2 Kings 17, 33.—They feared the Lord, and served their own gods.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge "—" the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," are two of Solomon's most pregnant maxims ; * or rather two forms of the same, which is again repeated in the book of Psalms, f The word "beginning " in all these cases, may be strictly understood as haying reference to time. This is the point from which all successful students of true wisdom must set out. Their first lesson is to fear the Lord. If they cannot learn this, they can learn nothing, to any valuable purpose. They can no more attain to high degrees of wisdom without this, than a child can learn to read without a knowledge of the alphabet. This comparison, however, like all others, ceases to hold good at a certain point of the application. The elementary knowledge, with which the culture of the child begins, is afterwards left far behind, as something which no longer claims attention. But in spiritual culture the first elements of knowledge and its ultimate attainments may be said to be identical.
» Prov. 1,1: 9, 10. \ Psalm 111, 10.
"The fear of the Lord" is as really the end as "the beginning of wisdom," although not in snch a sense as to exclude progression, and a vast variation of degree in the experience of one and the same person.
"The fear of the Lord," which is thus both the alpha and omega of the spiritual alphabet, may be taken either in a generic or a specific sense. The former is, in fact, coextensive with the general idea of religion or true piety, including, either directly or by necessary inference, every right disposition and affection on the part of man, as a dependent and unworthy creature, towards the infinitely great and holy God. All such affections may be readily deduced from fear, in its specific sense, as signifying not a slavish but a filial feeling, not mere dread or terror, which, from its very nature, must be always tinged with hate, or at least with repugnance, but a reverence impregnated with love. This genuine and spurious fear of God, unlike as they may seem, and as they are, have often been confounded, on account of their having something really in common, to wit, a sense of God's power, and an apprehension of his wrath as awaiting all transgressors of his will. But this common element, which justifies the use of the word fear in reference to both these dispositions, is blended in the one case with a consciousness of alienation and hostility, while in the other it is lost, as it were, in the feeling of attachment, confidence, and common interest. The varying proportion, in which these distinctive qualities are blended with the fundamental property of fear, determines the facility with which a filial awe may be confounded with a slavish dread.
To discriminate between the two might sometimes be impossible, but for a practical criterion or test wMch the Word of God has laid down, in accordance with onr Saviour's fundamental rule of moral diagnosis, " By their fruits ye shall know them." In one of the passages which recognize the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom, it is closely connected with obedience to his will. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do them, i. e., his commandments."* "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments." f
This intimate connection between genuine fear and obedience is recognized in the law itself, when Moses warns Israel " to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear the glorious and fearful name, The Lord thy God." % The negative aspect of the same truth is exhibited by Job, when he winds up his sublime inquiry after wisdom with the solemn declaration, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." § Here then is the touchstone of a genuine and a spurious fear of God. The one disposes us to do his will, from a sincere complacency and acquiescence in it. The other prompts us rather to resist it, except so far as our compliance may seem necessary to escape his wrath, which is the only real object of this slavish dread. The one is a fear of punishment as the consequence of sin ;• the other a fear of sin itself, as intrinsically evil, or, which amounts to the same thing, as opposed to the will of God, and to his very nature, which is thus assumed as the ultimate criterion of right and wrong, of good and evil. Only a filial fear disposes men to serve God. Selfish and slavish fear disposes them to flee from him. This uneasy sense of insecurity would be relieved and gladdened by the assurance that there is no God; whereas the same assurance would be anguish or despair to the affectionate and reverential fear of the believer. These two things, then, are to be regarded as inseparable, the fear of God and service of God. He who will not serve God does not fear him, i. e., in any good sense of the term. His fear, so far as he has any, is a slavish fear; and slavish fear is never free from some admixture of hostility. This distinction, however obvious as it is in Scripture and familiar in experience, is not practically recognized by all men. There seems to be a natural propensity to look upon fear, blank fear, as the essence of devotion, as the whole of what is due to God, the rendering of which absolves from all obligation to believe, to trust, to love, or to obey. Among the heathen, this idea of religion is perhaps predominant, or certainly far more prevalent than we frequently imagine. It may well be questioned whether their deities are ever the objects of their love, excepting in those cases where the god is but a personification of some darling lust. Beyond this homage rendered to the unchecked sway of their own appetites and passions, there is strong reason for believing that their devotion is nothing but the tribute of their fears to a superior power which they hate, and which they look upon as hating them. The service rendered under the influence of such a motive, is in no case more than they regard as absolutely necessary to secure them from the wrath of the offended godhead. If they could be convinced that less would gain their end, they would joyfully diminish the amount, and still more joyfully receive permission to withhold it altogether. But this complete immunity is rendered unattainable by conscience. They feel that they are guilty, i. e., justly liable to punishment, and cannot rest without an effort to escape it.
* Psalm 111, 10. t rsalm 112, 1. % Deut. 28, 58. § Job 28, 28.
But this uersal and unconquerable sense of guilt may coexist with an indefinite variety of notions as to the means of propitiation, and the extent to which those means must be applied. Some men may feel it to be necessary to expend their whole time in appeasing the divine wrath; but by far the greater number, under every known form of idolatry, consider less than this sufficient, and rejoice to appropriate the residue to self-indulgence. They give no more than is extorted by their fears, and have no conception of religious service as a voluntary, cheerful, joyous consecration of the whole man to an object which he venerates and loves, and in the doing of whose will he finds his highest happiness. The only service of this free, spontaneous, and absorbing nature that the heathen devptee pays, is the service rendered to himself, in the indulgence of his own corrupt desires. He gives even to his chosen idol only what he is unable to withhold, his fears; and by so doing proves himself a stranger to all genuine religious fear, which cannot be divorced from the willing and devoted service of its object.
I have stated this as a grand practical error of the heathen, in order that we may be able to judge of it impartially, and not at all because it is confined to them. Of men in general it may be affirmed, that they are prone to separate religions fear, in their conceptions and their practice, from religious service, and by that separation to convert the former into a slavish dread, as far as possible removed from the filial reverential fear of genuine devotion. Whether the proffered object of their worship be the trne God or a false one, they naturally slide into this error. Hence it is that the majority of men adore their god or their gods with a divided heart, and try to obey two masters, serving whatever they love best—the world, their fellowcreatures, themselves ; fearing whatever they believe can punish or destroy them, which for that very reason they consider as entitled, not so much to love as hatred. Wherever conscience is at all awakened, and religions means, no matter what, are used to pacify it, it will be found a brief but just description of the multitude thus influenced; that they fear one thing and serve another. To the judge and the avenger they give what they must, and lavish all the rest upon themselves, their pride, their malice, their ambition, their insatiable appetites, their raging passions.
An apt illustration of this general truth is afforded by a singular and interesting passage of the sacred history. The king of Assyria had carried into exile the ten tribes of Israel, and supplied their place with settlers from his own dominions. These were heathen, and brought with them their own idols and idolatrous rites. Having no knowledge of Jehovah, whom their predecessors had professed to worship, even under the forbidden form of golden calves, they had, of course, no fear of his displeasure, till he sent wild beasts among them, and slew some of them. Regarding this correctly as a penal visitation from the god of the land, they procured from their own sovereign the assistance of an Israelitish priest to teach them how to worship him. He accordingly taught them, as the narrative expresses it, "how they should fear the Lord," and they acted promptly upon his instructions. They took care, however, to provide gods of their own, each tribe or nation for itself, while at the same time they offered to Jehovah a worship of fear prompted more by the recollection of lions than by faith or reason. "So They Feared The Lord, And Served Thfjr Own Gods." How far the sacred writer was from recognizing this as any genuine religious fear at all, we learn from his saying, in the very next sentence, "unto .this day they do after the former manners; "They Fear Not The Lord." Why? Because "they feared the Lord, and served their own gods."
We maybe disposed to smile with some contempt at the absurd and inconsistent conduct of these wretched pagans. But wherein did their folly and their sin consist? Certainly not in being afraid of the displeasure of Jehovah and in seeking to avert it; for in this they acted wisely. But it lay in their imagining that forms of worship, extorted from them by their selfish fears, would be sufficient to propitiate the Most High and secure them from his vengeance; while their voluntary service, their cordial and habitual devotion, was expended on his enemies and rivals. If this is the absurdity which we condemn, our judgment is a just one; but let us impartially condemn it wherever we may find it, whether in ancient or in modern times, whether in eastern or in western climes, whether in heathendom or Christendom, whether in our neighbors or ourselves.
To facilitate this self-denying process in your case and my own, let us look for a moment at some ways in which precisely the same folly, and with incomparably less extenuation, may be practised and is practised now in the nineteenth century, and here, amidst the blaze of gospel light. Let us not shrink from the unwelcome truth, if it should be discovered that this race of idolaters is not extinct; that " unto this day they do after the former manners ;" fearing the Lord and serving their own gods; "as did their fathers, so do they unto this day."
To make the transition easier from the heathen to the Christian world, we may begin with our own heathen, the heathen at our own doors, in our own streets: I mean those who approach nearest to the heathen both in the positive and negative circumstances of their spiritual state, their ignorance of truth, and their enslavement to sin. Look at the worst part of your population, as it pours its turbid streams along in times of more than usual excitement; hear its muttered or vociferated curses; mark the bestial character of its propensities and habits. All this you have seen, and as you saw it, you have been disposed perhaps to say that here, at least, there is no divided worship or allegiance ; here, at least, are men who serve their own gods, but who do not, even In profession, fear the Lord. No, in profession, certainly not; in form, in purpose, not at all; but do you think they never fear him, i. e. feel afraid of him? Be not precipitate in drawing such conclusions.
In the vast mixed multitude of those whom you regard as the most ignorant and reckless and besotted of your countrymen, observe, on some occasion of extraordinary concourse, how many haggard faces, and contracted brows, and strangely gleaming eyes encounter yours. Do you believe all this expression of anxiety and dread to be the fruit of poverty, or sickness, or domestic cares? If so, you are mistaken; for the same expression may be seen in those who are not poor, who are not sick, or outwardly distressed at all; and on the other hand, its absence may be marked in thousands who are poorer and who suffer more from care and sickness than do any of those whom you are observing. There is something back of all these causes to produce this uniformity of countenance, and I will tell 3rou what it is—It Is Feae. Yes, even the boldest and most insolent defier of all outward peril, the foolhardiest provoker of temptation and destruction, at the very moment when he is repelling, with vindictive rage, the charge of cowardice, is often chilled with fear, unqualified, unmitigated fear ; and that of the most paralysing kind, because it is a vague fear and of an invisible object—a fear which is written in the face of some as legibly as on the brow of the first murderer. We sometimes speak lightly of the fear of ghosts and phantoms as a childish folly; but it is often nothVol. n.—8
icg more than a disguised fear of the great avenger; the man shrinks and trembles as seeing him who is invisible. Tell him of storms and earthquakes, and he shudders, though the danger be distant or long past. Tell him of sudden casualties, and he turns pale, though the same form of accident, in his case, be impossible. Tell him of pestilence, of fever, plague, or cholera, as slowly, steadily approaching, and judge for yourself whether the emotion caused by this announcement can be all referred to dread of bodily suffering or even of death as a physical change only. No, his thoughts run onward to the dread tribunal where he is to stand, and to which this may be his summons. What he now feels is that " fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation," which the apostle represents as following the obstinate rejection of an offered Saviour. I do not mean that this is always present to the mind; it may be rare, it may be momentary. These forebodings may but occasionally interrupt the ordinary current of the thoughts and feelings, like a dark cloud swept across the sun, or a lurid flash, making darkness visible. The attempt to banish such reflections may be commonly successful, and the man, instead of being weaned from his accustomed cares or pleasures, may plunge into them more madly and more desperately, for the very reason that he wishes to avoid these fearful premonitions. He may never cross the threshold of a church—he may never look between the covers of a Bible—he may shrink from the touch of a religious book—he may run from the presence of religious men as he would shun contagion—but he has that within. him which he cannot flee from or forever silence; he is guilty and he knows it, and he knows that God will punish sin, and that his own time may be near at hand; and often, in the intervals of business, or the necessary lulls of his tempestuous enjoyments, in the silent watches of the night, or on a sick-bed, or when some affliction forces him to serious reflection, he hears that whisper which he heard in childhood ; a mysterious voice syllables his name, as it has often done before, and mutters of some fearful secret soon to be disclosed. Nay, the same unwelcome premonition sometimes reaches him when all around is gay and joyous, in the very moment of indulgence, with the cup of pleasure at his lips, he hears that sound; he knows not whence it comes, he sometimes even knows not what it says; the very vagueness of the warning makes it more terrific. His very ignorance of God and of religion adds a strange, peculiar terror to these pangs of conscience; and the man, however brave at other times, is really afraid; he fears, he fears the Lord, although he knows him not; he fears him as the unseen and anonymous avenger who has followed him through life, and now awaits his death; and if, in spite of all this, he still plunges deeper into worldly cares or sensual indulgence, and vainly strives to seek oblivion from them, this only shows that, like the settlers of Samaria, he fears the Lord and serves his own gods.
The case of which I have been speaking is the case of those who are excluded, or exclude themselves from the operation of all ordinary methods ot religious influence—who are not permitted, or refuse to hear the gospel—who avoid association with its preachers and professors—and who lead a heathen life on Christian ground. Such may well be likened to the foreign idolaters who occupied the territory of the ten tribes, in immediate juxtaposition with the chosen people; and in such it may not seem surprising or unnatural that, like their prototypes in history, they should fear God and serve the Devil. But is such a compromise or combination possible within the precincts of the church itself—within the bounds of even nominal Christianity—among the decent and respectful hearers of the gospel and professed believers in its truth? Can they be charged with this stupendous folly of dividing or multiplying what they worship—giving half to good and half to evil, believing half in truth and half in falsehood, living half in light and half in darkness? Perhaps the very form which I have given to the question, may suggest an answer, by presenting no exaggerated picture of the life which some of us are actually living.
You fear the Lord; you are unwilling to provoke his anger; you acknowledge your obligation to serve him, and you discharge that obligation by attending on his worship; but is he the master that you daily serve? Where is your treasure and your heart? By whose will do you regulate your life? A man may so far fear the Lord as to frequent His house, and join in the external acts of worship there; but what if he has other gods at home, and there bows down to Mammon or to Belial? What if the world is in his heart, and the prince of this world on the throne of his affections? Will the stain of these habitual idolatries be washed out by patiently enduring the penance of a Sabbath service? Will the Lord, who is thus feared with a slavish dread of his displeasure, be contented, for the sake of this, to pass by all the rest—all that is done, or all that is not done, in defiance of his absolute authority and positive command? My hearers! let us not deceive ourselves. There are idol-temples sometimes reared against the very walls of Jehovah's sanctuary. There are heathen oracles which give forth their responses "fast by the oracle of God." There are those who seem to fear the Lord on one day in the week, but during all the rest of their existence are unceasingly employed in serving their own gods. The charge which is here brought is not one of hypocrisy. It is one of delusion. I do not say that those of whom I speak pretend to fear the Lord when they know they fear him not. I say that they helieve they fear him, when in fact they fear him not. Or rather, which is really the same thing in another form, they do fear him; but it is not with a fear which honours, or conciliates, or pleases him, as they imagine; and here, just here, is their delusion. They are sincere enough in thinking that they fear God; but they are terribly mistaken in supposing that they fear him as they ought. This is a painful truth to those of us whom it concerns; but it is one which, sooner or later, must be told. And it requires not many words to tell it. It may be summed up in this short sentence: If you do not serve the Lord, you do not fear him. You may attend upon his worship, you may respect religion, you may believe the Bible to be true, you may hope to be saved through Christ, you may expect to die the death of the righteous.
But how do you live? How are you living now'? From what source is your present happiness derived? What influence do you exert? What are you doing, not as a weekly recreation, or a mere periodical solemnity, but as a daily business, for the honour of God and the good of your fellow-men? If your fear of the Lord shows itself in these particulars, and in the constant dispositions and affections of your mind, it may be genuine. But if you fear God only in the church, or only on the sabbath; if your life, beyond these bounds, is atheistical; *'. e., if you live precisely as you would if you believed that there is no God; if your fear of him is nothing but a natural unwillingness to suffer at his hands, and a consequent desire to avert his wrath; if you joyfully redeem from his service what you can, to be expended on the world; if you come before him reeking from the sordid cares or frivolous pleasures of a. selfish and unprofitable life, and then leap back from the threshold of his presence into the hot and steaming atmosphere of that same world from which your fears had detached you for an hour or a day;—if this is your experience, or any thing like this, however clear it may be to your own mind that you fear the Lord, it is still more clear to others that you serve your own gods. Is not this an object of compassion? Has this delusion no share in the pity which we lavish on the heathen? Yes, to those really enlightened there is something peculiarly pitiable in the state which I have been describing. The degree of knowledge really possessed, and the hopes so fondly cherished, only render their inevitable disappointment more
affecting to the heart of one who can foresee it. Looking out from the inner sanctuary into which he has found access by the blood of the everlasting covenant, he compassionates not only those, who still wander in the court of the Gentiles, but those who have penetrated into the interior enclosure, within sight of the laver and the altar of atonement, or have even found their way into the holy place, and there continue, unsuspicious that the holiest of all is still beyond them, that the mercy seat is not yet reached, and that, without this, neither the loaves spread upon the golden table, the light that streams from the golden candlestick, nor the incense that rolls upward from the golden altar, can be theirs, or made available for them; that notwithstanding their near bodily approach to God, they are still far from him;—over such a sight the true penitent might weep even in the presence of the ark and under the shadowing pinions of the cherubim. Especially might this be the effect if these deluding worshippers wero seen leaving their idols at the entrance of the temple, and casting many a fond backward glance at these beloved objects from the holy place, or even bringing them in, half concealed, beneath some flimsy pretext, or some fair appearance, and then hastening forth to worship them; yes, scarcely waiting till the veil has again fallen ou the sacred scene, before they drop down in the dust before the gods of their idolatry. This, this is a spectacle to draw tears at the very mercy-seat and under the cloud of the divine presence. But, sad as is this, would to God it were the worst! It were surely enough that we, who profess to have found access to the mercy-seat, should be compelled to sorrow over those who, though externally almost as near it as ourselves, are still, in heart, as far from it as ever, and who serve their own gods in the presence of Jehovah. But what if our lamentations should be interrupted by a voice from the holy of holies, saying, "The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God!" * What if the cloud should rise or open, and disclose to us the fearful sight of idols in immediate contact with the ark of the covenant and the mercy-seat itself!
This is no hideous imagination of a wild impossibility. The thing supposed is not impossible at all. It is a palpable reality. It has been, is now, and will be hereafter, until human corruption ceases to exist, or is no longer suffered to exert an influence on true believers. False gods may be brought into the holy of holies. I speak not now of false profession, or of total self-deception, but of those who give evidence of having really passed from death unto life. Even these may cling to idols; even these may give themselves to other masters; even these may fear the Lord and serve their own gods; and in so doing, I should hesitate to intend the possibility of Christians, even by profession, being tainted with the poison of a literal idolatry, did not notorious contemporary facts demonstrate the existence of this monstrous combination. In proof of this, we need not go to India, and contemplate the conance of a Christian government at heathenish abominations, and its violation of the rights of Christian consciences, in order to maintain those of * 1 Peter 4,17.
a heathen population, which it ought to have enlightened in the knowledge of the truth. We need not join in the censure which the world has passed upon these false concessions, or attempt to trace the marks of the divine displeasure in the blood and ashes of that great catastrophe, the sound of which has not yet died away in Europe, Asia, or America; because, admitting all that is alleged, or even all that is conferred, and rating at the highest mark the guilt of such conance or encouragement, it cannot, after all, be justly charged with actual participation in the idola try itself, but only with a sinful and pernicious toleration of it, on the part of those who really despised or pitied it, as the wretched but incurable delusion of a half-enlightened and inferior race. But what shall we say of those who, nearer home, and in a Christian country, and amidst the light of a reformed and purified religion—nay, perhaps with the profession of it on their lips and on their conscience, can sanction by their presence, or sustain by their pecuniary gifts, a worship which, though nominally Christian, they confess to be idolatrous—crowding its sanctuaries even with their children, led, perhaps, by simple curiosity, but strengthening the faith of others by example, and themselves incurring the tremendous risk of learning first to tolerate, and then to admire, and finally to worship what at first they viewed with wonder and contempt. Be not surprised, my brethren, if you should encounter such phenomena in your fields of ministerial labour; and if you do, be not afraid to tell those who exhibit them, that such compliances, so far from being justified by simultaneous or alternate voi. ii.—8*
acts of purer worship, or by the continual profession of a purer faith, are thereby only brought into a closer and more hideous assimilation to the mixed religion of these ancient settlers in the land of Israel, who, in that consecrated soil, and not far from the temple of Jehovah, almost in sight of its majestic rites, and within hearing of its solemn music, while they owned the true God as a God of judgment, and experienced his wrath as an avenger—were so mad upon their idols, that with fatal inconsistency " they feared the Lord, and served their own gods."
But, returning to the figurative spiritual meaning of idolatry, with which we are immediately concerned, and to its fearful combination with the worship of the true God, which I have described as introducing idols into the most holy place—as a complete enumeration of these idols would be neither possible nor needful, let me sum up a vast number of them under the collective name, so often used in Scripture, of the world —the world, including all the various and complex influences exercised by men, not only as detached individuals, but as an aggregate body, called society— the various allurements by which true Christians are seduced into compliance with its questionable practices. It may be under the pretence or in the hope of doing good, without experiencing evil—the oldest and most specious of the arts by which the tempter has achieved his conquests, since he whispered in the ear of Eve, "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," and displayed to her the fatal tree so " good for food," so "pleasant to the eyes," and so " desirable to make one wise." Here is an idol temple—vast, magnificent, inviting, at the very threshold of our churches,—nay, out of which idols are continually brought into Jehovah's presence, not by false professors merely, but by deluded worshippers, who fain would fear the Lord, and worship their own gods.
But what are the gods which may thus be served by those who, at the same time, seem to fear the Lord? Leaving wholly out of view, as I have said, the case of those who worship self and the world, under the mask of hypocritical profession, or the fatal spell of " strong delusions," let us look exclusively at those who seem sincerely to fear God, but who do not serve him with a perfect heart, because their affections are divided and seduced by idols. What are these idols? I might almost say, their name is Legion. I can mention but a few of them. But leaving these and other more familiar forms of this idolatrous delusion, let us glance at some less palpable, and more compatible with light and even genuine profession. Such is the idol of self-righteousness, a very different thing from self-indulgence. While the latter owns no obligation to obey any other master than its own imperious lusts, the other recognizes God's authority, consents to do his will, and thinks it does it—yes, and makes a merit of it. Its very reliance, or professed reliance, on the merit of the Saviour, is transformed into an idol, and usurps the honour due exclusively to Christ. It submits to the righteousness of God in order to exalt its own. Of such it may be said, without injustice, that they fear the Lord, and serve their own gods.
Closely allied to this idol is another—the idol of spiritual pride—a disposition to exult in the extent and depth of our religious experience, and in the variety of our attainments, a complacent estimate of our own love to God, a zeal for his honour, and submission to his will, as meritorious achievements of our own, and not as the gratuitous products of his sovereign grace. Alas! how many sincere Christians are led far astray by this insidious seducer, till at last they seem to fear the Lord still, but to serve their own gods.
To the same race and family of idols belongs that pharisaical censorious spirit which regards the essence of religion as consisting in vindictive opposition to the sins of our fellow-men, and imagines that the surest way to rise in the divine life is to lower our neighbours, whether saints or sinners, drawing a morbid satisfaction from this painful view of others as no better than ourselves, and expending on this object the attention which might better have been given to our own defects, or better still, to the desire and pursuit of excellence. This, too, is to fear the Lord and serve our own gods.
Further enumeration is superfluous. It is enough to know the general fact that such things are possible, are real. If we do know it, and acknowledge it, what shall we do next? Let judgment begin at the house of God. Let every image which defiles it be cast down without mercy from its pedestal and dashed in pieces, like Dagon on the threshold of his temple. Let us, like Jacob and his household, put away our false gods, before we come, to Bethel to renew our vows. Instead of weeping over the delusions of our neighbours, let us first seek to have our own dispelled. Let those who gaze from without into the temple of the Lord, or from its holy place into the holiest of all, be under no mistake, or even doubt, as to the object of our worship. Through the cloud of incense which ascends from our altar, let not even the unfriendly or malignant eye detect the semblance of an idol placed above it. Let friends and enemies alike be constrained to acknowledge that our Lord is one Lord, and that we his people have no other gods before him. Then, with our consciences cleared from dead works, to serve the living God, we shall be able, with consistency and good hope of success, to say to those who hear the gospel with us, but have not yet avouched the Lord to be their God—Forsake your idols, crucify the flesh, die to the world, serve him whom you fear already, fear him no longer with a slavish dread, but with a filial reverence, believe in him whom we trust as our Saviour—"Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof, mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation following; for this God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." Yes, and then with this accession to our strength, we may go forth beyond the precincts of the sanctuary into the highways and the hedges of the world, in search of those neglected and bewildered outcasts who are trembling at the presence of an unknown God, who have fearful forebodings of his wrath, with no cheering anticipations of his mercy, fearing the Lord, and serving their own gods. Yes, even these may be compelled to come in, to join the procession of experienced saints and recent converts from the world, as it draws near to the footstool of God's mercy, and pointing to the fragments of forsaken idols which lie strewn around it, say, "O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise; thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish."