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ful practice; but if thou fearest God, thou darest not do it, more than if all the world should conspire to hinder thee, Job xxxi. 21– 23. Holy Providence lays such occasions before men for their trial.
(3.) It awes the soul into compliance with duties, even such as one has no other thing to drive him to, Eccl. xii. 13, “ Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Holy fear reverenceth the authority of God, not only in abstaining from sin, but in complying with duties, Deut. vi. 13,“ thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.” Those who have no inward principle to set them on their duty, have no fear of God before their eyes. But that principle will carry a man to duty, over the belly of oposition and contradiction, from Satan, an evil world, and the corrupt reasonings of one's own heart.
(4.) It makes one mainly fear the offence of God in the commission of sin, and omission of duties. The great care of a fearer of God is, lest he depart from God, Jer. xxxii. 40; holy fear and love are always joined, and therefore he that truly fears God, hates sin, and loathes it, because God hates it, Prov. viii. 13, " The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” He loves his duty because it is pleasing in the Lord's sight; whereas others hate sin for fear of wrath, and only love duty for the sake of the reward. It suffers not the soul to rest in any degree of holiness already attained, but spurs it on towards perfection : 2 Cor. vii. 1, "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." As Noah's fear made him not only begin the ark, but advance the work till it was perfected, so this holy fear still works against sin, till the soul be out of hazard; and that is not till death. Truce with sin, or indulging lusts, say either there is no fear of God in the heart, or that it is asleep; for in whatsoever measure one fears God, he will stand at a distance from sin, and seek the destruction of his. corruptions.
Lastly, It carries the man to his duty, over the belly of the fear of man or any other creature, Matth. x. 28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” If one be in hazard of being frightened from his duty, by the fear either of devils or of men, there is no antidote like the fear of God, 1 Pet. iii. 14, " But and if yo suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be ye troubled;" for as the light of the sun removes the light of a glow-worm, that shines only in the dark, so the fear of God banisheth other fear in the point of duty to the Lord.
I shall now add a few motives to influence the study of this filial fear; such as,
1. Infinite greatness and goodness meet together in him, and in him only, and therefore it is his due, Jer. x. 7, “Who would not fear theo, 0 king of nations, for to thee doth it appertain.” His glorious and unspeakable perfections entitle him to it, and it cannot be denied him without the bighest sacrilege. Nay, men must needs be strangers to him who do not fear him; for no sooner does the creature know him, but it must fear him; the sight of his greatness without his goodness, will produce a terror: but the sight of both, a holy reverence.
2. The relations requiring reverence of us moet together in him; and the truth is, we owe no reverence to any, but as they do in some sort, by the eminence they stand in, represent God whom we are to fear above all, and to fear in them. A reverential fear is due to our superiors, but God is the Supreme Being. We owe it to those who are superior to us in office and dignity, Rom. xiii. 7, “Render therefore unto all their due, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.” God is the supreme Governor of the world. Is the servant to reverence his master, the child his parents, the wife her husband ? surely then God, who is the ancient of days, who stands to his people in such endearing relations, is to be feared by them, Psalm xlv. 11, “He is thy Lord, and worship thou him."
3. It is our wisdom to fear God, Psalm cxi. 10, “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." O sinner! wouldst thou be wise indeed ? then fear God; it is the beginning of wisdom. A man never begins to be wise till the fear of God enters his heart. He goes on in folly and madness till he get this ballast to his soul; he is frisking about the pit's mouth, in hazard every moment of falling down, till the awe of God strikes his soul.—It is the chief point of wisdom; all the wisdom of the world is but folly in comparison of this. Wisdom teaches men to fear dangers, losses, and the like, but what avails it all, if men fear not the offending of God, and the loss of the soul.
4. It is in some sort the whole of religion, Job iv. 6, “ Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?" for it is the sum and substance of religious duties, which therefore are comprehended under that name in many parts of the Bible, and it has an universal influence over the whole of religion, drawing it all after it in the special parts thereof : for when it once gets place, it will bring in every known duty, and set the soul at a distance from all known sin.
5. It would free you of other fears that are tormenting, in whatever degree it gets place in your hearts. Fear of men and devils is so entertained by many, that it becomes a tormenting passion, frighting them out of the way of duty to God. This is the first expedient to get rid of these. Allow the great God his own room in the heart, and let him be thy fear and thy dread, and so the creature will prove contemptible in comparison of him.
6. Consider the precious promises made to, and the benefits bestowed on those that fear the Lord. If thou be a fearer of God, go matters as they will, with thee it shall be well; Eccl. viii. 12, 13, “Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before hiin; but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he feareth not before God," It prolongs men's days, in so far as it keeps them in the way of holiness, Prov. x. 27; see a cluster of promises, Psalm xxv. 12–14; compare Prov. xix. 23, and Psalm xxxiv. 9, which you may read at your leisure.
Lastly, The want of the fear of God is an infallible sign of a wicked, graceless heart; it looses the reins to wickedness of heart and life, and so betrays men into ruin, Psalm xxxvi. 1–4, “ These that fear not God now, will be made to fear him hereafter, when there shall be no escaping out of the hand of their terrible Judge.
Some may say, 0! how shall I attain to this holy fear of God? With a view to promote this attainment, I would offer the following directions :
1. Labour to know God, who and what he is, 1 Kings viii. 43, “ That all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel." It is a benefit of the second covenant, to know the Lord, Hos. ii. 20, “I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord.” God, to the most of the world, is like a prince in disguise amongst his subjects, they treat him rudely because they do not know him; an unknown God will not be feared. While ignorance of God reigns in the heart, there is no place for holy fear; for that will make men count darts as stubble, and laugh at the shaking of the spear.
2. Stir up in your hearts a desire to fear him; it is a token for good, when one is willing to entertain the fear of God, Neh. i. 11, “ Thy servants who desire to fear thee.” This desire hath the promise, and it will be accompanied with suitable endeavours after it. Many fight against the fear of God, that they may live at ease, and may be able to give themselves loose reins to their sinful practices; no wonder their hearts be hardened from it. And hence, if at any time they be taken with the fear of God, they do what they can to be freed of it, as they would pluck out arrows out of their fesh.
3. Take God for your God in Christ, and devote yourselves to him. The God we clioose for our God, we will fear; Mic. iv. 5, "For all people will walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever." And so, when men set up their idols of jealousy in the Lord's room, these get the fear that is due to God. So the worldling fears bis clay god, his life is in its smiles, and its frowns are his death. But take the Lord for your God, I say, in Christ; for no otherwise he offers himself to us in the covenant, 2 Cor. v. 19. This is the way to holy fear : For, (1.) It is a promised benefit of the covenant, Jer. xxxii. 40, “I will put my fear in their hearts." Whoever comes into God's covenant of grace, the fear of God is, by the holy Spirit, stamped upon their hearts, whereby it may be known that they belong to God as children; and they devote themselves, on the other hand, to his fear, Psalm cxix. 38. They are his servants, devoted to his fear. They give themselves to it, and make it their great study. (2.) This covenant is a covenant of peace and friendship betwixt God and the guilty creature, through a Mediator, Heb. xii. 22—24, so that thy state is changed, the moment that thou comest into the covenant, from emnity to peace with God, Eph. ii. 19, they become fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of the household of God. This happily joins love and dread of God together, producing holy fear and reverence of God; whereas while God is apprehended certainly as an enemy to us, fear him we may with slavish fear, but not with holy fear, since we cannot love him.
4. Be much in the exercise of repentance. Sorrowing after a godly sort for sin, as it dishonours God, is offensive to his majesty, separates the singer from God, and exposes the soul to his anger, is the ready way to produce holy fear for the time to come, 2 Cor. vii. 11. Yea, what fear, says Paul, namely as the effect of sorrow after a godly sort; they that are burnt dread the fire; and they that feel the bitterness of sin, will fear God, and stand at a distance from it. The looking into our frightful acts of sin, will awo our hearts with a dread of the offended Majesty, and make us fall down, saying, “Forgive us our debts."
5. Pray for it earnestly as a promised benefit of the covenant, and join thereto a faith of particular confidence: Matth. xxi. 22, “And all things whatsoever ye shall ask, believing ye shall receive them.” Beg of God that he would manifest himself to you, so as ye may be filled with holy fear of him. Yo may read and hear much of God, and little impressions be made on your spirits by it at all; but when the Lord discovers himself to the sinner, his own glorious light will so represent him as the soul cannot choose but both love and fear him: Job xlii. 5, 6, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth theo : Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Lastly, Draw together the scattered affections and faculties of the soul, and set them on the Lord: Psalm lxxxvi. 11, “Unite my heart to fear thy name.” As the scattered rays of the sun will not burn, till they be collected by a burning glass; so the heart, walking at random, will not be filled with holy fear. Withdraw your hearts from pursuing vanities, and gadding after idols, and labour to see the Lord in those glasses where we may perceive how he is to be feared.
I would urge you to look to him particularly, (1.) In the glass of his word. See how he is there represented as one worthy to be feared : Psalm lxxxix. 7,“ God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him." O with what awful solemnity may we hear him there speaking of himself, his saints speaking of him and to him! and the angels also, with their vailed faces, crying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Had we eyes to discern his voice in his word, every page would fill our hearts with profoundest reverence. See him, (1.) In the shining holiness of his commandments, perfectly pure from all earthly dross; and when thus seen, how can the sinful creature not fear him! Exod. xv. 11, “ Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders ?" He appears there to be all light, and that in him there is no darkness at all. The holy, spiritual, and extensive law, may fill our hearts with the dread of the Lawgiver, of whose nature it is a transcript. See him, (2) In the amazing sovereignty of his threatenings. This filled good Josiah with fear, 2 Kings xxii. 19; and Hab. iii. 16. Behold thence flames of wrath flashing out on the faces of impenitent sinners. All the threats of men own death to be their utmost; and, O! how will a threat of death fright mortals ! But the Lord's threatenings go beyond death, and carry the matter to an endless eternity. See him, (3.) In the unspeakable riches of his gospel-promises displayed in the word. His terrors are no more severe on the one hand, than his promised encouragements are great on the other. If hell be in the one scale, heaven is in the other. Who would not, therefore, fear him ?-Look to him,
2. In Christ, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. See God in Christ, and there see an object of fear and love in one. If ye would be stirred up to fear God, look to Mount Calvary, and there behold Christ groaning, and dying on a