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you, a path which the eagle's eye hath not seen: He has led you as one that was blind, by the way that you knew not, he has made darkness light before you, and crooked things straight, according to his promise; Is. xlii. 16.
And remember also, that sometimes when the very evil which you feared has fallen upon you, it has not been half so heavy and painful as your fears have represented it, and you have been enabled to bear that which you thought was intolerable. Remember the years of ancient time, and rejoice in that God who has often disappointed your fears of destruction, and has outdone all your hopes in a way of deliverance. I said, I am cut off from the earth, and shall go to the gates of the grave: I reckoned from night till the morning that he will cut me off with pining sickness, from day even to night, he will make an end of me: But in love to my soul, O Lord, thou hast delivered it from the pit of corruption, for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. Perhaps your own experience may teach you to sing this song of Hezekiah, as it is recorded; Is. xxxviii. 10-17. or to join with holy David, and repeat his hymns of praise. And thus, beside your own experiences you may review the happy experiences of the saints of old, or of christians in later times, and encourage your faith in opposition to all your fears.
VIII. Charge your conscience solemnly with the authority of the divine command to suppress your fears. Remember that the exercises of faith, courage, and holy firmness of soul, are duties as well as blessings. Read how often the great God forbids his people to indulge their fears; Is. xl. 10-13, 14. xliii. 1-5. xliv. 2-8. Fear not, is a command perpetually repeated, because God well knew how prone our feeble natures are to be affrighted at every appearance of danger: And even when he calls his people Jacob a worm, and confesses the extreme weakness of their nature under that emblem, yet he insists on the same precept still, Fear not thou worm Jacob; Is. xli. 14.
Our blessed Lord joins frequently in the same prohibition of a slavish fear; Mat. x. 28. Fear not them which can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but fear him rather, who can destroy body and soul in hell. And Peter, who once wanted courage, and denied his Lord, in his elder and better days, grew bolder for the name of Christ, and he forbids us to be afraid or troubled at the terror of men; 1 Pet. iii. 13. He repeats the charge of the prophet Isaiah, sanctify the Lord of hosts in your heart; Is. viii. 13. the Lord of hosts alone is the proper object of our supreme fear. This will over-rule and abolish all other fears, as the little noises of earth are lost in the thunders of heaven. The fear of God in a sublime degree will be an effectual cure of our sinful fear of creatures.
It is true, the principal of fear is a natural affection, it is rooted in flesh and blood, it grows high and domineers, especially in some constitutions, and when the natural spirits are enfeebled, it still gains the greater ascendancy over us: But if it be indulged and encouraged, it soon becomes sinful, for it seems to stand opposite to the grace of faith, and too often prevails over it. Therefore Christ chides his disciples, when they were affrighted in the storm while he was in the ship? Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? Mark iv. 40. And even when Peter was walking upon the water, and Christ was near him, he saith, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Mat. xiv. 31. For a christian to give himself up to the wild tyranny of his fears, is contrary to the very spirit and design of the gospel of Christ; Rom. yiii. 15. "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage to fear, but the spirit of adoption. The spirit of power and love; 2 Tim. i. 7. Remember then you are the sons and daughters of God; It is below the dignity of your character to yield to this slavery, and your Father himself reproves, and your Redeemer forbids it..
IX. Think of the many advantages that arise from a holy fortitude of spirit in the midst of dangers. This divine temper of mind will establish your feet on a rock in the midst of storins, it will animate you to practise every duty, and to prevent many of the mischiefs you fear. This will preserve the soul in a sacred serenity and calmness under all the gloomy and painful events of providence. Without this firmness of spirit you can never practise what Christ commands his disciples, and that is, to possess their souls in patience in the hour of their distress; Luke xxi. 19. But we may keep up the government of ourselves by a holy fortitude and calm submission to the will of God. This will make sorrows lighter, and the heaviest afflictions become more tolerable.
Whereas, if we give a loose to fear, it throws the whole frame of nature into a tumultuous hurry and confusion, it takes away the use of prudence to contrive the proper means for our escape, it cuts the sinews of our most active powers, and enfeebles our whole nature, so that we become an easy prey to every adversary. The more we are affrighted, the less able are we to defend ourselves.
Fear is a dreadful bondage of the soul, and it holds the man in chains: Therefore in the text just now cited, the spirit of fear is called a spirit of bondage. It is this that brings the soul down to taste the bitterness, and to feel the smart of those very evils which affright us at a distance, and which perhaps never come near us. Those very sufferings which are prevented by the mercy
of God, we endure them in our thoughts, and feel the pain of them by an indulgence of an excessive fear. We suffer an affliction once, if we are overwhelmed with the terror of it: And if at last it does really overtake us, we double the suffering, and make the pain the longer, Oftentimes in cases of bodily distempers, the fear itself brings the disease, and aggravates all the symptoms. If we could read the records of the grave, we should find that many a person has been oppressed, and sunk down to death, by the excessive fear of dying.
The last remedy of fear which I shall mention, is this, sup, pose the worst that can come, and be calmly prepared for it: This will be a mighty relief against the tyranny of our fears.
You are afraid of losing your honour among men, afraid to bear the scourge of their tongues, and bitter reproaches. But think with yourselves, when slander and falsehood have done their worst, it is but the wind of the breath of man, and this cannot hurt your best interest, while you stand approved of God. Infamy amongst men is but a trifling evil if compared with praise honour and glory among the saints before the throne, and the applause of Jesus and his angels at the last great day.
You are frighted with the hideous appearance of poverty, because scorn attends it as well as want. But our blessed Lord had not where to lay his head; he was fed by the bounty of kind friends and pious women, who ministered to him of their substance. The great and the wise, the rich and the learned of that day, made him their mockery: The very finger of scorn pointed at him in the streets: And why should the disciple think it necessary that he should be above his Lord. Ye may be poor in this world, and at the same time rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom; James ii. 5.
You are afraid of sickness and pains of the flesh, and your life becomes a burden to you, by reason of your constant dread of some infectious distempers. You shift your dwellings, you hide yourselves at home, and yet you enjoy no peace. Suppose the distemper should seize you, has not sickness often brought your soul nearer to God? And if your outward man has decayed, your inward man and your best interest have had a rich advancement thereby.
You are terrified at the threatenings of bloody men. It must be granted, that flesh has a strong empire over the soul where dangers of torment and death appear. But suppose men of violence kill the body, then you will be dismissed at once from all their fury, and from your own fears. Their terror cannot reach beyond the grave; that is a safe and peaceful hiding-place.
But perhaps you are frighted at the thoughts of dying, even
in the common way of nature: It may be, the king of terrors dresses himself in formidable airs, and shakes your very frame; But would you live here on earth for ever? A christian who has hopes and interests, and possessions beyond the regions of time. and sense, should not be afraid to enter upon them. Remember that death itself, even in its most formidable appearance, is ordained of God to open the door of heaven for you, and let your souls into the joy of eternal life: The grace of your Redeemer, and the epistle of St. Paul, join to teach you this song, O death, where is thy sting? And O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Cor. xv. 55.
Thus, by keeping your soul in a ready preparation for the worst events that your fear can imagine, you overcome this tyrant of the soul, and triumph over this slavish passion. Thus you transform your very terrors into joys, and gather honey out of the lion, as Samson did. The more fatal your dangers are, the nearer is your final deliverance. Say to yourself, Is my feeble flesh tottering into the grave? Then my soul is so much nearer to the gates of glory. This is the holy skill of turning evil into good. Such a faith, kept in lively exercise can make roses spring out of the midst of thorns, and change the briars of the wilderness into the fruit-trees of paradise. O what a state of divine and sacred peace does that christian enjoy, who can look stedfastly upon the face of danger, in its most frightful forms, and say through grace, I am prepared! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my God is with me, and he will be with me for ever.
Recollection. What progress hast thou made, O my soul, in acquiring this sacred fortitude? The former discourse has taught thee the necessity of it, and the various occasions for the exercise of it in the course of the christian life. In this latter sermon thou hast heard the motives that should awaken all thy powers to obtain and practise it, and thou hast been informed what are some of the most sovereign remedies against thy foolish and sinful fears. Methinks I feel the want of this holy hardiness of soul, to walk through the midst of temptations unmoved, unterrified, and undefiled. My virtue and my religion have too often suffered by the prevailing power of a slavish fear: my conscience has lost its innocence and peace by too many sinful compliances. What shall I do to harden my spirit all over, that temptation and slavish fear may not find a place
For this end I review the glorious motives set before me. For this end I look to the noble army of martyrs, to the blessed society of the apostles, to the cloud of witnesses which have trod the same path before me, who have borne an undaunted testimony
to the same religion which I profess. I would chide and shame myself out of my sinful cowardice, while I behold their illustrious examples of zeal. But above all I fix my eye upon Jesus, the divine author of this religion, the Author and Finisher of my faith; Heb. xii. 2. I would learn of the Captain of my salvation, who was made perfect through sufferings; Heb. ii. 10. I would learn of my divine Teacher, to endure hardships like a good soldier of Christ, while I fight under his banner, against those very enemies that he hath subdued.
Consider, my soul, what thou art: What is thy character and profession: If thou art a christian indeed, thou hast taken up arms against sin and Satan, and a world that is in rebellion against God: And shall the frown of a man make thee drop thy weapons, and discourage thee from the glorious service? Thou hast many rich encouragements to expect divine assistance: Many joyful assurances of victory are given to them that endure in the day of conflict, and a glorious crown stands ready for those that overcome 0 may the crown of glory sparkle in my eye, and grow brighter and larger by a nearer view, and a perpetual contemplation of it! Make me forgetful of ease and health, O my God, and of all my mortal interests, while I press forward with sacred courage to lay hold on this crown! Blessed Saviour, make me triumph over every difficulty, till death the last of all my enemies, be subdued, and I have obtained the glori ous prize.
I would shake myself out of my fears, and awaken my zeal by such motives as these. And O that I could treasure up in my memory the various remedies of which I have heard this day, to heal this infirmity of my nature, and to overcome these foolish and sinful terrors of spirit! I will review my faith, and the grounds of my hope, that I may know that I am a christian indeed, that I am one of the sheep of Christ, and under his divine care; and I would watch against every temptation, lest I contract a new guilt and defilement, and thereby darken my evidence and awaken my fears. I would survey with pleasure the gracious words of promise, which are scattered up and down in the book of God. O may the blessed Spirit print many of them on my heart, that they may be always present with me, and that I may find them within my reach, and ready at hand as a special cordial in every fainting hour! I would run to them as my sure refuge in every season of danger and conflict, and be animated to confront a sinful world.
Give, me, O my God, give me the spirit of prayer, and let me keep ever near to the throne of that my grace, come thither as a stranger, but that in every surprize I may address thee as a God near at hand, and that in the name of my