4. The liar is one that fears not God. This also is evident from the plain text, "Thou hast lied," saith the Lord, "and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart: have not I held my peace even of old," saith the Lord, "and thou fearest me not?" (Isa 57:11). What lie this was is not material; it was a lie, or a course of lying that is here rebuked, and the person or persons in this practice, as is said, were such as feared not God; a course of lying and the fear of God cannot stand together. This sin of lying is a common sin, and it walketh in the world in several guises. There is the profane scoffing liar, there is the cunning artificial liar, there is the hypocritical religious liar, with liars of other ranks and degrees. But none of them all have the fear of God, nor shall any of them, they not repenting, escape the damnation of hell—"All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Rev 21:8). Heaven and the New Jerusalem are not a place for such—"And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie" (v 27). Therefore another scripture says that all liars are without—"For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Rev 22:15). But this should not be their sentence, judgment, and condemnation, if they that are liars were such as had in them this blessed fear of God.
5. They fear not God who cry unto him for help in the time of their calamity, and when they are delivered, they return to their former rebellion. This, Moses, in a spirit of prophecy, asserteth at the time of the mighty judgment of the hail. Pharaoh then desired him to pray to God that he would take away that judgment from him. Well, so I will, said Moses, "But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God" (Exo 9:30). As who should say, I know that so soon as this judgment is removed, you will to your old rebellion again. And what greater demonstration can be given that such a man feareth not God, than to cry to God to be delivered from affliction to prosperity, and to spend that prosperity in rebellion against him? This is crying for mercies that they may be spent, or that we may have something to spend upon our lusts, and in the service of Satan (John 4:1-3). Of these God complains in the sixteenth of Ezekiel, and in the second of Hosea—"Thou hast," saith God, "taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images" &c. (Eze 16:17). This was for want of the fear of God. Many of this kind there be now in the world, both of men, and women, and children; art not thou that readest this book of this number? Hast thou not cried for health when sick, for wealth when poor, when lame for strength, when in prison for liberty, and then spent all that thou gottest by thy prayer in the service of Satan, and to gratify thy lusts? Look to it, sinner, these things are signs that with thy heart thou fearest not God.
6. They fear not God that way-lay his people and seek to overthrow them, or to turn them besides the right path, as they are journeying from hence to their eternal rest. This is evident from the plain text, "Remember," saith God, "what Amalek did unto thee by the way when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary, and he feared not God" (Deut 25:17,18). Many such Amalekites there be now in the world that set themselves against the feeble of the flock, against the feeble of the flock especially, still smiting them, some by power, some with the tongue, some in their lives and estates, some in their names and reputations, by scandals, slanders, and reproach, but the reason of this their ungodly practice is this, they fear not God. For did they fear him, they would be afraid to so much as think, much more of attempting to afflict and destroy, and calumniate the children of God; but such there have been, such there are, and such there will be in the world, for all men fear not God.
7. They fear not God who see his hand upon backsliders for their sins, and yet themselves will be backsliders also. "I saw," saith God, "when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also" (Jer 3:8, 2:19). Judah saw that her sister was put away, and delivered by God into the hands of Shalmaneser, who carried her away beyond Babylon, and yet, though she saw it, she went and played the harlot also—a sign of great hardness of heart, and of the want of the fear of God indeed. For this fear, had it been in her heart, it would have taught her to have trembled at the judgment that was executed upon her sister, and not to have gone and played the harlot also: and not to have done it while her sister's judgment was in sight and memory. But what is it that a heart that is destitute of the fear of God will not do? No sin comes amiss to such: yea, they will sin, they will do that themselves, for the doing of which they believe some are in hell-fire, and all because they fear not God.
But pray observe, if those that take not warning when they see the hand of God upon backsliders, are said to have none of the fear of God, have they it, think you, that lay stumbling-blocks in the way of God's people, and use devices to cause them to backslide, yea, rejoice when they can do this mischief to any? and yet many of this sort there are in the world, that even rejoice when they see a professor fall into sin, and go back from his profession, as if they had found some excellent thing.
8. They fear not God who can look upon a land as wallowing in sin, and yet are not humbled at the sight thereof. "Have ye," said God by the prophet to the Jews, "forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? They are not humbled to this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law" (Jer 44:9,10). Here is a land full of wickedness, and none to bewail it, for they wanted the fear of God, and love to walk in his law. But how say you, if they that are not humbled at their own and others' wickedness are said not to fear, or have the fear of God, what shall we think or say of such that receive, that nourish and rejoice in such wickedness? Do they fear God? Yea, what shall we say of such that are the inventors and promoters of wickedness, as of oaths, beastly talk, or the like? Do they, do you think, fear God? Once again, what shall we say of such that cannot be content to be wicked themselves, and to invent and rejoice in other men's wickedness, but must hate, reproach, vilify and abuse those that they cannot persuade to be wicked? Do they fear God?
9. They that take more heed to their own dreams than to the Word of God, fear not God. This also is plain from the Word—"For in the multitude of dreams, there are also divers vanities, but fear thou God"; that is, take heed unto his Word (Eccl 5:7; Isa 8:20). Here the fearing of God is opposed to our overmuch heeding dreams: and there is implied, that it is for want of the fear of God that men so much heed those things. What will they say to this that give more heed to a suggestion that ariseth from their foolish hearts, or that is cast in thither by the devil, than they do to the holy Word of God? These are "filthy dreamers." Also, what shall we say to those that are more confident of the mercy of God to their soul, because he hath blessed them with outward things, than they are afraid of his wrath and condemnation, though the whole of the Word of God doth fully verify the same? These are "filthy dreamers" indeed.
A dream is either real, or so by way of semblance, and so some men dream sleeping, and some waking (Isa 29:7). And as those that a man dreams sleeping are caused either by God, Satan, business, flesh, or the like; so are they that a man dreams waking, to pass by those that we have in our sleep. Men, when bodily awake, may have dreams, that is, visions from heaven; such are all they that have a tendency to discover to the sinner his state, or the state of the church according to the Word. But those that are from Satan, business, and the flesh, are such—especially the first and last, to wit, from Satan and the flesh—as tend to embolden men to hope for good in a way disagreeing with the Word of God.
These Jude calls "filthy dreamers," such whose principles were their dreams, and they led them "to defile the flesh," that is, by fornication and uncleanness; "to despise dominion," that the reins might be laid upon the neck of their lusts; "to speak evil of dignities," of those that God had set over them, for their governing in all the law and testament of Christ, these dreamt that to live like brutes, to be greedy of gain, and to take away for it, as Cain and Balaam did by their wiles, the lives of the owners thereof, would go for good coin in the best of trials. These also Peter speaks of (2 Peter 2). And he makes their dreams, that Jude calls so, their principle and errors in life and doctrine; you may read of them in that whole chapter, where they are called cursed children, and so by consequence such as fear not God.
10. They fear not God, who are sorcerers, adulterers, false swearers, and that oppress the hireling of his wages. It is a custom with some men to keep back by fraud from the hireling that which by covenant they agreed to pay for their labour; pinching, I say, and paring from them their due that of right belongs to them, to the making of them cry in "the ears of the Lord of sabaoth" (James 5:4). These fear not God; they are reckoned among the worst of men, and in their day of account God himself will bear witness against them. "And I," saith God, "will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the adulterers, and against the false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord" (Mal 3:5).
11. They fear not God, who instead of pitying of, rail at God's people in their affliction, temptations, and persecutions, and rather rejoice and skip for joy, than sympathize with them in their sorrow. Thus did David's enemies, thus did Israel's enemies, and thus did the thief, he railed at Christ when he hanged upon the cross, and was for that, even by his fellow, accounted for one that feared not God (Luke 23:40; Psa 35:1,22-26. Read Oba 10-15; Jer 48:2-6). This is a common thing among the children of men, even to rejoice at the hurt of them that fear God, and it ariseth even of an inward hatred to godliness. They hate you, saith Christ, because they hated me. Therefore Christ takes what is done to his, in this, as done unto himself, and so to holiness of life. But this falls hard upon such as despise at, and rejoice to see, God's people in their griefs, and that take the advantage, as dogged Shimei did, to augment the griefs and afflictions of God's people (2 Sam 16:5-8). These fear not God, they do this of enmity, and their sin is such as will hardly be blotted out (1 Kings 2:8,9).
12. They fear not God, who are strangers to the effects of fear. "If I be a master, where is my fear?" That is, show that I am so by your fear of me in the effects of your fear of me. "You offer polluted bread upon mine altar." This is not a sign that you fear me, ye offer the blind for sacrifices, where is my fear? ye offer the lame and the sick, these are not the effects of the fear of God (Mal 1:6-8). Sinner, it is one thing to say, I fear God, and another to fear him indeed. Therefore, as James says, show me thy faith by thy works, so here God calls for a testimony of thy fear by the effects of fear. I have already showed you several effects of fear; if thou art a stranger to them, thou art a stranger to this grace of fear. Therefore, to conclude this, it is not a feigned profession that will do; nothing is good here, but what is salted with this fear of God, and they that fear him are men of truth, men of singleness of heart, perfect, upright, humble, holy men; wherefore, reader, examine, and again, I say examine, and lay the Word and thy heart together, before that thou concludest that thou fearest God.
What! fear God, and in a state of nature? fear God without a change of heart and life? What! fear God and be proud, and covetous, a wine-bibber, and a riotous eater of flesh? How! fear God and a liar, and one that cries for mercies to spend them upon thy lusts? This would be strange. True, thou mayest fear as devils do, but what will that profit? Thou mayest by thy fear be driven away from God, from his worship, people, and ways, but what will that avail? It may be thou mayest so fear at present, as to be a little stopped in thy sinful course; perhaps thou hast got a knock from the Word of God, and are at present a little dazzled and hindered from being in thy former and full career after sin; but what of that? if by the fear that thou hast, thy heart is not united to God, and to the love of his Son, Word, and people, thy fear is nothing worth. Many men also are forced to fear God, as underlings are forced to fear those that are by force above them. If thou only thus fearest God, it is but a false fear; it flows not from love to God: this fear brings not willing subjection, which indeed brings the effect of right fear; but being over-mastered like an hypocrite, thou subjected thyself by feigned obedience, being forced, I say, by mere dread to do it (Psa 66:3).
It is said of David, "that the fame of him went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations" (1 Chron 14:17). But what, did they now love David? did they now choose him to be their king? no verily; they, many of them, rather hated him, and, when they could, made resistance against him. They did even as thou dost—feared, but did not love; feared, but did not choose his government that ruled over them. It is also said of Jehoshaphat, when God had subdued before him Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, that "the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of these countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel" (2 Chron 20:29). But, I say, was this fear, that is called now the fear of God, anything else, but a dread of the greatness of power of the king? No verily, nor did that dread bring them into a willing subjection to, and liking of his laws and government; it only made them like slaves and underlings, stand in fear of his executing the vengeance of God upon them.
Therefore still, notwithstanding this fear, they were rebels to him in their hearts, and when occasion and advantage offered themselves, they showed it by rising in rebellion against Israel. This fear therefore provoked but feigned and forced obedience, a right emblem of the obedience of such, who being still enemies in their minds to God, are forced by virtue of present conviction to yield a little, even of fear to God, to his Word, and to his ordinances. Reader, whoever thou art, think of this, it is thy concern, therefore do it, and examine, and examine again, and look diligently to thy heart in thine examination, that it beguile thee not about this thy so great concern, as indeed the fear of God is.
One thing more, before I leave thee, let me warn thee of. Take heed of deferring to fear the Lord. Some men, when they have had conviction upon their heart that the fear of God is not in them, have through the overpowering of their corruptions yet deferred and put off the fear of God from them, as it is said of them in Jeremiah: "This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord" (Jer 5:23,24). They saw that the judgments of God attended them because they did not yet fear God, but that conviction would not prevail with them to say, "Let us now fear the Lord." They were for deferring to fear him still; they were for putting off his fear from them longer. Sinner, hast thou deferred to fear the Lord? is thy heart still so stubborn as not to say yet, "Let us fear the Lord?" O! the Lord hath taken notice of this thy rebellion, and is preparing some dreadful judgment for thee. "Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (v 29). Sinner, why shouldest thou pull vengeance down upon thee? why shouldest thou pull vengeance down from heaven upon thee? Look up, perhaps thou hast already been pulling this great while, to pull it down upon thee. O! pull no longer; why shouldest thou be thine own executioner? Fall down upon thy knees, man, and up with thy heart and thy hands to the God that dwells in the heavens; cry, yea cry aloud, Lord, unite mine heart to fear thy name, and do not harden mine heart from thy fear. Thus holy men have cried before thee, and by crying have prevented judgment.
[A few things that may provoke thee to fear the Lord.]
Before I leave this use, let me give thee a few things, that, if God will, may provoke thee to fear the Lord.
1. The man that feareth not God, carrieth it worse towards him than the beast, the brute beast, doth carry it towards that man. "The fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth," yea, "and upon every fowl of the air," and "upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea" (Gen 9:2).
Mark, all my creatures shall fear you, and dread you, says God. None of them shall be so hardy as to cast of all reverence of you. But what a shame is this to man, that God should subject all his creatures to him, and he should refuse to stoop his heart to God? The beast, the bird, the fish, and all, have a fear and dread of man, yea, God has put it in their hearts to fear man, and yet man is void of fear and dread, I mean of godly fear of him, that thus lovingly hath put all things under him. Sinner, art thou not ashamed, that a silly cow, a sheep, yea, a swine, should better observe the law of his creation, than thou dost the law of thy God?
2. Consider, he that will not fear God, God will make him fear him whether he will or no. That is, he that doth not, will not now so fear him, as willingly to bow before him, and put his neck into his yoke. God will make him fear him when he comes to take vengeance on him. Then he will surround him with terror, and with fear on every side, fear within, and fear without; fear shall be in the way, even in the way that thou goest when thou art going out of this world; and that will be dreadful fear (Eccl 12:5). "I will bring their fears upon them," saith the Lord (Isa 66:4).
3. He that fears not God now, the Lord shall laugh at his fears then. Sinner, God will be even with all them that choose not to have his fear in their hearts: for as he calls and they hear not now, so they shall cry, yea, howl then, and he will laugh at their fears. "I will laugh," saith he, "at their destruction; I will mock when their fear cometh, when your fear cometh as desolation and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish cometh upon you; then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer: they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me, for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord" (Prov 1:27-29).
Sinner! thou thinkest to escape the fear; but what wilt thou do with the pit? Thou thinkest to escape the pit; but what wilt thou do with the snare? The snare, say you, what is that? I answer, it is even the work of thine own hands. "The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands," he is "snared by the transgression of his lips" (Psa 9:16; Prov 12:13).
Sinner! what wilt thou do when thou comest into this snare; that is, into the guilt and terror that thy sins will snaffle thee with, when they, like a cord, are fastened about thy soul? This snare will bring thee back again to the pit, which is hell, and then how wilt thou do to be rid of thy fear? The fear, pit, and the snare shall come upon thee, because thou fearest not God.
Sinner! art thou one of them that hast cast off fear? poor man, what wilt thou do when these three things beset thee? whither wilt thou fly for help? And where wilt thou leave thy glory? If thou fliest from the fear, there is the pit; if thou fliest from the pit, there is the snare.
[USE SECOND, an exhortation to fear God.]
SECOND USE. My next word shall be AN EXHORTATION TO FEAR GOD. I mean an exhortation to saints—"O fear the Lord, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him." Not but that every saint doth fear God, but as the apostle saith in another case, "I beseech you, do it more and more." The fear of the Lord, as I have showed you, is a grace of the new covenant, as other saving graces are, and so is capable of being stronger or weaker, as other graces are. Wherefore I beseech you, fear him more and more.
It is said of Obadiah, that he feared the Lord greatly: every saint fears the Lord, but every saint does not greatly fear him. O there are but few Obadiahs in the world, I mean among the saints on earth: see the whole relation of him (1 Kings 18). As Paul said of Timothy, "I have none like-minded," so it may be said of some concerning the fear of the Lord; they have scarce a fellow. So it was with Job, "There is none like him in the earth, one that feareth God," &c. (Job 1:8). There was even none in Job's day that feared God like him, no, there was not one like him in all the earth, but doubtless there were more in the world that feared God; but this fearing of him greatly, that is the thing that saints should do, and that was the thing that Job did do, and in that he did outstrip his fellows. It is also said of Hananiah, that "he was a faithful man, and feared God above many" (Neh 7:2). He also had got, as to the exercise of, and growth in, this grace, the start of many of his brethren. He "feared God above many." Now then, seeing this grace admits of degrees, and is in some stronger, and in some weaker, let us be all awakened as to other graces, so to this grace also. That like as you abound in everything, in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I will labour to enforce this exhortation upon you by several motives.
First. Let God's distinguishing love to you be a motive to you to fear him greatly. He hath put his fear in thy heart, and hath not given that blessing to thy neighbour; perhaps not to thy husband, thy wife, thy child, or thy parent. O what an obligation should this consideration lay upon thy heart greatly to fear the Lord! Remember also, as I have showed in the first part of this book, that this fear of the Lord is his treasure, a choice jewel, given only to favourites, and to those that are greatly beloved. Great gifts naturally tend to oblige, and will do so, I trust, with thee, when thou shalt ingeniously consider it. It is a sign of a very bad nature when the contrary shows itself; could God have done more for thee than to have put his fear in thy heart? This is better than to have given thee a place even in heaven without it. Yea, had he given thee all faith, all knowledge, and the tongue of men and angels, and a place in heaven to boot, they had all been short of this gift, of the fear of God in thy heart. Therefore love it, nourish it, exercise it, use all means to cause it to increase and grow in thy heart, that it may appear it is set by at thy hand, poor sinner.
Second. Another motive to stir thee up to grow in this grace of the fear of God may be the privileges that it lays thee under. What or where wilt thou find in the Bible, so many privileges so affectionately entailed to any grace, as to this of the fear of God? God speaks of this grace, and of the privileges that belong unto it, as if, to speak with reverence, he knew not how to have done blessing of the man that hath it. It seems to me as if this grace of fear is the darling grace, the grace that God sets his heart upon at the highest rate. As it were, he embraces the hugs, and lays the man in his bosom, that hath, and grows strong in this grace of the fear of God. See again the many privileges in which the man is interested that hath this grace in his heart: and see also that there are but few of them, wherever mentioned, but have entailed to them the pronunciation of a blessing, or else that man is spoken of by way of admiration.
Third. Another motive may be this: The man that groweth in this grace of the fear of the Lord will escape those evils that others will fall into. Where this grace is, it keepeth the soul from final apostasy, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer 32:40). But yet, if there be not an increase in this grace, much evil may attend, and be committed notwithstanding. There is a child that is healthy, and hath its limbs, and can go, but it is careless; now the evil of carelessness doth disadvantage it very much; carelessness is the cause of stumblings, of falls, of knocks, and that it falls into the dirt, yea, that sometimes it is burned, or almost drowned. And thus it is, even with God's people that fear him, because they add not to their fear a care of growing more in the fear of God, therefore they reap damage; whereas, were they more in his fear, it would keep them better, deliver them more, and preserve them from these snares of death.
Fourth. Another motive may be this: To grow in this grace of the fear of God, is the way to be kept always in a conscientious performance of Christian duties. An increase in this grace, I say, keeps every grace in exercise, and the keeping of our graces in their due exercise, produceth a conscientious performance of duties. Thou hast a watch perhaps in thy pocket, but the hand will not as yet be kept in any good order, but does always give the lie as to the hour of the day; well, but what is the way to remedy this, but to look well to the spring, and the wheels within? for if they indeed go right, so will the hand do also. This is thy case in spiritual things; thou art a gracious man, and the fear of God is in thee, but yet for all that, one cannot well tell, by thy life, what time of day it is. Thou givest no true and constant sign that thou art indeed a Christian; why, the reason is, thou dost not look well to this grace of the fear of God. Thou dost not grow and increase in that, but sufferest thy heart to grow careless, and hard, and so thy life remiss and worldly: Job's growing great in the fear of God made him eschew evil (Job 1, 2:3).
Fifth. Another motive is: This is the way to be wise indeed. A wise man feareth and departeth from evil. It doth not say a wise man hath the grace of fear, but a wise man feareth, that is, putteth this grace into exercise. There is no greater sign of wisdom than to grow in this blessed grace. Is it not a sign of wisdom to depart from sins, which are the snares of death and hell? Is it not a sign of wisdom for a man yet more and more to endeavour to interest himself in the love and protection of God? Is it not a high point of wisdom for a man to be always doing of that which lays him under the conduct of angels? Surely this is wisdom. And if it be a blessing to have this fear, is it not wisdom to increase in it? Doubtless it is the highest point of wisdom, as I have showed before, therefore grow therein.
Sixth. Another motive may be this: It is seemly for saints to fear, and increase in this fear of God. He is thy Creator; is it not seemly for creatures to fear and reverence their Creator? He is thy King; is it not seemly for subjects to fear and reverence their King? He is thy Father; is it not seemly for children to reverence and fear their Father? yea, and to do it more and more?
Seventh. Another motive may be: It is honourable to grow in this grace of fear; "When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel" (Hosea 13:1). Truly, to fear, and to about in this fear, is a sign of a very princely spirit; and the reason is, when I greatly fear my God, I am above the fear of all others, nor can anything in this world, be it never so terrible and dreadful, move me at all to fear them. And hence it is that Christ counsels us to fear—"And I say unto you, my friends," saith he, "be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do." Aye, but this is a high pitch, how should we come by such princely spirits? well, I will forewarn you whom you shall fear, and by fearing of him, arrive to this pitch, "Fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him" (Luke 12:4,5). Indeed this true fear of God sets a man above all the world. And therefore it saith again, "Neither fear ye their fear,"—but "sanctify the Lord God" in your hearts, "and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isa 8:12,13).
Your great ranting, swaggering, roysters, that are ignorant of the nature of the fear of God, count it a poor, sneaking, pitiful, cowardly spirit in men to fear and tremble before the Lord; but whoso looks back to jails and gibbets, to the sword and burning stake, shall see, that there, in them, has been the most mighty and invincible spirit that has been in the world!
Yea, see if God doth not count that the growth of his people in this grace of fear is that which makes them honourable, when he positively excludeth those from a dwelling-place in his house, that do not honour them that fear him (Psa 15:4). And he saith moreover, "A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." If the world and godless men will not honour these, they shall be honoured some way else. Such, saith he, "that honour me I will honour," and they shall be honoured in heaven, in the churches, and among the angels.
Eighth. Another motive to grow in this fear of God may be: This fear, and the increase of it, qualifies a man to be put in trust with heavenly and spiritual things, yea, and with earthly things too.
1. For heavenly and spiritual things. "My covenant," saith God, "was with [Levi] of life and peace, and I gave them to him, for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name" (Mal 2:5).
Behold what a gift, what a mercy, what a blessing this Levi is intrusted with; to wit, with God's everlasting covenant, and with the life and peace that is wrapped up in this covenant. But why is it given to him? the answer is, "for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name." And the reason is good, for this fear of God teaches a man to put a due estimation upon every gift of God bestowed upon us; also it teaches us to make use of the same with reverence of his name, and respect to his glory in most godly-wise, all which becomes him that is intrusted with any spiritual gift. The gift here was given to Levi to minister to his brethren doctrinally thereof, for he, saith God, shall teach Jacob my statutes and Israel my law. See also Exodus 18:21 and Nehemiah 7:2, with many other places that might be named, and you will find that men fearing God and hating covetousness; that men that fear God above others, are intrusted by God, yea, and by his church too, with the trust and ministration of spiritual things before any other in the world.
2. For earthly things. This fear of God qualifies a man to be put in trust with them rather than with another. Therefore God made Joseph lord of all Egypt; Obadiah, steward of Ahab's house; Daniel, Mordecai, and the three children, were set over the province of Babylon; and this by the wonderful working hand of God, because he had to dispose of earthly things now, not only in a common way, but for the good of his people in special. True, when there is no special matter or thing to be done by God in a nation for his people, then who will (that is, whether they have grace or no) may have the disposal of those things; but if God has anything in special to bestow upon his people of this world's goods, then he will intrust it in the hands of men fearing God. Joseph must now be made lord of Egypt, because Israel must be kept from starving; Obadiah must now be made steward of Ahab's house, because the Lord's prophets must be hid from and fed in despite of the rage and bloody mind of Jezebel; Daniel, with his companions, and Mordecai also, they were all exalted to earthly and temporal dignity, that they might in that state, they being men that abounded in the fear of God, be serviceable to their brethren in their straits and difficulties (Gen 42:18, 41:39; 1 Kings 18:3; Esth 6:10; Dan 2:48, 3:30, 5:29, 6:1-3).
Ninth. Another motive to grow in this grace of fear is, Where the fear of God in the heart of any is not growing, there no grace thrives, nor duty done as it should.
There no grace thrives, neither faith, hope, love, nor any grace. This is evident from that general exhortation, "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1). Perfecting holiness, what is that? but as James says of patience, let every grace have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing (James 1:4).
But this cannot be done but in the fear of God, yea, in the exercise of that grace, and so consequently in the growth of it, for there is no grace but grows by being exercised. If then you would be perfect in holiness, if you would have every grace that God has put into your souls, grow and flourish into perfection; lay them, as I may say, a-soak in this grace of fear, and do all in the exercise of it; for a little done in the fear of the Lord is better than the revenues of the wicked. And again, the Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous, the soul that liveth in the fear of the Lord, to famish, but he casteth away the abundance of the wicked. Bring abundance to God, and if it be not seasoned with godly fear, it shall not be acceptable to him, but loathsome and abominable in his sight; for it doth not flow from the spirit of the fear of the Lord.
Therefore, where there is not a growth in this fear, there is no duty done so acceptably. This flows from that which goes before, for if grace rather decays than grows, where this grace of fear is not in the growth and increase thereof, then duties in their glory and acceptableness decay likewise.
Tenth. Another motive to stir thee up to grow in the increase of this grace of fear is, It is a grace, do but abound therein, that will give thee great boldness both with God and men. Job was a man a none-such in his day for one that feared God; and who so bold with God as Job? who so bold with God, and who so bold with men as he? How bold was he with God, when he wishes for nothing more than that he might come even to his seat, and concludes that if he could come at him, he would approach even as a prince unto him, and as such would order his cause before him (Job 23:3-7, 31:35-37). Also before his friends, how bold was he? For ever as they laid to his charge that he was an hypocrite, he repels them with the testimony of a good conscience, which good conscience he got, and kept, and maintained by increasing in the fear of God; yea, his conscience was kept so good by this grace of fear, for it was by that that he eschewed evil, that it was common with him to appeal to God when accused, and also to put himself for his clearing under most bitter curses and imprecations (Job 13:3-9, 18, 19:23,24, 31).
This fear of God is it that keeps the conscience clean and tender, and so free from much of that defilement that even a good man may be afflicted with, for want of his growth in this fear of God. Yea, let me add, if a man can with a good conscience say that he desires to fear the name of God, it will add boldness to his soul in his approaches into the presence of God. "O Lord," said Nehemiah, "I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and servants, who desire to fear thy name" (Neh 1:11). He pleaded his desire of fearing the name of God, as an argument with God to grant him his request; and the reason was, because God had promised before "to bless them that fear him, both small and great" (Psa 115:13).
Eleventh. Another motive to stir you up to fear the Lord, and to grow in this fear is, By it thou mayest have thy labours blessed, to the saving of the souls of others. It is said of Levi, of whom mention was made before, that he feared God and was afraid before his name—that he saved others from their sins. "The law of truth was in his mouth, and he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn away many from iniquity" (Mal 2:6). The fear of God that dwelt in his heart, showed its growth in the sanctifying of the Lord by his life and words, and the Lord also blessed this his growth herein, by blessing his labours to the saving of his neighbours.
Wouldest thou save thy husband, thy wife, thy children, &c., then be greatly in the fear of God.
This Peter teaches, "Wives," saith he, "be in subjection to your own husbands, that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives, while they behold your chaste conversation, coupled with fear" (1 Peter 3:1,2). So then, if wives and children, yea, if husbands, wives, children, servants, &c., did but better observe this general rule of Peter, to wit, of letting their whole conversation be coupled with fear, they might be made instruments in God's hand of much more good than they are. But the misery is, the fear of God is wanting in actions, and that is the cause that so little good is done by those that profess. It is not a conversation that is coupled with a profession—for a great profession may be attended with a life that is not good, but scandalous; but it is a conversation coupled with fear of God—that is, with the impressions of the fear of God upon it—that is convincing and that ministereth the awakenings of God to the conscience, in order to saving the unbeliever. O they are a sweet couple, to wit, a Christian conversation coupled with fear.
The want of this fear of God is that that has been a stumbling-block to the blind oftentimes. Alas, the world will not be convinced by your talk, by your notions, and by the great profession that you make, if they see not, therewith mixed, the lively impressions of the fear of God; but will, as I said, rather stumble and fall, even at your conversation and at your profession itself. Wherefore, to prevent this mischief, that is, of stumbling of souls while you make your profession of God, by a conversation not becoming your profession, God bids you fear him; implying that a good conversation, coupled with fear, delivers the blind world from those falls that otherwise they cannot be delivered from. "Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord" (Lev 19:14). But shalt fear thy God, that is the remedy that will prevent their stumbling at you, at what else soever they stumble. Wherefore Paul says to Timothy, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee" (1 Tim 4:16).
Twelfth. Another motive to fear, and to grow in this fear of God is, This is the way to engage God to deliver thee from many outward dangers, whoever falls therein (Psa 34:7). This is proved from that of the story of the Hebrew midwives. "The midwives," said Moses, "feared God," and did not drown the men-children as the king had commanded, but saved them alive. And what follows? "Therefore God dealt well with the midwives; and it came to pass because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses" (Exo 1). That is, he sheltered them and caused them to be hid from the rage and fury of the king, and that perhaps in some of the houses of the Egyptians themselves for why might not the midwives be there hid as well as was Moses even in the king's court? And how many times are they that fear God said to be delivered both by God and his holy angels? as also I have already showed.
Thirteenth. Another motive to fear and to grow in this fear of God is, This is the way to be delivered from errors and damnable opinions. There are some that perish in their righteousness, that is an error; there be some that perish in their wickedness, and that is an error also. Some again prolong their lives by their wickedness, and others are righteous over-much, and also some are over-wise, and all these are snares, and pits, and holes. But then, sayest thou, how shall I escape? Indeed that is the question, and the Holy Ghost resolves it thus, "He that feareth God shall come forth of them all" (Eccl 7:18).
Fourteenth. Another motive to fear, and to grow in this fear of God, is, Such as have leave, be they never so dark in their souls, to come boldly to Jesus Christ, and to trust in him for life. I told you before, that they that fear God have in the general a license to trust in him; but now I tell you, and that in particular, that they, and they especially, may do it, and that though in the dark; you that sit in darkness and have no light, if this grace of fear be alive in your hearts, you have this boldness—"Who is among you that feareth the Lord," mark, that feareth the Lord, "that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God" (Isa 50:10). It is no small advantage, you know, when men have to deal in difficult matters, to have a patent or license to deal; now to trust in the Lord is a difficult thing, yet the best and most gainful of all. But then, some will say, since it is so difficult, how may we do without danger? Why, the text gives a license, a patent to them to trust in his name, that have his fear in their hearts—"Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." 
Fifteenth. Another motive to fear and grow in this grace of fear, is, God will own and acknowledge such to be his, whoever he rejecteth. Yea he will distinguish and separate them from all others, in the day of his terrible judgments. He will do with them as he did by those that sighed for the abominations that were done in the land—command the man that hath his ink-horn by his side "to set a mark upon their foreheads," that they might not fall in that judgment with others (Eze 9). So God said plainly of them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name, that they should be writ in his book—"A book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal 3:16,17). Mark, he both acknowledges them for his, and also promises to spare them, as a man would spare his own son; yea, and moreover, will wrap them up as his chief jewels with himself in the bundle of life. Thus much for the motives.
How to grow in this fear of God.
Having given you these motives to the duty of growing in this fear of God, before I leave this use, I will, in a few words, show you how you may grow in this fear of God.
First. Then, if thou wouldest grow in this fear of God, learn aright to distinguish of fear in general. I mean, learn to distinguish between that fear that is godly, and that which in itself is indeed ungodly fear of God; and know them well the one from the other, lest the one, the fear that in itself indeed is ungodly, get the place, even the upper hand of that which truly is godly fear. And remember the ungodly fear of God is by God himself counted an enemy to him, and hurtful to his people, and is therefore most plentifully forbidden in the Word (Gen 3:15, 26:24, 46:3; Exo 14:13, 20:20; Num 14:9, 21:34; Isa 41:10,14, 43:1, 44:2,8; 54:4; Jer 30:10; Dan 10:12,19; Joel 2:21; Hagg 2:5; Zech 8:13).
Second. If thou wouldest grow in this godly fear, learn rightly to distinguish it from that fear, in particular, that is godly but for a time; even from that fear that is wrought by the Spirit, as a spirit of bondage. I say, learn to distinguish this from that, and also perfectly to know the bounds that God hath set to that fear that is wrought by the Spirit, as a spirit of bondage; lest, instead of growing in the fear that is to abide with thy soul for ever, thou be over-run again with that first fear, which is to abide with thee but till the spirit of adoption come. And that thou mayest not only distinguish them one from the other, but also keep each in its due place and bounds, consider in general of what hath already been said upon this head, and in particular that the first fear is no more wrought by the Holy Spirit, but by the devil, to distress thee, and make thee to live, not like a son, but a slave. And for thy better help in this matter, know that God himself hath set bounds to this fear, and has concluded that after the spirit of adoption is come, that other fear is wrought in thy heart by him no more (Rom 8:15; 2 Tim 1:7).
Again, before I leave this, let me tell thee that if thou dost not well bestir thee in this matter, this bondage fear, to wit, that which is like it, though not wrought in thee by the Holy Ghost, will, by the management and subtlety of the devil, the author of it, haunt, disturb, and make thee live uncomfortably, and that while thou art an heir of God and his kingdom. This is that fear that the apostle speaks of, that makes men "all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb 2:14,15). For though Christ will deliver thee indeed at last, thou having embraced him by faith, yet thy life will be full of trouble; and death, though Jesus hath abolished it, will be always a living bugbear to thee in all thy ways and thoughts, to break thy peace, and to make thee to draw thy loins heavily after him.
Third. Wouldest thou grow in this godly fear? then, as thou shouldest learn to distinguish of fears, so thou shouldest make conscience of which to entertain and cherish. If God would have his fear—and it is called HIS fear by way of eminency—"that his fear may be before you, that ye sin not" (Exo 20:20; Jer 32:40)—I say, if God would have his fear be with thee, then thou shouldest make conscience of this, and not so lightly give way to slavish fear, as is common for Christians to do.
There is utterly a fault among Christians about this thing; that is, they make not that conscience of resisting of slavish fear as they ought; they rather cherish and entertain it, and so weaken themselves, and that fear that they ought to strengthen.
And this is the reason that we so often lie grabbling under the black and amazing thoughts that are engendered in our hearts by unbelief; for this fear nourisheth unbelief; that is, now it doth, to wit, if we give way to it after the spirit of adoption is come, and readily closeth with all the fiery darts of the wicked.
But Christians are ready to do with this fear as the horse does when the tines of the fork are set against his side; even lean to it until it entereth into his belly. We lean naturally to this fear, I mean, after God has done good to our souls; it is hard striving against it, because it has even our sense and feeling of its side. But I say, if thou wouldest be a growing Christian—growing, I say, in the fear that is godly, in the fear that is always so—then make conscience of striving against the other, and against all these things that would bring thee back to it. "Wherefore should I fear," said David, "in the day of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?" (Psa 49:5).
What! not fear in the day of evil? What! not when the iniquity of thy heels compasseth thee about? No, not then, saith he, that is, not with that fear that would bring him again into bondage to the law; for he had received the spirit of adoption before. Indeed, if ever a Christian has ground to give way to slavish fear, it is at these two times, to wit, in the day of evil, and when the iniquity of his heels compasseth him about; but you see, David would not then, no, not then, give way thereto, nor did he see reason why he should. "Wherefore should I," said he? Aye, wherefore indeed? since now thou art become a son of God through Christ, and hast received the Spirit of his Son into thy heart, crying, Father, Father.
Fourth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of godly fear? then grow in the knowledge of the new covenant, for that is indeed the girdle of our reins, and the strength of our souls. Hear what Zacharias saith: God, says he, "hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began." But what was it? what was it that he spake? Why, "That he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear," without this slavish bondage fear, "in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life." But upon what is this princely fearless service of God grounded? Why, upon the holy covenant of God, upon the oath that he swore unto Abraham (Luke 1:69-74). Now in this covenant is wrapped up all thy salvation; in it is contained all thy desire, and I am sure, that then it containeth the complete salvation of thy soul; and I say, since this covenant is confirmed by promise, by oath, and by the blood of the Son of God, and that on purpose that thou mightest serve thy God without slavish fear, then the knowledge and faith of this covenant is of absolute necessity to bring us into this liberty, and out of our slavish terrors, and so, consequently, to cause us to grow in that son-like, godly fear, which became even the Son of God himself, and becomes all his disciples to live in the growth and exercise of.
Fifth. Wouldest thou grow in this godly fear? then labour even always to keep thine evidences for heaven and of thy salvation alive upon thy heart; for he that loseth his evidences for heaven, will hardly keep slavish fear out of heart; but he that hath the wisdom and grace to keep them alive, and apparent to himself, he will grow in this godly fear. See how David words it, "From the end of the earth," saith he, "will I cry unto thee; when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy: I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever. For thou, O God, hast heard my vows; thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name" (Psa 61:2-5). Mark a little, David doth by these words, in the first place, suggest that sometimes, to his thinking, he was as far off of his God as the ends of the earth are asunder, and that at such times he was subject to be overwhelmed, afraid: [And] second, the way that he took at such times, to help himself, was to cry to God to lead him again to Jesus Christ—"lead me to the rock that is higher than I"; for indeed without faith in him, and the renewing of that faith, there can be no evidence for heaven made to appear unto the soul. This therefore he prays for first. Then he puts that faith into exercise, and that with respect to the time that was past, and also of the time that was to come. For the time past, says he, "Thou hast been a shelter to me, and a strong tower from the enemy"; and for the time to come, he said, "I will abide in thy tabernacle," that is, in thy Christ by faith, and in thy way of worship by love, "forever." And observe it, he makes the believing remembrance of his first evidences for heaven the ground of this his cry and faith, "For thou," says he, "O God, hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name." Thou hast made me meet to be a partaker of the mercy of thy chosen, and hast put me under the blessing of goodness wherewith thou hast blessed those that fear thee. Thus you see how David, in his distresses, musters up his prayers, faith, and evidences for eternal life, that he might deliver himself from being overwhelmed, that is, with slavish fear, and that he might also abound in that son-like fear of his fellow-brethren, that is not only comely, with respect to our profession, but profitable to our souls.
Sixth. Wouldest thou grow in this fear of God? then set before thine eyes the being and majesty of God; for that both begetteth, maintaineth, and increaseth this fear. And hence it is called the fear of God, that is, an holy and awful dread and reverence of his majesty. For the fear of God is to stand in awe of him, but how can that be done if we do not set him before us? And again, if we would fear him more, we must abide more in the sense and faith of his glorious majesty. Hence this fear and God's name is so often put together: as fear God, fear the Lord, fear thy God, do this in the fear of the Lord, and thou shalt fear thy God, I am the Lord. For these words, "I am the Lord thy God," and the like, are on purpose put in, not only to show us whom we should fear, but also to beget, maintain, and increase in us that fear that is due from us to that "glorious and fearful name, the Lord our God" (Deut 28:58).
Seventh. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then keep always close to thy conscience the authority of the Word; fear the commandment as the commandment of a God both mighty and glorious, and as the commandment of a father, both loving and pitiful; let this commandment, I say, be always with thine eye, with thine ear, and with thine heart; for then thou wilt be taught, not only to fear, but to abound in the fear of the Lord. Every grace is nourished by the Word, and without it there is no thrift in the soul (Prov 13:13, 4:20-22; Deut 6:1,2).
Eighth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then be much in the faith of the promise, of the promise that maketh over to thy soul an interest in God by Christ, and of all good things. The promise naturally tendeth to increase in us the fear of the Lord, because this fear, it grows by goodness and mercy; they shall fear the Lord, and his goodness; now this goodness and mercy of God, it is wrapt up in, and made over to us by promise; for God gave it to Abraham by promise. Therefore the faith and hope of the promise causeth this fear to grow in the soul—"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1). "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God"; therefore that fear by the promise must needs grow mighty, for by, with, and in it, you see holiness is perfected.
Ninth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then remember the judgments of God that have, or shall certainly overtake, those professors, that have either been downright hypocrites, or else unwatchful Christians. For both these sorts partake of the judgments of God; the one, to wit, the true Christian, for his unwatchfulness, for his correction; the other, to wit, the hypocrite, for his hypocrisy, to his destruction. This is a way to make thee stand in awe, and to make thee tremble, and grow in the grace of fear before thy God.
Judgments! you may say, what judgments? Answ. Time will fail me here to tell thee of the judgments that sometimes overtake God's people, and that always certainly overtake the hypocrite for his transgressions. For those that attend God's people, I would have thee look back to the place in this book where they are particularly touched upon. And for those that attend the hypocrite, in general they are these. 1. Blindness of heart in this world. 2. The death of their hope at the day of their death. 3. And the damnation of their souls at the day of judgment (Matt 23:15-19; Job 8:13, 11:20, 18:14, 20:4-7, Matt 23:33, 24:51; Luke 20:47). The godly consideration of these things tend to make men grow in the fear of God.
Tenth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then study the excellencies of the grace of fear, and what profit it yieldeth to them that have it, and labour to get thy heart into the love, both of the exercise of the grace itself, and also of the fruit it yieldeth; for a man hardly grows in the increase of any grace, until his heart is united to it, and until it is made lovely in his eyes (Psa 119:119,120). Now the excellencies of this grace of fear have also been discoursed of in this book before, where by reading thou shalt find the fruit it bears, and the promises that are annexed to it, which, because they are many, I refer thee also thither for thy instruction.
Eleventh. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then remember what a world of privileges do belong to them that fear the Lord, as also I have hinted; namely, that such shall not be hurt, shall want no good thing, shall be guarded by angels, and have a special license, though in never so dreadful a plight, to trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon their God.
Twelfth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then be much in prayer to God for abundance of the increase thereof. To fear God is that which is according to his will, and if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us. Pray therefore that God will unite thy heart to fear his name; this is the way to grow in the grace of fear.
Lastly, Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then devote thyself to it (Psa 119:38). Devote myself to it, you will say, how is that? I answer, why, give thyself to it, addict thyself to it. Solace thyself in the contemplation of God, and of a reverence of his name, and word, and worship. Then wilt thou fear, and grow in this grace of fear.
What things they are that have a tendency in them to hinder the growth of the fear of God in our hearts.
And that I may yet be helpful to thee, reader, I shall now give thee caution of those things that will, if way be given to them, hinder thy growth in this fear of God, the which, because they are very hurtful to the people of God, I would have thee be warned by them. And they are these which follow:
First. If thou wouldest grow in this grace of fear, take heed of A HARD HEART, for that will hinder thy growth in this grace. "Why hast thou hardened our heart from thy fear?" was a bitter complaint of the church heretofore; for it is not only the judgment that in itself is dreadful and sore to God's people, but that which greatly hindereth the growth of this grace in the soul (Isa 63:17). A hard heart is but barren ground for any grace to grow in, especially for the grace of fear: there is but little of this fear where the heart is indeed hard; neither will there ever be much therein.
Now if thou wouldest be kept from a hard heart, 1. Take heed of the beginnings of sin. Take heed, I say, of that, though it should be never so small; "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." There is more in a little sin to harden, than in a great deal of grace to soften. David's look upon Bathsheba was, one would think, but a small matter; yet that beginning of sin contracted such hardness of heart in him, that it carried him almost beyond all fear of God. It did carry him to commit lewdness with her, murder upon the body of Uriah, and to abundance of wicked dissimulation; which are things, I say, that have direct tendency to quench and destroy all fear of God in the soul.
2. If thou hast sinned, lie not down without repentance; for the want of repentance, after one has sinned, makes the heart yet harder and harder. Indeed a hard heart is impenitent, and impenitence also makes the heart harder and harder. So that if impenitence be added to hardness of heart, or to the beginning of sin which makes it so, it will quickly be with that soul, as is said of the house of Israel, it will have a whore's forehead, it will hardly be brought to shame (Jer 3:3).
3. If thou wouldest be rid of a hard heart, that great enemy to the growth of the grace of fear, be much with Christ upon the cross in thy meditations; for that is an excellent remedy against hardness of heart: a right sight of him, as he hanged there for thy sins, will dissolve thy heart into tears, and make it soft and tender. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced,—and mourn" (Zech 12:10). Now a soft, a tender, and a broken heart, is a fit place for the grace of fear to thrive in. But,
Second. If thou wouldest have the grace of fear to grow in thy soul, take heed also of A PRAYERLESS HEART, for that is not a place for this grace of fear to grow in. Hence he that restraineth prayer is said to cast off fear. "Thou castest off fear," said one of his friends to Job. But how must he do that? Why the next words show, "Thou restrainest prayer before God" (Job 15:4). Seest thou a professor that prayeth not? that man thrusteth the fear of God away from him. Seest thou a man that prays but little, that man feareth God but little; for it is the praying soul, the man that is mighty in praying, that has a heart for the fear of God to grow in. Take heed, therefore, of a prayerless heart, if you would grow in this grace of the fear of God. Prayer is as the pitcher that fetcheth water from the brook, therewith to water the herbs; break the pitcher, and it will fetch no water, and for want of water the garden withers.
Third. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A LIGHT AND WANTON HEART, for neither is such a heart good ground for the fear of God to grow in. Wherefore it is said of Israel, "She feared not, but went and played the harlot also." She was given to wantonness, and to be light and vain, and so her fear of God decayed (Jer 3:8). Had Joseph been as wanton as his mistress, he had been as void of the fear of God as she; but he was of a sober, tender, godly, considerate spirit, therefore he grew in the fear of God.
Fourth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A COVETOUS HEART, for neither is that which is such an one good ground for this grace of fear to grow in. Therefore this covetousness and the fear of God are as enemies, set the one in opposition to the other: one that feareth God and hateth covetousness (Exo 18:21). And the reason why covetousness is such an obstruction to the growth of this grace of fear, is because covetousness casteth those things out of the heart which alone can nourish this fear. It casteth out the Word and love of God, without which no grace can grow in the soul; how then should the fear of God grow in a covetous heart? (Eze 33:30-32; 1 John 2:15).
Fifth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of AN UNBELIEVING HEART, for an unbelieving heart is not good ground for this grace of fear to grow in. An unbelieving heart is called "an evil heart," because from it flows all the wickedness that is committed in the world (Heb 3:12). Now it is faith, or a believing heart, that nourisheth this fear of God, and not the other; and the reason is, for that faith brings God, heaven, and hell, to the soul, and maketh it duly consider of them all (Heb 11:7). This is therefore the means of fear, and that which will make it grow in the soul; but unbelief is a bane thereto.
Sixth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A FORGETFUL HEART. Such a heart is not a heart where the grace of fear will flourish, "when I remember, I am afraid," &c. Therefore take heed of forgetfulness; do not forget but remember God, and his kindness, patience, and mercy, to those that yet neither have grace, nor special favour from him, and that will beget and nourish his fear in thy heart, but forgetfulness of this, or of any other of his judgments, is a great wound and weakening to this fear (Job 21:6). When a man well remembers that God's judgments are so great a deep and mystery, as indeed they are, that remembrance puts a man upon such considerations of God and of his judgments as to make him fear—"Therefore," said Job, "I am afraid of him." See the place, Job 23:15. "Therefore am I troubled at his presence; when I consider, I am afraid of him"—when I remember and consider of the wonderful depths of his judgments towards man.
Seventh. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A MURMURING AND REPINING HEART, for that is not a heart for this grace of fear to grow in. As for instance, when men murmur and repine at God's hand, at his dispensations, and at the judgments that overtake them, in their persons, estates, families, or relations, that their murmuring tendeth to destroy fear; for a murmuring spirit is such an one as seems to correct God, and to find fault with his dispensations, and where there is that, the heart is far from fear. A murmuring spirit either comes from that wisdom that pretends to understand that there is a failure in the nature and execution of things, or from an envy and spite at the execution of them. Now if murmurings arise from this pretended wisdom of the flesh, then instead of fearing of God, his actions are judged to be either rigid or ridiculous, which yet are done in judgment, truth, and righteousness. So that a murmuring heart cannot be a good one for the fear of God to grow in. Alas! the heart where that grows must be a soft one; as you have it in Job 23:15, 16; and a heart that will stoop and be silent at the most abstruse of all his judgments—"I was dumb, because THOU didst it." The heart in which this fear of God doth flourish is such, that it bows and is mute, if it can but espy the hand, wisdom, justice, or holiness of God in this or the other of his dispensations, and so stirs up the soul to fear before him. But if this murmuring ariseth from envy and spite, that looketh so like to the spirit of the devil, that nothing need be said to give conviction of the horrible wickedness of it.
Eighth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A HIGH AND CAPTIOUS SPIRIT, for that is not good ground for the fear of God to grow in. A meek and quiet spirit is the best, and there the fear of God will flourish most; therefore Peter puts meekness and fear together, as being most suited in their nature and natural tendency one to another (1 Peter 3:15). Meekness of spirit is like that heart that hath depth of earth in it in which things may take root and grow; but a high and captious spirit is like to the stony ground, where there is not depth of earth, and consequently, where this grace of fear cannot grow; therefore take heed of this kind of spirit, if thou wouldest that the fear of God should grow in thy soul.
Ninth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of AN ENVIOUS HEART, for that is not a good heart for the fear of God to grow in. "Let not thine heart envy sinners; but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long" (Prov 23:17). To envy any is a sign of a bad spirit, and that man takes upon him, as I have already hinted, to be a controller and a judge, yea, and a malicious executioner too, and that of that fury that ariseth from his own lusts and revengeful spirit, upon (perhaps) the man that is more righteous than himself. But suppose he is a sinner that is the object of thine envy, why, the text sets that envy in direct opposition to the fear of God; "Envy not sinners, but be thou in the fear of God." These two, therefore, to wit, envy to sinners and fearing of God, are opposites. Thou canst not fear God, and envy sinners too. And the reason is, because he that envieth a sinner, hath forgotten himself, that he is as bad; and how can he then fear God? He that envies sinners rejects his duty of blessing of them that curse, and praying for them that despitefully use us; and how can he that hath rejected this, fear God? He that envieth sinners, therefore, cannot be of a good spirit, nor can the fear of God grow in his heart.
Tenth. Lastly, Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of HARDENING THY HEART at any time against convictions to particular duties, as to prayer, alms, self-denial, or the like. Take heed also of hardening thy heart, when thou art under any judgment of God, as sickness, losses, crosses, or the like. I bid you before to beware of a hard heart, but now I bid you beware of hardening your soft ones. For to harden the heart is to make it worse than it is; harder, more desperate, and bold against God, than at the present it is. Now, I say, if thou wouldest grow in this grace of fear, take heed of hardening thy heart, and especially of hardening of it against convictions to good; for those convictions are sent of God like seasonable showers of rain, to keep the tillage of thy heart in good order, that the grace of fear may grow therein; but this stifling of convictions makes the heart as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. Therefore happy is he that receiveth conviction, for so he doth keep in the fear of God, and that fear thereby nourished in his soul; but cursed is he that doth otherwise—"Happy is the man that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief" (Prov 28:14).
USE THIRD, of encouragement.
USE THIRD. I come now to A USE OF ENCOURAGEMENT to those that are blessed with this grace of fear. The last text that was mentioned saith, "Happy is the man that feareth alway," and so doth many more. Happy already, because blessed with this grace; and happy for time to come, because this grace shall abide, and continue till the soul that hath it is brought unto the mansion-house of glory. "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Therefore, as here it saith, Happy is he, so it saith also, It shall go well with him, that is, in time to come. "It shall be well with them that fear God" (Eccl 8:12).
First. Had God given thee all the world, yet cursed hadst thou been, if he had not given thee the fear of the Lord; for the fashion of this world is a fading thing, but he that feareth the Lord shall abide for ever and ever. This therefore is the first thing that I would propound for thy encouragement, thou man that fears the Lord. This grace will dwell in thy heart, for it is a new covenant grace, and will abide with thee for ever. It is sent to thee from God, not only to join thy heart unto him, but to keep thee from final apostasy—"I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer 32:40). That thou mayest never forsake God, is his design, and therefore, to keep thee from that wicked thing, he hath put his fear in thy heart. Many are the temptations, difficulties, snares, traps, trials, and troubles that the people of God pass through in the world, but how shall they be kept, how shall they be delivered, and escape? Why, the answer is, The fear of God will keep them—"He that feareth God shall come forth of them all."
Is it not therefore a wonderful mercy to be blessed with this grace of fear, that thou by it mayest be kept from final, which is damnable apostasy? Bless God, therefore, thou blessed man, that hast this grace of fear in thy soul. There are five things in this grace of fear that have a direct tendency in them to keep thee from final apostasy.
1. It is seated in the heart, and the heart is, as I may call it, the main fort in the mystical world, man. It is not placed in the head, as knowledge is; nor in the mouth, as utterance is, but in the heart, the seat of all, "I will put my fear in their hearts." If a king will keep a town secure to himself, let him be sure to man sufficiently the main fort thereof. If he have twenty thousand men well armed, yet if they lie scattered here and there, the town may be taken for all that, but if the main fort be well manned, then the town is more secure. What if a man had all the parts, yea, all the arts of men and angels? That will not keep the heart to God. But when the heart, this principal fort, is possessed with the fear of God, then he is safe, but not else.
2. As the heart in general, so the will in special. That chief and great faculty of the soul is the principle that is acted by this fear. The will, which way that goes, all goes; if it be to heaven or hell. Now the will, I say, is that main faculty that is governed by this fear that doth possess the soul, therefore all is like to go well with it. This Samuel insinuateth, where he saith, "If ye will fear the Lord." Fearing of God is a voluntary act of the will, and that being so, the soul is kept from rebellion against the commandment, because by the will where this fear of God is placed, and which it governeth, is led all the rest of the powers of the soul (1 Sam 12:14). In this will, then, is this fear of God placed, that this grace may the better be able to govern the soul, and so by consequence the whole man; for as I said before, look what way the will goes, look what the will does, thither goes, and that does, the whole man (Psa 110:3). Man, when his will is alienate from God, is reckoned rebellious throughout, and that not without ground, for the will is the principal faculty of the soul as to obedience, and therefore things done without the will are as if they were not done at all. The spirit is willing; if ye be willing; "she hath done what she could," and the like; by these and such-like sayings the goodness of the heart and action is judged, as to the subjective part thereof. Now this fear that we have been speaking of, is placed in the soul, and so consequently in the will, that the man may thereby the better be kept from final and damnable apostasy.
3. This fear, as I may say, even above every other grace, is God's well-wisher; and hence it is called, as I also have showed you, his fear. As he also says in the text mentioned above, "I will put my fear in their hearts." These words, his and my, they are intimate and familiar expressions, bespeaking not only great favour to man, but a very great trust put in him. As who should say, this fear is my special friend, it will subject and bow the soul, and the several faculties thereof, to my pleasure; it is my great favourite, and subdueth sinners to my pleasure. You shall rarely find faith or repentance, or parts, go under such familiar characters as this blessed fear of the Lord doth. Of all the counsellors and mighties that David had, Hushai only was called the king's friend (2 Sam 15:37, 16:16). So of all the graces of the Spirit this of the fear of God goes mostly, if not always, by the title of MY fear, God's fear, HIS fear, &c. I told you before, if the king will keep a town, the main fort therein must be sufficiently manned: and now I will add, that if he have not to govern those men some trusty and special friend, such as Hushai was to David, he may find it lost when it should stand him in greatest stead. If a soul should be possessed with all things possible, yet if this fear of God be wanting, all other things will give place in time of rebellion, and the soul shall be found in, and under the conduct of hell, when it should stand up for God and his truth in the world. This fear of God, it is God's special friend, and therefore it has given unto it the chief seat of the heart, the will, that the whole man may now be, and also be kept hereafter, in the subjection and obedience of the gospel. For,
4. This grace of fear is the softest and most tender of God's honour of any other grace. It is that tender, sensible, and trembling grace, that keepeth the soul upon its continual watch. To keep a good watch is, you know, a wonderful safety to a place that is in continual danger because of the enemy. Why, this is the grace that setteth the watch, and that keepeth the watchmen awake (Can 3:7,8). A man cannot watch as he should, if he be destitute of fear: let him be confident, and he sleeps; he unadvisedly lets into the garrison those that should not come there. Israel's fault when they came to Canaan was, that they made a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, to wit, the Gibeonites, without asking counsel of God. But would they have done so, think you, if at the same time the fear of God had had its full play in the soul, in the army? no, they at that time forgot to fear. The grace of fear had not at that time its full stroke and sway among them.
5. This grace of fear is that which, as I may so say, first affects the hearts of saints with judgments, after we have sinned, and so is as a beginning grace to bring again that to rights that by sin is put out of frame. O it is a precious grace of God! I know what I say in this matter, and also where I had been long ago, through the power of my lusts, and the wiles of the devil, had it not been for the fear of God.
Second. But secondly, another encouragement for those that are blessed with this blessed grace of fear is this,—this fear fails not to do this work for the soul, if there in truth, be it never so small in measure. A little of this leaven "leaveneth the whole lump." True, a little will not do, or help the soul to do those worthy exploits in the heart or life as well as a bigger measure thereof; nor, indeed, can a little of any grace do that which a bigger measure will; but a little will preserve the soul from final apostasy, and deliver it into the arms of the Son of God at the final judgment. Wherefore, when he saith, "I will put my fear in their hearts," he says not, I will put so much of it there, such a quantity, or such a degree; but, "I will put my fear there." I speak not this in the least to tempt the godly man to be content with the least degree of the fear of God in his heart. True, men should be glad that God hath put even the least degree of this grace into their souls, but they should not be content therewith; they should earnestly covet more, pray for more, and use all lawful, that is, all the means of God's appointing, that they may get more.
There are, as I have said already, several degrees of this grace of fear, and our wisdom is to grow in it, as in all the other graces of the Spirit. The reasons why, I have showed you, and also the way to grow therein; but the least measure thereof will do as I said, that is, keep the soul from final apostasy. There are, as I have showed you, those that greatly fear the Lord, that fear exceedingly, and that fear him above many of their brethren; but the small in this grace are saved as well as those that are great therein: "He will bless" or save "them that fear him, both small and great." This fear of the Lord is the pulse of the soul; and as some pulses beat stronger, some weaker, so is this grace of fear in the soul. They that beat best are a sign of best life, but they that beat worst show that life is [barely] present. As long as the pulse beats, we count not that the man is dead, though weak; and this fear, where it is, preserves to everlasting life. Pulses there are also that are intermitting; to wit, such as have their times for a little, a little time to stop, and beat again; true, these are dangerous pulses, but yet too a sign of life. This fear of God also is sometimes like this intermitting pulse; there are times when it forbears to work, and then it works again. David had an intermitting pulse, Peter had an intermitting pulse, as also many other of the saints of God. I call that an intermitting pulse, with reference to the fear we speak of, when there is some obstruction by the workings of corruptions in the soul; I say, some obstruction from, and hindrance of, the continual motion of this fear of God; yet none of these, though they are various, and some of them signs of weakness, are signs of death, but life. "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me."
Quest. But you may say, How shall I know that I fear God?
Answ. If I should say that desires, true sincere desires to fear him, is fear itself. I should not say amiss (Neh 1:11). For although a desire to be, or do so and so, makes not a man to be in temporal or natural things what he desires to be—for a sick, or poor, or imprisoned man may desire to be well, to be rich, or to be at liberty, and yet be as they are, sick, poor, or in prison—yet in spirituals, a man's desire to be good, to believe, to love, to hope, and fear God, doth flow from the nature of grace itself.
I said before, that in temporals a man could not properly be said to be what he was not; yet a man, even in naturals or temporals, shows his love to that thing that he desires, whether it be health, riches, or liberty; and in spirituals, desires of, from love to this or that grace of God, sincere desires of it flow from the root of the grace itself—"Thy servants who desire to fear thy name." Nehemiah bore himself before God upon this, "that he desired to fear his name." And hence again it is said concerning desires, true desires, "The desire of man is his kindness" (Prov 19:22). For a man shows his heart, his love, his affections, and his delights, in his desires; and since the grace of the fear of God is a grace so pleasant in the sight of God, and of so sanctifying a nature in the soul where it is, a true sincere desire to be blessed with that grace must needs flow from some being of this grace in the soul already.
True desires are lower than higher acts of grace, but God will not overlook desires—"But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city." Mark, they desire a country, and they shall have a city. At this low place, to wit, sincere desires, God will meet the soul and will tell him that he hath accepted of his desires, that his desires are his kindness, and flow from grace itself: "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." Therefore desires are not rejected of God; but they would, if they did not flow from a principle of grace already in the soul; therefore desires, sincere desires to fear God, flow from grace already in the soul. Therefore, since thou fearest God, and it is evident by thy desires that thou dost so do, thou art happy now in this thy fear, and shalt be happy for ever hereafter in the enjoyment of that which God in another world hath laid up for them that fear him.
Third. Another encouragement for those that have this grace of fear is this; this grace can make that man, that in many other things is not capable of serving of God, serve him better than those that have all without it. Poor Christian man, thou hast scarce been able to do anything for God all thy days, but only to fear the Lord. Thou art no preacher, and so canst not do him service that way; thou art no rich man, and so canst not do him service with outward substance; thou art no wise man, and so canst not do anything that way; but here is thy mercy, thou fearest God. Though thou canst not preach, thou canst fear God. Though thou hast no bread to feed the belly, nor fleece to clothe the back of the poor, thou canst fear God. O how "blessed is the man that feareth the Lord"; because this duty of fearing of God is an act of the mind, and may be done by the man that is destitute of all things but that holy and blessed mind.
Blessed therefore is that man, for God hath not laid the comfort of his people in the doing of external duties, nor the salvation of their souls, but in believing, loving, and fearing God. Neither hath he laid these things in actions done in their health nor in the due management of their most excellent parts, but in the receiving of Christ, and fear of God. The which, good Christian, thou mayest do, and do acceptably, even though thou shouldest lie bed-rid all thy days; thou mayest also be sick and believe; be sick and love, be sick and fear God, and so be a blessed man. And here the poor Christian hath something to answer them that reproach him for his ignoble pedigree, and shortness of the glory of the wisdom of the world. True, may that man say, I was taken out of the dunghill, I was born in a base and low estate, but I fear God. I have no worldly greatness, nor excellency of natural parts, but I fear God.
When Obadiah met with Elijah, he gave him no worldly and fantastical compliment, nor did he glory in his promotion by Ahab the king of Israel, but gravely, and after a gracious manner, said, "I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth." Also when the mariners inquired of Jonah, saying, "What is thine occupation, and whence comest thou? what is thy country, and of what people art thou?" This was the answer he gave them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land" (Jonah 1:8,9). Indeed this answer is the highest, and most noble in the world, nor are there any, save a few, that in truth can thus express themselves, though other answers they had enough; most can say, I have wisdom, or might, or riches, or friends, or health, or the like; these are common, and are greatly boasted in by the most; but he is the man that feareth God, and he that can say, when they say to him, What art thou? "I thy servant fear the Lord," he is the man of many, he is to be honoured of men: though this, to wit, that he feareth the Lord, is all that he hath in the world. He hath the thing, the honour, the life, and glory that is lasting; his blessedness will abide when all men's but his is buried in the dust, in shame and contempt.
A word to hypocrites.
Hypocrites, my last word is to you; the hypocrite is one that would appear to be that in men's eyes that is nothing of in God's—thou hypocrite, that wouldest be esteemed to be one that loves and that fears God, but does not; I have this to say to thee, thy condition is damnable, because thou art a hypocrite, and seekest to deceive both God and man with guises, vizards, masks, shows, pretences, and thy formal, carnal, feigned subjection to the outside of statutes, laws, and commandments; but within thou art full of rottenness and all excess.
Hypocrite, thou mayest by thy cunning shifts be veiled and hid from men, but thou art naked before the eyes of God, and he knoweth that his fear is not in thy heart (Luke 16:15).
Hypocrite, be admonished that there is not obedience accepted of God, where the heart is destitute of this grace of fear. Keeping of the commandments is but one part of the duty of man, and Paul did that, even while he was a hypocrite (Phil 3). To "fear God and keep his commandments, this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl 12:13). This—fear God—the hypocrite, as a hypocrite, cannot do, and therefore, as such, cannot escape the damnation of hell.
Hypocrite, thou must fear God first, even before thou dost offer to meddle with the commandments, that is, as to the keeping of them. Indeed, thou shouldest read therein, that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord, but yet, "fear God" goes before the command to keep his commandments. And if thou dost not fear God first, thou transgressest, instead of keeping of the commandments.
Hypocrite, this word, FEAR GOD, is that which the hypocrite quite forgets, although it is that which sanctifies the whole duty of man. For this is that, and nothing without it, that can make a man sincere in his obedience; the hypocrite looks for applause abroad, and forgets that he is condemned at home, and both these he does because he wanteth the fear of God.
Hypocrite, be admonished that none of the privileges that are spoken of in the former part of the book belongs to thee, because thou art a hypocrite; and if thou hope, thy hope shall be cut off, and if thou lean upon thy house, both thou and it shall fall into hell-fire. Triumph then, thy triumph is but for awhile. Joy then, but the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment (Job 8:13,15, 20:4-6).
Perhaps thou wilt not let go now, what, as a hypocrite, thou hast got; but "what is the hope of the hypocrite, when God taketh away his soul?" (Job 27:8). Hypocrite, thou shouldest have chosen the fear of God, as thou hast chosen a profession without it, but thou hast cast off fear, because thou art a hypocrite; and because thou art such, thou shalt have the same measure that thou metest; God will cast thee off, because thou art a hypocrite. God hath prepared a fear for thee because thou didst not choose the fear of God, and that fear shall come upon thee like desolation, and like an armed man, and shall swallow thee up, thou and all that thou art (Prov 1:27).
Hypocrite, read this text and tremble—"The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isa 33:13,14).
Hypocrite, thou art not under the fatherly protection of God, because thou art a hypocrite, and wantest his fear in thine heart. The eyes of the Lord are upon them that fear him, to deliver them. But the fearless man or hypocrite is left to the snares and wiles of the devil, to be caught therein and overcome, because he is destitute of the fear of God.
Hypocrite, thou art like to have no other reward of God for thy labour than that which the goats shall have; the hypocrite, because he is a hypocrite, shall not stand in God's sight. The gain of thy religion thou spendest as thou gettest it. Thou wilt not have one farthing overplus at death and judgment.
Hypocrite, God hath not intrusted thee with the least dram of his saving grace, nor will he, because thou art a hypocrite: and as for what thou hast, thou hast stolen it, even every man of you from his neighbour; still pilfering out of their profession, even as Judas did out of the bag. Thou comest like a thief into thy profession, and like a thief thou shalt go out of the same. Jesus Christ hath not counted thee faithful to commit to thee any of his jewels to keep, because thou fearest him not. He hath given his "banner to them that fear him, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Psa 60:4).
Hypocrite, thou art not true to God nor man, nor thine own soul, because thou art a hypocrite! How should the Lord put any trust in thee? Why should the saints look for any good from thee? Should God give thee his Word, thou wilt sell it. Should men commit their souls to thee, thou wilt destroy them, by making merchandise of them, for thy own hypocritical designs. Yea, if the sun waxes hot, thou wilt throw all away, and not endure the heat, because thou art a hypocrite!
This is a very remarkable illustration of godly fear. Jacob does not swear by the omnipresence or omniscience of God—nor by his omnipotence—nor by his love or mercy in his covenant—nor by the God of Abraham, but by the "fear of his father Isaac"—the sole object of his adoration. A most striking and solemn appeal to Jehovah, fixing upon our hearts that Divine proverb, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"—the source of all happiness, both in time and in eternity.—Ed.
 It is of solemn importance that we feel the vast difference between holy and unholy familiarity with God. Has he adopted us into his family? Can we, by a new birth, say "Our Father?" Still he is in heaven, we on earth. He is infinite in purity; Holy, Holy, Holy is his name. We are defiled, and can only approach his presence in the righteousness of the Saviour and Mediator. Then, O my soul, if it is thy bliss to draw near to the throne of grace with holy boldness, let it be with reverence and godly fear.—Ed.
 It is an awful thing to appeal to God for the truth of a lie! All appeals to God, not required by law, are worse than useless; they are wicked, and cast a doubt on the veracity of those who make them—Ed.
 "To give the back"; to forsake, to depart, to treat with contempt. See Imperial Dictionary, vol. i. p. 145.—Ed.
 The genuine disciple "who thinketh no evil" will say, Can this be so now? Yes, reader, it is. Some go to God's house to worship their ease and forgetfulness in sleep; some for worldly purposes; some to admire the beauty of the frail body; but many to worship God in spirit and in truth. Reader, inquire to which of these classes you belong.—Ed.
 They worshipped God, not according to his appointment, but their own inventions—the direction of their false prophets, or their idolatrous kings, or the usages of the nations round about them. The tradition of the elders was of more value and validity with them than God's laws by Moses. This our Saviour applies to the Jews in his time, who were formal in their devotions, and wedded to their own inventions; and pronounces concerning them that in vain do they worship God. How many still in worship regard the inventions of man, and traditions of the church, more than the commands of God.—Ed.
 The Word is the decree upon which we must depend or perish. In vain, poor sinner, is any reliance upon churches or men; neither Papist nor Protestant have any power "committed unto them" to forgive sins. If they claim it, believe them not, but pity their pride and delusion. Christ is the Rock, and not poor erring Peter, as some have vainly imagined. Peter is dead, awaiting the resurrection of his body, and the great day of judgment; but Christ ever liveth at all times, and in all places, able to save unto the uttermost. Put no trust in man, but in thy broken spirit seek the blessing of Christ, that he may pardon thy sins.—Ed.
 The fear of the wicked arises from a corrupt, sinful, self-condemning conscience; they fear God as an angry judge, and therefore consider him as their enemy. As they love and will not part with their sins, so they are in continual dread of punishment.—Mason.
 "To-elbow all his days in his lord's vineyard"; to sit or stand idly resting upon his elbows, instead of labouring in the vineyard. "A sovereign shame so elbows him."—King Lear, Act iv, Scene 3.—Ed.
 "Gear"; apparel, furniture, implements. "The apostles were not fixed in their residence, but were ready in their gears to move whither they were called."—Barrow.—Ed.
 God does not limit himself as to his mode of calling poor sinners. The three thousand he convinced at one hour, and they immediately made a profession, but Bunyan was for years in a state of alarming uncertainty; some are driven by fiery terrors, others by a still small voice. Reader, our anxious inquiry should be, Have we entered in by Christ the gate? Are our fruits meet for repentance? Let no one vaunt of his experience, because he go well bedaubed with the dirt of the slough. Every soul that enters the gate is equally a miracle of grace.—Ed.
 This is remarkably instanced in Bunyan's Grace Abounding.—Ed.
 Those who are adopted into the family of heaven are "justified from all things"; being delivered from sin, the curse, and wrath, "there is now no condemnation for them"; and trusting to Jesus' precious blood of pardon, to his righteousness for acceptance, and to his grace for sanctification, they are, by the indwelling of the Spirit which adopted them, possessed of that love which casteth out fear, and rejoiceth in hope of the glory of God. And to those who, through their manifold infirmities and departures, are often beset with unbelieving fears, the Lord says, for their encouragement, "Fear thou not, for I am with thee; I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa 41:10).—Mason.
 Effectual grace in the soul is accompanied by doubts and fears, owing to the remains of indwelling corruption; hence arises a continual warfare. Believer, how needful is it ever to retain your confidence and assurance of your Lord's love to you! Rely on his faithfulness, persevere steadfastly in the way of duty, looking to Jesus, and living upon his fulness.—Mason. How does all this reasoning remind us of Bunyan's own experience, recorded in his Grace Abounding; he was not ignorant of Satan's devices.—Ed.
 Alas! how few attain to this most blessed state. To delight so in the Word—to make it so much our daily study, and the object of our meditations at night, as to have "its very form engraven upon the face of our souls." Happy is the man that is in such a case. O my soul, why is it not thy case?—Ed.