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Isaiah li. 12, 13. Who art thou^ that thou shouldest he afraid of a man that shall die and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy Maker ^ that hath stretched forth the heavens^ and laid the foundations of the earth. These words are applicable to all times and all seasons ; and in considering them, I shall first of all observe that there are two parties here spoken of — man that shall die^ even the son of man that shall be as grass ; and the Lord our Makery that stretched forth the heavenSy and laid the foundations of the earth. Secondly, I shall call your attention to the fact, that in the common intercourse of the world, the former of these parties (man, and not the latter — God) is practically the object of reverence, respect, and fear. And thirdly, I shall enlarge upon the meaning of that emphatic question with which these words commence — Who art thou ? And I. As to the parties. It appears to be a main object of the Scriptures, elsewhere, as in the text, to set in the most vivid contrast with each other, the meanness, the emptiness, the nothingness of man ; and the all-sufficiency, the majesty, and the glory of God. We will take some instances of both. In verses 7 and 8 of this very chapter we find
SERMO XXXIX. 483
these words : Fear ye not the reproach of metiy neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them tip like a garment ; and the worm shall eat them like wool Let us take next (and I cannot deny myself the pleasure of repeating the whole passage) the description of man in Job iv. : In thoughts from the visions of the nighty when deep sleep falleth on men^ fear came upon me^ and tremblings which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face ; the hair of my flesh stood up : it stood stilly but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying. Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, He put no trust in his servants ; and his angels He charged with folly : how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth (Job iv. 13 — 19). Man, again says Job, man t/iat is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not (Job xiv. I, 2). Behold, says the Psalmist, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best estate is altogether vanity (Ps. xxxix. 5). In the same melancholy strain the prophet speaks : The voice said. Cry, And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth (Isaiah xl. 6, 7). In like manner the Apostle James : What is your life ? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishcth away (James iv. 14). And St. Peter, in almost the very words already quoted from Isaiah : All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.
484 SERMO XXXIX. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away. (I Pet. i. 24)
In wondrous contrast with the nothingness of man, the Scriptures labour, as it were, for language to set forth the majesty of God's glory. With what a simple but magnificent display. of His Almighty power do the first sentences of that sacred volume meet our view ! In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon tlieface of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God saidy Let there be light ,\ and there was light (Gen. i. i — 3). But even this the Psalmist speaks of as the exhibition, not so much of God's greatness as of His condescension : Who is like, says he, unto the Lord our Gody who dwelleth on high, who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in tJie earth ? (Ps. cxiii. 5, 6.) ThinCy Lordy says David, is the greatness y and the power y and the glory, and tJie victory y and the majesty ; for all tJiat is in the heaven and in the earth is thine: thine is the kingdom, Lord; and thou art exalted as Head above all (I Chron. xxix. 1 1). To celebrate this great theme, the Scriptures employ the grandest machinery and the most consummate art of poetical composition. What merely human strains ever rose to so lofty a sublime as those in which God is represented in the 38th chapter of Job as challenging the patriarch to answer : Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth f declarcy if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof y if tJwu knowest ? or who hath stretched the line upon it ? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened ? Or who laid tlte corner-stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together.
SERMO XXXIX. 485 and all the sons of God shouted for joy ? Or who shut up the sea with doors ^ when it brake forth^ as if it had issued
out of the womb ? When I made the cloud the garment thereof^ and thick darkness a swaddling-band for ity and brake up for it my decreed place^ and set bars and doors, and saidy Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? (Job xxxviii. 4 — 1 1). Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea ? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth ? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee ? or hast tliou seen the doors of the shadow of death f (16, 17). Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds^ that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings^ titat they may gOy and say unto thee^ Here we are? (34, 35). With one more quotation from the Psalms I shall conclude. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple y and my cry came before Him^ even into His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth, TJtere went up a smoke out of His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub ^ and did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place : His pavilion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before Him His thick clouds passed, hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice; hailstones and coals of fire. Yea, He sent out His arrows, and scattered them ; and He shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen^ and the foundations of the
486 SERMO XXXIX. world were discovered at Thy rebuke ^ O Lordy at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils (Ps. xviii. 6 — 15).
I have been thus diffuse, perhaps too' much so, in quotations from the Scriptures, that you may see in what vast and utter contrast they represent the two parties to whom my text alludes. But, in fact, no tongue of men or angels, nay, not even the language of inspiration, could describe or measure the boundless interval which lies between finite and Infinite, between the creature and the Creator, between sinful mortals and a holy God. II. And yet I maintain that in the common intercourse of the world, the former of these parties, rather than the Latter, is practically the object of reverence, respect, and fear. Indeed, the whole system of society seems founded on the principle that human sanctions are above Divine. What is the use of those various rules upon the statute-book, which prohibit the very things which the Bible prohibits, and enjoin the very things which the Bible enjoins.^* Is it because God's single authority is not of itself of sufficient weight, and therefore man's authority must come in to help it? Considering who the parties are, this thought would be abundantly revolting to the pious mind. But the real state of the case is worse, and of far more disparagement than that. It is that God's authority has comparatively no weight at all, and therefore, to keep society in order, it is absolutely necessary that, even where the mouth of the Lord hath spoken with the most awful sanctions He can employ, the law of the land should interpose with its more effectual and prevailing influence. But where Divine and human laws forbid or enjoin the very same thing, it may not be quite so easy to
SERMO XXXIX. 487 perceive to which of these powers obedience is chiefly yielded. Let us then take some instances in which these
two authorities do not act conjointly, and see which most effectually enforces the practice of his laws. Let us take the case of debt, then. By the law of God, every one is strictly bound to give a portion of his substance to the poor. This, then, is a positive debt in God's account. There are debts, also, in man's account, such as rents, taxes, interest due on bonds, etc. Which then of these obligations is most punctually discharged i It is fully granted that we ought to give to the poor, that we owe them a certain portion of what we have, and that it is, foro conscienticB, a debt Why then are other debts paid, and that so often not } Simply because the one is due on man's authority, and the other on God's ; because the neglect of the one is threatened with imprisonment in a gaol, of whose existence men can entertain no doubts, and the other with imprisonment in hell, which they practically consider as an old wives' fable. Again, see the stately decorum which prevails in the courts of earthly princes — ^the watchful vigilance and trembling anxiety with which each individual takes care to observe the rules laid down in every minute punctilio. Why is all this? Simply because the royal presence diffuses a magic influence around it And is not the King of kings present wherever we turn our eyes } Do we not in Him live, and move, and have our being f Is not all the earth filled with the majesty of His glory ? Yet what marked effects does this produce ? Do men in general, on this account, walk honestly (that is decorously) as in the day? Do they abstain from all appearance of evil, and from everything which could offend the eyes of Him with whom we have to dot Do
488 SERMO XXXIX. they feel that the plcue on which they stand is holy ground? o. They all admit that God is present, but that Presence produces not half the controlling influ-
ence that the presence even of the most insignificant of their fellow-mortals would do. It is a shame, says the Apostle, even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. And yet these secrets are all known to God. In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night, when in the estimation of the sinner all \s peace and safety, when he flatters his own heart and says, o eye shall see me, from what inspection does he felicitate himself on his escape } Simply from the inspection of the eye of man. He knows that the eye of God is, with intensest gaze, upon his every act and thought But what matters it.? It no more interrupts his sinful pleasure than does the unconscious notice of the infant, or the stupid or unmeaning stare of one of the inferior animals. But in fact, with the general mass, the fear of man, or in other words the law of opinion, is the great regulator of life. Unmanageable as they would persuade themselves that their other passions are, and ready as they are to plead their force as a convenient palliative for sin, yet they all yield submissively to the masterpassion, the fear of man. Where man's authority demands it, there is no propensity of nature which they cannot systematically control. If so the law of opinion decrees, whatever men may be, women will be chaste as angels, and sober as disembodied spirits. Before their superiors, persons, whose tempers convert their families into miniatures of hell, are as mild and placid as the calm face of nature. Those who blaspheme the name of God, and insult Him to His face by habitual swearing,
SERMO XXXIX. 489 are perfect masters of their tongue in refined society. o oath will escape their lips, if in the presence of one of exalted rank who disapproves the practice, or with whom, if not himself so strict, it would be taking a
liberty, or putting oneself too much on an equal footing, to swear. Thus is God treated as One who is not insulted, merely because the perpetration of that insult might be offensive to those whose claims to respect are practically admitted. Indeed, the melancholy fact, that man is by his fellow-man valued more than God, appears so prominently in the whole carrying out of life, that it would be endless to advert to instances. One day out of seven is reserved for God's more immediate service. Are the general mass, then, most prone to let the business of the world encroach upon the sabbath, or to let the sabbath enlarge its borders, so that more than one day should be withdrawn from the service of the world ? How is it, moreover, with respect to truth.? Will not persons in various offices, and high ones too, freely take the usual oaths, and keep them or not, just as it is customary to do so, and laugh at those who will call it perjury ? Will they not, if they have good precedent for this profanation, sit quite easy under any charge which God can make of having mocked Him by the solemn invocation of His name ? Will not men do this, who would sooner face the king of terrors than leave it in the power of any to allege that they had, in one instance, told what man's opinion would pronounce a dishonourable falsehood ? How is it, also, with respect to common honesty.? Is it not notorious that those who leave their fair creditors unpaid ; who, not by the '* law's delay," but by delaying what the law demands, bring ruin upon the
490 SERMO XXXIX. industrious, and cause their cries to enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth — ^is it not notorious that these very persons will sell house and lands, and bring wife and children down from affluence to sudden beggary, to pay,
not the hard-earned price of virtuous industry, but the wages of riot, debauchery, and sin ? And why is this ? Because the one is a debt of justice, and the other of honour; and because justice has its foundation in the fear of God, and honour has its foundation in the fear of man. But enough, perhaps, of this distressing subject The case is too clear to need m6re proofs. Of the far greater portion of society it may be affirmed, that all their works tliey do for to be seen of men. To an extent of which they are not themselves aware, the law of opinion, and not the law of God, is their rule of life. Much though, as Protestants, they object to antiquity, or to the Church, as the authoritative and infallible interpreter of the word of God, they themselves leave it to the careless, thoughtless world around them, to fix the sense of Scripture upon every point of conduct. They say that the Bible contains the religion they profess ; but to the world they leave it altogether to decide how much of its strictness and holiness is to be taken as applicable to their own case, or how much is to be passed over as what they have no business with, and what it would only confuse them, or set them wild, to dwell on. Thus God's revelation comes to them so filtered through man's opinion, that in the process it leaves all but the mere name behind. In fact, their religion is a mere substitute, which man, or rather Satan, has provided ; something that has grown up to fill the space which religion ought to occupy, so that no sensible void is felt ; some-
SERMO XXXIX. 491 thing to avert the dangerous inquiry where and what religion is ; something to turn the conscience off from asking the important question, What must I do to be saved f
Such, I solemnly believe, is the Christianity which generally prevails. Going to Church on Sunday ; receiving the sacrament on festivals ; bringing children to be baptized, and that, if it befits their station, amidst scenes of vanity and dissipation enough to turn the water into blood — all this, and whatever else the world demands, is done, and decently done by well-bred people ; but the whole may be gone through without once lifting up a thought to God. This routine of outward forms, together with abstaining from whatever vices are disreputable in society, or whatever sins they are not privileged to commit by their age or sex or station — this is the religion of the world ; and this, no less than what they would allow to be their irreligious acts, provokes the inquiry of my text : WIw art thou^ that thou shouldest be afraid of a man which shall die^ and of the son of m4in which shall be made as grass ; and forgettest the Lord thy Maker ^ that hath stretched forth the Jieavens^ and laid the foundations of the earth ? III. We have now to consider, or, as I proposed, to enlarge upon, the meaning of that emphatic question with which these words commence, Who art thou ? The inquiry seems to have been primarily addressed to those whose prevailing fear of man was the result rather of weakness under trying circumstances, than of carnal blindness and depravity of heart. It seems intended for the encouragement of God's people when threatened with dangers, and particularly when harassed by the terrors which cruel enemies inspire. The whole chapter,
492 SERMO XXXIX. and especially the verses which include my text, seems to imply it /, even /, am He that comforteth you. Then follow the words before us ; to which are immediately subjoined those expressions of such inimitable pathos —
And hast feared continually every day because of the fury of tlu oppressor y as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor? As much as to say, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Where are the clouds thou so much dreadedst ? Where is the storm that seemed ready to burst upon thy head ? Where are the terrors that scared thee in visions of the night, the fears that rendered thee a burden to thyself? Where is the fury' of the oppressor? Is it all like as a dream when one awaketh ? Was it a creature of the imagination, a spectre of the fancy? Was there no oppressor ; or, if there were, is the oppressor gone ? Shall the eye which saw him see him no more ; neither shall his place any more behold him ?" There is, alas ! a fear of the world, which, though felt as a weakness, and deplored as a sin, '* still," to use the words of our article, " doth remain, yea in them that are regenerate." Many that have ceased to love the world, and whose hearts are right with God, still feel the body of this sin, still are afraid of a man that sliall die^ and of the son of man which shall be made as grass. They despise and abhor themselves for such meanness, and acknowledge it to be the burden of their lives. They make no sinful compromise ; they pay no wilful homage to the world ; they perform no deliberate acts of submission to its authority. evertheless, when they are confronted with the men of this generation, when they meet them face to face and eye to eye, they lose their self-possession. They are disheartened and dis-
SERMO XXXIX. 493 couraged, and cannot do the things that they would. They decline a contest, and shrink from a collision which conscience secretly tells them they ought to brave. They do not, however, deceive themselves ; they do not put things on a wrong footing, or call them by false
names, or mask their timidity with the semblance of discretion. Their comfort is that God is not extreme to mark what is done amiss ; that, where the heart is sincere, He pities our weakness, and is ever ready to hear the cry of God be merciful to me a sinner. To such the inquiry of my text is the language of reassurance and encouragement. But in another sense, and with far different emphasis, does it apply to those who, in the genuine spirit of the world, and with the full agreement of the will, pay that homage to man which they deliberately refuse to God. Well may it be said to such, in a tone of mingled indignation and surprise, Who art thou ? What reasonable intelligence can be so perverted ; how fearfully and wonderfully made, how opposed to the laws of truth and nature, nay, what a contradiction to itself, must be that darkened soul which fears him who can only kill the body, and has no more that he can do, rather than that dread Being who holds in His hands the keys of death and hell, who can destroy the soul, and plunge it into the abysses of a lost eternity ! Surely an anomaly so strange, an inconsistency so utter, can be accounted for but in one way. It would be morally impossible, and contrary to nature, that any creature could, by any evil bias or malformation of the mind, behold these two objects — God and man — with equal clearness, and fear "the latter rather than the Former. o ; in all such cases as we now suppose, those senses which alone can
494 SERMO XXXIX. take cognizance of God are closed. The natural eyes and ears are open to see the form and hear the voice of man. But as it respects the spiritual avenues through which God is apprehensible to the soul, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers^ saying: Go unto this people, and say , Hearingy ye shall hear,
and shall not understand ; and seeing, ye shall see, and not perceive. evertheless this judicial blindness is no cloak for their sin ; they have brought it on themselves ; they are chargeable with fearing where no fear is, and with sleeping in the midst of the most appalling dangers. To the Jew, whom the prophet more immediately addressed, these words, if taken in a reproachful sense, spoke with emphatic meaning. They embodied and centred in one charge all that the Apostle afterwards so abundantly detailed. Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law ; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? (Rom. ii. 17 — 21). But to us — favoured so highly above God's ancient people — to us who have before our eyes displays of goodness which many prophets and kings have desired to see, and have not seen them, with what redoubled force does this voice of expostulation speak ! All that this question implies will perhaps be best understood by* forming to ourselves some notion of the answer which
SERMO XXXIX. 495 the merely professing Christian would be compelled to give. I do not speak with reference to those weaknesses which God's faithful servants secretly deplore : I speak of that practical, wilful, and deliberate preference of man's favour to God's favour, which forms the general character and ruling spirit of the world. Let him, then,
who lives in friendship with that world, answer for himself: "I am a creature formed by God, made in His glorious image, destined for happiness in time and in eternity ; to sojourn for a few years in paradise below, and thence to ascend to a still purer and brighter paradise above. This high position, as a wilful transgressor of the Divine law, and rebel against Almighty goodness, I was doomed to forfeit ; but this was only that mercy might seek and find me in the lowest depths, and that the rebound and reaction of that fall might elevate me above the level of my former innocence. All this I believe, and do moreover confess it as my privilege to have the fullest and clearest knowledge of what God is, and more especially of what He is to me. • The creed which I repeated with my infant lips taught me His ubiquity, His immensity, the glory of His majesty, the terrors of His omnipotence. It taught me also that God is love, and that He so loved me as to make His only begotten Son the suffering Victim for my sins. I knew that to the free exercise of God's goodness and lovingkindness to a disobedient race there was no limit, but their own unwillingness to receive them. It is my full conviction that the most excursive imagination, if taxed to its utmost powers, could not conceive proofs and demonstrations of love more unequivocal or more touching to the heart than He has revealed in Scripture." Such must be the confession of even the most worldly mind.
496 SERMO XXXIX. when bleeding for the loss of thy parent, thy husband, And well may God apply to such these affecting words : And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judahy judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vitteyard. Wfiat could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it ? Wlierefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And with no less suitableness might He add : ^'Out of thine
own mouth will I judge thee, tJiou wicked servant With all this knowledge in thine head, hast thou set up the abomination of desolation in thy heart ? Hast thou left the Fountain of living waters, and hewed out to thyself broken cisterns which hold no water ? Hast thou bowed down, not with a reluctant fear which infirmity might palliate, but with a willing reverence, with a ready mind, and with the free-will homage of the heart, before thy fellow-sinner and thy kindred worm, and hast preferred and honoured him above thy Great Benefactor, before the Chiefest Excellence, and the Sovereign Good ?" My brethren, I would, in conclusion, desire to give a particular and personal pointing to the words before us. Who art thou ? or rather, is there one in this congregation who thus worships and serves the creature more than the Creator? Is there one on whom we could fix the imputation which my text contains, and say. Thou art the man ? If, then, thine own conscience would single thee out, and charge thee with disaffection towards thy Maker, consider for a moment the awful position in which thou standest, the fearful prospects which lie before thee. Upon whom wilt thou call in the day of thy distress } Can man arise and save tliee in the time of thy trouble ? Can the world comfort thee upon a bed of sickness } Can it speak peace to thine heart
SERMOK XXXIX. 497 thy wife, thy child, thy friend? Can it pluck from memory a rooted sorrow ? Can it lighten the darkness of a dying hour ? O then cease from man, whose breath is in his ftostrils. Trust not the vast concerns and allimportant interests of thy soul to those who are deceitful upon the weights and lighter than vanity itself. Would to God that I could address those words of the prophet Samuel with prevailing influence to your hearts : / will teach you the good and the right way : only fear the Lord,
and serve Him in truth with all your heart ; for consider how great things He hath done for you. Let, then, all His goodness pass before you. Call to mind His personal mercies to yourselves ; the peculiar benefits and favours which He has poured upon you. Remember that it was He who took thee out of thy mother's womb. Remember how often in after-life you called upon Him in your troubles, and He delivered you out of your distress. Remember the patience with which He has borne your provocations ; the long-suffering which spared you when your own overt acts impeached you of high treason against Heaven. Consider, I beseech you, before it be too late to survey the perils that surround your path, the fatal precipice that lies before you. And if the terrors of the Lord cannot affright you, let His love persuade you, let His goodness find a passage to your hearts. To countless mercies past. He adds this above ally that He is ready at this moment, if you will draw nigh to Him, to draw nigh to you with free forgiveness, and with all the yearnings of a Father's heart. Arise, then, and go to that Father. And though your sins have been as scarlet, and as the sand on the sea-shore innumerable, learn the manner of your reception from KK
49^ SERMO XXXIX. the picture of Himself which God's own unerring hand has drawn : And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran,' and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
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