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prosper more than others b; nevertheless the godly are by far the happier persons. It is of them only that the assertion in the text can be made. We propose to shew, I. Who they are that fear God
This, we may suppose, would be a point easy to be determined; but, through self-love and Satan's devices, many mistake respecting it. The characters described in the text may be distinguished by the following marks: 1. They stand in awe of God's judgments—'
[Once they disregarded the displeasure of the Almightyd : they would not believe that his threatenings would be executed. But now they have learned to tremble at his word e. Awakened by his Spirit, they exclaim with the prophet'. The Scriptures uniformly represent them in this light 6.] 2. They embrace the salvation offered them
[In their natural state they felt no need of a physician h: they saw no suitableness in the remedy which the Gospel offered them! Their pride would not suffer them to submit to its humiliating terms *; but now they gladly embrace Christ as their only Saviour. They flee to him, as the murderers did to a city of refuge. This is the description given of them in the inspired volume !.] 3. They endeavour to keep all the commandments—
[If ever they obeyed God at all, they served him only to the extent the world would approve. Where the lax habits of mankind forbad their compliance with the divine command, they were afraid to be singular. But they dare not any longer halt between God and Baal: they have determined, through grace, to follow the Lord fully. The language of their hearts is like that of David m. This was the very ground on which God concluded that Abraham feared him "]
These marks clearly distinguish those who fear God from all others
[The formal Pharisee has never felt his desert of condemnation'. The merely awakened sinner has never truly embraced
f Isai. xxxiii. 14. 8 Acts xvi. 29. and Ps. cxix. 120. i 1 Cor. i. 23.
k Rom. X. 3.
b Rev. ii. 17.
the Gospel P. The hypocritical professor has never mortified his besetting sin 9. It is the person alone, who fears God, that unites in his experience a dread of God's wrath, an affiance in Christ, and a love to the commandments.]
Such persons, notwithstanding appearances, are truly blessed. II. In what respects it shall be well with them,
They are not exempt from the common afflictions of life. They have in addition to them many trials peculiar to themselves; yet it goes well with them, 1. In respect of temporal good
[They have a peculiar enjoyment of prosperity. The ungodly find an emptiness in all their possessions"; but the godly have not such gall mixed with their comforts. They have also peculiar supports in a season of adversity. The wicked are for the most part miserable in their afflictiont: if kept from murmuring, it is the summit of their attainments : but the righteous are enabled to glory in tribulation y, and cordially to approve of God's dispensations towards them *.] 2. In respect of spiritual good
[They possess a peace that passeth all understanding. They are filled with a joy utterly unknown to others. The work of sanctification is gradually carried on within them? As they approach towards death they grow in a meetness for heaven, and are serene and happy in the near prospect of eternity a.] 3. In respect to eternal good
[Who can set forth their felicity in the eternal world? Who can even conceive the weight of glory preparing for them? How will their faith be lost in sight, and their hope in enjoyment! Then indeed will that truth be seen and felt by them b.]
These things are far from being “ cunningly devised fables.” III. What assurance we have that it shall be thus
well with themNo truth whatever is capable of clearer demonstration. The topics from whence it might be proved are innumerable; we shall however confine ourselves to three :
p Acts xxiv. 25, and xxvi. 28.
9 Acts viï. 23. r Job. xx. 22.
s Prov. x. 22. 1 Tim. vi. 17. t Eccl. v. 17. u Rom. v. 3.
x 2 Kings xx. 19. y Prov. xiv. 10. 2 2 Cor. iv. 16. a Ps. xxxvii. 37. b Ps. cxliv. 15.
1. The fitness of things requires it
[No man can seriously think that there is one portion to the righteous and the wicked: there is no well-ordered government on earth where this is the case; much less can we suppose it possible in the divine government. To imagine such a thing, is to strip the Deity of all regard to his own honour. We may be sure that there shall be a distinction made in favour of his servants“.] 2. The promises of God insure it
[All temporal good is expressly promised to those “ who fear Godd;" all spiritual good also is given them as their portione: yea, all eternal good is laid up for them as their unalienable inheritancef: all the promises are made over to them in one word. Can any one doubt a truth so fully established ?]
3. The experience of all that ever feared God attests it
[Who ever found it unprofitable to serve the Lordh? What truly devoted soul was ever forsaken by himi? Who ever complained that the means, by which he was brought to fear God, were too severe? Or that any affliction, that increased and confirmed that fear, was too heavy? David indeed did at one time question the position in the text; but on recollection he condemned himself for his rashness and ignorance, and acknowledged that his vile suspicions contradicted the experience of God's children in all agesk.]
On these grounds we “ assuredly know” the truth declared in the text
[We do not surmise it as a thing possible. We do not hope it as a thing probable. We absolutely know it as infallibly certain. We are not surer of our existence than we are of this truth. Without hesitation therefore we deliver our message!. O that the word may sink deep into all our hearts ! And that we might from experience unite our testimony to Solomon's m.]
We beg leave to ask, whether they who fear not God, have any such assurance in their favour?
[We are aware that they will entertain presumptuous hopes; and that, in opposition to God's word, they will expect happiness. But does the boldest sinner dare affirm that he knows it shall be well with him? His conscience would instantly revolt at such falsehood and blasphemy. Let those then, that fear not God, stand self-condemned. Let them flee unto their God and Saviour with penitence and faith. Let them so live as to preserve the testimony of a good conscience. And then, however enlarged their expectations of good may be, they shall never be disappointed".]
c Mal. ii. 18. d Ps. xxxiv. 9. e Ps. xxv. 12, 13. ? Ps. ciii. 17. 8 1 Tim. iv. 8.
h Jer. ii. 31. i Isai. xlix. 15. k Ps. lxxii. 12—15, 22. 1 Isai. iii. 10, 11. m Prov. xxviii. 14.
* Isai. xlv. 17.
DCCCXL. THE WICKEDNESS, MADNESS, AND MISERY OF UNREGENE
RATE MEN. Eccl. ix. 3. The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and
madness is in their heart while they live ; and after that, they go to the dead.
IF we look only on the surface of things, we shall think that all things come alike to all, since all are subject to the same afflictions, and go down to the grave in their appointed season. But the righteous, however afflicted, “ are in the hands of Goda," who ordereth and overruleth every thing for their good; whereas the wicked, however prosperous, are left to run their career of sin, till they fall into the pit of everlasting destruction. The state and end of unregenerated men are awfully declared in the words before us; wherein is depicted, I. Their wickedness
[" The hearts of unregenerate men are full of evil.” Every species of filthiness, whether fleshly or spiritual, abounds within them. They have not a faculty either of body or soul that is not defiled with sind. So full of iniquity are they, that there is no good within them. And this is the state, not of a few only, but of every child of man, till he has been renewed by the Holy Spirit'.] II. Their madness
[It may well be expected that creatures so depraved should manifest their depravity in the whole of their conduct. And in truth they do so: for they are even mad. They pour contempt upon the greatest good. Can any thing be compared
a ver. 1. 6 2 Cor. vii. 1. c Rom. i. 29–31. d Rom. iii. 10–18. e Gen. vi. 5. Rom. vii. 18. f John iii. 6. Tit. iii. 3. Jer. xvii. 9.
at the poste pare normale shers
with the salvation of the soul? And do they not disregard this? And is not such conduct madness? They also disregard the greatest of all evils, the wrath of God. And would not this be madness, if there were only a bare possibility of their falling under his everlasting displeasure? How much more then, when it is as certain, as that there is a God! Moreover, they continue in this state, for the most part, “ as long as they live.” If they acted only through ignorance, or were drawn aside for a little time by temptation, or if they turned from this way, as soon as they came to the full exercise of their reason, yea, if they rectified their conduct as soon as their own consciences condemned it, they would have some shadow of an excuse. But, when they persist, against light and knowledge, against warnings and judgments, yea, against their own vows and resolutions, what is it but madness itself? Let a man act in such a way with respect to the things of this world, and no one will hesitate a moment to pronounce him made.]
III. Their misery. [How pleasant soever the ways of ungodly men appear, they will soon terminate in death". But the righteous also must go the grave: no doubt therefore it is another death that is here spoken of, even “ the second death in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." This is affirmed by God in the strongest manneri; and, however disbelieved by those whom it most concerns, it shall assuredly be found true at the last. Yea, we have even now the consciences of men attesting this awful truth: and if we should say, that the ungodly, after such a life, should “go to” heaven, instead of to “ the dead,” though they might be wicked enough to wish it, they would not be mad enough to believe it. They have a presentiment, in spite of all their reasonings to the contrary, that "their end shall be according to their works k."] INFER
1. How necessary is it to deal faithfully with the souls of men !
[Should we “ prophesy smooth things” unto people who are perishing in their sins, and who before another Sabbath may be “ gone to the dead?” Should we, if we beheld a stranded vessel, seek to amuse the sailors, instead of affording them direction and assistance? How much less then if we ourselves were embarked with them, and were partners of their danger ? Surely then every time we preach, we should bear in mind that both our hearers and ourselves are dying
8 Luke xv. 17.
h Job xx. 5—9.