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necessary for those who have greatly strayed from wisdom's ways.
2. They who fear God from their youth may, and often do, become eminent in piety. Their continued practice of virtue renders them perfect in it. So was this person. appears
from the account wbich we have of him here. The writer of this history in the book of Kings observes it to his honour expressly : “ Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly." His virtuous habits were confirmed, and almost above temptation. He had a post of high honour, but he possessed it without any sinful compliances. Nor did he at all conceal his regard for God and true religion, but was known to be a worshipper of the God of heaven. When his prophets, who were most zealous for God, and taught the people the knowledge of him, were in danger, at the hazard of all his own interests, he took care of them; he hid them from their persecutors, and provided for them. At the same time his disinterestedness and integrity in public affairs, and the discharge of civil offices, was so conspicuous, that he was chief minister to a prince who was an enemy to his religious principles. By which we perceive, that Obadiah knew how to give to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, without denying to God what was due to him. In a word, this person, who had “ feared God from his youth," was now eminent in the various parts of good conduct, and ready to every good word and work.
3. They who fear God from their youth, especially if it be with much steadiness, are useful in the world many ways. Such men promote the good of society in their several stations. They also adorn, and recommend religion to others. By their means some are brought into a good liking of its ways; or are induced to consider and examine its pretensions, till they find them just and reasonable. Others are confirmed, and they persevere with joy and resolution. It is very likely, that many pious Israelites were animated and encouraged by the example of Obadiah : though their circumstances were such, that they could not all act with the same openness that he did. They were obliged to greater privacy. But yet they did not bow the knee to Baal, or render him any act of homage.
4. They who fear God from their youth have the happiness of being always prepared for the various events of providence. If they are removed hence, their end is peace, and their reward is sure. If they live, they go on to perform the duties of life; and are the best qualified of any men to bear the troubles and afflictions of this state with a calm and composed mind, and comfortable trust in God. For “ God is their refuge, and their portion in the land of the living," Ps, cxlii. 5. They have none in heaven but him. Nor is there any upon earth whom they desire in comparison of him. And when flesh and heart fail, God is the strength of their heart, and their portion for ever,” Ps. Ixxiii. 25, 26.
APPLICATION. What has been now observed should induce all, whatever is their age of life, to fear the Lord.
They who are in early age have encouragement to give up themselves to God now, without delay, and to fear and serve him henceforward all the days of their life. There is great virtue in so doing. And it will be attended with very desirable advantages. None will discourage them from being early in this design. They who have feared God from their youth, will readily assure them, that it is the wisest thing that can be done. They who are now serious and religious at length, after trying the ways of sin, will likewise assure them, that if they neglect the present opportunity, and defer to come to a full determination, and form effectual resolutions of obedience to all God's commandments; that delay will sometime be matter of grief and bitter lamentation.
This discourse then may be considered as an invitation to young persons, to be truly religious without delay; to weigh and consider the things of religion seriously, and to determine accordingly: to “ remember now their Creator in the days of their youth,” Ecc. xii. 1, and to serve him constantly with inviolable fidelity.
But it suggests no discouragements to others who have as yet deferred. It does indeed show, in some measure, the evil of procrastination. But it does not insinuate, that there is no bope or remedy for those who have long delayed.
They who have feared God from their youth have some distinction. They were early wise, and they have proceeded in wisdom's paths. But they are not taught to boast, or say scornfully, They are not as other men. They likewise have failings; and do own, that if God were strict to mark iniquity, they could not be justified in his sight. Their hopes therefore are founded in the mercy of God. They believe, and it is what they would recommend to the consideration of others, that « with God there is forgiveness, that he may be feared,” Ps. cxxx. 4, and served by such weak and fallible creatures as we are.
Goodness is as certainly a property of the Deity, as any other. If sinful men “ forsake the evil of their ways, and” unfeignedly “ return to God,” they will find rest for their souls; for “ he will have mercy upon them, and will abundantly pardon,” Is. Ix. 7.
A FUTURE STATE PROVEABLE BY REASON.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give
grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from
them that walk uprightly. Psal. Ixxxiv. 11. 6 THE Lord God is a sun." He is not only glorious and excellent in himself: but from him issue streams of knowledge and wisdom, joy and comfort. Whatever the sun is to the material world, that God is in the most eminent manner to his people. He is also " a shield.” God is not only a light to guide
. and direct, but likewise a shield to protect and defend. He can secure us in the midst of dangers, and defend from the violent and artful designs and attempts of enemies.
“ The Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He will bestow every kind of good, both favour and honour. Nor will he give sparingly: but will plentifully enrich and abundantly bless them that walk uprightly,
By which uprightness is not meant absolute perfection, but sincerity; serving God in truth, and with a willing mind; and having a respect to all his commandments: not only observing, very punctually, ordinances of positive appointment, and the stated seasons of public worship, but living in the practice of all righteousness. It is, to be faithful to God in all circumstances, in prosperity and adversity, and in the general tenor of our life and conversation. Such as these God will abundantly bless.
Having thus briefly explained these words, I shall mention some observations.
I. Here is a property of the Divine Being, which deserves our serious attention. As God is full and perfect in himself, so he favours, and has a special regard for righteous and upright men.
The Psalmist, and other good men, who lived under the Mosaic dispensation, did, possibly, expect temporal advantages for the truly religious, more than it is reasonable for us to do under the gospel. But in general the observation must be right; the truth of it may be depended upon, and ought to be maintained in all times: that " God loveth righteousness: his countenance beholds the upright,” Ps. xi. 7. These he approves and favours; whilst he is displeased with such as wilfully transgress, or contemptuously neglect and disregard, his holy laws.
II. We should improve this truth for our establishment in the steady and delightful practice of all holiness.
Virtue, real righteousness, has an intrinsic excellence; it is fit in itself, and very becoming. But we ought to take in every other consideration that tends to secure the practice of virtue, and perseverance therein, in this state of temptation. We should strengthen ourselves by a respect to the divine will, as well as by a regard to the reason of things.
When we do so, mindful of the divine authority, desirous of his favour, and fearing his displeasure, we may be said to walk with God. There will be then a comfortable fel. lowship between God and his rational creatures. We steadily and conscientiously eye his commands. He graciously approves us, and the way we are in, and will manifest himself favourably to us.
III. We may hence receive encouragement to trust in God, and serve him faithfully in every circumstance of life, even though we are in some difficulties and troubles, as the Psalmist now was.
For virtue, though well pleasing to God, may be triel and exercised. The reward is sure, though deferred; and it may be the greater in the end if by afflictions it be refined, improved, and perfected.
IV. This text may teach men to be cautious how they injure, offend, or grieve any sincere and upright persons whom God approves.
It is spoken of as a remarkable instance of the folly of bad men: “ Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon God!" Ps. xiv. 4.
We ought to be careful how we offend any walking in the way of righteousness, though they appear to us to be mistaken in some things. It must be imprudent to oppose those who have God for a sun and shield. At the same time it appears to be our duty to uphold to the utmost of
our power the cause of the righteous. This seems to be what David engages to do, if settled in peace and prosperity. “ O my soul, thou hast said unto God, Thou art my Lord. My goodness extendeth not unto thee, but unto the saints that are in the earth, even to the excellent, in whom is all my delight,” Ps. xvi. 2, 3. • I have always trusted in God, • and it has been my unfeigned desire to serve him. Not • that I thereby merit of him. Nor is he advantaged by • my services. But I shall think it a happiness, if ever I • have it in my power to protect and encourage upright * men, whom I sincerely love and esteem.'
V. We are also led to observe upon these words, that from the divine perfections may be argued a future state of recompences.
This observation I intend to enlarge upon.
1. In the first place I shall propose an argument for a future state froin reason.
2. I shall consider some objections against this doctrine.
3. I will endeavour to answer divers inquiries relating to this matter.
4. And then conclude with some inferences. 1.) The argument from reason in behalf of a future state of recompences is to this purpose.
It appears to us agreeable to the perfections of God, that he should show favour to good and virtuous men. But it is obvious to all, and more especially evident to careful observers, that good and bad men are not much distinguished in this world. This, I say, is obvious to all, and especially manifest to those whose observations are of the greatest compass; who have considered the consequences of virtue and vice, relating to this life; who have compared the conduct of good and bad with the prosperous or afflictive circumstances they have been in; who have taken notice of the rules and maxims, the successes and disappointments, of the great and small, the high and low, of mankind.
How frequent and copious upon this head is Solomon, who had himself enjoyed so much power and grandeur, and had been very curious in his remarks upon men and things! “ All things have I seen in the days of my vanity. There is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness; and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness," Ecc, vii. 15. And, “there is a vanity, which is done upon the earth, that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked,” ch. viii, 14.
“ And there be wicked men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous. No man knoweth love or