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NUMB. xiv. 24.
But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit
with him, and hath FOLLOWED ME FULLLY; him will I bring into the land whereunto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
PROPOSE to recommend to your imitation this illustri. ous servant of the most high God, whose name is recorded with such distinguished honour in the passage
I have just now read in your hearing. Caleb followed the Lord fully, and obtained a glorious reward; and if we hope or wish to be rewarded as he was, reason teacheth us, that we should walk in his steps, and do as he did.
But what are we to understand by following the Lord fully? This question is first in order; and after I have endeavoured to give a satisfying answer to it, I shall then proceed to press the duty by some motives and arguments.
Let us begin with inquiring what we are to understand by following the Lord fully.
And here I must observe in the entrance, that no man can follow the Lord at all till once he be acquainted with him; “ For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” A slavish, reluctant subjection there may be; but there cannot be a voluntary, far less an unreserved obedience, without affectionate trust and filial confidence. Before we can follow God, we must not only know that he is supreme, and hath a right to command; but we must likewise believe that he is wor. thy to command, and infinitely possessed of all those perfections which qualify bim to govern the creatures he hath made. Two things we must be thoroughly persuaded of; first, That the laws of our Sovereign are righteous and good; and, next, That he is both able and willing to protect us in his service. And indeed, my brethren, had we never offended God, these views alone would have been sufficient inducements to follow him fully; but as we are guilty creatures, and liable to punishment, some farther discoveries are now become necessary. We need something to vanquish those fears of wrath, which would rather prompt us to fly from the presence of our Judge than to make an uncertain attempt to pacify him by submission; some scheme of grace must be opened to our view, by which pardon may be dispensed to the guilty, and strength imparted to the weak, in a way that appears consistent with the honour of the divine government. Nay, we must not only know that such a scheme exists, but we on our part must cordially approve of it; and, by our personal consent, ascertain our claim to that mercy and grace which it offers to sinners; that, being at peace with God, we may no longer dread him as an enemy, but love him as a Father, and serve him with joy, being assured that " our labour shall not be in vain."
This being premised, as a necessary preparative for following the Lord fully, the duty itself may be consi. dered as including the following particulars :
1st. That we acknowledge no other Lord beside him, One Lord we must have; for it is folly to imagine we can be independent and free. Man was made to serve; and nothing is left to him but the choice of his
master. But more than one Lord we cannot have, unless by a derived or delegated authority. He who is supreme may appoint another to rule under him, and to enforce the observance of his laws; and when both concur in the same command, then both may be served by one act of obedience: but “no man can serve two opposite masters; for either he will hate the one and love the the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. We cannot serve God and Mammon." And therefore to follow the Lord fully is to follow him only; it is to make his will the sole and absolute rule of our conduct, in opposition to our own humour, the temptations of Satan, and the corrupt maxims of a world that lieth in wickedness.
Ally. To follow the Lord fully is to obey him without any reserve or limitation: it is to serve him with an affectionate and liberal heart; and to do this at all times. Each of these might be considered apart; but I have chosen to join them together under one head, as they serve to illustrate and support one another.
Our obedience, I say, must be without reserve or limitation; for unless we follow the Lord in all things, we cannot truly be said to follow him in any thing. We give cause to suspect, that when, in other instances, we perform the duties he enjoins, yet even in those we are governed by something else than a regard to his autho. rity; and that, though we seem to follow him, yet, in reality we are prosecuting some interested scheme of our own, and are seeking ourselves instead of serving our God. The universality of our obedience, then, is the only proof of our sincerity; for " whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.” We do not follow the Lord fully, unless we follow bim whithersoever he leadeth us, through the most rug.
ged paths of self-denial and mortification, as well as in those smooth, delightful ways in which we find the most immediate advantage and pleasure. Again, we must serve him with an affectionate and liberal heart; continually asking such questions as these : “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and, " What shall I render unto the Lord for all bis benefits ?” The term following plainly implies this. A person may be dragged or driven against his will, but to follow is an act of choice; it denotes a voluntary and cheerful obedience; a service of love, which is not sparing or niggardly, but always deviseth liberal things. Would we then follow the Lord fully, we must be “ ready to every good work;" and not only embrace opportunities of service when they present themselves, but even seek out opportunities of improving those talents with which we are entrusted, that, as it is expressed in the parable, “ when our Master returns, he may receive his own with usury." I further added, that we should behave after this manner at all times; that our conduct on every occasion may be consistent and uniform. The true servant of the Lord must always be one man, speaking the same language, and observing the same conduct in every place and in every company. Which leads me to a
3d Remark of considerable importance; namely, That to follow the Lord fully, is to follow bim openly, and in the face of the world. We must not think of stealing to leaven by some clandestine, unfrequented path, as if we were ashamed of being seen, or afraid lest it should be known to what family we belonged : this is a sneaking, cowardly artifice; so base in itself, and so ungrateful to the kindest, as well as to the greatest and most honourable Master, that, were it not too
commonly practised, one should scarcely think it need. ful to be mentioned.
There are two extremes into which people are apt to run, and both ought to be guarded against with equal care. Some proclaim their religion as on the house tops; they love to talk of their high attainments, and discover an anxiety to make themselves observable, and to gain the admiration and applause of their neighbours. This our Saviour expressly condemns, Matth. vi. from the 1st to the 19th verse, where he tells his disciples, that they who fast, or pray, or give alms, to be seen of men, only serve themselves; and wbat is the consequence? It is but just they should be left to reward themselves as they can; for duties done with such an aim can never be accepted by God as any part of that religious homage he requires. Others again, from a false modesty and bashfulness, or perbaps a pretended dislike of ostentation and hypocrisy, run into the opposite extreme; they hide their light, (if any light they have) they hide it, I say, “ under a bushel," as the Scriptures express it. They go as great lengths as they dare, in a servile compliance with the humours and customs of the world; and even keep at an affected distance from every thing that might betray any serious impression of God upon their minds.
Now, the duty I am recommending lies at an equal distance from both these extremes. It is a profession that is neither ostentatious nor shame-faced; it neither courts observation nor avoids it. The true follower of the Lord, keeping the laws of his Master continually in his eye, performs every duty in its place and season. It appears a small matter to him to be “judged of man's judgment;" he endeavours " so to speak," and so to act, “not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth the heart.” He doth not shun the view of his fellow-creatures, but