5. I take this grace of fear to be that which softeneth and mollifieth the heart, and that makes it stand in awe both of the mercies and judgments of God. This is that that retaineth in the heart that due dread, and reverence of the heavenly majesty, that is meet should be both in, and kept in the heart of poor sinners. Wherefore when David described this fear, in the exercise of it, he calls it an awe of God. "Stand in awe," saith he, "and sin not"; and again, "my heart standeth in awe of thy word"; and again, "Let all the earth fear the Lord"; what is that? or how is that? why? "Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him" (Psa 4:4, 119:161, 33:8). This is that therefore that is, as I said before, so excellent a thing in the eyes of God, to wit, a grace of the Spirit, the fear of God, his treasure, the salt of the covenant, that which makes men excel all others; for it is that which maketh the sinner to stand in awe of God, which posture is the most comely thing in us, throughout all ages. But,
Second. And more particularly.
1. This grace is called "the beginning of knowledge," because by the first gracious discovery of God to the soul, this grace is begot: and again, because the first time that the soul doth apprehend God in Christ to be good unto it, this grace is animated, by which the soul is put into an holy awe of God, which causeth it with reverence and due attention to hearken to him, and tremble before him (Prov 1:7). It is also by virtue of this fear that the soul doth inquire yet more after the blessed knowledge of God. This is the more evident, because, where this fear of God is wanting, or where the discovery of God is not attended with it, the heart still abides rebellious, obstinate, and unwilling to know more, that it might comply therewith; nay, for want of it, such sinners say rather, As for God, let him "depart from us," and for the Almighty, "we desire not the knowledge of his ways."
2. This fear is called "the beginning of wisdom," because then, and not till then, a man begins to be truly spiritually wise; what wisdom is there where the fear of God is not? (Job 28:28; Psa 111:10). Therefore the fools are described thus, "For that they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord" (Prov 1:29). The Word of God is the fountain of knowledge, into which a man will not with godly reverence look, until he is endued with the fear of the Lord. Therefore it is rightly called "the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov 1:7). It is therefore this fear of the Lord that makes a man wise for his soul, for life, and for another world. It is this that teacheth him how he should do to escape those spiritual and eternal ruins that the fool is overtaken with, and swallowed up of for ever. A man void of this fear of God, wherever he is wise, or in whatever he excels, yet about the matters of his soul, there is none more foolish than himself; for through the want of the fear of the Lord, he leaves the best things at sixes and sevens, and only pursueth with all his heart those that will leave him in the snare when he dies.
3. This fear of the Lord is to hate evil. To hate sin and vanity. Sin and vanity, they are the sweet morsels of the fool, and such which the carnal appetite of the flesh runs after; and it is only the virtue that is in the fear of the Lord that maketh the sinner have an antipathy against it (Job 20:12). "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil" (Prov 16:6). That is, men shun, separate themselves from, and eschew it in its appearances. Wherefore it is plain that those that love evil, are not possessed with the fear of God.
There is a generation that will pursue evil, that will take it in, nourish it, lay it up in their hearts, hide it, and plead for it, and rejoice to do it. These cannot have in them the fear of the Lord, for that is to hate it, and to make men depart from it: where the fear of God and sin is, it will be with the soul, as it was with Israel when Omri and Tibni strove to reign among them both at once, one of them must be put to death, they cannot live together (see 1 Kings 16): sin must down, for the fear of the Lord begetteth in the soul a hatred against it, an abhorrence of it, therefore sin must die, that is, as to the affections and lusts of it; for as Solomon says in another case, "where no wood is, the fire goeth out." So we may say, where there is a hatred of sin, and where men depart from it, there it loseth much of its power, waxeth feeble, and decayeth. Therefore Solomon saith again, "Fear the Lord, and depart from evil" (Prov 3:7). As who should say, Fear the Lord, and it will follow that you shall depart from evil: departing from evil is a natural consequence, a proper effect of the fear of the Lord where it is. By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil, that is, in their judgment, will, mind, and affections. Not that by the fear of the Lord sin is annihilated, or has lost its being in the soul; there still will those Canaanites be, but they are hated, loathed, abominated, fought against, prayed against, watched against, striven against, and mortified by the soul (Rom 7).
4. This fear is called a fountain of life—"The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death" (Prov 14:27). It is a fountain, or spring, which so continually supplieth the soul with variety of considerations of sin, of God, of death, and life eternal, as to keep the soul in continual exercise of virtue and in holy contemplation. It is a fountain of life; every operation thereof, every act and exercise thereof, hath a true and natural tendency to spiritual and eternal felicity. Wherefore the wise man saith in another place, "The fear of the Lord tendeth to life, and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil" (Prov 19:23). It tendeth to life; even as of nature, everything hath a tendency to that which is most natural to itself; the fire to burn, the water to wet, the stone to fall, the sun to shine, sin to defile, &c. Thus I say, the fear of the Lord tendeth to life; the nature of it is to put the soul upon fearing of God, of closing with Christ, and of walking humbly before him. "It is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death." What are the snares of death, but sin, the wiles of the devil, &c. From which the fear of God hath a natural tendency to deliver thee, and to keep thee in the way that tendeth to life.
5. This fear of the Lord, it is called "the instruction of wisdom" (Prov 15:33). You heard before that it is the beginning of wisdom, but here you find it called the instruction of wisdom; for indeed it is not only that which makes a man begin to be wise, but to improve, and make advantage of all those helps and means to life, which God hath afforded to that end; that is, both to his own, and his neighbour's salvation also. It is the instruction of wisdom; it will make a man capable to use all his natural parts, all his natural wisdom to God's glory, and his own good. There lieth, even in many natural things, that, into which if we were instructed, would yield us a great deal of help to the understanding of spiritual matters; "For in wisdom has God made all the world"; nor is there anything that God has made, whether in heaven above, or on earth beneath, but there is couched some spiritual mystery in it. The which men matter no more than they do the ground they tread on, or than the stones that are under their feet, and all because they have not this fear of the Lord; for had they that, that would teach them to think, even from that knowledge of God, that hath by the fear of him put into their hearts, that he being so great and so good, there must needs be abundance of wisdom in the things he hath made: that fear would also endeavour to find out what that wisdom is; yea, and give to the soul the instruction of it. In that it is called the instruction of wisdom, it intimates to us that its tendency is to keep all even, and in good order in the soul. When Job perceived that his friends did not deal with him in an even spirit and orderly manner, he said that they forsook "the fear of the Almighty" (Job 6:14). For this fear keeps a man even in his words and judgment of things. It may be compared to the ballast of the ship, and to the poise of the balance of the scales; it keeps all even, and also makes us steer our course right with respect to the things that pertain to God and man.
What this fear of God flows from.
SECOND. I come now to the second thing, to wit, to show you what this fear of God flows from.
First. This fear, this grace of fear, this son-like fear of God, it flows from the distinguishing love of God to his elect. "I will be their God," saith he, "and I will put my fear in their hearts." None other obtain it but those that are enclosed and bound up in that bundle. Therefore they, in the same place, are said to be those that are wrapt up in the eternal or everlasting covenant of God, and so designed to be the people that should be blessed with this fear. "I will make an everlasting covenant with them" saith God, "that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer 32:38-40). This covenant declares unto men that God hath, in his heart, distinguishing love for some of the children of men; for he saith he will be their God, that he will not leave them, nor yet suffer them to depart, to wit, finally, from him. Into these men's hearts he doth put his fear, this blessed grace, and this rare and effectual sign of his love, and of their eternal salvation.
Second. This fear flows from a new heart. This fear is not in men by nature; the fear of devils they may have, as also an ungodly fear of God; but this fear is not in any but where there dwelleth a new heart, another fruit and effect of this everlasting covenant, and of this distinguishing love of God. "A new heart also will I give them"; a new heart, what a one is that? why, the same prophet saith in another place, "A heart to fear me," a circumcised one, a sanctified one (Jer 32:39; Eze 11:19, 36:26). So then, until a man receive a heart from God, a heart from heaven, a new heart, he has not this fear of God in him. New wine must not be put into old bottles, lest the one, to wit, the bottles, mar the wine, or the wine the bottles; but new wine must have new bottles, and then both shall be preserved (Matt 9:17). This fear of God must not be, cannot be found in old hearts; old hearts are not bottles out of which this fear of God proceeds, but it is from an honest and good heart, from a new one, from such an one that is also an effect of the everlasting covenant, and love of God to men.
" I will give them one heart" to fear me; there must in all actions be heart, and without heart no action is good, nor can there be faith, love, or fear, from every kind of heart. These must flow from such an one, whose nature is to produce, and bring forth such fruit. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? so from a corrupt heart there cannot proceed such fruit as the fear of God, as to believe in God, and love God (Luke 6:43-45). The heart naturally is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; how then should there flow from such an one the fear of God? It cannot be. He, therefore, that hath not received at the hands of God a new heart, cannot fear the Lord.
Third. This fear of God flows from an impression, a sound impression, that the Word of God maketh on our souls; for without an impress of the Word, there is no fear of God. Hence it is said that God gave to Israel good laws, statutes, and judgments, that they might learn them, and in learning them, learn to fear the Lord their God. Therefore, saith God, in another place, "Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn and fear the Lord your God" (Deut 6:1,2, 31:12). For as a man drinketh good doctrine into his soul, so he feareth God. If he drinks it in much, he feareth him greatly; if he drinketh it in but little, he feareth him but little; if he drinketh it not in at all, he feareth him not at all. This, therefore, teacheth us how to judge who feareth the Lord; they are those that learn, and that stand in awe of the Word. Those that have by the holy Word of God the very form of itself engraven upon the face of their souls, they fear God (Rom 6:17).
But, on the contrary, those that do not love good doctrine, that give not place to the wholesome truths of the God of heaven, revealed in his Testament, to take place in their souls, but rather despise it, and the true possessors of it, they fear not God. For, as I said before, this fear of God, it flows from a sound impression that the Word of God maketh upon the soul; and therefore,
Fourth. This godly fear floweth from faith; for where the Word maketh a sound impression on the soul, by that impression is faith begotten, whence also this fear doth flow. Therefore right hearing of the Word is called "the hearing of faith" (Gal 3:2). Hence it is said again, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Heb 11:7). The Word, the warning that he had from God of things not seen as yet, wrought, through faith therein, that fear of God in his heart that made him prepare against unseen dangers, and that he might be an inheritor of unseen happiness. Where, therefore, there is not faith in the Word of God, there can be none of this fear; and where the Word doth not make sound impression on the soul, there can be none of this faith. So that as vices hang together, and have the links of a chain, dependence one upon another, even so the graces of the Spirit also are the fruits of one another, and have such dependence on each other, that the one cannot be without the other. No faith, no fear of God; devil's faith, devil's fear; saint's faith, saint's fear.
Fifth. This godly fear also floweth from sound repentance for and from sin; godly sorrow worketh repentance, and godly repentance produceth this fear—"For behold," says Paul, "this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you! yea, what clearing of yourselves! yea, what indignation! yea, what fear!" (2 Cor 7:10,11). Repentance is the effect of sorrow, and sorrow is the effect of smart, and smart the effect of faith. Now, therefore, fear must needs be an effect of, and flow from repentance. Sinner, do not deceive thyself; if thou art a stranger to sound repentance, which standeth in sorrow and shame before God for sin, as also in turning from it, thou hast no fear of God; I mean none of this godly fear; for that is the fruit of, and floweth from, sound repentance.
Sixth. This godly fear also flows from a sense of the love and kindness of God to the soul. Where there is no sense of hope of the kindness and mercy of God by Jesus Christ, there can be none of this fear, but rather wrath and despair, which produceth that fear that is either devilish, or else that which is only wrought in us by the Spirit, as a spirit of bondage; but these we do not discourse of now; wherefore the godly fear that now I treat of, it floweth from some sense or hope of mercy from God by Jesus Christ—"If thou, Lord," says David, "shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared" (Psa 130:3,4). "There is mercy with thee"; this the soul hath sense of, and hope in, and therefore feareth God. Indeed nothing can lay a stronger obligation upon the heart to fear God, than sense of, or hope in mercy (Jer 33:8,9). This begetteth true tenderness of heart, true godly softness of spirit; this truly endeareth the affections to God; and in this true tenderness, softness, and endearedness of affection to God, lieth the very essence of this fear of the Lord, as is manifest by the fruit of this fear when we shall come to speak of it.
Seventh. This fear of God flows from a due consideration of the judgments of God that are to be executed in the world; yea, upon professors too. Yea further, God's people themselves, I mean as to themselves, have such a consideration of his judgments towards them, as to produce this godly fear. When God's judgments are in the earth, they effect the fear of his name, in the hearts of his own people—"My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am," said David, "afraid of thy judgments" (Psa 119:120). When God smote Uzzah, David was afraid of God that day (1 Chron 13:12). Indeed, many regard not the works of the Lord, nor take notice of the operation of his hands, and such cannot fear the Lord. But others observe and regard, and wisely consider of his doings, and of the judgments that he executeth, and that makes them fear the Lord. This God himself suggesteth as a means to make us fear him. Hence he commands the false prophet to be stoned, "that all Israel might hear and fear." Hence also he commanded that the rebellious son should be stoned, "that all Israel might hear and fear." A false witness was also to have the same judgment of God executed upon him, "that all Israel might hear and fear." The man also that did ought presumptuously was to die, "that all Israel might hear and fear" (Deut 13:11, 21:21, 17:13, 19:20). There is a natural tendency in judgments, as judgments, to beget a fear of God in the heart of man, as man; but when the observation of the judgment of God is made by him that hath a principle of true grace in his soul, that observation being made, I say, by a gracious heart, produceth a fear of God in the soul of its own nature, to wit, a gracious or godly fear of God.
Eighth. This godly fear also flows from a godly remembrance of our former distresses, when we were distressed with our first fears; for though our first fears were begotten in us by the Spirit's working as a spirit of bondage, and so are not always to be entertained as such, yet even that fear leaveth in us, and upon our spirits, that sense and relish of our first awakenings and dread, as also occasioneth and produceth this godly fear. "Take heed," says God, "and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life, but teach them thy sons, and thy son's sons." But what were the things that their eyes had seen, that would so damnify them should they be forgotten? The answer is, the things which they saw at Horeb; to wit, the fire, the smoke, the darkness, the earthquake, their first awakenings by the law, by which they were brought into a bondage fear; yea, they were to remember this especially—"Specially," saith he, "the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth" (Deut 4:9-11). The remembrance of what we saw, felt, feared, and trembled under the sense of, when our first fears were upon us, is that which will produce in our hearts this godly filial fear.
Ninth. This godly fear flows from our receiving of an answer of prayer, when we supplicated for mercy at the hand of God. See the proof for this—"If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities, whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be: what prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men). That they may fear thee all the days of their life, that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers" (1 Kings 8:37-40).
Tenth. This grace of fear also flows from a blessed conviction of the all-seeing eye of God; that is, from a belief that he certainly knoweth the heart, and seeth every one of the turnings and returnings thereof; this is intimated in the text last mentioned—"Whose heart thou knowest, that they may fear thee," to wit, so many of them as be, or shall be convinced of this. Indeed, without this conviction, this godly fear cannot be in us; the want of this conviction made the Pharisees such hypocrites—"Ye are they," said Christ, "which justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts" (Luke 16:15). The Pharisees, I say, were not aware of this; therefore they so much preferred themselves before those that by far were better than themselves, and it is for want of this conviction that men go on in such secret sins as they do, so much without fear either of God or his judgments.
Eleventh. This grace of fear also flows from a sense of the impartial judgment of God upon men according to their works. This also is manifest from the text mentioned above. And give unto every man according to his works or ways, "that they may fear thee," &c. This is also manifest by that of Peter—"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (1 Peter 1:17). He that hath godly conviction of this fear of God, will fear before him; by which fear their hearts are poised, and works directed with trembling, according to the will of God. Thus you see what a weighty and great grace this grace of the holy fear of God is, and how all the graces of the Holy Ghost yield mutually their help and strength to the nourishment and life of it; and also how it flows from them all, and hath a dependence upon every one of them for its due working in the heart of him that hath it. And thus much to show you from whence it flows. And now I shall come to the third thing, to wit, to show you
What flows from this godly fear.
THIRD. Having showed you what godly fear flows from, I come now, I say, to show you what proceedeth or flows from this godly fear of God, where it is seated in the heart of man. And,
First. There flows from this godly fear a godly reverence of God. "He is great," said David, "and greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints." God, as I have already showed you, is the proper object of godly fear; it is his person and majesty that this fear always causeth the eye of the soul to be upon. "Behold," saith David, "as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us" (Psa 123:2). Nothing aweth the soul that feareth God so much as doth the glorious majesty of God. His person is above all things feared by them; "I fear God," said Joseph (Gen 42:18). That is, more than any other; I stand in awe of him, he is my dread, he is my fear, I do all mine actions as in his presence, as in his sight; I reverence his holy and glorious majesty, doing all things as with fear and trembling before him. This fear makes them have also a very great reverence of his Word; for that also, I told you, was the rule of their fear. "Princes," said David, "persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe," in fear, "of thy word." This grace of fear, therefore, from it flows reverence of the words of God; of all laws, that man feareth the word; and no law that is not agreeing therewith (Psa 119:116). There flows from this godly fear tenderness of God's glory. This fear, I say, will cause a man to afflict his soul, when he seeth that by professors dishonour is brought to the name of God and to his Word. Who would not fear thee, said Jeremiah, O king of nations, for to thee doth it appertain? He speaks it as being affected with that dishonour, that by the body of the Jews was continually brought to his name, his Word, and ways; he also speaks it of a hearty wish that they once would be otherwise minded. The same saying in effect hath also John in the Revelation—"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord," said he, "and glorify thy name?" (Rev 15:4); clearly concluding that godly fear produceth a godly tenderness of God's glory in the world, for that appertaineth unto him; that is, it is due unto him, it is a debt which we owe unto him. "Give unto the Lord," said David, "the glory due unto his name." Now if there be begotten in the heart of the godly, by this grace of fear, a godly tenderness of the glory of God, then it follows of consequence, that where they that have this fear of God do see his glory diminished by the wickedness of the children of men, there they are grieved and deeply distressed. "Rivers of waters," said David, "run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law" (Psa 119:136). Let met give you for this these following instances—
How was David provoked when Goliath defied the God of Israel (1 Sam 17:23-29,45,46). Also, when others reproached God, he tells us that that reproach was even as "a sword in his bones" (Psa 42:10). How was Hezekiah afflicted when Rabshakeh railed upon his God (Isa 37). David also, for the love that he had to the glory of God's word, ran the hazard and reproach "of all the mighty people" (Psa 119:151, 89:50). How tender of the glory of God was Eli, Daniel, and the three children in their day. Eli died with fear and trembling of heart when he heard that "the ark of God was taken" (1 Sam 4:14-18). Daniel ran the danger of the lions' mouths, for the tender love that he had to the word and worship of God (Dan 6:10-16). The three children ran the hazard of a burning fiery furnace, rather than they would dare to dishonour the way of their God (Dan 3:13,16,20). This therefore is one of the fruits of this godly fear, to wit, a reverence of his name and tenderness of his glory.
Second. There flows from this godly fear, watchfulness. As it is said of Solomon's servants, they "watched about his bed, because of fear in the night," so it may be said of them that have this godly fear—it makes them a watchful people. It makes them watch their hearts, and take heed to keep them with all diligence, lest they should, by one or another of its flights, lead them to do that which in itself is wicked (Prov 4:23; Heb 12:15). It makes them watch, lest some temptation from hell should enter into their heart to the destroying of them (1 Peter 5:8). It makes them watch their mouths, and keep them also, at sometimes, as with a bit and bridle, that they offend not with their tongue, knowing that the tongue is apt, being an evil member, soon to catch the fire of hell, to the defiling of the whole body (James 3:2-7). It makes them watch over their ways, look well to their goings, and to make straight steps for their feet (Psa 39:1; Heb 12:13). Thus this godly fear puts the soul upon its watch, lest from the heart within, or from the devil without, or from the world, or some other temptation, something should surprise and overtake the child of God to defile him, or to cause him to defile the ways of God, and so offend the saints, open the mouths of men, and cause the enemy to speak reproachfully of religion.
Third. There flows from this fear a holy provocation to a reverential converse with saints in their religious and godly assemblies, for their further progress in the faith and way of holiness. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another." Spake, that is, of God, and his holy and glorious name, kingdom, and works, for their mutual edification; "a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name" (Mal 3:16). The fear of the Lord in the heart provoketh to this in all its acts, not only of necessity, but of nature: it is the natural effect of this godly fear, to exercise the church in the contemplation of God, together and apart. All fear, good and bad, hath a natural propenseness in it to incline the heart to contemplate upon the object of fear, and though a man should labour to take off his thoughts from the object of his fear, whether that object was men, hell, devils, &c., yet do what he could the next time his fear had any act in it, it would return again to its object. And so it is with godly fear; that will make a man speak of, and think upon, the name of God reverentially (Psa 89:7); yea, and exercise himself in the holy thoughts of him in such sort that his soul shall be sanctified, and seasoned with such meditations. Indeed, holy thoughts of God, such as you see this fear doth exercise the heart withal, prepare the heart to, and for God. This fear therefore it is that David prayed for, for the people, when he said, "O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee" (1 Chron 29:18).
Fourth. There flows from this fear of God great reverence of his majesty, in and under the use and enjoyment of God's holy ordinances. His ordinances are his courts and palaces, his walks and places, where he giveth his presence to those that wait upon him in them, in the fear of his name. And this is the meaning of that of the apostle: "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied" (Acts 9:31). "And walking"—that word intendeth their use of the ordinances of God. They walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. This, in Old Testament language, is called, treading God's courts, and walking in his paths. This, saith the text, they did here, in the fear of God. That is, in a great reverence of that God whose ordinances they were. "Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary; I am the Lord" (Lev 19:30, 26:2).
It is one thing to be conversant in God's ordinances, and another to be conversant in them with a due reverence of the majesty and name of that God whose ordinances they are: it is common for men to do the first, but none can do the last without this fear. "In thy fear," said David, "will I worship" (Psa 5:7). It is this fear of God, therefore, from whence doth flow that great reverence that his saints have in them, of his majesty, in and under the use and enjoyment of God's holy ordinances; and, consequently, that makes our service in the performance of them acceptable to God through Christ (Heb 12). For God expects that we serve him with fear and trembling, and it is odious among men, for a man in the presence, or about the service of his prince, to behave himself lightly, and without due reverence of that majesty in whose presence and about whose business he is. And if so, how can their service to God have anything like acceptation from the hand of God, that is done, not in, but without the fear of God? This service must needs be an abomination to him, and these servers must come off with rebuke.
Fifth. There flows from this godly fear of God, self-denial. That is, a holy abstaining from those things that are either unlawful or inexpedient; according to that of Nehemiah, "The former governors that had been before me, were chargeable unto the people, that had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver, yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God" (Neh 5:15).
Here not was self-denial; he would not do as they did that went before him, neither himself, nor should his servants; but what was it that put him upon these acts of self-denial? The answer is, the fear of God: "but so did not I, because of the fear of God."
Now, whether by the fear of God in this place be meant his Word, or the grace of fear in his heart, may perhaps be a scruple to some, but in my judgment the text must have respect to the latter, to wit, to the grace of fear, for without that being indeed in the heart, the word will not produce that good self-denial in us, that here you find this good man to live in the daily exercise of. The fear of God, therefore, that was the cause of his self-denial, was this grace of fear in his heart. This made him to be, as was said before, tender of the honour of God, and of the salvation of his brother: yea, so tender, that rather than he would give an occasion to the weak to stumble, or be offended, he would even deny himself of that which others never sticked to do. Paul also, through the sanctifying operations of this fear of God in his heart, did deny himself even of lawful things, for the profit and commodity of his brother—"I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend"; that is, if his eating of it would make his brother to offend (1 Cor 8:13).
Men that have not this fear of God in them, will not, cannot deny themselves—of love to God, and the good of the weak, who are subject to stumble at indifferent things—but where this grace of fear is, there follows self-denial; there men are tender of offending; and count that it far better becomes their profession to be of a self-denying, condescending conversation and temper, than to stand sturdily to their own liberty in things inexpedient, whoever is offended thereat. This grace of fear, therefore, is a very excellent thing, because it yieldeth such excellent fruit as this. For this self-denial, of how little esteem soever it be with some, yet the want of it, if the words of Christ be true, as they are, takes quite away from even a professor the very name of a disciple (Matt 10:37,38; Luke 14:26,27,33). They, says Nehemiah, lorded it over the brethren, but so did not I. They took bread and wine, and forty shekels of silver of them, but so did not I; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people, "but so did not I, because of the fear of God."
Sixth. There flows from this godly fear of God "singleness of heart" (Col 3:22). Singleness of heart both to God and man; singleness of heart, that is it which in another place is called sincerity and godly simplicity, and it is this, when a man doth a thing simply for the sake of him or of the law that commands it, without respect to this by-end,
or that desire of praise or of vain-glory from others; I say, when our obedience to God is done by us simply or alone for God's sake, for his Word's sake, without any regard to this or that by-end or reserve, "not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God." A man is more subject to nothing than to swerve from singleness of heart in his service to God, and obedience to his will. How doth the Lord charge the children of Israel, and all their obedience, and that for seventy years together, with the want of singleness of heart towards him—"When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?" (Zech 7:5,6).
They wanted this singleness of heart in their fasting, and in their eating, in their mourning, and in their drinking; they had double hearts in what they did. They did not as the apostle bids; "whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." And the reason of their want of this thing was, they wanted this fear of God; for that, as the apostle here saith, effecteth singleness of heart to God, and makes a man, as John said of Gaius, "do faithfully whatsoever he doth" (3 John 5). And the reason is, as hath been already urged, for that grace of fear of God retaineth and keepeth upon the heart a reverent and awful sense of the dread majesty and all-seeing eye of God, also a due consideration of the day of account before him; it likewise maketh his service sweet and pleasing, and fortifies the soul against all discouragements; by this means, I say, the soul, in its service to God or man, is not so soon captivated as where there is not this fear, but through and by it its service is accepted, being single, sincere, simple, and faithful; when others, with what they do, are cast into hell for their hypocrisy, for they mix not what they do with godly fear. Singleness of heart in the service of God is of such absolute necessity, that without it, as I have hinted, nothing can be accepted; because where that is wanting, there wanteth love to God, and to that which is true holiness indeed. It was this singleness of heart that made Nathanael so honourable in the eyes of Jesus Christ. "Behold," said he, "an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile" (John 1:47). And it was the want of it that made him so much abhor the Pharisees. They wanted sincerity, simplicity, and godly sincerity in their souls, and so became an abhorrence in his esteem. Now, I say, this golden grace, singleness of heart, it flows from this godly fear of God.
Seventh. There flows from this godly fear of God, compassion and bowels to those of the saints that are in necessity and distress. This is manifest in good Obadiah; it is said of him, "That he took an hundred" of the Lord's "prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water," in the days when Jezebel, that tyrant, sought their lives to destroy them (1 Kings 18:3,4). But what was it that moved so upon his heart, as to cause him to do this thing? Why, it was this blessed grace of the fear of God. "Now Obadiah," saith the text, "feared the Lord greatly, for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water." This was charity to the distressed, even to the distressed for the Lord's sake.
Had not Obadiah served the Lord, yea, had he not greatly feared him, he would not have been able to do this thing, especially as the case then stood with him, and also with the church at that time, for then Jezebel sought to slay all that indeed feared the Lord; yea, and the persecution prevailed so much at that time, that even Elijah himself thought that she had killed all but him. But now, even now, the fear of God in this good man's heart put forth itself into acts of mercy though attended with so imminent danger. See here, therefore, that the fear of God will put forth itself in the heart where God hath put it, even to show kindness, and to have compassion upon the distressed servants of God, even under Jezebel's nose; for Obadiah dwelt in Ahab's house, and Jezebel was Ahab's wife, and a horrible persecutor, as was said before: yet Obadiah will show mercy to the poor because he feared God, yea, he will venture her displeasure, his place, and neck, and all, but he will be merciful to his brethren in distress. Cornelius, also, being a man possessed with this fear of God, became a very free-hearted and open-handed man to the poor—"He feared God, and gave much alms to the people." Indeed this fear, this godly fear of God, it is a universal grace; it will stir up the soul unto all good duties. It is a fruitful grace; from it, where it is, floweth abundance of excellent virtues; nor without it can there be anything good, or done well, that is done. But,
Eighth. There flows from this fear of God hearty, fervent, and constant prayer. This also is seen in Cornelius, that devout man. He feared God; and what then? why, he gave much alms to the people, "and prayed to God alway" (Acts 10:1,2).
Did I say that hearty, fervent, and constant prayer flowed from this fear of God? I will add, that if the whole duty, and the continuation of it, be not managed with this fear of God, it profiteth nothing at all. It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, "He was heard in that he feared." He prayed, then, because he feared, because he feared God, and therefore was his prayer accepted of him, even because he feared—"He was heard in that he feared" (Heb 5:7). This godly fear is so essential to right prayer, and right prayer is such an inseparable effect and fruit of this fear, that you must have both or none; he that prayeth not feareth not God, yea, he that prayeth not fervently and frequently feareth him not; and so he that feareth him not cannot pray; for if prayer be the effect of this fear of God, then without this fear, prayer, fervent prayer, ceaseth. How can they pray or make conscience of the duty that fear not God? O prayerless man, thou fearest not God! Thou wouldest not live so like a swine or a dog in the world as thou dost, if thou fearest the Lord.
Ninth. There floweth from this fear of God a readiness or willingness, at God's call, to give up our best enjoyments to his disposal. This is evident in Abraham, who at God's call, without delay, rose early in the morning to offer up his only and well-beloved Isaac a burnt-offering in the place where God should appoint him. It was a rare thing that Abraham did; and had he not had this rare grace, this fear of God, he would not, he could not have done to God's liking so wonderful a thing. It is true the Holy Ghost also makes this service of Abraham to be the fruit of his faith—"By faith Abraham offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son" (Heb 11; James 2). Aye, and without doubt love unto God, in Abraham, was not wanting in this his service, nor was this grace of fear; nay, in the story where it is recorded. There it is chiefly accounted for the fruit of his godly fear, and that by an angel from heaven—"And the angel called out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me" (Gen 22:11,12). Now I know it; now, now thou hast offered up thine only Isaac, thine all, at the bidding of thy God. Now I know it. The fear of God is not presently discerned in the heart and life of a man. Abraham had long before this done many a holy duty, and showed much willingness of heart to observe and do the will of God; yet you find not, as I remember, that he had this testimony from heaven that he feared God till now; but now he has it, now he has it from heaven. "Now I know that thou fearest God." Many duties may be done—though I do not say that Abraham did them—without the fear of God; but when a man shall not stick at, or withhold, his darling from God, when called upon by God to offer it up unto him, that declareth, yea, and gives conviction to angels, that now he feareth God.
Tenth. There floweth from this godly fear humility of mind. This is evident, because, when the apostle cautions the Romans against the venom of spiritual pride, he directs them to the exercise of this blessed grace of fear as its antidote. "Be not high-minded," saith he, "but fear" (Rom 11:20). Pride, spiritual pride, which is here set forth by the word "high-minded," is a sin of a very high and damnable nature; it was the sin of the fallen angels, and is that which causeth men to fall into the same condemnation—"Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil." Pride, I say, it damns a professor with the damnation of devils, with the damnation of hell, and therefore it is a deadly, deadly sin. Now against this deadly sin is set the grace of humility; that comely garment, for so the apostle calls it, saying, "be clothed with humility." But the question is now, how we should attain to, and live in, the exercise of this blessed and comely grace? to which the apostle answers, Fear; be afraid with godly fear, and thence will flow humility—"Be not high-minded, but fear." That is, Fear, or be continually afraid and jealous of yourselves, and of your own naughty hearts, also fear lest at some time or other the devil, your adversary, should have advantage of you. Fear, lest by forgetting what you are by nature, you also forget the need that you have of continual pardon, support, and supplies from the Spirit of grace, and so grow proud of your own abilities, or of what you have received of God, and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Fear, and that will make you little in your own eyes, keep you humble, put you upon crying to God for protection, and upon lying at his foot for mercy; that will also make you have low thoughts of your own parts, your own doings, and cause you to prefer your brother before yourself, and so you will walk in humiliation, and be continually under the teachings of God, and under his conduct in your way. The humble, God will teach—"The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way." From this grace of fear then flows this excellent and comely thing, humility; yea, it also is maintained by this fear. Fear takes off a man from trusting to himself, it puts a man upon trying of all things, it puts a man upon desiring counsel and help from heaven, it makes a man ready and willing to hear instruction, and makes a man walk lowly, softly, and so securely in the way.
Eleventh. There flows from this grace of fear, hope in the mercy of God—"The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy" (Psa 147:11). The latter part of the text is an explanation of the former: as if the psalmist had said, They be the men that fear the Lord, even they that hope in his mercy; for true fear produceth hope in God's mercy. And it is further manifest thus. Fear, true fear of God inclineth the heart to a serious inquiry after that way of salvation which God himself hath prescribed; now the way that God hath appointed, by the which the sinner is to obtain the salvation of his soul, is his mercy as so and so set forth in the Word, and godly fear hath special regard to the Word. To this way, therefore, the sinner with this godly fear submits his soul, rolls himself upon it, and so is delivered from that death into which others, for want of this fear of God, do headlong fall.
It is, as I also hinted before, the nature of godly fear to be very much putting the soul upon the inquiry which is, and which is not, the thing approved of God, and accordingly to embrace it or shun it. Now I say, this fear having put the soul upon a strict and serious inquiry after the way of salvation, at last it finds it to be by the mercy of God in Christ; therefore this fear putteth the soul upon hoping also in him for eternal life and blessedness; by which hope he doth not only secure his soul, but becomes a portion of God's delight—"The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy."
Besides, this godly fear carrieth in it self-evidence that the state of the sinner is happy, because possessed with this happy grace. Therefore, as John saith, "We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14). So here, "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy." If I fear God, and if my fearing of him is a thing in which he taketh such pleasure, then may I boldly venture to roll myself for eternal life into the bosom of his mercy, which is Christ. This fear also produceth hope; if therefore, poor sinner, thou knowest thyself to be one that is possessed with this fear of God, suffer thyself to be persuaded therefore to hope in the mercy of God for salvation, for the Lord takes pleasure in thee. And it delights him to see thee hope in his mercy.
Twelfth. There floweth from this godly fear of God an honest and conscientious use of all those means which God hath ordained, that we should be conversant in for our attaining salvation. Faith and hope in God's mercy is that which secureth our justification and hope, and as you have heard, they do flow from this fear. But now, besides faith and hope, there is a course of life in those things in which God hath ordained us to have our conversation, without which there is no eternal life. "Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life"; and again, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Not that faith and hope are deficient, if they be right, but they are both of them counterfeit when not attended with a reverent use of all the means: upon the reverent use of which the soul is put by this grace of fear. "Wherefore, beloved," said Paul, "as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in mine absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Rom 6:22; Heb 12:14; Phil 2:11).
There is a faith and hope of mercy that may deceive a man (though the faith of God's elect, and the hope that purifies the heart never will), because they are alone, and not attended with those companions that accompany salvation (Heb 6:3-8). But now this godly fear carries in its bowels, not only a moving of the soul to faith and hope in God's mercy, but an earnest provocation to the holy and reverent use of all the means that God has ordained for a man to have his conversation in, in order to his eternal salvation. "Work out your salvation with fear." Not that work is meritorious, or such that can purchase eternal life, for eternal life is obtained by hope in God's mercy; but this hope, if it be right, is attended with this godly fear, which fear putteth the soul upon a diligent use of all those means that may tend to the strengthening of hope, and so to the making of us holy in all manner of conversation, that we may be meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. For hope purifieth the heart, if fear of God shall be its companion, and so maketh a man a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory. Paul bids Timothy to fly pride, covetousness, doting about questions, and the like, and to "follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience; to fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life" (1 Tim 6).
So Peter bids that we "add to our faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity"; adding, "for if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-11). The sum of all which is that which was mentioned before; to wit, "to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." For none of these things can be conscientiously done, but by and with the help of this blessed grace of fear.
Thirteenth. There flows from this fear, this godly fear, a great delight in the holy commands of God, that is, a delight to be conformable unto them. "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments" (Psa 112:1). This confirmeth that which was said before, to wit, that this fear provoketh to a holy and reverent use of the means; for that cannot be, when there is not an holy, yea, a great delight in the commandments. Wherefore this fear maketh the sinner to abhor that which is sin, because that is contrary to the object of his delight. A man cannot delight himself at the same time in things directly opposite one to another, as sin and the holy commandment is; therefore Christ saith of the servant, he cannot love God and mammon—"Ye cannot serve God and mammon." If he cleaves to the one, he must hate and despise the other; there cannot at the same time be service to both, because that themselves are at enmity one with the other. So is sin and the commandment. Therefore if a man delighteth himself in the commandment, he hateth that which is opposite, which is sin: how much more when he greatly delighteth in the commandment? Now, this holy fear of God it taketh the heart and affections from sin, and setteth them upon the holy commandment. Therefore such a man is rightly esteemed blessed. For no profession makes a man blessed but that which is accompanied with an alienation of the heart from sin, nor doth anything do that when this holy fear is wanting. It is from this fear then, that love to, and delight in, the holy commandment floweth, and so by that the sinner is kept from those falls and dangers of miscarrying that other professors are so subject to: he greatly delights in the commandment.
Fourteenth. Lastly, There floweth from this fear of God, enlargement of heart. "Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged" (Isa 60:5). "Thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged," enlarged to God-ward, enlarged to his ways, enlarged to his holy people, enlarged in love after the salvation of others. Indeed when this fear of God is wanting, though the profession be never so famous, the heart is shut up and straitened, and nothing is done in that princely free spirit which is called "the spirit of the fear of the Lord" (Psa 51:12; Isa 11:2). But with grudging, legally, or with desire of vain-glory, this enlargedness of heart is wanting, for that flows from this fear of the Lord.
Thus have I showed you both what this fear of God is, what it flows from, and also what doth flow from it. I come now to show you some
OF THE PRIVILEGES OF THEM THAT THUS DO FEAR THE LORD.
Having thus briefly handled in particular thus far this fear of God, I shall now show you certain of the excellent privileges of them that fear the Lord, not that they are not privileges that have been already mentioned; for what greater privileges than to have this fear producing in the soul such excellent things so necessary for us for good, both with reference to this world, and that which is to come? But because those fourteen above named do rather flow from this grace of fear where it is, than from a promise to the person that hath it, therefore I have chosen rather to discourse of them as the fruits and effects of fear, than otherwise. Now, besides all these, there is entailed by promise to the man that hath this fear many other blessed privileges, the which I shall now in a brief way lay open unto you.
First Privilege, then. That man that feareth the Lord, has a grant and a license "to trust in the Lord," with an affirmation that he is their help, and their shield—"Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield" (Psa 115:11). Now what a privilege is this! an exhortation in general to sinners, as sinners, to trust in him, is a privilege great and glorious; but for a man to be singled out from his neighbours, for a man to be spoken to from heaven, as it were by name, and to be told that God hath given him a license, a special and peculiar grant to trust in him, this is abundantly more; and yet this is the grant that God hath given that man! He hath, I say, a license to do it—a license indicted by the Holy Ghost, and left upon record for those to be born that shall fear the Lord, to trust in him. And not only so, but as the text affirmeth, "he is their help and their shield." Their help under all their weaknesses and infirmities, and a shield to defend them against all the assaults of the devil and this world. So then, the man that feareth the Lord is licensed to make the Lord his stay and God of his salvation, the succour and deliverer of his soul. He will defend him because his fear is in his heart. O ye servants of the Lord, ye that fear him, live in the comfort of this; boldly make use of it when you are in straits, and put your trust under the shadow of his wings, for indeed he would have you do so, because you do fear the Lord.
Second Privilege. God hath also proclaimed concerning the man that feareth the Lord, that he will also be his teacher and guide in the way that he shall choose, and hath moreover promised concerning such, that their soul shall dwell at ease—"What man is he that feareth the Lord?" says David, "him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose" (Psa 25:12). Now, to be taught of God, what like it? yea, what like to be taught in the way that thou shalt choose? Thou hast chosen the way to life, God's way; but perhaps thy ignorance about it is so great, and those that tempt thee to turn aside so many and so subtle, that they seem to outwit thee and confound thee with their guile. Well, but the Lord whom thou fearest will not leave thee to thy ignorance, nor yet to thine enemies' power or subtlety, but will take it upon himself to be thy teacher and thy guide, and that in the way that thou hast chosen. Hear, then, and behold thy privilege, O thou that fearest the Lord; and whoever wanders, turns aside, and swerveth from the way of salvation, whoever is benighted, and lost in the midst of darkness, thou shalt find the way to the heaven and the glory that thou hast chosen.
Further, He doth not only say, that he will teach them the way, for that must of necessity be supplied, but he says also that he will teach such in it—"Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose." This argueth that, as thou shalt know, so the way shall be made, by the communion that thou shalt have with God therein, sweet and pleasant to thee. For this text promiseth unto the man that feareth the Lord, the presence, company, and discovery of the mind of God, while he is going in the way that he hath chosen. It is said of the good scribe, that he is instructed unto, as well as into, the way of the kingdom of God (Matt 13:52). Instructed unto; that is, he hath the heart and mind of God still discovered to him in the way that he hath chosen, even all the way from this world to that which is to come, even until he shall come to the very gate and door of heaven. What the disciples said was the effect of the presence of Christ, to wit, "that their hearts did burn within them while he talked to them by the way," shall be also fulfilled in thee, he will meet with thee in the way, talk with thee in the way; he will teach thee in the way that thou shalt choose (Luke 24:32).
Third Privilege. Dost thou fear the Lord? he will open his secret unto thee, even that which he hath hid and keeps close from all the world, to wit, the secret of his covenant and of thy concern therein—"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant" (Psa 25:14). This, then, further confirmeth what was said but just above; his secret shall be with them, and his covenant shall be showed unto them. His secret, to wit, that which hath been kept hid from ages and generations; that which he manifesteth only to the saints, or holy ones; that is, his Christ, for he it is that is hid in God, and that no man can know but he to whom the Father shall reveal him (Matt 11:27).
But O! what is there wrapped up in this Christ, this secret of God? why, all treasures of life, of heaven, and happiness—"In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." And "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2).
This also is that hidden One, that is so full of grace to save sinners, and so full of truth and faithfulness to keep promise and covenant with them, that their eyes must needs convey, even by every glance they make upon his person, offices, and relation, such affecting ravishments to the heart, that it would please them that see him, even to be killed with that sight. This secret of the Lord shall be, nay is, with them that fear him, for he dwelleth in their heart by faith. "And he will shew them his covenant." That is, the covenant that is confirmed of God in Christ, that everlasting and eternal covenant, and show him too that he himself is wrapped up therein, as in a bundle of life with the Lord his God. These are the thoughts, purposes, and promises of God to them that fear him.
Fourth Privilege. Dost thou fear the Lord? his eye is always over thee for good, to keep thee from all evil—"Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine" (Psa 33:18,19). His eye is upon them; that is, to watch over them for good. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. His eyes are upon them, and he will keep them as a shepherd doth his sheep; that is, from those wolves that seek to devour them, and to swallow them up in death. His eyes are upon them; for they are the object of his delight, the rarities of the world, in whom, saith he, is all my delight. His eye is upon them, as I said before, to teach and instruct them—"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye" (Psa 32:8; 2 Chron 7:15,16). The eye of the Lord, therefore, is upon them, not to take advantage of them, to destroy them for their sins, but to guide, to help, and deliver them from death; from that death that would feed upon their souls—"To deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine." Take death here for death spiritual, and death eternal; and the famine here, not for that that is for want of bread and water, but for that which comes on many for want of the Word of the Lord (Rev 20:14; Amos 8:11,12); and then the sense is this, the man that feareth the Lord shall neither die spiritually nor eternally; for God will keep him with his eye from all those things that would in such a manner kill him. Again, should there be a famine of the Word; should there want both the Word and them that preach it in the place that thou dost dwell, yet bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure; thou shalt not die of the famine, because thou fearest God. I say, that man shall not, behold he shall not, because he feareth God, and this the next head doth yet more fully manifest.
Fifth Privilege. Dost thou fear God? fear him for this advantage more and more—"O fear the Lord, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord," that fear him, "shall not want any good thing" (Psa 34:9,10). Not anything that God sees good for them shall those men want that fear the Lord. If health will do them good, if sickness will do them good, if riches will do them good, if poverty will do them good, if life will do them good, if death will do them good, then they shall not want them, neither shall any of these come nigh them, if they will not do them good. The lions, the wicked people  of the world that fear not God, are not made sharers in this great privilege; all things fall out to them contrary, because they fear not God. In the midst of their sufficiency, they are in want of that good that God puts into the worst things that the man that feareth God doth meet with in the world.
Sixth Privilege. Dost thou fear God? he hath given charge to the armies of heaven to look after, take charge of, to camp about, and to deliver thee—"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psa 34:7). This also is a privilege entailed to them that in all generations fear the Lord. The angels, the heavenly creatures, have it in commission to take the charge of them that fear the Lord; one of them is able to slay of men in one night 185,000. These are they that camped about Elisha like horses of fire, and chariots of fire, when the enemy came to destroy him. They also helped Hezekiah against the band of the enemy, because he feared God (2 Kings 6:17; Isa 37:36; Jer 26:19). "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them"; that is, lest the enemy should set upon them on any side; but let him come where he will, behind or before, on this side or that, the angel of the Lord is there to defend them. "The angel." It may be spoken in the singular number, perhaps, to show that every one that feareth God hath his angel to attend on him, and serve him. When the church, in the Acts, was told that Peter stood at the door and knocked; at first they counted the messenger mad, but when she did constantly affirm it, they said, It is his angel (Acts 12:13-15). So Christ saith of the children that came unto him, "their angels behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Their angels; that is, those of them that feared God, had each of them his angel, who had a charge from God to keep them in their way. We little think of this, yet this is the privilege of them that fear the Lord; yea, if need be, they shall all come down to help them and to deliver them, rather than, contrary to the mind of their God, they should by any be abused—"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb 1:14).
[Quest.] But how do they deliver them? for so says the text—"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." Answ. The way that they take to deliver them that fear the Lord, is sometimes by smiting of their enemies with blindness, that they may not find them; and so they served the enemies of Lot (Gen 19:10,11). Sometimes by smiting of them with deadly fear; and so they served those that laid siege against Samaria (2 Kings 7:6). And sometimes by smiting of them even with death itself; and thus they served Herod, after he had attempted to kill the apostle James, and also sought to vex certain others of the church (Acts 12). These angels that are servants to them that fear the Lord, are them that will, if God doth bid them, revenge the quarrel of his servants upon the stoutest monarch on earth. This, therefore, is a glorious privilege of the men that fear the Lord. Alas! they are, some of them, so mean that they are counted not worth taking notice of by the high ones of the world; but their betters do respect them. The angels of God count not themselves too good to attend on them, and camp about them to deliver them. This, then, is the man that hath his angel to wait upon him, even he that feareth God.
Seventh Privilege. Dost thou fear the Lord? salvation is nigh unto thee—"Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land" (Psa 85:9). This is another privilege for them that fear the Lord. I told you before, that the angel of the Lord did encamp about them, but now he saith, "his salvation is also nigh them"; the which although it doth not altogether exclude the conduct of angels, but include them; yet it looketh further. "Surely his salvation," his saving, pardoning grace, "is nigh them that fear him"; that is, to save them out of the hand of their spiritual enemies. The devil, and sin, and death, do always wait even to devour them that fear the Lord, but to deliver them from these his salvation doth attend them. So then, if Satan tempts, here is their salvation nigh; if sin, by breaking forth, beguiles them, here is God's salvation nigh them; yea, if death itself shall suddenly seize upon them, why, here is their God's salvation nigh them.
I have seen that great men's little children must go no whither without their nurses be at hand. If they go abroad, their nurses must go with them; if they go to meals, their nurses must go with them; if they go to bed, their nurses must go with them; yea, and if they fall asleep, their nurses must stand by them. O my brethren, those little ones that fear the Lord, they are the children of the highest, therefore they shall not walk alone, be at their spiritual meats alone, go to their sick-beds, or to their graves alone; the salvation of their God is nigh them, to deliver them from the evil. This is then the glory that dwells in the land of them that fear the Lord.
Eighth Privilege. Dost thou fear the Lord? hearken yet again—"The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children" (Psa 103:17). This still confirms what was last asserted, that is, that his salvation is nigh unto them. His salvation, that is, pardoning mercy, that is nigh them. But mind it, there he says it is nigh them; but here it is upon them. His mercy is upon them, it covereth them all over, it encompasseth them about as with a shield. Therefore they are said in another place to be clothed with salvation, and covered with the robe of righteousness. The mercy of the Lord is upon them, that is, as I said, to shelter and defend them. The mercy, the pardoning preserving mercy, the mercy of the Lord is upon them, who is he then that can condemn them? (Rom 8).
But there yet is more behind, "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them." It was designed for them before the world was, and shall be upon them when the world itself is ended; from everlasting to everlasting it is on them that fear him. This from everlasting to everlasting is that by which, in another place, the eternity of God himself is declared—"From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psa 90:2). The meaning, then, may be this; that so long as God hath his being, so long shall the man that feareth him find mercy at his hand. According to that of Moses—"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee, and shall say, Destroy them" (Deut 33:27).
Child of God, thou that fearest God, here is mercy nigh thee, mercy enough, everlasting mercy upon thee. This is long-lived mercy. It will live longer than thy sin, it will live longer than temptation, it will live longer than thy sorrows, it will live longer than thy persecutors. It is mercy from everlasting to contrive thy salvation, and mercy to everlasting to weather it out with all thy adversaries. Now what can hell and death do to him that hath this mercy of God upon him? And this hath the man that feareth the Lord. Take that other blessed word, and O thou man that fearest the Lord, hang it like a chain of gold about thy neck—"As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (Psa 103:11). If mercy as big, as high, and as good as heaven itself will be a privilege, the man that feareth God shall have a privilege.
Ninth Privilege. Dost thou fear God?—"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him" (Psa 103:13).
" The Lord pitieth them that fear him"; that is, condoleth and is affected, feeleth and sympathizeth with them in all their afflictions. It is a great matter for a poor man to be in this manner in the affections of the great and mighty, but for a poor sinner to be thus in the heart and affections of God, and they that fear him are so, this is astonishing to consider. "In his love and in his pity he redeemed them." In his love and in his pity! "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old" (Isa 63:9). I say, in that he is said to pity them, it is as much as to say, he condoleth, feeleth, and sympathizeth with them in all their afflictions and temptations. So that this is the happiness of him that feareth God, he has a God to pity him and to be touched with all his miseries. It is said in Judges, "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel" (Judg 10:16). And in the Hebrews, he is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and can "succour them that are tempted" (4:15, 2:17,18).
But further, let us take notice of the comparison. "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Here is not only pity, but the pity of a relation, a father. It is said in another place; "Can a woman," a mother, "forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may, yet will not I forget thee." The pity of neighbours and acquaintance helpeth in times of distress, but the pity of a father and a mother is pity with an over and above. "The Lord," says James, "is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." Pharaoh called Joseph his tender father, because he provided for him against the famine, but how tender a father is God! how full of bowels! how full of pity! (James 5:11; Gen 41:43). It is said, that when Ephraim was afflicted, God's bowels were troubled for him, and turned within him towards him. O that the man that feareth the Lord did but believe the pity and bowels that are in the heart of God and his father towards him (Jer 31:18-20).
Tenth Privilege. Dost thou fear God?—"He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them" (Psa 145:19). Almost all those places that make mention of the men that fear God, do insinuate as if they still were under affliction, or in danger by reason of an enemy. But I say, here is still their privilege, their God is their father and pities them—"He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." Where now is the man that feareth the Lord? let him hearken to this. What sayest thou, poor soul? will this content thee, the Lord will fulfil thy desires? It is intimated of Adonijah, that David his father did let him have his head and his will in all things. "His father," says the text, "had not displeased him at any time in (so much as) saying, Why hast thou done so?" (1 Kings 1:6). But here is more, here is a promise to grant thee the whole desire of thy heart, according to the prayer of holy David, "The Lord grant thee, according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel." And again, "The Lord fulfil all thy petitions" (Psa 20).
O thou that fearest the Lord, what is thy desire? All my desire, says David, is all my salvation (2 Sam 23:5), so sayest thou, "All my salvation" is "all my desire." Well, the desire of thy soul is granted thee, yea, God himself hath engaged himself even to fulfil this thy desire—"He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him, he also will hear their cry, and will save them." O this desire when it cometh, what a tree of life will it be to thee! Thou desirest to be rid of thy present trouble; the Lord shall rid thee out of trouble. Thou desirest to be delivered from temptation; the Lord shall deliver thee out of temptation. Thou desirest to be delivered from thy body of death; and the Lord shall change this thy vile body, that it may be like to his glorious body. Thou desirest to be in the presence of God, and among the angels in heaven. This thy desire also shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt be made equal to the angels (Exo 6:6; 2 Peter 2:9; Phil 3:20,21; Luke 16:22, 20:35,36). O but it is long first! Well, learn first to live upon thy portion in the promise of it, and that will make thy expectation of it sweet. God will fulfil thy desires, God will do it, though it tarry long. Wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Eleventh Privilege. Dost thou fear God?—"The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him" (Psa 147:11). They that fear God are among his chief delights. He delights in his Son, he delights in his works, and takes pleasure in them that fear him. As a man takes pleasure in his wife, in his children, in his gold, in his jewels; so the man that fears the Lord is the object of his delight. He takes pleasure in their prosperity, and therefore sendeth them health from the sanctuary, and makes them drink of the river of his pleasures (Psa 35:27). "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures" (Psa 36:8). That or those that we take pleasure in, that or those we love to beautify and adorn with many ornaments. We count no cost too much to be bestowed on those in whom we place our delight, and whom we make the object of our pleasure. And even thus it is with God. "For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people," and what follows? "he will beautify the meek with salvation" (Psa 149:4).
Those in whom we delight, we take pleasure in their actions; yea, we teach them, and give them such rules and laws to walk by, as may yet make them that we love more pleasurable in our eyes. Therefore they that fear God, since they are the object of his pleasure, are taught to know how to please him in everything (1 Thess 4:1). And hence it is said, that he is ravished with their looks, that he delighteth in their cry, and that he is pleased with their walking (Can 4:9; Prov 15:8, 11:20).
Those in whom we delight and take pleasure, many things we will bear and put up that they do, though they be not according to our minds. A man will suffer that in, and put up that at, the hand of the child or wife of his pleasure, that he will not pass by nor put up in another. They are my jewels, says God, even them that fear me; and I will spare them, in all their comings-short of my will, "even as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal 3:16,17). O how happy is the man that feareth God! His good thoughts, his good attempts to serve him, and his good life pleases him, because he feareth God.
You know how pleasing in our eyes the actions of our children are, when we know that they do what they do even of a reverent fear and awe of us; yea, though that which they do amounts but to little, we take it well at their hands, and are pleased therewith. The woman that cast in her two mites into the treasury, cast in not much, for they both did but make one farthing; yet how doth the Lord Jesus trumpet her up, he had pleasure in her, and in her action (Mark 12:41-44). This, therefore, that the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, is another of their great privileges.
Twelfth Privilege. Dost thou fear God? the least dram of that fear giveth the privilege to be blessed with the biggest saint—"He will bless them that fear the Lord, small and great" (Psa 115:13). This word small may be taken three ways—1. For those that are small in esteem, for those that are but little accounted of (Judg 6:15; 1 Sam 18:23). Art thou small or little in this sense, yet if thou fearest God, thou art sure to be blessed. "He will bless them that fear him, small and great," be thou never so small in the world's eyes, in thine own eyes, in the saints' eyes, as sometimes one saint is little in another saint's eye; yet thou, because thou fearest God, art put among the blessed. 2. By small, sometimes is meant those that are but small of stature, or young in years, little children, that are easily passed by and looked over: as those that sang Hosanna in the temple were, when the Pharisees deridingly said of them to Christ, "Hearest thou what these say?" (Matt 21:16). Well, but Christ would not despise them, of them that feared God, but preferred them by the Scripture testimony far before those that did contemn them. Little children, how small soever, and although of never so small esteem with men, shall also, if they fear the Lord, be blessed with the greatest saints—"He will bless them that fear him, small and great." 3. By small may sometimes be meant those that are small in grace or gifts; these are said to be the least in the church, that is, under this consideration, and so are by it least esteemed (Matt 25:45). Thus also is that of Christ to be understood, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (1 Cor 6:4).
Art thou in thine own thoughts, or in the thoughts of others, of these last small ones, small in grace, small in gifts, small in esteem upon this account, yet if thou fearest God, if thou fearest God indeed, thou art certainly blessed with the best of saints. The least star stands as fixed, as the biggest of them all, in heaven. "He will bless them that fear him, small and great." He will bless them, that is, with the same blessing of eternal life. For the different degrees of grace in saints doth not make the blessing, as to its nature, differ. It is the same heaven, the same life, the same glory, and the same eternity of felicity that they are in the text promised to be blessed with. That is observable which I mentioned before, where Christ at the day of judgment particularly mentioneth and owneth the least—"Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least." The least then was there, in his kingdom and in his glory, as well as the biggest of all. "He will bless them that fear him, small and great." The small are named first in the text, and are so the first in rank; it may be to show that though they may be slighted and little set by in the world, yet they are much set by in the eyes of the Lord.
Are great saints only to have the kingdom, and the glory everlasting? Are great works only to be rewarded? works that are done by virtue of great grace, and the abundance of the gifts of the Holy Ghost? No: "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his (a disciple's) reward." Mark, here is but a little gift, a cup of cold water, and that given to a little saint, but both taken special notice of by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 10:42). "He will give reward to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, and to them that fear his name, small and great" (Rev 11:18). The small, therefore, among them that fear God, are blessed with the great, as the great, with the same salvation, the same glory, and the same eternal life; and they shall have, even as the great ones also shall, as much as they can carry; as much as their hearts, souls, bodies, and capacities can hold.
Thirteenth Privilege. Dost thou fear God? why, the Holy Ghost hath on purpose indited for thee a whole psalm to sing concerning thyself. So that thou mayest even as thou art in thy calling, bed, journey, or whenever, sing out thine own blessed and happy condition to thine own comfort and the comfort of thy fellows. The psalm is called the 128th Psalm; I will set it before thee, both as it is in the reading and in the singing Psalms—
" Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord, that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house; thy children, like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion; and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel."
AS IT IS SUNG.
Blessed art thou that fearest God, And walkest in his way: For of thy labour thou shalt eat; Happy art thou, I say! Like fruitful vines on thy house side, So doth thy wife spring out; Thy children stand like olive plants Thy table round about.
Thus art thou blest that fearest God, And he shall let thee see The promised Jerusalem, And her felicity. Thou shalt thy children's children see, To thy great joy's increase; And likewise grace on Israel, Prosperity and peace.
And now I have done with the privileges when I have removed one objection.
Object. But the Scripture says, "perfect love casteth our fear"; and therefore it seems that saints, after that a spirit of adoption is come, should not fear, but do their duty, as another Scripture saith, without it (1 John 4:18; Luke 1:74,75).
Answ. Fear, as I have showed you, may be taken several ways. 1. It may be taken for the fear of devils. 2. It may be taken for the fear of reprobates. 3. It may be taken for the fear that is wrought in the godly by the Spirit as a spirit of bondage; or, 4. It may be taken for the fear that I have been but now discoursing of.
Now the fear that perfect love casts out cannot be that son-like, gracious fear of God, that I have in this last place been treating of; because that fear that love casts out hath torment, but so has not the son-like fear. Therefore the fear that love casts out is either that fear that is like the fear of devils and reprobates, or that fear that is begot in the heart by the Spirit of God as a spirit of bondage, or both; for, indeed, all these kinds of fear have torment, and therefore may be cast out; and are so by the spirit of adoption, which is called the spirit of faith and love, when he comes with power into the soul; so that without this fear we should serve him. But to argue from these texts that we ought not to fear God, or to mix fear with our worship of him, is as much as to say that by the spirit of adoption we are made very rogues; for not to fear God is by the Scripture applied to such (Luke 23:40). But for what I have affirmed the Scripture doth plentifully confirm, saying, "Happy is the man that feareth alway." And again, "It shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him." Fear, therefore; the spirit of the fear of the Lord is a grace that greatly beautifies a Christian, his words, and all his ways: "Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed, and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts" (2 Chron 19:7).
I come now to make some use and application of this doctrine.
THE USE OF THIS DOCTRINE.
Having proceeded thus far about this doctrine of the fear of God, I now come to make some use and application of the whole; and my
[USE FIRST, of Examination.]
FIRST USE shall be a USE OF EXAMINATION. Is this fear of God such an excellent thing? Is it attended with so many blessed privileges? Then this should put us, every soul of us, upon a diligent examination of ourselves, to wit, whether this grace be in us or not, for if it be, then thou art one of these blessed ones to whom belong these glorious privileges, for thou hast an interest in every of them; but if it shall appear that this grace is not in thee, then thy state is fearfully miserable, as hath partly been manifest already, and will further be seen in what comes after. Now, the better to help thee to consider, and not to miss in finding out what thou art in thy self-examination, I will speak to this—First. In general. Second. In particular.
First. In general. No man brings this grace into the world with him. Every one by nature is destitute of it; for naturally none fear God, there is no fear of God, none of this grace of fear before their eyes, they do not so much as know what it is; for this fear flows, as was showed before, from a new heart, faith, repentance and the like; of which new heart, faith, and repentance, if thou be void, thou art also void of this godly fear. Men must have a mighty change of heart and life, or else they are strangers to this fear of God. Alas, how ignorant are the most of this! Yea, and some are not afraid to say they are not changed, nor desire so to be. Can these fear God? can these be possessed with this grace of fear? No: "Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God" (Psa 55:19; Psa 36:1; Rom 3:18).
Wherefore, sinner, consider whoever thou art that art destitute of this fear of God, thou art void of all other graces; for this fear, as also I have showed, floweth from the whole stock of grace where it is. There is not one of the graces of the Spirit, but this fear is in the bowels of it; yea, as I may say, this fear is the flower and beauty of every grace; neither is there anything, let it look as much like grace as it will, that will be counted so indeed, if the fruit thereof be not this fear of God; wherefore, I say again, consider well of this matter, for as thou shalt be found with reference to this grace, so shall thy judgment be. I have but briefly treated of this grace, yet have endeavoured, with words as fit as I could, to display it in its colours before thy face, first by showing you what this fear of God is, then what it flows from, as also what doth flow from it; to which, as was said before, I have added several privileges that are annexed to this fear, that by all, if it may be, thou mayest see it if thou hast it, and thyself without it if thou hast it not. Wherefore I refer thee thither again for information in this thing; or if thou art loath to give the book a second reading, but wilt go on to the end now thou art gotten hither; then
Second and particularly, I conclude with these several propositions concerning those that fear not God.
1. That man that is proud, and of a high and lofty mind, fears not God. This is plain from the exhortation, "Be not high-minded, but fear" (Rom 11:20). Here you see that a high mind and the fear of God are set in direct opposition the one to the other; and there is in them, closely concluded by the apostle, that where indeed the one is, there cannot be the other; where there is a high mind, there is not the fear of God; and where there is the fear of God, the mind is not high but lowly. Can a man at the same time be a proud man, and fear God too? Why, then, is it said God beholdeth every one that is proud, and abases him? and again, He beholds the proud afar off? He therefore that is proud of his person, of his riches, of his office, of his parts, and the like, feareth not God. It is also manifest further, for God resisteth the proud, which he would not do, if he feared him, but in that he sets him at such a distance from him, in that he testifies that he will abase him and resist him, it is evident that he is not the man that hath this grace of fear; for that man, as I have showed you, is the man of God's delight, the object of his pleasure (Psa 138:6; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Mal 4:1).
2. The covetous man feareth not God. This also is plain from the Word, because it setteth covetousness and the fear of God in direct opposition. Men that fear God are said to hate covetousness (Exo 18:21). Besides, the covetous man is called an idolater, and is said to have no part in the kingdom of Christ and of God. And again, "The wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth" (Eze 33:31; Eph 5:5; Psa 10:3). Hearken to this, you that hunt the world to take it, you that care not how you get, so you get the world. Also you that make even religion your stalking-horse to get the world, you fear not God. And what will you do whose hearts go after your covetousness? you who are led by covetousness up and down, as it were by the nose; sometimes to swear, to lie, to cozen, and cheat and defraud, when you can get the advantage to do it. You are far, very far, from the fear of God. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses," for so the covetous are called, "know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).
3. The riotous eaters of flesh have not the fear of God. For this is done "without fear" (Jude 12). Gluttony is a sin little taken notice of, and as little repented of by those that use it, but yet it is odious in the sight of God, and the practice of it a demonstration of the want of his fear in the heart: yea, so odious is it, that God forbids that his people should so much as company with such. "Be not," saith he, "among wine-bibbers, among riotous eaters of flesh" (Prov 23:20). And he further tells us, that they that are such, are spots and blemishes to those that keep them company, for indeed they fear not God (2 Peter 2:13; Rom 13:13; 1 Peter 4:4). Alas! some men are as if they were for nought else born but to eat and to drink, and pamper their carcasses with the dainties of this world, quite forgetting why God sent them hither; but such, as is said, fear not God, and so consequently are of the number of them upon whom the day of judgment will come at unawares (Luke 21:34).