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the mind is weary, spent with care, hindered by amazements:" "Aut aliquem sumpserimus temeraria in Deos desperatione," saith Arnobius; "A despair of mercy makes men to despise God:" and the damned in hell, when they shall for ever be without hope, are also without fear; their hope is turned into despair, and their fear into blasphemy, and they curse the fountain of blessing, and revile God to eternal ages. When Dionysius the tyrant imposed intolerable tributes upon his Sicilian subjects, it amazed them, and they petitioned and cried for help and flattered him, and feared and obeyed him carefully; but he imposed still new ones, and greater, and at last left them poor as the valleys of Vesuvius, or the top of Ætna; but then, all being gone, the people grew idle and careless, and walked in the markets and public places, cursing the tyrant, and bitterly scoffing his person and vices; which when Dionysius heard, he caused his publicans and committees to withdraw their impost for now (says he) they are dangerous, because they are desperate,' νῦν γὰρ, ὅτε οὐδὲν ἔχουσιν, καταφρονοῦσιν ἡμῶν. When men have nothing left, they will despise their rulers: and so it is in religion; "Audaces cogimur esse metu." If our fears be unreasonable, our diligence is none at all; and from whom we hope for nothing, neither benefit nor indemnity; we despise his command, and break his yoke, and trample it under our most miserable feet: and therefore, Æschylus calls these people Jepuoùs, hot,' mad, and furious, careless of what they do, and he opposes them to pious and holy people. Let your confidence be allayed with fear, and your fear be sharpened with the intertextures of a holy hope, and the active powers of our souls are furnished with feet and wings, with eyes and hands, with consideration and diligence, with reason and encouragements: but despair is part of the punishment that is in hell, and the devils still do evil things, because they never hope to receive a good, nor find a pardon.
2. Godly fear must always be with honourable opinion of God,-without disparagements of his mercies, without quarrellings at the intrigues of his providence, or the rough ways of his justice; and therefore it must be ever relative to ourselves and our own failings and imperfections.
Θαρσεῖτ ̓· οὔπω Ζεὺς αὐχένα λοξὸν ἔχει.
God never walks perversely towards us, unless we walk crookedly towards him:' and therefore persons,-that only consider the greatness and power of God, and dwell for ever in the meditation of those severe executions, which are transmitted to us by story, or we observe by accident and conversation, -are apt to be jealous concerning God, and fear him as an enemy, or as children fear fire, or women thunder, only because it can hurt them; "Sæpius illud cogitant, quid possit is, cujus in ditione sunt, quam quid debeat facere" (Cicero pro Quinctio): They remember oftener what God can do, than what he will;' being more affrighted at his judgments, than delighted with his mercy. Such as were the Lacedæmonians, whenever they saw a man grow popular, or wise, or beloved, and by consequence powerful, they turned him out of the country: and because they were afraid of the power of Ismenias, and knew that Pelopidas and Pherenicius and Androclydes could hurt them, if they listed, they banished them from Sparta, but they let Epaminondas alone, wc dià μὲν φιλοσοφίαν ἀπράγμονα, διὰ δὲ πενίαν ἀδύνατον, “ as being studious and inactive, and poor, and therefore harmless :' it is harder when men use God thus, and fear him as the great justiciary of the world; who sits in heaven, and observes all we do, and cannot want excuse to punish all mankind. But this caution I have now inserted for their sakes, whose schools and pulpits raise doctrinal fears concerning God; which, if they were true, the greatest part of mankind would be tempted to think, they have reason not to love God; and all the other part, that have not apprehended a reason to hate him, would have very much reason to suspect his severity, and their own condition. Such are they, which say, That God hath decreed the greatest part of mankind to eternal damnation; and that only to declare his severity, and to manifest his glory by a triumph in our torments, and rejoicings in the gnashing of our teeth. And they also fear God unreasonably, and speak no good things concerning his name, who say, That God commands us to observe laws which are impossible; that think he will condemn innocent persons for errors of judgment, which they cannot avoid; that condemn whole nations for different opinions, which they are pleased to call heresy; that think God will exact the duties of a man by the measures of an angel, or will not
make abatement for all our pitiable infirmities. The precepts of this caution are, that we remember God's mercies to be over all his works, that is, that he shews mercy to all his creatures that need it; that God delights to have his mercy magnified in all things, and by all persons, and at all times, and will not suffer his greatest honour to be most of all undervalued; and therefore as he, that would accuse God of injustice, were a blasphemer, so he that suspects his mercy, dishonours God as much, and produces in himself that fear, which is the parent of trouble, but no instrument of duty.
3. Godly fear is operative, diligent, and instrumental, to caution and strict walking:-for so fear is the mother of holy living; and the Apostle urges it by way of upbraiding: "What! do we provoke God to anger? Are we stronger than hem?" meaning, that if we be not strong enough to struggle with a fever, if our voices cannot outroar thunder, if we cannot check the ebbing and flowing of the sea, if we cannot add one cubit to our stature, how shall we escape the mighty hand of God? And here, heighten our apprehensions of the Divine power, of his justice and severity, of the fierceness of his anger and the sharpness of his sword, the heaviness of his hand and the swiftness of his arrows, as much as ever you can; provided the effect pass on no farther, but to make us reverent and obedient: but that fear is unreasonable, servile, and unchristian, that ends in bondage and servile affections, scruple and trouble, vanity and incredulity, superstition and desperation: its proper bounds are "humble and devout prayers," and "a strict and a holy piety" according to his laws, and " glorifications of God," or speaking good things of his holy name; and then it cannot be amiss: we must be full of confidence towards God, we must with cheerfulness rely upon God's goodness for the issue of our souls, and our final interests; but this expectation of the Divine mercy must be in the ways of piety: "Commit yourselves to God in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator"." Alcibiades was too timorous; who being called from banishment refused to return, and being asked, If he durst not trust his country, answered, Tà μèv ädda távτa, περὶ δὲ ψυχῆς τῆς ἐμῆς οὐδὲ τῇ μητρί· μήπως ἀγνοήσασα, τὴν
μέλαιναν ἀντὶ τῆς λευκῆς ἐπενέγκῃ ψῆφον, “ In every thing else, but in the question of his life he would not trust his mother, lest ignorantly she should mistake the black bean for the white, and intending a favour should do him a mischief." We must, we may most safely, trust God with our souls; the stake is great, but the venture is none at all: for he is our Creator, and he is faithful; he is our Redeemer, and he bought them at a dear rate; he is our Lord, and they are his own; he prays for them to his heavenly Father, and therefore he is an interested person. So that he is a party, and an advocate, and a judge too; and therefore, there can be no greater security in the world on God's part: and this is our hope, and our confidence: but because we are but earthen vessels under a law, and assaulted by enemies, and endangered by temptations; therefore it concerns us to fear, lest we make God our enemy, and a party against us. And this brings me to the next part of the consideration; Who and what states of men ought to fear, and for what reasons? For, as the former cautions did limit, so this will encourage; those did direct, but this will exercise, our godly fear.
I. I shall not here insist upon the general reasons of fear, which concern every man, though it be most certain, that every one hath cause to fear, even the most confident and holy, because his way is dangerous and narrow, troublesome and uneven, full of ambushes and pitfalls; and I remember what Polynices said in the tragedy, when he was unjustly thrown from his father's kingdom, and refused to treat of peace but with a sword in his hand, ̔́Απαντα γὰρ τολμῶσι δεινὰ φαίνεται, Ὅταν δι ̓ ἐχθρᾶς ποὺς ἀμείβηται χθονός “Every step is a danger for a valiant man, when he walks in his enemy's country;" and so it is with us: we are espied by God and observed by angels; we are betrayed within, and assaulted without; the devil is our enemy, and we are fond of his mischiefs; he is crafty, and we love to be abused; he is malicious, and we are credulous; he is powerful, and we are weak; he is too ready of himself, and yet we desire to be tempted; the world is alluring, and we consider not its vanity; sin puts on all pleasures, and yet we take it, though it puts us to pain: in short, we are vain, and credulous, and sensual, and trifling; we are tempted, and tempt ourselves, Apud Eurip. in Phoenissis.
and we sin frequently, and contract evil habits, and they become second natures, and bring in a second death miserable and eternal: every man hath need to fear, because every man hath weakness, and enemies, and temptations, and dangers, and causes, of his own. But I shall only instance in some peculiar sorts of men, who, it may be, least think of it, and, therefore, have most cause to fear.
1. Are those of whom the Apostle speaks, " Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." 'Ev Evve ἰχθύι ἄκανθαι οὐκ ἔνεισιν (ὥς φησιν ὁ Δημόκριτος), said the Greek proverb; "In ordinary fish we shall never meet with thorns, and spiny prickles :" and in persons of ordinary even course of life, we find in it too often, that they have no checks of conscience, or sharp reflections upon their condition; they fall into no horrid crimes, and they think all is peace round about them. But you must know, that as grace is the improvement and bettering of nature, and Christian graces are the perfections of moral habits, and are but new circumstances, formalities, and degrees; so it grows in natural measures by supernatural aids, and it hath its degrees, its strengths and weaknesses, its promotions and arrests, its stations and declensions, its direct sicknesses and indispositions: and there is a state of grace that is next to sin; it inclines to evil and dwells with a temptation; its acts are imperfect, and the man is within the kingdom, but he lives in its borders, and is dubiæ jurisdictionis.' These men have cause to fear; these men seem to stand, but they reel indeed, and decline towards danger and death. Let these men (saith the Apostle) take heed lest they fall," for they shake already; such are persons, whom the Scriptures call "weak in faith." I do not mean new beginners in religion, but such, who have dwelt long in its confines, and yet never enter into the heart of the country; such whose faith is tempted, whose piety does not grow; such who yield a little; people that do all that they can lawfully do, and study how much is lawful, that they may lose nothing of a temporal interest; people that will not be martyrs in any degree, and yet have good affections; and love the cause of religion, and yet will suffer nothing for it: these are such which the Apostle speaks, Sokovou iorával, "they think they stand," and
P 1 Cor. x. 12.