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was called their " vision.” Now, where no revelation is, or where, though given, it is not attended to, “ the people perish”
[This is the unhappy state of the heathen world, who are constantly represented as dead in trespasses and sins, and as under the dominion of Satan -- -Still more is this the state of God's ancient people, whilst they reject the Messiaho --- But far worse is the state of those who hear, without obeying, the Gospel d---] II. The blessedness of those who hear and obey it
Our Lord pronounces them supremely blessed. And there is somewhat very emphatical in the declaration of it contained in our text
[Those who truly believe in Christ, and live altogether by faith on him, “are happy.” They are so, as restored to God's favour - -- as enjoying his presence 8 - -- as inheriting his glory ---] OBSERVE from hence
1. The importance of missionary exertions' -~
2. The importance of improving our present privileges,
[On the due improvement of them depends both our presentk and eternal happiness ---]
b Eph. ii. 1, 2, 11–13. Rom. iï. 19. 1 John v. 19. We have no authority to depart from the plain declarations of Holy Writ.
c Isai. xxvii. 11. Hos. iv, 6. John viii. 24.
d John xv. 22. 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4. 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. Heb. ii. 3. 1 Pet, iv. 17.
e Luke xi. 28. Rom. v. 1. & Ps. lxxxix, 5. . h Rev. xxii. 14. i Rom. x. 13–15, 17. k Mark the latter clause of the text.
THE FEAR OF MAN. Prov. xxix. 25. The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso
putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. OUR blessed Lord, at the very first introduction of his religion into the world, told his followers, that he was not come to send peace on earth, but a sword, and to set at variance with each other the nearest and dearest relatives. We are not however to suppose that this was the proper end of his religion : it was not the end, but the effect : and it is, and must be, the effect, as long as there shall be a carnal and unregenerate man upon earth. What, then, must be done by the followers of Christ ? Must they draw back, because their carnal friends forbid them to proceed ? or must they put their light under a bushel, lest it should offend the eyes of those who behold it? No: they must dismiss from their minds all fear of men, and be faithful to their God at all events: for “ the fear of man bringeth a snare;” which they can only avoid by giving themselves up faithfully to their God.
From the words before us, we learn, I. Our great danger
The fear of man is far more general than we are at all aware of .
[Ungodly men, who, in relation to all other things, set at defiance the whole world, are yet, almost as much as others, in bondage, in reference to religion. They can set at nought all religion, without any fear at all: but, to shew respect for it, and especially a desire to become acquainted with it, they dare not. They see that there are persons whose ministry would prove instructive; but they fear to avail themselves of such a ministry, lest a suspicion should attach to them as leaning towards a religious life, and as inclined to sentiments which are generally decried. And, as for cultivating an acquaintance with one of strict piety, however much they may wish, they dare not do it, lest they incur ridicule from their ungodly companions.
Persons who begin to feel any concern about their souls are immediately beset with this evil principle. They are conscious that the change which is taking place in them will, of necessity, offend their former companions; and therefore they desire to conceal their feelings, and to avoid the rupture which they foresee. Hence they make many compliances contrary to the convictions of their own conscience; and expose themselves to many temptations, which their better judgment would have taught them to avoid. So common is this bondage, that scarcely one, at the earlier period of his conversion, is free from it. Whatever be men's rank in life, they are still in subjection to their fellows: yea, the higher their station, the greater, for the most part, is their cowardice.
Nor are established believers free from this thraldom. They do indeed disregard the world; but they are as much enslaved by the maxims and habits of their associates in the church, as ever they were by the world around them. They dare not think for themselves, or act for themselves, according to the convictions of their own minds. They take not their faith and practice from the Scriptures of Truth, but from a standard which obtains among them, and from which they are afraid to deviate. Who would think that Peter himself, bold and intrepid as he was by nature, and still more fortified by grace, should yet yield so far to the prejudice of his Judaizing brethren, as even to endanger the utter subversion of the Gospel, which he had been the honoured instrument of first opening both to the Jewish and Gentile world? Yet so he did, through fear of their displeasure. Who, then, has not cause to acknowledge himself in danger of erring, through the operation of this evil principle?]
To all who yield to its influence, it brings a fatal snare
[Thousands it keeps from coming within the reach of spiritual instruction. The fear of that expostulation, “ He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye hima ?" is quite sufficient to intimidate the generality of men, whom curiosity at least might otherwise bring within the sphere of spiritual instruction. And in those of whom better things might have been hoped, it has wrought, in unnumbered instances, to the production of the most tremendous evils, moral, spiritual, eternal. Behold in Peter a dissimulation, which led even Barnabas astray. They, through mercy, were recovered: but many it has led to utter apostasy, and involved in everlasting ruin. In the days of our blessed Lord many were “afraid to confess him, because they loved the praise of men more than the honour that cometh of God;” and many who had followed him “ went back, and walked no more with him :" and so in every age, even to the present hour, have many been turned aside by the dread of persecution, and have made shipwreck of their faith." And what the issue of this is to their souls, we are told: for “ the fearful and unbelieving,” no less than “murderers and whoremongers, have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." In truth, our adorable Saviour warned his hearers respecting this, from the very beginning; declaring to them at all times, that they who should be ashamed of him, and should deny him, would assuredly find him ashamed of them, and would be ultimately denied by him in the presence of his Father and of the whole assembled universe.]
Seeing, then, that we are all exposed to this danger, it will be expedient that I point out to you, II. Its proper and only effectual antidote
a John x. 20. b Matt. xiii. 21. c Rev. xxi. 8.
There is nothing but a regard to God himself that can ever overcome the fear of man: on which account our blessed Lord says, “Fear not man, who can only kill the body, and after that hath no more that he can do; but fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hella.” The same truth is suggested in my text, only in somewhat of a more gentle form : “Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, shall be safe.”
Would we then be delivered from the foregoing snare, let us put our trust in God, 1. For happiness
[A man who is dependent on the world for his happiness, must of necessity be in bondage to its maxims, its habits, its votaries. But one whose heart is fixed upon God, and who looks up to God as his portion, feels himself at liberty. It is to him a small matter whether the world frown or smile. All that he is anxious about, is, to retain the favour of God, and to have the light of his countenance lifted up upon him. His interest, his reputation, his life may be endangered ; but he smiles at the vain attempts of his enemies. They may shut him up from all access of earthly friends ; but they cannot deprive him of communion with God: on the contrary, his communications from God are, for the most part, enlarged, in proportion as man's efforts to distress him are increased. And “when God giveth quietness, who then can make troublee ?"] 2. For support
[A man, when menaced by earthly enemies, is driven to the Lord for succour: and, O! what strength does he find communicated to him in the hour of need! Assured of strength according to his day, the believer disregards the utmost efforts of his persecutors. The furnace may be heated seven times more than usual, or the lions have their appetites whetted for their prey; but his mind is in peace, because he “ knows in whom he has believed, and that God is able to keep that which has been committed to him." Whether he shall be delivered by God from his trials, or be supported under them, he knows not: but he is assured, that whatever be done by his enemies, shall “work together for his good;” and that, in the issue, he shall “prove more than conqueror, through Him who loved him."] 3. For recompence
[To heaven the believer looks, as his final rest: and in the prospect of that, all the transitory events of time become of no account in his estimation. The crown of victory and of • d Matt. x. 28.
e Job xxxiv. 29.
glory is ever in his view; and he knows the condition on which alone it will be bestowed: we must “ be faithful unto death, if ever we would obtain a crown of life.” Hence he finds no difficulty in renouncing all that the world can give, and in enduring all that the most bitter persecutors can inflict; because, like Moses, he “looks unto the recompence of the reward; and, like the “women who refused to accept deliverance from their tortures, he expects a better resurrection." Whatever tribulations he may pass through in his way to glory, he feels no doubt but that the glory which awaits him will amply make amends for all?.] For an IMPROVEMENT of this subject, I will add, 1. A word of caution
[The foregoing sentiments, if not received with a becoming spirit, are liable to abuse. Indeed we have often seen, in young and inexperienced persons especially, conceit and selfwill assuming the garb of religion; and exerting themselves, without controul, in opposition to all sound advice, and in defiance of all legitimate authority. Let me, therefore, be well understood in this matter. Though we are to be on our guard against the fear of man, we are not to set at nought the counsels of the wise, nor the injunctions of those who are over us in the Lord. In matters of indifference, it is well to consult the judgment and the wishes of those who are in authority over us. It is only when the counsels and commands of men go counter to the commands of God, that we are authorized to set them at nought: and even then we must conduct ourselves with meekness and modesty, and must not give way to a rude, unmannered, refractory spirit. This is of exceeding great importance. We cannot too strictly watch against the indulgence of any unhallowed temper under the pretext of religion: and if at any time we are constrained to oppose the wishes of our friends, we must order ourselves with such kindness and love, as may leave them in no doubt but that our perseverance is the fruit of real piety, and not the offspring of obstinate conceit.] 2. A word of encouragement
[However careful we be, we must expect to incur the displeasure of those who wish to retain us in bondage to the world. But if, as we have reason to expect, our greatest foes be those of our own household, let us consider how much better it is to have the frowns of men and the approbation of God, than the smiles of men and the displeasure of God. If all the men in the universe were to applaud us, it would be a poor recompence for the loss of a good conscience, whose testimony in our behalf would repay us for the loss of the whole world. In fact, if we
* Rom. viii. 18.