destroy both soul and body in hell? We must not only contemn the favour of men when compared with the approbation of God, but learn to value it among those transitory things which are only desirable as means for attaining a higher end.
In like manner, the displeasure of men, if unjust, must be reckoned among our light afflictions, which are but for a moment. In such circumstances, it must appear a small matter to us to be judged of man's judgment: “We have one that judgeth us, even God.” That prophecy of our Saviour must be constantly remembered, that the world will hate us; and his example must be ever before our eyes, who condescended to be scorned, and buffetted, and slandered as an impostor and blasphemer; who made himself of no reputation, but endured the cross, and despised the shame, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. In a word, God must be pleased by all means; his approbation is the one thing needful: he is now our Witness, and will ere long be our Judge; and in these two characters, we ought constantly to set him before us.
This is the temper which the Apostle expresseth in the text. I proceed now, in the
Second place, to represent the happy effects which would flow from our being animated with this steady and prevailing desire of pleasing God.
And, in the 1st place, This would make us ready to every good work, by removing all those grounds of he. sitation and suspense, whereby double-minded people are perplexed and retarded in their way. A man must be very slow in his motions, when every step is burden. ed with such questions as these: What will men think
if I act in this manner? Will it endanger my reputation, or hurt my interest, or prevent my rising in the world? You will easily see that a considerable time must elapse before all these difficult points can be settled. Whereas the man whose single aim is to please God, is at once freed from all these incumbrances. He no sooner discovers the will of God, than he proceeds immediately to action; and whilst the other is bewilder. ed with numberless conjectures, he goes cheerfully for. ward, leaving all his temporal concerns in the hands of that God by whose law he is governed, and to whose disposal he is entirely resigned. And is not this an unspeakable advantage, towards abounding in the fruits of righteousness? How free is the mind of such a man? how firm are bis steps? He walks straight forward, without deviating into by-paths; and whilst his conscience tells bim that he is accepted of God, he enjoys a pure and unmixed tranquillity, which the world can neither give nor take away.
A 2d happy effect that would flow from our being animated with a steady and prevailing desire of pleasing God, would be, that our conduct would thereby become consistent and uniform. God alone is invariable. What
pleased him yesterday, pleaseth him to-day as well; and though his commandments are exceeding broad, yet they perfectly agree among themselves, and make one beautiful and harmonious system. Whereas men not only differ from oue another, but at times from themselves also, and require opposite and contradictory things, which makes it absolutely impossible to please any number of them at one time, or even to continue long in the favour of any one of them, without the most disgraceful inconsistencies in our conduct; but he, whose single aim is to please God, in some measure resembles the Father of lights, “ with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." “ His path is as the morning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." His character is still brightening; he advanceth from one degree of grace to another; and is every moment drawing nearer to the enjoyment of that God whose approbation he constantly sought.
In the 3d place, The divine principle mentioned in my text would produce an universal obedience to the laws of God, because they are but various ways of compassing the important end at which it aims.
The man who is truly animated with it, will, like David, have a “respect to all God's commandments;"
! and instead of complaining that they are grievous, will rather rejoice at being furnished with such a variety of opportunities for promoting the glory of his heavenly Father. This divine principle will have influence upon him in the most secret retirement, as well as when he acts in the open view of the world. The hypocrite, who courts the approbation of men, may be very exact and punctual in the outward exercises of religion; but he who seeks to please God will not rest in these. He knows that his Father seeth him in secret; he rejoiceth in the thought of it, and therefore omits no duty that bears the stamp of his authority: Yea, his heart is as much engaged in the severest acts of self-denial, as in those instances of obedience which are accompanied with the most immediate pleasure and advantage. And this leads me to observe, in the
4th place, That a sincere desire of pleasing God would likewise lessen the difficulties of obedience, and support us under all the sufferings to which our duty may at any time expose us. Perhaps our duty may be accompanied with much pain and trouble in the world; perhaps, like Paul, we may be shamefully entreated, and, like the rest of the apostles, looked upon as the filth and offscouring of all things. But still the Christian reasons thus : “ What are these things to me? Is it not better to please God, than to indulge this corrupt flesh, or to seek the approbation of man, “whose breath is in his nostrils ?” Should I please men, I could not be the servant of Christ. Those hardships and difficulties which I now suffer will soon be at an end; and though my good things are not in this life, yet hereafter I shall be comforted in that state, “ where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” Was I not forewarned by by blessed Saviour, that the way to his kingdom lay through many tribulations, and shall I now faint because I find it to be so? Where can I enjoy so good an opportunity of showing my regard to my Lord, as by serving bim now that I am brought to the test? He is now saying to me, as once he said to Peter, “ Lovest thou me more than these?" Awake then, O my soul, and answer with that Apostle, “ Thou, Lord, who knowest all things, knowest that I love thee;" and I adore thy goodness in granting me this opportunity of testifying the strength and sincerity of my love, to thy