Images de page

for a different allotment. Remaining as you are, you will die in your sins, make your grave with the wicked, come forth in the resurrection of the unjust, stand at the left hand of your Judge, and hear that melancholy sentence, Depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.

Which of these two characters, which of these two allotments, will you choose? Which life, which death, which resurrection, which place at the judgment, which allotment for eternity? And forget not this question is to be decided by another; and that is, Whether you will restrain prayer before God?



NEHEMIAH V. 15. But so did not I, because of the fear of God.

MEN are everywhere, and constantly exposed to do wrong. They are "prone to evil from their youth," and easily led to commit it from the evil disposition which they bring into the world, and carry with them to their latest breath. They are allured to it by the example of others; by the love of pleasure, or of gain; and they are tempted to it by wicked men, and by the devil, the great Seducer.

There are strong and persuasive motives to keep them from sinning; but there is one that is more persuasive, and more powerful than all others. The Prophet Nehemiah, who utters the language of the text, was a very learned and great man; he was, too, a very decided and bold man. He does not seem to be afraid of anything; yet was there one thing which no threats and no promises could induce him to do; and that was to sin against God. He was afraid of doing wrong. The fear of God ruled his heart, and kept him from evil. In view of a long course of wicked conduct, which was practised by others, he could say with an honest conscience, "So did not I, because of the fear of God."

Was he not a happy man? Would not men always be more happy than they are, if when accused of sin, or sorely tempted, or thinking of the sins of others, they could honestly and thankfully say, "So did not I, because of the fear of God?"

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It is a powerful, and most beautiful principle of conduct, this fear of God. It is something which grows out of love to him, and is strongest in those minds which love. him most. Every good man is deeply affected at the thought of incurring the displeasure of God. The happiness of such a man consists in enjoying God's love and favor. He is afraid if God frowns; he cares little who frowns upon him, so long as his Heavenly Father smiles. As perfect love casteth out fear, so pure fear casteth out love. There is a mere tormenting dread of punishment that has no religion in it; it is such a fear of God as the devils have; it is nothing more. Yet is it by no means adverse to the spirit of true piety to fear and tremble before him, who is "able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The Saviour says to his disciples, "Fear him." Many a time have I blessed God for my fears. I am thankful when he "visits my iniquity with the rod, and my transgression with stripes." For my own part, I am glad there is such a place as hell, throwing forth its smoke and its flames, and warning me not to come too near its consuming fires.

If you are duly acquainted with God's greatness and goodness, his justice and mercy, his wrath and his love, his displeasure and his approbation, you will feel that internal reverence and regard for him, which will restrain you from thoughtlessly provoking him to anger. There are no wickeder men in the world than those

who care not for God, and pay no just reverence to him before whom angels bow.

Of all the motives to keep men from sinning, the fear of God is the best and worthiest. Some persons are kept from sinning from a regard to their own character and reputation; some because their wickedness is too expensive, and they cannot afford it; others because they do not wish to displease and wound those they love; others from the fear of human, and perhaps legal penalties. They may be thankful to be preserved from sin by any motive; they need all these motives to restrain them; yet it is not every motive that is right, and that God approves. There are higher and worthier motives than such as these. The most virtuous minds in the universe do not abstain from sin from such motives; they abstain from it because it is wrong, because it is displeasing to God, and on account of its contrariety to him. The reason why God forbids sin, is, that he hates it; and the reason why he hates it, is that it is wrong, and opposed to his own holy and adorable nature. To be restrained from it by any other motive than that it is displeasing to God, is to be governed by motives that are inferior to that which he requires. This is the highest motive, and the only motive that God approves. It is not sterling virtue to be prevented from sinning from any other motive than such a fear of God.

The fear of God is also the most effectual preservative from sin. Those who fear God most, sin the least; did they always fear him, they would never sin. Unless then refrain from it for this reason, there is no certainty that they ever will be prevented from committing it. They will all the while love it at heart; and what

is loving it at heart, but, in the sight of God, committing it! What motive is there, that is sure to restrain a man from outward wickedness, so long as he loves it at heart? A cautious regard for his reputation will not restrain him, because he may commit it secretly. A wise reference to his health, or his property, will not restrain him, because some sins do not expose health, and cost nothing. The love of others, and the penalty of the civil law, will not restrain him, because there are sins which do not expose him to these exactions. But he cannot reason thus with regard to God. God is everywhere. He is sure, if he sins, to meet God's frown. The fear of God will restrain him, when nothing else can do it. He may run every other hazard; but he cannot run away from God. He may trifle with every other restraint; but he cannot trifle with God. Take away all fear of God from a creature so prone to sin as man is, and what influence would other motives exert upon him, and how long would they exert it? It were but to let loose the evil passions of men from this single bond, and with an overwhelming tide of wickedness they would be swept down the precipice. Many are the men who would have sinned fearfully in times past, and who would now commit iniquity with greediness, but for the fear of God. "How shall I commit this great wickedness and sin against God!" This single consideration effects what nothing else can. Men are sometimes artful in sinning; but they cannot circumvent their Maker. They are bold, too; they fear not men; but they are afraid of God. The fear of God can restrain. "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand

« PrécédentContinuer »