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PROVERBS xv. 3.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the
evil and the good.
every age of the church the complaint may be re. peated, that “ all men have not faith.” Many who think they have it, are fatally deceived, and shall be found in the issue to have been utterly devoid of this gracious principle. True faith determines the choice, and governs the practice according to the nature of the thing believed. It is called “ the evidence,” or demonstration, “ of things not seen.” Let the objects be ever so remote, yet faith brings them near to the mind, and renders them as powerful and operative upon the affections and will as if they were both present and visible. Such is the nature and efficacy of this grace: from whence you may judge whether it be so common as men are apt to ima. gine.
The subject of my text will afford us a striking illustration of this remark. We have already professed our belief, and we have done it too with some solemnity, that the eyes of the Lord are in this place, beholding the evil and the good. This we virtually acknowledged when we celebrated his praise: but we did it most explicitly when we offered up our prayers to him; for to what
purpose should we pray to an absent or even to an inattentive being? Yet if we examine ourselves impartially, and try our faith by the only proper test, I suspect we shall find too much reason to conclude, either that we do not seriously believe this doctrine, or, at best, that our faith is very weak and imperfect.
Were God visibly present in our assembly; were the great Immanuel, God in our nature, standing in the midst of us ; would we praise him so feebly, or pray to him so coldly, or speak and hear so unfeelingly as we do? And shall seeing, or not seeing, make such an odds? Did we just now behold the object of our worship, would the mere shutting our eyes render his presence less venerable, or the influence of it less powerful? No, my brethren: our seeing God could only assure us that he is present; and if an equal assurance is obtained by any other means, the influence of his presence will in either case be the same. It is not therefore to the seeing or not seeing God that any difference in our temper or behaviour must be imputed; but to the believing, or not believing, the reality of his presence: from which we may justly infer, that every degree of irreverence in our minds, and every undutiful step in our conduct, is a symptom of the weakness and imperfection of our faith; and, consequently, that a course of known sin, or the habitual indulgence of any corrupt affection, affords undoubted evidence, that whatever light we may have in our understanding, yet we do not believe with our heart, that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
When these things are considered, it will appear that infidelity, in one degree or other, is far more prevalent than we are aware of; and that, notwithstanding our professional assent to the doctrine of my text, yet the best of us have need to get our faith of this interesting truth enlivened and confirmed. I shall therefore proceed to lay the evidence of it before you in as plain ap
vincing a manner as I can; imploring, in the entrance, that powerful blessing, without which the strongest and most persuasive arguments, like a dart tbrown by a weak arm, will either fall short of the heart, or if they reach it, yet strike so feebly as to make no deep or lasting impression.
There are two judges, before one or other of which every question of this kind must necessarily be tried; I mean, Scripture and Reason. Scripture must determine those who confess its divine original; and they who decline the authority of this judge, can appeal to none other but that Reason with which God hath endowed them; there they must stop, the cause can be carried no where else. If therefore it shall appear, that the doctrine of God's universal presence and kuowledge is supported both by Scripture and Reason, the question will be finally decided ; and uubelief can have no resource but perverse and wilful obstinacy.
First, then, Tbis doctrine is plainly taught and repeatedly asserted in the sacred writings.
The testimony of my text is clear and strong: The eyes of the Lord are in every place. They not only “run to and fro throughout the earth," as it is elsewhere expressed, which form of speech might leave room to suppose that God beholds things successively, looking first at one object, and afterwards at another, but they are in every place at the same time. How awful are the words of Elihu! (Job xxxiv. 21.) “ His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.”' Nor is his attention confined to the ways of man,”
“ by which is commonly meant his outward behaviour; he looks immediately into his heart, and sees the inward frame and tendency of his soul; for all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do, even the thoughts and intents of the heart." “ Man looketh on the outward appearance," said Samuel, 6 but the Lord looketh on the heart." He needs no information from our actions ; he looketh directly on the heart, out of which are the issues of life. Nay, 6 Hell and destruction are before the Lord, how much more the hearts of the children of men ?" Prov. xv. 11.
Neither do the Scriptures represent him as a mere spectator, but as a witness and judge, who ponders the thought and action with all their circumstances, and makes a just and righteous estimation of them: “I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord.” “ 'The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” Nay, he weighs the spirits: 56 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirits.” Prov. xvi. 2. He, as it were, puts them into a balance, so exactly poised that the smallest grain will turn the scale.
Farther, the Scriptures not only ascribe to God the most unlimited and unerring knowledge, but they even render it absurd to suppose the contrary; for how extensive, how spiritual, are his commandments ! they reach to every part of our conduct; and not only direct the outward life, but give law to the most retired thought and inward affection. Thus we are told (Prov. xxiv. 9.) that “the thought of foolishness is sin;" and the tentb commandment forbids to covet; hereby giving life and spirit to all the former precepts, and teaching us, as our Saviour afterwards explained them in his sermon upon the mount, that they include the inward disposition, as well as the outward action ; and not only prohibit external violence, injustice, falsehood, and sensuality, but heart-hatred, causeless or excessive anger, envy, resentment; in short, the first conception of last in the soul, as well as the birth of the sinful deed. And can any suppose that God, whose wisdom is perfect, would give laws to his creatures, with the most awful penalties annexed to the transgression of them, if, after all, it behoved him to be ignorant, in many cases, whether these penalties were incurred or not? No, surely. The spirituality of the law is a full proof by itself, that the knowledge of the Lawgiver must extend to our thoughts, no less than to our words; and that the darkest corners of the heart lie open to his view, as much as the most public actions of the life.
Nay, which completes this part of the evidence, we find God actually judging men's hearts, and rewarding or punishing them according to their secret dispositions. Thus it is written of Amaziah (2 Chron. xxv. 2.) that “ he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but he did it not with a perfect heart.” David is applauded for his good intention to build a house for the Lord, though he was not permitted to execute his de. sigo: “ Thou didst well,” said God, “in that it was in thine beart!" And Abijah, the son of Jeroboam, obtained an honourable exemption from that violent death, and want of burial, to which the rest of that wicked family were doomed; for this express reason, “ Be.
; cause in him there was found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel." 1 Kings xiv. 13. Upon the whole, then, you see how clearly and explicitly the Scriptures decide in favour of this doctrine, that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Let us now inquire, in the
Second place, What Reason teacheth us concerning this matter. And here I shall argue from such principles