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this City, which is better taught than any under heaven, may teach all other places how to live; and may honour that profession, which hath made it renowned, and all God's Church joyful: the welfare and happiness whereof, and your Lordship in it, is unfeignedly wished, by
Your Lordship's humbly devoted,
1 SAMUEL Xii. 24, 25.
Therefore fear you the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your hearts, and consider how great things he hath done for you. if you do wickedly, ye shall perish, both and ye your king.
HOLD it no small favour of God, Right Honourable and Beloved, that he hath called me to the service of this day; both in the name of such a people to praise him for his Anointed, and in his name to praise his Anointed to his people. The same hand, that gives the opportunity, vouchsafe to give success to this business!
That, which the Jews sinned in but desiring, it is our happiness to enjoy. I need not call any other witness than this day, wherein we celebrate the blessing of a King; and, which is more, of a King higher than other Princes by the head and shoulders. And, if other years had forgotten this tribute of their loyalty and thankfulness, yet the example of those ancient Roman Christians, as Eusebius and Sozomen report, would have taught us, that the tenth complete year of our Constantine deserves to be solemn and Jubilar. And, if our ill nature could be content to smother this mercy in silence, the very lepers of Samaria should rise up against us, and say, We do not well; this is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace.
My discourse yet shall not be altogether laudatory; but as Samuel's, led in with exhortation and carried out with threatening. For this text is a composition of Duties, Favours, Dangers: of DUTIES WHICH WE OWE, of FAVOURS RECEIVED, of DANGERS THREATENED.
The Duties, that God looks for of us, come before the mention of the Favours we have received from him, though after their receipt; to teach us, that as his mercy, so our obedience should be absolute: and the Danger follows both, to make us more careful to hold the favours, and perform the duties. And, methinks there cannot be a more excellent mixture. If we should hear only of the favours of God, nothing of our duties, we should fall into con
* Decimum quemque annum Imperatores Romani magná festivitate celebrant. Sozom. I. i. 24. Idem Euseb. de vitâ Const.
ceitedness; if only of our duties, without recognition of his faYours, we should prove uncheerful; and if both of these without mention of any danger, we should presume on our favours, and be slack in our duties. Prepare, therefore, your Christian ears and hearts for this threefold cord of God; that, through his blessing, these duties may draw you to obedience, the dangers to a greater awe, and the favours to a further thankfulness.
J. The goodness of these outward things is not such, as that it can privilege every desire of them from sin. Monarchy is the best of governments; and likest to His rule, that sits in the assembly of Gods. "One God, one King," was the acclamation of those ancient Christians; and yet it was mis-desired of the Israelites. We may not ever desire that, which is better in itself; but that, which is better for us: neither must we follow our conceit in this judgment, but the appointment of God. Now, though God had appointed in time, both a Scepter and a Lawgiver to Judah; yet they sinned in mending the pace of God, and spurring on his decree. And, if they had stayed his leisure, so that they had desired that which was best in itself, best for them, appointed by God, and now appointed; yet the manner and ground offended: for, out of an humour of innovation, out of discontent, out of distrust, out of an itch of conformity to other nations, to ask a King, it was not only a sin, as they confess, v. 29, but y, a great wickedness, as Samuel tells them, v. 17: and, as oftentimes we may read God's displeasure in the face of heaven, he shews it in the weather. God thunders and rains in the midst of wheat-harvest. The thunder was fearful; the rain, in that hot climate and season, strangely unseasonable both to be in the instant of Samuel's speech, was justly miraculous. The heathen poets bring in their feigned God thundering in applause: I never find the true God did so. This voice of God brake these cedars of Lebanon, and made these hinds to calve; Psalm xxix. 5, 9: and now they cry Peccavimus, v. 19. If ever we will stoop, the judgments of God will bring us on our knees. Samuel takes 'vantage of their humiliation; and, according to the golden sentence of that Samian-wise-man, that bids us lay weight upon the loaden †, however Jerome ‡ take it in another sense, he lades them with these three DUTIES; Fear, Service, Consideration.
1. FEAR and service go still together. Serve the Lord in fear, saith David; Psalm ii. 11. Fear the Lord, and serve him, saith Joshua; Joshua xxiv. 14: and, fear ever before service; for that, unless our service proceed from fear, it is hollow and worthless. One says well, that these inward dispositions are as the kernel; outward acts are as the shell: he is but a deaf nut therefore, that hath outward service, without inward fear. Fear God, saith Solomon, first, and then, keep his commandments; Eccl. xii. 13.
* Juxta Homer. Els xolgavos, &c. † Juxta Χρυσά παράγγελματα Pythagore. Oneratis superponendum onus, id est, ad virtutem incedentibus augmentanda præcepta; Tradentes se otio relinquendos. Hier, advers. Ruffin.
Behold, the same tongue, that bade them not fear, v. 20, now bids them fear; and the same Spirit, that tells us they feared exceedingly, v. 18, now enjoins them to fear more. What shall we make of this? Their other fear was at the best initial; for now they began to repent: and, as one says of this kind of fear, That it hath two eyes fixed on two divers objects *; so had this of theirs : one eye looked upon the rain and thunder; the other looked up to
the God that sent it. The one of these it borrowed of the slavish or hostile fear, as Basil calls it; the other, of the filial: for the slavish fear casts both eyes upon the punishment; the filial looks with both eyes on the party offended.
Now then Samuel would rectify and perfect this affection; and would bring them, from the fear of slaves, through the fear of penitents, to the fear of sons: and, indeed, one of these makes way for another. It is true, that perfect_love_thrusts out fear; but it is as true, that fear brings in that perfect love, which is joined with the reverence of sons: like as the needle or bristle, so one compares it, draws in the thread after it; or, as the potion brings health.
"The compunction of fear," saith Gregory†, "fits the mind for the compunction of love." We shall never rejoice truly in God, except it be with trembling: except we have quaked at his thunder, we shall never joy in his sunshine. How seasonably therefore doth Samuel, when he saw them smitten with that guilty and servile fear, call them to the reverential fear of God! Therefore fear ye the Lord. It is good striking, when God hath stricken: there is no fishing so good, as in troubled waters. The conscience of man is a nice and sullen thing; and, if it be not taken at fit times, there is no meddling with it. Tell one of our gallants, in the midst of all his jollity and revels, of devotion, of piety, of judgments; he hath the Athenian question ready, What will this babbler say? Let that man alone, till God hath touched his soul with some terror, till he hath cast his body on the bed of sickness, when his feather is turned to a kerchief, when his face is pale, his eyes sunk, his hand shaking, his breath short, his flesh consumed, now he may be talked with; now he hath learned of Eli to say, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.
The convex or out-bowed side of a vessel will hold nothing: it must be the hollow and depressed part, that is capable of any liquor. Oh, if we were so humbled with the varieties of God's judgments as we might, how savoury should his counsels be; how precious and welcome would his fear be to our trembling hearts! whereas now our stubborn senselessness frustrates, in respect of our success, though not of his decree, all the threatenings and executions of God.
There are two main affections, Love and Fear; which, as they take up the soul where they are, and as they never go asunder, (for
* Joh. de Combis Compend. Theol. † Greg. 3, Dial, c. 34. Compunctio formidinis tradit animum compunctioni dilectionis,
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 Thou shalt fear, Deut. vi. 2, is turned by our Saviour oσves, Thou shalt worship, or adore; Matt. iv. 10; and that, which Isaiah saith, In vain they fear me, ( Isaiah xxix. 13.) our Saviour renders, In vain they worship me, (réCovτaí; Matt. xv. 9.) as if all worship consisted in Fear. Hence, it is probable, that God hath his name in two languages from Oeos, Fear; and the same word in the Greek signifies both Fear and Religion*. And Solomon, when he says, The fear of the Lord is now the be ginning, 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; it is the root of the same wisdom, whereof it is the top-branch, saith the same author †.
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 infinite inequality, which there is between him and us, may seem not to allow so perfect a fitness of that affectiou, 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 it be, as Hemingius distinguishes it well, timor cultûs, or culpa, 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
What is it therefore to fear God, but to acknowledge the glo, rious, though invisible, presence of God in all our ways, with Moses's eyes, opay dógalov Heb. xi. 27: to be awfully affected at his presence, with Jacob, quàm tremendus! to make a humble re
Eindua. Plut. Cæsare. Acts xxiii. 10. Heb. v. 7. † Στέφανος σοφίας, Eccl. i. 18; ρίζα, Εccl. i. 6 ; πλησμονή, y. 16. Hem. in Ps. xxv. || Sic semper presentem intelligit, ac si ipsum qui præsens est in suâ essentiå viderit. Bern, form. hon, vitæ.
signation of ourselves to the holy will of God, with Eli; It is the Lard: 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; Verba rebus proba*: the voice of wickedness is actual, saith the Psalmist; wickedness saith there is no fear of God before his eyes; Psalm xxxvi. 1. 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
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 flourish 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 as, 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.