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takes occasion from them to entertain a good opinion of his state before God. He puts them in the place of good attainments; and, because he hopes that they shall at some future period accomplish their proper work, he overlooks the necessity of immediately experiencing that work, and conceives, that God will, if I may so speak, accept the will for the deed. To countenance this delusion, he applies to himself such promises as these ; • The Lord will fulfil the desire of them that fear hime :” “ The desire of the righteous shall be granted." He forgets that the end is connected with the means; and that, however we may acknowledge our obligations to God for ability to will what is good, we can have no hope of acceptance with him, unless we exert ourselves with all diligence to do it, and to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Hence he is a living witness of that melancholy fact, “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing, whilst the soul of the diligent is made fath." Yes, to all eternity will he be a monument of that mysterious truth. “The desire of the slothful killeth him.”]
Having marked the operation of good desires, I now proceed, II. To offer some salutary counsel in relation to them,
Doubtless good desires must take the lead, yea, and must move us, in the whole of our Christian course: but, as “ faith itself is dead without works, ” so are good desires of no value any farther than they are productive of holy lives. I say then, if God have given to any of you good desires, see to it that those desires be, 1. Abiding
[There are few persons so depraved but they have felt on some particular occasion the risings of good desire. But to what purpose are such emotions in the soul, if they “ pass away like the morning cloud, or as the early dewi?" To know what is good, and not to do it, involves us in the heavier guilt", and will prove a ground of heavier condemnation to the soul; as God has said, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil ?.” If then you would derive real benefit from the desires which God has mercifully implanted in you, see that they take root within you, and become living and active principles in your souls.] e Ps. cxlv. 19. f Prov. x. 24.
& Phil. ii. 12, 13. h Prov. xiii. 4. i Hos. vi, 4.
Jam. iv. 17. i John iji. 19.
[You desire to obtain salvation. It is well: but to what purpose will this desire be, if it do not stimulate you to action? Will a desire of knowledge render any one a philosopher, if he neglect his studies? Will a desire of a harvest enrich a man, if he neglect to cultivate his land? How then can you hope that a desire of heaven will ever bring you thither, if you neglect the concerns of your souls? You must read the Holy Scriptures with meditation and prayer: you must search out your sins, and mourn over them before God: you must get views of Christ as the only Saviour of the world, and must go to him continually that you may receive out of his fulness the grace that shall be sufficient for you. You must be gaining an increasing victory over the world, and the flesh, and the devil, and be growing more and more like unto your God and Saviour in righteousness and true holiness. You must be living more for God in the midst of this corrupt world, and be bringing glory to his name by your exertions in his sacred cause. It is in this way that your good desires must work, if you would have them productive of any saving benefit to your souls. The stony-ground hearers, whose desires were only temporary, perished, notwithstanding the fair appearances which for a season they assumed; as did the thorny-ground hearers also, because they “ brought forth no fruit to perfection.” And
you also must not only begin well, but “endure unto the end,” and “ be faithful unto death," if ever you would be saved in the great day of the Lord Jesus. The slothful,” be they who they may, shall be condemned in that day as “ wicked m."] 3. Supreme
[“ You cannot serve God and mammon.” The world may have your hands; but God must have your heart, your whole heart". He will not accept a divided hearto.
" The world must become crucified to you, and you unto the world P.” “ Your affections must be set on things above, and not on things below9;" and "your conversation must be altogether in heaven." “ There must be nothing either in heaven or earth that you desire besides Gods."
You must resemble David, who says, “ This one thing have I desiredt," and St. Paul, who says, "" This one thing I dou." Then shall God fully answer you in the desires of your heart, and your efforts be crowned with glorious success.)
m Matt. xxv. 26.
n Prov. xxiï. 26.
o Hos. x. 2.
THE FEAR OF GOD ALL THE DAY.
Prov. xxiii. 17, 18. Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the
day long: for surely there is an end ; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
THE men of this world, feeling but little restraint from the voice of conscience or the fear of God, gratify, each in his own way, their natural inclinations ; and therefore they appear happy: and the people of God, especially under troubles and persecutions for righteousness sake, are almost ready to look upon them with an eye of envy: and, if this world only were considered, and temporal enjoyments were the proper standard of happiness, perhaps they might on the whole be congratulated as possessing a happy and an enviable lot". But the righteous, under whatever disadvantages they may lie, have no just cause to
envy sinners;” seeing that nothing but disappointment awaits the children of this world; whilst the servants of God, who look forward to heavenly bliss, can never be disappointed of their hope. On this assurance the exhortation in my text is founded ; and for the fuller elucidation of the subject, I will set
I. The duty inculcated
“ The fear of the Lord” is, especially in the Old Testament, a common expression, comprehending in its import the whole of practical religion. And when we are bidden to live under its influence “ all the day long,” we must understand the precept as enjoining us to maintain, throughout the whole course of our lives, 1. A sense of love to God, as our Father
[Jehovah, as reconciled to us through the Son of his love, stands in the relation of a Father to us; for all, the very instant they believe in Christ, have “ the privilege of becoming the Sons of God).” Till we come to God by Christ, we have no filial fear of him in our hearts. A slavish fear of him we may a Ps. lxxiii. 3-5.
b John i. 12.
have; but we neither have, nor can have," a Spirit of adoption, emboldening us to call him Father:” for “the Holy Spirit can never bear witness with our spirit, that we are the Lord's," till we are made his by faith in Christ Jesus a. But when we are become his children, then we must go in and out before him with holy confidence, exactly as duteous children before a loving parent
To walk thus before him was the perfection of Abraham's attainmentse; and it is that which is held forth to us also as the summit of a Christian's duty and privilege' ---] 2. A sense of duty to him, as our Master
[This is united with the former by God himself: “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if, then, I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear &?" Now, what is the conduct of a good servant? When he rises in the morning, he asks himself, What have I to do for my master?' and through every part of the day, even to the close of it, the same question recurs to his mind, and calls forth suitable exertions for the discharge of the duties required of him.
And if, when engaged in executing his master's commands, he were solicited by any one to embark in some other pursuit, he would immediately reply, as our blessed Saviour did, “I must be about my Father's business :" nor could any consideration tempt him to neglect his duty. He would, under all circumstances, regard his master's work as claiming a just preference at his hands, and his master's approbation as that which, above all, he was anxious to obtain. Let it be thus, then, with you in every situation of life; and make it your one business to approve yourselves good servants of Jesus Christ.] 3. A sense of responsibility to him as our Judge
[Never are you to lose a sense of this. It is quite a mistake to call this legal. St. Paul, and all the Apostles, acted with a direct reference to the future judgment; and sought so to demean themselves that they might welcome the second coming of their Lord, and stand with boldness before him at that awful day". This will secure the obedience of the heart: for in that day shall “ the secrets of men's hearts be disclosed," and," their inmost counsels be made manifest:" and, to secure his approbation then, you must be upright, and without any allowed guile. Let every place then bear, as it were, this inscription, “ Thou, God, seest me;" and take heed to your
c Rom. viii. 15, 16. d Gal. iii. 26. e Gen. xvü. 1. Eph. v. 1.
& Mal. i. 6. h 1 Cor. ix. 26, 27. 2 Cor. v. 9, 10. Jam. v. 8, 9. 1 Pet. v. 1—4.
thoughts, no less than to your actions, that so you may be found “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ'."]
And, lest such a constant attention to duty should appear irksome to you, let me shew
you, II. The encouragement given us to the performance
of it The whole Scripture declares, that, “ verily, there is a reward for the righteousk;" and this, I conceive, is the true import of my text?. The ungodly expect to find happiness in their ways of sin; but they pursue a phantom, and embrace a shadow. But not so they who fear the Lord : they shall “ have a sure reward;" as God hath said, “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness; but the expectation of the wicked shall perish m.” What, then, my Brethren, do ye expect ? Do you expect pardon of sin ?
[This shall surely be accorded to you: for “in the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge 1." Yes, verily, however numerous your sins may have been, “ they shall all be blotted out, even as a morning cloud.” Will God cast out one who comes to him in his Son's name? Will he spurn from his footstool one humble suppliant ? No: “to this man will he look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at his word •;" and "to him will he give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness P.”] Peace of conscience ?
[This also shall you possess. Hear what David says: “ What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him shall the Lord teach in the way that he shall choose; and his soul shall dwell at ease.” Peace is the legacy which Jesus has bequeathed to all his redeemed people, saying, “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you". * To the wicked there is no peace ®:” but for you is there “a peace that passeth all understanding."] Strength for duty ?
(Doubtless you may have many difficulties to encounter:
i Phil. i. 10.
k Ps. lviii. 11. i See the marginal reading, and compare it with ch. xxiv. 14. m Prov. X. 28. with xi. 18.
n Prov. xiv. 26. o Isai. lxvi. 2. p Ps. lxi. 1-3. 9 Ps. xxv. 12, 13. 1 John xiv. 27. s Isai. lvii. 21.