To do justice to the subject, it would be necessary to be well acquainted with anatomy. I have no doubt that a thorough examination of that substance which God hath curiously wrought,' ver. 15, would furnish abundant evidence of the justness of the psalmist's words; and even those things which are manifest to common observation, may be sufficient for this purpose. In general it is observable, that the human frame abounds with avenues at which enters every thing conducive to preservation and comfort, and every thing that can excite alarm. Perhaps there is not one of these avenues but what may become an inlet to death, nor one of the blessings of life but what may be the means of accomplishing it. We live by inhalation, but we also die by it. Diseases and death, in innumerable forms, are conveyed by the very air we breathe. God hath given us a relish for divers aliments, and rendered them necessary to our subsistence: yet, from the abuse of them, what a train of disorders and premature deaths are found amongst men. And where there is no abuse, a single delicious morsel may, by the evil design of another, or even by mere accident, convey poison through all our veins, and in one hour reduce the most athletic frame to a corpse.*

The elements of fire and water, without which we could not subsist, contain properties which in a few moments would be able to destroy us; nor can the utmost circumspection at all times preserve us from their destructive power. A single stroke on the head may divest us of reason or of life. A wound or a bruise of the spine may

*Mr. Fuller himself one day very narrowly escaped these tragical effects. He dined at a farm house at Sutton-in-the-Elms, Leicestershire, intending to preach there in the evening. The servant was sent into the garden to draw some celery; instead of which she brought in roots of hemloc, and mixed them with the salad. Mr. Fuller and the rest at table were soon taken very ill, but he managed to conduct the evening service, though attended with much pain and sickness, and retained a strong aversion ever afterwards to boiled mutton, which happened to be the dish provided on this occasion.


instantly deprive the lower extremities of all sensation. If the vital parts be injured, so as to suspend the performance of their mysterious functions; how soon is the constitution broken up. By means of the circulation of the blood, how easily and suddenly are deadly substances diffused throughout the frame. Through this fearful medium, not only the taint of vice rankles in the veins of the debauchee, but virtue itself may destroy us. The putridity of a morbid subject has been imparted to the very hand stretched out to save it. The poisoned arrow, the envenomed dart, the hydrophobic saliva, derive from hence their fearful efficacy. Even the pores of the skin, necessary as they are to life, may be the means of death. Not only are poisonous substances hereby admitted, but when obstructed by surrounding damps, the noxious humours of the body, instead of being emitted, are retained in the system, and become productive of numerous diseases, always afflictive, and often fatal to life.

From these few instances we may learn our absolute dependence upon divine preservation. So numerous are the avenues at which death may enter, that no human foresight can possibly render us secure for a single moment: and even those dangers which may in a measure be avoided, require for this purpose the regular exercise of reason; but reason itself depends upon a variety of minute causes, over which we have no controul. Instead of wondering at the number of premature deaths that are constantly witnessed, there is far greater reason to wonder that there are no more, and that any of us survive to seventy or eighty years of age.

"Our life contains a thousand springs,

And dies if one be gone:

Strange, that a harp of thousand strings,
Should keep in tune so long."

Assuredly, it can be ascribed to nothing short of the mighty power, and all-pervading providence of God. A proper sense of this truth, while it would prevent us from

presumptuously exposing ourselves to unnecessary injury, would induce us to commit ourselves to the divine protection in every danger which duty calls us to encounter.

Nor is this all. If we are 'fearfully made,' as to our animal frame, it will be found that we are much more so, considered as moral and accountable beings. In what relates to our animal nature, we are in most instances constructed like other animals; but in what relates to us as moral agents, we stand distinguished from all the lower creation. We are made for eternity. The present life is only the introductory part of our existence. It is that however which stamps a character on all that follows. How fearful is our situation! What innumerable influences is the mind exposed to, from the temptations which surround us. Not more dangerous to the body is the pestilence that walketh in darkness, than these are to the soul. Such is the construction of our nature, that the very word of life, if heard without regard, becomes a savour of death unto death. What consequences hang upon the small and apparently trifling beginnings of evil, A wicked thought may issue in a wicked purpose, this purpose in a wicked action, this action in a course of conduct, this course may draw into its vortex millions of our fellow creatures, and terminate in perdition, both to ourselves and them. The whole of this process was exemplified in the case of Jeroboam the Son of Nebat. When placed over the ten tribes, he first said in his heart, 'If this people go up to sacrifice at Jerusalem, their hearts will return to Rehoboam; and thus shall the kingdom return to the house of David.' "* On this he took counsel, and made the calves of Dan and Bethel. This engaged him in a course of wickedness, from which no remonstrances could reclaim him. Nor was it confined to himself: for he made all Israel to sin.' The issue was, not only their destruction as a nation, but to all appearance, the eternal ruin of himself, and great numbers of his followers. Such were the fruits of an evil thought!

* 1 Kings xii. 26-30.

Oh my soul, tremble at thyself! Tremble at the fearfulness of thy situation; and commit thine immortal all into His hands, who is able to keep thee from falling, and to present thee faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy!


THE declaimer who denied this position, seems to have had an eye to those passages of scripture, which declare 'the sacrifice and way of the wicked to be an abomination to the Lord; '* and to have concluded from them, that God does not require any sacrifice or prayer at their hands. But if so, why did Peter exhort the sorcerer to pray? And wherefore is the fury of God denounced against the families that call not upon his name? An hypothesis which flies in the face of the express language of scripture, is inadmissible; and the framer of it, to be consistent, should avow himself an infidel.

If he meant only to deny, that God requires such prayers as wicked men actually offer, the prayer of a hard, impenitent, and unbelieving heart, I have no controversy with him. God cannot possibly approve any thing of this kind. But then the same is true of every other duty. Wicked men do nothing that is good or wellpleasing to God: nothing which is aimed at his glory, or done in obedience to his authority; every thing that is done, is done for selfish ends. If they read the scriptures, it is not to know the will of God and do it; or if they hear the word, it is not with any true desire to profit by it. Even their pursuit of the common good things of this life is,

* Prov. xv. 8, 9.

+ Acts viii. 22.

Jer. x. 25.

that they may consume them upon their lusts; hence the very 'plowing of the wicked is sin.'* Yet the declaimer himself would scarcely infer from hence, that it is not their duty to read the word of God, nor attend to the preaching of the gospel, nor pursue the necessary avocations of life: neither would he reckon it absurd to exhort them to such exercises as these.

[ocr errors]

The truth is, wicked men are required to do all these things, not carnally, but with a right end, and a right spirit. In this way Simon Magus, though 'in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,' was exhorted to pray; not with a hard and impenitent heart, but with a spirit of true contrition. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee.' To repent and pray, is the same thing in effect as to pray penitently, or with a contrite spirit. Wicked men are required to read and hear the word, but not with a wicked spirit; and to plow the soil, but not that they may consume its produce upon their lusts.

There are not too sorts of requirements, or two standards of obedience, one for good men, and the other for wicked men; the revealed will of God is one and the same, however differently creatures may stand affected towards it. The same things which are required of the righteous, as repentance, faith, love, prayer and praise, are required of the wicked. If it were not so, and the aversion of the heart tended to set aside God's authority over it, it must of necessity follow, that a sinner can never be brought to repentance, except it be for the commission of those sins which might have been avoided, consistently with the most perfect enmity against God! And this is to undermine all true repentance; for the essence of true repentance is 'godly sorrow,' or sorrow for having displeased and dishonoured God. But if in a state of unregeneracy, a man were under no obligation to

* Prov. xxi. 4.

↑ John xii. 36. Acts iii. 19. Rev. xv. 4.

« VorigeDoorgaan »