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The Lord of glory is arraigned as a criminal, and he is obliged to sit the supreme judge in the case. What shall he do ? The witnesses called, proved contradictory and insufficient. The populace clamor. His wife tells her dreams, and admonishes him of the danger of condemning the innocent. He washes his hands instead of his heart from wickedness, and begs to be allowed to release the immaculate Redeemer. The people urge his death with greater importunity and vehemence, and declare that nothing short of it will satisfy them. But Pilate still declines to gratify their malignant wishes. At last, however, an irresistible motive is suggested. “The Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend.When Pilate heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat," and gave sentence of death against the Judge of all the earth. To please the Emperor of Rome, he sacrificed the Sovereign of the universe. And to escape the momentary displeasure of man, he exposed himself to the everlasting displeasure of God! To such lengths in wickedness will the fear of man carry those who suffer themselves to be governed by it. No one can tell beforehand to what extent the fear of man may carry him in guilt, in shame, and misery.
2. The fear of man proves a snare to those who yield to it, by leading them into the very evils which they mean to avoid. They mean by the compliance, to secure the favor and shun the displeasure, frowns, and reproach of their fellow-men. But the unlawful and unwise method they take, indirectly tends to defeat their ultimate design, and involve them in the evils they meant to avoid. Mankind are selfish, unjust, unstable, fickle, and capricious. As they are very mutable in their purposes and pursuits, they cannot be pleased very long by those who take the most care to please them. And when they find that any have either designedly or undesignedly pleased and flattered them to their disadvantage, they become their bitter enemies. Hence says Solomon, in the fifth verse of the context, “A man that flattereth his neighbor, spreadeth a net for his feet.” Those who take undue pains, and use unjust means, to secure the favor or avoid the displeasure of such as they fear, very often spread a snare both for their own feet and the feet of others. For when those whom they have attempted to gratify, find that they have been gratified to their hurt, they resent the deception that has been practiced upon them. When Peter affectionately presumed to dissuade Christ from the path of duty, he indignantly frowned upon him. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and
chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord : this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Peter undoubtedly expected to please Christ, but he highly displeased him; because he advised him to neglect his duty, which would have ruined him and all mankind. Christ wisely saw and magnanimously avoided the fear of man which bringeth a snare. Saul wished to maintain and secure the throne of Israel to himself and to his family; and to obtain this end, he yielded to the fear of man. When he was sent to destroy the Amalekites, he was directed to wait till Samuel came, before he gave battle. But while he waited, the people grew impatient, and began to scatter from him. He feared he should lose their favor, and give the Amalekites advantage against him. He forced himself therefore, and offered a burnt-offering before Samuel came, which he had no right to do. It was the part of a priest, and not of a king, to offer sacrifices. But in this case he yielded to the fear of man, by which he lost his end, and incurred the evils which he meant to have escaped. For Samuel told him, that if he had not disobeyed, the kingdom should have been established in his hands, and in the hands of his posterity ; but now it should be taken away, and given to a better man. David feared the reproach of man, which led him to commit murder, and made him the song of the drunkard. Jonah feared that his prophetic character would be sullied in the eyes of the world, if he obeyed the divine command to go to Nineveh, which led him into a dreadful snare, that well-nigh ruined him. The fear of man has deterred thousands and thousands, all over the world, from pursuing the known and plain path of duty, and drawn them into unsuspected, unavoidable, and fatal snares. It has led some to knavery, some to perjury, some to theft, some to robbery, some to murder, and not a few to suicide. It is a snare which each individual lays for himself, and therefore it is of all snares the most unsuspected. Every one who yields to the fear of nan, means by yielding to secure and promote his own safety and interest, while he is pursuing a path that leads to the destruction of both; and whatever betrays men to counteract their duty, safety, and happiness, must be very ensnaring. This will further appear, if we consider,
3. That so far as we yield to the fear of man, we always neglect the proper use of our own wisdom, prudence, and
foresight. These rational powers every one who is not an idiot possesses to a greater or less degree. They were given to us for the great and good purpose of guiding us in duty, and guarding us from danger. But the undue influence of the fear of man, brings a mist and cloud over the mind, and its rational and moral powers, and prevents us from properly exercising our reason, conscience, and natural sagacity, to discover our duty and our danger. Of course we blindly fall into the snares we have set, or others have set for us. Every person in the world is exposed to the blinding and perverting influence of the fear of man, for every one sees some whose displeasure he is, for some reason or other, unwilling to incur. Children are loth to incur the displeasure of some of their mates. Youth are more reluctant to incur the displeasure of some of their associates. The rich man, and the great man dreads to incur the displeasure of his intimate connections. The men in power dread to incur the displeasure of their constituents. Even the king on the throne fears to displease some of his subjects. And this fear has a blinding influence upon the understandings and intellectual powers of all persons of all ages, ranks, and conditions. The fear of man is the most universal, the most imperceptible, and the most dangerous snare in the world. It lies in every one's path, and is seldom seen until it is too late. The child does not see it till he is caught. The youth does not see it till he is caught. The rich man and the great man, the wise man and the good man, do not see it till they are caught. Let the wise man, the good man, and the bad man, look back upon the past scenes of life, and they will probably find, that in many, if not in most, instances in which they have deviated from the path of duty, they have been ensnared by the fear of
The opinion of the world has a most powerful, imposing, and formidable influence upon the minds of men, and betrays them into innumerable unwise, unsafe, and dangerous modes of conduct. It is extremely dangerous to live in this ensnaring world, where none can be safe, but those who sincerely and firmly resolve to resist the fear of man, and to be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the love and fear of God.
1. It appears from what has been said concerning the nature and tendency of that fear of man which bringeth a snare, that it is a free, voluntary, sinful fear. It is a fear of doing right instead of doing wrong; which is a moral and not a natural
fear. A natural fear, or a fear of natural evil or danger, is passive and innocent. The animals are afraid of danger or natural evil when they see it. Mankind are naturally afraid of danger or natural evil when they see it. Christ himself was afraid of danger or natural evil when he saw it. He resisted Satan's temptation to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, which he knew would prove fatal to his life. Mere natural fear of natural evil or danger is neither voluntary, nor criminal. But the fear of doing right instead of doing wrong, is a free, voluntary, moral evil. And this is that fear of man which bringeth a snare.
There is never any just ground to fear doing right, but there is always just ground to fear doing wrong. The fear of doing right is a fear directly opposite to the fear of doing wrong; and therefore the fear of doing right is just as free and voluntary as the fear of doing wrong. The fear of doing right is wrong, and the fear of doing wrong is right. The fear of doing right is dangerous, but the fear of doing wrong is safe. Solomon says, "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely." The apostle Peter demands of Chris. tians, “ Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good ?" When Peter and John were examined and condemned for preaching the gospel, by the Jewish council in Jerusalem, they answered and said, “ Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." As every person must answer this question in the negative, so he must a similar one; whether it be right for him to fear man more than to fear God, or to fear doing right more than to fear doing wrong. The fear of God never bringeth a snare, but the fear of man always does. The fear of man in its own nature and tendency is altogether criminal and dangerous. The fear of doing right is one of the first and greatest faults that children and youth are guilty of, for which all parents justly blame them. When children and youth disobey their parents' commands, and plead in excuse, that the fear of displeasing their associates led them into the snare ; though their parents, in some cases, may allow this to be a palliation of their offence, yet they will not allow it to be a full justification of it, and generally no justification at all.
no justification at all. It is sinful to suffer the first rising of the fear of man, and much more criminal to cherish it and follow it in its destructive tendency. It is in its very nature dishonorable to God and to religion, and in its tendency destructive of the peace, safety, and happiness of the souls of men both in this life, and in that which is to
It is that evil propensity, which being conceived and cherished, “ bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished,
bringeth forth death.” It is one of the most insensible, universal, and fruitful sources of the sins and miseries of mankind. It is ensnaring in the morning, in the meridian, and in every stage of life. It has led thousands and thousands blindfold into innumerable unexpected, unforeseen, and fatal natural and moral evils. It is reigning more powerfully and extensively at this day in this land, than it ever did before. It is triumphing over the best parental, political, and religious laws, regulations, and restraints. All ages and classes seem to be afraid of doing their duty, lest they should forfeit the favor and incur the displeasure of their fellow-mortals. Such a fear is unwise, unholy, unsafe, and extremely sinful and dangerous.
2. If it be criminal to fall into the snares which others havé laid, it must be much more criminal to lay snares for others. Mankind are as naturally inclined to lay snares for others, as to fall into the snares which others have laid for them. They are as prone to deceive, as to be deceived; to ensnare, as to be ensnared. But they generally take much more pains to deceive, than to be deceived. The deceived take no pains to be deceived, and often take pains to prevent deception, though they are very generally and finally overcome. But the deceiv. ers generally use all the art, cunning, and subtilty they possess to deceive. They, therefore, who lay snares, contract the greatest guilt. They act with their eyes open, but the deceived act with their eyes shut. They mean to injure, if not destroy those they ensnare; but the ensnared have no thought or intention of injuring those who have laid snares for them. These are inexcusably and aggravatedly guilty of the blood of those whom they have knowingly and designedly injured or destroyed. This malignant practice has greatly prevailed in every age and every part of the world, and drawn down a heavy load of guilt upon ensnarers. You remember the conduct of the Israelites at mount Sinai, who laid a snare for Aaron. Their sin was extremely great and heinous in the sight of God, who seemed to be resolved to destroy them utterly, and would have done it, had it not been for the powerful intercession of Moses. When Caleb and Joshua returned from searching the land of Canaan, and gave their report, “ All the congregation bade stone them with stones;" by which they meant to intimidate and prevent them from doing their duty, in speaking and maintaining the truth. The laying of this snare was highly displeasing to God, for which he doomed those that laid it, to wander and perish in 'the wilderness. The fear of man was snare which the Scribes and Pharisees laid to deter men from hearing and embracing the doctrines of Christ. They threatened to cast them