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of advancement, if he complied; while a refusal might be attended with the highest danger. Yet against all this accumulated force of temptation did Joseph stand firm! By the power of what principle? The fear of God was before his eyes. He could not do that wickedness and sin against God.
This fear of God, which Joseph possessed, is not to be considered as a mere dread of his punishment of sin hereafter. For this, like the dread of its evil consequences in the present life, may have nothing in it really virtuous; may be only a modification of self-love; and may consist with the love of sin, and a secret wish that it were possible to indulge it.—But the true fear of God which Joseph discovered, and which alone possesses the qualities which we have enumerated, as necessary to a real principle of holiness is a filial fear: the fear which a son feels of a father whom he at once reveres and loves. It is a compound of reverence and affection. Indeed, the sentiments of a dutiful child towards a dear and venerable parent, may afford the liveliest example of a genuine principle of holiness. Such a son will feel a reluctance to disobey or grieve his parent. He will see the propriety of consulting his pleasure: nay, more; he will feel a strong inclination to consult it. He will not obey him from any mere motive of interest, nor yet from a mere dread of his displeasure: he will not obey in those things only which coincide with his own inclination, while he refuses what would cost him any effort of self-denial; he will not shew reverence in external acts, or in his father's presence only, but there will be in him a steady prevailing principle of regard, which will make his heart and his life in unison with each other, which will incline him to his duty with an irresistible force. His inclination will prompt him at once, to obedience; nor will he need to urge himself to its performance by the consideration of any advantages to be derived from it.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is intended, my brethren, to produce the genuine principle of obedience to God in our hearts. It implants, whenever it is duly received, at once a reverence for God and a love to hin, and thus causes us to abstain from sin; not merely in consideration of the particular or general evils of it; but by giving us views of it as an injury done to God, as the thing which grieves him, as an act of rebellion against his authority, and an insult to his power. This evidently applies as a universal principle, to sin of every kind; to secret as well as open sins; to sins of omission as well as commission; to the disposition and the desires, as well as to outward acts; to those that are esteemed of little consequence by the world, as well as those which they reckon scandalous.-By the introduction of such a principle, the foundation of corruption will be cleansed. The bitter waters will be made sweet, a clean heart will be given, and a right spirit renewed within us.
It is evident that the degree of obedience thus produced will depend upon the degree of reverence and love to God which prevail in the heart: and, as these will never be perfect in this imperfect state, the obedience itself will be imperfect also. But it will still be sincere. It will proceed from the heart; and, in this respect, will differ from that produced by any of the false principles which I have exposed in this discourse. The same thing happens in the obedience of a son towards a parent whom he esteems and loves. Through the frailty of human nature, and the imperfection of our best qualities, he may at times be dilatory in performing acts of filial duty; at times he may be too much occupied with his own concerns; sometimes, in smaller matters, he may even act contrary to the will of his father: yet still there is a reality in his love; there is a sincerity in his obedience; there is a principle totally different from that of an hireling servant, who consults nothing but his interest in obeying his
master, and from mercenary motives alone is attentive not to displease him.
These dispositions of reverence and love to God the Gospel produces, by impressing the understanding through His word, and the heart through the influence of the Holy Spirit, with suitable convictions of the majesty and goodness of God.
i. Čouvictions of the majesty of God.—The Scriptures set bim before us; and wbenever we are inclined to receive and profit by the declarations of Scripture, they are treasured up in the heart and make a deep and strong impression there. The Scriptures, I say, set God before us, full of glory and greatness; as every where present; as knowing all things, and doing all things; as infinitely wise; as the author of all good; as perfectly just and supremely holy. Impressed by such representations, the Christian fears before him with deep awe and holy reverence. "Who shall not fear thee,” he exclaims, "thou King of saints? Worthy art thou of being feared and obeyed. In thy presence only is fulness of joy. Thy smile is happiness. Thy frown is death."
2. But this reverence is mixed with love, by the impressions there given of the goodness of God.— The gift of his only begotten Son, bis readiness to pardon, the greatness of his patience and forbearance, the care of his providence, the proofs of his love both here and in another state;—all these represent God as the Father, as well as the Judge, of his people; infinitely amiable as well as “greatly to be feared.” Drawn by such representations, the penitent approaches to the Throne of Grace; pleads the promises, anticipates the mercy of God; ventures to trust in him; feels increasing confidence in proportion to increasing knowledge; adores the infinite grace of his heavenly Father; believes, loves, and with enlarging views of the goodness of God in redemption, increasing faith and devotion, his love to him and his reverence for him increase also;that is, he obtains juster views of God's attributes, and these produce stronger sensations of love towards him, which will of course lead to increased endeavours to please, and a greater fear to offend, his heavenly Father. How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God! This readily suggests itself now, as an answer to temptation, where formerly nothing was considered but the temporal inconveniences which would follow a compliance with it.
But the great duty in which this knowledge of God, and this just disposition towards him, are obtained, is that application to him for pardon through Jesus Christ which is prescribed in the Gospel.-Man naturally neither knows nor fears God; and he too often remains, for a considerable period, if not the whole of his life, without any proper acquaintance with him, or care about him. The world and the objects of sense, in general, engross bis attention. He seeks for happiness in these, and he is for a time satisfied with them. He takes his measure of sin from the standard prevalent in the world, is satisfied with his own conduct, and does not conceive that God can be materially displeased with it. And in this state, if left to himself, he would go on to the day of his death, without ever thinking seriously about God, or truly endeavouring to obtain his favour. But God, who is rich in mercy, often interposes to prevent us from continuing in this state of ignorance and sin. He disappoints us in our worldly expectations, and thus practically convinces us, that the world is a less valuable portion than we imagined. He impresses our minds with some religious subject. He turns our attention by, some awakening providence, or some strong conviction of sin, to the state of our own souls. He shews us that we are not so blameless as we thought ourselves to be; and puts us upon endeavouring to serve God in a better
When a man is thus far awakened, and is honest and faithful to his conscience, he will never rest here. He will see the infinite importance of the subject which now engages his attention, and his sense of that importance will cause him to devote to it much of his time and his reflections. He will read the Scripture therefore; become earnest in prayer; examine himself closely; correct his conduct; amend his whole life; and labour, by all the means in his power, to become devoted to God. And now it is, that, for the first time, he will be properly sensible of the depth of corruption which is in his heart. His first religious views will be, thus, of a painful kind. They will not immediately give him peace and hope in God. They may distress and harass his soul. He may have lost the quiet which he before enjoyed, and, for a season, obtain no other in its room. But let him not be discouraged: he is in the way of obtaining solid peace, and a hope which maketh not ashamed. Let him persevere in reading the word of God. In prayer, and in attendance upon the holy ordinances of God; and soon the glorious plan of God's mercy, in saving sinners by faith in Christ Jesus, will discover itself to him, and he will behold such a rich display of grace in Christ, that he will be, at once, humbled and amazed, filled with love and with praise on account of it. He will see that God "can be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." He will have such discoveries as will embolden him to rely upon Christ, with a confidence which nothing can shake; with a love which nothing can damp. And now he obtains the true principle of virtue;—the filial love and fear of God. Now the foundation is firmly laid of future obedience to him for the remainder of his days. He has now learnt, by experience, the goodness of God, and serves him henceforward in newness of life, rejoicing in his heavenly Father, and devoting himself to him with the most perfect regard.