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If we consider God, as a cruel and tyrannical Master; if we cannot think of him without dreading his judgments; if, when we contemplate him as an Omnipotent Being, we feel no accompanying satisfaction of mind, no inspiring gladness of heart, we may rest assured, that we love the fellowship which is enmity with him, and that we are conscious of lying under his divine displeasure. For as God is neither cruel nor tyrannical; as he never visits with his judgments any but wilful transgressors, and as he never fails to fill the souls of his faithful servants with holy delight; there must be something very perverse in the heart, and wicked in the conduct, when a man attributes to God a spirit which he does not, and which he cannot, possess, when he is constantly hearing the thunder of divine wrath rolling over his head, and when, at the thought of a Being, infinite in power, and mighty in operation, he starts back alarmed, appalled, and confounded.
The fear of offending God has led to the noblest actions recorded in the History of Man. Many, carried away with the love of human praise, and inspired with the fame of glorious deeds, have wrought such achievements, and exhibited such courage, as have transmitted their names with admiration to posterity. But the wise man, whose principles and opinions are founded upon the truths of religion, who makes the gospel of his Saviour the criterion of his judgment, and the ground of his decisions, does not look for the noblest actions among those of the warrior and the hero. . He is not, as the multitude generally are, to be dazzled with the glitter of military renown. He seeks not for transcendent merit and magnanimity amidst the horrors of carnage,
and the desolations of empires ; nor does he place, as worthies in his temple of fame, the conqueror of nations and the destroyer of human kind. He looks, with a just and discriminating eye, for deeds really glorious in the man, who ventures every thing for the sake of God, and for the honour of his holy name. He searches for courage truly great in the Christian Hero; in him, who, by a firm resistance
to evil, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, subdues the powerful enemy of his soul; who, by self-deniał and mortification, gains a victory over himself, over perverse dispositions, importunate passions, and rooted prejudices, who will suffer any temporal pain sooner than do what God has forbidden, and who, with the feeling strong on his mind that he must on no account be ashamed of Christ and his religion, will not conform to any of the wicked manners and customs of the world, though scorn, ridicule, and contumely, pursue him to the grave.
While I am upon this part of my subject, let me call your attention to a practice, which shows how much the fear of man sometimes prevails over the fear of God, and which, to the disgrace of our country, and to the shame of those who profess to be believers in Christ, too greatly obtains amongst us. I mean the practice of duelling. To defend and excuse this practice has been the attempt of
many; and as long as our hearts are liable to be misled by the deceitfulness of Satan, and by the suggestions of pre
judice and passion, so long will it continue to be defended and excused. For there is scarcely any cause, however bad, which the artifice of sophistry cannot dress out in specious colours; there is scarcely any error, however palpable, which the ingenuity of its advocates cannot vindicate upon some principle or maxim of truth.
But duelling is one of those evil practices, which it is impossible to justify upon any ground of duty or precept of religion. It is in direct opposition to the Law of God, which says, "Thou shalt not kill."
"Surely," says the Lord God, "at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." It is sin in any way to attempt the life of a fellow-creature; for the life of man is the gift of God. It is sin unnecessarily to risk or throw away our own; for God, when he gave us our existence, did not at the same time grant us the liberty to part with it when we please. It is sin
* Exodus, xx. 13.
+ Genesis, ix. 5, 6.
to rush out of the world with blood-guiltiness on our heads, and uncharitableness in our hearts. It is sin, the very aggravation of sin, to send a brother violently out of life, and deprive him of that space to repent, in which he might, perhaps, have made satisfaction to God for his offence, and have worked out at last the salvation of his soul.
We are commanded *" to love one another," to "give place unto wrath," to endure patiently, though we suffer wrongfully, § to forgive the injuries that have been done us, and ||" as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men." When a man lifts his hand against a brother's life, does he observe these precepts? does he show his fear of God in submitting to his will? Most assuredly not. On the contrary, he disobeys the word of God; for although he may previously disavow all malice of heart, and plead in his justification that he yields to
*John, xv. 17.
+ Romans, xii. 19.
|| Romans, xii, 8,