Billeder på siden

fair estimate of the rights of others. The proud man may be upright in his dealings, just because he is too proud to be otherwise; but will he esteem others better than himself, and view their claims with the kindness and the candour which, by the law of love, and by the law of God, he is bound to do? Does not pride give rise to implacable and revengeful feelings, and produce misery in families and in nations?

As little is it possible, without humility, for a man to discharge aright the duties which he owes himself. How can he practise self-examination and true repentance? How can he take heed to his immortal interests, when he is void of that state of mind by which he can value and pursue aright the redemption of the soul?

V. Humility alone accords with our condition. Without alluding again to our dependence, helplessness, and sinfulness, I may notice that pride is unsuited to our absolute insignificance and ignorance. Of the parts, the structure, the designs of that universe in the midst of which we are placed, we know comparatively nothing. Yet even the traces of power, intelligence and wisdom, of power so vast, of wisdom so wonderful and unerring, observable throughout this work of God, are such as make us feel the limited nature of our faculties, and the condescension of the great Lord and Ruler of all in consulting our happiness. When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?"





REVERENCE of God is that state of mind which is naturally produced by a view of his greatness and majesty, as infinitely powerful, wise, holy, just, and good; and is to be distinguished from that servile tormenting fear which is the accompaniment of despair. The reverence of which I speak, is a filial affection, involved in the exercise of that love which is the fulfilling of the law, and proceeding from just conceptions of the character of God, as a Being of boundless purity and justice, as well as of mercy and goodness. It is to be exercised in regard to his titles, his attributes, his word, his ordinances, his works, and every thing by which he makes known his character and will.

That this affection is involved in the exercise of love to God, and forms an essential element in the formation of a virtuous character, must be apparent from a slight consideration of the nature of God and the nature of man, and the relations which the one bears to the other. What intelligent being, however exalted, can contemplate the awful perfections of Him whose glories no eye hath fully seen, or can see, without the deepest awe? The seraphim are represented as covering their faces with their wings, as they stand in the posture of humility and reverence before his throne, and respond one to another, saying,

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Is it not meet that man, so weak and sinful, should habitually entertain the same holy fear in reference to God, in his character, perfections, and government? Is it possible for him to have just apprehensions of God, in the perfection of his character, as glorious in holiness, as well as rich in mercy, and, at the same time, not to be awed by his presence, nor to feel reverence and godly fear in regard to him? Or, is it desirable that a being, so forgetful as man is of the high and holy ends of his existence, should ever be freed, even were it possible, from the fear of that God who is, indeed, his father, but who is also his supreme moral governor and judge?


So closely allied is the fear of God to the love of God, that the one, and especially in the Old Testament, is put for the other, and is used frequently to denote that moral and religious character which is the object of divine approbation. Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. I will put my fear into their hearts, and they shall not depart from me. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life." In the New Testament, the exercise of mind implied in this expression is repeatedly mentioned as essential to the Christian character. "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Having, there

[merged small][ocr errors]

fore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."


From these, and many similar passages, appears that the fear or reverence of God enjoined, is an affection of mind totally different from painful apprehension and desponding dread;-that it is essential to true and acceptable worship;-that it is not only conducive, but necessary to true obedience and progressive holiness;-that it is not only compatible with the highest delight and confidence of God in this world, but essential to the glory and happiness of heaven;-and that it is the source of true fidelity and fortitude, and the evidence of real piety.

I. It is an affection of mind totally different from The painful apprehension and desponding dread. object of fear to sinful mortals is often, at the same time, the object of hatred. A successful and powerful rival is sometimes disliked while he is feared. When the awful perfections of God are contemplated without love to his character, the feelings excited are alienation and dread. It is thus that they are affected, who are said to believe in God and tremble.

Nor is the fear of the sinner, when first awakened to behold the majesty of God, and to a sense of his guilt, free from painful apprehensions. His view, however imperfect, of the power, wisdom, and especially of the holiness of God, of the rectitude of his moral government, of the authority of his law, and of his own transgressions, suggests to him guilt which he has incurred, concerns of awful moment which he has neglected, and the just displeasure of the great

and holy Lord God as the consequence. Under this feeling, Paul the prisoner, as he reasoned concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, made Felix, his judge, tremble.


Under the influence question often been

of the same emotion has the asked, What shall I do to be saved?" It is easy to see why, in fallen and guilty beings, this species of fear should precede filial reverence. It does not always nor necessarily issue in this holy affection; but it does so in every case in which it leads to true repentance, and the love and the obedience of God.

That godly fear, which we style the reverence of God, in place of having any thing in it of alienation and distrust, is inseparably connected with delight in his greatness and glory, with the most earnest desire to please him, and with a willing subjection to his authority. This pleasing, solemn awe is felt when his character is contemplated by all who truly love him ;it is felt in the survey of whatever brings his glorious perfections to the view of the mind,—in looking to the heavens which declare his glory, and to the firmament which sheweth forth his handy-work; to the intelligence, power, wisdom, and goodness, which the beauty, order, and magnificence of nature, so impressively disclose ;-to the operation of his vital presence in the wonders of his providential government ;—to his word, which so much more fully, and under far more endearing characters, reveals him;-and in the observance of the instituted ordinances of his worship, in which we are said to draw near unto God. In a word, when God, in his character, his works, and his ways, is the object of our contemplation, it must be

« ForrigeFortsæt »