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transgressors shall fall therein.” This is their unanimous voto when in a right mood, and will be so in heaven, when the web is out. Then will they say, “He bath done all things well."
2. That they are all the product of infinite holiness, which can do nothing wrong.
3. That they are all directed, as well as contrived, by infinite wisdom, which knows best how to frame matters.--It remains that,
IV. I make some practical improvement, in
1. A use of information. Are the dispensations of providence all right? Then, (1.) If any thing be wrong with us, we may see where the fault lies, not in God, but in ourselves, Job x.
The oar he rolls his vessel with is in the waters of affliction, and therefore we think the oar is crooked; but that is our misjudging of God. (2.) That we should justify God in the harshest dispensations, give him the glory, even when we walk on the mountains of darkness. Providence will abide a look of the most piercing impartial eye. But when the eye is infected, it will take up things in their wrong colours.
2. Of comfort to the people of God, whatever providences they meet. Be they never so dark, be they never so little understood by them, yet they are all right and faultless. God does not distri. bute favours to them by guess, but by measure and weight.
3. Of reproof to those who censure, murmur, and quarrel with the dispensations of providence. This is, (1.) to accuse God of folly, as if he were not wise enough to govern the world that he has made. O how often fall we into this, as if we could have ordered better than providence has done. Murmuring will step up, and correct the escapes of infinite wisdom. (2.) Of injustice, as if he were too hard upon his creatures, that deserve better at his hand. For why would people murmur at their right and due ? (3.) Of impotency, as if he could not take away our crosses as easily as he brings them on, or could not make them work for our good.
Lastly, of exhortation. Let all of us, especially the Lord's people, be exhorted to submit and stoop to sovereignty, be our lot in the world what it will. There is none want their own crosses. Every one has some burden or another to bear; and if we would in truth come after Christ, we are enjoined "to take up our cross, and follow him."
FEAR AND HOPE, OBJECTS OF THE DIVINE COMPLACENCY."
Psalm cxlvii. 11,
THERE are times of danger in which the event is very doubtful, but even then the safety and success will always be on the side the Lord casts them. In consequence, it is an important question, How may we engage him on our side ? Certain it is, his pleasure lies not in created strength. Horse and foot, courage and strength, may be on the side which God will disown, and which shall be worsted : By strength,” says he, “ shall no man prevail,” 1 Sam. ii. 9. His pleasure is in the strength of grace : “He will keep the feet of his saints;" or, as it is expressed in the text,“ The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.”-In which words we have,
1. The character of those whose part the Lord will take in all their trials and troubles, and in all their encounters with their enemies. The first part of their character is, they are fearers of God. They have the awe of his majesty upon their spirits.- The second is that they hope in, or rather for his mercy. They, in a becoming manner, wait and patiently seek for relief from God, and that in the way of mercy through Christ, not for any thing in themselves. -Observe next the mixture of these parts of their character: They do not only fear God but hope in him ; for fear without hope will sink into raging despair. They not only hope, but fear, for hope without fear will turn into presumption. These two God hath joined together, let not us put them asunder.
2. The privileges of these persons, whoover may be displeased with them, and however much they may be displeased with themselves, God takes pleasure in them. He accepts their persons, and their services, and he will show himself to be on their side. They shall not hope in vain; however hapless their case bo in itself, they shall get a merciful relief in due time.
From these words, observe this
Doct. The Lord takes pleasure in those, who, whatever case they be in, entertain a holy fear of him, with a kindly hope in his mercy,
* Delivered July 27, 1718.
In discouring which, it is intended,
1. Shortly to describe this holy fear, that in all cases ought to be entertained, with a hope of the Lord's mercy.
II. To describe that kindly hope of his mercy, to be entertained in all cases, along with this holy fear.
III. To shew the necessity of keeping up this holy fear and kindly hope in all cases together in the soul.
IV. To show what is that pleasure the Lord takes in such.
VI. To make a practical improvement of the different parts of the subject.
I am, then,
I. Shortly to describe this holy fear, that in all cases ought to be entertained, with a hope of the Lord's mercy. This fear of God is,
1. An awe and dread of his majesty and transcendent greatness : Psalm lxxxix. 6, 7, “ For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord ? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence of all them that are about him." With this the lightness and vanity of the heart is to be repressed. The soul must entertain high and honourable thoughts of God, as a sovereign of independent being, in whom all perfections do concentre, must look up to the clouds, and behold him on his throne in heaven, and so bring itself thereby to a profound reverence of his greatness.
2. A reverence of his absolute, his unlimited authority and power : “ Fear him,” said Jesus, "who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into bell; yea, I say unto you, fear him," Luke xii. 5; he can command us whatsoever he will, and dispose of us as he pleaseth. Let us have a reverential regard to the uncontrolable sceptre he sways over all creatures. Since he doth in heaven and in earth what seemeth good unto him, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou ? we should silently submit to his disposals.
3. A fear of offending him in any thing: Psalm iv. 4,“ Stand in awe, and sin not.” This is a fear, and caution, and circumspection, which we should always carry about and never lay aside. We walk amidst many snares; Satan and a corrupt heart are ready to entangle us; but God cannot away with sin; it is the only offence we can give him. He is well pleased to see us afraid of offending him, to see the poor sinner affrighted at every thing that is provoking to him, and keeping up a holy tenderness this way.
4. A fear of imputing iniquity to him, or harbouring hard and unbecoming thoughts of his majesty, Job i. 22," In all this Job
sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." The proud heart casting off the fear of God, arraigns and condemns the conduct of holy Providence as rigorous and unrighteous; and so murmers against the Lord. But holy fear silenceth the mutiny of these unruly passions, and says, “He does all things well, is holy and righteous in all his ways and works.”
5. A dread of going out of his way for help, however hard the case be : Isa. viii. 13, 14, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let bim be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel ; for a gin and for a snare, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be taken.” Holy fear takes off the wheels of the chariot of impatience and unsanctified haste, which drives furiously to get out of that case in which infinite wisdom has placed us. The soul dare not adventure to shake off the yoke, till the Lord put to his own hand and take it off.
Lastly, A dread of his holy hand in his judgments : Amos iii. 8, “ The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophecy ?" This fear keeps the heart from slight thoughts of them, and furnishes awful thoughts of a smiting God, the weight of whose hand no man is able to bear. And there is here a dread of the land of the Lord lying on their person for the past : Heb. xii. 5, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of bim.” The man noticeth the stroke, and what impressions of anger are engraven on it, and so he putteth his mouth in the dust, if so there may be hope, Lam. iii. 29. Whatever he meets with, he takes it as from the Lord, and reverenceth the hand that smiteth.—There is, (2.) A dread of what the Lord may inflict upon him: Psalm cxix. 120," My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments.” The fearer of the Lord sees, that whatever be bis stroke, it is less than his deserving. They say as Ezra, chap. ix. 13, “ Thou, our God, bas punished less than our iniquities deserve;" and therefore submit themselves, lest the Lord make the stroke greater, and punish us seven times more.—Let us now,
II. Describe that kindly hope of his mercy, to be entertained in all cases along with this holy fear. It is,
1. A firm persuasion of the good, gracious, and bountiful nature of God, who delights not in the misery of his creatures; Psalm xxv. 8," Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way." Ezek. xviii. 23, “ Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die ? saith the Lord God; and not that he should re
turn from his ways and live ?" God is the fountain of all goodness to be found in man or angel, and so is himself a boundless occau of goodness. He loves to have poor sinners entertaining those kindly thoughts of him. And well may they do so, even under hard pres. sures, for God lays not on man more than is meet or right, Job xxxiv. 23; and eren this he does with a kind of holy reluctanee, for "ho doth not afllict willingly, nor griove tho children of men," Lam. iii. 33.
2. A hope of mercy to all their uurighteousness, through Christ. This is the great hope, called the hope of the gospel, Col. i. 23. For it is the main hope purchased by Christ to lost sons of Adam, and held forth to them in the gospel, Heb. viii. 12, “ I will be moroiful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquitios will I remember no more.” To cast away this hope, is at onco to throw dishonour on the mercy of the Father, and the blood of the Son, and the efficacy of his Spirit; to cast it away, is to please Satan, and to ruin our own souls.
3. A hope of good by their alliotions, trials, and troubles : Rom. viii. 28, " And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are tho called according to his purpose.” It is the Lord's ordinary way to bring his pooplo noarer him by afflictions : "Before I was alllicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy word,” Psalm cxix. 67; yea, by this way, also, docs he bring in those that are strangers to him, Ilosoa v. 10, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offenco and seek my face; in their afflictions they will sook mo early." When the Lord will not use a rod upon a person, that is a terriblo sign; but there is always hope when the Lord is at pains with a rod; and to hope for this good, is the way to advance it.
4. A hope of support and protection under their afllictions: leb. xiii. 5, 6, “ He hath said, I will never leave theo nor forsako theo; so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my holper, and I will not fear what man sball do unto me.” The Lord can carry persons through deep waters, and yet keep them from sinking, for he is the lifter up of the head. However high the waters swell, they aro still under the check of him whom the winds and the seas obey. Tho everlasting arms underneath, though not seen in the time, securo the sinner from sinking to the ground, and bring him safe ashoro. Now, faith and hope is the way to bring in that support.
5. A hope of seasonable relief, on having such deliverance in due time, as shall be best for God's honour and their good : Psalm xlii. 5, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou dixquieted in me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for