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fỊom that just Judge, who knows the secrets of all hearts, and is no respecter of persons.
The brute creation is subject to the dominion of men; but man himself, being the subject of God, is never to proceed in any matter, as if God had no concern with it. When we think and live by this rule, we are men, Properly so called ; because we are under the influence of a fear unknown to irrational creatures ; and are exalted to our proper dignity, as subjects of the kingdom of God.
Fear is a servile passion, when it has an unworthy object; but it becomes honourable when God is the object of it, and is the test of the human character. When fear is understood in a more general sense, and qualified with prudence, it is the passion which distinguishes men from brutes, and wise men from fools. The ignorant fear nothing, because they know nothing; and some people are mistaking and offending all their lives, because they never know when to fear, nor what to be afraid of; so that the want of fear argues a want of wit in common life, as it undoubtedly argues a want of grace in religion.
Nothing but the fear of God can render a man fit to live in the world as a member of . society. No penalties, which human autho
tity can inflict, lay any obligation upon the conscience; but he that fears God will consider himself as the servant and subject of God, and consequently he will be true and just, independent of all temporal considerations.
To believe in God, and to fear him, ought to be the same thing with all mankind: but experience shews us, that many, who would be ashamed to deny God openly, do not live as if they feared him. Let me, therefore, point out to you some of those considerations which produce the fear of God in the heart
The first of these is the consideration of his power, as it is manifested to us in the natural world. Who can observe the glorious lights of heaven in their wonderful order; the changes of the seasons, the operations of the elements, the structure of man, without being filled with a sense of the divine power? They shall fear thee, saith the Psalmist, as long as the sun and moon endureth. The lights of heaven must be blotted out of it, before we can resist the necessary inference, that the Maker of them is the first and greatest object of our fear and reverence,
forward with this argument, and consider God as the governor of the world ; directing the elements for our good, or interrupting the course of them for our punishment. What force of language can imprint such an awe upon the mind, as a sight of that solemn and majestic appearance of the sky, which is preparatory to a storm of thunder ? When the clouds, as if they were summoned by a divine command, are gathered together from different quarters of the heaven; when the air is dark above, and the earth below is: in silent expectation of the voice that is to follow, and fearful of that fire, which gives us an assurance and foretaste of what shall happen at the destruction of the world. Well might it be said by Elihu, in the book of Job--At this my heart trembleth, and is moved out of its place. The man who feels nothing upon such an occasion, has no reason to value himself
his courage : such honour to any man : it is not fortitude, but stupidity. In different minds the effect will be different : in some, the terrors of guilt will be awakened ; in others, a pious fear, and a submissive veneration, by which they are brought nearer to God, and become better acquainted with their own sins and infirmities.
is no such courage
The providence of God in the government of states, and the changes of empire, is another consideration which will instruct us farther in the fear of him, by shewing us how we are subject to his power, and dependent
upon his will.
The mighty monarchy of Babylon was raised
up for a scourge to other nations : it was an axe in the hand of Providence, and hewed down other powers, to exalt itself ; while the invisible hand, which directed it, was turning it to other purposes. It was made instrumental in punishing the Jews for their idolatry; detaining them under a long and miserable captivity, till they were cured of their inclination to idols : and when this end was answered, and the Jews were to be replaced in their own land, the power of this great kingdom departed from it in one night. As soon as the sentence was passed, it was executed on the profane Belshazzar ; and the particulars of this catastrophe are preserved by a celebrated heathen historian. Cyrus, to whom the kingdom was transferred, used his authority soon afterwards for the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem, and the restoration of the Jewish æconomy.
When God was about to send the Christian religion into the world, which was to be spread into every part of it, the Roman empire increased to its utmost grandeur, and the form of it was changed from republican to monarchical, amongst a people, who by education, natural temper and principle, were the most averse to monarchy of any upon earth. The country of Judea, the stage on which the gospel was to make its first appearance, was become a Roman province, governed by Ro-, man magistrates, and subject to Roman laws and customs: whence it came to pass, that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, suffered death
upon a cross, after the Roman manner; his preachers were sent about the world, over which the Ro. man jurisdiction was extended; and the gospel at length became the established religion of the empire, by virtue of the imperial edicts, in opposition to all the power and interest of paganisın. When these things were accomplished, and the designs of Providence were answered, this mighty empire was broken into smaller independent kingdoms, and the name of it is now nearly lost in the world.
The Roman power answered another remarkable purpose in the hand of God, for the punishment of the Jews under their last and 8