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(4.) In their company. Song v. 1, “I have come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.” He loves to have them near him, hanging about his hand, conversing with him, receiving his word from his mouth, and making their requests known to him : Song ii. 14, "Let me see (says lie) thy countenance, let me hear thy voice ; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.". The mighty God, who has his higher house in heaven, has the contrite spirit for his lower house.--I shall now proceed,
V. To confirm the doctrine of the text, or shew, that "the Lord taketh pleasure in those, whatever case they be in, who entertain a holy fear of him, with a kindly hope in his mercy,”—For this purpose, consider,
1. This is answerable and agreeable to the revelation of God's mind in his word, what he has made known of himself both in the law and in the gospel. The fear of God is the great purpose of the law, hope for his mercy through Christ is the great purpose of the gospel. The law was given in such an awful manner, as might fill sinners with the dread of the great Lawgiver; the gospel brings in the blessed hope to lost sinners, so that this fear and hope, answering the design of both, cannot miss of being very pleasing to God.
2. It glorifies God in his glorious perfections, discovered to us in the face of Jesus Christ. The great end of the gospel contrivance is, to shew the glory of God in Christ as in a glass : 2 Cor. iv. 6, “ For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Now, the entertaining of these two, fear and hope, doth at once give him the glory of all these. Holy fear gives him the glory of his awful majesty, inflexible justice, infinite power and holiness; kindly hope gives him the glory of his free grace, mercy, love, and goodness : and the joining of these two together gives him the glory of his infinite wisdom, that hath found out the way to give vent to both in the sinners' case.
3. It is agreeable to the Spirit's work of grace on the soul, whereby the singer is first cast down, and then lifted up. The Spirit of God coming to the elect soul, finds it secure, careless, and presumptuous, thinking itself “ rich and increased in goods, and standing in need of nothing," Rev. iii. 17. The Spirit then discovers what a God, and what a law, the sinner has to do with, and so works this holy fear in the heart. When the soul is awakened, it is ready to despond ; and the Spirit, by the doctrines of the gospel, works this hope. Thus the sinuer comes and cleaves to Christ.
Lastly, The Lord is very gracious unto such. They are entertained with some off-fallings while they bang about his hand in the
ordinances and duties of religion : Psalm lxv. 4, “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” Yea, they are filled as with marrow and fatness; God makes known his secrets to them, even the secrets of his covenant: Psalm xxv. 14,“ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.” Ho shews them also the secrets of his word : Luke xxiv. 32, “ And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, wbile he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" Also the secrets of his works, and the dispensations of his providence. And at length they shall be admitted to the full fruition of him in a better world; they shall enter into the joy of their Lord, and be for ever with him.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
Psalm cxlvii. 11,
TIAVING, in the preceding discourse, briefly gone through the doctrinal part, it only remains, that, in the
VI. And last place, I make a practical improvement of the whole; in doing which, I propose to enlarge at considerable length, by ad
I. With an use of information. It informs us,
1. That God in Christ is full of good-will to poor sinners. Since he will have them thus to depend upon him as children on a father, fearing and hoping in him; he it is who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. ii. 4. Is not this a plain proof that he hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth? Eccl. xviii. 13, and that their ruin is of themselves, if they should perish; that he does not cast them off that hang by him, nor cast them out that come unto him, John vi. 37.
2. That however prosperous and favourable our case be, we have ground to keep up a holy fear upon our spirits : “Happy is the man that feareth alway,” Prov. xxviii. 14. Whether it be that our outward state in the world, or our spiritual state, be peaceful, easy, and prosperous, still there is ground to fear, for we are in hazard of offending God in it. There is no way so plain and even, but
we may stumble in it. Outward prosperity ruins many: “ The prosperity of fools shall destroy them,” Prov. i. 31. And even in a prosperous
state of the soul, there is no safety in being secure and careless, for in the managing of that we are apt to offend : 2 Cor. xii. 7,“ Lest I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." No paradise on the earth but the serpent may be found there; and if one were wrapt up to the third heavens, like Paul, they will bring back with them a corrupt heart, ready to give them a slip, or lead them astray. We are in danger of a heavy turn and sad change in our condition, we are " to serve God with fear, and rejoice with trembling," Psalm ii. 11. See how quickly David's prosperity was changed: Psalm xxx. 7, “Thou didst hide thy face and I was troubled.” Job's condition, both temporal and spiritual, how suddenly was it changed? Sovereignty lifts up and casts down, and the anger of a jealous God may soon be stirred, so as to make a mighty overturn in one's condition; therefore we should not be "high-minded, but fear,” Rom. xi. 20.
3. It informs us, that however low one's case be, there is still room for hope while here; therefore we should always entertain a kindly hope : Psalm xliii. 5, “ Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? why art thou disquieted in me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him who is the health of my courtenance, and my God.” One may yet be at his wits end with his difficulties, knowing of no outgate, but yet he may have ground of faith and hope, because--so great things have been done by our merciful God, as to raise us up. He made a world out of nothing, he has raised the deaa, and particularly Christ, while the whole elect's sins lay as a grave-stone on him. What, then, hinders bim to do a great work for us, when he has done a greater? In him we may trust that he will yet deliver us, 2 Cor. i. 10—Whatever our case be, we are not the first that have been in it, and delivered too in God's own way. Psalm xxii. 4, “Our fathers trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them.” People are apt to say, Never one was in such case as theirs. But," is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time which was before us,” Eccl. i. 10; and suppose it were new, yet faith and hope in God are not in vain ; for he has a new cure for a new case, Isa. xliii. 18, 19. Whatever our case be, can it be worse than a lost case? Luke xix. 10, “ The Son of man came to seek and save that which is lost." Can it be worse than a self-destroying case? Hos. xiii. 9, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thine help.” Can it be worse than a case in
itself quite hopeless, even as dry bones? Ezek. xxxvii. 11, 12, but even by the Spirit of the Lord these bones can be made alive.--It is not beyond the reach of the power of God. Gen. xviii. 14, " Is any thing too hard for the Lord ?” who can be so low, as that the everlasting arms cannot raise up? with God nothing is impossible. A word from heaven can make all things take a happy turn, for saying and doing are but one thing with God. God says to the sinner, Believest thou that I can do these things? If thou dost, there is a ground of kindly hope.-In a word, the covenant of promise reaches to, and includes mercy of all kinds, necessary to make us happy; so that we have not only God's power, but his will, to give us mercy in all cases held out to us in the word, if so be we will tako bis way of faith and hope.-From this subject there is,
II. An use of exhortation, in several branches.
1. Fear the Lord; get and entertain a holy fear of God in your spirits. The profane and licentious lives of some, the carnal and loose hearts of others, proclaim a general want of this, Psalm xxxvi. 1,“ The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” But all fear of God is not a holy fear pleasing to God. There is a servile fear, and a filial fear. Not to the former, but to the latter, I exhort you.
Herewith some various difficulties and inquiries may arise, which we shall endeavour to answer, such as,
1. When is the fear of God only slavish? In answer to thistake the following observations: The fear of God is only slavish,
(1.) When it ariseth only from the consideration of God's wrath as a just judge. This fear of God is to be found in the unconverted; they have the spirit of bondage again to fear, Rom. viii. 15; yea, in the devils, they believe and tremble, Jam. ii. 19; and if the conscience once be awakened, though the heart be not sanctified, this fear cannot miss to take place. It is a natural passion flowing from self-love and a sight of danger, which is so much the more vehement, in proportion as the danger apprehended is greater or smaller. nearer or more distant. One under this fear, fears God as the slave fears his master, because of the whip, which he is afraid of being lashed; he abstains from sin, not out of hatred of it, but because of the wrath of God annexed to it. An apprehension of God's heavy hand on him here, or of hell and damnation hereafter, is the predominant motive of his fear of God, whom he fears only as an incensed Judge, and his powerful enemy.
(2.) When it checks or kills the love of God. There is a fear opposite to the love of God, which by this very character is discovered to be base and servile: 1 John iv. 18, “ There is no fear in.
love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear bath torment." There is a necessary connection betwixt true fear and love, the one cannot be without the other; they are both links of the same chain of grace, which the Holy Spirit gives those whom he sanctifies; but slavish fear fills the heart with hard thoughts of God, and the more it prevails, the farther is the soul from the love of God.
(3.) When it drives the singer away from God. Under its influence, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, and Cain went out from his presence. All the graces of the Spirit, as they come from the Lord, so they carry the sinner back to him ; so 'no doubt it is an ungracious fear of God that frights the sinner away from him; for they that seek and return to him, will fear him and his righteousness. This fear hath this effect in different degrees, and the higher the worse :-It takes heart and hand from persons in their approaches to God, 1 John iv. 18, quoted already; it kills them before the Lord, knocks all confidence and hope in God on the head, so that their hearts at duty are like Nabal's—dying within them, and become as a stone ; so when they should run for their life, it cuts the sinews of their endeavours; when they would wrestle for the blessing, it makes their knees feeble, and their hands hang down.-It makes them first averse to duty, and then give up with it; they deal with God as one with his avowed enemy, into whose presence he will not come, Gen. iii. 8. The people of God have sometimes had a touch of this, 2 Sam. vi. 9, “ And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come unto me? Though it never prevails with them to extinguish love, yet sometimes a believer is like a faulty child, who, instead of humbling himself before his parents, hides himself in some corner, and is so frighted, that he dare not come in, and look the parent in the face ; bu this is a most dangerous case, especially if it lasts long.-In a word, it makes them run to physicians of no value. For what is more natural than that men who are frightened from God under apprebended danger, run to some other quarter, and that to their own ruin, Rev. vi. 16, " And said to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."
2. What is to be thought of this slavish fear of God ? To this I answer, there is something good in it, and something evil.
(1.) There is something good in it, namely, the fear of God's wrath for sin, which lies unpardoned on the guilty sinner or which the sinner may be inclined to commit: Jam. ii. 19, “ Thou believest that there is one God, thou dost well.” To cast off fear of the wrath of God, and the terrible punishments which he has annered to sia, is a pitch of wickedness which but the very worst of