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and augments it: so, wicked men are separated from the love and favour of God by their sins ; Isa lix. 2. Your iniquities have separated between you and your God; yea, and they keep off his cherishing influences, but they contribute to his fiery wrath. Now Christ is a wall of defence, that separates his from the wrath and indignation of God. A wall of crystal is a safe defence against the force of fire, yet is it no obstruction to the warm beams and cherishing light of the sun : such a crystal wall is Christ, that keeps off God's fiery indignation from us, but yet conveys to us the cherishing and reviving influences of his love.
Let me now persuade and prevail with you to betake yourselves to this shelter. The same storm of fire and brimstone, that destroyed Sodom, hovers over all the wicked of the world; and we are as Lot, still lingering behind: let me therefore hasten you, as the angel did him, to your Zoar; to get under the protection of Christ, whither the fiery indignation of God cannot pursue you. In the former instance, when the Israelites saw so many of their fellows slain by an unperceived stroke, what running and crowding was there, think you, to get behind the priest! we are all in the same danger, but we have a more prevalent High Priest : there are thousands dying and perishing under the wrath of God; and shall not we then, with fear and trembling, press close behind our High Priest, that by him we may be hid from this consuming fire?
Use iii. The next Use shall be, TO EXHORT YOU TO A HOLY FEAR AND REVERENCE OF THIS GREAT AND TERRIBLE GOD.
I lately gave you several considerations, enough to daunt the boldest sioners, and to bring them at least to a slavish fear: be persuaded now to advance it a degree higher, and to overawe your hearts with a holy, filial fear of God. It is the same exhortation, that Solomon gives us, Prov. xxiii. 17. Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This is a true Christian's frame; when, in all the affairs and actions of our lives, in what company soever we are, or whatever we are doing, the fear of God is still upon us ; when, in all our converse in the world, this fear of God doth still fill and possess our hearts,
I shall only give you a few particulars, and leave them to your serious consideration.
1. This Holy Fear of God will keep you from a Vain and Frothy Spirit.
The heart of man is the great receptacle of thoughts. The most part of them are light and feathery : they fly up and down as thick, and to as little purpose, as moats in a sun-beam. It is strange to observe, what a giddy thing the mind of man is: as an empty vessel rolls to and fro, and is tossed up and down by every wave, never sailing steadily; so is the vain mind of man driven by every foolish and impertinent thought, till the fear of God, that is, the ballast of the soul, poise it and make its course steady and even. Certainly, if any thing be of force to compose the heart into a sober, serious frame, it is the consideration of God's great and dreadful majesty; the fear of which will fill us with noble and substantial thoughts, how we may escape his, wrath, and how we may secure to ourselves eternal happiness. These are important thoughts; and they ought to be our great and only care : that so we may approve ourselves to God; and be, at the Last Day, found of him in well-doing. Before the heart is ballasted with this fear of God, it runs after
every va, grant thought, that comes cross us or fleets before us; as children run after every feather, that the wind drives : but the fear of God fixes this fleetiness, and brings the heart to a holy con, sistency and solidity in its thoughts. It is this fear that uniteth the heart : and therefore David prays, Ps. lxxxvi. 11. Unite my heart unto thee, that I may fear thy name.
2. The Fear of God is an excellent Preservative against all Sin.
Slavish fear may keep wicked men from committing gross and flagitious crimes : but this holy fear overawes the heart from secret and hidden sins; yea, from the sins of the heart, that none can see, but only God and a man's own conscience: and therefore it is said, Ps. xix. 9. The fear of the Lord is clean ; that is, it keeps the soul clean from the defilement of sin. There are defilements of two sorts : defilements of the flesh, when men wallow in gross and sensual sins; and defilements also of the spirit, and such are they that reside in the heart, and break not forth into outward act. From both these the fear of God cleans. eth us: so, in 2 Cor. vii. 1. Let us cleanse ourselves, says the Apostle, from all filthiness both of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. And, indeed, wherever the fear of God is implanted, it will overawe us, as well from offending God in our thoughts as in our actions; and make us, that we shall be as afraid of sinning against him by unbelief and im, penitency, as by murder and blasphemy.
3. This holy Fear of God is a most sovereign Preservative against Hypocrisy.
What is hypocrisy, but a mocking of God to his face? It is a design to put a solemn cheat upon God. Certainly, where the fear of God overawes the heart, we shall not dare to abuse his holy and reverend name, as hypocrites do, in their making mention of him. When we speak of him with our lips, but never think of him with our hearts, this is to abuse the holy and reverend name of God;. and it is a sure argument that they stand in no dread of God, whose hearts meditate vanity with eyes and hands lifted up to heaven. Will any dare, in the presence of a prince, while they pretend reverence to him, to use antic gestures? Would not this justly be interpreted a contempt of him ? why all the religious gestures of hypocrites are but antic; and, while they move their lips in prayer without the corresponding motion of the heart, they do but make mouths at God; and how can they fear him, that are thus audacious to scoff at him? Yea, the Scripture sets it down as a remarkable matter, when hypocrites begin to fear God: Isa. xxxiii. 13, 14. Hear ye.....and acknowledge my might, says God: why? The sinners in Zion are afraid : fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. It is much easier to terrify and daunt profligate sinners, than gross hypocrites ; because hypocrites, by often dallying with God, wear off all sense and dread of God, and arrive at length to a plain contempt and scorn of him. If therefore you would, in every duty, approve your hearts in sincerity unto God, nourish in you this holy fear of his majesty. This fear is that, which makes a Christian single-hearted. And, as the Apostle commands servants, Col. iii. 22. to obey their masters not as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: so, where this holy fear of God possesseth the soul, it will cause all our obedience to be performed in the singleness and integrity of our hearts ; not so much to be seen of men, as to be accepted of God. It is a remarkable place, in Josh. xxiv. 14. Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity : the fear of God is of a mighty influence to sincerity, in all our services and performances that we render unto God: it is that, which will make the heart sincere in them: fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity.
4. This Holy Fear will put us upon all Endeavours to please God, and to gain favour with him.
This is the most natural effect of fear, to engage us to procure their love, whose power we dread. The Devil knew no such way to get himself worship and adoration, as by terrifying the old heathen. And, still, he useth the same artifice in those parts of the world, where his kingdom yet remains: he appears in dreadful shapes, and terrifies them, on purpose that he may extort from them a blind, superstitious worship. So, where the soul is affected with a holy fear of God, it will engage it to please him, and to avoid whatever may kindle his anger: and therefore says the Apostle, 2 Cor. v. 9, 10. We labour, that....we may be accepted of him: and why so ? Yes, says he, for we must be judged by him: the fear of being judged by God, at the tribunal of Christ, at the Last Day, engaged the Apostle to labour to please God and to be accepted by him.
5. The Fear of God is an excellent Corrective of the base and degenerous Fear of Men,
Our Saviour says, Luke xii. 1, 5. Be not afraid of them, that can kill the body; and, after that, have no more thut they can do. But....fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell ; yea, I say unto you, fear him. It is well observed by a learned author, that men may be considered, as they bear upon them some resemblance and impress of the Divine Majesty ; as they are invested with authority and power, and constituted magistrates and rulers over us: this resemblance is so
that the Scripture sytles them gods; I have said ye are Gods; and, so, we are to fear them with a fear of reverence and obedience, and to obey them in that which is lawful. And they may be considered also as standing in opposition to God; abusing their power by commanding things that are unlawful, and by perse, cution endeavouring to terrify men from the ways and service of God: and, so, they may be feared with a fear of flight and eschewal: When ye are persecuted in one city, flee ye into another: Mat. X. 23. we may so fear them, as to labour to avoid their rage, and to consult our own safety. But the fear, that is here forbidden, is, Fear not them, that can kill the body that is, with a dis, trustful, perverting fear; such a fear, as causeth men, for the securing of their temporal life, to desert the profession and practice of godliness : with such a fear, fear not men. He will not, that truly fears God, thus fear men: no; the fear of God lays a check upon this sinful fear of men: he, that truly fears God, will not immoderately fear men; for it is the property of holy fear to represent the displeasure of God, as an infinitely greater evil than the loss of estate, liberty, nay of life itself, or whatever
of man can either inflict or threaten: and this makes them choose affliction, rather than sin. See this fearless spirit in those three heroic champions, Dan. iii. 16. who, though they saw a burning, ficry furnace before them, into which they were threatened to be cast; yet all the terrors of it did not fright them to an idolatrous worship: with what a holy contempt and slighting did they answer king Nebuchadnezar! We are not careful, say they, to answer thee in this matter : and whence proceeded this undaunted courage, but only because they were more afraid of God, who is a consuming fire, than they were of a fiery furnace ? A man, that truly fears God, reputes with himself, that to gain the favour of wen with the displeasure of God, to redeem a temporal life by an eternal death, is the foolishest bargain that can be made: he knows the rage of man is under the restraint of God, and that a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground without his Heavenly Father's knowledge and permission; and, if God doth suffer wicked men to inflict the utmost that their rage and spite can prompt them unto, yet it reacheth only the earthly part, the dull part of man, the body : they may persecute, torment, and kill us ; but yet they cannot hurt us : one momentary gripe of hell's torments is infinitely more intolerable, than all the cruelties that men can possibly invent or inflict: one frown from an angry
God hath more dread and terror in it, than all the rage and threatenings of the most barbarous and cruel tyrants. And that Christian, that makes such an account as this, can never certainly so fear torment or death, as to be drawn to sin against God, whose displeasure he more fears than he fears either torment or death,
Now, to shut up this whole subject, I shall only mention a few particulars to you, whereby you may take a brief view of what there is in the Nature of God, that may justly affect us with a Holy Fear and Awe of him.
First. The consideration of God's glorious Majesty may strike us into a Holy Dread and Terror.
And, therefore, says Job*, xxxyii. 22. With God is terrible majesty. This is that, which daunts the holy angels in heaven: they cover their faces with their wings; as not being able to
* Elihu is the speaker, not Job. Epitor.