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the grounds of a well informed judgment; lest what he does should in the issue be rather prejudicial, than advantageous to the good cause he would promote.
After worshipping God with sincerity and fervour, and partaking in those ordinances and privileges which God has ordained for our improvement, he does not trust to the strength he has thereby gained; but still allows of apprehensions, lest he should act contrary to what he has seen to be fit and right; or some way fail to execute the purposes and resolutions which he has made and renewed in the presence of God.
And as he was beforehand afraid that he should not approve himself as he ought, so likewise, when through care and attention, he has, as he hopes, performed agreeably to his aims and wishes, he is upon his guard, lest some improper opinion and self-sufficiency should arise in his mind, inconsistent with that humility which he would ever maintain.
Nor does the man who fears always presume after the greatest successes. And though he has proceeded for some time in a course of obedience to God's commandments, and temptations have not hitherto greatly prevailed against him, he studiously declines conceit and assurance. He is still ever apprehensive of some new and unlooked for danger; and doubts, whether some time lesser temptations may not prevail, after greater have been vanquished.
Like some general, who, the more victories he has gained, is the more cautious of engaging an enemy; lest the honour of former successes should be lost and forfeited by some unhappy disaster.
This is the man, who, in a religious sense,' feareth always.
And now we may just observe the connection, which some think there is between this and the preceding observation, though it is not very clear and certain. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy. Happy is the man that feareth always:" that is, if he would secure the mercy he has found, the advantage he has gained, it will be of use, to preserve a fear of offending, and to be cautious and circumspect in all his actions.
II. Which leads us to the second point, the happiness of this temper and disposition of mind. Happy is the man that feareth always."
The happiness of such an one is this: he will not fall into mischief. He will exceed his own fears and apprehensions. He will behave better, and wiser, than he imagined. It is very probable, that this fear of offending will prevent a great deal of grief and vexation. And he will never know by experience, what that remorse and anguish of mind is, which is the fruit of great and repeated transgressions. His apprehensions of falling, and dread of guilt, with the consequences of it, will secure him from those great and dreadful evils.
Probably, the life of such an one will be even and uniform. It will consist of a regular course of religious devotion, public and private: and of a great number, and large variety of beneficial actions, and kind offices to others.
He will scarce be able to refrain himself from giving some hints and instructions that shall be useful to others. Especially, if he see any secure and presuming, he will warn them affectionately and earnestly. But being sensible of his own weakness, and ever apprehensive of acting, some time, amiss himself; his admonitions, and warnings, and reproofs, if they should be needful, will be tempered with mildness and gentleness.
It seems not unlikely, that this property, of fearing always, should produce an amiable character, which shall gain a man some good degree of esteem, and qualify him for more usefulness, than very eminent attainments could do without it. The modesty and meekness of his behaviour will not only cast some lustre upon himself, but likewise adorn religion, and give it an agreeable and lovely appearance.
a3. Walk circumspectly at all times, and in all relations and circumstances of life-Let not success betray you into security. Perhaps you have not for some time been importuned by temptations, or you have overcome them, and made some good progress in religion. But do not therefore 'lay aside your vigilance, since there may happen such an 'alteration in your circumstances, or in your temper, that you
may have as much occasion for it, as ever you had in your
lives, if not more. "Blessed is the man that feareth al'ways," Prov. xxviii. 14; who has ever upon his mind such 'an apprehension of the great evil of sin, and his liableness to it, while he is in the body, as to be continually watchful
against it. By thus fearing always he will be able to rejoice
always, both in the consciousness of his own integrity, and
'the hope of the heavenly reward.' Mr. H. Grove's second volume of Additional Sermons. Serm. xvii. p. 450.
And though he never, whilst in the body, and in this state of trial, dares pass a definitive sentence in favour of himself, but refers that to the all-knowing Judge: yet it is likely, that continued innocence, and persevering integrity, will lay a foundation for growing joy, and solid satisfaction of mind, which will be preferable to all the advantages of this world.
Such is the happiness of this person, and of this temper of mind.
III. In the third place we are to observe, how this temper, of fearing always, contributes to a man's happiness.
And it is very easy for any one to perceive this. For such an one will be circumspect and watchful; which, certainly, must be a good mean of security. He that looks well to his going, who is thoughtful and considerate, will, in all probability, act more wisely and discreetly, than the rash and unthinking.
Moreover he will be serious and diligent in the use of all proper means of security and steadfastness. He will frequent the assemblies of divine worship, and will pray and hear, not only out of form and carelessly, but with attention, and with a view of gaining confirmation and establishment. He considers acts of worship as means of improvement, and preparatory for the duties of life. And hereby he gains strength for resisting of temptations, and grows ready to every good word and work.
Nor does he neglect private meditation; but often thinks of God and another world. He contemplates the works of God, and studies his word. He considers the perfection and extent of the divine law. He observes the reasonableness of every part of it, and fixes in his mind an abhorrence of all sin upon a reasonable foundation.
He frequently contemplates the glory set before the upright and persevering in the gospel of Christ; and thereby he is animated to duty, and set more and more at variance with every thing that might deprive him of so great a recompence.
He dreads the thought of being hardened in sin, and therefore cherishes tenderness of spirit. He often reflects on his ways, and calls himself to an account for what he has done in public and private; and fails not to renew his repentance. If any thing unbecoming has escaped him, he does not palliate and justify it, or seek for excuses and apologies; but he condemns himself for it, and laments it. His humility is thereby increased, and his future circumspection is rendered more exact and vigilant.
Nor would he shun the advices and reproofs of others; but would gladly accept the reprehensions and admonitions of a knowing and faithful friend.
This course of thinking and acting cannot but be of advantage, and conduce to the happiness described under the foregoing particular.
IV. I am now to add some remarks and observations. They will be such as these.
1. The temper of mind, spoken of in this maxim of Solomon, and styled "fearing always," is frequently recommended to Christians in the New Testament.
Our Lord cherished it in his own disciples by exhortations and arguments. They were not so perfect after he had been long with them, but he set before them the duty of watching. It is one of those things which he inculcated upon them a little before he took his leave of them. "And what I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch," Mark xiii. 37. And, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," Matt. xxvi. 41. They had been too positive and presuming. He assures them that they had better be, with regard to themselves, more diffident and distrustful; that they might be more upon their guard, and more constant and earnest in prayer to God for his protection and help.
This fear of offending, this distrust of ourselves, this apprehensiveness of the power of temptations, is implied in that petition of the prayer which Christ taught his disciples: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
"Brethren," says St. Paul to the Galatians, "if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," Gal. vi. 1; that is, mindful of thy own weakness, and that it is not impossible, but thou also mayest at some time, and some other way or other, be tempted with effect, so as to fall.
Among divers considerations, which the apostle Paul mentions to dissuade the Corinthians from too great intimacy with the idolatrous heathens, he inserts this also: "Wherefore let him that thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 12.
And with great affection and earnestness he says to the Philippians: "Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my ab sence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Philip. ii. 12.
St. Peter exhorts those to whom he writes, "to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear." Again, "Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," 1 Pet. i. 17; ch. v. 8.
And the apostle to the Hebrews: "Take heed, my brethren, lest there be any of you in an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin," Heb. iii. 12, 13. eriod
2. We may observe in the Old and New Testament divers instances of this temper of fearing always, in the sense of a religious fear, as we have explained it: a fear of offending, through the power of external temptations, and the weakness and inconstancy of our minds. 163.4
Possibly somewhat of this temper is implied in that expression of Job," "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change be," Job xiv. 14.
For this reason it is, that good men in the Old Testament sometimes speak of their guarding the senses, the inlets of external temptations, or occasions of sin. Job says, "he had made a covenant with his eyes," xxxi. 1. And the Psalmist: "I am purposed, that my mouth shall not transgress," Ps. xvii. 3. Cool, told
Joseph, as is well known, feared to trust too much to his own resolution; and therefore shunned the company of the seducer. trividyala. This fear is the ground and principle of divers prayers of pious men: as "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me. So shall I be free from every great transgression," Ps. xix. 13. Again, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not unto covetousness. Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity. And quicken me in thy way," Ps. cxix. 36, 37. And, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart unto any evil thing," Ps. cxli. 3, 4; that is, let not my heart incline to any evil thing: let me not be prevailed upon by any temptations, to do that which is evil.
To this purpose is that request of Agur: "Two things have I desired of thee. Deny me them not, before I die. Remove far from me vanity and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say: Who is the Lord? and lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of the Lord my God in vain," Prov. xxx. 7-9.
This good man feared always. He was apprehensive, that he had not sufficient resolution and virtue to behave well either in great prosperity, or in extreme want and poverty.
And the condition he chooses, as most desirable, is that in which he thinks his virtue would be exposed to the smallest or the fewest hazards.
St. Paul, who recommended to others fear and caution, is an example of it himself. He even says: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached the gospel to others, I myself should be a cast-away," 1 Cor. ix. 27.
Nor can it be doubted, but St. Peter likewise observed the rules he gave. It evidently appears in the temper of his epistles.
Yea our Lord himself is, in some measure, an example here. For he was tried as we are. Indeed he resisted, and overcame always. But though he was completely innocent, he saw the force of worldly temptations, and provided for them.
Before he entered upon his important and difficult ministry, he was led of the spirit into the wilderness, and was tempted divers ways. And by meditations, in that solitude, upon the vanity and emptiness of this world, and all its glory, and by considering the greater glory set before him, he was prepared for the trials of a more public life. And as his last and great temptation drew near, we discern him to be mindful of it. Says he to the disciples: prince of this world cometh: but hath nothing in me," John xiv. 30. And he retired into a private place. And likewise charged three of his disciples to watch, whilst he went and prayed at a small distance from them.
3. Upon the whole therefore we need not be shy of admitting, and cherishing this temper, of fearing always, or a perpetual distrust of ourselves, during this state of trial.
This fear or diffidence has in it some uneasiness: but it will lay a foundation for great ad
It is better to fear offending, than to sorrow for having offended.
The care of caution is not so troublesome, as the bitterness of late repentance.
Though he who fears always should at first be esteemed neither the greatest, nor the happiest of men, in the end he may be both. For "pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," Prov. xvi. 18. Again, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility," chap. xvii. 12.
It is good counsel, more especially fit to be given to some: "Let not him that putteth on the harness boast himself, as he that putteth it off," 1 Kings xx. 11.
In this respect, as well as some others, the day of a man's death is better than the day of his birth, Ecc. vii. 1. It is a happy thing, to pass with safety through the temptations of this world. At setting out the trial is doubtful and hazardous. But if a man be faithful, and keep the way of the Lord to the end, the reward is sure, and no temptations shall any more annoy or terrify.
To a good man therefore it must be desirable, after difficult services, and a life of caution and circumspection, to be able to say, when the will of the Lord is: It is finished. There is now an end to the labours, the afflictions, the sorrows, the temptations of this life. But there remains a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to all those who have fought a good fight, and kept the faith: who in all difficult services, and hazardous seasons of this life, have been encouraged by the hope of his appearing to reward the well-doer.
And since God knows all our frame, it must be our wisdom to refer ourselves to him, as to all things concerning us in this world: desirous, that all things may work together for our good: and that nothing may be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus: and hoping, that neither the good nor the evil things of this life, shall destroy the principle of virtue begun in us; but rather refine, improve, and strengthen it, until it be perfected in glory.
OUR SAVIOUR'S THIRST UPON THE CROSS CONSIDERED AND IMPROVED.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith: I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar. And they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. John xix. 28, 29.
ST. PAUL in the epistle to the Ephesians, ch. iii. 18, speaks of the unmeasurable extent of the love of Christ. Which yet it is very desirable, and will be very profitable for us to understand. And though we are not able to comprehend it, it will be of advantage to think rightly and justly of it, and not to conceive of his sufferings, that great proof of his love, as designed to supply the want of righteousness in us, but to be a powerful argument and incentive to real, eminent, and persevering righteousness and holiness.
All the ends and uses of Christ's sufferings shew his love in submitting to the pain and shame of the cross. And the greatness and variety of those sufferings are an affecting thought and consideration.
The words of the text are near the conclusion of the history of our Lord's last sufferings. And in explaining and improving them, I am led to speak to these several particulars.
I. I would shew the nature, and the causes of our Lord's thirst upon the cross, which he declared aloud.
II. The treatment which he thereupon met with: "They filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it to his mouth."
III. The meaning of that expression in this place: "That the scripture might be fulfilled.”
I. I shall endeavour to shew the nature, and the causes of our Lord's thirst upon the cross, which he declared aloud.
Doubtless it was real and vehement, and owing to what he had endured both in body and mind. The Lord Jesus had not, that we any where read, any sickness. And it is reasonable to suppose, that he never had any. For death, and consequently sickness, and diseases, the forerunners and ordinary occasions of death, are the fruit of sin: from which Jesus was quite free. St. Paul speaks of God's "sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," Rom. viii. 3. He had true and real flesh. For he was born of a woman. But it was not "sinful flesh." It was only "the likeness of sinful flesh." For he was not conceived in the ordinary way, but by the Holy Ghost, or the immediate interposition of God. And he in all things did the will of the Father, and ever pleased him that sent him.
But though Jesus was liable to no disease, or sickness, he had the innocent infirmities of the human nature. He was "wearied" with journeying, and had hunger and thirst, John iv. 6. He needed the refreshments of meat, and drink, and sleep: as we plainly perceive from his history in the gospels. He was also grieved, and offended, and angry, though without sin or excess, at the miseries, the faults, and the follies of men, especially such as were very great and aggravated. And undoubtedly he felt the pain of those stripes, which without resistance he suffered to be inflicted upon him.
In the fourth chapter of St. John's Gospel is the relation of our Lord's passing from Jerusalem to Galilee, where he chiefly was. "And he left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar -Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. And it was the sixth hour." If our Lord, in travelling on foot, was wearied with the length of the journey, and the heat of the day: how much more must he have been discomposed by all that had passed to this time from the evening of the preceding day!
For, as we all know from the evangelical history, when he had eaten the paschal supper, and instituted a memorial of his own transactions among men on this earth, and especially of his then approaching death, he had a long, but most heavenly and affecting conversation with the disciples. After that, coming to the garden, whither he sometimes went for the sake of privacy, he separated himself from the rest of the disciples, and retired with three of them into a more private place, and withdrew a small distance from them also: where in a near view of his approaching sufferings, and a close meditation upon the affecting circumstances of them, and the greatness of the temptation, which he was entering into, and how severe a trial it would be to the constancy of his virtue, and considering also the difficulty and the importance of a steady and exemplary conduct, and the tremendous consequences of any the least failure on his part, and also discerning the heinous guilt of his accusers and enemies, whether Jews or others, and divers other amazing particulars of the expected scene of sufferings; he earnestly prayed, "that the cup might pass from him. And there appeared an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, his sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground," Luke xxii.
Soon after which, he was apprehended, and carried to the house of Annas, then of Caiaphas the high priest. And having been examined, and ill-treated, he was confined until early in the morning, and was then had before Pilate, where the accusations were renewed against him. By Pilate's order he was once at least, if not twice, scourged. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it upon his head. Neither of which could be without some effusion of blood. The same would be in a great degree the effect of fastening him to the cross, by the hands, and the feet. In the suffering of which, and during the whole time of his hanging on the cross, he must have had in his perfect body, of the finest contexture, the most exquisite sense of pain. In consequence of these fatigues, and these sufferings, and this loss of blood, he would be parched as it were with a violent drought.
Another thing, contributing to the vehemence of his thirst, must have been the exercise of his mind. Unquestionably, during the whole space of this concluding scene of our Lord's life, which we have just now briefly surveyed, there was in his mind all the care and attention and circumspection which can be conceived. And it required the full exertion of all the powers of