Thomas Wilson.

The works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) online

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has obtained them, with open arms, and with a glad heart ;
admiring the great goodness of God ; adoring the love of
their Redeemer ; resolving to live worthy of such mighty
favours. And these passions will make us all cheerful, with-



EKM. out being foolishly vaiu; serious, without being sad and cast
'- — down ; as sober as christians, though our hearts are full of


Now, unto Him Who had mercy upon us when we were in
darkness and under the power of Satan ; Who took our na-
ture upon Him, was born an infant, became subject to the
law made for sinners, offered Himself a sacrifice for the sins
of the whole world, and raised up sinful men to the honour
of being the children of God : to Him be all honour, and
glory, and blessing, and thanksgiving, and power, ascribed
by us and by all His faithful servants, for ever and ever.



Malachi iv. 2.

Unto yoM that fear My name, shall the Sim of Righteonsness arise See Luke
with healing in His wings.

I MAKE choice of these words, from amongst many other
texts of Sacred Scripture declaring the same thing, to shew
you, — What dispositions are necessary to make Jesus Christ
and His Gospel appear to be, what they really are, the greatest
blessings that God ever bestowed upon mankind.

It is true, all christians are ready to own this, and pretend
to rejoice, and to be thankful, for so great blessings ; when,
after all, it is utterly impossible, that any man should from
his heart be glad, when he does not feel his own misery ; who
does not truly apprehend the misery of mankind, vnthout the
blessing of a Redeemer.

It was for this reason, that the Spirit of God, before Jesus
Christ took our nature upon Him, expressly foretold, who they
were to whom the Messiah should preach ; who would, and
who would not, receive Him and His doctrine.

For instance, it is said that God anointed the Messiah "to Isa. 61. i.
preach good tidings to the meek,^^ for they only would re-
ceive His message; "to bind up the broken hearted," for
such only would be glad of His help ; " to proclaim liberty to
the captives," for they only who were sensible of their bond-
age would be glad to be set at liberty. Accordingly, when
our blessed Saviour came amongst men. He invited such
only to be His hearers, to whom He knew His doctrine
would be acceptable : " Come unto Me all ye that labour and Matt.ii.28
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And when He
was blamed for conversing too freely with publicans and


SERM. sinners, He silenced His adversaries with this reason and

'- — answer : " Tliey that are whole need not a physician, but they

32. ' ' that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners
to repentance."

Why, are not all men, without exception, sinners? Yes.
But that which is intimated in these words is this : that there
are sinners who are not at all sensible of their bad condition ;
and their condition is the more deplorable for that : while
such as are truly sensible of their own ailments are very
thankful for help, and readily comply with the advice of such
as can help them. And therefore, when a certain publican,
to testify the sincerity of His repentance, resolved to part with
his estate rather than not do every body right that he had
before wronged, Jesus Christ assures him, that his having
been a greater sinner than ordinary will be no hindrance to
Luke 19. 10. his salvation: "For the Son of j\lan (saith He) is come to
seek and to save that which is lost;" that is, such as out
of a sense of their misery apply to Him for health and sal-

In short, wherever the Gospel was preached, whether to
Acts 13. 48. Jews or Gentiles, " as many as were ordained to (that is, dis-
posed for) eternal life, believed." As many as feared God,
and were in fear for themselves, and trembled to hear of a
judgment to come, all such believed, became christians in
good earnest, and thought it a great blessing that they could
be delivered from their fears upon the conditions the Gospel

By this time you perceive the meaning of the text, which
I have brought all these Scriptures to explain : " Unto you
that fear My name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with
healing in His wings." That is ; to all that truly fear God,
and are sensible how much they have provoked Him by their
sins; to such, Jesus Christ, and His Gospel, will both be
welcome, and a blessing ; whilst ail the proud, (as it is in the
verse going before the text,) such as do wickedly, fearing no
evil, shall be burnt as stubble.

So that the plain meaning and design of all these Scrip-
tures is, to shew how men must be disposed to receive Jesus
Christ, and His Gospel, to any saving purposes. For it is
but too sure, that there are an infinite number of people, to


whom Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, is preached,
who notwithstanding continue in darkness ; and though He
comes with healing in His ivings, yet they perish for want of
being disposed to he saved. " To you that fear God, (saith
the Prophet,) He Avill arise with healing in His wings."
" Whosoever among you feareth God, (say the Apostles,) to Acts 13. 26.
you is the word of this salvation sent." The fear of God,
therefore, is the foundation of saving faith.

People may profess Christianity, and be no gainers by it in
the end ; they may be called christians, before they know
the duties or the blessings of the Gospel ; and if they have
not the fear of God in their hearts, they may live in an out-
Avard, formal profession of the christian religion all their days,
and die in a condition not better than that of infidels.

Therefore, it behoves us all, as we value our souls, seriously
to consider, and to know.

First ; What that fear of God is, and how it is wrought in
us, which is so necessary a condition and foundation of saving

Secondhj ; We shall see, that we have just cause to be
afraid, and that the more we know, the more we shall abhor

Lastly ; That the more we know and abhor ourselves, the
sooner will God receive us into favour, and the more cautious
we shall ever after be of losing His favour.

And these shall be the particulars, which, by God's help,
I shall now explain to you.

I. We will first consider what this fear of God is, and how
it is wrought in us, which is the condition and foundation of
saving faith.

And first, we must be carefiil not to mistake the fear of
man for the fear of God. Human laws, fear of shame, of re-
proach, and many other worldly considerations, may restrain
a man from crimes that other people are guilty of; and yet,
such a man may be an utter stranger to the fear of God.
Whereas such as tr\x\j fear God are not led thereto by any
earthly consideration whatever ; but they have seriously con-
sidered their own great corruption, and God's infinite purity ;
their own sad deserts, and God's severe justice ; they cannot
but acknowledge the justice and holiness of His laws ; and


SERM. yet they find in themselves an unwillingness to obey thera.

They are sure that without God^s grace they cannot do any
thing that is good ; and yet they find in themselves a strange
backwardness even to ask that favour and assistance. They
know, that they live upon His bounty, and yet they cannot
find in their hearts to be thankful. These are both instances
of great disorder, and must needs make them liable to God's
[Prov. 15. displeasure. They profess to believe " that the eyes of the


Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good;"
and yet they are apt to sin as presumptuously as if they were
indeed hid from His sight. They hear how severely He
threatens those that transgress His laws. They have seen
His judgments upon other sinners, and they know not how
soon it may be their own case.

All these are real occasions of fear ; and this fear is greatly
increased, when they consider how unable they are to help
themselves. They cannot fly from His presence ; they dare
not stand upon their innocencif ; they see that sorrow and
tears, and asking forgiveness, will not prevail with an earthly
judge to pardon criminals, Avhen their crimes are only against
men like themselves ; and why should they suppose that God
will not avenge the presumptuous breach of His own laws,
and aff'ronts against His Divine Majesty ?

And not only their fears are increased by these considera-
tions, but their sorrows, likewise, by considering the happiness
of heaven, which they were made capable of enjoying; and
knowing at the same time, how unworthy they have made
themselves of such mighty favours.

Now people that are under such convictions of guilt, under
such fears, under such concern for their everlasting welfare
(as all people must be who lay things to heart); such people
will be glad to hear, that God will forgive them upon any
terms ; they will thankfully own His great goodness, and re-
solve to comply with what He is pleased to appoint, in order
to their restoration to favour ; they will be afraid of losing
His favour again, by any wilful neglect of their duty ; and,
when through frailty they have done amiss, they will most
heartily bewail their misfortune and faults : and by such dis-
positiotis as these, they become fit objects of God's mercy in
Jesus Christ. For it was to people thus affected and thus


disposed, that Jesus Christ spoke, when He said, "Come unto [Matt, u
]\Ie all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest." And indeed it is purely for want of such dispo-
sitions as these, that the Gospel is preached without effect ;
that Jesus Christ, and salvation through faith in Him, is
offered even to us Gentiles, who before were in darkness, and
in the shadow of death ; and we scarce esteem it a favour,
because we are not sensible of the sad estate we are in with-
out the blessing of a Redeemer.

For as a man, who feels his disorder, and knows that he is
in danger without the help of a physician, cannot possibly be
easy till he has done what he can to save himself from death,
and will be truly thankful when help is offered him ; so
surely should ive be, did we but well understand the danger
we are in.

And if people can be always easy, and can pass their days
without fear and concern for what may come hereafter, it is
a most sure sign they neither know themselves, nor know
what is to be hereafter.

This then is the spring of all our misery : we are in danger,
and do not know it ; we are sick, and do not perceive it ; we
are in the way of ruin, and yet fear no evil. And while it is
thus with us, no wonder that Jesus Christ and His Gospel
are preached, and recommended, and pressed upon us, without
any visible effect upon our faith or lives.

How necessary, then, must a discourse be which ivill shew
us to ourselves ? It may be uneasy to flesh and blood to have
our weakness and miseries laid open ; but it is a most neces-
sary work ; our health and welfare depend upon it. I shall,
therefore, in the next place shew,

II. That we are far from being safe; that we have indeed
cause to be afraid; and the more we know, the more we shall
abhor ourselves.

That man was created in the image of God, that is, in Eph. 4. 24.
righteousness and true holiness; that he has lost that image,
by his infidelity and disobedience ; that all men, from that day
to this, are extremely corrupt before God, having their under- Eph. 4. i8.
standing darkened; their heart full of all uncleanness ; all Mark 7. 2 l
their members prepared for wickedness, whenever a tempta- Rom. 3. 13.
tion comes in the way ; that being children of disobedience, ^P^- ^- 2-


S l^j^^- t^iey are, in a great measure, governed by the spirits and

powers of darkness ; out of whose power it is impossible ever

to recover ourselves, by any thing we can do, without the
grace of God.

Tliese are truths which the Spirit of God has made known

to us, that we may know what we are, and what we must

expect, if we die in this condition ; and that, if the image of

God is not renewed in us during our continuance here on

earth, we shall have our portion, for ever, with those spirits

[Judever.6; which kept not their first estate, who are tlierefore " reserved

""' in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day."

This God has been pleased to make known to us, in order

to awaken us, that we may consider, and see, and feel, the

disorders we labour under, and what it will end in, if we are

not careful of ourselves.

But you will say, all people are not thus perverse and
wicked, and in this wretched and sad condition. No : thanks
be to God, through Jesus Christ, all men are not actually so;
but then it is owing to the fear of God, by which tliey have
[2 Tim. 2. been converted, by which they have been taken out of the
snare of the devil, who otherwise would have led them captive
at his will. For, that all men are by nature enemies to God
and goodness, and would all be equally wicked and miserable,
if not some way or other restrained, is plain from our very
children, whom we are obliged to chastise and punish, even
as soon as they are able to do any thing, to keep them from
doing mischief, which, if let alone, would end in their destruc-
tion. The seeds of all manner of wickedness are in them, and
these would all appear and grow up, if we did not weed them
out, and root them up by a careful discipline.

And this, God knows, is but too often, by experience,
made manifest; where children have been left to themselves,
and the seeds of all manner of villainy, which were naturally
in them, have been suffered to grow to perfection. The very
first thing that appears in them is, an aversion to every thing
that is good. No sooner can they speak plain, but they are
apt to lie. The first use of their reason generally appears in
cunning, and tricks that do not bespeak a simplicity which one
could wish in them. From these faults, they follow their
inclinations to greater, till at last they commit all iniquity


with greediness, and bring upon tliemselves destruction both
of soul and body.

And, I beseech you, consider, that this is not the case of this
or that wicked person ; for we are all of the same make and
frame of spirit ; we have all the sarae seeds of corruption
within us, and it is the grace of God, that any one man is
better than another.

Whoever looks into the world, or into his own heart, must
own this ; he must see that nature is strangely corrupt, when
people must be forced by laws and punishments to do what
all men own is fit to be done ; when the duties of religion are
looked upon as a burthen ; w hen men can pray with indif-
ference for the pardon of their sins, for the favour of God,
and for an happy life after death ; when we know what we
ought to do, and own that it is reasonable, and yet must
struggle hard with ourselves, before we can consent to do
what we inwardly approve of.

All these are sure signs of a bad condition ; and it is neces-
sary that we should know this, and be often put in mind of
the danger we are in, that being convinced how miserable
our condition is, we may give no rest to ourselves, till, by the
grace of God, we have found out a way to escape.

And this brings us to the last part of our discourse :

III. That the more sensible ive are of our own umvorthiness,
the more we abhor ourselves, the sooner will God receive us into
favour, and the more cautious we shall ever after be of losing
His favour. " Surely (saith the Psalmist), His salvation is Ps. 85. 9.
nigh them that fear Him."

It has been always observed by those that take notice of
God's providences, that God, for the most part, then inter-
poses, when things are come to extremity, and when men have
no hopes of help from any thing they themselves can do.

It was just thus, when our blessed Saviour took our nature
upon Him, and manifested Himself to the world. The Jews
knew by the Law what sin was, and what it deserved. The
rest of the world knew, by what their own consciences sug-
gested, that sin stuck close to them ; and those that were
serious feared what might follow. And this perplexity of .
mind, in which the Gospel found men, made it very accept-
able, and more readily to be embraced; and they received


s E R M. with thankfulness a dispensation so full of goodness, which

'- — assured them of pardon upon their repentance ; of grace to

renew their nature ; and of eternal happiness after this life, to
all such as should endeavour to purify themselves from all
filthiness of flesh and spirit.

Indeed, there were people then (as there are now many)
who were under no apprehensions of danger ; who lived at all
adventures, and feared no evil, or who had an high opinion
of their own goodness ; and these, as the Scriptures inform
us, "rejected the counsel of God,^^ and His oflPers of mercy.

And is not the case the same at this day ? Are not
people in as much danger now? Have not they the very
tokens of sin and damnation upon them? And yet are as
easy as if they were to be saved without any concern of their
isa. 66. 2. own. Pray hear what God declares by His prophet : " To
this man will I look" [that is, in mercy], "even to him that
is poor, and of a contrite heart, and trembleth at My word."

And why are these dispositions necessary to obtain the
favour of God in Jesus Christ? The reasons are plain.
Fii'st ; that men, reflecting upon the misery of their condi-
tion, may truly value the favour of their deliverance. Secondly ;
that the power of God may appear in the conversion of sin-
ners, who had no power to help themselves. Thirdly ,- that
those who have felt the burthen of a troubled conscience, and
have been once truly afraid of the wrath of God, may ever
after walk more circumspectly. And lastly ; that being
truly sensible of the danger they have escaped, the duties of
religion, which are otherwise uneasy to flesh and blood, may
be more cheerfully embraced.

And now, you see how necessary it is, that we should be
convinced of the misery of our condition, and of our own in-
ability to help ourselves, before we can even be disposed to
look upon the Gospel as a real blessing, much less receive it
with that joy and thankfulness which so great a favour re-
quires. You see how people come to differ ; some believing,
and others slighting, the very same truths. The plain account
of which is, that some fear God, and are afraid for themselves,
and are concerned for what may come hereafter; while others
live at all adventures, and fear no evil, nor are they con-
cerned to prevent it.


Hence it appears, that it is not always for want of reasons
that men do not believe, but very often from an unwillingness
to receive the truth. Therefore Jesus Christ is said to be a
stumbling -block, because men of wicked lives and principles [iCor.i.23.]
could not receive His doctrine. " Hearing, ye shall hear, [Isa. 6. 9.]
and not understand," because of their obstinacy, pride,
worldly -mindedness, &c. Now, this the Scripture assures us,
was their condemnation ; which could not have been, unless John 3. 19.
the will of God had been sufficiently made known to them,
so as that a well-disposed person might have easily per-
ceived it.

And the conclusion of all will be, that nothing in nature
is so proper to beget a true faith in Jesus Christ as a true
and lively sense of our condition, a feeling and an assurance
that things are most wretchedly amiss with us. For when
we are once indeed convinced that our sins make us alto-
gether unworthy of God's favour ; that our weakness, without
His grace, will expose us to all manner of wickedness ; that
our sins make us liable to a severe account, which, unless
His mercy interposes, will sink us into everlasting ruin ;
why then Jesus Christ will be thought a blessing, because
He only can cure us of these fears ; He only can help our
infirmities ; He only can teach and enable us to please God
while we live, and make death a blessing to us when we die.

In one word ; He only can cure all our fears, except such
as are necessary to keep us awake, and ease all our burdens.

After all, I beseech you, do not imagine that the only end
of Christ's coming into the world was to ease us of our fears.
For, assuredly, one great end of His taking our nature upon
Him was, to free the world from wickedness, and that blind-
ness and gross ignorance which occasioned it. "For thisUoimS. 8.
purpose," saith St. John, " was the Son of God manifested,
that He might destroy the works of the devil."

Whoever are not disposed to let the Gospel have this effect
upon them, " to turn them from darkness to light, and from [Acts 26.
the power of Satan unto God," will have no reason to rejoice
that the Gospel is preached unto them ; which contains
threatenings, and much severer punishments, than ever the
law of nature could suggest, or the law of Moses made men-
tion of. Weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, for ever [Matt. 13.


SERM. and ever, are punishments not to be spoken of, not to be
— — — '- — thought of, without fear and trerabhng.

God Almighty fill all our hearts with such an holy fear of
His judgments, that we may look upon the Gospel as a
blessing, since by it we are shewn a way to escape, and
enabled to work out our own salvation, through Jesus Christ
our Saviour.

To Whom, &c. be glory both now and for ever. Amen.



God, terrible in judgment, how ought I to tremble, when I undertake to
persuade others to fear Thy displeasure, when the knowledge of Thy
"Word and judgments have had so little effect upon myself. Pardon,
merciful God, this sinful security in myself, and all that preach Thy
Word, and in all that shall hear us ; and enable us so effectually to per-
suade others, both by our life and sermons, that it is an evil thing and
bitter to be under Thy displeasure ; that seeing our danger, and feeling
our misery, and the disease we labour under, we may thankfully em-
brace the means Avhich Thy goodness has provided for our recovery, and
joyfully close with that gracious invitation of Thy blessed Son — " Come
unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give 3'ou
rest." Grant this, for His sake, Blessed God. Amen.

'2 Cou. V. 11.

Knoioing the terror of the Lord, toe persuade men. SeeTsa. 6I.

1 ; 6«. -l ;

There never, sure, was a time more necessary to set tlie Ps. 34. ij' ;
terrors of the Lord before men than this, when the generality 12b; '

]\Iatt. H.
28; Lul:i

of those who call themselves christians either do not know
or have forgotten, for what end they came into the world; 12. 5; Phil
how they ought to live in it; or what is like to become of James 2.19
them when they go out of it.

Now as the necessity of persuading people to be more con-
cerned for themselves is very great, so are the reasons made
use of by the Spirit of God the most terrible and the most
awakening. What are they? We find them in the verse
before the text, and they are these : " We must all appear
before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may re-
ceive the things done in his body," that is, in this life, " ac-
cording to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."


SERM. Which the Son of God, Who is to be the judge of the world,
* explains in these very words, "All that are in the graves shall

come forth : they that have done good, unto the resurrection
of life ; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection
of damnation." Knoivmg, therefore, the terror of the Lord,
we persuade men.

You see, christians, who those are that are supposed in an
especial manner to know this terror of the Lord. They are
the ministers of Jesus Christ. You hear also whence they
have this knowledge of God's purpose, to call all men to an
account, even from the Son of God Himself, Who came down
from heaven to make this known unto men, in order to save
them from ruining themselves.

I pray you, therefore, take notice, brethren, that the words

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 17 of 49)