FEAR GOD RATHER THA MA . REV. UMA F. REID, D. D.

" And fear not them which Mil the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hdV —Matt, X, 28. St. Luke, in the twelfth chapter and fourth and fifth verses, repeats the same injunction, though in language a little different yet in substance the same : "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear Him which, after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear Him." God, for wise and noble purposes, has engrafted upon the human heart the principle of fear. If it is properly developed and cultivated, it is as noble as any passion that attaches to our natures. I know there prevails a sort of prejudice against this passion, and men are inclined to acknowledge themselves under the influence of almost any other sooner than fear. We hear individuals sometimes, in a braggadocio way, boast of never having felt fear — boast of not knowing what it is to fear, and imagine that it is of some consequence to them if they can make the impression that they neither fear God nor regard man. All this, however, may be set down as idle cant, as intended simply for effect. I undertake to assert that, as a general rule, men are more universally and continuously operated upon by fear than by any other passion. Yery few in direct personal contact with their fellows fear physical hurt, yet thousands and thousands go cringing and wincing through life, lose many

a quiet, happy hour by night and by day through fear of influences. And we undertake farther to assert, that the greatest object of fear to man is his fellow man. God may be held up as an object of terror to the evil doer ; hell, with- its blinding glare and black smoke, and the grave

152 SERMO S. with its shadows aad gloom, these may at times awaken in his mind emotions of fear, but they are soon dismissed. ot so as to his fellow. Whether he is in his shop, or counting room, or office, or on the street, the fear of man is continually before his eyes. This fear is felt to a greater or less extent by all. It is found to exist in all ranks and grades of society. There are influences which the politician fears, influences which the lawyer fears, influences which the auctioneer, the tradesman, the minister, and even the members of Christ's Church, fear. As in the examination of our text we wish only to examine the fear which affects man's religious character and condition, we will dismiss from consideration that fear which operates upon him in his worldly relations and success, except in so far as it may bear upon his religious character ; and in doing so we dismiss all the characters we have introduced, except the ministers and members of Christ's Church. We shall introduce them, however, again in their characters as sinners against Grod. This man-fearing spirit enters the pulpit and becomes one of the greatest paralyzers — the mightiest incubus that hangs upon the sacred desk. I believe that at the present time it is

crippling the efficiency of the pulpit more than any other cause. Instead of preaching the plain

FEAR GOD RATHER THA MA . 153 word of truth, declaring the whole coaasels of Grod, giving to each his portion in due season, there seems a disposition to falter through fear of offending; hence, "a daubing with nntempered mortar." How frequently in this way does the minister permit many, who wait on his ministry and look to him for guidance, to pass through his hands to perdition. Let me illustrate the^ thought. How often do we find that, if the minister has members in his church who are intemperate, who, by their excess in drinking, are bringing upon themselves and their families ruin and woe, and disgrace upon the cause of Christ, instead of lifting over them a voice of warning ; instead of thundering in their ears the cnrse pronounced by Grod upon the drunkard ; instead of declaring to them that the spirits of alcohol will quench the spirit of Grod, he lets them go on quietly to hell, lest he offend them ! Again, if he sees his members bowing down at the shrine of wealth, with their whole soul absorbed with making, and getting, and hoarding up money, he will not preach against covetousness, and avarice, and the love of gold, the root of all evil, choosing to let them go on to hell rather than run the risk of offending them ! If pride creeps into the Church, and he sees his members becoming vain and gay, wearing proud looks and haughty airs, losing the spirit of humility, and,

154 SERMO S. consequently, the spirit of Christ, sparkling with rings, and bracelets, and diamonds, and lace, he is afraid to preach against pride, that he sees is sapping their spiritual life, lest he give offence ! God deliver us from this fear ! As long as we stand on the walls to sound the alarm, we pray God to keep us from giving' an uncertain sound when we see the sword coming ! It is all a mistake, too, about giving offence. If the minister will show that it is because he fears God, and earnestly desires their salvation — that he is prompted only by a desire to do them good — his people will like him all the better. Ministers are not only affected by this manfearing spirit, but it affects the laity. One brother sees another going astray, indulging in sin, and, through fear of offending him, he will not counsel with and admonish him of his error. It is frequently the case that members of the Church, in their intercourse with the world, instead of bringing to bear upon sinners the influence of pious examples and holy, godly conversations, rebuking sin, and speaking a word for Jesus, are almost ashamed to own that they know Him, much less that they are His disciples ; not that they are afraid of personal hurt, as was the case at the time the injunction of the text was given, but lest they may lose some of the esteem of sinners. Through this spirit of fear the Christian

FEAR GOD EATHEK THA MA . 155 parent is led to neglect his family worship, if a stranger should be present ; and if his soul becomes happy at church under the influence of

God's word and spirit, and he feels like shouting and praising God, he is afraid to do so, lest some blockhead should laugh at him. How often is it the case that the member, whilst the minister is preaching, instead of lifting his soul to God in earnest prayer that the word, the truth, like a two-edged sword, may cut its way to the sinner's heart, and bring him cowering at the foot of the Cross, is cri-nging lest the minister may say something that will not set so well upon the ears of some, or make some blunder in language or rhetoric ? Away with this man-fearing spirit ! Yes, I say, away with it! I'll fight it, and I would have the Church fight it, until it is fought back, and hides its face in perdition, whence it comes. Again, this man-fearing spirit affects not only the proper discharge of duty, and thereby produces a diseased and disordered internal state, but it cripples the energies of the Church in its aggressive movements, producing a wincing and shrinking from worldly influence. When a stand is to be taken for God, when a position is to be assumed, when the light of the Church is to be set upon a question — the question frequently governing action instead of looking into the law of

156 SERMO S. Grod, ascertaining His will, and unflinchingly adhering to it — the question too often is, what will public opinion think of this? What will the' world say of us? Shall we not lose our influence ? Shall we not lose caste ? And in this way there is a conforming to the world and a losing sight of the injunction of the Apostle: " And be not conformed to this world ; but be ye

transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of Grod." This spirit not only affects ministers and members of Christ's Church — becoming a great barrier and hindrance to them in the discharge of their duties — but it is felt more strongly and powerfully by the sinner, and it keeps thousands from the Cross. We now have the subject before us, the evil against which we are guarded in the text, in some of its effects presented us ; we now draw one proposition from the text — that God rather than man is to be feared. We propose to sustain this proposition by offering reasons why we should not fear man, in contrast with reasons why we should fear G-od: "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." First, then, we should not fear man rather than

PEAR GOD RATHER THA MA . 157 God, for the utmost that man can do is to kill the body. This implies not only that he may kill the body, but that he may strip us of all worldly good, temporal enjoyments, which implies the deprivation of reputation, of property and of life. ow, let us take up each separately. Grant Ihat he can take away your reputation, your character, your good name. If it is done because you fear God rather than man, is there to be found in this loss of reputation a reason sufficient to influence our fears ? What is the loss of reputation ?

Though man with the world may render our names odious, yet he cannot takeaway our integrity. Though by falsehood and slander he may spot our character in the eyes of men, he cannot blacken our consciences. And it seems to me that it is preferable to have a good name with God than with men, when one can only be enjoyed at the sacrifice of the other. The praise of man and the applause of the populace will answer for the moment of excitement, but it requires the approbation of God for the hour of retirement and solitude. Hosannas from human tongues may do for life, but it requires the smile of heaven for death. The great Apostle to the Gentiles was put to an ignominious death in Rome by the public authorities, was disgraced in public esteem. But what cared he for that? Is he any the worse now by it, think ye? ay, verily. He

158 SERMO S. might well endure the execrations and anathemas of an excited and infuriated populace for a few hours, if it is the prelude of welcoming shouts and salutations of saints and angels. He might well endure the club upon his head and the whip upon his back, if it is the initiatory ceremony of his receiving a crown and white robe. It seems to me that it is preferable to be in good standing with Grod, and even have the curses of man, than to have our praise on every human lip and the frown of Grod continually upon us. Again, suppose man may take away not only our reputation but our property also, would this constitute a reason why we should fear him rather than God ? The world has fallen into a very great mistake in supposing that property is essential to happiness. If we have it, and properly use it, it adds much to our

comfort here. I condemn no man for seeking in an honorable way to obtain all he can, provided he will make a proper use of it after he obtains it. Christ says: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth." His meaning is that, we shall not simply, only, lay up treasures on earth. But the proposition I lay down is that property iis not so connected with and essential to our happiness as that we cannot be happy without it, as that we cannot part with it and be happy ; and our observation supports this proposition. The happiest people I ever saw were about the poorest

FEAR GOD RATHER THA MA . 159 people I ever saw. The Scriptures also support this proposition: "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." But, again, suppose that man may take away not only our reputation and property, but even our life ; and is this even a reason why we should fear him rather than Grod ? We hold life dear, I know. We cling to it with a tenacity not easily broken. We give our property, our all, for life. Thousands will part with integrity for it. But if we fear G-od rather than man, what is it to die ? Have yon ever thought how quickly it is over? How long does it take a man to die? Suppose it was the embodiment of all suffering, clothe it with everything that is horrible, and dreadful, and appalling, and it lasts but a little while — it is soon over. What is temporal death compared to eternal death? The reason drawn, therefore, from man's power to inflict death upon us, is as much

less than the reason why we should rather fear God, as temporal death is less than eternal death. We have now taken the strongest view of what man can do to us; and in view of the worst afflictions which he can bring upon us, we can see no good reason why he should be feared rather than God. But the little reason that does appear is

160 SERMO S. entirely destroyed when it is recollected that man cannot do any of these things to us — cannot take away our reputation, our property, or our life, unless God will permit him to do it; and God will not permit him to do it unless it is for onr good that it should be done. Let us look at this a little. This is a point of vast interest to him who fears God rather than man. It is of great interest if we can sustain this position. The word of God does sustain it. Kot even a sparrow, we are taught, falleth to the ground without His notice. With Him are the issues of life and death. He upholds all things by the word of His power, and all things shall work together for good to them that love God. Eeason also sustains the position. God is omnipresent^everywhere. He is everywhere in His omnipotent character. He is everywhere then at the same time, exerting superior power to every other power. Are these propositions true? The conclusion, then, is plain and irresistible, that no power of man or devils can be exerted at any time in any place without the permission of God's superior and overruling omnipotence. Here is our security. What is it but this that protects the character of the minister of Jesus Christ ? Do you suppose the devil is so fair that he would not make a lie to destroy the character of the man of God? Do you suppose

there are no wicked men on earth, his agents,

PEAR GOD BATHER THA MA . 161 who would originate a slander to blast the character of God's ministers? Our security is not with them. It is with God. God will not let his atmosphere bear the slander. He withers and dries it up on the lips of those who would take it up. He will not let it lodge in the hearts of those who otherwise would chew it as a sweet morsel under their tongues. ot only so with the sincere minister, but every one who fears God. He will not permit your reputation to be destroyed, your property to be taken, your life to be sacrificed, unless it is for your good. Aye, the slanderer may whet his tongue and cherish his passion in his soul, but the venom he spits will not even cling to. your garments. The tradesman, your enemy, may invite your custom away, but God will turn other custom into your shop. God will make your business prosper. The robber and incendiary may walk round your dwelling, their assassin eyes may glare in the light of your windows, but the doors and windows cannot be forced, nor will his matches blaze unseen by some passer by, until God's power withdraws, and permits it for your good. If the reasons are as represented, and the views presented correct^ — and we submit them to your judgment for decision — is it not a matter of some surprise that men should fear man at all, and especially that a man who fears God should fear man ? 8*

162 SERMO S. ow these reasons address themselves to the understanding of the sinner as well as the Christian, for the sinner is such because he does not fear God ; and if the views and reasons presented confirm the Christian in his position, that he will fear God rather than man, they should incite the sinner to aspire to the same position. So much for the reasons why we should not fear man. ow let us examine some of the reasons why we should fear God, by looking to what he can do to us. He can do all that man can do against us. He can destroy our bodies — he can strip us of our reputation, he can take away our property, he can take away our life. If here his power to affect us ended, if God could do no more than this, we might have some difficulty in deciding which to fear more, but right here commences the difference. In the very next step of our investigation God's superiority begins to rise. Whilst man cannot injure us unless God permits it, God can work against us and man cannot hinder. If God chooses to touch our reputation, strike down our character, man's praise and applause would be like sickly flowers cast upon a decaying corpse ; if God should choose to strip us of our prosperity, man cannot stay the pestilence that would sweep it. If God lays us upon a bed of sickness and death, man cannot, with all his arts and ingenuity and effort, raise us up. If God bleaches the cheek

FBAE, GOD RATHER THA MA . 163 with the death pallor, man cannot conceal it with the flush of health. If Grod draws the fire from

the eye, man has no power to light it again. But all this seems to constitute so small a reason why Grod is to be feared rather than man, that it appears not to be taken into the account in the text ; it is not offered nor urged. The reason alleged here is "able to destroy both soul and body in hell," and man cannot prevent it. We have seen that if we fear G-od he can interpose and prevent man's worst punishments ; not so with man. If we fear man and not Grod, when Grod comes to do his utmost upon us, man is powerless to prevent it. When the sentence, "depart," is pronounced, man has no power to countermand it ; when the line of march is taken, man cannot stay the tread ; nay, when in hell you lift up your eyes in torment, man cannot even cool your parched tongue with a drop of water. What is the worst that Grod can do ? Destroy both soul and body in hell. What is that? Let God define it— the place " where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." "Where the smoke of the torment ascendeth up for ever and ever " — the place of everlasting punishment. Think of it in comparison with man's punishments. It is not necessary to decide the kind, the nature of the punishment — only do not forget one feature, that it is everlasting, unending. Think of it. Pleasures derived

164 SERMO S. otherwise than from God, eternally indulged and enjoyed, would at last become loathesome. If we were compelled forever to gaze upon beautiful pictures and delightful scenery, the time would come when we should tire, and, compelled to gaze on, then the time would come when we should be disgusted and loathe it. If we were doomed eternally to have the shouts of applause poured

upon our ears, or to roll in wealth and luxury and fashion, the time would come when the ear would become wearied, and the heart grow sick and tired. Think of eternal punishment, then, however light ; think of its never ending. How could we endure everlasting punishment ? Carry along in your reflection another thought, as a reason why God is to be feared rather than man — that what he shall inflict, whether it is fire, flame, or smoke, will be the utmost he can do. This conclusion is drawn from the apposition in which the latter clause of the text stands to the former. The killing of the body is said to be all that man can do ; the inference then, from the relation which these two clauses bear to each other, is, that the destroying of both soul and body in hell is the utmost that God can do. It rfiay be said, that annihilation of the soul — destroying its existence — would be greater. It might be the exercise of greater power, but not of greater punishment, for, so soon ^s the soul ceased to

165 exist, the punishment would cease. The destruction of the soul and body therefore, in hell, is God's utmost punishment. Great God, how terrible is thy power ! Think of it ! God shall marshal the strength of his omnipotence, and spend it in your punishment. The Almighty arm that holds up the universe will be brought down in its crushing weight upon your soul. God will hold your soul in one hand and forever smite it with the other. When your soul almost reaches the point of annihilation. He will impart life to it that it may not die, but suffer on forever and ever. We begin to understand what the

Apostle meant when he said : "God out of Christ is a consuming fire."

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