Imatges de pÓgina

men arrive at. The fear of God's wrath against sin, and that duly influential too, is recommended to us by Christ himself, Luke xii. 5, Fear him," says he, “which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell, yea, I say unto yon, Fear him." It is also recommended by the example of the very best of saints, Job xxxi. 23, “For destruction from God was a terror unto me;" and says David, “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments,” Psalm cxix. 120. And the law of God is not fenced with terrors to be disregarded, but to awe men's spirits. Bat,

(2.) There is something evil in it, yea, much evil in it, if we consider,—The scrimpness and narrowness of its spring. Why should the fear of God be coufined to spring up from his wrath agaiost sin only or chiefly, since there are so many other perfections of God, which may give rise to the fear of him, which are disregarded by this means? It casts a vail of disrespect on his holiness, goodness, and batred of sin, on his relations of Creator, Preserver, Father, Supreme Lord, and Governor of the world.—The horrible effects and tendency thereof, as it rises only from this spring, and overflows all the banks of godly fear. Fear of God, even of his wrath, is good, but the excess of it is very bad. Fire and water are both good and necessary, but very bad when the one burns man, and the other drowns him. Hence, since what is acceptable in the sight of God is perfect in parts, though not in degrees, is good in the manner as well as matter, this fear is not what he takes pleasure in, nay, it is displeasing to him, and is the sin of those who hear the gospel, whose fear ought to be extended according to the revelation made to them. And thus one may be displeasing to himself, to those about him, and to God also; and if they attain to no other fear of God, what they fear will probably come upon them. Nevertheless, this fear, kept within bounds, may, by the Spirit, be made the means to bring the sinner to the Lord in his covenant. For the fear of God's wrath is a good thing in itself, Rom. viii. 15; it serves to rouse the sinner out of his security, to make him sensible of his danger, and to seek for relief : Psalm is. 20, “Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.” And therefore the law and its threatening, as a red flag, are displayed in the sight of secure sinners, that they may be roused to flee from the wrath to come.

To this there may be offered this objection, The fear of the Lord's wrath can make but an unsound closing with the Lord in his covenant. Answ. That is very true, if there be nothing more. But fear of God's wrath not only may, but ordinarily, if not always does, begin the work which love crowns. Fear brings men to the gates of the city of refuge, and when they are there, love is kindled, and

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makes them press forward. Fear brings the poor captive woman to confer with the conqueror about the mateh ; but thereby love is kindled, and faith makes the match. It works, however, very differently at other times; for Satan and our corrupt hearts are ready to drive forward this fear of God's wrath to exceed all bounds; and no wonder, for when it has got over the boundaries, it makes fearful havoc in the soul's case, like a consuming fire, deadening all good motions towards God, and quickening evil ones, to the dishonour of God, and one's own torment; and no case out of hell is liker hell than this, both in respect of sin and misery. But when the Spirit of God has a saving work in view, he can easily make the spirit of bondage subservient to the spirit of adoption.

3. How should one manage in the case of a slavish fear of God's wrath ? Here I answer, We had need to be well guided, for the losing or winning of the soul depends upon it. For your assistance I offer the following directions :

(1.) Labour to clear the grounds of your fear of God's wrath, by a rational inquiry and discovery. There are, even of these fears, some that do really proceed from a bodily distemper vitiating the imagination, namely, from melancholy, and the like; and in this case, your trouble rises and falls according to the disposition of your bodies, but not according to the comfort or terror you receive from God's word, as it is in truly spiritual troubles. Thus it often comes on, and goes off, they know not how; shewing the first wound to be in their head, not in their conscience. Of this sort was the evil spirit Saul was troubled with, under which he got ease by music, not by his Bible. In this case, as well as others, it would be of use to consider the real grounds of fear from the Lord's word, and the consideration of one's own state or case, and so to turn it as much as may be into solid fears upon plain and evident reasous for it. This would be a step to the salvation of the soul. But, alas ! it is sad to think of tormenting fear kept up on we know not what grounds, and which can produce no good; while in the meantime people will not be at pains to enquire into the real evidences of their soul's hazard, the sinfulness of their state, heart, and life. Ask, then, yourselves, what real ground there is from the Lord's word for this fear of

yours. (2.) Beware of casting off the fear, dread, and awo of the wrath of God agaiost sin : Job xy. 4, " Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.” This is the issue of some people's fears, who, one way or other, get their necks from under the yoke, and grow more stupid, fearless, and profane, than even by the just judgment of God. It is true, that fear is not enough ; but there is

something to be added, and yet not this fear cast away. If thou be brought into a state of sonship to God, the dread of God's wrath against sin will come along with you, though it will be no more slavish; as if a slave were made his master's son by adoption, he would still fear his anger, though not slavishly as before. But be one's state what it will, better be God's slave, fearing his wrath only, than the devil's freeman, casting off the fear of God altogether. There is less ill in the former than in the latter. Yea,

(3.) Cast not off the fear of that wrath, even its overtaking you, till such time as thy soul be brought away freely to Jesus Christ : Hos. v. 8, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence; in their affliction they will seek me early." Thou hast no warrant to cast it off sooner, for certainly wrath is pursuing thee, till thou be within the gates of the city of refuge; and to be without fear of that wrath that is still advancing on a person, is ruining. Indeed, as soon as thou hast sincerely come to Christ in his covenant, though the fear of wrath against sin is never to be laid by, yet then thou mayest and oughtest to cast off the fear of vindictive wrath overtaking thee : “ There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. viii 1.

(4.) Look not always on an absolute God, for surely that can produce no fear of God but a slavish one; but look on God in Christ as the trysting-place himself has set, for receiving the addresses of the guilty on a throne of grace : 2 Cor. v. 19,“ God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” This is the way to repress and curb the horrible effects of slavish fear, to make love to God, faith, and hope, spring up in the soul, and so mould that fear of thine into filial fear and reverence. In a God out of Christ thou canst discern nothing but inflexible justice, and the utmost terror; and from his throne of unyailed majesty, hear nothing but terrible voices, thunders, and earthquakes. But in a God in Christ thou mayest behold bowels of mercy, and flowing compassions; and from the throne of grace hear the still small voice of mercy and peace, Isa. xxxv. 3, 4.

(5.) At what time soever you find the fear of God's wrath begin to choke the love of God in your hearts, or to drive you away from him in any way, check and curb that fear resolutely, let it not proceed, though you were in the time under the most atrocious sin : Psalm lxv. 3, " Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou wilt parge them away." For then you are in the march between God's ground and the devil's; and there is a wind from hell, blowing up the fire of fear, that will consume you, if it be not quenched; for the separation of the soul from God, and its going away from him, can in no case fail to be of a roining nature : and the more that it increases with a person, his heart will be the more hardened, and he will be set the farther off from repentance.

(6.) Greedily embrace any gleam of hope from the Lord's own word, and hang by it. Ye should do like Benhadad's servants, and say, We have heard that the king of Israel is a merciful king, and we hope he will save us, 1 Kings xx. 31. The apostle calls hope the Christian's head-piece, 1 Thess. v. 8, not to be thrown away in a time of danger.

Lastly, Come away resolutely to the Lord Jesus, lay hold on him in the gospel-offer, and consent to the covenant: Heb. vii. 25, “ He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." Lay hold on the horns of this our altar, and you shall not die; he will swallow up death in victory, Isa. xxv. 8. Flee into this city of refuge; the avenger shall not overtake thee. Do as the lepers of Samaria did, reasoned with themselves, and went to the camp, where meat was to be found. Thou art like to sink in a sea of wrath, Jesus holds out his hand to draw thee ashore. Thou art afraid, perhaps, it is not to thee, it is vain to try; but know that it is the hand that must take thee ont, or thou art a gone man; neglecting to take hold, thou art ruined ; otherwise, thou canst be but ruined.

4. When is the fear of the Lord holy, filial, and reverential, such as the Lord takes pleasure in ?-For your satisfaction in this inquiry, I would answer,

(1.) When the chief spring of it is not our own harm, but God's infinite excellence and perfection striking an awe upon the soul : Gen. xxviii. 17,“ And Jacob was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place ! this is none other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven.” On this account, God was called the fear of the holy patriarchs, while in the world, Gen. xxxi. 42. Thus ingenuous children fear their parents, not because of the ill they may do them, but because of that authority and superiority they have over them.When the soul is awed into a profound reverence for God, by the consideration of his transcendent excellence in all things, this is a becoming or true filial fear.

(2.) When the offending of God is feared as the greatest evil. A graceless man may fear the punishment of swearing, but a righteous man feareth an oath, Eccl. ix. 2 ; the former may fear the threatening as the greatest evil, but the rigbteous feareth the commandment, and shall be rewarded, Proy. xiii. 13. What would the most of the world fear about sin, if they were secured against wrath ? Nothing. But the fearer of God, his great fear would remain notwithstanding, viz. the displeasing of liis gracious Father.

(3.) When fear of his wrath is joined with a kindly affection and love to him, Psalm xc. 11–13. No man fears God who has not a dread of his anger, and the more grace, the more of this dread; so that a godly man will fear a frown of his face more than another a stroke of his hand. But withal this does not straiten the heart, but enlarge it in love to him ; for these perfections of God that are the most proper objects of fear, are beautiful and lovely in the eyes of a saint; and therefore under the effects of his anger, they condemn themselves and justify God.

Lastly, When the fear of God draws the sinner to God, and makes him cling to him, Hos. iii. 5,." They shall seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” As if he had said, They shall fear away to the Lord, like a good-natured child under fear of his parent running away to him, and catching hold of him; the language of which is, Any thing but separation from my holy Father. Holy fear also keeps the soul with the Lord, Jer. xxxii. 40, “ I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me,” and that

upon the same principle. 5. How doth this fear work in the gracious soul ? To this question I answer, Holy fear is an influential grace, diffusing its influence through the whole man, and therefore all religion is often comprehended under the name of the fear of God.

(1.) It makes God's verdict of things in his holy law the man's complete standard. In matters of faith, it causes him believe that God has said it; in matters of practice, to do or forbear, because God has bid or forbid it, though his own reason and all the world should contradict, Prov. iii. 7, “ Be not wise in thine own eyes ; fear the Lord and depart from evil.” Holy fear awes the soul into implicit compliance with all that an incomprehensible God makes known in his word. So was Abraham brought to offer his son, and the fear of God carried him over all obstructions, Gen. xxii. 12.

(2.) It awes the soul into abstaining from such sins as there is no other awe-band against. There are some cases of temptation, wherein there is nothing from any creature to marr compliance with it, the way is quite clear on that part. But then the fear of God will be a sufficient restraint. Sometimes thou mayest have a fair occasion to wrong thy neighbour, and there is no fear of his knowing thou didst it; but if thou fearest God, thou darest not for thy soul do it, more than if all the world were looking on thee, Lev. xix. 14, “ Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God, I am the Lord.” Sometimes occasions for sin occur, and men will bear thee out in the sin

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