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purity, and charity? And yet, without these graces and

[]\ratt. 16. virtues, no man can be happy. " If any man will come after

^^■^ Me (saith our Saviour), let him deny himself, and take up

his cross daily, and follow Me." Is this no longer a christian

duty ?

The intent of our blessed Lord in this command is, to
wean our affections from this world, and to subdue them,
that God may take possession of our souls, and by His Holy
Spirit fit them for eternal happiness. And, therefore, all
those christians, which are too plainly the greatest number,
who give way to their inclinations, who follow not what is
most pleasing to God, but to corrupt nature, are, without
any doubt, in the way of perdition.

"Where is that resignation to the will of God, which reason
as well as religion has made our duty ? We pray, indeed,
THAT God's will may be done ; but we are angry when it
is done, and in effect charge Him with injustice, when He
would punish us in this life, that He may not be obliged to
do it in the next ; or when He would prevent or cure a dis-
order, which if not done would infallibly ruin us.
[Matt.5.8.] The promise of seeing God is made to the pure and
clean of heart, and to these only. What then must be-
come of that infinite number of people, whose hearts are full
of all impurity ; who entertain such thoughts as defile the
soul, and make it utterly unfit for the Spirit of God to be
there ? Must we not say, that all such are excluded from the
promise of seeing God ? And, if an impure heart will shut us .
out of heaven, impure actions will make us fit for no place
but hell.

We may shut our eyes and our ears against such af-
frighting truths; but as sure as God has made His will
[Eph. 5 5; known to us, this will be the issue of such a life : "No un-
■ ■-' clean person shall have any inheritance in the kingdom of
Christ, and of God ; but shall have their portion in the lake
that burneth with fire and brimstone."

Lastly ; what shall we say of those many christians, who
lead an idle and a useless life ; or of those who are indeed
industrious, but it is only to be more rich, that they may be



OF BEING CHRISTIANS WITHOUT CHRISTIANITY. 121

more miserable ? Do such people consider, that they are
christians ; that they have an interest to secure, on which
their all depends ; and that it is in this life their lot is
determined either for heaven or for hell.

You will say, perhaps, that christians know all this ; but
then it must be acknowledged, that they that do know these
things, and yet live as if they did not believe them, that their
condemnation and judgment will be most severe as w^ell as
just.

To prevent this, I have set before you and myself, our pat-
tern; I have shewed you how very little the generality of
christians do mind it : and this I have done, not to expose
the weakness and corruption of human nature, but to awaken
us all into a serious sense of the bad condition of those who
live without God in the world : and that every one of us,
seeing how sadly we come short of our pattern, may be
ashamed, and afraid too, lest our repentance and amendment
should come too late. And lastly, that such christians as
have made the life and the doctrine of Christ their pattern,
may by this representation have the comfort of seeing that
they are not of the number of those unhappy people, who
content themselves with the bare name of christians, with
mere shadows of religion and piety, without endeavouring
after that holiness without which no man shall see the
Lord.

And noAV, you see plainly, that to be a christian, and a
true christian, are two very different things.

A TRUE CHRISTIAN scts his pattcru before his eyes; and
because his salvation depends on it, he resolves to make it
the rule of his life. He studies therefore the truths and the
duties oii]ie, Gospel; prefers the light he meets with there to
all others : he resolves, that what the Gospel declares, that he
will believe, let wdiat will be said against it ; that what it re-
commends, he will follow that, and avoid what it forbids. If,
upon examining his conscience, he finds that he does any
thing contraiy to what the Gospel prescribes, he is ashamed
and sorry for it; begs God's pardon, and His grace to ob-
serve it better for the time to come ; watches over his incli-
nations, avoiding every temptation that may lead him to sin;
never consulting the world, its authority, its customs, or its



122 THE SUAMK AND DANGER

SERM. froions, for wliat he ought to do, or what to avoid. And by



doing this he secures the favour of God, His grace here, and
eternal happiness hereafter.

On tlie other hand, those christians who Hve, as too many
do, in a general forgetfnlness of God ; taking no care of their
souls ; contenting themselves with some outward formalities,
and bare shadows of religion, without feeling its power -, who
make the world their pattern, notwithstanding the caution
Jesus Christ has given us not to follow its ways and maxims ;
such people, under the name of christians, are very heathens,
will be rejected of God, and are reserved for a punishment
dreadful to be named.

Christians must not, to excuse themselves, say, that they
cannot come up to their pattern, to be what the Gospel re-
quires them to be. It is no less than blasphemy to say so.
For God's grace is sufficient ; His grace may be had for
asking; and He requires no more of us than what (upon
our sincere prayers and endeavours) He will enable us to
perform.

To conclude : God has given us a Law, by which He will
judge us; by this law we are to judge what our condition is
like to be hereafter, whether happy or miserable. That we
may make this judgment more impartially, let us consider
what our thoughts will be when we come to die. Whether,
for instance, we shall not be in the utmost confusion, when,
our life and pattern being set before us, it shall appear that
we have lived in a plain contempt, or neglect at least, of
what we professed to believe, what we knew to be our duty,
and what we were often put in mind would be the conse-
quence of neglecting it ? Or, whether we shall then have the
comfort of having compared our life with our pattern, seen
our errors, made our peace with God by a timely repent-
ance, and lived to bring forth fruit answei'able to amendment
of life ?

One of these two will be the case of myself, and of every
one here present; how soon, we know not; but it highly
[John 0.4 ] concerns us to be prepared for it, and that forthwith, lest the
night come, when no man can work.

To this end let us retire, and beg of God, Who has given
us our pattern, and Who alone can enable us to follow it, to



Ob' BEING CHRISTIANS WITHOUT CHRISTIANITY. 128

put His fear into our hearts, to give us the grace of repent-
ance, to sanctify us both in body and soul, " that we may be [Col. 1. 12.]
meet to be partakers of an inlieritance with the saints in
light ;" which God grant we may all be, for Jesus Christ's
sake.



SERMON XI.



SEPTUAGESIMA. SEXAGKSIMA. QUINQUAGKSIMA. LENT.



FEAR AND CARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY IN OUR WAY TO HEAVEN.



Fill my soul, Lord, with a salutary dread of the unfaithfulness of my
own heart ; and, while I am labouring for the salvation of others, give
me grace to fear for myself. Amen.



1 Peter i. 17.
See Ps. 2. Pdss the time of your sojonrning here in fear.

11; 39. 1;

Lukei2.37; These worcls are a serious admonition to all christians.
2 Cor. 5. 11; I hope, therefore, you will hear them explained with great
5'. 15; ^ attention. The plain meaning of them is this : forasmuch as
6 •'^2 Pet ^i yo^^ eternal happiness or misery will depend upon your be-
1^- haviour in this life, it concerns you, as much as your souls

are worth, to live with great care and fear, lest, when you
die, you should be miserable for ever.

Care and concern (for that is the meaning oi fear in this
place) are necessary even in our worldly affairs, if we would
not let them go to ruin. But christians must be strangely
careless, fearless, and unthoughtful, who profess to believe a
judgment to come, and yet are unconcerned what sentence
their works shall deserve, what sentence God in justice
must pass upon them.

And yet all christians, who are not careful of their lives,
who are not fearful of offending God, are in this desperate
condition. They are going headlong to certain ruin, — to a
ruin that never can be remedied ; and yet are fearless and
unconcerned.



FEAR AND CARE NECESSARY IN OUR WAY TO HEAVEN. 125

The Duty therefore, good christians, which I would explain
to you at this time, and which I would charge upon you and
upon myself, as ever we hope for heaven and happiness, is
this ; to preserve ourselves, as much as possibly we can, and at
all times, in a serious temper. This being what the Apostle
means, when he exhorts christians " to pass the time of their
sojourning here in fear ;" when he bids us in another place, i Pet. 5. 8.
" be sober, be vigilant.'^ The same which St. Paul advises
christians, " to work out their salvation with fear and trem- Phil. 2. 12.
bling ;" that is, with a concern answerable to the great work
they have to do, and to the loss they are like to suffer, if it
be not done. This also is what the same Apostle intimates
in these words: "let him that thinketh he standeth take i Cor. 10.12.
heed lest he falh'' that is, let no man be too secure of him-
self, lest he fall when he least thinks of it. This is what the
"Wise Man means by saying, "happy is the man that feareth Prov.28.i4.
always ;" and that " he is truly a wise man, who feareth and Piov. 14.16.
departeth from evil." This is also what the Psalmist speaks
in other words, " stand in awe and sin not ;" intimating, Ps. 4. 4.
that our great security lies in an awful fear of offending
God. And lastly, this is the meaning of the warning so
often repeated by our blessed Lord ; to be always upon our
guard, to watch, to be sober, to fear Him Who can destroy
both body and soul.

Thus, you see, the Holy Spirit, in these and in many more
places of Sacred Scripture, lays down this for a certain truth,
and a truth of the greatest moment, being so often repeated,
that /ear, and a serious care and concern, are absolutely neces-
sary in our way to heaven. And that they who have no con-
cern upon their spirits, and lay little to heart, are in the sure
way to ruin.

But that you may not misunderstand these Scriptures, or
imagine that the fear and concern here recommended consist
in a sourness of temper, or a dejected spirit ; or that this fear
must necessarily be attended with melancholy, sadness of
mind, and a life of sorrow ; I must tell you, that it is so far
from this, that there is nothing more cheerful, no cure for
melancholy so certain, as a religious fear and concern to
please God.

For this fear arises from an awful regard for the commands



126 FEAll AND CAllE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY

SERM. of a God, infinitely Holy, Just, and Powerful; Who is yet so
— ' ■- good as to pardon those that return to Him in the sincerity
of their heart, and will be careful and desirous to please
Him.

This fear consists in a concern for having offended so gra-
cious a Eather, with a serious resolution of doing so no more.
It is a fear of falling into the common vices of the world,
attended with a sober purpose of keeping out of the way of
temptations. It consists in a just sense of our own weakness
and infirmities, witli a full confidence in God's gracious as-
sistance, when we ask it in sincerity.

In short; the fear here spoken of, and in which we ought
to pass our whole lives, is a serious concern for onr eternal
welfare ; a care lest Satan get an advantage over us ; a dread
of provoking God, and of forfeiting that grace on which our
salvation depends.

And this fear is formed in onr hearts, by considering
seriously the greatness and majesty of God, the holiness of
His laws, the great happiness we are capable of, and the ex-
treme misery we are liable to if we shonld miscarry. By
considering the enemies we have to deal Avith, the temptations
we are sure to meet with, the corruption and inconstancy of
our own nature, and the many sad instances before our eyes,
of men ruining themselves to all intents and purposes, for
want of thought, and fear, and care, for what must become of
them when they die.

A man can hardly think of these things with seriousness,
but he must have some fear, some concern for himself.

Now, if this concern disposeth him to hear and receive the
truth ; if it restrains him from evil, and makes him desirous
to please God ; why then a man answers the purpose of God,
in putting His fear into his heart ; and this fear will be of
use to him in every circumstance of life, and become a means
both of obtaining and securing the favour of God.

Christians therefore have great reason, as ever they hope
for the favour of God, to beware how they oppose, or strive
to stifle or divert, a serious temper of mind, and a salutary fear
for themselves. For, in the first place, it is that very frame
OF SPIRIT which God makes use of in order to bring us into the
way of salvation.



IX OUK WAY TO llEAVKN. 127

By this^ He represents to our mind things of the greatest
concern to us ; and, as it were, forces us to consider them.
He sets before us^ on one hand, eternal happiness, as possible
to be attained by due care, and yet as possible to be lost by
negligence and a sinful security. On the other hand, having
filled our hearts with godly fear, He represents eternal misery
as the certain portion of wicked men, of careless and un-
thoughtful people.

It is to minds full of this godly fear, that He shews men
to themselves, and makes them see their sad and sinful state,
their weakness and inconstancy ; that they may see a neces-
sity of fleeing to God for help, or the danger of continuing
in a condition which must end in ruin.

"They that be Avhole (saith our Saviour) need not a phy- [Matt. 9.
sician, but they that are sick :" that is, such as consider their
own ailments, and are afraid for themselves, will look out for
help, while such as are under no concern sit still, and are in
danger of being lost.

People are apt to think, that because they know their duty
or their danger, they can easily perform the one and avoid
the other, whenever they please ; but it generall}'' happens,
that both duty and danger are neglected until God awakens
the soul into a sense of her misery. And God makes use of
this passion of fear, to make all his other gifts and graces
effectual for our salvation.

Thus the Apostle observes, "that Noah, moved with fear, Heb. n. 7.
prepared an ark for the saving of his house j^^ intimating,
that his faith, great as it was, stood in need of fear to quicken
it, to make him do what God had commanded him, to save
himself from perishing with the rest of the world.

Let us add to this, that this religious fear is what makes
us fit objects of God's grace and compassion. So saith the
Spirit expressly, " To this man will I look, even to him that isa. 66. 2.
trembleth at My Word." And our Lord, by inviting such as
are "weary and heavy laden;" such, whose misery has made [Matt. ii.
them concerned and serious, "to come unto Him ;" intimates ' "-'
thus much, that " these shall find rest unto their souls," be-
cause these only are prepared to receive it.

Lastly ; it is this salutary fear, which makes the duties of
Christianity less frightful and burdensome. To break off



128 FEAR AND CARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY

SERM. evil habits; to deny one's-self many things which we are but

'- — too fond of ; to mortify the flesh, and our sinful afi'ections ;

to take up the cross ; these are duties which would most
certainly discourage a christian, if God, by putting His fear
into our hearts, did not convince us of the necessity of doing
any thing to escape the wrath to come. For then, let re-
pentance and the difficulties of a new life be never so irk-
some, a man, who considers any thing, will choose them,
rather than continue under the displeasure of an angry God,
Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

And this consideration (if we resist not the Spirit of God)
is often forced upon us, to let us see what a careless and
fearless life is like to end in.

And here, one cannot but wonder at those, who, forgetting
this only sure argument of conviction, endeavour to persuade
men to forsake their evil ways, u})on the account of the un-
reasonableness of them, and the worldly inconveniences that
attend them.

Alas ! our corrupt hearts will not be effectually changed
by all that ever can be said upon the worldly inconveniences
that will attend our continuing in sin ; and few men but will
get over all such reasons when tempted to sin.

But who is so hardy as to slight eternal misery, and hell
fire, when he shall be convinced that these will be the certain
reward of an evil life ?

And indeed, we have of ourselves so little inclination to
lay things to heart, that if God had not set before us the
terrors of the world to come, and did not fill our hearts
with fears of future evils, not one man in ten thousand
would make the least step towards being reconciled to
God.

But God has mercifully provided a remedy for this weak-
ness and corruption of our nature, by making known to us
the certain miserable portion of wicked men in the life which
is to come. And this God has done, in order to awaken us;
to make us serious ; to make the pleasures of this world less
palatable and bewitching ; to break the force of temptations ;
and to convince us that the difficulties of a religious life are
to be chosen before everlasting burnings.

And very happy is that man, whose fears and thoughtful-



IN OUK WAY TO HEAVEN. 1-29

ness have had this blessed effect ui^on him^ to bring him from
the power of Satan unto God.

But even then we must not Lay our fear aside. "Let him iCor.io.i2.
(saith the Apostle) that thinketh he staiideth," and that he
standeth out of danger, "take heed lest he fall;" for he is
yet within the reach of temptations ; and that very fear and
seriousness of mind, which brought him into the way of life,
will ever be necessary to keep and to confirm him in it. This
being the best disposition by which we may most effectually
secure the grace of God. So saith the Psalmist : " The Lord Ps. 34, 18.
is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such
as are of a contrite spirit."

He is ni(jh unto them, to bring to their remembrance their
former iniquities; to shew them the sad dangers they have
escaped, and the sad condition they had been in, had not He
vouchsafed them the grace of repentance, and cured them of
that sinful security which is the ruin of an infinite number
of souls.

He is nigh unto such, to make them mindful of their infir-
mities and of their backslidings, that they may be more im-
portunate for grace for the time to come; that they may
watch and be sobei^, and keep the heart with all diligence;
which are duties so difficult, that nothing but the presence of
God can enable them to go through.

Besides all this ; this serious temper is generally attended
with a tenderness of conscience, a blessing which we should
very highly value, if we would but consider its advantages.

A temptation may be sudden. A man may not always
have time to weigh the evil tendency of an action ; he may
not always know w^hat his duty requires of him; but if his
conscience is tender, he will abstain from all appearance of
evil. He wdll likewise keep a faithful watch over himself,
lest by giving way to the least known sin, he soon fall into
a much greater.

Such a man will call to miud the torments of a guilty con-
science, the difficulties of a true repentance, the danger of
being given over to a reprobate mind ; and these fearful con-
siderations will serve, instead of ti77ie to consider, instead of
friends to advise with, instead of knowledge to direct, in time
of temptation.



lyO FEAll AND CAIJE ABSOLUTELY NECESSABY

SERM. Add to all this, that a serious temper, a thoughtful heart,



will contribute very much to make us devout ; without which,
no man must hope to be saved.

If a man fears God's displeasure, he will often supplicate
His mercy. The fear of offending God will put us upon
asking His grace upon every occasion ; the fear of our ene-
mies will force us to beg of God His help and protection;
and the fear of being ungrateful will mind us of our duty, to
be thankful for every favour we every moment receive. This
is to live in dependance upon God, which is the great end of
religion, and will preserve a true peace of mind and con-
science, without which no man can be happy.

A man may indeed lay his conscience asleep ; may resolve
to see no danger, nor believe that his condition is deplorable ;
and by this means he may enjoy a false peace of mind. A man
may reject such thoughts as are most proper to awaken him
into a sense of his misery, or he may silence his conscience.
But peace of conscience must have its beginning from a fear
of God, and a firm faith in His Word.

God has proposed terms on which He will be reconciled
unto us ; these terms we receive, and solemnly promise to
observe them. We meet with difficulties ; this makes us
more diligent. Sometimes we fall or go astray ; this makes
us more careful. When God sees us doing our best, He
pities and forgives us. This makes us still more desirous to
please Him ; serious in praying for assistance ; avoiding all
temptations Avhich may draw us from His service; always
Heb. 4. \. fearing, as the Apostle advises, "lest a promise being made
us of entering into His rest, we should come short of it."

So that the more fearful a christian is for himself, and of

offending God, the more assurance he has of being in God's

favour, and the greater peace of conscience : so saith the

Acts 9. 31. Spirit expressly of the first christians ; " they walked in the

fear of God, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost."

Directly contrary to this, are the fruits of security, and of
a careless life : for these are, negligence ; bold venturing upon
temptations; a wicked life; and a reprobate mind : enough,
one would think, to awaken the most drowsy sinner.

And now, good christians, you see how absolutely necessary
[iPet.1.17.] the Apostle's direction was, " that we should pass the time



IN OUR WAY TO HEAVEN. 1 :3 L

of our sojourning here (our whole life) in fear f that is, with
a concern suitable to what we are like to lose and suffer, if
we do not do so. Might not one expect, therefore, to see
christians, who know all this, very thoughtful and inquisitive
about the way of salvation ; taking heed to their ways ; ab-
staining from all appearance of evdl ; always preserving them-
selves in a serious and devout temper of mind ?

Why truly, one might expect this : but experience, sad
experience, shews the contrary; and that christians, the
generality of christians, do live as if there were no manner
of danger, nothing to be feared ; as if nobody had ever mis-
carried ; as if fear and circumspection, and a serious temper,
had never been enjoined us; but that we should all be
happy, all go to heaven when we die, without ever concerning
ourselves how we live.

But be assured of it, christians, that sobriety, watchfulness,
a fear of offending God, are duties as necessary to our salva-
tion, as our daily bread is to keep us alive. Necessary, I say,
at all times, for all conditions of life, to people of all ages, in
all affairs, in all employments, in all our dealings with men,
iu all our approaches to God, in prosperity, in poverty, and
even in the common actions of life. In all these circum-
stances and conditions, christians are obliged to live with fear
and caution, as they hope for heaven.

They that are young, if they are not brought up in the fear
of God, will contract evil habits before they are aware, which
may stick to them as long as they live, and carry them to
hell when they die. And if they that are old have been des-
titute of this grace, and neglect to labour and to pray for it
with all their might, they must soon perish undoubtedly.

If the rich have not the fear of God, and a very great share
of grace, their riches will be a snare and a curse to them, and
will be a means of shutting them out of heaven. And even
the poor, who have so many promises, and so favourable a title
to the kingdom of heaven, if they want this grace, will be apt
to grow impatient, and will endeavour to better their con-
dition by unjust ways.

Indeed, we shall have perpetual occasion for this grace,



Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 49)