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fession is become a less certain sign of true faith ; and men, not being called to the proof by others, nor very readily calling themselves to a strict account, have less reason for confidence and assurance in themselves. The time therefore may be profitably employed in finding some rules by which men may examine themselves, and judge whether they receive honor one of another, or do seek the honor which cometh from God only. In order to this, I shall inquire,
First, in what sense the receiving honor from men' is condemned in the text.
Secondly, what is meant by seeking the honor which cometh from God only.'
Thirdly, what are the marks by which men may try themselves on these articles.
First, I shall inquire in what sense the receiving honor from men' is condemned in the text.
The Apostle St. Paul has given it for a rule, that we ought to render honor to whom honor is due: and as some degree of honor and respect is due to all men, St. Peter has given the precept in general terms, · Honor all men. Since then all men are obliged to pay this due, most certain it is, that all to whom 'honor is due’ may very innocently receive it; nay farther, they may very justly expect and require it. A father from his son, a master from his servant or scholar, a king from his subjects, all who are in authority from those under them, have a right to demand the respect and honor that is due to their respective stations and characters. Besides, men who stand in none of these relations to us, have often a just title to respect and honor from us on account of their present qualifi. cations; as learning, virtue, and wisdom, ought to be respected wherever they are found. Since then all honor that is due must be paid, and may be received, it is evident that the honor mentioned in the text is such as is due to no man, and which for that reason ought never to be paid nor received.
It is very evident that, in the text, and in the parallel place of St. John already quoted, there is an opposition between the praise of men and the praise of God; and that the Jews are condemned, as preferring the praise and good will of men to the praise and good will of God. Now certain it is, that
no honor can be due to man, that is inconsistent with the honor which we owe to God; and we cannot be innocent, whilst we sacrifice the good will of God to the vanity of being well spoken of in the world. When men act contrary to the truth and their known duty, in compliance with the world, it is plain they are more concerned for their interest with the world than for their interest with God; and this is, in the language of our Saviour, 'to receive honor one from another, and to neglect the honor which cometh from God only.' We have an instance of this conduct in the twenty-fourth of the Acts; • As Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.' You see the natural working of conscience, and the power of conviction : a sober, serious discourse on the great fundamental points of religion threw the governor into a fit of trembling, and made him unable to bear the presence of his prisoner. Had this light been cherished and encouraged, what noble fruits. might it have produced ! But the love of the world prevailed ; the governor often communed with St. Paul, but it was in hopes of getting money of him for his release. When this hope failed, he permitted the preacher of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, to continue in prison two years; and when he left the government, he left Paul bound, being willing,' as the text expresses it, to show the Jews a pleasure.' You see what place the honor of God had in this man's affections : he would have sold both God and the people for money; but when no money was to be had, he chose rather to please the people than God: and therefore sacrificed his innocent prisoner, whom in justice he ought to have set free, to the prejudices and resentments of the Jewish nation. Many denied Christ, for the same eason that Felix left St. Paul bound, * that they might show the people a pleasure,' and thereby become acceptable to them. Truth and justice must always suffer, as long as men determine their choice by considerations of their temporal interest. These considerations are so apt to overbear the judgment, that our Saviour speaks of them in the text as if they put men under a moral impossibility of acknowleging the truth : * How can ye believe, who receive honor
one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?'
Secondly, we are to inquire what is meant by seeking the honor which cometh from God only.'
• Them that honor me, I will honor,' saith the Lord; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed.' The only way therefore to seek honor from God, is by paying to God the honor that is due to him. A sincere regard to truth and justice is the truest honor, indeed the only honor we can pay to God. All external signs of regard to God, though expressed in the very method prescribed by himself, become empty shows, unless they proceed from an honest heart. Under the law, circumcision was the seal of the covenant; and under the gospel, baptism succeeds in its place. They were both ordained by God; yet of the first St. Paul has said, “ He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.' And of the second St. Peter has said, · Baptism doth now save us; not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God.' But this matter is directly considered and settled by our blessed Lord in his sermon on the mount. In treating on the great duties of religion, almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, he expounds to us what it is to seek the praise of men, and what to seek the praise of God, and sets before us the consequences on both sides. Take heed,'
you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth : that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward them openly.' The like injunctions he gives us with respect to prayer and fasting; and shows us in every instance, that to have regard to men, and the good opinion of the world, in the performing of religious
says he, that
duties, will intitle us to no higher a reward than the praise of
God will not hold himself obliged, nor can he in justice be thought obliged, to reward those works which are offered up as an incense to the world, without regard or respect to himself. If we seek the praise of God, we must consider only what will please him, and put the world quite out of the question.
As it is in practical duties, so is it in faith likewise : he who professes to believe in Christ merely because the world about him is in the same profession, may obtain perhaps the ease, the honors, or the riches which he aims at; and let him make the most of them, he has his reward ; for his temporal faith will procure him no praise or honor from God. If you choose a religion with an intention to save your soul, you must choose that which will render you most acceptable to God, however it may expose you to the frowns of the world. Thus it is you must ' seek the honor which cometh from God only.' .
How differently men will act in matters of religion, when they seek the praise of men, and when they seek the praise of God, may easily be collected from the knowlege we have of God and the world, and the measures that are necessary to please them ; but I choose to place it before you in some instances recorded in Scripture. We read in the seventh of St. John, that many of the people believed on Jesus, and said, When Christ cometh, shall he do more miracles than these which this man hath done ? The Pharisees were alarmed at this de. fection of the people; and to prevent the growth of the evil, they with the chief priests send officers to seize our Lord; but the officers, instead of bringing their prisoner, return full of admiration of him and his doctrine, and tell their masters, . That never man spake like this man.' The Pharisees found their officers were become believers, and they reproved them, saying, • Are ye also deceived ?' But the only argument they gave them was this, · Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him? But this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed. What conviction this argument produced we know not; silence it produced at least, for we hear of no reply that the officers made. In the twelfth of St. John we read that among the chief rulers many believed on Christ, but they did
not confess him; and here the reason is given, they were afraid * lest they should be put out of the synagogue.'
On the other side, when the Apostles Peter and John were in custody, and under examination of the chief rulers, and were commanded to teach no more in the name of Jesus, they answered boldly, · Whether it be right in the sight of God to
• hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.' This difference of behavior is plainly accounted for in the text. Peter and John considered what was right in the sight of God; the believing rulers thought on their interest in the synagogue, and considered what was right in the sight of men: one sought the praise of God, the other the praise of men. How different were their principles and their actions; how different also their rewards! The dissimulation of the Jews preserved to them a place in the synagogue; the generous confession of the Apostles will give them a place that shall abide for ever in glory and im. mortality. I proceed now to consider,
Thirdly, how we may examine ourselves on this subject, and know whether we receive honor from men, or seek the honor that comes from God only.
All times do not afford the same trials of faith and sincerity, yet there is no time but has some. If persecution ceases, pro$perity has its temptations; and it is perhaps as hard to deny ourselves the honors and glories of the world, as it is to submit to the afflictions of it. St. Paul tells us, that there must be heresies among us, that they which are approved may be made manifest.' When the heathens could no longer exercise their cruelty against Christians, the external peace of the church was followed by internal divisions and contentions. The great Arian controversy arose much about the time that the empire became Christian, and it yielded as severe trials to Christians as they had ever before experienced. The powers of the empire were sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other side of the controversy. What influence it had on the faith of the world, a man of very moderate experience in the world may easily collect. I will not carry this observation into particular instances, or bring it any nearer to our own times, than hy reminding you that every age has afforded this trial to Christians; and there