Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the world supremely, they rob God of his glory, deprive: themselves of pure and permanent happiness, and abuse their time, their talents, and all the favors bestowed on them. The young and inexperienced are continually exposed to ten thousand snares and dangers in this vain and evil world, and nothing can afford them security, but early piety. This will guard them against the god of this world, who goes about as a roar. ing lion to deceive and destroy the young, the thoughtless, and the stupid; and against the men of the world who are deceived and deceivers. It is the immediate and important duty of the young to remember their Creator, to love and serve God, and to acknowledge him in all their ways, that he may guide their paths. The morning of life is a season of peculiar trial. God is now loudly calling upon the young to forsake the men, the manners, the customs, and the spirit of the world, that lies in wickedness and is full of all manner of eyil. And if they neg. lect to hear his voice now, they have every reason to fear that they never will hear it. For the world is gaining stronger and

. stronger hold on their hearts, and they are as constantly losing strength to resist its corrupting and dangerous influence. Look upon those who have arrived at manhood ; has not the world a stronger hold on their hearts, than it had in their childhood and youth ? Look upon those in the meridian of life; are they not more entirely under the dominion of a worldly spirit, than they ever were before ? and pursuing the vanities of the world with redoubled ardor and enterprise, the spirit which is now astonishingly reigning all over the world? Look upon those in the decline of life; has time, or trouble, or disappointment, or sorrow, taught them the vanity of the world, and led them to take God for their portion ? No, they are the nearest to death and the farthest from the kingdom of heaven. All these descriptions of men were once as young as you are; but they forsook God in the morning of life, and God has forsaken them, and there is the utmost reason to fear, that he always will forsake them. Now, consider the world will be as vain in time to come, as it has been in times past; and you see how vain and fatal it has been to those that have gone,

and are still going before you in the love and pursuit of vanity. It has blinded their eyes, hardened their hearts, seared their consciences, and brought some of them to the very side of the bottomless pit. And what can you expect, if you cast off fear and restrain

prayer before God, and disobey him in your childhood and youth? The world will deceive and destroy you.

But there is now some hope in your case. The impressions of pious, parental instructions may not be wholly erased from your

minds, and God says to you, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me."

Finally, this subject warns all the worldly-minded of their danger and duty. These may be much more numerous than they are ready to imagine. All belong to this class who do not love God supremely, but place their supreme affection upon the world and the things of the world. To all such the world is extremely dangerous; and unless they renounce it, it will destroy them. It has had this effect in the time past, and will continue to produce it. This danger imperiously calls upon the worldly-minded, to return to God and take him for their final portion. They must soon go out of this into another world, where nothing but supreme love to God, can fit them for pure and permanent happin . There is no room, nor excuse for delay. God calls and invites them to renounce all their vain hopes from the world, and to trust in his mercy,

SERMON XXXV.

FEAR OF MAN.

“THE fear of man bringeth a snare."-Prov. xxix. 25.

[ocr errors]

I SHALL first explain the meaning of this divine maxim, and then illustrate the truth of it. And,

I. Let us consider what that fear of man is, which bringeth a snare.

There is a fear of man, which generally proves a safeguard rather than a snare. I mean that awe or perturbation of mind we feel at the presence and observation of men.

This is a constitutional weakness, which is more troublesome than dangerous. It is a restraint from, rather than temptation to any species of presumption or misconduct. This natural timidity is what is commonly termed diffidence or modesty, and stands directly opposed to arrogance or vanity. There is another fear of man, which is both safe and commendable. It is that deference and respect which individuals ought to have for the just opinion of the public. The public have a right and a capacity to judge of the external conduct of every individual, and he ought to revere and regard the just opinion of the public. When an individual knows the general opinion of the world respecting the rectitude of his general or particular mode of acting, it ought to have weight and influence upon his mind and exterior conduct. Whenever we have a proper sense of our own weakness and liability to err, we must be convinced, that others may form a juster estimation of our moral conduct, in many cases, than we do ourselves. And on this account, every individual ought to have an habitual awe, veneration, and respect for the public eye, which continually observes and criticises his visible actions and moral conduct. Such a proper respect for the public opinion appears beautiful in any person in any rank or condition of life ; and while it commands esteem, it leads to that mode of conduct which deserves it. This fear of man serves to protect men from danger rather than to expose them to it. For we seldom find any who are devoid of it, except those who have lost their character, and become incorrigibly wicked, and are under no restraint but the fear of punishment. The ques. tion still returns, What is that fear of man, which bringeth a snare? I answer, it is the fear of doing right, lest we should lose the favor or incur the displeasure of our fellow-men. Some are afraid of losing the favor of mankind. They thirst for their approbation and applause. They cannot bear the thought of losing public respect. And when duty calls them to act against it, they are afraid to act, lest some should form a lower opinion of them. Some are afraid of the displeasure and resentment of men. And when they ought to do what they apprehend will excite the displeasure and opposition of others, they are afraid to do their duty. Others are still more afraid of the contempt and sneers of the multitude. They fear, if they follow the dictates of their conscience, some will reproach and vilify them. The fear of unjust reproach may have a greater and more general influence upon mankind, than the fear of losing the favor, and incurring the displeasure of their fellow-mortals. But all men are, however, more or less prone to fear either the one, or the other, or all the evils which have been mentioned, which has led thousands into very dangerous and destructive snares. This was so common in Solomon's day, as to become a proverb in Israel. And there is no reason to think, that it is less common now than it was then. I proceed,

II. To illustrate the truth of the maxim, that the fear of man bringeth a snare.

The description which has been given of this fear shows, that it naturally tends to lead men to deviate from the path of duty, and in that sense is ensnaring. But Solomon appears to mean more than this, and suggests that the fear of man imperceptibly leads those who indulge it, where they did not intend to go, and plunges them into evils which they did not foresee. That it has such an ensnaring influence will apppear, if we consider,

1. That it leads men into such sins as they never expected to commit. When any begin to give way to the fear of man, they generally mean to give way to it only in the present instance, and under what they deem a present necessity. They do not mean to make a practice of yielding to such unmanly motives. They would despise themselves, if they realized that this would be their common conduct. It is, therefore, only in extreme cases, that they mean to suffer themselves to be diverted from duty, by the fear of man.

But here lies the snare,

[ocr errors]

for when they have once given way to the fear of man, they find themselves still under the influence of the same bias, and still more constrained to act agreeably to it. They first neglect some small duty through the fear of man. This leads them to neglect another, and another of more importance. From the same motive, they begin to commit what they imagine is a smaller sin ; and then another and another, until they are holden by the cords of their iniquities. For, they soon find that the more they yield to their fellow-mortals, the more they will endeavor to awe them into compliance. And the further they go, the harder it is to retreat and throw off the fear of man, which compels them to follow the multitude to do evil. There is no doubt but thousands, in youth and in riper years, have been, in this way, led into natural and moral evils which they once would have trembled to think of. But though they are not always thus gradually led into atrocious wickedness; yet they are very often led to perpetrate deeds that they never expected to be guilty of. Aaron was a friend to God. He loved him with supreme affection. He abhorred idolatry. And no doubt while he saw the greatness, the goodness, the sovereignty, and justice of God in the wonders he wrought in Egypt, he had no thought that he should ever be guilty of bowing down to a dumb idol ; nor did he once anticipate, while he heard the ten commandments proclaimed with divine authority and solemnity from mount Sinai, that he should violate the

very

first com. mand, 6 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” But within less than forty days from that solemn scene, he was led into gross idolatry. He made a golden calf, which was a snare both to himself and the people. And what led him into this dreadful snare

? Was it not the fear of man? For when Moses reproved him for it, he had no other excuse to make. “Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.”

The disciples of Christ all professed to be firmly attached to him, and doubtless they really thought, that they never should forsake or deny him. But the fear of man led them into a snare. They all forsook him in a trying hour, and one of them denied him. They were afraid not of the power or displeasure, but of the reproach of their fellow-mortals.

Pilate was a courtier. He sought popular applause. He had probably risen to his high power and authority, by courting the favor of the great. He shaped his life and modes of conduct to the humors and caprice of those who had power of raising him to places of honor and dignity. But finally he was put to the severest trial. The most important cause came before him, that ever did or could come before human tribunal.

« PreviousContinue »