« PreviousContinue »
every love hath in it a fear of offending and foregoing; and every fear implies a love of that, which we suspect may miscarry) so each of them fulfils the whole Law of God.' That Love is the abridgement of the Decalogue, both our Saviour and his blessed Apostle have taught us. It is as plain of Fear.
The title of Job is, A just man, and one that feared God: justice is expressed by fear. For what is justice, but freedom from sin ? And the fear of the Lord hates evil, saith Solomon; Prov. viii. 13. Hence Moses's sy'n Thou shalt fear, Deut. vi. 2, is turned by our Saviour ApocxUVÍCES, Thou shali worship, or adore ; Matt. iv. 10; and that, which Isaiah saith, In vain they feur me, (Danny Isaiah xxix. 13.) our Saviour renders, In vain they worship me, (GÉBOUTCí; Matt. xv. 9.) as if all worship consisted in Fear. Hence, it is probable, that God hath his name in two languages from eos, Fear; and the same word in the Greek signifies both Fear and Religion* And Solomon, when he says, The fear of the Lord is d'un the beginning, as we turn it, of wisdom, says more than we are aware of; for the word signifies as well caput or principatum, the head or top of wisdom; yea, saith Siracides, it is the crown upon the head; ít is the root of the same wisdom, whereof it is the top-branch, saith the same author f.
And, surely, this is the most proper disposition of men towards God: for, though God stoop down so low as to vouchsafe to be loved of men; yet, that intinite inequality, which there is between him and us, may seem not to allow so perfect a fitness of at affection, as of this other; which suits so well betwixt our vileness and his glory, that the more disproportion there is betwixt us, the more due
and proper is our Fear. Neither is it less necessary than proper; for we can be no Christians without it; whether iť be, as Hemingius | distinguishes it well, timor cultús, or culpæ, either our fear in worshipping, or our fear of offending : the one is a devout fear; the other, a careful fear. The latter was the Corinthians' fear; whose godly sorrow when the Apostle had mentioned, he adds, Yea what indignation, yea what fear, yea what desire? 2 Cor. vii. 11. The former is that of the Angels, who hide their faces with their wings; yea, of the Son of God, as man, who fell on his face to his Father. And this is due to God, as a Father, as a Master, as a Benefactor, as a God infinite in all that he is. Let me be bold to speak to you, with the Psalmist, Come, ye children, hearken to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord; Psalm xxxiv. 11.
What is it therefore to fear God, but to acknowledge the glorious, though invisible, presence of God in all our ways il, with Moses's eyes, ópw cógelov: Heb. xi. 27: to be awfully affected at his presence, with Jacob, quàm tremendus ! to make a humble re
* Eindbeug. Plut. Cæsare. Acts xxiii, 10. Heb, v. 7. + Στέφανος σοφίας. Εccl. i. 18; póza, Eccl. i. 6; Tanguorn', v. 16. lem. in Ps. xxv. || Sic semper Deum presentem intelligit, ac si ipsum qui præsens est in suâ essentiâ viderit. Bern. form. hon. vita. VOL. V.
signation of ourselves to the holy will of God, with Eli; It is the Lord: and to attend reverently upon his disposing, with David; Here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good in his eyes ? 2 Sam. XV. 26. This is the Fear of the Lord. There is nothing more talked of; nothing less felt.
I appeal from the tongues of men to their hands: the wise heathen taught me to do so; V'erba rebus proba *: the voice of wickedness is actual, saith the Psalmist; wickedness saith there is no fcan of God before his eyes ; Psalm xxxvi. I. Behold, wheresoever is wickedness, there can be no fear of God: these two cannot lodge under one roof; for the fear of God drives out evil, saith Ecclesiasticus; i. 21. As therefore Abraham argues well, from the cause to the effect; Because the fear of God is not in this place, therefore they will kill me : so David argues back, from the effect to the cause; They imagine wickedness on their bed, &c. therefore the fear of God is not before them. I would to God his argument were not too demonstrative.
Brethren, our lives shame us. If we feared the Lord, durst we dally with his name? durst we tear it in pieces? Surely we contemn his person,
whose name we contemn. The Jews have a conceit, that the sin of that Israelite, which was stoned for blasphemy, was only this, that he named that ineffable name of four letters my Jehovah. Shall their fear keep them from once mentioning the dreadful name of God, and shall not our fear keep us from abusing it? Durst we so boldly sin God in the face, if we feared him? Durst we mock God with a formal fourish of that, which our heart tells us we are not, if we feared him? Durst we be Christians at Church, Mammonists at home, if we feared him? Pardon me, if in a day of gratulation I hardly temper my tongue from reproof: for, as the Jews had ever some malefactor brought forth to them in their great feast, so it shall be the happiest piece of our triumph and solemnity, if we can bring forth that wicked profaneness, wherewith we have dishonoured God and blemished his Gospel, to be scourged, and dismissed with all holy indignity.
2. From this Fear, let us pass as briefly, through that which we must dwell in all our lives; the SERVICE of God. This is the subject of all sermons : mine shall but touch at it. You shall see how I hasten to that discourse, which this day, and your expectation, calls me to.
Divine philosophy teaches us to refer, not only our speculations, but our affections, to action. As therefore our Service must be grounded upon Fear, so our Fear must be reduced to Service. What strength can these masculine dispositions of the soul yield us, if, with the Israelites' brood, they be smothered in the birth? Indeed, the worst kind of fear, is that we call servile; but the best fear, is the fear of servants : for there is no servant of God, but fears filially. And, again, God hath no son but he serves. Even the natural Son of God was so in the form of a servant, that he
* senec. Epist.
served indeed: and so did he serve, that he endured all sorrow, and fulfilled all righteousness. So every Christian is a son and heir to the King of Heaven; and his word must be, “ I serve.”
We all know what service means. For we all are, or were, I imagine, either servants of masters, or servants of the public, or masters of servants, or all these. We cannot therefore be ignorant, either what we require of ours, or what our superiors require
If service consisted only in wearing of liveries, in taking of wages, in making of courtesies, and kissing of hands, there were nothing more easy, or more common. All of us wear the cognizance of our Christianity in our Baptism : all live upon God's trencher in our maintenance: all give him the compliments of a fashionable profession. But, be not deceived: the life of service is work; the work of a Christian is obedience to the Law of God. The Centurion, when he would describe his good servant in the Gospel, needed to say no more but this; I bid him do this, and he doth it. Service then briefly is nothing but a readiness to do as we are bidden; and therefore both Solomon, and He, that was greater than Solomon, describe it by keeping the commandments : and the Chosen Vessel gives an everlasting rule; His servants ye are to whom ye obey; Rom. vi. 16.
Now I might distinguish this service into habitual and actual : Habitual; for, as the servant, while he eats or sleeps, is in service still, so are we to God: Actual; whether universal in the whole carriage of our lives (which Zachariah tells us is in holiness, and righteousness ; Luke i. 75; holiness to God, righteousness to men); or particular, either in the duties which are proper to God, invocation and attendance on his ordinance, (which by an excellence is termed his service,) or in those which are proper to us, as we are pieces of a family, church, commonwealth; the stations whereof God hath so disposed, that we may serve him in serving one another. And thus you see I might make way for an endless discourse; but it shall content me, passing over this world of matter, to glance only at the generality of this infinite theme.
obedience serves God, so every sin makes God serve us. One said wittily, that the angry man made himself the judge, and God the executioner. There is no sin, that doth not the like. The glutton makes God his caterer, and himself the guest, and his belly his god; especially in the new-found feasts of this age, wherein profuseness and profaneness strive for the table's end. The lascivious man makes himself the lover; and, as Vives * says of Mahomet, God the pander. The covetous man makes himself the usurer, and God the broker. The ambitious makes God his stale, and honour his God. Of every sinner doth God say justly, Servire me fecisti; Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins ; Isa. xliii. 24.
There cannot be a greater honour for us, than to serve such a master, as commands heaven, earth, and hell; whom it is both dis
* Lud. Vives de verit. Relig. I. iv.
SERMOX VI. honour and baseness not to serve * The highest style that king David could devise to give himself, not in the phrase of a frivolous French compliment, but in the plain speech of a true Israelite, was, Behold, I am thy sertant; Psalm cxvi. 16: and he, that is Lord of many servants of the Devil, delights to call himself “ The servant of the servants of God." The angels of heaven rejoice to be our fellows in this service; Rev. xxii. 9. But there cannot be a greater shame, than to see servants ride on horseback, and princes walking as servants on the ground; Eccl. x. 7: I mean, to see the God of Heaven made a lacquey to our vile afections; and, in the lives of men, to see God attend upon the world.
Brethren, there is service enough in the world, but it is to a wrong master. In mea patria Deus venter, as Jerome † said. Every worldling is a papist in this, that he gives derelev, service, to the creature; which is the lowest respect that can be: yea, so much more humble than latria, as it is more absolute, and without respect of recompence. Yea, I would it were uncharitable to say, that many, besides the savages of Calecut, place Satan in the throne, and God on the footstool. For, as witches and sorcerers converse with evil spirits in plausible and familiar forms, which in ugly shapes they would abhor; so, many a man serves Satan under the forms of gold and silver, under the images of saints and lightsome angels, under glittering coats, or glorious titles, or beauteous faces, whom they would defy as himself. And, as the freeborn Israelite might become a servant, either by forfeiture upon trespass, or by sale, or by spoil in war; so, this accursed servitude is incurred the same ways, hy them which should be Christians: by forfeiture; for, though the debt and trespass be to God, yet tradet lictori, he shall deliver the debtor to the jailor, Matt. xviii. 31: by sale; as Ahab sold himself to work wickedness; 1 Kings xxi. 20. sold under sin, saith the apostle: by spoil; Bezare, lest any man make a spoil of you, ouhaywyūv, saith Paul to his Colossians; Col. ji. 8.
Alas, what a miserable change do these men make, to leave the Living God, which is so bountiful, that he rewards a cup of cold water with eternal glory, to serve him that hath nothing to give but his bare wages: and what wages! The wages of sin is death: and what death? not the death of the body, in the severing of the soul; but the death of the soul, in the separation from God. There is not so much difference betwixt life and death, as there is betwist the first death and the second. Owoeful wages of a desperate work! Well were these men, if they might go unpaid, and serve for nothing: but as the mercy of God will not let
any poor services to him go unrewarded; so will not his justice suffer the contrary service go unpaid; in flaming fire rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and those that obey not the Gospel of our
Non reputes magnum, quòd Deo serris; sed marimum reputa, quòd ipse dignatur lc in servum assunere sihi. Bernard. + In meá patria Deus venier e d, et in diem vrtur, et santiwr est ille qui ditior est. Hier. ad Chrematium.
Lord Jesus ; 2 Thess. i. 8. Beloved, as that worthy Ambrose said on his death-bed, “ we are happy in this, that we serve a good Master;" how happy shall it be for us, if we shall do_him good service, that, in the day of our account, we may hear, Euge, serre bone, Well done, good servant, enter into thy Master's joy!
Now he, that prescribes the act, Service; must also prescribe the manner, Truly, totally. God cannot abide we should serve him with a double heart, a heart and a heart; that is, hypocritically : neither that we should serve him with a false heart; that is, niggardly and unwillingly; but, against doubling he will be served in truth; and, against halving, he will be served with all the heart.
To serve God and not in truth, is mockery. To serve him truly, and not with the whole heart, is a base dodging with God. This Goga Modoneíc, eye service, is a fault with men; but let us serve God but while he sees us, it is enough. Behold, he sees us every where. If he did not see our heart, it were enough to serve him in the face; and, if the heart were not his, it were too much to give him a part of it: but now that he made this whole heart of ours, it is reason he should be served with it; and now that he sees the inside of the heart, it is madness not to serve him in truth.
Those serve God, not in truth, which, as Seneca * says of some auditors, come to hear, not to learn; which bring their tablets to write words, not their hearts for the finger of God to write in;, whose eyes are on their bible, while their heart is on their countbook; which can play the saints in the Church, ruffians in the tavern, tyrants in their houses, cheaters in their shops: those dames, which, under a cloke of modesty and devotion, hide nothing but pride and fiendishness.
Those serve God, not with all their heart; whose bosom is like Rachel's tent, that hath teraphim, idols, hid in the straw; or rather like a Philistine's temple, that hath the Ark and Dagon under one roof; that come in ever with Naaman's exceptives, Only in this : those, that have let down the world, like the spies, into the bottom of the well of their heart, and cover the mouth of it with wheat ; I mean, that hide great oppressions, with the shew of small beneficences: those, which, like Solomon's false courtesan, cry Dividatur, and are willing to share themselves betwixt God and the world. And, certainly, this is a noble policy of the Devil; because he knows he hath no right to the heart, he can be glad of any corner : but withal he knows, that if he have any, he hath all; for where he hath any part, God will have none. This base mindedness is fit for that Evil One. God will have all, or nothing. It was a heroical answer, that Theodoret p reports of Valentmian, whom when the soldiers had chosen to be emperor, they were consulting to have another joined with him. “ No, my soldiers,” said he, “It was in your power to give me the empire, while I had it not; but now when I have it, it is not in your power to give me a partner.”
* Epist. 108. Quidam veniunt ut audiant, non ut discant: Aliqui cum pugil. laribus veniunt, non ut res excipiant, sed verbú. † Theol, 1. iv. c. 4.