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Nehemiah's resolution, But so did not 1, because of the fear of the Lord ; Neh. v. 15: and the practice of holy Habakkuk; I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble ; Hab. iii. 16.
It is wise Solomon's good experiment, which he loved to repeat; By the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil; Prov. xvi. 6. iii. 7: for they say one to another, as the Tremelian version bath it, in Malachi, The Lord hearkeneth and heareth; Mal. iii. 16: and how dare they, how can they, do amiss, in that presence? For, as the Saints say, after the Song of Moses, and the Song of the Lamb; Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty ; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints: who shall not fear thee, and glorify thy Name? for thou only art holy; Rev. xv. 3. 4.
Shortly then, that we may put these two toOf the Filial Endeavour of Obe. gether, which are not willing to be severed: whodience, in parti- soever is duly affected with a true filial fear of cular callings, a:
the Almighty cannot, by allurements, be drawn to rising from this do that, which may offend so sweet a Mercy ; Fear.
cannot, by any difficulties, be discouraged from doing that, which may be pleasing to so gracious a Majesty. The Magistrate, that fears God, dares not, cannot be partial to any wickedness; dares not, cannot be harsh to innocence: managing that sword, wherewith he is entrusted, so as God himself, if he were upon earth, would do it, for the glory of his own just mercy. The Messenger of God, that fears him on whose errand he goes, dares not, cannot either smother his message, or exceed it: he will, he must lift up his voice like a trumpet; and tell Israel of her sins, and Judah of her transgressions; not fearing faces, not sparing offences. The ordinary Christian, that fears God, dares not, cannot but make conscience of all his ways; he dares not defraud nor lie, for an advantage; he dares not swear falsely, for a world; he dares not prostitute his body, to whatsoever filthiness; he dares not oppress his inferiors ; he dares not turn away his own face from the poor, much less dares he grind theirs; in one word, he dares rather die than sin : and, contrarily, what blocks soever nature lays in his way, since his God calls him forth to this combat, he cannot but bid battle to his own rebellious corruptions; and offer a deadly violence to his evil and corrupt affections; and enter the lists with all the powers of darkness, resisting unto blood, and willingly bleeding, that he may overcome.
Who now would not be in love with this fear? The happy Effects and issue of Oh, fear the Lord, ye his saints: he, that fears this Fear. him, shall lack nothing; Ps. xxxiv. 9: The Sun of
Righteousness shall arise unto him, with healing in his wings; Mal. iv. 2. In the mean time, The secret of the Lord is with him ; Psalm xxv. 14: The angels of the Lord are ever about him ; Ps. xxxiv. 7: His soul shall dwell at ease here below; Psalm xxv. 13: and, above, salvation is near unto him ; Psalm Jxxxv. 9: yea, he is already feoffed of life and glory; Prov. xxix. 25.
III. Now, as some careful pilot, that takes upon of the Extremes him to direct a difficult sea-passage, which his long of this fear, on
both sidesand wary observation hath discovered, doth not content bimself to steer a right course in his own vessel, and to show the eminent sea-marks afar off; but tells, withal, what rocks or shelves lie on either side of the channel, which, upon the least deviation, may endanger the passengers : so must we do, here. Having, therefore, sufficiently declared wherein this fear of God consisteth, what it requireth of us, and how it is acted and expressed by us; it remaineth, that we touch at those EXTREMES, which, on both sides, must be carefully avoided : these are, seCURITY and PRESUMPTION, on the one hand; on the other, VICIOUS FEAR. 1. It was the word of the Wise Man, yea, rather of
- whereof the God, by him, Happy is the man, that feareth alway: first is Sécubui he, that hardencth his heart, shall fall into mischief; rity: Prov. xxviii. 14. Lo, an obdured SECURITY is opposed to fear, both in the nature and issue of it. Fear intenerates the heart; making it fit for all gracious impressions : security hardens it, and renders it uncapable of good. Fear ends in happiness; security, in an inevitable mischief.
(1.) And these two, though contraries, yet arise –Whence it from the same cause, contrarily applied:
ariseth: [1.] Like as the same sun hardens the clay, and softens the wax: it is heat, that doth both; causing dry- buse of God's
- Of the Aness in the one, and a dissolution in the other: even Mercy, in givso the same beams of divine mercy melt the good ing and for. heart into a holy fear, (Great is thy mercy, that thou giving: muayjest be feared,) and harden the wicked heart in a state of security : for, upon the goodness of God to men, both in giving and forgiving, do men grow securely evil and rebellious to their God; as being apt to say, “ I have sinned, and what harm hath happened unto me?” saith Siracides ; Ecclus. v. 4. Lo, even forbearance obdureth; Because sentence against an evil work is not erecuted speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil ; Eccl. viii. 11. how much more do the riches of God's goodness, (Rom. ii. 4.) which are the hottest beams of that sun, when they beat directly upon our heads! The ease of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them, saith Solomon; Prov. i. 32.
Our philosophy tells us, that an extreme heat shuts up those pores, which a moderate openeth. It was a sore word of St. Ambrose *; That no man can, at once, embrace God's favour, and the world's. Neither can I disallow that observation of a rigorous votary t; That the devils of consolation, as he calls them, are more subtle and more pernicious, than those of tribulation: not so much, perhaps, in their own nature, as for the party they find in our own
* Nemo potest amplecti Dei gratiam simul et seculi. Ambros, lib. iv. Epist. 29. + Aegidius, lib. Conform. &c. conform. 8.
breasts. The Wise Man could say; Lest I be full, and deny thee, and ask, Who is the Lord ? Prov. xxx. 9.
Even very heathens have been thus jealously conscious of their own disposition : so as Camillus *, when, upon ten years' siege, he had taken the wealthy city Veios, could pray for some mishap to befal himself and Rome, to temper so great a happiness.
This is that, which Gregory + the Great, upon his exaltation to that papal honour, doth so much complain of, in himself: that his inward fall was no less, than his outward raising ; and that his dull heart was almost grown stupid, with those temporal occasions. And, surely, so it will be, if there be not a strong grace within us, to season our prosperity.
That, which the historian I observed in the course of the world, that abundance begets delicacy and animosity; that again, quarrels and vastation of war; and, from thence, grows poverty; is no less true, in the particular state of the soul. If we be rich and high fed, we grow wanton and stomachful, and apt to make war with heaven, till we be taken down again with affliction: thereupon it is, that the wise and holy God hath found it still needful, to sauce our contentments with some mixtures of sorrow; and to proclaim the jubilee of our mirth and freedom, upon the sad day of expiation. The man after God's own heart could say, In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved ; Ps. xxx. 6. but the next ye hear is, Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled ; v. 7. and this trouble he professes to have been for his good. Without these meet temperaments, worldly hearts run wild; and can say, with the scornful men that ruled in Jerusalem; We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement : when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to us ; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves; Is. xxviii. 15. yea, in a stout insolence, as the prophet Jeremiah expresses it; They belie the Lord ; and say, It is not he ; neither shall evil come upon us ; neither shall we see sword, or famine ; Jer. v. 12.
[2.] Neither yet is it only the abuse of God's long-of the Cus.
suffering and bounty, that produceth this ill-habit of setom of Sinning
curity and hard-heartedness; but especially, a Custom
of Sinning. Oft treading hardens the path. The hand, that was at the first soft and tender, after it hath been inured to work, grows brawned and impenetrable. We have heard of virgins, which, at the first, seemed modest; blushing at the motions of an honest love; who, being once corrupt and debauched, have grown flexible to easy entreaties unto unchastity; and, from thence, boldly lascivious, so as to solicit others, so as to prostitute themselves to all comers; yea, as our Casuists § complain of some Spanish Stews, to
* Tit. Livius. + Torpet ignava mens; et, circumlalrantibus curis temporalibus cùm penè ad stuporem deducta &c. Greg. Epist. I. vii. 127.
Trifarius rerum cursus ; Abundantiæ , Indigentiæ, Temperantice : ex abun. dantiá, animoptatas &c. Fascic. Temp. in An. 1404.
s Martin. Vivaldus in Candelabro. in Cap. de Confess.
an unnatural filthiness. That, which our Canonists * say, in another kind, is too true here; “ Custom can give a jurisdiction; neither is there any stronger law than it.” The continued use then of any known sin, be it never so small, gives, as Gerson's phrase is, a strong habituation ; and, though it be a true rule, that “ habits do only, incline, not compel t;” yet the inclination, that is wrought by them, is so forcible, that it differs little from violent. Surely, so powerful is the habit of sin, bred by ordinary practice, as that it takes away
very of sinning ; so as the offender now knows not, that he doth the very act of some evil; much less, that he sins, and offends in doing it: and now, the heart is all turn. ed dead flesh, whether to good or ill. There is not, then, a more dangerous condition incident into the soul of man, than this of security: it bars us of the capacity of any good, that may be wrought upon us : it exposes us to the success of all temptations: it draws down the heaviest of God's judgments upon our heads: it defies justice; it rejects mercy: it makes the heart God’s anvil, which the harder it is struck, the more rebounds the blow; but the Devil's feather-bed, wherein he sinks and lies soft, at free ease; neither would that Evil Spirit wish for any more pleasing repose: it flatters the soul, with an impossible impunity : it shifts off necessary vengeance: lastly, while other dispositions do but yield to a hell, this invites it. By how much more woeful it is, by so much more careful must we be to avoid it.
(2.) If we care for our souls then, we shall zea. Of the Remedies of lously apply ourselves to prevent this hellish evil: Security: Meuns io which shall be done, if we shall constantly use all keep the heart tenMeans to keep the heart tender.
[1.] Whereof the first is, Frequent Meditation upon the Judgments of God,
attending sinners. It is - Meditations of the Apostle's own prescript; Let us have grace, and our own Frailwhereby we may serve God acceptably, with reve- ties: rence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire ; Heb. xii. 28, 29. Could we but stoop down a little, and look into hell, we should never come thither : the apprehension of those torments would be sure to keep us from sinning and impenitence. It is a true observation of Cyril 1, That the want of belief is guilty of all our obduredness : for, should it be told thee, saith that Father, that a secular judge intends to doom thee to be burned alive tomorrow, how busily wouldst thou employ the remaining time to prevent the judgment! how eagerly wouldst thou run about! how submissively and importunately wouldst thou sue and beg for pardon ! how readily wouldst thou pour out thy money to those friends, that should purchase it ! and why wouldst thou do all this, but because thou doubtest not of the truth of the report? Were our hearts no less convinced of the designation of an everlasting burn
+ Habitus inclinant, non cogunt.
* Vivald, 4. parte in 30.
+ Cyr. in Lev, lib. ix. 7.
ing to the rebellious and impenitent, could we less bestir ourselves? To this purpose also it will much conduce that we meditate often of our own Frailty and Momentariness : no evil can fasten upon the soul of that man, that hath death ever before his eyes: that Father said well, “ He easily contemns all things, that thinks to die every day :" the servant, that said, My Master defers his coming, was be, that revelled in the house, and beat his fellows; he durst not have done it, if he had seen his master at the door.
[2.] No whit less prevalent a remedy of security is -- AResolution to repel the
a firm Resolution of the soul to Repel the First Mofirst Motions
tions to whatsoever Sin: whose nature, as experience of Sin: tells us, is to gather strength by continuance.
monly, all onsets are weakest in their beginnings; and are then most easily and safely resisted. Custom can never grow, where no action will be admitted to make a precedent. It is well observed by that learned Chancellor * of Paris, that some
and blasphemous cogitations are better overcome, by contemning them, than by answering them. If, either way, they be repulsed, the heart is safe from security.
[3.] But, thirdly, if we have been so far overtaken, --Care of Speedy as to give way to the penetration of evil, our Care Recovery, after our Fall: must be, to work our hearts to a Speedy Renovation
by repentance. If sin have seized upon the soul, it may not settle there: this is that, which will else work a palpable indisposition. Let a knife be wet with the strongest aquafortis, and presently wiped dry again, the metal is yet smooth, and bewrayeth no change; but, if that moist fire be suffered to rest upon it a while, it eats into the blade, and leaves behind some deep notes of corrosion. It is delay, in these cases, that breeds the utmost danger: let a candle, that is casually put out, be speedily rekindled at the next flame, neither is the scent offended nor the wick unapt to be straightway re-enlightened : stay but awhile, the whole room complains of the noisome smell; and it will cost, perhaps, much puffing, and dipping in ashes, ere it can recover the lost light. That which Solomon advises in matter of suretyship, (Prov. vi. 4, 5.) we must do in the case of our sin; speedily extricate ourselves, and give no sleep to our eyes till we be freed from so dangerous an engage
[4.] Moreover, unto these, it must be our main -Due heed
care, Not to give any Check to the Conscience, upon Not to Check
whatsoever occasions. That power hath, as a keen, so the Conscience :
a tender edge; and easy to be rebated. When that
dictates to a man some duty, or the refraining of some doubtful action, he, that disobeys it, makes way for an induration: for, when that faculty bath once received a discouragement, it will not be apt to control us in evil; but grows into a careless neglect of what we do or omit, and so declines to an utter senselessness.
* Cogitationes fæde, blaspheme, noxiæ, potiùs vincuntur contemnendo, quàm respondendo. Gerson. de Precept. Theolog.