Page images

limony of the Judge himself, who scans all actions, who weighs all thoughts, whose right hand doth ever hold us, and whose eye is constantly upon us, that will stop every mouth in the great day of decision, and convince the whole world that his judgment is true and righteous.

Thus have I endeavoured to establish your faith of this important truth, that the eyes of the Lord are in ev. ery place, beholding the evil and the good. I have argued the cause at the bar of Reason, and have showed you the intimate connexion of this doctrine with the most acknowledged dictates of natural religion, to wit, That God is the Creator, the Preserver, the Governor, and the Judge of the world. It is possible that some may ask, Why bestow so much time and labour in proving a point which nobody is disposed to deny? Let this be my apology: I cannot recollect the time when I seriously questioned the truth of this doctrine; but I can well remember a time, when it had no more influence upon my own soul than if I had been sure it was false: And if your belief be of the same kind, as I fear with too many it is, be assured you have heard no more than was needful; nay, if an infinitely greater Teacher do not preach the subject over again to your hearts with power, your present belief shall only heighten your guilt; and the fewer your doubts are, the greater shall your condemnation be. If your hearts do not feel the constant presence of God, your verbal acknowledgments and speculative belief of it shall only render your case something worse than the infidels. Satan can spare this tribute to God: so long as your faith dwells in the brain, or in the tongue, he doth not grudge you the possession of it; and if what you have been hearing sink no deeper, I shall readily admit that you have heard too much. In that case, I have no doubt lost my labour, whether

[blocks in formation]

it hath been acceptable to you or not. But I shall not close the subject till I have pointed out the practical use we ought to make of it.

And, 1st. Let us take occasion from this doctrine to admire, with humble gratitudle, the long-suffering pati. ence and tender compassions of our God. Is he the immediate witness of all our sins ? doth he see the rebel. lious thought rising in our minds? and doth he still look on, and spare, till it be fully formed and executed? How incomprehensible then must his patience be! We find it no easy matter to forgive our fellow men, even when they are penitent; with what difficulty do we suppress our resentment, though the injury hath been committed at a great distance of time, and our offending brother himself was perhaps the first who informed us of it, by a free and sorrowful confession? What then can we think of the divine mercy and forbearance? It were much in God to forgive the transgressions of such crea. tures as we are, though he had not seen them done, and knew nothing about them, till he heard them from our. selves, in penitent confessions and petitions for pardon; but to bear with us till lust had conceived and brought forth; to see the whole progress of the mind, its plots and contrivances, till the wicked deed be done; to be. hold the heart full of enmity, without one relenting thought; to spare a creature thus determined to affront him, when by one word he could disarm it of all its power, and render it completely miserable! it is this wbich sets the patience of God above all human, above all created understanding. O! my brethren, think of this. Should an earthly prince behold one of his subjects, who lived within bis palace, and was supported by his bounty, treasonably conspiring against him with his most inveterate enemies; should be, instead of treat

ing him with the severity he deserved, condescend to expostulate with him; and, in the most affectionate manner, entreat him to consult his own safety by returning to bis duty, and not to wrest a pupisbment from him which he was unwilling to inflict; what do you think would be the state of the traitor's mind in such circum. stances as these? how would it confound him to know, that his much injured sovereign had all along been pri. vy to his baseness, but, like the most tender father, instead of punishing, had only pitied his folly? We may partly conceive this, but are unable to express it. The most artful description could give but a faint representation of the various feelings of an ingenuous heart, upon such an affecting occasion. And shall not the tender mercy of our God have the same influence upon us? He neither wants power to inflict, nor provocation to justify, the severest punishment our natures are capable of enduring. What shall we say then? He is God, and not man; and therefore it is that we are not consumed. O let his patience, to which we are so infinitely indebted, work upon our ingenuity, that we may not unworthily burden it any more! and particularly let us watch over our hearts at this time, when the subject we are upon necessarily obliges us to set the Lord more immediately before us, as the witness and judge of our present temper and conduct; for surely his eyes are in this place, beholding the evil and the good.

2dly. This doctrine hath an obvious tendency to cherish simplicity and godly sincerity, and to banish all dissimulation and artifice from our hearts. He who realizeth the divine presence will not dare to be a hypocrite; for he knows that his triumphing can be but short, and his joy only for a moment. Man be may deceive, who sees no farther than the outside ; but he cannot de

ceive God, whose eyes are in every place ; who “searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of the children of men.” And to what purpose should he labour for the applause of poor dying creatures, if he expose himself to the contempt and abhorrence of that infinite Being, upon whom he necessarily depends for life, and breath, and all things? especially when he considers, that the mask he now wears shall ere long be pulled off, and his real character exposed to the view of an assembled world, in that day “when the hidden works of darkness shall be brought to light, and every one receive according to what he bath done, whether it be good or bad?" This motive to sincerity is plain, and obvious to the weakest understanding. Formality, or mere outward religiousness, must appear a vain, unprofitable thing to the mau who believes the doctrine of my text; for what can it avail him to be well thought of by a few, during the short time of his abode on this earth, if at last he sball become the object of everlasting contempt; not to those few only, but to all that ever did or shall exist, till “the mighty angel, setting his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, shall lift up his hand to heaven, and swear by him that liveth for ever and ever, That time shall be no more."

3dly. This doctrine affords abundant matter of comfort and joy to the truly gorlly. Omniscience is the attribute of their Father and their friend; his eyes are continually upon them for good; he knows every thing that befalls them, and is perfectly acquainted both with their wants, and with those supplies which are proper and necessary for them. This qualifies him to be the object of their trust and confidence ; upon him they may quietly and cheerfully rely, who is never far from any one of them, and “whose eyes run to and fro through,

[ocr errors]

out the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are perfect towards him."

But the omniscience of God is still more comfortable upon other accounts. What a stay and support did it prove to Peter, when our Lord said unto him the third time, (John xxi. 17.) “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Yes, Lord, said be, I love thee. I confess indeed the baseness and treachery of my late conduct; yet still I do, and must protest, that I love thee. It is true that I forsook thee, and impiously denied thee; and wert thou not the all-wise God, as well as my compassionate Saviour, this reiterated question would strike me dumb, and drive me from thy presence; for how could I pretend to love thee, or hope to be credited, after such baseness and perfidy? But this is my refuge: “ Thou, Lord, knowest all things." Thou canst look into my heart, and see thyself enthroned there: and therefore, notwithstanding the just cause I have given to all the world besides, to suspect the sincerity of my present profes. sion, yet I bumbly dare appeal to thy unlimited know. leilge: 6 Thou, Lord, who knowest all things, knowest that I love thee.” This is still the support of upright souls. As perfection is not the attainment of our present state, the dearest of God's children are too often carried away by the force of temptation; insomuch that, had they to do with a man like themselves, they might de pair of being able to convince him that they loved him. But the sincere penitent, conscious of that affection which glows within his breast, can with tears make his appeal to God bimself, and hope to be believed; because he to whom he appeals, needs no other proof or evidence to convince him than his own immediate and unerring knowledge.

Once more, what hope and joy must spring up in the

« PreviousContinue »